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Eduardo’s Mexican Rice

Living in Southern California we are all familiar with Mexican food where colorful burrito/taco stands are ubiquitous andas plentiful as your neighborhood Starbucks and where it one of southern California’s most popular cuisines. A week or so ago, we held an afternoon class in which one of our cooking students, Dr. Guzman, treated us to a class of authentic Mexican cooking. Dr. Guzman generously provided the ingredients and his cousin Eduardo provided the recipes and entertaining, informative instruction. We were very excited about learning how to make some homemade, delicious authentic Mexican fare.

During class Eduardo relayed some family history: one side of Eduardo’s family came here two generations ago from Mexico while the other side of his family can claim ancestry back to the 1700’s from Colorado and New Mexico, and both regions have influenced his family’s cooking style. In his family for generations recipes have been handed down. Some of the family recipes are strictly guarded secrets and prized possessions. Some of his aunts have even been known to hand out their particular recipe with an intentional missing ingredient or two, thus assuring that their version of the dish remained the best tasting. Family recipes are so valued when Eduardo’s mother was suffering from cancer and dying he literally sat by her bedside and had her dictate all of her recipes while he dutifully recorded them for himself and posterity.

Luckily for us that did as during the class we learned how to making chili rellenos, pork tamales, Mexican rice and fried ice cream. Eduardo has graciously allowed me to share his delectable Mexican rice recipe with all of you.

Note: Eduardo does not cook using exact, measured amounts rather, as an intuitive cooks does, he uses all his senses to determine correct amounts and proper amount of time. I made the rice dish again last night and did measure out all the ingredients so you have exact measurements to enjoy making this delicious dish too!

Mexican Rice

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and slight crushed
2 cups long grain rice
1/2 cup medium diced brown onion
6 ounce can tomato sauce
4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup of coarsely chopped cilantro

Place chicken stock in a sauce pan over medium heat bring to a boil and then turn heat down to simmer. Peel garlic and slightly crush with the side of a knife. Place oil in large frying pan to coat bottom of pan over medium heat. Cook garlic for 3-4 minutes. At this point add rice and cook until brown, about 5-8 minutes. Add onions to pan and cook until onions are translucent. Add tomato sauce and stir to mix evenly into rice. Add simmering chicken stock to the pan of rice, then add cumin and cilantro. Bring entire mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook over low heat for another 20 minutes. Remove garlic and serve.

Serves 6

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Foray into Indian Cookery – Dal

As some of you know, I love to travel, and when traveling I love to try new cuisines and learn about the regional dishes. I have been fortunate and had the opportunity to spend several months living in India most recently this last December for about five weeks. Every time I visit India I am amazed by the array of spices and the variety of delicious regional dishes. One of my favorite Indian dishes is Dal. Dal is means what we call in the states lentils and it is an excellent source of high-quality protein. It is made in many Indian households as a staple and there are dozens, if not hundred of recipes, for different dalsm and it seems every household have their own favorite family recipe. For those unfamiliar with dal it is usually accompanied by vegetables, bread and rice and in consistency is much like a thick or soupy sauce. This particular recipe comes from my friend Alka Subramanian. She invited me to her house in San Diego a couple weeks ago and served me this delicious dish of Dal — luckily she shared the recipe with me too. The beautiful photo below was taken by my friend Albert, who took the photo last December in one of the open stall markets in Ahmedabad, Gujurat India.

Spices and Dal, India
Photo Credit: Albert Fong

This recipe involves cooking with a pressure cooker. You can either use one of the new fangled pressure cookers, which are now incredibly safe and easy to use, or use the old fashioned kind of pressure cooke, which is the kind I used by borrowing my next door neighbor Tracy. Pressure cookers are wonderful as they cook things tremendously fast, in other words cooking with pressure leads to speedy result. But that is why the old ones can be dangerous too much pressure and they literally blow their lid off. Do be aware that newer pressure cookers do not deserve being maligned. With modern technology pressure cookers are very safe and have multiple features to prevent any burns from steam. With the cooker the lentils can be cooked and broken down quickly in a matter of minutes rather than hours which is the amount of time it would take by using a traditional boiling technique. I like Dal so much I have now decided to purchase my own pressure cooker.

Yellow Dal

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon of canola oil
1/2 cup Tur Dal (yellow split peas or yellow lentils)
salt to taste
1 small tomato
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
a pinch of Asafoetida (optional, but it is a really good aid for digesting beans and can be found in an Indian food store. Be aware it is very strong smelling but the smell disappears in and does not impart a funny taste at all)
a pinch of turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder

To Make

Note: It is best to have a pressure cooker to cook the lentils quickly although they can be boiled but it will take much longer.

Soak the dal in about 1 1/2 cups of water for 15- 30 minutes. Place the soaked lentils with the same water into a pressure cooker.

Cook the lentils in the pressure cooker on maximum heat. When the steam builds up, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes or according to Alka this is about 2 whistles when using a Hawkins pressure cooker. Lentils can be made ahead at this point and stored covered in the refrigerator.

After the lentils have cooled, chop the tomato into medium sized dice. Add the oil to a saute pan and when the oil is hot add asofaetida and cumin seeds. Fry until you hear the cumin seeds pop, and at this point add the lentils and turn the heat to simmer. Add the chopped tomatoes, salt, turmeric powder, red chili powder. Simmer all together for 2 – 3 minutes. Check consistency and add water if needed. Add lemon juice to taste and serve hot. The dal will have a consistency a little thinner than gravy much like a thick not runny soup.

If you are looking for a store that carries an array of Indian ingredients here are two. Also, note spices in Indian stores come in bulk and tend to be cheaper in price than the average grocery store.

Nina’s Indian Grocery
(949) 583-2789
23532 El Toro Rd
Lake Forest, CA 92630

Laxmi Sweets & Spices
(714) 832-4671
638 El Camino Real
Tustin, CA 92780

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Welcome to the Simply Cooking School Blog

Welcome to the new Simply Cooking School blog. Part of our philosophy is about creating community which we do by providing a space to share good food and conversation. So we figured a blog is the perfect way to use technology to create community by sharing our knowledge and by allowing you have your share your knowledge. We will be posting our thoughts, recipes, recent finds at the farmers markets and at local grocery stores and hope you do to also by commenting with your thoughts by clicking on the Comments link at the end of each post.

So if you have suggestions or sites that you love, or a recipe you just want to share please do so.

parsley

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Irvine Farmer’s Market and Fresh, Organic Herbs

A few weeks ago, on a Saturday morning, I took a tour of the Irvine Farmer’s Market, at Campus and Bridge in the University Center across from UCI in Irvine. The tour and lunch afterwards at Britta’s Cafe were organized by the new Orange County Chapter of Slow Food. The Irvine market is one of the larger markets in the county and I highly recommend checking it out. In addition to produce, the market also has purveyors of locally caught fish, hand made freshly prepared food items, local artisans selling their creations and musicians performing. It is a great place to shop for seasonal food and to chat with the farmers who enthusiastically converse about their delicious produce.

While traipsing through the market, one of our arranged stops was at the stand with Lilly of the Herb Chef. As you probably guessed the Herb Chef specializes in farm fresh organic herbs. As summer is fast approaching many herbs are now in season including sage, rosemary, mint, basil and the slightly less common dandelion greens and watercress. Not only can you buy from the Herb Chef at the market but their fresh picked herbs are also available via their website. Lilly was quite knowledgeable about the herbs grown at both or her family farms located in Bell Gardens and Fillmore.

Lilly shared some mint recipes with us and I am going to share one with you along with my recipe for Minted Ice Tea. Mint is quite versatile as it can be used in both cooking dishes and in drinks. It is a perennial plant originating in the Mediterranean so it also likes the Southern California climate as well. I grow spearmint in the backyard in a pot, as left in the ground it well spread everywhere and anywhere it likes, so if you do not want a yard full of mint it is best to grow it in a large pot. Here on the Pacific Coast, it will die back in the winter, but come spring time it will start to sprout new bright green leaves.

Some basic ideas for mint are: chop up mint leaves and blend into fruit salad. Add leaves to a citrus sorbet for both taste and as a finishing touch. Finely chop leaves and sprinkle over rice pilaf or use in mojitos by crushing the mint leaves.

Minted Ice Tea

Minted Ice Tea
A great light, refreshing drink for summer.

Place 8 bags of black tea in a pitcher of water, take a large handful of clean, fresh spear mint, stems included and place in water with tea bags. Let sit overnight and it is ready to drink the next day.
Variation: Add slices of one fresh orange to the mixture to give it a more spicy, citrus flavor.
Makes 1 1/2 quarts.

Sugar Snap Peas with Mint

Ingredients

2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 pound sugar snap peas
3 green onions, chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon, coarsely chopped fresh mint

Heat oil in a large skilled over medium heat. Once oil is heated add the sugar snap peas, the green onion and the garlic. Add salt and pepper. Stir fry for 4 minutes, then remove from heat and stir in mint leaves. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed, to taste.

Irvine Farmer’s Market is 8 am – noon every Saturday (rain or shine) and is located in the University Center at the corner of Campus and Bridge.

The Herb Chef website: http://www.herbchef.com/.

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