Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Agua Fresca de Platano (Banana Drink)

"Agua Fresca" means "fresh water" or "cooling water" they are a category of Latin drinks, typically any variety of fruit sometimes cucumber, blended with water & diluted with sugar to taste, in giant pitchers with ice. Popular one's are melon, honeydew, papaya, watermelon, strawberry, etc. certain varieties have some milk added to them to lighten the color and give a little extra richness. The banana version which I present here sometimes has flavoring like vanilla or cinnamon added to it, and tastes similar to the Mexican horchata (rice milk drink) it is one of my favorites, and it's easy whip up whenever because most people have bananas, milk, sugar, and water at home which are the basics, as well as vanilla or cinnamon in a well stocked pantry.

This drink is also really good if your in the mood for an alcoholic drink, you can serve yourself some in a tall glass with any clear colored rum and lots of ice.

Makes 4 quartz
-2 bananas (yellow stage or super ripe, up to you BUT NO GREEN ones or unripe because it'll be to astringent)
-juice of 1/2 lime (optional, my mom say's it helps the drink not oxidize/ preserves freshness of banana)
-1 1/2 cups white sugar (more to taste)
-1 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)
-1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
-12 cups water
-4 cups milk

(1) In a blender peeled bananas, 1/2 juice of lime, 2-3 cups water, sugar, cinnamon powder, and vanilla extract.
Blend on high for atleast 1-2 minutes you want it as smooth as possible.

(2) I used 2 pitchers, each holds 2 quartz, I divided the mixture I blended into 2 seperate parts, you can use 1 giant pitcher that can hold 4 quartz. Dilute mixture with the rest of the water but leave space in the pitcher to add the milk,
stirring as you add the water, and stir in milk towards the end.
The milk is used to give it some richness and a nicer color. Taste for sugar and adjust :)

Recipe can be cut in half, it's best consumed within the same day, as the banana tends to darken in color over time.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Potaje de Alubias facil con todo hervido (Easy Spanish Bean Stew with everything boiled))

This is another way I like to prepare beans, it is very healthy, simple, delicious and with ingredients that should be readily available to anyone. What I like about this recipe is that all the aromatic vegetables (garlic, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes) are boiled whole, and thrown in the pot with the beans, as opposed to having to chop them sautee them in the oil which is typical of a sofrito used in Cuban and Spanish cooking oftentimes for bean stews, that are then added to the beans towards the end of the cooking process. This way I just throw everything in one pot when I want to prepare a Spanish bean stew and still have good results.

The recipe I have here is completely vegetarian, but if you want this to be a complete meal with no sides and just eat it with bread or rice, you can easily boil some pork ribs, whole sausages, ham hocks, chunks of ham, chunks of beef, etc. along with the beans for protein & flavor.

After the beans are cooked I like to puree the vegetables used to cook them and then strain them into the stock (to remove any seeds, the garlic skin, etc.) that way I don't waste anything, however the pureed and strained garlic can be a little over powering for those who don't like a strong garlic taste, but to me it's delicious... the potato in the recipe is used as a thickener and gives the stew a nutty flavor so I suggest you don't omit it but it's your choice :) Anyways here's how i made it.

-1 lbs of dried beans (I used pintos this recipe works good with white beans, mayocoba beans, red beans, black beans, and pretty much any bean you have on hand, just don't use it for lentils or peas in my opinion)
-1 large tomato
-1 whole onion, outer skin removed, ends removed
-1 whole head of garlic
-1 whole green or red bell pepper
-1 large potato, peeled and washed
-1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
-salt to taste
-1 teaspoon ground cumin

(1) Rinse beans and drain, you can soak them overnight if desired.
(2) Dump all ingredients in the pot with the beans EXCEPT the salt and cumin, cover with enough water (don't drown it in water maybe like 1- 2 inches water above the beans)
(3) After 1 1/2- 3 hrs your beans should be tender (depends how old they are, if you soaked or not, etc.) but test them by pressing them, here's how it looked for me when it was tender
(4) Remove the vegetables,
and puree them in a blender with some of the bean liquid
(5) Strain them back into the pot of beans, add salt to taste, the spices, and allow to boil for 5- 10 additional minutes and your done should look like this :)
P.S. My grandmother would always fry all the aromatics chopped up in generous amounts of olive oil or lard (garlic, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes), and cut the garlic in half (only use 6-8 cloves) for black beans she would omit the tomato & rarely used potato. But I learned this way of making it from other blogs and stuff and appreciate it's simplicity :)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Potaje de Garbanzos Con Camarones (Garbanzo and Shrimp Stew)

If you've read this blog before you know I love all sorts of legumes, I love them cooked on their own, stewed with meat, with other vegetables, etc. However I have never had them cooked with seafood but saw in many other Spanish blogs that a lot of Spaniards combined garbanzo beans as well as white beans with seafood (such as with salted cod, shrimp, clams, squid, etc.)

I saw it as very odd since I never grew up eating that combination of ingredients (grew up eating lots of Spanish and Cuban bean stews but never with seafood usually with just pork, beef and sausage though some Cubans make the Garbanzos with salted cod for lent)

Well one day I bumped into a recipe that appealed to me at a blog called "Los Tragaldabas" that recipe combined Garbanzos with Shrimp cooked in a machine called "thermomix" which I'm not familiar with, anywho I looked over the recipe and adapted it a little bit to my style and using my regular pots and pans as opposed
to machine known as "thermomix"... and let me tell you I'm glad I made it, it was a hit in my house, it's lighter than the typical bean stews I make at home with pork and beef, a good alternative when you want something lighter than the previously mentioned, healthy, low in fat, high in fiber, satisfying and of course really warm and comforting in this weather :) Give it a try you'll be pleasantly surprised. I know I was.


-1/2 lbs. dried garbanzo beans (washed well, drained, then soaked overnight in water)
-1 1/2 lbs. shrimp (cleaned, de-veined, and shells removed, reserve shell to make shrimp stock)
-extra-virgin olive oil
-1/2 a large onion finely chopped
-1/2 a large bell pepper finely chopped (any color or a mix of red and green)
-3 cloves garlic finely minced
-2 fresh ripe tomatoes finely chopped (tomato sauce will work here too if you don't have fresh tomatoes)
-salt to taste
-1 bay leaves
-1/2 tsp saffron ground up, or "Colorante"/ "Bijol" or achiote to give it a golden tinge (optional)

Before you put everything together directions
(1) Start off by draining garbanzos you soaked over night, and bringing to a boil in new water, once boiling lower heat to medium low, cover for about 1 1/2- 2 hours until as tender as you like. Turn off heat and reserve.

(2) Now when peeling the shrimp this is completely optional but I will get the thick red liquid from it's head, and reserve it in a bowl, I fry this in the oil with the aromatics it gives it a good seafood flavor but you can skip this if it freaks you out. If you don't mind harvest that red orange liquid and set aside and reserve
(3) Use the reserved shrimp shells to make a stock, by covering the shells with water, bringing to a boil with 1 bay leaf for 10- 15 minutes, skimming off any impurities on top, strain the stock and reserve to make the rest of the dish.

Directions for putting everything together:
(1) Heat a large deep pan with extra-virgin olive oil and sautee onions, bell pepper, and garlic until fragrant 5- 8 minutes over medium high heat. Add the red orangish shrimp thing
Add chopped tomato and sautee another 5 minutes.
(2) Add drained cooked garbanzo beans, shrimp stock (enough shrimp stock to barely cover the garbanzos, salt to taste, saffron or bijol or other coloring (optional) bring to a strong boil, and let simmer about 5 minutes.

(3) After boiling 5 minutes add peeled cleaned shrimp, stir well, when shrimp change color to pink turn off heat.
(4) Garnish with parsley or cilantro if you'd like :) I served it over white rice with a salad. You can serve it in a deep bowl as well with bread and a salad if you don't want to eat rice.

(1) I made this dish from scratch, BUT if you feel it's too much hassle to prep the shrimp, making the shrimp stock, and cooking the garbanzos from scratch you can use 2 8 oz. cans of garbanzo beans drained, water in place of the shrimp stock but add a cube of shrimp bouillon or fish bouillon powder, and buy the shrimp already peeled.

(2) I didn't use any spices with this dish because I wanted to have a fairly clean taste, but my mother told me to add either 1/2 a teaspoon of ground cumin or 1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked Spanish paprika for her taste because she said it needed a little something extra. Oregano would be good too. Next time I'll probably do that :)