Tales from the Kitchen

Kitchen table discussions with recipes and ideas for shopping on a budget, cooking for a family, meal planning.

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I'm happily married, mom to four boys and four girls at home, with one in the presence of God. We are slowly working on raising our own food and making much of what we need. I knit, cook, read, pray, think, write, crochet, and I'm trying to sew, too.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Tortilla Casserole

Wednesday we had this tortilla casserole, based on something I saw in Martha Stewart Living. I changed a couple things, based on what we had at home already, and ease of preparation.

I left out the spinach, didn't precook the tortillas in oil, used more poblanos than the recipe said and would make half the tomatillo salsa in the future, even with serving some with the torta, we have tons left.

6 fresh poblanos (recipe called for 4)
18 corn tortillas, cut in half
Sunflower seed oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small onion, thinly sliced (I used sweet onion)
6 cloves garlic, minced (they said 4)
2 cans black beans, drained (you could easily use two or three cups of cooked black beans)
1 cup crema (we didn't have any, but did have sour cream, so I used that)
2 1/4 cups tomatillo salsa plus more for serving
1 1/2 cups grated queso fresco, Monterey Jack or a combination (I used the pepper jack we had in the fridge, I think it would be best with the queso on the inside layers and the jack on top to melt nicely)

Roast chiles over open flame, or under broiler on baking sheet, about seven minutes a side, until blackened and blistered. Put in a paper bag to steam about 15 minutes.

Peel chiles, remove seeds and stems and slice into about 1/2" wide strips.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Heat two tablespoons oil large skillet over medium heat, add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt, cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Stir in chiles and cook to heat, about a minute. Transfer to a bowl.

Heat two tablespoons oil in same skillet, add garlic and cook stirring about 30 seconds. Add beans and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, mashing the beans a bit with your spoon. Set aside.

Line the bottom of a large round casserole, about three inches deep, with 12 tortilla halves, overlapping slightly. Layer with half of chile mixture, half bean mixture, and half the crema. Spread 3/4 cup salsa over top. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat for second layer. Top with remaining tortillas, 3/4 cup salsa and 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with more salsa and crema.

Tomatillo Salsa (half the original recipe)

1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil
1 small onion, diced (again used a sweet onion)
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 pound tomatillos, husked and washed
1/2 cup water
1 fresh serrano, stemmed
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped (or just torn up, like I did)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat oil in a medium saucepan, over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cook about a minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatillos, water, and serrano. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatillos have softened, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Working in batches (that's from the original, you could probably do the whole mess in one shot with half the recipe), puree tomatillo mixture in blender or food processor. Add cilantro and salt. Pulse to combine. Salsa can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to three days (probably more).

Tonight I am experimenting with a feta cheese and leek tart, to be served with a salad. If it turns out well, I'll post the recipe.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Just for the Halibut

Last night we had grilled halibut, a tossed green salad and watermelon for dessert. I had been planning on making some cous cous for the fish to sit on, but decided we would fill up quite a bit on what we had without it.

I based it on a recipe from Bon Appetit, but didn't really worry about measuring everything, increased the amount to feed the family and used the sauce entirely as marinade rather than brushing it on and spooning reserved sauce on top at serving. It was perfect. Not over done, not dry and flaky, but perfectly grilled, slightly smoky, meaty fish. We devoured it. It helped that there were wild Alaskan halibut steaks on sale.

The marinade was very simple, six cloves of garlic, the zest of one lemon, juice of two lemons, about a half cup of olive oil, a large handful of basil leaves, finely chopped, about a tablespoon of drained capers. I rubbed the fish with a tiny bit of kosher salt and some fresh ground pepper and Rich grilled them over fairly high heat on a well oiled grill for about five minutes per side, they were pretty thick. The kids loved it, we loved it, and it is all gone today.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Easter Feast

Well, after the Lenten abstinence, and the fast on Good Friday, we were ready to feast on Sunday. We had the Easter Vigil Saturday night, and ended at around midnight.

Sunday's feast was at our house, we've been hosting the church and family for about three years now. About four families couldn't come this year, so we only had about 40 people over including us.

I made four legs of lamb, stuffed all over with garlic and roasted in an herb paste

A roast turkey, roasted with rosemary, lemon, onion, salt and pepper and gravy to go along with it

Laban bi Khiyar, which is a yogurt cucumber salad/sauce with garlic, lemon juice and mint in it


Three batches of pita bread, of which we have much more left over than we thought we would

Taratoor, a tahina, garlic and lemon sauce

Harissa, a spicy red chile sauce


A pot of waraq 'ounab, grape leaves stuffed with meat and rice and herbs and cooked in a tomato sauce

Koubbeh, which is a shell of lamb and burghul wrapped around cooked lamb and pine nuts, all spiced


We set out lettuce, Kalamata olives, Spanish olives, sweet pickles and dill pickles, feta cheese, tomatoes, radishes. Someone brought California olives and artichoke hearts.

Other foods brought were,

Two hams, with a glaze of orange marmalade and peach juice on them that was very nice, but not cloyingly sweet

A green salad with glazed walnuts and pears and a champagne pear vinaigrette


Shrimp cocktail and crackers

Devilled eggs

Pesto pasta salad

Mixed veggies

A kind of pasta risotto with lots of vegetables

A Japanese rice roll type thing

Someone had brought seasoned turkey burgers to grill, but they never were cooked

For dessert: I made a triple chocolate cheesecake, double batch in a huge pan.

My mother in law made a lemon cake filled with lemon curd and iced with a coconut cream frosting and shredded coconut

Other people brought Easter sugar cookies, frosted and decorated

Chocolate covered nuts

Brownies with cherries in them

Chocolate cake (a belated birthday cake for our priest)

A shortbread apple tart

To drink:

Sparkling Shiraz (Lorikeet)

Vacqueyras Red Wine (Clos de Cavea)

Ginger Peach Iced Tea (made from Republic of Tea's ginger peach tea)

Lime Coke

Cherry Coke

Barq's Root Beer


Ice Water

The lemonade never did get made, but nobody seemed to miss it.

Of course, there were all the plastic eggs stuffed with candy for the kids, too. The older kids put them out for the little kids to find.