Monday, October 15, 2018

Mexican-Spiced Iced Coffee with Kahúla {Café de Olla con Kahlua}

Today's recipe for iced Mexican coffee – café de olla, to be precise – with Kahlúa is matched only by the gorgeous copper mugs from Moscow Muled that they're served in.

Let's start at the beginning.

Hello, my name is Ani and I'm a coffee addict. 

I mean, like seriously, I drink coffee more than any other liquid. Iced coffee. Hot coffee. Black coffee. Coffee with cream. Espresso. Lattes. I could go on.

How addicted am I? 

I own two Keurigs and a KitchenAid Pro Espresso Maker with dual thermostats so I can steam the milk and pull the espresso shots without having to wait for the thermostat to come down in temp. I have three different sized French presses (single, 4-cup, 8-cup) and I own 3-cup and 9-cup Bialetti Moka Pots. Each has their own distinct-tasting results. I use the Keurig when I'm lazy and want coffee now; the others when I have time to enjoy the ritual. 

Today, we're making coffee using none of these brewers. Nope. We're going old school with café de olla. Café translates to "coffee" and de olla translates to "from cooking pot." We're going to be cooking the coffee on the stovetop in a regular sauce pan very similar to how Turkish coffee is made only with some spices thrown in. It's a pretty traditional way of making coffee in many Mexican households. And I think it's pretty delicious. Hot or cold.

We're going cold today.

And it's adults only with a healthy splash of Kahlua. 

Plus we're dressing it up by using these gorgeous hand-hammered copper mugs. 

Copper mugs: More than just for Moscow Mules
Besides being a coffee addict, I'm also a bit of prop addict. I love serving things in pretty vessels. I learned early on as a creative person that presentation was half the experience. So when Jessica from Moscow Muled contacted me and asked if I wanted to give their copper mugs a whirl, a part of me did a little dance. The other part of me hesitated a bit. Blech! on ginger beer. Unless it's wine, I'm not that big on fermented drinks. I get more excited about margaritas and cosmos and even a little Maker's Mark with Coke once in a while.

But the mugs! Uh! They're gorgeous. So before I answered her, I checked out their website. Much to my delight, they say they're not just for serving Moscow mules. "Enjoy your favorite beverage" – the site said – hot or cold. Uh, now we're talking!

I proposed an adult iced coffee and Jessica was like, "sure!"

And that's how we arrived here today. 

What makes these mugs special?
You mean, besides being pretty with a sweet-looking handle? Glad you asked. I did, too. 

Many copper mugs on the market fall into two categories: 100% copper with no interior lining or stainless steel mugs with a copper plating on the outside, each has it's issue. 

Did you know that acidic foods and copper simply don't mix? Cooking or drinking acidic foods in unlined or uncoated copper vessels causes a chemical reaction that will cause the copper to leach into the liquid or food. Copper is a heavy metal and though in small doses it has beneficial properties, excess copper can cause heavy metal poisoning which can damage the liver and kidneys. So drinking cocktails from unlined copper can have serious effects on the body.

Copper plated mugs do bypass this issue. However, the problem with many plated mugs is regular cleaning and polishing of the mugs will cause the copper plating to wear out. Then all you have is a steel mug. 

Copper mugs from Moscow Mule are different in that they are made from 100% food-grade copper so the copper will never wear off. And what makes them unique is the nickel lining that prevents copper leaching. When you drink from these mugs, your lip and tongue still makes contact with 100% pure copper which adds to the taste and experience of drinking from a copper mug but you also have the peace of mind that you're not putting your health at risk. 

Ready for some coffee?
I was in my early 20s the first time I had café de olla. One of my roommates at the time was from Mexico City. During the week, she made her coffee with a Moka Pot but come the weekends, this coffee would deliciously scent the entire house. This preparation was unheard of in my family so it was a completely new experience and I loved it. Funny thing is, once I moved out, I'd forgotten all about it until about a year ago when I came upon a video and it struck me that I hadn't made this coffee since I moved out more than 25 years ago.

On the left, Mexican cinnamon (Ceylon cinnamon) and on the right, a cassia stick. I added a penny for size reference.

Cinnamon always makes an appearance but not just any cinnamon. It has to be Mexican cinnamon. Yes, there is a difference in cinnamon. Most cinnamon sold in the U.S. and Canada is of the cassia variety. It has a deep reddish brown color and is made from a single piece of hard bark harvested from the cassia cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum cassia, grown in China). It's flavor is a bit brash and spicy sweet with a mild scent. According to HealthLine, of the two varieties, cassia cinnamon is considered the cheaper, slightly inferior one. It also, if consumed in large doses, can be toxic as it contains coumarin – a naturally occurring compound found to cause liver and kidney damage in some sensitive individuals (so beware those of you who eat large amounts of this to control blood sugar). If you're buying your cinnamon in a U.S. grocery store, this is the cinnamon you're getting. 

Mexican cinnamon, on the other hand, is harvested by rolling several thin, delicate sheets of bark from the interior of the Ceylon cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum verum, grown in Sri Lanka) resulting in a light tan color. Ceylon is often referred to as "true cinnamon." It has a sweet, floral aroma and compared with cassia cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon sticks have a negligible amount of coumarin (according to Science Daily, cassia powder has 63 times more of it than Ceylon powder while cassia sticks have 18 times more of it over Ceylon sticks). If your local store only sells the small deep red cassia variety and you're game to try Ceylon, it's available online at and Amazon.

The other unique ingredient is piloncillo (as it's known in Mexico; also called panela in Central and South American countries). It's unrefined brown cane sugar. It has a rich molasses flavor. Again, available online. Locally, you can purchase both the cinnamon and the piloncillo at Northgate Market and at smaller, neighborhood Mexican markets.

Along with the cinnamon and piloncillo, you'll need, of course, ground coffee. There's a debate about the grind. Some argue for coarse ground, others for fine. All do agree, a rich Mexican coffee is best. I used Café Bustelo Espresso Ground Coffee. It isn't super fine/powdery but it is fine and I like it with this preparation. We'll also need 2-3 whole cloves, one star anise and a few 2-inch long strips of orange zest. The orange zest is easy to get using a potato peeler. The potato peeler allows for a thin strip, avoiding the bitter pith (the thick white layer between the oil-infused skin and the fruit itself). 

The spices and the orange zest go into large sauce pan with 6 1/4 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil then turn down to a simmer and cook for five minutes. Add the sugar, bring to a second boil then lower to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Then we add 6 generous tablespoons of coffee to the sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn off heat, cover and let steep for five minutes.

Then the coffee needs to be strained through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth (or a large coffee filter, though that's MUCH slower). Allow the coffee to cool then it's ready to shake up with ice and Kahúla. Any extra coffee can be placed in a pitcher and left in the refrigerator for up to about 5 days to be enjoyed with or without alcohol. 

Whether drinking this hot or cold in your pretty copper mugs, this spiced up coffee might just become your next obsession.

Until next time … xo, ani

Café de Olla (Mexican-Spiced Coffee)

I used two Mexican cinnamon sticks because I love the flavor but I've seen this amount of water made with only one stick. If you're a cinnamon lover like me, stick with two, otherwise, feel free to use just one. If you're using cassia, 1 stick should probably be fine as I find two of the more astringent cassia sticks to be a bit sharp. 

Makes 6 servings

1-2 Mexican (Ceylon) cinnamon sticks (or 1 cassia)
3 whole cloves
1 star anise
3 2-inch strips of thin, skin only orange peel (no white pith)
1 8-ounce cone of piloncillo or 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
6 generous tablespoons of your favorite dark ground coffee

potato peeler (for removing orange zest)
large sauce pan
measuring spoons
fine mesh strainer

Bring the spices and orange peel to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for five minutes. Add the piloncillo, bring to a boil, reduce heat and stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Add the coffee, bring to a boil, cover and turn off heat. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. Line a fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth and strain the coffee into individual mugs if drinking as is or into a large pitcher if proceeding with the cocktail recipe.

Iced Mexican-Spiced Coffee with Kahúla
Makes 1 serving

6 ounces café de olla (see coffee recipe above)
1½ -2 ounces Kahúla, depending on your preferred strength
curls of orange zest, for garnish, optional

cocktail shaker
copper mugs

Add ice to a copper mug; set aside. Fill the shaker halfway with ice. Add the coffee and Kahúla. Shake well. Pour into the mug. Garnish with orange curl. 

Connect with Moscow Muled

FTC Disclaimer: Moscow Muled provided me 2 copper mugs for my review. As always, recipe, photos and opinions are my own. I only share reviews of products I love and think my readers will, too. Moscow Muled logo, copyright

Monday, October 8, 2018

My Grandmother's Capirotada (Mexican bread pudding)

Capirotada – a Mexican-style bread pudding – ticks both the sweet and savory boxes with a mix of rich brown sugar, gooey cheese, peanuts and raisins. 

“Yes, mijia?"
“Can you teach me how to make your capirotada?”
 Yes, mijia. Whenever you want.”

My beautiful Grandma with her signature pearls.
A few days later, Grandma came home from the store with a couple of loaves of inexpensive sliced white sandwich bread, a 5-pound bag of shredded Monterey Jack cheese, a bag of brown sugar, shelled peanuts and a box of golden raisins. That Sunday, as she leaned up against the counter for support, she walked me through how to make her Mexican bread pudding, a family favorite for as long as I can remember.

“What does the onion do, Grams?” I ask as I placed half a large onion into the pot with the sugar and spices.

“I don’t know, mija. It’s just the way I learned. It’s good.”

My grandmother didn't attend school as she had to work to help support her family. She also wasn’t able to spend much time in the kitchen learning from her grandmother or parents how to cook. She married my grandfather at the age of 17 and they lived with his family. I remember her telling me that the women there reluctantly taught her to cook some dishes. The rest she taught herself, experimenting until she could recreate the food from her childhood.

“That’s a lot of syrup, Grams.”
“Yes, yes, it's good.” I continued layering the bread, alternating it with the cheese and ladlefuls of syrup.

“Push it down, mija, so there’s no white.” She meant the white bread. She wanted it completely saturated. So I continued until she was satisfied.

The familiar brown 4 quart Cinderella Pyrex bowl was filled to the brim with the bread pudding. I lifted the hefty bowl while my grandmother opened the oven for me to place our pudding in.

“Now we wait,” she said as she shuffled to her room, her knees aching from years of hard work. Some days, she spent all morning working in the yard, clearing foliage, chopping down tree limbs, bending and lifting, and moving 10 and 20 gallon potted plants. Other days, it took sheer will to get out of bed, her legs and her messed up shoulder limiting her mobility.

Soon, the smell of my childhood was wafting through the house, stirring up memories of holidays past. I made my way to the kitchen where grandma was already bending down to check on the capirotada.

We pulled it out and I pirated it away before grams stuck a fork in it so I could snap an Instagram picture. I remember grandma laughing at me. She'd gotten used to my taking pictures of the food I made but still I think she found it amusing. Here's the Instagram post:

Family traditions are a wonderful thing. Passing on of those traditions, priceless. Today, Grandma showed me how to make capirotada which is a bread pudding she made around Easter for as long as I can remember. I was never a fan of it whilst a child but that didn’t stop me from wanting to learn how to make it so I could record it for my sisters. As we were waiting for the simple syrup with the peanuts and raisins to cook, Grandma reminisced about her childhood, sharing her story about this dish and a few other stories. That’s the other priceless aspect of passing on traditions, the sharing of their history. I just finished transcribing my notes and sent the link to the recipe to all four of my sisters who are excited and grateful to be able to continue this tradition in their homes. I just had a spoonful of the finished pudding and am reevaluating my childhood dislike. Maybe it’s my tastebuds that have grown up, maybe it’s knowing the history but I think my opinion of this dessert has changed. Excuse me while I go serve myself a bowl. #capirotada #mexicanfood #mexicancusine #mexicanrecipes #mexicanculture #sweeteats #familytradition
A post shared by Ani / Confessions of a Foodie (@afotogirl) on

One week later, Palm Sunday of this year, after several days of complaining of headaches, dizziness and generally feeling off, she staggered out of her bedroom and yelled out to me that she was feeling very sick. I called 911 and had her rushed to the hospital. A few hours later, tests showed she had suffered a stroke. 17 days after that, she had a second, massive stroke and died a day later. It was a little more than month shy of her 89th birthday.

Our hearts broke.

Her name was Luz, which, in Spanish, means “light.” The name is taken from one of the titles for the Virgin Mary, Nuestra Señora de la Luz, meaning “Our Lady of Light.” It’s a fitting name as Grandma, a devout Catholic who was fiercely committed to God and family, was truly the brightest light in our lives.

My grandparent's wedding portrait. 

My grandmother immigrated to the United States knowing no English and with a toddler and newborn in tow. She knew no one in San Diego other than my grandfather who had already been living and working here as a baker for some time. Despite these limitations and the fact that she had no formal education, she forged a life steering a growing family with fierce determination and strong faith.

My grandmother with my mother. Grandma was 19 when she had my mom, the eldest of her four children. I guess she's about 20 here.

She learned English by listening to the radio, by working on word searches and taught herself to read by reading Psychology Today. As a young mother thrust into a strange culture, she told me life was hard, and lonely as she didn't know the language so making friends was difficult. She relied in those early years on the priest from the local church for social interaction.

Education was huge for my grandmother. She was determined to have her children get the best they could. She made a little extra money sewing and mending so they could afford private Catholic school. She found full time employment as a seamstress at a major clothing manufacturer here in town, when clothes were still made in San Diego on a large scale. She persuaded my grandfather to buy a house. Then another. And another. Eventually, they’d wind up with four rental properties and a large 2-story Craftsman house that became the family home.

From left to right, me, Grams and auntie after voting in the 2016 election.

One of her proudest moments was when she became a U.S. citizen. “That’s when I got my blue eyes,” she would tell me during our morning chats over coffee. She voted in every election.

Grandma, a few days after the first stroke, getting a welcome home kiss.
This week marks 6 months since her painful passing.

I still can’t believe she’s gone.

I’m so incredibly grateful that I moved in with her and my aunt in 2012. I got to hear stories of her childhood. Stories of her early years here in the States. I got to know her warped, often sarcastic sense of humor. I got to watch her fierce determination to figure things out on her own firsthand. I got to see her laugh, cry, pray on a regular basis.

I also got to see her go from being a little fearful of dogs to reluctantly allowing my dog to lick her hand to eventually seeking out kisses on the cheek, hand-feeding Starbuck, inviting her to get up in her bed with her and helping to pick up “her poops” in the yard.

I miss her so much.

Me and Grams post-voting breakfast.
It’s taken a while for us, for me, to come out from the fog enveloping us. I haven't been very inspired to cook, or write, or photograph. That lack of motivation is reflected across all my social channels as most have been rather quiet. It's just that first there was the immediate grief to deal with, then helping my aunt with the arrangements and then us immediately tackling her bedroom to make room for relatives and all the things that come from losing someone who was such a huge presence in your life. It's damn hard. Living here in the home she made, surrounded by her things, no where near finished helping to go through her belongings six months later to see what to keep or donate, plus trying to find a way to integrate my things into this house now that I’ve decided to stay, well, let’s just say, it's filled with sadness and memories and it's all a bit of a zap in motivation for anything else for me and my aunt.

I sometimes feel her around me, though. I swear I can hear her giving words of encouragement. Sometimes I even think I see her, there in the corners of my vision. And truth be told, that does give me some comfort.

Thank you, Grandma, for giving me, for giving this family, such a sense of purpose. ¡Te quiero mucho!

My grandmother's recipe

I’ve kept the spirit of my grandmother’s recipe here but made a few adjustments. Firstly, I didn’t use the onion.

And where she used ground spices, I used whole to make the simple syrup. I didn’t bundle the spices in cheesecloth or spice bag but you can if you’re afraid of not being able to fish out the cloves before using. I was just extra careful when using the syrup to look for any errant cloves.

Also, Grandma usually used about 1 loaf plus 4 slices or so of week old white sandwich bread. I opted for bolillos, which are a Mexican style French bread about 6 inches in length. If you don't have them available, you can use sandwich rolls.

When I finally decided I was ready to come back to blogging and make this, I didn’t have the patience or forethought to wait an entire week for the bread to dry out, so I toasted mine.

I rather liked how that worked out: the bread was slightly nutty and more primed to absorb the syrup. This also makes less than the 4 quarts of pudding.

Use any leftover syrup to sweeten and spice up your morning oatmeal or dress up a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Until next time, friends. Enjoy the recipe.… xo, ani

Grandma's Capirotada

Makes 8 servings.


For the syrup:

6 cups water
1 pound dark brown sugar
1 large stick Mexican cinnamon (3 sticks if using standard American, i.e. McCormick, cinnamon sticks, they’re less fragrant than Mexican cinnamon)
3 whole cloves
1 star anise
5 ounces roasted peanuts
10 ounces raisins, preferably golden

For assembly:

4-5 bolillos (Mexican French bread, or sandwich rolls), cut into ¼-inch slices
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 pound Monterey Jack Cheese, grated


Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place water, sugar, spices and peanuts in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the raisins and simmer for another 5 minutes. Take off heat, remove cinnamon, cloves and star anise then allow the syrup to cool slightly.

While syrup is simmering, grate the cheese; set aside. Slice the bread. Line two sheet pans with the bread slices and place in the oven to toast for 5 minutes. Remove pans, flip bread, return to oven and toast an additional 5 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly.

Lower oven temp to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using a pastry brush, apply melted butter to a 9x13 casserole or lasagne dish. Line the pan with a single layer of bread, breaking bread up to fill the spaces between slices. Spoon on the syrup, making sure to dig down for the raisins and peanuts (also, keep an eye out for a clove you might have missed). Be generous with the syrup, you want the bread saturated. Evenly spread out a layer of cheese. Repeat layering the bread (using a fork to push it down to absorb the liquid), syrup and cheese until the dish is filled to capacity, being sure to end with a generous layer of cheese.

Place the pan on the center rack and bake for 25-35 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbly. Carefully remove from oven and let set for 15 minutes before serving. Allow to cool completely before storing, tightly covered, in the refrigerator. This dessert is excellent the next day as a cold dessert.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Soyrizo Bean Sopes { #Lenten #Recipe }

Have you ever had sopes from your local taco shop? They’re a thick tortilla, anywhere from a 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch thickness, with a crispy outside and a soft middle. These babies are then smeared with a good portion of refried beans and are topped with shredded beef or chicken or any number of guisados (stewed meats or vegetables). 

Did you know they’re super easy to make at home? 

Today, I’m sharing another inexpensive lenten meal favorite, vegetarian-style. Soyrizo Bean Sopes. This soyrizo beans recipe is adapted from a chorizo beans recipe I grew up on. They're my dad's version of frijoles charros (charros is slang for cowboy so this translates to cowboy-style beans). Traditionally, frijoles charros also has bacon and weiners. Don't ask me why. They just do. Dad's didn't. I'm glad for that. 

I'm forsaking a post filled with photos for a video tutorial on technique firstly, because I think it's easier to show you how to make the masa in a video over photos. Secondly, I'm off to a food styling workshop by the incomparable Denise Vivaldo this weekend and need my beauty sleep as it's in Los Angeles and I'm going to have to make the 2 1/2 hour drive up north in the rain at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning to be there in time for the 8:30 am check-in.

I'm tired already thinking about it! Wish me luck!

As for the video, I'm still trying to figure out my style and format. I'm a one-woman show so they take me longer to do than if I were to have someone shooting the video and then have an experienced video editor doing the post, so please bear with me.

If you do like this video and find it useful, I'd love it if you could subscribe to the YouTube channel for Confessions of a Foodie, hit the bell icon so you can be notified directly when new videos go up and leave me a comment if you'd like to see something from my archives turned into a cooking video.

Until next time friends … xo, ani

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Soyrizo Bean Sopes
Mexican sopes are a handheld street food typically piled high with meat. We're making these soyrizo bean sopes vegetarian for a satisfying Lenten or vegetarian meal. Masa harina is an instant corn masa flour not to be confused with corn flour/meal used to make cornbread or polenta. Those products are made from dried corn that has been ground. Masa harina is maize (field corn) that has been treated with lime and water, made into a dough, then dehydrated and made into a flour for tortillas or tamales depending on the consistency of the grind. Queso fresco is a soft Mexican farmer's cheese. Feel free to substitute with feta, or your favorite farmer's cheese.

For the masa
  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
  • 2 ½ cups very warm water
  • oil for frying
For the filling
  • 5 ounces soyrizo
  • 1 16-ounce can pinto beans, do not drain
For the garnish
  • 1 cup shredded iceberg
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • ½ lemon freshly squeezed
  • salsa, to taste
Add the masa harina to a large mixing bowl. Pour in 1 ½ cups of very warm water to start. Using your hands, mix in the water until it’s thoroughly absorbed. Continue adding water, about a ¼ cup at a time, working the water in, until there is no more loose flour on the bottom of the bowl and the dough holds together. Test the dough by rolling a small amount in your palms to make a smooth ball. Flatten between your palms. If the sides of the disk has cracks in it, you’ll need to work in a little more water, a tablespoon at a time until the dough is smooth, pliable and resembles a play dough-like texture. Cover with a damp paper towel then seal the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rest. Add 1 teaspoon of cooking oil to a hot skillet. Once the oil is hot, add the soyrizo. Cook for five minutes, stirring to keep it from sticking or burning. Remove 2 tablespoons of the liquid from the can of pinto beans then add the beans to the pan. Stir to heat through. (We removed some of the liquid because we want our beans creamy, not soupy.) Using a potato masher, give the beans a mash. I prefer not to over-mash, leaving some beans whole for added texture but you can mash more or less to taste. Lower heat to a medium low and allow to simmer for five minutes. Then remove from the heat and set aside.Roll the masa into a log about 10 inches long. Using a bench scraper or knife, divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll a piece of the dough into a smooth ball. Place the ball of dough on a sheet of waxed paper. Press down a little to flatten slightly then cover with another sheet of waxed paper. Place a plate on top and press down evenly and firmly to create about a ¼-inch thick patty. Remove from the wax paper and use your thumb to smooth out the edges by pressing your thumb into your index finger, creating a squared off edge. Work your way all around the patty. Return the now flattened dough to the bowl and cover with a clean dish towel to keep the dough from drying out. Repeat with remaining dough.
Heat up a skillet or griddle, preferably cast iron. Once the griddle is hot, add two of the tortilla patties to the griddle. Keep the heat at about medium. We don’t want the griddle so hot that the outside of the patty burns before the inside has a chance to steam and cook. After about 6-8 minutes, check the patty. You want it to just be turning a medium to dark brown and the edges should be looking a little dry. Flip them and repeat this cooking process on the second side. If you have multiple skillets going, or a large two-burner griddle, this cooking process will go much faster as you can cook more at the same time. As the patties are cooked, place them in a bowl and cover with a clean, kitchen towel to keep warm.
While the tortilla patties are still hot but cool enough to handle, create a “crust” that will keep the toppings from sliding off, by using your thumbs and index fingers to pinch the edges up firmly, creating a little ridge on surface facing up. It's like crimping a pie only you're not getting fancy by scolloping, you're just creating an elevated "wall'. Return the patties to the towel covered bowl as you finish crimping them to keep them warm.Heat a skillet on medium-high. Once hot, add enough oil to cover the bottom, about ⅓ of a cup or so. When the oil is hot, carefully add the tortilla patties to the skillet, no more than three at time so you don't lower the oil temperature. Fry for about 3-4 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown. Remove to a towel-lined pan and continue frying until all the patties have been fried.
In the meantime, add the sour cream to a small bowl. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Stir until smooth; set aside. To assemble the sope, spread two tablespoons or so of the soyrizo beans onto the tortilla patty. Top with some queso fresco. Add lettuce. Drizzle on sour cream, to taste. Then add salsa, to taste. Garnish with another hit of queso. Serve immediately.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 sopes

Friday, February 23, 2018

Musacaa - Egyptian-Style Stewed Eggplant with Chickpeas { #Lenten #recipe }

My favorite color is purple. Have I mentioned that to you before? 

Equal amounts of high energy red and calming stable blue, it's a well balanced, luxurious color. 

And it's the color of one of my favorite vegetables.

Eggplant is often described as having a creamy texture with a meaty flavor. But really, it all depends on the preparation. I have recipes here on this site that includes breading in panko and parmesan and shallow frying for a satisfying "steak" alongside a salad. I have it baked and stuffed. Or breaded, fried, and layered between cheese and tomato sauce. I have it thinly sliced, baked and rolled around pesto covered angel hair pasta and slathered in a chunky tomato sauce. 

All of these are good, dare I even say, great. 

But then I tried musacaa. 

Of course, it wasn't called that when I ordered it. Allow me to rewind a bit.

Several folks at work banded together a few years ago to sign up for an office lunch meal delivery service. Usually, I skip it because it's often pasta or overly bready sandwiches or, ew, sushi. But a few times a month, it's Mediterranean/Turkish/North African and I will partake.

Back in October, on a particularly chilly day, an offering on the delivery service included a vegetarian dish which they called moussaka. I was intrigued because every Greek moussaka dish I had ever had always contained meat so I assumed this would be layered eggplant and potatoes minus the meat but still topped with the traditional thick layer of Béchamel sauce. I was wrong.

When it arrived, it was this ridiculously smooth, luxurious concoction of chunky roasted eggplant, tomatoes and chickpeas with no potatoes, no meat, no Béchamel in sight. It was also heaven in a bowl and I had to learn what it was and how to make it at home. STAT.

Several weeks of research later, the closest I came to figuring out what I actually had (because remembering the name of the restaurant and calling them to find out was just too logical and would, of course, begin with remembering the name of the restaurant. Duh.), I discovered was most likely the Egyptian version of moussaka called musacaa (I also found variant spellings of it as mesa'a'ah and misa'a'ah).

The dish I had was definitely not spicy so I didn't include hot peppers in my version. It did have hints of warming spices in it, which I include. Also, the main theme of all the versions I found was to separately deep-fry the onions, the eggplant, the peppers and generally bathe everything in copious amounts of olive oil. And, yes, I know, eggplant fried in tons of olive oil is definitely a thing of beauty but in no scenario can that ever be called healthy.

I found a version that is the main source of my adaptation which calls for a method that I already employ often when cooking eggplant: lightly oiled slices of eggplant get roasted in place of frying. Plus, the onions and peppers are sautéd instead of getting deep fried. I've added chickpeas for protein and added fiber. Besides, I love chickpeas. I love the name. I love saying the name. Chickpeas. So much sexier than saying 'garbanzo beans'. I mean, really, am I not right?

I think this is my new favorite way to eat eggplant. I hope it becomes yours, too.

Until next time, friends. Peace and good health... xo, ani

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Musacaa: Egyptian-Style Stewed Eggplant
A healthier, non-spicy version of this Egyptian dish subs out deep-frying eggplant for roasted eggplant. The addition of chickpeas adds protein. Served over your favorite grain, this makes a great meatless meal.
  • 2 - 2 ½ pounds globe eggplants (about 2 large), sliced into ½-inch thick rounds
  • olive oil, as needed
  • sea salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound vine ripened tomatoes, sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 2 ½ cups)
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground clove
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 cups tomato puree (I like Italian style 'passata")
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 (16 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
For serving
  • cooked rice, quinoa or couscous
  • chopped cilantro
  • warmed flatbread
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush three sheet pans with olive oil. Arrange sliced eggplant in a single layer on pans. Brush with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Flip slices and repeat oil and seasoning. Working in batches if needed, roast the eggplant in the oven for 24 minutes, flipping once halfway through roasting so both sides get evenly browned. Remove from oven and set aside.While the eggplant is roasting, prep the rest of the vegetables, slicing the tomatoes, dicing the onions and peppers. Also, add the cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, clove and sea salt to a small bowl; set aside. Mince the garlic; set aside.Place a stockpot on medium low heat. Once hot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and swirl to coat bottom of pot. Add the onions, stirring every 45 seconds for 15 minutes or until the onions have evenly caramelized to a light golden color. Don't rush this by turning up the heat; you need to cook them slowly so they release their natural sugars. Once the onions are a light golden brown, pour in a ¼ cup of water to deglaze the pan and continue to cook for 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Toss in the bell peppers, stir, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Clear the center of the pot and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Toss in the garlic and spices and stir continuously for 30 seconds before adding the tomato paste; stir to incorporate. Pour in the tomato puree. Fill the empty jar with water to almost full, cap and shake, then add to pot. Pour in the 3 cups of water and stir in the chickpeas. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove all but 1 cup of sauce from the pot to a large bowl or container. Place a single layer of eggplant in the pot. Add a ladleful of sauce to cover. Next add a layer of tomatoes and cover them with a ladleful of sauce. Continue layering, alternating between vegetables and sauce until all are in the pot. Simmer on low for 30 minutes. Serve over your favorite cooked grain with flatbread and garnished with chopped cilantro.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 servings

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)