Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

Casa O’s Lime Soup from Cocina Islena

February13

On my first vacation on Isla Mujeres (2005), we mistakenly stayed near Punta Sur not knowing the layout of the Island. Now there were some benefits…we walked so much we didn’t have to worry about our calorie intake, there was a beautiful quiet pool at our villa and the sunrises on the craggy cliffs were exquisite.

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I couldn’t find any food photos from that evening but I did find this blast from the past. The three sisters taken that night at Casa O’s.

One evening we walked the dark road to see what might still be open and couldn’t find a thing but with research we discovered Casa O’s and set out to celebrate my sister’s birthday on one of our last evenings on the island.

I can’t tell you a whole lot about what we ate and drank but I can tell you that the Lime Soup was a.m.a.z.i.n.g! On subsequent trips to Isla we heard that Casa O’s owners Lynn and Tom McGrath decided that they had to close the restaurant. Does anyone know what is in that space now?

Anyhoo the reason for that preamble is that I found the recipe for their soup in my Cocina Islena Cookbook. Here’s what it indicates with the recipe:

This Maya-style soup was a favorite of Paul Newman when we had Casa O’s restaurant. We didn’t have any photographs of Paul enjoying his meals as we didn’t want to bother him or create a fuss when he was in our restaurant. What a great, great guy he was.

Here’s the recipe:

Casa O's Lime Soup from Cocina Islena
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
In the Yucatan , where the recipe for Sopa de Lima originated, it is made from Yucatan "limas agrias" which translates as sour lemons.
Ingredients
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 tomatoes
  • ½ white onion
  • 2 sweet chilies
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • 1 pound of limes
  • ½ T cinnamon
  • dash of herb, epazote
  • 2 pieces fresh mint
  • 1 quart of chicken broth
  • 2 T liquid Knorr Swiss Chicken flavoring
  • olive oil to sauté vegetables
  • ground pepper to taste
  • corn tortillas and/or fresh crusty bread
Instructions
  1. Pour chicken broth into a pot large enough to hold all ingredients-approximately 2 quarts.
  2. Roast chicken in an oven, or barbeque and shred into pieces when cooled and add to pot.
  3. Cut corn tortillas into ½ inch strips and fry in hot oil until hardened but not crisp.
  4. Drain on paper towels, lightly salt and set aside. (These will be used as a garnish on top of the soup).
  5. Chop tomatoes, onion, chillies, and celery, sauté in a T of olive oil until soft-add to pot.
  6. Mince and sauté garlic, add to mixture.
  7. Add spices such as cinnamon, fresh mint, black pepper and epazote.
  8. Add Knorr Swiss Chicken Flavoring to mixture.
  9. Slice limes into thin circles, add to pot, (reserve one slice per bowl to use as a garnish).
  10. Simmer ingredients together for 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the flavors are melded.
  11. Reheat tostadas (fried tortilla) strips.
  12. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and float a lime slice on top of the soup.
  13. Decorate each bowl with a few reheated tostada chips.
  14. Cut up fresh crusty bread-serve with soup.
  15. Pretend Paul Newman is your dinner companion.
  16. Enjoy!

Over the years we have found many other Isla restaurants that do a good job of Lime Soup too….La Lomita for one!

Kath’s quote: “A person can only be judged by their actions, and not by their good intentions or their beliefs.”-Paul Newman

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Love never fails.

 

Mexican Rice from Cocina Islena

February8

I was at an event this week and a person sitting opposite me wondered where she could find an authentic Mexican Rice recipe. I have made this one oodles of time and sent it off to her.

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The first meal I ever ate on Isla was decades ago at La Lomita. Where was yours?

We are off to the island in 14 sleeps and I am eagerly anticipating one of the many reasons we love the island so much and that is the food! When I come home I cook Mexican food to keep the memories and experiences vivid. It occurred to me than many persons on the Isla Mujeres’ Food page (that I moderate) would be interested in these recipes too, when they regretfully arrive home.

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So here we go:

Mexican Rice from Cocina Islena
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
This is the way the Islenas make their rice. You can cook it ahead, then heat it thoroughly but gently, in a tightly covered pot for about fifteen minutes. Leftover rice can be heated in the same way the next day and it freezes well. To reheat, make a foil package with the rice and place still frozen, in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups rice
  • ⅓ cup oil (I use canola)
  • I large tomato (1/2 pound) chopped
  • 1 glove of garlic chopped
  • 3½ cups chicken broth
Instructions
  1. Wash and clean rice, taking out any stones that may be in the bag.
  2. Drain in a colander.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan.
  4. Stir in the rice until all the grains are well covered, then fry until a light golden colour, stirring and turning the rice over so it will cook evenly and not get too dark.
  5. This should take about 10 minutes and should be done over a high flame.
  6. In a blender, blend the tomato, onion and garlic until smooth.
  7. Add the vegetables to the fried rice, then continuing to cook over a high flame, stir and scrape the bottom of the pan until the mixture is dry.
  8. Add the broth and add salt as necessary then stir well.
  9. Cook over a medium flame, uncovered until the liquid has been absorbed and small air holes appear in the rice.
  10. Remove from flame and cover tightly, so that no steam can escape, for about 20 minutes and the rice continues to cook in its own steam.

The cookbook was originally a fund-raiser so I ask that each time you print or cook a recipe, please make a donation to one of Isla’s many worthwhile charities. I will do the same. Here are a couple of our favourites:

http://littleyellowschoolhouse.org/

https://islakids.org/

http://islaanimals.org/

https://www.islascholarships.com/

Kath’s quote: “Education is the most powerful tool you can use to change the world”.-Nelson Mandela

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Love never fails.

 

Beach House Kamado (Brined) Pork Tacos with Corn Salsa

August5

Sister #2 had surgery this week and is now recuperating at their home at the lake.  In an attempt to increase her rest time but also give her the excuse for an outing, we have invited them over to our place for dinners this long weekend.  This is easy to achieve since their place is a mere three cottages away with a cut through of the kind neighbours at a 4th house.  At the appointed hour, they (two adults and one beautiful old white lab) mosey on over to assemble in our solarium if the bugs are pesky or el fresco if they have subsided.

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I had a couple of pork tenderloins in the freezer and we often prepare them in a brine, the recipe of which was given to us by Sister #3.  But to mix things up a bit, I saw that my gifted copy of “The Kamado Smoker & Grill Cookbook” written by Chris Grove (Ulysses Press)
had a version close to ours but with a Mexican influence.  Since we all travel to Isla Mujeres together, chilies and cilantro is just our “cuppa tea”.

As is often the case when I am cooking at the Beach House, I had to modify a couple of ingredients to make this dinner all come together-some out of necessity and some because of preference.  We prefer wheat tortillas over corn ones and to be specific whole wheat wraps are our favourite.  The recipe book also recommends having Mexican toppings on hand such as Mexican crema and cotija cheese.  For these I substituted Greek yoghurt and feta cheese.  Regular white sugar replaced piloncillo (Mexican sugar) and other than that my recipe list was complete.  Whether you specifically recreate this recipe or not, the pre-amble for this and every recipe in the book is extremely detailed and helpful for your general reference.

A brine is a simple solution of salt, sugar, and some type of aromatic.  Just remember this one rule and you will be on your way to making your own brines: use 2 to 5 tables of kosher salt per quart of water and equivalent amount ( or less) of sugar.  ….Add whatever aromatics you like.  If they dissolve in water, then you don’t have to heat your brine first.  But a lot of seasonings (such as black pepper) aren’t water soluble, and you need to heat the brine for 5 minutes to release their essential oils.  Then you need to cool it back down to 40 degrees or below to make it food-safe.  To do that, I put one of those blue freezer packs in a zip-top bag and put it in the brine in the refrigerator until the mixture comes down to temp.

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Beach House Kamado (Brined) Pork Tacos with Corn Salsa
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 to 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 pork tenderloins, trimmed of silver skin
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Taco toppings as desired ( such as Mexican crema, cilantro, Cjojita cheese)
  • For the Brine:
  • 1½ qts distilled water
  • 5 T kosher salt
  • 4 T rated piloncillo (Mexican sugar)
  • 1,2 t ground dried chile
  • ½ t dried oregano
  • ½ t dried minced garlic
  • ½ t dried minced onion
  • For the corn salsa:
  • 1½ c corn kernels, drained if using canned
  • ½ c black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ c diced red onion
  • 1 poblano chile fire roasted, peeled and seeds removed)
  • ¼ c chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice from 2 lime, preferably grilled
  • 1 t kosher salt, or to taste
  • ¼ t ground cumin
  • ¼ t ground black pepper, or to taste
  • ¼ T sugar
  • For the rub:
  • 1½ t seasoned salt
  • 1½ t chili powder
  • ⅓ t granulated garlic
  • ⅓ t dried oregano
  • ½ t ancho chile powder
Instructions
  1. Mix the bine ingredients together in a medium saucepan and bring to a strong simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from the stovetop and let rest for 15 minutes. Cool to 40 degrees by putting an ice bag in the brine and placing it in the fridge or freezer.
  2. Remove the ice bag and place the pork in the brine. Refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours.
  3. In a bowl, mix together all the salsa ingredients. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired, Refrigerate until ready to serve,
  4. setup your Kamado for direct heat and preheat it to 450 Fahrenheit.
  5. Stir the rub ingredients together in a small bowl.
  6. Remove the pork from the brine. Rinse, dry thoroughly, and season with the dry rub.
  7. Place the tenderloins on the main grill grate and close the dome lid. Grill, turning every 5 minutes until they reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  8. while you let the meat rest for 5 minutes, wrap the tortillas in a single tack in foil and warm them on the grill for about 20 seconds per side.
  9. Slice the meat thinly and serve on he corn tortillas along with the salsa and any other topping you wish.

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More tips from this excellent reference cookbook:

To get an extra boost of flavour, try grilling citrus ingredients for marinades and cocktails.  Cut them in half and grill direct, cut side down, over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes.

OMGoodness-the refreshing lime taste went to an entirely new level.  A fabulous tip that we will use often.

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The tacos were served to rave reviews along side grilled pitty pat yellow squash and sautéed coloured swiss chard. A meal that was huge on flavour, low on fat and best of all -full of protein, nutrients and anti-oxidants to help my amazing sister heal.

I love this new cookbook in my repertoire.  The next step will be acquiring a Kamado Smoker & Grill!  Here’s what the book’s publicist had to say about it:

Designed to do everything from slow smoke at 250 degrees to flash sear at 700 degrees, the kamado-style grill is the most versatile and powerful backyard cooker. Are you ready to become a Kamado Pro?

Introducing “The Kamado Smoker and Grill Cookbook,” the first all-encompassing guide to the wildly popular egg-shaped ceramic cooker currently blowing up the world of barbecue.

This cookbook is organized into 52 tutorials that combine a valuable kamado cooking technique with a delicious recipe that are sure to transform you from casual griller to kamado masterchef!

You’ll learn the steps and secrets to perfectly grilling Cajun Strip Steak, smoking Hickory Smoked Chicken, brick oven baking Wood-Fired Pizza, salt-block grilling Tropical BBQ Tuna, and so much more.

With gorgeous full-color photographs as well as loads of tips and tricks, this is a must-have manual for anyone (like Dad!) looking to spend their summer enjoying tasty barbecue!

Kath’s quote: “Cookery, or the art of preparing good and wholesome food, and of preserving all sorts of alimentary substances in a state fit for human sustenance, or rendering that agreeable to the taste which is essential to the support of life, and of pleasing the palate without injury to the system, is, strictly speaking, a branch of chemistry; but, important as it is both to our enjoyments and our health, it is also one of the latest cultivated branches of the science.”-Frederick Accum (1769-1838)

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Love-that is all.

 

 

 

Theresa’s Chicken & Black Beans

February5

What started as a “ministry” (defined as a term of service to others) for D and I has turned out to be anything but.  I’ll explain.  A number of years ago a young family came to our house to learn a little bit more about our community.  I had put out refreshments and a couple of things to nibble on.  They asked in advance if they could bring their newborn baby along.  When they arrived, our youngest daughter whisked the baby away and kept him entertained while the adults enjoyed some one on one time together.  This was our version of hospitality, nothing out of the ordinary, just how you take care of people when you invite them to your home.  Well, the husband and wife went on and on about how our evening together was an absolute delight and the most pleasurable evening that they had enjoyed in a very long time.  Even though our family is all grown up, it doesn’t mean that D and I do not remember those years, when everything was focused on the caring of our children with little time alone with other adults.  Well this got me thinking-maybe D and I should host one of these evenings once a month!

We start as soon as most parents are getting home from work so all that they have to do is gather up the family and arrive at our place in time for dinner.  D and I (and Sister #3 who had to be recruited when the gang grew too large for us to manage on our own), eat with the kids in the dining room and the parents help themselves in the kitchen and find a spot in the living room.  As soon as we have completed supper we head downstairs to our family room that we have set up for play.  The evening commences when the young families head home in time for their kids to have a regular bedtime.

Fast forward a number of years (I truly do not know how many), and our little time “of service” is rolling along.  Except that it does not feel anything like a favour to others but an absolute joy for us.  In fact, D is like a little child himself, watching out the window in anticipation of the families’ arrival.  I have had to become more and more imaginative with my cooking as the group has grown quite large and I want to ensure that the meals are quick, not messy, nutritious and affordable.  We plan in advance.  We have a gathering this week and found a great buy on whole wheat tortellini that I will serve with a tomato veggie sauce.

In addition to the joy that we experience when being with the families and all of the hugs and kisses from the toddlers upon their departure, the families take the time to reciprocate whenever they can with pictures for the fridge (both from the portrait studio and crayon renditions by the children), other much appreciate gifts and often times, dinners at their home.  I know that cooking for us is stressful.  Not because we are picking eaters, in fact, we are quite the contrary, but because people seem to think that we consume culinary masterpieces on a regular basis, when this is absolutely not the case.

Recently, one of “our” families asked us to dine with them.  As we were heaping accolades upon Theresa and the meal, she quietly said :”Oh, I am so glad.  We wanted this meal to be special, because we wanted to show you how much we appreciate what you do for us.”  There it is again:  Food=love.  We knew we were loved because of the care that went on in kitchen, in fact we knew we were loved, from the very time of the invite.

I didn’t want to put any extra pressure on T and J, so I didn’t take my camera that evening.  Instead, J texted me the main course recipe with his I Phone and I recreated it at home.  I altered the recipe quite substantially, not because it wasn’t perfect, but because I didn’t have the exact same ingredients as Theresa in the house.  Her version is from The Joy of Cooking which she indicates is her go-to recipe book.  It was mine too when I was a young Mom, but when the spine broke and my favourite recipes kept slipping out to be forever lost in the untidiness of new parenthood, I had to lay it to rest.

I assembled the dish last evening, but then when no one came home for dinner (I indulged in Superbowl leftovers in front of the Jets game) I baked it up this morning.  I have a dinner date tonight so that our house will enjoy this scrumptious dish without me.  In the mean time the taste is just as delectable as Theresa’s version.

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Theresa's Chicken & Black Beans
Author: 
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3-4
 
Adapted from the Joy of Cooking
Ingredients
  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (not IQF- individually quick frozen)
  • 4 oz. feta cheese (original calls for goat cheese)
  • 1 T chopped hot banana peppers (original calls for 2 jalapenos)
  • 3 minced rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes
  • 540 ml canned black beans, drained
  • 1 shallot, chopped (original calls for a small red onion)
  • ⅓ c cilantro, chopped
  • 1 T canola oil
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t red wine vinegar
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • lime wedges if desired
Instructions
  1. Using a sharp knife, place a cut into the side of the middle of the thickest part of each chicken breast.
  2. Carefully moving the knife around, create a pocket in the meat.
  3. Using a small food processor or chopper, mince the peppers and sundried tomatoes.
  4. Add the feta and pulse another couple of times until well blended.
  5. Spoon ¼-1/3 of this filling (depending on whether you are using 3 or 4 breasts) into the pocket of the chicken.
  6. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
  7. Cut 3-4 pieces of aluminum or parchment paper.
  8. Lay the breast, smooth side up onto these sheets.
  9. Mix the beans, shallot, cilantro, canola, cumin, cayenne and red wine vinegar together in a small bowl.
  10. Place onto the chicken on the sheets.
  11. Carefully fold the sheet edges together and create a firm seal.
  12. Bake at 375 degrees for half an hour. Check and leave until desired doneness.
  13. Serve with a squeeze of lime if desired.

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Kath’s quote: “Stand facing the stove.” – Marion Rombauer Becker (collaborator of the Joy of Cooking)

Love-that is all.