Feliz Cinco De Mayo

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Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Now many of you may or may not know, but Cinco de Mayo is not a widely celebrated holiday in Mexico.  However, it has become a large holiday in the US for people to celebrate Mexican culture and drink lots of tequila! So today I am going to take a look back at some our favorite Mexican recipes from the past year.

Tonight I will be attending a charity gala for Sound Waters organization in Stamford, CT, so instead of throwing my own fiesta, I will be celebrating with friends for a good cause.

Obviously we love and eat a lot of Mexican food in our house, so below are just a few of our favorites. This summer I will add in some Enchiladas both verdes and with red sauce and lots of other yummy things, but for now these are all very easy dinners to throw together for any celebrations tonight or through the weekend!

Our go to for Mexican food night with ease is simple tacos.  We have fajitas, fish, shrimp, you name it. The best part about tacos is that the only piece you need to cook are the meat or veggies you are putting inside. If you serve with beans or slaw or guacamole, those are easy things you can throw together or reheat. One of my favorite tacos this year was the shrimp tacos with red cabbage slaw, guacamole and black beans.

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These wen’t down very well, and the recipe could be used on fish or chicken as easily as it was with shrimp.  Now with a dinner that tasty, you need to wash it down with an equally delicious cocktail.  My crowd favorite this year was the ginger jalapeño margarita I made for several parties we hosted. It is spicy, sweet, and just the right amount of strong!

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Another great recipe that would really impress your guests, but is actually so easy, is the shrimp and chorizo chile relleno. Stuffed peppers make for such a beautiful presentation for your guests and are a great way to portion out the perfect dish for your family. These are so packed with flavor, and if you are lucky enough to have any leftover, make the perfect lunch the next day!

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Now if you live in the North East, you might be experiencing rain like us today! It is truly a terrible weather day, and sadly it is meant to rain ALL DAY! This does not need to hinder your celebrations and instead of making summery fish or shrimp tacos, you can try out this salsa verde chicken chili! It is a great new way to make chili, and it will warm you up from the inside out on this dreary day.

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And finally, for the morning after celebrations, many of you will need a good hearty breakfast to absorb the alcohol and fill up your stomach after a rough night. Enter chilaquiles! This is one of the most delicious breakfasts, and everything about it is satisfying. You get a little crunch from your chips, some spice from the salsa, and the healing power of eggs after a big night out.  You cannot go wrong with this one!

Chilaquiles plated

Celebrate responsibly friends, but to honor Mexican culture, make sure you have a great time! I will make sure to toast all of you this evening with a good strong margarita and some dancing to mariachis!

Olé!

Pad Thai

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Last week was an incredibly eventful and wonderful week.  As we get closer and closer into summer, I have to admit I am getting busier and busier! I have 4 parties for clients coming up, and an event with a charity I have been helping organize. It has all been a lot of fun to plan and be a part of, but time really is flying by!

We had a really nice weekend with friends: getting to know new friends and spending time with some older friends. Sunday was a beautiful day as well and we took Kuda pup for a 2 hour walk in the woods.  She swam in the river and played with her friends.  She was completely exhausted last night, and only got up to eat dinner and go out before bed.  A tired pup is a happy one, I can tell you that!

Anyway, the blog has been a little neglected because of how busy I have been, but I did manage to cook a few things over the weekend to build up some photos and recipes to post in the upcoming week. I made a really delicious, but quite involved Pad Thai last week, and it was SO GOOD.  I am sharing the recipe with you today, but know this recipe does take about an hour to assemble and cook. Next time I am going to sub in half zucchini noodles for the pad thai noodles and make this dish a little healthier.

We love Thai food and often with take out it can be quite heavy.  Thankfully this wasn’t heavy or greasy at all, so with the added zucchini noodles next time, it is going to be even better for you!

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What you need:

  • 8oz dried pad Thai noodles
  • 1lb whole shrimp (with heads on if you can get them)
  • 3 tbsp oil, divided
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • white pepper, to taste
  • ½ block of extra firm tofu, cut into thin rectangles
  • 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 cups Chinese garlic chives cut in inch long pieces
  • 3 medium eggs, (preferably at room temperature)
  • 2 cups mung bean sprouts washed and drained
  • 1-2 tbsp Asian chili sauce (optional)
  • 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp roasted peanuts, crushed (optional)
  • a handful of cilantro leaves (optional)

Soak the pad thai noodles in warm water for about 20 minutes, and drain. If the noodles are in really long strands, cut them into 10- to 12-inch lengths.

Remove the heads and shells from the shrimp and collect them into a bowl. Wash and devein the shrimp and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in your wok over high heat until just smoking. Add the shrimp heads and shells.

Stir-fry until all of the shells are bright orange, and add ⅔ cup water. When liquid comes to a boil, press the shrimp heads with your spoon to bring out the flavor and color.

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Simmer for another 5 minutes and remove from heat. Strain the shrimp stock into a bowl and discard the heads and shells.

Add sugar, tamarind paste, fish sauce, and white pepper to the stock and mix well.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in your wok over high heat and cook your shrimp for about 2-3min.

Remove them from the pan and set aside.

Set the wok to medium high heat and cook the firm tofu in the wok in one layer, and sear on both sides until slightly browned (about 1 to 2 minutes). Next, add the shallots, garlic, and chives. Turn up the heat to high.

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Add the noodles and stir-fry for about 30 seconds, or until all the ingredients are combined. Pour the tamarind-shrimp sauce mixture over the noodles, and stir fry for another minute or so.

Push the noodles to one side of the wok to make way for the eggs.

Crack the three eggs in, using your spoon to lightly beat them in the wok. Fold the eggs gently without completely scrambling them, and when they’re about 60% done, fold the noodles over the eggs.

Lastly, add the bean sprouts. Stir fry everything at high heat until the bean sprouts are just cooked.

Toss in the cooked shrimp, chili sauce, and soy sauce, and serve the Shrimp Pad Thai with crushed peanuts and cilantro on top, if using.

This Pad Thai was so delicious, James had about 3 bowls of it!

Sunday Barbecue

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Sundays are always a bittersweet day. Especially when you get gorgeous Spring days like we did yesterday.  Sundays always mean the weekend is almost over, but sometimes, a Sunday afternoon can feel like it goes on forever. We had our first true day of Spring yesterday, almost 70F outside, crystal clear skies, and our first bbq of the season!

Sundays are a day for family, and since right now our little family is just James and I and Kuda girl, we like to spend Sunday afternoons with our extended “family” – our friends. I am always a social person, but when the weather is nice, I love having people over for bbq and good times. Yesterday, we invited a few of our favorite people in CT and had a great classic backyard barbecue!

I made barbecue ribs, chicken, and sausage, charro beans, a salad, and some grilled peppers. It was so filling, but with two light veggie side options, we didn’t need to feel too guilty.  I also made a really yummy berry cobbler for dessert with vanilla ice cream, but I will share that recipe with you tomorrow. For now, I am just going to share with you my special rib recipe! Don’t forget I am a native Texan, so this is a big deal!!!

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What you need:

  • Two racks of baby back ribs
  • 1 full flavor beer
  • 1/3 cup bbq dry rub (I used Salt Lick, but a homemade recipe is below)
  • 1/3 cup of good bbq sauce

Heat your oven to 200F.

Rub your dry rub all over the ribs and let sit for a few minutes.

Pour beer into the dish holding the ribs and cover with foil.

Cook ribs in the low heat oven for 2 1/2 hours.

Remove ribs from the oven and brush with your bbq sauce.

Finish on a medium high grill for about 4 min per side.  You should get a good char on the outside, and your ribs will fall off of the bone!

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Serve with some extra barbecue sauce on the side, and make sure you get your hands good and dirty!

I used the same rub and bbq sauce on the chicken thighs as well, and just used a simple kielbasa sausage grilled for a little more variety.

Home Made Dry Rub:

  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tbsp granulated onion
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp black pepper

Mix it all together and rub all over any meat you want to bbq!

Asian Style Beef Short Ribs

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I realized this week that I posted an instagram story about Asian style short ribs in the slow cooker, but didn’t actually share the recipe!  That was silly of me!  As I have already mentioned life at Casa Burke is a little busy at the moment, but all good things.

James was traveling this week so I didn’t cook as much.  I cook for clients and myself, often 2-3 times per day, so when my hubby goes away, I lazily order in food.  Usually Greek or Sushi.

I made these delicious short ribs for us last week on a rainy day. Connecticut is really taking April showers seriously and we have had rain for 5 days out of 7 days of the month so far! Thankfully the temperature is increasing a bit, but the gloomy weather calls for lots of slow cooker type meals.

These ribs literally fell off the bone and were so tender and full of flavor.  The best part about them is that it takes about 15min of prep, and you just leave them in the slow cooker all day!

What you need:

  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 5 lbs bone-in beef short ribs
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds

In a bowl mix together your soy sauce, broth, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes until a homogenous mixture.

Using a good sized slow cooker, place your short ribs into the pot and pour the liquid over.  If the ribs are too long, feel free to cut them up a bit to fit into the pot.

Cover and cook on low heat 7-8 hours or high heat 3-4 hours.  I recommend using low heat as the short ribs come out even more tender.

After the 7-8 hours, mix together 2 tbsp of corn starch and 1/4 cup of water, and then add the mixture to the crockpot.

Stir in the corn starch, and cook for a further 30min on high or until the sauce has thickened.

Serve with veggies or rice or quinoa and enjoy!

 

 

 

Rustic Chicken

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For my recent birthday, two of our very good friends came into town from Toronto Canada.  One is from Montreal, and our friendship goes all the way back to our days in London.  We have known each other for eight years (which is crazy to think about), and have managed to stay in touch across continents, and through several moves! His partner I met almost four years ago now, and our friendship has grown over the years as well.

Anyway, knowing how much I love cooking, they brought me these delicious artisanal French mustards from Maille in really cool, ceramic refillable pots. One is a black truffle mustard, and the other is a white wine mustard – both so full of flavor and each very unique.

I was very eager to try them both, so I started brainstorming quickly about what I wanted to do with them.  James and I love truffles, so naturally I wanted try that one first. This recipe was such a success, I have now made it twice!

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What you need:

  • 2lbs of chicken (boneless, skinless thighs or breasts)
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, quartered
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 1/4 cup black truffle mustard
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter

Pre heat your oven to 400F.

In a cast iron pan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat.

Add your minced shallots and cook for about 5 min.

Add in your smashed garlic cloves and cook another minute or two.

Season your chicken with salt and pepper, and add this to the pan to sear the outside.

Cook on each side for about 3-4min until nicely seared, but not cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the pan.

Add in your mustard and white wine.  Cook down for a few minutes until the sauce reduces a bit.

Add your artichokes, capers, and lemon juice and then your chicken as well.

Spoon some sauce over the chicken and place in the oven.

Cook for about 15-20min depending on thickness of chicken.

Always cut through chicken to make sure its fully cooked, if it needs more time, no problem!

Enjoy with roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, or pretty much anything you’d like.

This sauce is full of flavor, and your chicken will come out so juicy!

 

Shrimp Tacos

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Yesterday was taco Tuesday, most everyone’s favorite night of the week! I love making seafood tacos because they feel a little better for you than using beef or chicken. We recently had the most delicious fried oyster tacos, and I will work on reproducing those this summer!

It’s another really beautiful day here in CT, but man a cold front blew in and the wind is chilly! After today we will be making a slow ascension to more Spring like temperatures, but for some reason the warm weather just won’t stick! We had a really mild winter, but it does seem to be dragging on a bit… And to rub salt in the wound, down in TX, where my family is, it is in the mid 80s! So unfair!

Back to tacos!  The other fun part about taco night is that it is a very easy and fast dinner to get on the table.  Shrimp only take a few min to cook, and the guac and red cabbage slaw take only a few minutes as well.  I cheated on the beans this week and used canned black beans drained and rinsed, so all the more, this dinner was VERY fast to get on the table.

They key to this recipe was the marinade!

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What you need:

  • 1-2lbs peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1 guajillo chile (dried and ground up/broken apart – seeds and all)
  • 1 lime, juiced and zested
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, mix together all of your ingredients except the shrimp.

Rinse the shrimp and pat dry before you put them in the marinade.

Add the shrimp and let sit for about 30min – 1 hour.  You don’t need to leave seafood to marinade as long as meat, it can over power the flavor.

In the meantime, heat your grill or grill pan to medium heat.

I used kabob sticks as they make it easier to cook this many shrimp at once, but that is up to you.

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Put your shrimp on the kabob sticks (if using bamboo, make sure to soak in water for at least 30min before using to avoid fire).

Cook shrimp for about 2-3min per side until cooked through.

Remove from the kabobs, and serve with tortillas, guacamole, salad, or whatever other sides you might like.

Buen Provecho!

 

Pork Tenderloin

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s Orzo Pasta post, we enjoyed that dish with a really nice roasted pork tenderloin.  We got all of these ingredients at Mike’s Organic Delivery, so everything is super fresh, organic, and humanely sourced. I love when we can support local businesses, especially those whose goals line up so closely with ours.

Anyway, things have been really getting busy over here, and slowly but surely, Spring is trying to creep in. Back home in Texas it is already in the mid to upper 80s, so as you might imagine, I am very ready for warmer weather. Right now the cooler temperatures are making me crave carbs and other filling things. Salads are just so unsatisfying this time of year and I could eat one almost every day in the summer!

This dish was a really nice solution to a warm carby option without being too unhealthy! The fresh spinach in the pasta added some great nutrients, and the wheat orzo felt a little healthier than regular pasta.  The pork was so lean too, so over all this is a nicely balanced dish to satisfy our cold weather cravings.

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What you need:

  • 1 medium pork tenderloin
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp honey
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

In a ziplock bag or glass baking dish, season your pork tenderloin with salt and pepper.

Add in all of the rest of the ingredients, including the oregano.

Score the pork a few times and insert the smashed garlic pieces.

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Let marinate for 1-4 hours.

Heat your oven to 400F.

Cook pork tenderloin for 20-25min.

Let it rest for about 10min before your cut into it.

Then serve over the orzo pasta or over any other side dish you’d like.

Enjoy!

 

Orzo Spinach Pasta

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We have had an eventful couple of weeks here at Casa Burke. I turned 30, which was great, we threw a huge party for said 30th, my parents flew up and then got stuck here – thanks winter storm Stella, and then I got lasik eye surgery! Luckily, last week and this week are Spring Break for most Greenwich schools, so I didn’t have too much client work to juggle with the family visit and then eye surgery.

I am pleased to say I now have 20/20 vision, which is such an awesome 30th birthday gift! It is life changing to not have to wear contacts or glasses anymore. I got glasses around the age of 8, and contacts around the age of 11 because I was that super cool kid who was lucky enough to get braces at the same time…. I will give you a moment to imagine how popular/cool I wasn’t…

Anyway, I have worked a couple of parties for clients lately and planned the food for my own party, but sadly I was neglecting the blog.  Tsk Tsk… I know! But today is a new day, and I can see clearly the road ahead! I have an exciting salsa project in the pipeline and a few other cool developments, so over all The Gourmet Cocina is cooking! (pun definitely intended… still imagining how cool I am not?)

Today’s recipe is part of a two part series.  I will post the pork tenderloin that we served with this pasta tomorrow.  The pasta is definitely a stand alone, and really yummy and healthy!

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What you need:

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2-3 cups orzo pasta
  • 1 cup sherry wine vinegar
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 cups of spinach
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (a high quality one)
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot of salted water cook your orzo according to the packaging instructions.  Mine said for 10-12min.

Meanwhile, using about a tablespoon of olive oil, sauté your onion in a good, heat conducting pan on medium-low heat until translucent, about 8 minutes.

Add in your garlic and cook for about a minute until fragrant.

Pour in the sherry wine vinegar and reduce by half.

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Once your pasta is done and your vinegar has reduced, drain your pasta and mix together the reduction and the pasta in a large bowl.

Add in your fresh spinach, and the heat of the pasta and sauce will cause it to wilt slightly.

Add in the balance of the olive oil, the fresh lemon juice, and sea salt and pepper to taste.

This dish is so fresh and delicious, and would be a great accompaniment to a lot of different things.  Feel free to add parmesan or pecorino or even goats cheese if you want, but I kept this dairy free.

 

 

 

 

Polenta Squares with Mushroom Ragu

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As promised here is the second bite we did for the Fairfield County Mom’s Blog event.  Sorry for the delay, this week has been a doozy! It has been super busy week work wise, but also we found out that my poor puppy broke her toe, so she is in a cast and limited to very short and very few walks a day! This is a dog that runs for an hour a day and goes to camp two times a week… She isn’t yet misbehaving, but I am sure like a young child, unless I keep her occupied, she might start to rebel.

I have some exciting updates for the company that I will share soon, but over all things are really coming together with The Gourmet Cocina, and it’s really been a fun ride! This week has been all about learning and exciting new ventures, and I really can’t wait for what the future has in store.

But back to this little snack!  These polenta bites are gluten free, vegetarian, and actually pretty darn healthy! I used butter in them, but for the vegans out there, you could certainly use another substitute instead. I also had some extra mushroom ragu, and cooked that in with some fresh spinach for a really awesome side dish! It could be really good on chicken too!

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What you need:

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3 tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking polenta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp corn starch

Set the water, 1 tbsp of butter and 1/2 tsp of salt to a boil, and add in your polenta.

Stir frequently until thickened, about 5 min, and then remove from the heat.

Poor the polenta into a 9 x 9 baking pan so that it is about 1/3 inch thick and let cook for at least 15min.

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In the meantime, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a pan, and cook your mushrooms and onions for about 8-10min until soft and the juices have mostly dried up.  Make sure to add in about 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper during this process.

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Add the garlic next and cook for about 2 min.

Once the juices are mostly evaporated, decrease the temperature to medium-low and add in your white wine. Cook down for about 5min with a lid on and the liquid reduces by about half.

Stir in the rest of the butter and the corn starch until thickened and an even mixture. If you find you need a bit more corn starch for a thicker consistency, add it in small amounts at a time until you reach your desired thickness.

Season the ragu with salt and pepper to taste.

Cut your polenta into 1″ squares and top with the ragu.

Enjoy with a glass of the same wine you used to cook with 😉

Have a great weekend everyone, can’t wait to share some fun recipes next week!

 

 

Chipotle Lime Salmon

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We try to eat fish about twice a week because we love it and because its good for you.  We like salmon, but it isn’t our favorite type of fish.  I usually use white fish like cod, haddock, pollock, hake, or others.  We also like to make seared tuna sometimes to switch things up, but every now and again salmon just sounds good!

Last night James flew to the UK for a stag weekend.  James absolutely refuses to miss out on fun, so even though he has a lot going on with work, he always makes time to see his friends and participate in a good stag weekend! For those that don’t know, a stag weekend is the UK version of a bachelor party.  It’s bigger, longer, and crazier than a traditional American bachelor weekend!

Anyway, his flight was not until 9:30pm, so he made time to come home and eat dinner with me before heading to the airport. For those of you that have taken any red-eye flights, you will know that eating a heavy meal before getting on a plane is really unpleasant! So I thought making fish would be a good, light option.  Plus James is about to have, or given the time difference, is in the process of having a rather unhealthy weekend, so a light meal was doubly beneficial!

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What you need:

  • 1-2 lbs of salmon filets
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 limes, juice and zest
  • 1-2 chipotle chilies in adobo (depending on the amount of heat you want)
  • 2-4 tsp adobo sauce (see above)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 400F.

Pat your salmon dry and season with salt and pepper.

In a blender or food processor mix together your lime juice, half of the zest, olive oil, cumin, chipotles and sauce, cumin, and the grated garlic clove. Blend until mostly smooth.

Place your salmon on a baking sheet and cover it with the chipotle sauce.

Cook for 10-12min and remove from the oven.

Use the second half of the zest to garnish your fish for a prettier presentation 🙂

I served ours with half an avocado, charro beans, and some warmed corn tortillas, but you could do this with roasted veggies, rice, or anything else you might like!

This recipe is so easy, and packed with flavor; I highly recommend it for your next Mexican night!

Buen Provecho!