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Mexican Street Corn (Elotes)

Chef's corner headerGrilled sweet corn slathered with cream, then dusted with cheese and chili powder (tajin) is a perfect side dish for your next fiesta. Can be served on or off the cob.

Ingredients

  • 3 ears of shucked sweet corn
  • ½ cup of sour cream or natilla
  • 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
  • ½ cup of parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon of tajin pepper powder or to taste

Directions

  1. Grilling the corn is the best method for extra smokiness, but boiling also works. 
  2. In a bowl, mix the cream with mayonnaise, and in a separate shallow plate mix the parmesan with the tajin.
  3. Brush the warm cobs with cream mixture before rolling in cheese until entirely covered.
  4. Garnish with cilantro.

If you opt for serving the corn off the cob and in little bowls, cut off the cooked kernels and mix with cream and then top with cheese, tajin, and cilantro.


Two Favorite Homemade Hot Sauces

Chef's corner headerQuite often, a good hot sauce will brighten up any meal in a pinch.

Colombian Aji Salsa 

Process these simple ingredients for a fresh and spicy boost to empanadas, rice, fish, chicken, veggies, guacamole.

Ingredients

  • One ripe tomato cut into cubes
  • One small to medium yellow onion
  • One stalk of green onions
  • One Habanero pepper, seeds removed (any other pepper will work, amounts can vary)
  • 1 cup of chopped cilantro, stems included
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar (or any other vinegar, you can also only use lime juice)
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon of salt

Use the “pulse” setting for a coarse texture. This salsa keeps for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.

Moroccan Harissa

This smoky peppery paste will kick up your vegetables, proteins, soups, and such.
Keeps for several weeks refrigerated in an airtight container.

Ingredients

  • 3 Mexican Guajillo chilies, cleaned of seeds and stems
  • 1 fresh red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1 whole chipotle in adobo
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ cup of olive oil

Directions

  1. Roast the fresh red pepper in a hot oven or over a griddle until the skin is charred and the flesh is cooked. Discard skin and seeds.
  2. Coarsely chop the cleaned Guajillo peppers to facilitate the blending. 
  3. Dry fry the caraway, cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant.
  4. Place spices in a blender to pulverize and add the Guajillo chilies to blend until fine.
  5. Gradually add the rest of the ingredients using the olive oil to finish the emulsion. The flavors will optimize overnight.

Octopus Salad

Chef's corner headerThis is my spin on a Portuguese salad and a refreshing way to enjoy this underrated protein.

Ingredients

(For 6 to 8 servings)

  • 1 kilo of raw octopus
  • 1 medium, yellow onion chopped into small squares
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 6 sun dried tomatoes (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar or apple cider or white balsamic or any good quality light colored vinegar.
  • 1 tablespoon of lime juice
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup of chopped cilantro (can substitute for parsley if desired)

Directions

To tenderize octopus, you must immerse in boiling salted water for 45 minutes. Cool down, rinse off, and cut into small chunks. There might be a little cartilage in the head cavity which needs to be removed. Mix with remaining ingredients and allow to mellow in fridge for at least 20 minutes before serving.


Thai Beef Salad

Chef's corner headerLet’s welcome our hot season with a light and crunchy salad whose dressing is pure umami, also great for repurposing leftover steaks or other proteins.

Here is a simple and interesting steak marinade if you’re not using leftovers.

Steak

  • 400 grams or 1 lb of tender beef (tenderloin or sirloin)
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 4 cleaned cilantro roots
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of oil

Salad

  • Lettuce
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Small thinly sliced red onion
  • Handful of coriander and mint leaves
  • Chopped peanuts for garnish

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • Fresh chili peppers to taste

Instructions

  1. Finely grind the garlic, cilantro roots, pepper and oil and marinate steaks for 20 minutes.
  2. Grill to medium rare and thinly slice, allow to cool.
  3. Assemble salad, top with sliced meat, pour dressing over and garnish with peanuts.
  4. Serve immediately.

Portuguese Carrot Cake

Chef's corner headerThis is the easiest carrot cake recipe ever! The only equipment needed is a food processor, a Bundt pan, and of course, a hot oven.

Ingredients

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and then cut into chunks
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • Soft butter and 1\3 cup flour for greasing pan

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Prepare Bundt pan with soft butter and 1/3 cup of flour
  3. Sift the 2 cups of flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside
  4. Place the carrot chunks, eggs, oil, and sugar into the food processor. Process for 2 minutes until the carrots are well grated and the texture is creamy.
  5. Mix the sifted flour together with the carrot mixture and pour into pan.
  6. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until a knife comes out clean and the edges are golden

This cake is very moist and can be served plain or glazed. Here are some ideas:

Butter-rum: 2 cups of sifted powdered sugar, 1/2 cup of melted butter, 3 tablespoons of rum, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Orange: 2 cups of sifted powdered sugar, 1/2 cup of melted butter, 3 to 4 tablespoons of orange juice, orange zest
Caramel sauce: 1 cup of light brown sugar, 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 cup of milk, 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract 


Cornbread, Chorizo, Cranberry, and Pecan Stuffing

Chef's corner headerThis is arguably the best and the easiest stuffing that will draw you compliments into the next year! 
Day-old homemade cornbread is optimal, but the box mix is also fine. Toasting and drying the bread cubes is a main step towards that perfect texture.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried craisins
  • 10 cups coarsely crumbled cornbread
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans, 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound fresh chorizo, casings removed
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups room-temperature chicken stock 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Toast pecans in oven for 8 minutes. Toast cornbread bread cubes for 15 minutes turning around in pan several times.
  2. Brown chorizo in skillet, transfer to bowl with a slotted spoon.
  3. Add onion, celery, garlic, sage, and craisins to skillet and fry until fragrant.
  4. Turn off heat and scrape the pan well before mixing with chorizo, bread cubes, and toasted pecans.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs with the chicken stock and pour over the stuffing along with the melted butter. Mix well.
  6. You can use this mixture to stuff the turkey’s cavity, or bake separately in a prepared pan for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Thai Crisp Fried Noodles (Mee Krob)

Chef's corner header
Here’s a twist in the Thai noodle category. If you’re a fan of these flavors, try to source the Kaffir lime (fruit and leaves) which is a fascinating ingredient. Our local “limon mandarina” makes an adequate substitute.

The crunchy-chewy texture of the fried vermicelli pairs up superbly with those sweet, tangy, and spicy flavors that we love so much.

Ingredients (8 to 10 portions)

For Noodles

  • 1 package of rice vermicelli noodles (400 to 450 grams depending on which brand)
  • Oil for frying

Thai Crisp Fried NoodlesFor Sauce

  • 8 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 2 tablespoons of tamarind paste
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice*
  • 2 tablespoons of Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of lime zest (Kaffir limes if possible )

Optional Add Ons

  • Fried egg
  • Cooked shrimp
  • Cooked meats such as chicken or pork
  • Thinly sliced and lightly cooked veggies such as carrot, peppers, and scallions
  • Thinly sliced red chili peppers
  • Chopped nuts such as peanuts or cashews
  • Fresh cilantro leaves sprinkled on top to finish
  • Very thinly sliced and fried lime leaves (Kaffir limes if possible )
Kaffir lime

Kaffir Lime

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a deep pan or wok. Working in small batches, fry the noodles. This is a quick process since they will puff out immediately. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
  2. Pour out hot oil except for 3 tablespoons and gently fry the chopped garlic. 
  3. Add all of the sauce ingredients stirring to dissolve.
  4. Prepare the add-ons separately. 
  5. For the final assembly, coat the noodles with the warm sauce and mix in the other ingredients. Mee Krob is generally considered like a salad and served room temperature.

Indian Red Lentils (dal)

Chef's corner headerIndian spices and coconut milk jazz up these little legumes superbly. In less than 15 minutes you can make a flavorful plant-based bowl of comfort packed with protein and nutrients. Any lentils can be used for this recipe, although the red ones become naturally creamy, nutty, and quick to cook.

Ingredients for 6 to 10 bowls

  • 2 tbs coconut oil
  • 2 medium white onions, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tsp of freshly grated ginger
  • 1 chili pepper without seeds and finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 ½ cups of red lentils
  • 3 cups of water or stock
  • 1 tsp powdered turmeric
  • 1 tsp powdered cumin
  • 1 tsp powdered coriander
  • 1 tsp garam masala or a curry powder of your choice
  • 1 can (400 ml) of coconut milk
  • 500 grams of tomato puree (passata)
  • Juice of one lime or to taste
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Indian Red LentilsTo serve

  • Cooked rice (basmati is ideal)
  • Yogurt (or vegan version)
  • Chopped cilantro or mint
  • Toasted sesame seeds, slivered almonds or chopped pistachios
  • Lime wedges
  • Bread (ideally naan or pita, but baguette is nice too)

Directions

  1. Heat the coconut oil and fry onions until translucent.
  2. Add the garlic, ginger, chili pepper and fry for one minute before adding the lentils, water, spices, and tomato puree. Make sure to stir often scraping the bottom of the pan to avoid burning.
  3. After about 5 minutes, when the stew is nice and thick, add the coconut milk, lime juice, then adjust the seasonings.
  4. Add more water or stock if necessary, since lentils tend to absorb great amounts of liquid.
  5. Ladle into bowls and serve with the accompaniments listed above.

Easy Morrocan Chicken with Lemon & Olives

Chef's corner headerWhen our local limes (limones messinos) turn yellow, preserving them in salt will deepen the flavors of this recipe. Just cut them in half lengthwise, rub with abundant sea salt and store in a jar in the fridge. You can also omit this step and use fresh, ripe limes and the results will be equally delicious.

Ingredients for 4-6 portions

  • 1½ kilos of boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 tbs paprika
  • 1 tbs garlic powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Peel of 3 preserved lemons or of 1 fresh one
  • 4 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1 medium size yellow onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup of lime juice
  • ½ cup of chicken stock
  • Handful of pitted olives with a little brine
  • Fresh parsley or coriander for garnish
  • Toasted slivered almonds for garnish

Morrocan chicken with lemon and olivesDirections

  1. Marinate the thighs for a few hours in the paprika, garlic powder, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and ginger.
  2. In a large pan, brown the thighs in batches and set aside.
  3. Using the same pan, fry the garlic and onion.
  4. Cut the thighs into large chunks and return to pan with lemon peel and juice.
  5. Stir for a few minutes before adding the stock and the olives.
  6. Allow the gravy to thicken and garnish with parsley and slivered almonds.

    Good accompaniments are rice or couscous. In the photograph, I used Israeli couscous and braised fennel.


Homemade Queso Dip & the Easiest Epic Nachos

Chef's corner headerThe world of nachos is full of possibilities and shortcuts. However, the real game-changer is a homemade and creamy queso dip made with your best cheeses on hand.

Queso dip: 8-10 portions

  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 finely sliced green onion with some of the green slices reserved for garnish
  • 1 finely chopped whole jalapeño or to taste
  • 1 small cubed roma tomato
  • 1 can of 315 g or 11/3 cups of evaporated milk
  • 225 grams of shredded cheddar (or any melting cheese such as Monterey Jack, gouda, or our local Monte Rico)
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs cornstarch 
  • ½ tsp powdered cumin
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • Chopped cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

Cheese dipInstructions

  1. In a thick bottomed pan, melt butter, sweat the onions, the garlic, the green onions, the chopped jalapeños, the tomatoes, the cumin, the cayenne, and allow to boil.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the cornstarch into the evaporated milk until fully dissolved and then pour into the hot pan to combine the entire mixture thoroughly for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Turn down heat and let thicken while stirring gently.

NachosNachos

  1. Find a sturdy tortilla chip, I recommend a local brand such as “Rafaelitas.”
  2. Layer the tortillas with some queso dip, shredded cheese, cooked beans and/or shredded meat.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes until chips are golden and cheese is melted.
  4. Top with any of these options: pico de gallo, salsa, guacamole or avocado cubes, cilantro leaves, a dollop of sour cream. Great for entertaining on the fly!

Aloo Gobi – Potatoes & Cauliflower Curry

Chef's corner headerTake these ordinary vegetables on a “drab to fab” journey with this classic Indian curry made famous by the 2002 movie “Bend it like Beckham.” Serve it with paratha flatbread or any bread, or a little basmati rice.

Ingredients for 6 to 8 portions

  • 4 tablespoons of olive, coconut, or your favorite cooking oil
  • 3 to 4 medium to large potatoes cut into 1/2 inch thick wedges
  • 1 medium sized cauliflower cut into florets
  • 2 teaspoons of whole cumin seeds
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 whole medium diced tomatoes
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons of ground coriander seeds (found in farmer’s market)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne flakes or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of powdered turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala (Garam masala is a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamon, and the recipes may vary.)
  • Chopped green chili peppers for more heat (optional)
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Small handful of curry leaves (It is sometimes possible in our area to find fresh leaves from the curry plant. They add a sharp and nutty component.)
  • Coriander leaves for garnish

Aloo Gobi - Potatoes and Cauliflower Curry

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil to medium-hot in a wide lidded pan. Add cumin seeds. Once they start popping, add potatoes.
  2. Once the potatoes are translucent, remove them with a slotted spoon, repeat with cauliflower and also remove.
  3. Add oil to pan in necessary to fry the onions, the curry leaves if available, then add the garlic and tomatoes, all the dry spices, and simmer while stirring often until you can see the oil pooling on the surface.
  4. Once this takes about 8 to 10 minutes, add potatoes and the cauliflower, and stir gently while adjusting the flavors with salt, lime juice, and peppers.
  5. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes more. Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

Quick paratha flatbread

  1. Sift 1½ cups of whole wheat or all-purpose flour with ½ teaspoon of salt.
  2. Make a well and gently stir in ⅔ to ¾ cup of water until a stiff dough forms.
  3. Shape into a ball and let rest for 20 minutes in a bowl covered with a damp cloth.
  4. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.
  5. Lightly flour hands and surface and roll each piece into a 5 inch (13 cm) disc.
  6. Brush with a little oil or ghee or melted butter and place in a heated comal or frying pan until golden on each side.
  7. Serve immediately after brushing both sides again with oil or melted butter.

Baklava

Chef's corner headerRecords of this ancient Greek pastry date back to 300 BC. Today it is still a most beloved sweet treat throughout many Mediterranean countries and beyond.

The nutritional benefits from nuts and honey, along with low-calorie filo dough make this a very healthy dessert that is surprisingly easy to put together. The best filo dough for this recipe can be found at BM and should be paper-thin from the Filo Factory brand, white or whole wheat kinds work great.

Baklava sliceIngredients

For a 9X13 baking pan and approximately 20 portions

  • 16oz filo dough
  • 500 grams of nuts of your choice (walnuts, almonds, shelled pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans)
  • 1/4 cup of ground pistachios or other nut for garnish
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 and 1/2 to 2 sticks of unsalted butter, melted (vegan option: use coconut oil)

For honey syrup

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup of cold water
  • 1 cup of honey (vegan option: agave nectar)
  • 1 inch strip orange or lime peel
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice

Baklava in the panInstructions

  1. Make syrup by melting sugar in water under low heat and adding the peel, cloves, cinnamon and simmer for 20 minutes until fragrant. Add lime juice and simmer for 5 more minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Place nuts in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Mix with sugar, powdered cinnamon, powdered cloves and set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350F degrees (or 175C).
  4. Generously butter the 9X13 baking pan.
  5. Assemble the baklava by brushing melted butter between each layer of filo and layering one third of sheets onto bottom of pan (each filo sheet folded in half should fit perfectly inside the pan). Cover with 1/2 mixture of nuts and repeat layering the next third of filo sheets brushing melted butter between each layer. Cover with final 1/2 of the nut mixture and finish the filo and brush melted butter in between layers until there are none left.
  6. Cut diamond shapes with a sharp knife before baking just like in photo. The knife doesn’t need to go all the way to bottom.
  7. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until golden on top and a toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Once cooked it is very important to slowly pour the syrup on top immediately while cake is hot (you should hear a delightful crackling sound). Sprinkle the tops with the ground pistachios or any other garnish of your choice.
  9. The baklava should sit for a while before serving. It has a long shelf life and can even be frozen.

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeños

Chef's corner header

Move over deep fryer! Here is a keto-friendly version where these baked peppers retain a mellow bite and steal the show at your next happy hour.Ingredients

For 24 poppers

  • 12 green jalapeño peppers
  • 1/2 cup of cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1/2 cup of shredded taco cheese
  • 24 mini hot dog smokies
  • 24 strips of good quality bacon

Before cooking

Instructions

  1. Split jalapeños in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and membranes in order to make hollow little green canoes.
  2. Mix cream cheese, onion powder, shredded cheese and place a small dollup inside each jalapeño canoe.
  3. Press a little hot dog smokie into each pepper and wrap with bacon strip.
  4. Place into baking pan with the seam on the bottom. Be generous with the overlapping bacon—it is crucial for holding these bites together.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, drain and then bake for a final 5 minutes before serving.

Jalepeno poppers

 


Morrocan Chicken Tagine

Chef's Corner logoHere is show stopping dish that will transport you right down the spice roads. The conical clay “tagine” can be replaced by a Dutch oven or any heavy-bottomed pot with a fitted lid. The long list of ingredients will guide you to endless possibilities of layered flavors. Don’t worry if you cannot find some of these spices because this fall-off-the bone tender chicken stew with olives and dried fruit is always amazing.

For 6 to 8 portions

  • 1 whole chicken cut into legs, thighs, and breasts. The wings and backbone can be used to enhance the stock.
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 10 garlic cloves, finely choppedMorrocan Chicken Tagine
  • 1 small knob of ginger, finely shredded
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Small packet of saffron threads or 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of coriander powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon or 2 whole sticks
  • A small pinch of any of these components of Ras el Hanout will enhance the deep flavors: mace, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, cayenne, cardamon, cayenne
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup of dried fruit such as apricots or raisins
  • 1/2 cup of lime juice
  • 1/2 cup of olives
  • For garnish: toasted slivered almonds, chopped parsley or cilantro leaves

Directions

  1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and brown on all sides in olive oil in the pan or tagine.
  2. Remove chicken and some of the rendered fat.
  3. In same pan, fry garlic, onion, ginger until fragrant.
  4. Add spices, chicken and chicken stock, dried fruit, and simmer slowly for 45 minutes to one hour. Check often and add a little stock if necessary.Add lime juice and olives; check seasonings.
  5. Serve with couscous or Basmati rice.

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Pozole – Pork and Corn Soup

Chef's Corner logoThis Mexican stew usually calls for hominy, but I find that the kernels from our local elotes (corn) work just as well and are easier to find.

Stock for 8 to 10 servings

  • 1 kilo of pork shoulder
  • 500 grams of pork ribs with bones
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Package of guajillo peppers

    These chili peppers are some of the greatest ingredients cultivated by the Aztecs and now available in our modern supermarkets.

  • 1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 gallon or 3 liters of water
  • 6 whole dried Guajillo peppers (other peppers are also great such as Anaheim, Pasilla, California…)
  • Kernels from 4 ears of corn, previously cooked.

Toppings

  • Chopped and seeded jalapenos
  • Avocado cubes
  • Sliced red onions
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Crumbled cheese (preferably queso fresco, cotija, or feta)
  • Sliced red radishes
  • Tortilla chips

Directions

  1. Make stock with pork shoulder (paleta de cerdo), ribs, and all ingredients except for the chilis and the corn.
  2. Simmer for at least 3 hours.
  3. Strain and let it cool completely.
  4. Cube the chunks of pork and set aside.
  5. For best results, the stock should sit overnight in fridge in order to skim the fat off the surface to achieve a rich and fat-free broth.
  6. Add the seeded chili peppers, allow to soak for about 20 minutes, and then blend in blender. The mixture should be thick and deep red. Season with salt and pepper, add pork cubes and corn, and serve piping hot with plenty of toppings listed above.