Pico de Gallo Salsa


Pico de Gallo Salsa | Culinary Compost Recipes

 

This is a classic chopped salsa which means “Beak of the Rooster” in Spanish. It is traditionally quite spicy due to the serrano chilis. You will not find it this way in most restaurants, as they invariably default to a very mild salsa for mass appeal, which I think is a big mistake. Chop the ingredients by hand using a very sharp knife. You’ll need that keen edge so you can ensure precise cuts and not risk mashing the tomatoes. Also ensure the ingredients are chopped uniformly, so the color and texture stand out. Let sit for a half hour before serving so the flavors have time to incorporate. If you must put it in the fridge, do so only after trying to use most of it — the cold kills the flavor and texture, and it sadly won’t be as good the next day.

Enjoy – this is a classic that I serve with many recipes. It never fails to please.


INGREDIENTS:

2 medium-sized plum tomatoes
10 garden cherry tomatoes, preferably yellow/orange for color contrast
1 cup loose-packed cilantro leaves
1/2 cup chopped red onion
3 large serrano chilis – fired using a propane torch
2 large cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 tsp. salt, to taste
Dash of fresh-squeezed lime juice, to taste


DIRECTIONS:

Cut the ingredients into 1/4″ sized chunks. Do not use a food processor. Place in a mixing bowl. Stem and fire the serrano chilis. Then coarsely-chop them and leave the seeds intact.
Crush and finely-mince the garlic. Add with the salt and lime juice.  Toss gently and let stand at room temperature before serving.

NOTE: You may need to remove a bit of the water left after standing for 1/2 hour. This is a normal reaction to salt. Compensate by adding a bit more lime juice after this separation.

Makes just over two cups.

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Baja Fish Tacos


Baja Fish Tacos | Culinary Compost Recipes

This is my spin on a classic recipe from west coast Baja Mexico. I have had it served with both halibut and mahi-mahi. The ocean fish is traditionally breaded and deep-fried, but you can also get it grilled. I like it both ways, but the deep fried version is more authentic. Choose only the freshest fish — it should be market fresh and no more than a day old. Here in Wisconsin, you may have to settle for Atlantic cod fish, as halibut and mahi-mahi are extremely hard to find.  Charred corn tortillas are traditionally a staple with this recipe. The bright color and vibrant flavors are perfect for summer get-togethers. Enjoy-

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound fresh, firm ocean whitefish like halibut or mahi-mahi (you may substitute Atlantic cod fish in a pinch)

For the Beer Batter~
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup cornmeal (masa)
12 oz. Mexican lager beer (Dos Equis)
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbs. ground ancho chili powder
1 tsp. ground chipotle chili powder
1 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin, from toasted seed
1 tsp. garlic granules
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
2 tsp. baking powder

Top With~
Finely-sliced red cabbage
Diced avocado
Chopped cilantro
Mike’s Pico de Gallo salsa
Mike’s Mexican Chipotle-Lime Crema
Your choice of Mexican hot table sauce

Six-inch fresh corn tortillas; preferably home-made, charred over a gas stove burner or with a propane torch
1 quart peanut oil for frying

 

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the salsa and set aside for an hour in the fridge. Prepare the crema and set aside in your fridge for at least two hours for the flavors to set.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the batter ingredients. Mix until just smooth and set aside for one hour before cooking.

Cut up the fish into 1/2″ by 2″ chunks and allow to sit on a serving plate, blotted with paper towel. Ensure most of the moisture is removed from the fish before frying. You may need to switch out the paper towel when it becomes saturated.

Next, place the fish pieces in the batter and evenly coat.

Heat a 4-quart cast-iron chicken fryer over medium heat with 1 quart of peanut oil. When the oil is ready for frying, a drop of cold water should sizzle on contact.
Working in batches, carefully place 10 to 12 pieces of battered fish in the fryer and cook until darkly-golden brown. Remove promptly with a strainer and set aside on paper towel to drain.

Serve over charred corn tortillas with the red cabbage, diced avocado, chopped cilantro, Pico de Gallo salsa, Mexican crema and hot sauce.

Serves 4-6

NOTE: For a crunchier coating, reserve the Panko bread crumbs in a separate mixing bowl and double the volume to one cup.  After dipping the fish chunks in the batter, roll in the Panko crumbs, then deep-fry as shown.

Baja Fish Tacos | Culinary Compost Recipes

A four-quart cast-iron chicken fryer is ideal for this recipe. You only need a couple inches of peanut oil.

 

Mexican Chipotle-Lime Crema


Mexican Chipotle-Lime Crema Sauce | Culinary Compost Recipes

My version of a classic Mexican cream sauce, kicked up with zippy chipotle adobo and fresh-squeezed lime juice.

This condiment is a must on authentic Baja fish tacos. You can also serve it with huevos rancheros or as a dipping sauce for a variety of other needs. Double the recipe if you need more. Will keep for at least a week in your fridge.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayo (please do this dish justice and don’t use the low-fat version)
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbs. + 1/2 tsp. San Marcos chipotle adobo sauce
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
Buttermilk (used as a thinner, if necessary)

 

Place the ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Whisk vigorously for two minutes. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with a couple of tablespoons of buttermilk.
Either serve in a dish or place in a plastic squeeze bottle. Refrigerate for two hours before serving.

Makes one cup.

Blueberry Dump Cake


Blueberry Dump Cake | Culinary Compost Recipes
A confession for my fellow foodies — I’m here to talk about dumps. Specifically, dumps that make people sniff, stand up and take notice. Dumps surreptitiously snuck in at the last minute of a highbrow dinner party, completely sideswiping hapless guests… Dumps that effortlessly upstage that atrocious concoction your Aunt Edna hastily left after the annual booster’s club meeting.

Dumps that make you question yourself “Holy Crap, why didn’t I think of that before I tried my half-assed attempt at a dump?!!?”

In retrospect, it’s hard — I’ll admit I’ve tried to make a few dumps and sadly, they fell short of achieving their intended effect — be it stress, public interruption, lack of focus or creative endeavor. Invariably, I was flushed with envy. However, I finally got my **** together and never looked back.  (Hey, what passed in the past is the past.)

Trust me… try this foolproof recipe (if you can actually call it that) and guests will run to you, screaming “Who just made that %#€@&!$ Dump?!!?”

It’s a Wisconsin classic. Enjoy—

 

Ingredients:

1 16.5 oz. box of yellow cake mix
1 21-oz. can of blueberry pie filling
1 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 stick of butter
1 Hail-Mary, hoping this half-assed podunk culinary hack will actually work

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Dump the can of blueberry pie filling on the bottom of a 9.5 x 13 cake pan.  Spread out with a spatula. Dump and spread the crushed pineapple over the pie filling and top with 3/4 of the fresh blueberries. Evenly sprinkle the dry cake mix over the top of the fruit. Melt 3/4 of the butter stick and drizzle over the cake mix.

Cube the remaining butter in 1/8″ chunks and place over any remaining dry cake mix.
Sprinkle the rest of the fresh blueberries on top of the cake mix.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the cake topping is golden brown.

Remove from the oven, let stand five minutes and serve warm over vanilla ice cream.

Serves 4-6

Mike’s Dastardly Dilly Beans


Mike's Pickled Dastardly Beans | Culinary Compost Recipes

This is my kicked-up version of the classic “Dilly Beans.” The brine recipe is exactly the same time-tested family heirloom recipe as the one I use for my Garlic Dill Pickles.

After sealing, be sure to leave them untouched in a cool, dark storage area for at least two months before opening so the flavors have time to set.  They will keep for at least one to two years if the seal is undamaged. Once opened, store in your fridge for up to six months. The natural tannins in the grape leaves will keep them super-crisp.

These spicy beans are amazing in my handcrafted Bloody Mary.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

1 quart 5% vinegar
3 quarts filtered water
1/2 cup canning salt
1 tsp. Alum (Pickle Crisp may be substituted; measure and use according to directions)

3 pounds fresh market green and yellow beans
1-2 heads fresh dill per jar
2 whole large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed, per jar
1/4 cup sliced white onion, per jar
1/2 tsp. whole peppercorns, per jar
1/2 tsp. dry coriander or celery seed, per jar
1/2 tsp. dry mustard seed, per jar
1 large dry bay leaf, crumbled, per jar
1 fresh wild grape leaf, per jar (the tannins in the leaf act as a natural crisping agent)
1/4 garden habañero pepper, per jar (optional)

 

Hardware:
1 large canning kettle, with wire rack insert
10 large mouth glass canning pint jars with new lids and rings
Magnetic lid/ring lifter (used to remove from boiling water bath)
Canning tongs (used to remove hot pint jars from canning kettle)
Sharp paring knife

 

Directions:

The brine measurements indicated above will made about 5 pints of pickled beans, depending on volume packed in each jar. For the amount indicated, you will need to make a double-batch for 10 pints.

Prepare your ingredients and brine solution prior to final assembly so you have everything ready and at hand.

Wash the glass jars, rings and new lids in hot soapy water. Rinse thoroughly.

In a medium sauce pan, bring a quart of water to a rolling boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the jar rings and lids. Sterilize for two minutes. Turn off heat.

In a large, non-reactive 6-quart soup pot, add 1 quart of 5% distilled vinegar and 3 quarts of filtered water. Bring to a rolling boil and add the canning salt and alum. Stir well and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.

Wash and scrub the green and yellow beans in cold water. Trim 1/8″ off of each end. Cut the larger ones in half so they fit in the pint jars.

First, add the grape leaf, onion, crushed garlic, habanero (optional) and dill to each jar. Add the dry spices. Pack the beans tightly in the jar until filled up to the neck of the opening, leaving about 1/2″ headroom. Stuff any voids with more onion. Top off with dill. Wipe the jar rim with a clean damp cloth.  Fill carefully with brine 1/2″ to the rim. Gently tap jar to ensure any air pockets are removed. Center jar lid and screw down ring until only finger-tight, taking care to ensure that nothing blocks the contact point of the jar rim and lid.

Process in hot water bath according to directions (10 minutes rolling boil for pints) Water bath should reach the very top of the jar neck. Remove immediately with jar tongs and set aside on a towel until cool; about 6 hours. After ten minutes or so, the lid should pop down, forming a vacuum seal. When fully cool, inspect lids and ensure there is no play in the center of the lid.  If the lid pops or moves when pushed it is NOT sealed. Refrigerate any unsealed jars for future use. They will keep for up to six months chilled.

 

Helpful Tips:

Maintain a 10 minute rolling boil for pints, per directions.

Cut the tips off of the beans to avoid softening. There is an enzyme in the blossom end of the bean that must be removed by trimming. You only need to trim 1/8″.

Select only the freshest beans. Support your local farmer’s market if you cannot grow them yourself.

Ensure air pockets are removed from jars before sealing with lids by tapping the jar lightly on the counter.

Lids must be sterilized in boiling water for at least two minutes. Do not touch the contact seal on lids after sterilization. Use a magnetic lifter wand to handle lids and jar rings when removing from hot water.

Coriander seed, bay leaves (crumbled), mustard seed, dill seed and peppercorns may be added as a home prepared pickling spice.  DO NOT USE commercially prepared pickling spice as it may contain cinnamon or cloves. True “Kosher-style” brine ingredients do not have these two spices.

Use only pickling salt! Do not use regular table salt or kosher salt. Measure carefully according to directions based on volume.

If you notice a dark, cloudy discoloration in the brine, or your beans have an odd smell on opening, DO NOT USE.  Dispose of the contents without tasting. Food poisoning isn’t worth the risk.

Lids may only be used ONCE. Rings may be used every season, provided they are not rusty. Inspect glass jars for chips or cracks and discard if necessary. Glass jars may also be reused indefinitely.

NEVER set a hot glass jar that was just processed in boiling water on a cold counter. It will crack or explode. Always place on a thick dish towel or oven hot pad and allow to fully cool before handling.

Have fun and don’t burn yourself!

Mike's Pickled Dastardly Beans | Culinary Compost Recipes

Tuna Avocado Cucumber Salad with Feta Cheese


This is a Mexican/Mediterranean-inspired recipe based on one by Natasha’s Kitchen. The only addition I made is the feta cheese. This is a quick, healthy and refreshing side dish that’s perfect for your next outdoor BBQ.  Enjoy!

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 11-oz. foil package StarKist tuna
2 avocados, diced in 1/2″ chunks
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced in 1/4″ chunks
1 cup loosely-packed cilantro leaves
1/4 diced red onion
2 tbs. XV olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh-ground black pepper to taste

 

DIRECTIONS:

Remove the tuna from the package and place in a mixing bowl. Break apart into medium-sized chunks. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the avocado, and season to taste. Mix gently.

Gently fold in the avocado and let chill for one hour before serving.
(It’s best to add the avocado last, so it doesn’t fall apart.)

Serves 4

Mike’s New Mexican Red Enchilada Sauce


Mike's New Mexican Red Enchilada Sauce | Culinary Compost Recipes
This is my version of a classic, authentic New Mexican red sauce, which is properly served over made-from-scratch enchiladas, huevos rancheros or basted over braised chicken and beef. You can also prepare this recipe using green New Mexican chile powder. The reason why I like preparing this sauce using ground chile pepper vs. whole chile is that you eliminate the time spent straining the blender puree from the tough, and sometimes bitter pods. You’ll also get a more consistent, velvety-smooth sauce.

Amazing! Enjoy~

 

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup pure, mild NM Hatch ground red chili powder
2 tbs. XV olive oil
1 tbs. flour
1 tbs. rendered bacon fat (optional)
2 oz. ground chorizo sausage (optional, as an alternate to bacon fat)
4 cloves roasted garlic, minced
1/2 small white onion, minced
1/2 tsp. ground dry Mexican oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin, from toasted seeds
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
2 cups beef broth
Salt to taste, about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp.
Crushed chiltepin or ground cayenne pepper, to taste

 

DIRECTIONS:

Using a heavy saucepan (preferrably cast-iron) over medium heat, bring the olive oil up to temperature until shimmering. Add the garlic and onion and sauté for five minutes until tender, stirring constantly. Be careful so it doesn’t scorch.

Next, add the flour and continue stirring to form a roux. Add the bacon fat or chorizo if desired. When the roux turns a medium brown color (about fifteen minutes) add the chile powder and the rest of the ingredients. Bring up to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for about a half hour until the liquid has reduced by half. Whisk to break up the lumps. Stir often. Don’t thicken it too much — the consistency should be similar to melted ice cream.  It will continue to reduce when used in recipes that require baking.

Makes a little over one cup.

 

Mike’s Helpful Tip:
Buy the best Hatch chile powder you can find. It must be pure and not cut with other ingredients. Control the heat of the sauce using crushed chiltepin or cayenne pepper. Always opt for a milder chile powder — you can always kick up the heat later, but you can never take it back.

The Lodge 2-quart cast-iron serving pot (shown below) is ideal for this recipe. It assures even heating without the risk of scorching the roux.

Note: Culinary Compost never endorses products for profit, and has received no monetary compensation for the content of this post.

Mike's New Mexican Red Enchilada Sauce | Culinary Compost Recipes