Tag Archives: cilantro

Slow-Cooker Carne Guisada with a New Mexican Hatch Chile Twist

Slow-Cooker Carne Guisada with a New Mexican Hatch Chile Twist

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Carne guisada (CAR-nay gee-SA-da) is a Mexican-style beef stew that hails primarily from south Texas. It’s main ingredient is cubed beef stew meat that is braised low and slow for hours with varying combinations of chilies, onions, tomatoes, and spices. The flour used to coat the seared meat causes the sauce to end up thickening to a gravy-like consistency. While fantastic on its own, served straight up in a bowl with a spoon, carne guisada also makes a savory taco or burrito filling.

For this version of carne guisada, I gave it an injection of Hatch chile flavor with Stubb’s new Hatch Chile Cookin’ Sauce pack. The package comes with a Cookin’ sauce, which I used for the braising, a spice packet, which I used to saute the vegetables with, and a Finishing Sauce, which I stirred into the thickened gravy sauce just before serving. This trio gives a fun, updated kick of flavor to this classic Tex-mex comfort food dish. Best of all, everything but the meat and veggies come in one package. The second best part about this dish is that you can easily use a slow cooker to do most of the work — just set it and forget it. A few hours later, you’ll have the makings of an incredibly flavorful meal.

I suggest serving this Hatch carne guisada on or with a side of warm tortillas, limes for squeezing on top of the meat, and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro and crumbled Mexican cotija cheese.
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Paleo Thai Coconut Red Pork Curry with Zucchini “Noodles”

Paleo Thai Coconut Red Pork Curry with Zucchini “Noodles”
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A tasty Paleo diet makeover of a popular Thai curry dish.

The Paleo diet. It’s something you’ve probably been hearing a lot about lately — as I like to say (purposely trying to sound like Paris Hilton) “It’s so hot right now.” But what is it anyway? As the name suggests, it is based on the diet that mimics what the cavemen of the Paleolithic era might have grazed upon, wild plants and animals. It includes fruit, vegetables, roots, fungi, nuts, seeds, eggs, and pasture-raised, grass-fed animal protein. Followers of this way of eating subscribe to it because they believe it to aid in healthy digestion and weight loss, and prevent blood sugar spikes, systemic inflammation, autoimmune-related diseases — among a slew of other health benefits. Many people who previously followed strict gluten- and/or dairy-free diets have taken to this diet because it nixes the foods that they cannot eat.

So what’s on the ‘NO’ list? Grains, legumes, dairy, soy, added sugars, booze, white potatoes, vegetable oils, and processed foods. Though there are quite a few dietary restrictions, it doesn’t mean that the Paleo plate must simply consist of a hunk of meat and some bland, boring vegetables. Many Paleo cooking enthusiasts have made it their mission to come up with creative and tasty ways to incorporate the Paleo rules into their (and others’) diet. My friend Melissa Joulwan, author of Well Fed, the upcoming Well Fed 2 (on store shelves later this month) and TheClothesMakeTheGirl.com, is one of those cheerleaders of creative Paleo cooking. She’s been my mentor and inspiration when dabbling in, as she calls it, “dino-chow.”

I do not strictly follow the Paleo lifestyle, but I do love the culinary challenge that it gives me to come up with dishes that are appetizing to Paleo folks and enticing to those (open-minded) non-Paleo people. That’s why I came up with the following recipe for Thai red curry with pork over “noodles.” It’s a Paleo-friendly spin on the classic Thai peanut and coconut milk sauce with red curry paste. I used roasted cashew butter in place of peanut butter (because peanuts are a legume) and substituted coconut aminos for the soy sauce and zucchini peels for the rice noodles. They were easy swapouts and, in my opinion, this dish tastes as good as the original.

In closing, this is only a brief description of the Paleo diet and just the tip of the iceberg. There are also many versions of Paleo out there and, if interested, I encourage you to read up on them and find the one that suits your lifestyle best.
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Spice Central: This colorful, flavorful Moroccan chicken tagine is a must-try

Spice Central: This colorful, flavorful Moroccan chicken tagine is a must-try

This Moroccan delight gets its bright yellow color from the addition of turmeric.

What’s the first word that comes to mind when I think about the food of Northern Africa and the Middle East? Colorful! The array of fragrant, exotic spices found in their open-air markets are used in abundance in native dishes and have become a trademark of their cuisines. Warming spices of turmeric, saffron, paprika, cinnamon, coriander and cumin are widely used in the aforementioned regions, and they create a harmonious experience for the eyes, nose and palate. Poultry, lamb, beef and goat are also staple proteins to the Arab diet and are often accompanied by rice and sometimes couscous. Replicating the cuisine from this part of the globe isn’t difficult at all and doesn’t require a trip to an exotic grocer — most ingredients can be easily found in the spice and World Flavors aisles at your local grocery store.

Now I’m sure a “tagine” (or “tajin”) may sound fancy and complicated to some, but it is simply a type of dish from North Africa. It gets its name from the cone-shaped clay pot with detachable base in which it is traditionally cooked and served in. For this recipe, a proper tagine pot isn’t required — a cast iron or heavy-bottomed pot with a lid will do just fine.

The following recipe for chicken tagine hails from Morocco, but the ingredients are commonly found in most cuisines from North Africa to the Arabian Peninsula. It gets its bright yellow color from the addition of turmeric. Substituting beef or lamb for the chicken will work just fine, and feel free to play with different spices if you so choose — add a dash of cumin or coriander to the braising liquid, or even a pinch of saffron.

Traditionally, tagines are served with couscous: tiny pellets made from semolina flour (the same ingredient in traditional pasta) that are cooked by pouring boiling water over them and then allowed to steam for about 15 minutes. The couscous soaks up the lemony olive sauce, making it an ideal base for serving.
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Casablanca in a bowl: Moroccan spiced carrot soup

Casablanca in a bowl: Moroccan spiced carrot soup

Here’s looking at you, carrots.

In keeping with my culinary exploration of flavors from around the globe, I decided that my next sojourn would be to the fabled land of Morocco. But being that I can’t afford the airfare, this trip would have to take place in my kitchen.

Moroccan food has always appealed to me because of its use of vibrantly colored and flavorful spices. The cuisine reflects Moorish, Mediterranean, Arab and Berber influences, its dishes even more heavily spiced than those of the aforementioned locales.

Cinnamon, coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, ginger and saffron are just a few of the many spices often used in Morocco’s signature tagines, couscous dishes, pastillas, soups and sides.

Besides the meat- and lamb- heavy main dishes, Moroccans use a wide range of fruit and vegetables in their cookery. That’s why I’ve chosen this flavorful carrot soup as the vehicle for my “spicy” fix.

Great for any time of the year, this brightly colored, puréed Moroccan-spiced carrot soup is creamy, bursting with flavor, easy to prepare and also quite healthy. The featured ingredient is chock full of dietary fiber, antioxidants and vitamins — namely, beta carotene and vitamin A, which is great for eye health.

(Though unfortunately the urban legend that eating lots of carrots will allow one to see in the dark isn’t true.)

Feel free to play around with the spices in this soup, adding more or less of whatever pleases your palate, or throw in a different combination of flavors typical of Moroccan cooking. And instead of orange carrots, why not grab some purple, red or yellow carrots to give it a colorful makeover?

My last piece of advice on this recipe: If you have a food processor, use it. It will surely save your hands from all of the chopping required and will cut your prep time in half.

Bil hana wish shifa’!
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Carne Guisada is a Tex-Mex carne-val for the taste buds

Carne Guisada is a Tex-Mex carne-val for the taste buds

Not to be confused with carna asada (which is marinated flank or skirt steak) carne guisada (CAR-nay gee-SA-da) is a Mexican-style beef stew that’s braised low and slow with chilies, onions, tomatoes, spices and, in this case, beer for hours until it creates its own “gravy” sauce. While fantastic on its own, carne guisada makes an amazing filling for tacos and one great cure-all for anything that ails you — from a cold to a hangover to a bad mood.

It’s often found in Mexican and Tex-Mex eateries in the Southwestern states, and is also offered as a filling at roadside taco stands and food trucks. Besides making a perfect comfort food (and even better leftovers), carne guisada is inexpensive — cheap stew meat is the most expensive component — and easy to prepare. It’s one of those unfussy, “set it and forget it” type dishes.

The ingredients and methods of preparation vary from cook to cook — some use only dried chili powders, while others swear by fresh green chilies; some add an array of veggies, and others simply simmer the beef in chilies and water. It’s all a matter of personal taste, but no matter the differences in ingredients, I bet you’ll never come across a bad version. (Unless, of course, it’s a burnt batch.)

To pay homage to this Tex-Mex staple, I opted for a true Texas beer, Shiner Bock, as braising liquid in place of water or broth. For preparing it in taco form, as I’ve done below, it’s best to keep the toppings simple as to not lose the flavors of the stew: cilantro, a squeeze of lime and a sprinkling of salty cotija cheese.

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