Chicken with Salsa Verde

Salsa verde is the easiest thing ever. Made fresh on your stovetop in 45 minutes (including the meat), you’ll never buy the sodium-laden jars again.

Make tacos, enchiladas, burritos…or dip tortilla chips in it!

If you don’t like heat, leave the jalapeño out, because it does make the sauce spicy. Add in green bell pepper as a replacement.

As always, corn tortillas are traditional. Flour tortillas will work fine, but because they’re larger, you’ll get fewer tacos.

Garnish how you like…cilantro, lime wedges, radish slices, queso blanco…or sour cream. Or queso dip. Or all of the above. So delicious.

Chicken with Salsa Verde

Yield 10-12 tacos or enchiladas.

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken cuts (such as breast or thigh)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 pound tomatillos, papery shells removed, cut into small wedges
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 jalapeño, sliced into rounds (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt to taste

garnish with:

  • chopped cilantro
  • radish slices
  • queso blanco
  • sour cream
  • hot sauce
  • lime wedges

Heat oil in a large fry pan (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat; generously salt and pepper chicken, and add to pan. Brown meat 5 minutes per side. Remove from pan to a plate.

Add chicken broth and scrape up the brown bits in the pan. When broth is simmering, stir in tomatillos, jalapeño, onion, and garlic. Simmer on medium-high heat 15-20 minutes, or until tomatillos soften. Using a potato masher or a wooden spoon, crush the tomatillos.

Add the chicken back and simmer 10-20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken and cut into slices; squeeze lime into sauce and season with salt if needed.

For enchiladas: heat tortillas, covered with a damp paper towel, in the microwave a few at a time, 15-20 seconds. Fill middle with a few slices of chicken, roll and place seam side down on a plate. Spoon verde sauce over the top. If desired, top with cheese and place under broiler for a few minutes to melt cheese. Finish with desired toppings.

For tacos: heat a dry skillet over high heat and lightly brown tortillas (corn only- heat flour tortillas using the microwave method above) until firm. Lay flat on a plate and add chicken, sauce and toppings as desired.

Enjoy!

Adapted from Bon Appétit’s Chicken with Salsa Verde

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Salvadorian-Style Red Bean & Short Rib Stew with Salsa Cruda

This is an adapted version of the Salvadorian classic, made with ingredients more readily available to American cooks. The stew is rich and saucy, and the salsa cruda (“raw sauce”) is fresh and a perfect flavor compliment.

In the original version, several hard-to-find vegetables are called for, as well as much less meat. I also add onion and garlic when cooking the chicken. Chayote is a fruit that tastes like a cross between a papaya, avocado, and squash; it’s available in my grocery store, but if you can’t find it, leave it out or substitute yellow crookneck squash.

I like to serve this stew over white rice, with one short rib per person. Give everyone a small bowl of salsa cruda for topping, and you’re all set. ¡Muy delicioso!

Red Bean Stew Closeup

Salvadorian-Style

  • 2 pounds short ribs
  • 3 cans undrained red beans
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 6 whole peeled garlic cloves
  •  3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 green plantains, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 1 light or dark green chayote (1 pound), pitted, peeled and cut into a 1-inch dice (peel skin with a vegetable peeler, taking off just the top layer of skin)
  • 1/2 medium green cabbage, cut into 1-inch strips
  • salt to taste

for the salsa cruda:

  • 1 pound plum (Roma) tomatoes (4-6 count), seeded and cut into cubes
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 small green pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large cooking pot; simmer 1 hour covered.

When ribs are tender, remove them along with the garlic cloves. In a fry pan, heat oil over medium heat and brown garlic and ribs on all sides (keep pot of beans simmering while you do this).

While the ribs brown, add parsley, cilantro, plantains, chayote, and salt (if needed) to beans; stir. Add ribs and garlic back to pot. Simmer 20 more minutes or until vegetables are getting tender, then add cabbage and cook another 10-15 minutes until all vegetables are done.

Make the salsa while the pot finishes cooking: combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir. Serve immediately. Enjoy!


Herbed Steak Tacos with Tomato-Basil Salsa

It is no secret that we love Latin food in this house.

It is also no secret that tortillas are our favorite way to deliver the goods. I have heaps of corn and flour tortillas in my kitchen at all times.

I was perusing the internet the other day, looking for recipe inspiration, and came across a “vinaigrette” that reminded me a lot of salsa, or pico de gallo…chunky bits of tomato and onion, but instead of cilantro, they used basil, and instead of lime, they used vinegar.

Aha! I have basil and vinegar in the fridge right this very moment!

Basil salsa…could a Mediterranean-style taco be in our future?

I thought I’d make this thing work. Rub a big shoulder steak with herbs, let it marinate, and grill to medium-rare perfection.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: please get yourself a good meat tenderizer (I have this one, and it’s not a mallet). They make such a difference in the tenderness of the meat. I mean, they’re called meat tenderizers for that reason, right?

So go get one. Or have the UPS man deliver one to you.

A meat thermometer is also indispensable in my opinion – it makes perfect meat a no-brainer. No poking or prodding, no cutting into the meat while it’s still in the pan, seeing if it’s done enough…or overdone.

The UPS man can bring you one of those too. I use mine whenever I cook steaks, pork tenderloin, or anything that needs to reach a specific temperature to be perfect.

Make the salsa while the steak rests; no need to refrigerate it. The basil loses its pungency if made too far ahead. You could, I suppose, mix up the other ingredients ahead of time and throw the basil in at the last minute, if you really wanted to.

Ibérico cheese is from Spain, a mix of cow’s, goat’s, and sheep’s milk. I love it for its stronger flavor – it stands up to the vinegared salsa nicely. You could also try Parmesan or maybe feta if Ibérico isn’t available.

Corn tortillas will work if you need gluten free! Or stuff a pita with the mix!

What a surprise these flavors were, it was like taco identity crisis! So good, and a nice change from cilantro/cumin/lime. Did I really just say that?

Closeup Herbed Steak Tacos

Herbed Steak Tacos with Tomato-Basil Salsa

Salsa adapted from finecooking.com’s Chunky Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette   

makes 8 tacos.

for the meat:

  • 1 1/4 pound beef cut of your choice (I use 1 inch thick shoulder/London Broil)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 large garlic clove, sliced thin

for the salsa:

  • 1/2 cup diced Roma tomatoes (seeded)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

you will also need:

  • canola oil, for grilling
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 flour tortillas, taco or fajita size
  • shaved Ibérico cheese (available in most grocery delis, El Cortijo brand seems to be widely available)

On a piece of plastic wrap, drizzle steak with oil, and rub in spices and garlic with your hands. Wrap tightly and marinate 1-2 hours, taking the meat out of the refrigerator the last 30 minutes.

When meat is ready, preheat a dry, heavy skillet or cast iron grill pan over high heat.

One at a time, grill the tortillas on one side. Keep warm in a towel.

Reduce heat to medium, and give the pan time to cool off a bit (5-10 minutes). Scrape garlic and herbs off steak (garlic is more important to remove, it will burn) and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Oil pan lightly and add steak.

Let cook, undisturbed, for 5-10 minutes. Keep any eye on the heat – you want the pan to stay decently hot for a good sear, but not so hot it overcooks the meat. When you have nice browning, flip the steak. I suggest using a meat thermometer at this point, inserted into the thickest part of the steak, until it registers 125-130°F (medium rare). This will take another 10 minutes or so.

Remove the steak to a plate, and wrap with foil. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Now make the salsa: combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Cover and set aside.

Slice meat thinly, against the grain, into strips. Assemble the tacos by adding meat, a tablespoon of salsa, and shaving cheese over the top. Serve immediately. Enjoy!


Chicken, Black Bean & Plantain Stuffed Arepas

I’m on a roll these past few posts, nothing but Spanish cooking lately!

Today, we travel to Venezuela, famous for their corn flatbreads called arepas. 

I am not a big baker (and baking is even harder for my family since my sister can’t eat anything with gluten), and these are super easy to make. And they’re gluten free!

Even better, the arepas then get stuffed full with delicious fillings like a pita! Oh, yes.

This is my favorite filling combination (slow cooked beef instead of chicken is a close second). But you could fill them with really anything – try scrambled eggs and salsa with cheese for breakfast!

Adriana Lopez of Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen gets credit for inspiring me to add the fried plantain as a filling. Yum.

Arepas are first cooked in a pan before being baked in the oven; I like to cook mine in a cast iron grill pan for the lovely marks it leaves on the bread! But you can use a regular skillet, too.

For the chicken, first make my Pechuga de Pollo a la Plancha recipe.

If you have looked at some other Spanish recipes I’ve posted, you probably noticed the fried plantains on the plate. You can make them from fresh, but I buy them already sliced, fried and frozen (in my store they’re next to the french fries). Goya is a well-known and common Spanish brand that’s widely available here, and they taste just like you made them yourself. Just follow the package directions to bake in the oven or pan fry.

Also, the beans. Making beans from scratch takes hours. Unless I’m making a traditional dish where I need the beans done a certain way, I use canned refried beans (check the label to be sure there’s nothing weird in them, just beans and spices) and add my own extras to them. I also use canned black beans often – the low sodium kind with as few ingredients as possible, and season them myself. From-scratch beans are just not possible for me most of the time!

The arepa preparation I follow is from the cookbook Gran Cocina Latina but a very similar method is described hereAn internet search will show you many different methods, which isn’t surprising since this is one of the most popular and well-known Venezuelan foods. The method I am going to show you has always worked for me. The only variation is I make them larger so there’s 1 per person. Make them small (3 inches) if you like.

The dough can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for a few days. I have made this sandwich the night before and reheated it for lunch the next day, along with some rice; perfectly delicioso.

arepa

Chicken, Black Bean & Plantain Stuffed Arepas

for the arepas:

  • 1 cup precooked white or yellow corn flour, such as Harina P.A.N. brand
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon oil, plus 1/2 tablespoon for frying (preferably corn, but I use canola)
  • Pechuga de Pollo a la Plancha recipe
  • 1-16 ounce can refried black beans
  • 1-4 ounce can chopped hot green chiles
  • fried plantains, made from scratch or store bought frozen and heated per package directions
  • cojita cheese for topping (if you can’t find it, use mozzarella or even a little feta!)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Your chicken should be in the fridge marinating away at this point!

Put the refried beans in a small pan and add 3 tablespoons of the green chiles (more if you like!). Heat on low with the lid on while you prepare the arepas.

The fried plantains I buy take about 25 minutes in the oven; I start them baking now. If you only have one oven, you can microwave or fry them.

 

to make the arepas:

In a large bowl, mix the corn flour and salt; pour the water and oil over the top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.

After water is absorbed, knead the dough with your hands until smooth. Cover with a damp towel and let rest 5 more minutes.

On a flat surface, knead the dough until it’s not sticky (or only slightly sticky, it should not stick to the bowl but it might stick to your fingers because they’re warm).

Divide into 3 equal parts. I like to weigh the dough out to be sure they’re almost the same.

Form one into a ball, then flatten with the palm of your hand into a round that’s 5 inches wide and a little less than 1/2 inch thick. I do this on the counter rather than holding the dough. Repeat with the other dough balls. (hint: the dough is ready when you can flatten it into a ball and the edges do not crack.)

Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil (or brush the grill pan lightly with oil) and add as many rounds as will fit in your skillet (my 10-inch will hold 2). Make sure the pan is hot; this sets the stage for the arepa to puff up in the oven!

Leave them to cook for a few minutes until beginning to brown (maybe 3 minutes), then flip over.

Move the browned arepas to a baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until puffy.

Remove from the oven but leave on the baking sheet to keep warm.

 

Cook the chicken now!

 

To assemble the arepas, cut the bread open about 1/3 of the way along the edge (you can always cut it more if needed). With a dull knife, carefully hollow out the bread edge to edge.

Spread the refried beans on the bottom, then add sliced chicken and plantains. Top with cheese and serve immediately. Enjoy!


Cuban-Style Enchiladas

I have this amazing cookbook called Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America.

Contained in its nearly 900 pages is the life’s work of chef and restaurateur Maricel Presilla, the result of a 30 years long trip that took her to the kitchens of families all over Latin America. I have learned so much from these recipes, and occasionally make one my own. The book got the James Beard Award, for heaven’s sake.

This recipe is my take on a Cuban enchilado recipe in Gran Cocina Latina originally meant for seafood. Certainly this would be great with shrimp or fish – I used chicken in this example. The sauce is very much like making a Spanish sofrito but I use a few shortcuts and omit or add some ingredients. The seafood and sauce is eaten over rice but I thought it would make great enchiladas!

It is mildly spicy, very garlicky and deliciously savory. This sauce over steamed mussels would be absolutely divine.

But today, let’s make enchiladas!

By the way, you could certainly take the extra step of pureeing the sauce with a stick blender until smooth so it looks more like enchilada sauce.

Cuban Style Enchiladas (sauce pureed)

 

Cuban-Style Enchiladas

Adapted from “Cuban-Style Shrimp in Enchilado Sauce”, Gran Cocina Latina cookbook

  • 1 pound chicken, cut into strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • juice of 1/4 lime

 

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced small
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes and chiles, mild or original
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 teaspoons cornstarch

 

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded colby or Mexican 4-cheese blend
  • fresh cilantro and sour cream, for garnish
  • 8-10 corn tortillas

In a zip-top bag, combine the chicken, 4 chopped garlic cloves, salt, and lime. Seal, toss to coat, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (I allowed 2 hours).

When the chicken is ready, take it out and clean it so no garlic is left. In a large saucepan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook 5 minutes or until soft.

Add the rest of ingredients except cornstarch and add a little salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Measure cornstarch out one teaspoon at a time, adding slowly and whisking to combine.

Put chicken in the sauce mixture, and spoon more over the tops to cover. Cover pan and let simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes, turning once.

Preheat your broiler on high.

Remove chicken to a plate and shred with 2 forks (if it doesn’t shred easily, it isn’t ready). Add a few tablespoons of the sauce to the shredded chicken and toss. Set aside.

Heat the stack of tortillas wrapped in a damp paper towel in the microwave until warm, 15-30 seconds.

One at a time, put about 1/4 cup chicken down the center of the tortilla; roll up and place seam-side down in a shallow baking dish. Repeat until all the filling is gone, pushing enchiladas snug up against each other as you go.

(Puree the sauce now, if desired.)

Now pour the pan’s contents over the enchiladas; top with shredded cheese.

Broil 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve with fresh cilantro, sour cream, and maybe some Cholula hot sauce! Enjoy!

Cuban Style Enchiladas


Blackened Shrimp Tacos with Red Wine Vinegar Slaw & Avocado Salsa

I’m obsessed with the little Honduran restaurant here in town called Izzy’s. It is positively delightful to have authentic flavors for inspiration!

Yes, I said positively delightful. See what a pleasant mood good food puts me in? Anyway, I’d been meaning to try to copy the slaw that tops most of the tacos at Izzy’s. It is crunchy, tangy, and this awesome shade of pink.

I also recently had a request for my blackened seasoning. I used shrimp, but try it on fish, chicken, anything. It is only slightly spicy (but enough so that my toddler rejects it – I just cook hers in butter with no seasoning). To get the right flavor, use butter, not oil, for cooking the blackened meat!

Before I do any more talking, I want to make sure you’re not intimidated by all the moving parts: the only real cooking here is the shrimp. Everything else is just chopped and stirred and marinated for awhile. So make this, it is easy and you will love it.

This recipe is a combo of old and new, spicy and tangy, creamy and crunchy.

And delicious and delicious.

I  seem to love italics today.

I decided to add avocado salsa to balance the strong blackened and vinegar flavors. You could just dice up some avocado and throw it on top, but what fun is that? I didn’t have any, but adding corn to this salsa is not only authentic, it also completes the flavor spectrum by adding sweet. Ahhh.

Corn tortillas are typically used, but if you like flour better that will work too. You’ll make fewer tacos since flour tortillas are larger, though.

If you want to go all out, make my avocado-cilantro ranch dressing and drizzle that on top. Good Lord ah’mighty. Or actually, ay Dios mio.

Serve these with tortilla chips so your guests can scoop up whatever falls out of the tortillas and onto their plates! And maybe some rice too, here’s my MSG-free yellow rice recipe.

P.S. Don’t have red wine vinegar? If you have apple cider vinegar, try topping these tacos with my Costa Rican Slaw recipe instead!

P.S.S. I was not kidding when I said I’m obsessed with Spanish food.

shrimp

 

shrimp1

Look how pretty it is! Don’t like seafood? Make it with chicken. Just sayin.

Blackened Shrimp Tacos with Red Wine Vinegar Slaw & Avocado Salsa

  • 1 pound large peeled and deveined shrimp, tails removed
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 lime
  • 8-10 yellow or white corn tortillas, or flour tortillas

blackened seasoning mix:

  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (or use regular if you don’t want the smoky flavor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • pinch of salt

for the slaw:

  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lime or lemon

for the avocado salsa:

  • 2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • juice of one lime
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4-1/3 cup sweet corn kernels (optional)

Start by making the slaw 1-2 hours ahead of time: in a bowl with a tight fitting lid, mix all 4 ingredients together well. Cover and refrigerate, stirring slaw every 30 minutes. Slaw will soften and turn pink when it’s ready. The longer you let it sit in the vinegar, the stronger the flavor will be.

Next, make the avocado salsa. Mix all ingredients gently in a bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Measure out the seasonings for the blackening mix and stir well. Put the shrimp in a large zip top bag and add half the seasoning. Seal and toss to coat. Add more seasoning to your liking – we use it all!

Heat a dry skillet to very, very hot (just leave it on high) and brown the tortillas one at a time, about 1 minute per tortilla. Keep them warm in a towel. If you’re using flour tortillas, wrap them in a damp paper towel and microwave until warm, 20-30 seconds.

Turn heat off and move skillet to another burner. Let cool 5 minutes.

Return skillet to burner and heat on medium. Add butter, and when melted, add shrimp. Cook quickly, constantly tossing shrimp, 2-3 minutes. Squeeze the lime over them. Remove skillet from heat and immediately assemble tacos.

[Alternatively, you could grill the shrimp, in which case you’ll need melted butter to douse them with while they cook!]

Use 3-4 shrimp per taco. Drain vinegar before serving slaw. Top with a spoonful of avocado salsa. Serve with hot sauce or my avocado-cilantro ranch dressing. Enjoy!


Southwest Salad with Avocado-Cilantro Ranch Dressing

The super easy fried chicken salad I made recently seemed to be pretty popular, so I’m going to beef up my salad menu! I have quite a few I’ll share with all of you!

How about a Southwest salad? Since I always have cilantro and the like in my fridge. (no, really I do!)

You can find the tortilla strips right next to the croutons in your grocery store. They add both color and flavor!

And it sounds super fancy to make your own dressing, but here’s what I do: buy the base pre-made (your favorite ranch dressing) and add ingredients to make it your own. Awesome, right?

Totally. I’m here to help you look as fancy as possible.

By the way, since football season has now started, try dipping your wings in this dressing. Or put it on these tacos. Oh, yes.

Southwest Salad with Avocado-Cilantro Ranch Dressing

  • 1 pound fresh chicken tenderloins or strips (6-8 count)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper

for assembly:

  • 1 cup cooked corn kernels
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • lettuce of your choice (I used a bag of the pre-cut butter lettuce, used a little more than half the bag for 2 salads)
  • 1 avocado, halved
  • 1/2-3/4 cup shredded Monterey jack or 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • crispy tortilla strips (next to the croutons in your grocery store)

for the dressing:

  • 2/3 cup of your favorite ranch dressing
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro (just throw the stems and everything in)
  • juice of 1/2 lime

Make the dressing ahead of time and refrigerate to chill it down. It’ll last a week or so. This recipe makes way too much for two salads, but unless you have one of those mini food processors, this is the only way to get it to blend right! Use it as a dip for wings or a topping for tacos.

Add all ingredients for the dressing to a food processor or blender. Blend continuously until creamy, about a minute. Move to an airtight container and refrigerate.

Heat the butter in a large pan over high heat. Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides. When the pan’s hot, throw it in. Turn the heat down to medium after 30 seconds, and let cook for 5 minutes per side.

While the chicken cooks, assemble the salad. On 2 large plates, divide enough lettuce to cover the plate. Add the black beans and corn evenly between the two, then place half an avocado on each salad. Sprinkle cheese and tortilla strips.

Add the hot chicken to the salad. Sprinkle with cilantro and dressing. Enjoy!