POSOLE VERDE

Posole or pozole is a traditional Mexican soup or stew.  Posole comes in all the colors of the Mexican flag (i.e., green, white, and red).  No matter which version you make, hominy is a key ingredient.  You can read about the process of making hominy here, which involves a process called nixtamalization.  (I know, I know . . . z-z-z-z-z-z.)

While we’re still enjoying cool weather, I busted out the stockpot and made Posole Verde  — for all you non-Spanish speakers, that would be the green version.  Despite all the naysayers on the internet, I used canned hominy, as opposed to searching for Latino markets with dried hominy and then soaking it overnight.  So much easier to just pop the top on this can of hominy and get on with things:

While I was making the soup, I could not get the phrase “homina, homina, homina” out of my head — a phrase made popular by Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners, used to express “shock, befuddlement, or general speechlessness.”  As I puttered around the kitchen, I found myself alternately muttering “homina, homina, homina” and “hominy, hominy, hominy” to myself.   I definitely talk more to myself now that I’m an empty nester.

This soup is great — hearty, tangy from the tomatillos, satisfying.  Set out a plate of garnishes and let everyone prepare their own bowl.

POSOLE VERDE
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Recipe type: Soup
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1-1/4 lbs tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and halved
  • 2 large poblano chiles, halved lengthwise
  • 1 large jalapeno, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 29-ounce can hominy, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ cup roasted and salted pepitas, ground
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Garnishes: thinly-sliced radishes, cilantro leaves, diced avocado, crumbled queso fresco, pepitas
Instructions
  1. Preheat the broiler. Place the tomatillos, poblanos, and jalapeño on a baking sheet (cover sheet with foil to make clean up easy). Broil vegetables, turning occasionally with tongs, until the skins of the peppers are blackened and the peppers have softened, approximately 15 minutes.
  2. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove and discard the seeds, stems, and blackened skins from the peppers. (Avoid touching eyes after handling jalapeños!)
  3. Transfer the tomatillos, poblanos, and jalapeño to a blender, and blend until almost smooth.
  4. In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and cumin, and saute, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, approximately 6-7 minutes. Add the tomatillo mixture and chicken stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the hominy, shredded chicken, oregano, pepitas, and cilantro, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. If soup is too thick, add a little more chicken stock to thin soup to desired consistency.
  5. Ladle the posole into bowls and garnish as desired with avocado, queso fresco, pepitas, radishes, and cilantro.

Roast the tomatillos, poblanos, and jalapeno

Pureed roasted vegetables

Grind the pepitas

Soup’s on
Avocado, queso fresco, pepitas, radishes, and cilantro for garnish

Hominy, hominy, hominy

TANGY GLAZED SHORT RIBS

We had some weather excitement here in Houston last week.  It got cold.  Real cold, as in hard freeze cold.  We had snow (for the third time this winter!) and ice, and it stuck for 2 days.  The snow was really just a dusting–exciting for us, nevertheless–but the ice that formed on our highway overpasses forced our city to essentially shut down.

 

It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a “snow day.”  Growing up in New York, we could expect a few snow days every winter, and they usually involved cooking and baking, which not only made the house smell great, but kept the kitchen warm and inviting.  I loved hanging out in the kitchen on those days.

It was a given, then, that I would spend my snow day cooking.  I made chili, Italian wedding soup, and short ribs.  This recipe for Tangy Glazed Short Ribs is one of our special occasion dishes — in fact, we had it for Christmas Eve dinner.  The recipe, which we make in the slow cooker, is adapted from a Jean-Georges Vongerichten recipe that my husband ran across in the Wine Spectator several years ago.  He handed me the recipe, saying “this looks good.”  And it is.  It’s a little involved, but not difficult, and worth every minute spent making it.  I like to make it at least a day in advance because like most soups and stews, it improves with age, and it also allows me to skim off the considerable amount of fat when it’s cool.  It’s best served over mashed potatoes, although no one will complain if you serve it over polenta or buttered noodles.

TANGY GLAZED SHORT RIBS
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Recipe type: Beef, Main Course
Author:
Ingredients
  • 8 large short ribs
  • 4 star anise, finely ground
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, divided use
  • 1-1/2 cups ketchup
  • ½ cup pomegranate molasses
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 ancho chile, seeded, lightly toasted, and finely chopped
  • 1 chipotle pepper from canned chile in adobo
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Instructions
  1. Place the ribs in a single layer on a platter. Sprinkle the ribs with star anise and 1 teaspoon salt, and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
  2. In a blender, combine the ketchup, pomegranate molasses, vinegar, fish sauce, molasses, garlic powder, onion, ancho chile, chipotle, sesame oil, and ½ teaspoon salt. Blend on high speed until smooth. Add the water, and blend again until smooth.
  3. Preheat grill to high. Brush the ribs with grapeseed oil and place on the grill. Sear on all sides except the bony rib.
  4. Transfer ribs to slow cooker and cover with the sauce. Cook for approximately 6 hours on high, or until completely tender (they will fall off the bone). Transfer ribs to a baking dish. Strain the sauce and set aside.
  5. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. To finish the ribs, add 1 to 1-1/2 cups of the strained sauce to the ribs and place them in the oven. Cook, basting frequently, until the sauce is thick, and the ribs are glazed, approximately 15 minutes. (Note: If you're pressed for time, you can omit this step and they will still be delicious, but do strain the sauce before serving.) Serve hot over mashed potatoes, polenta, or buttered noodles.

IMG_3173Season the ribs with star anise and salt and let them sit for an hour

My husband likes to sear them in a cast iron skillet on the grill

Ready for the slow cooker

In they go

006 (7)

Covered with sauce — see ya in 6 hours

Ready!

FRAGRANT SPICED LENTIL SOUP WITH KALE RIBBONS

I found this murano glass paperweight at an estate sale.

Murano glass has been made on the Italian island of Murano for centuries.  I don’t know if this paperweight was made in Italy, but it was part of a collection of fancy paperweights, so I believe it was.  I bought it thinking my kids might like it.  And they did like it — but neither of them wanted it.  So I kept it, and from time to time I pick it up and look at all the colorful ribbons of glass running through it.

I’ve always had a thing for ribbons.  When I was a nurse working at Texas Children’s Hospital, I wore colorful ribbons in my hair, which my little patients liked.  I quit wearing them when I got to law school, because being a “bowhead” was not cool — the term generally referred to the giggly undergrads who used to hang out at the law library in the hopes of . . .  well, you know.

When my daughter was little, I collected all kinds of ribbons and made tons of hairbows for her and my friends’ kids.  There’s something special about wearing a brightly-colored bow.  I still have a lot of ribbon, and one day soon I am going to have a bow-making bonanza and make loads of hairbows to send to my friends for their adorable little granddaughters.

The ribbons in the colorful paperweight inspired this recipe for Fragrant Spiced Lentil Soup with Kale Ribbons.  I love this soup, and make it several times each winter.  This soup is different than other lentil soups I’ve had — the fennel and star anise make it fragrant and a little out of the ordinary.  It’s worth the trouble to grind the spices for this soup.  Just before serving, add in a handful or two of thinly-sliced kale ribbons for color and extra nutrition.

I like lentils because they require no soaking, and cook in about 30 minutes.  Did you know that lentils are one of the oldest domesticated crops in the Old World?  (Yep, one step closer to being Cliff Clavin.)  I usually use the large brown lentils found in bags among the dried beans at the grocery store.  On this occasion, however, I used fancy schmancy Le Puy green lentils:

Look — they’re from France!

These are smaller than the lentils I usually buy, and are dark gray-green in color:

They held their shape well, and were earthier than regular lentils — more lentil-y — and made a delicious soup.

FRAGRANT SPICED LENTIL SOUP WITH KALE RIBBONS
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Recipe type: Soup
Author:
Ingredients
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 cups dried lentils
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 small bunch fresh kale, ribs removed, thinly sliced into ribbons
Instructions
  1. Grind fennel seeds and star anise in a spice or coffee grinder until finely ground.
  2. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender but not browned. Add lentils, broth, water, ground spices, and bay leaf. Increase heat to high, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender but not mushy, approximately 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Just before serving, add kale and simmer until kale is tender, but still bright green, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Serve hot..

Carrots, celery, and onions getting tender

M-m-m-m-m — soup

(Note the pretty tea towel — a gift from a special friend)

IMG_3141This batch was made with regular lentils — just as good

CHRISTMAS COOKIES

This past Christmas, for the first time since I had kids, I managed to bake Christmas cookies in sufficient quantities to share.  Usually I’d get one batch made, the family would eat them all, and that was the end of that.  I was so pleased with my cookie trays that I think I tore my rotator cuff patting myself on the back.

The cookies didn’t go quite as far as I’d planned, however, because we had a slight incident here.  The heater in our garage apartment had been acting up, and one day while I was out shopping I got a call from the police that our alarm company notified them that our smoke detector had gone off and the temperature in the garage apartment was 120 degrees.  I raced home to find 3 firemen and 2 policemen in my garage apartment, playing with my worthless watchdogs.  It really was 120 degrees — they said they’d never seen a room that hot that wasn’t on fire.  I think it was too hot even for hot yoga.   It turned out to be a broken heat relay (maybe) or thermostat (maybe) — we replaced both just in case.  Anyway, after shutting off the heater, we all came downstairs, and as I stood there in my kitchen surrounded by 5 very nice policemen and firemen, all I could think to do was offer them the Christmas cookies I’d been baking for the past two weeks, which to my delight, they gladly accepted.  So I packed them up a HUGE tin, and sent them off with profuse thanks and warm wishes.

Several of my cookies were recipes that I tried for the first time this year.  They were great, but in my opinion, they’re all keepers.  So, for posterity’s sake, and because cookies aren’t just for the holidays, here are my 2017 Christmas cookies with links to the recipes.

Clockwise from the top:  Favorite Ginger Cookies, Pistachio Cranberry Icebox Cookies, Split Seconds, Double Coconut Macaroons, Cinnamon Pinwheels, Chewy Double Chocolate Cookies, Cream Cheese Spritz, and Golden Pecan Balls in the center.

Favorite Ginger Cookies

Pistachio Cranberry Icebox Cookies

Split Seconds

Double Coconut Macaroons

Cinnamon Pinwheels

Chewy Double Chocolate Cookies

Cream Cheese Spritz

Golden Pecan Balls

CINNAMON PINWHEELS

These red and white pinwheel cookies were a pretty addition to my Christmas cookie trays.  The recipe is slightly modified from the Food Network’s Cinnamon Pinwheels.  This was the first time I made these, and mine were admittedly not as perfect as the Food Network’s — but they were still attractive and delicious, and disappeared quickly.  Next year they’ll be more pinwheel-y.  🙂

CINNAMON PINWHEELS
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Recipe type: Cookies
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • ¾ teaspoon red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon coarse or sparkling sugar, plus extra for rolling dough in
Instructions
  1. Place butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat, using an electric mixer, until light and fluffy.
  2. Beat in egg and vanilla. On low speed, beat in flour, baking powder, and salt, until just combined.
  3. Remove half of the dough and wrap in plastic wrap. Add the cocoa powder and food coloring to the remaining dough, and beat until thoroughly combined. Wrap red dough in plastic wrap.
  4. Refrigerate both pieces of dough until firm, about 1 hour.
  5. Dust the dough lightly with flour and roll out each piece on parchment paper into a 10x11" rectangle. Flip the red dough on top of the plain dough, remove the top piece of parchment, and trim the edges. Sprinkle the cinnamon and coarse sugar on top. Starting from a short end, tightly roll up the dough, using the parchment to help. Roll the log in coarse sugar. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the log crosswise into ¼"-thick slices. Place on baking sheet 1-1/2" apart. Bake until slightly puffed and lightly golden on the bottom, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool briefly, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

 

CHEWY DOUBLE CHOCOLATE COOKIES

These intensely chocolate cookies with a chewy texture were a big hit.  Use good quality bittersweet chocolate for best results.

CHEWY DOUBLE CHOCOLATE COOKIES
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Author:
Ingredients
  • ½ cup dark corn syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ⅓ cup sugar, plus ½ cup extra for rolling cookies in
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together corn syrup, egg white, and vanilla.
  3. Place the butter, brown sugar, and ⅓ cup sugar in a large bowl and beat using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the corn syrup mixture and beat until combined. Add the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and chocolate, and mix just until combined. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  4. Place ½ cup sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll dough into 1" balls, then roll in sugar to coat. Place on cookie sheet approximately 2" apart, and bake for approximately 10 minutes, until cookies are cracked but still look wet between cracks. Allow to cool briefly on sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

SPLIT SECONDS

My Mom used to make jam-filled Split Seconds every year at the holidays.  These were one of her favorites because in addition to tasting good, you can bang out 4 dozen in no time.  When I looked up the recipe, I was surprised to see it was actually a Pillsbury Bake-Off recipe from 1954.  These added a little bit of nostalgia to my cookie trays this year.
SPLIT SECONDS
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Recipe type: Cookies
Author:
Ingredients
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup jam or preserves
  • Optional glaze:
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat using an electric beater until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and egg until well blended. Add flour and baking powder, and beat on low speed until dough forms.
  3. Divide dough into 4 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, shape each portion into 12x3/4-inch roll. Place rolls on cookie sheet. Using the handle of a wooden spoon or your finger, make an indentation lengthwise down the center of each roll approximately ½ inch wide and ¼ inch deep. Be careful not to press all the way through the dough. Fill the indentation in each roll with approximately 2 tablespoons preserves (it is easier to spoon preserves if you warm them slightly in microwave). Don't overfill indentations.
  4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Allow to cool before slicing diagonally into 12 cookies. If using optional glaze, do so before slicing the cookies. Make the glaze by whisking the confectioner's sugar together with enough milk to make a smooth drizzle, not too runny. Drizzle over cooled cookies. Allow glaze to set before slicing and storing.

Fill the indentations with your favorite jam

Allow to cool slightly before cutting on the diagonal

Drizzled with glaze

Especially nice with tea