Friday, February 16, 2018

Dad's Tuna Patties in Spanish Sauce { #Lenten #recipe }

Lent always reminds me of my childhood. We didn't grow up eating fish. It's why I am, at 51 years of age, still learning to appreciate seafood. Even when we went fishing with Dad, we went for the one-on-one time we had with him, certainly not for any caught fish. If we did catch anything, Dad would clean it and cook it for him and mom to enjoy while us kids got hot dogs, which was fine by us.

The one exception to this "we don't like fish" rule was tuna. And every year at Lent, Dad would make his Tuna Patties with Spanish Sauce. It was the only time he made it and every year we looked forward to it. It's total comfort food, filled with the flavors of my childhood: tomatoes, onions, cilantro, bell peppers –– a classic mix of Mexican ingredients that are the basis for so many different dishes.

Over the years, I tried replicating Dad's recipe. And every year, I'd wind up with scrambled eggs with tuna. I simply couldn't get them to hold together. The flavor was pretty much there but obviously, my technique was lacking.

A few weeks ago, I called my Dad and shared with him my past fails. I told him I wanted to share the recipe on the blog but I've never been able to make it like he did. He agreed to teach me. So on a mid-Sunday morning the weekend before last, I stopped at the store to pick up some tomatoes and headed over to my parent's house. Dad already had the mise en place set, minus the tomatoes I had in hand. I quickly made notes of his quantities of ingredients (like most cooks, Dad doesn't measure, he just chops, slices, dices and adds a little of this and a little of that which makes jotting down his recipes challenging).

Then he got to the eggs. Here is what I was missing. I simply scrambled the eggs and added them to the tuna.

"No, no, no," Dad said. "You have to whip the eggs and yolks separately."

"Oh, you mean like chiles rellenos?" I asked.

"Exactly. You're making a batter so you also have to add a touch of flour to it to help it adhere to the tuna, " he added.

Of course! Lightbulb moment. Why hadn't I ever thought of that? We continued with the lesson. When the patties were all made and the sauce ready, he fried up some eggs. Mom came downstairs to join us in the kitchen and we each had a plateful, our heads swirling with memories, our stomachs satiated.

Thanks, Dad!

Watch me make it below:

Until next time, friends. May your memories be good ones and your hearts always filled with love. xo, ani.

Keep scrolling for printable recipe.

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Tuna Patties in Spanish Sauce
Perfect for Lent, this recipe for tuna patties is bathed in a classic Spanish sauce filled with some of the classic flavors of Mexico.

For the patties:
  • 1 (12 oz) can chunk light tuna in oil or solid white albacore in water
  • 3 scallions, green stalks only, finely sliced
  • ½ small onion, finely diced
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped cilantro (¼ bunch)
  • 1 large roma tomato, finely diced
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt (or ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Oil for frying
For the Spanish sauce:
  • ½ cup thinly sliced green bell pepper
  • ½ cup thinly sliced white onion
  • 1 large roma tomato, finely diced
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 ⅓ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Knorr Chicken bouillon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon whole dried oregano
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped cilantro
Place the tuna in a fine strainer over a bowl to drain while you chop your ingredients. Once your ingredients are chopped, place the tuna in a mixing bowl. Add the scallions, onion, cilantro, tomato, pepper, salt and lemon juice to the bowl and mix well to combine. Set aside.In another bowl, using a hand mixer, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Add the flour and continue whipping to stiff peaks. In a small bowl, hand whisk the yolks until thickened. Add two spoonfuls of the egg white into the yolks bowl and carefully stir to combine well. This loosens the yolks and will make it easier to fold them into the whites. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the yolks into the bowl with the whipped egg whites until mostly combined. Fold in the tuna mixture. Heat a skillet on medium heat. Add ¼ cup of oil. Once oil is shimmering, carefully add about ⅓ of a cup of the tuna to the pan and spread out to form a patty about ½ inch thick by about 3 inches in diameter. Add no more than three at a time to the pan so as to not lower the heat of the oil. Fry until golden brown on both sides then remove to a paper towel lined plate. Continue until all patties are cooked, adding more oil as needed. Batter should yield 8 patties.To make the sauce, wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and return to heat. Add a tablespoon of oil. Once shimmering, sauté the peppers and onions for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and simmer for two minutes. Pour in the water and bring to a soft boil. Stir in the bouillon and pepper. Put the oregano in the palms of your hands, rub your hands together to crush the dried herb into the pan. Stir in the cilantro. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Taste sauce, add more bouillon if it’s not salty enough.To serve, either add the patties into the sauce or plate the patties and spoon sauce over them. Serve with rice, beans and tortillas, if desired.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings

I decided that instead of doing Meatless Monday posts during Lent like I have in the past, I would share Lenten-friendly recipes on Fridays. These will include completely vegetarian dishes to dishes like today's that incorporate some form of seafood (since fish is the only animal protein allowed during Lent). I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I enjoy sharing them!

In the meantime, here are a few more Lent appropriate recipes for you to try: (click on names to go to recipes)

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Chicharrones en Salsa Roja (pork rinds in red chili sauce) #Recipe

{a breath}
The phone ringing finally got me out of bed. It was a Friday. I don’t have to be at work until 11 a.m. on Fridays so I usually have a bit of a lie-in.

“Ani?” It was my niece.

“Hi sweetie, what’s up?” She was at the market in my neighborhood, just a few blocks from the house.

“I want to make breakfast for Grandma. Do you know what kind of salsa Grandma likes for chicharrones?”

I rattled off a couple of brands and 15 minutes later, she was knocking at the door.

“What a nice surprise. Does Grandma know you were coming over?”

“No,” she answered. She had just been over a few days earlier in the week to help my grandmother with a few things.

My niece said she had sensed that Grandma was feeling a little lonely during the day and wanted to come spend time with her when there was nothing that needed to be done other than just have breakfast and listen to her share her stories. Sweet, right?

It was also quite coincidental as just two weekends before I had made chicharrones for this post and had finally found something that piqued my grandmother’s tastebuds. She hadn’t been eating much but managed to polish off half the leftovers herself.

Chicharrones in a red or green salsa is a really common dish in most Mexican households. My parents made it frequently when I was growing up as it’s a filling and economical dish to make, especially for a household with five kids. Even though it’s a super common dish, you’d be hard pressed to find it served at a taco shop or even at a sit down Mexican restaurant. When I had my friend Joanna over to help me make it for this post, she even commented that she hadn't heard of this dish but after seeing how easy it was to prepare and tasting it for the first time, felt it was a kind of “food for the soul” – meaning, a simple comfort dish that one would find in the kitchen of someone's home not on a menu in a restaurant. I couldn’t agree more.

My parents used regular pork rinds that you can find in the chips section of nearly any major grocery store ($2 a bag!). I prefer the smaller, curly chicharrón botanero you can find at an ethnic market. This variety isn’t light and airy like the national brand varieties but are thicker, harder and some pieces may retain pork belly meat. This recipe made with this kind of pork rind makes for a chewier, more satiating eating experience once it’s stewed in the salsa. But certainly if you don’t have access to a market that sells Hispanic foods, regular pork rinds will work just fine.

Today I’m sharing my version in an easy homemade red salsa. I also have a salsa verde variety waiting in the wings that I’ll probably share after lent. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this look into a traditional Mexican meal. I’ve made it into tacos here serving them on corn tortillas, but you can eat it over rice and beans. This also makes for an excellent breakfast paired with a fried egg and fresh tortillas.

Until next time friends ... xo, ani

{the recipe}
Scroll to end for printable recipe.

Start by prepping the onions. Finely dice half a large onion. From the remaining half, slice off about a ½-inch thick slice. Set both aside.

Next, wash and dry two dry California chiles (guajillos would work well, too). Trim off the stem and cut down one side lengthwise to open and get access to the seeds and veins.

Remove the veins and scrape out the seeds. Fill a small sauce pan with water and bring to a boil.

Heat a griddle or cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. Once the griddle is hot, place the chiles on the griddle and toast about 30 seconds on each side. The chiles will start to deepen in color. Don't walk away. You don't want the chiles blackened as they will burn easily and become very bitter. Remove the chiles to the boiling water. Cover, turn off heat and allow to steep while you prep the tomatoes.

Add the tomatoes, onion slice, serrano chile pepper and garlic cloves to the hot griddle. Cook until mostly charred, flipping the vegetables as needed to ensure even charring. The onions and garlic will be the ready first. Remove them to a blender jar.

As the tomatoes blacken up, remove them to the blender jar, as well. Add the chiles and about a 1/4 cup of the chile steeping water. You might have to work in batches. Here, we added half the tomatoes with all the ingredients, blended until smooth and then added the rest of the tomatoes.

Be sure to remove the top round part of the lid and cover the hole with a kitchen towel before blending.

Next, heat a 12-inch skillet to medium heat. Once hot, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add in the onions and sweat until translucent. Stir in 1 tablespoons of powdered chicken bouillon (I use Knorr).

Pour in the blended salsa.

Let simmer on medium-low for 15 minutes.

Working in batches, add in the pork rinds. Simmer on medium-low for 25 minutes.

Optionally, stir in a half cup of chopped cilantro just before serving.

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Chicharrones en Salsa Roja (Pork rinds in red chili sauce)
This is my version of a very traditional Mexican dish. "Chicharrones en salsa" varies slightly from family to family but the heart of it remains the same. Pork rinds are stewed with chili peppers and fresh tomato sauce until tender. They can be served in tacos, burritos, over rice and beans or served with a fried egg for breakfast.
  • 1/2 large onion, plus a 1/2-inch thick slice, divided
  • 2 dried California chili pods, or sub guajillo
  • 1 pound roma tomatoes
  • 1 serrano chili pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon Knorr chicken bouillon
  • 12 ounces chicharron botanero, or regular pork rinds
  • To Serve
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • warm corn tortillas
  • queso fresco, crumbled
  • lime wedges
Finely dice onion; set aside. Bring a small sauce pan of water to a boil. Wash and dry chili pods. Trim off the stem. Slice open and remove seeds. Heat a griddle or cast iron skillet to medium-high heat. Toast each chili pod for 30 seconds on each side, remove them to the boiling water. Cover pot, turn off heat and allow to steep so they soften.Place the slice of onion, garlic, and serrano chili pepper on the hot griddle. Char on all sides, removing them to the blender when ready. Add the tomatoes to the hot griddle. Char and blister on all sides, adding them to the blender once charred. Add the now softened California chili peppers to the blender and a 1/4 cup of the steeping liquid. Blend until smooth. (Work in batches if needed.) Heat a 12-inch skillet to medium high heat. Add oil. Once shimmering, add the diced onions and sweat until translucent. Stir in bouillon. Pour in the tomato chili mixture and simmer on medium-low heat for 15 minutes to thicken and develop flavor.Stir in the pork rinds, working in batches if needed, until all are coated in sauce. Allow to stew for 20 minutes. Taste and add more bouillon if needed. Stir in the chopped cilantro. Serve in warm tortillas with queso fresco, more cilantro and a squeeze of lime, if using.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 servings

Monday, January 29, 2018

How to Make Caldo de Res, a Mexican Beef Vegetable Soup { #video }

Even when it isn't chilly out, I often go searching for a bowl of something comforting and nourishing. I'm one of those people who can eat soup for lunch or dinner pretty much any time of the year. One of my favorites is a soup I grew up on, it's a beef vegetable soup called caldo de res.

The recipe is pretty basic but, like most dishes, every family puts their own spin on it and this dish in particular is very customizable. In fact, I have three different versions I make; the one I'm sharing today is the most basic of them but nonetheless deserving of a place on your table.

It starts with the meat.

I like to use a meaty cut and it can be an inexpensive one. Today, I'm using chuck. Then there's the bones, a necessary component to any good stock and a crucial part of caldo de res. I've added a package of just plain beef soup bones I picked up at my local grocer to accompany my meaty chuck steak but you can also use beef shanks or short ribs.

There are classic vegetables that go into this soup: onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, corn on the cob, squash.

The variables include green beans, chayote (a pear-shaped squash popular in Mexico) and cabbage, to name a few.

Today's recipe includes all these except for the cabbage, mostly because I tend to use cabbage when I make the caldo with a guajillo chile base.

I filmed the last time I made this soup to make it easier for you to follow along with this super easy recipe. It's a little long, but I wanted to show you every step. Here's the video:

I plan on doing more of these kinds of videos to post to YouTube, including for recipes already up on this site. Let me know in the comments if there's a recipe in my catalog that you'd like me to walk you through.

Until next time, friends, be safe and ¡buen provecho! xo, ani

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Caldo de Res (Mexican Beef Vegetable Soup)

A comforting and nourishing bowl of vegetables and beef soup to chase the chill away. This is my version of this classic Mexican soup.


For the broth:
  • 2 pounds chuck steak
  • 2 pounds soup bones
  • coarse sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ½ medium onion, cut in two
  • 1 carrot, peeled and halved
  • 2 celery ribs, halved
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, de-seeded if less heat is desired
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ⅓ bunch cilantro
  • water to cover
  • coarse sea salt, to taste
For the soup:
  • 2 ears corn, cut into thirds
  • 4 small red potatoes, halved
  • 4 small Mexican squash, ends trimmed, halved lengthwise
  • 2 chayotes, peeled, halved length-wise, then halved again
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and quartered
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed, longer beans halved
  • salt, to taste
For the marinated onion garnish:
  • ½ medium onion, thinly sliced
  • pinch of sea salt, or to taste
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • juice of half a freshly squeezed lime
For garnish:
  • chopped cilantro
  • lime wedges
Optional garnish:
  • ½ cup cooked Mexican-style rice, per serving


Cut steak into 2-inch chunks, trimming away excess fat and any visible gristle. Generously season the steak and soup bones with salt and pepper. Add the steak, bones, onions, carrots, celery, jalapeño, bay leaves, garlic, cilantro, and salt to a large stock pot. Fill with water to cover meat and vegetables by 3 inches. Cover pot, put on stove at high heat and bring to a boil, then lower heat to maintain a slow simmer. After the first 20 minutes, skim off the foam and impurities that float to the top. Continue skimming every 20 minutes for the first hour of cooking.

Periodically check the stock pot, adding more water, if needed, to keep the water about 3 inches above the meat.

While the meat is cooking prep the soup vegetables as noted in the ingredients list.

For the marinated onions, place the thinly sliced onions in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the juice of half a lime; set aside.

When the meat has been simmering for 2 hours, start checking for doneness. Once the meat easily pulls apart with a fork, remove the now exhausted stock vegetables and discard. Add the corn; cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add the potatoes, carrots, and tomatoes; cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the tomatoes and a ladle of the broth to a blender and set aside for now. Add the squash, chayote, and green beans. Taste soup and adjust seasoning. Cover and continue simmering. Blend the tomatoes and broth until smooth. Pour the tomatoes back into the pot, passing it first through a sieve; discard anything that remains in the sieve. Cover pot and simmer until chayote is fork tender. Serve immediately, garnishing with the marinated onion, chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Optionally, add ½ cup cooked Mexican-style rice to each bowl.

Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 servings

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Tu Taco Taco Shop {dining out}

"I'm building an empire," 23-year-old Victor Osuna told me during a recent visit.

The owner and driving force behind Tu Taco Taco Shop in Chula Vista, just blocks from Hilltop High, grew up in the business – his mother owned two taco shops which are currently run by his uncle and brother. Though Victor never performed the duty of cook, he did practically ever other job in his mother's eateries.

"I didn't start cooking until I decided to open this shop," said Osuna.

Osuna's turning point from helper to owner came when he became a father.

"I have two daughters," he told me. "I want to make something here. See it grow and, eventually, open a second location. This one will go to my oldest daughter; the next one will be for my other daughter. That way they each can have something I built for them."

On the Saturday afternoon I visited, Victor was manning the open kitchen with a young cashier running the front. In between cooking, I asked him if he was usually the one at the grill top.

Tu Taco Taco Shop owner, Victor Osuna, mans the grill top while finishing up a customer order.

"Well, yeah," he started, "I don't just run the show. I am the show." With passion and pride he added that he can do every task it takes to run his business, from ordering, to register, to hooking up and maintaining equipment as well as dreaming up all of the menu items.

"I like to experiment," said Osuna. "I put different ingredients together and if it tastes good and it's different, then I put it on the menu."

Different, indeed.

Yes, you will find the typical tacos here like asada, chicken and rolled tacos. But expect to find menu items that you'll probably need to ask for descriptions because their name might not give you any hints, especially if they reside on his "hidden menu."

For example, I ordered "Tacos Perron," street sized tacos that were a sweet and savory combination of carne asada and adobada.

The shell was a crispy flour tortilla that somehow escaped disintegrating with that first bite. Usually not a fan of fried flour tortilla tacos, I was pleasantly surprised at how perfectly the flour tortilla married with the two meats. The adobada itself was one of the best I've had. As a self-taught cook, Victor beamed when I mentioned this to him.

Asked what his favorite menu item was, Victor said his most popular, the “Flamin' Hot Burrito."

The Flamin' Hot Burrito is one of several items off of Osuna’s Flamin’ Hot menu, dishes with a hefty addition of XXtra Flamin’ Hot Crunchy Cheetos. This particular burrito is one of Tu Taco Taco Shop’s most popular items and a particular point of pride for Osuna. He made the burrito one day while experimenting in the kitchen. An employee give it a try and suggested it needed to be on the menu. First, a quesadilla is grilled. Once melted, the quesadilla is pulled open and a healthy layer of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos that have been pulverized into a a fine powder is spread out over the tortilla. Then it is wrapped around what is basically a California Burrito bursting with carne asada and fries.

By the name of it, and knowing what a heat wimp I am, I knew it would be much too spicy for me.  My sister Ellie, however, who was my dining partner on this visit and is a far more adventurous eater than I, jumped at the chance to try it.

My sister said it had tons of flavor and though a little spicy, not overwhelmingly so. Commenting on it’s generous size, however, she said it was a meal for two and wound up having to take half of it home.

One of the things I love most about being a part of the San Diego food community is discovering small independent restaurants like Tu Taco Taco Shop and having the opportunity to share them with others. I would recommend this shop, not just for the food but for the passion behind this business. I do ask that you have patience, though. Food doesn’t always come quickly from the kitchen but that has more to do with the complexity of some of the items – his Flamin’ Hot Burrito, for example, is made in several stages so it takes some time to build – than it is a commentary on the quality of service. If anything, it’s a testament to it.

Tu Taco Taco Shop
1419 Hilltop Dr Suite D
Chula Vista, CA 91911
(619) 882-2920

Instagram: @tutacotaco
Facebook: TuTacoTacoShopCA

Monday, January 1, 2018

Top 5 Recipe Posts of 2017 on Confessions of a Foodie

Happy New Year, friends! 

Well, 2017 wasn't as productive here on Confessions as I had originally planned. Not going to start the new year with negativity or regrets. Instead, lets focus on the positive, shall we? 

A new year brings a clean slate: 12 new chapters and 365 chances to do something you love, to grow, to share, to live in gratitude. 

With that said, here are last year's top 5 posts in case you missed one. Click on the titles to go to the recipes: