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Archive for the ‘Pizzas and Quesadillas’ Category

This morning, the sun’s golden rays graced New York City with the first true day of Spring. Donning a summer dress & flip flops, I pranced out of my apartment eager for the first taste of 75+degree weather. As I took in the sights of scarlet red tulips, golden daffodils, and pretty-in-pink magnolias blossoming all around us, I stared in amazement at this seemingly sudden arrival of Spring. Surely this transformation didn’t happen overnight, but when one has been as absorbed in work as I have been in the past few weeks, it’s easy to let the world slip past you in the blink of an eye.

It was at that moment when I decided to reclaim the balance in my life, to make sure that I pay proper attention to things I love and enjoy – cooking up a storm, blogging up a bigger storm, curling up with a good book, and taking the time to just be.

My balance comes from my freedom to unleash my creativity, to draw inspiration from things I see, hear, smell, and taste, and create something that I can call my own. So it is with the same explorer’s attitude  that I cook up this Korean-Mexican fusion with Korean Pajeon pancakes, and Latin-flavored fillings and sauce. The flavors are nothing foreign to me, but the combination of smoky, spicy veggie fillings wrapped inside a rice-flour crepe-like pancake instead of the usual corn-flour tortilla introduced a new refreshing twist to an old favorite.

Recipe:

This is a 3 part recipe, which may seem daunting and complicated at first glance, but once you get the prep work out of the way, it’s very straightforward and easy to put together.

For the Pancake:

Ingredients:

  • Instant Korean Pajeon pancake mix – follow directions on measurements of mix + water
  • Or if you have time, 1/2 cup allpurpose flour, 1/2 cup rice flour, 3/4 c seltzer water, 1 egg, salt & pepper. (Notes: The rice flour gives it that transparency and lighter texture, the seltzer water makes it fluffier – found this tip from various bloggers and the kitchn)
  • a small bunch of scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cucumber, shredded
  • 1/2 carrot, shredded
  • 1 handful of cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp of soy sauce, more or less depending on your taste

Directions: Mix the batter together until well integrated and texture is smooth. Throw in the veggies and herbs, soy sauce, and in batches, spoon out batter onto an oiled frying pan. Spread out batter so it is about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick, turn heat to medium-low and when batter sticks together, flip to the other side and cook until pancake is crispy and gives off a golden brown hue.

For the Veggie Filling:

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg of cremini or portabella mushrooms, sliced about 1/4 inch (you can play around with different varieties like shitake, chinese black, button, enoki, morel and oyster)
  • 2-3 medium sized carrots, peeled and diced roughly 1/2 inches thick
  • 2-3 medium sized zucchinis, diced into 1/2 inch thick medallions
  • 1 bell pepper (red, green, orange, or yellow), cut into strips that are about 2 inches in length and 1/2 inch in width
  • 14 oz can of diced tomatos
  • 1-2 handful of Morningstar Veggie crumbles (this is optional, but I love the texture they add)
  • Salt & pepper
  • A pinch of the following dried herbs: Rosemary, Oregano, Parsley, Basil

Directions: Saute the veggies, starting with carrots, which are the hardest to cook. At this time, I also add in the diced tomatoes to help flavor the carrots. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, then add bell peppers and cook for about 2-3 more minutes, then add the zucchini, mushrooms, and veggie crumbles last. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, adding in salt, pepper and herbs until veggies are cooked through and well-flavored

Chipotle Sauce:

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of Chipotle en Adobo sauce (you won’t need to use it all)
  • 8 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1-2 tsp paprika
  • 1 dash of champagne vinegar

Directions: Take out 1-2 chipotles out of the can of chipotle en adobo sauce (plus a few spoonfuls of the thick sauce itself). I find these extremely spicy so you should only need a couple to get that smoke and spice into the sauce. Finely chop the chipotle, or process in a small food processor. Mix it into the tomato sauce, add paprika and the vinegar and mix well.

Putting it all together:

Option 1: Spoon in the filling into the pajeon pancake, roll it up and place it upside down on a dish, repeat until you fill an entire casserole dish, drizzle with the chipotle sauce

Option 2: (My preference because it’s more fun) Lay a piece of the pajeon pancake on a plate, fill will the veggie filling, drizzle with the chipotle sauce, and then roll it up like a burrito and eat right away

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Once in awhile, you experience that magical feeling. Your eyes grow big with wonder, your heart beats slightly faster with anticipation, and your mind soars high up with unbridled imagination. I’m not talking about the Abracadabra kind of magic. No, this is the kind of magic found in childhood wonder. Like the first time you flew a kite and watched it sail across the sky, the time you lit up sparklers on 4th of July, your first home run, or the first time your tongue makes contact with the most exquisite sip of wine (hopefully, this was a bit past your childhood). You become raptured by the moment, bewitched by its spell.

And that’s the kind of magic I found in these Enchiladas. My heart sang cheery songs while I chopped and mixed, my feet danced a happy jig as I sprinkled and seasoned, and my tummy did cartwheels and somersaults as my mouth savored the fusion and harmony of flavors.

Spicy Seven Pepper Sauce:

  • 1 Poblano Pepper – broiled, peeled, and chopped finely
  • 1-2 Jalapeno Peppers – broiled, peeled, and chopped finely
  • 2 Chipotle Chiles
  • 1-2 Tbsp Ancho Chile Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Cayenne Chile Powder
  • 1-2 Tbsp Red Chili Pepper Flakes
  • 1 Tbsp Smoked Spanish Paprika
  • 1 can/1 large Diced Tomato, with juice
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 handful of Cilantro, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1-2 Limes

Get Saucy:

  • Combine all ingredients (except Cilantro) together in a pot. Simmer for 30-40 minutes until the smoky aroma fills the air, and the spice stings your eyes :). Add Cilantro.
  • Take a hand blender and pulse until desired smooth/chunky texture achieved.

For the Enchiladas:

  • 1 package of corn tortillas (about 10 pcs)
  • 8-12 oz of cheese (I used Monterey Jack, but Cheddar/Harvarti (sharper taste), or Mozzarella (milder taste) would work just as well)
  • 2 handfuls of Cilantro, washed, and chopped
  • 1 can/1 large Diced Tomato
  • 1/2-1 pkg of Baby Bella Mushrooms (or any other that strike your fancy)
  • 1 large Zucchini, chopped into little square cubes
  • 1 handful of Sweet Corn
  • 1 Poblano Pepper, broiled, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 Bell Pepper (Orange/Yellow/Red), chopped into little square cubes
  • 1/2 White Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • Pinch of dried basil
  • Pinch of dried rosemary
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  • Pinch of dried parsley flakes
  • Pinch of Chili Pepper Flakes
  • Some Chives
  • Butter, for cooking
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Now Get Enchanted:

  • Make the Filling: In a pan, saute onion in butter. Add in Bell Pepper, Poblano Pepper, Jalapenos, Mushrooms, Corn, and Zucchini. Season with Salt & Pepper.
  • Add in the Tomatoes and cook until all the flavor of all the vegetables blend together in perfect harmony
  • Season with herbs and spices above (Parsley, Basil, Rosemary, Oregano)
  • Finally, stir in 1/2 of the Cilantro and all the chives. Drain any excess liquid
  • Now, assemble the Enchiladas. Spread some of the Enchilada Sauce (above) into a baking pan. Spoon some filling into a tortilla

  • Tightly roll each filled tortilla and place side by side in baking dish

  • Repeat until dish is filled and top with the remaining Enchilada Sauce. Sprinkle generously with cheese and stick in oven

  • Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle the rest of Cilantro on top

  • Now, take a fork and dig in!

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With the Holiday Festivities and preparations fast approaching, it’s critical to be able to turn to simple, no-stress meals that you can whip up in an instant. After all, we all need to refuel our energy while running around shopping, decorating, and making the excited yet headache-inducing travel plans. So before Christmas, I will share this 2-part Pre-Holiday Recipes on simple yet sophisticated dishes featuring the sweet, succulent, and versatile Fig.

Growing up, the only figs I knew were Fig Newtons, which I really was not a fan of. It wasn’t until I had the chance to eat at Fig & Olive a few years ago that I realized that the sweet juicy flavor of figs could be used to complement savory dishes. So a few days ago, after finishing up my last day at work before my extended Holiday vacation (yay), I threw together a Fig Pizza, with Carmelized Fennel, Goat Cheese and Arugula. The whole process took less than 30 minutes and the result was so good that Sous Chef Brian asks for a repeat performance every day!

The Goodies:

  • 4-6 Figs, quartered (*a note – I really wanted to use black mission figs, but my grocery store didn’t have any fresh figs – I know, atrocity – so I was limited to dried kalamata figs, which surprisingly worked just as well!)
  • 1/2 bulb of Fennel, sliced very thin
  • 1 handful of Arugula leaves
  • 1 handful of crumbled Goat Cheese
  • Olive Oil, to brush pizza with
  • 2 pieces of Pita Bread (yes, this is where the shortcut comes in!)
  • 2 Tbsp Xagave Nectar
  • 2 Tbsp Cooking Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • A few strips of Proscuitto (optional – I did it for the Sous Chef)

And Bring us Some Figgy Pizza:

  1. Cook the Fennel  in a pan with the Cooking Oil. Sprinkle with Salt & Pepper to bring out flavor, and drizzle with Xagave Nectar to carmelize until brown.
  2. Brush Pita Bread with Olive oil. Decorate with Figs, Fennel, Arugula, Goat Cheese and Prosciutto. Sprinkle with Salt & Pepper
  3. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

Easy as Pizza, isn’t it?   

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Serendipity ~ luck, or good fortune, in finding something good accidentally

For someone who likes to be creative and experimental, I am actually quite the control freak. That is, I don’t deal well with things that “don’t go as planned”. I pack for trips 3-4 days in advance; I factor in Plans B and C for my vacation itineraries; heck, I even write down notes before I type my blog posts!

So you can only imagine my chagrin when I came home from Trader Joe’s before the chocolate cookoff to discover that the 10 cans of whole pinto beans I meant to buy were actually refried pinto beans. What was I to do with mushy beans in a chili dish? I was also too lazy to make that trek back downtown to return the refried beans, so in my pantry they sat.

Then yesterday, I tuned in to an old episode of Top Chef and watched Lorraine Bracco make this amazing Panko-Crusted Portabella Bun, and thought: That’s IT! I’m going to make this with a Pinto Bean Burger! So there it was – my serendipitous revelation turned my useless cans of refried beans into a tasty, hearty meal!

Earthy, slightly sweet PINTO BEAN BURGER
paired with
Citrusy AVOCADO TOMATO RELISH
sandwiched between
Two blissfully crispy & meaty PANKO PORTABELLA BUNS

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (15oz) pinto refried beans
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, seasoned with herbs of your choice (salt & pepper, basil, parsley, etc)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 4 large portabella mushrooms, stems removed
  • a couple cups flour, seasoned with salt & pepper
  • a couple cups of panko bread crumbs, seasoned with salt & pepper
  • 3 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1-2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar

Stumbling Upon Serendipity:

  1. Saute onions in a pan with some light butter until carmelized. Add in the chopped bell peppers and cook for another couple minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the refried beans, bread crumbs, 1 egg, chopped cilantro, and the onion/bell pepper mixture. Cover and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
    *While burger mixture is chilling, make the mushroom buns:
  3. Thoroughly brush the portabella mushrooms with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and dried basil.
  4. Dip the portabella mushrooms in this order until well covered: a) flour b) 2 eggs, beaten c) panko bread crumbs
  5. Stick the panko-crusted mushrooms into the oven and bake at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes
    *Now make the avocado-tomato relish
  6. Combine the chopped tomatoes, avocado, and some cilantro. Squeeze in lime and add the agave nectar until desired sweet-sour balance is achieved
  7. Take the pinto bean burger mixture out of the refridgerator, form into golf-sized balls, dip them into flour, flatten them, and fry in a pan, flipping constantly until they are crispy and golden brown.
  8. Remove the portabella buns from the oven and assemble this delicious burger.

Variations:

  • Don’t have pinto beans? Try using black beans for a more traditional black bean burger. Garbanzo beans would also work beautifully (almost like falafel burgers!)
  • Substitute the relish with your favorite salsa – maybe a pineapple salsa or maybe even marinara sauce!
  • If you’re not in the mood for citrus flavors, try some leafy steamed spinach or kale instead of the relish
  • I almost didn’t want to suggest this, because that panko-portabella is absolutely divine, but it can be more filling than the usual buns, so if you’re not looking for a filling meal, you can replace with 2 pieces of whole wheat toast, or 2 sesame buns.

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This week, the Quesadilla goes international to the Mediterranean and the Far East in search of cultural twists on flavors.

Quesadilla Caprese:
First stop was Italy. Caprese salad, composed of juicy tomatoes, floral basil, and fresh mozzarella is often used as a meal starter to whet the appetite. The taste of Insalata Caprese reminds me of dining Al Fresco on a breezy summer evening, and with this sudden onset of fall, I was suddenly craving that feeling. The sweet corn & flour tortilla served as the perfect transition to take this from an appetizer to a more filling meal. Top off the quesadilla with some marinara sauce, and it transforms into Magherita Quesadilla!

IMG_0054

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Tomatoes (Plum, Heirloom, Beefsteak), sliced
  • Fresh Mozzarella, sliced
  • Fresh Basil, coarsely chopped (to bring out flavor)
  • Large Flour Tortilla
  • Marinara or Vodka Sauce (optional)

Put it together:

  1.  Heat up a pan with just a little bit of olive oil. Lay down a piece of tortilla
  2. Spread out the Mozzarella and Tomatoes, alternating slices, and then topping off with chopped basil
  3. Cover with second piece of tortilla and brush some olive oil on top
  4. When you hear sizzling, flip to cook the other side, and continue flipping/cooking until both sides turn a crispy golden brown.
  5. Brush on marinara or vodka sauce, and cut into 6 or 8 slices.

Six Treasures Quesadilla:
Next destination for the quesadilla – my home country of Taiwan. I remember Taiwan only from the eyes of a toddler, so my knowledge of Taiwanese food derives from the home cooking of my lovely, and also often experimental mother. Her strategy for food creation involves pairing up ingredients she finds in the fridge, concocting complementary sauce/seasonings, and adding in heaps of love. Since Six is a lucky number in Chinese culture, I decided to choose 6 colorful veggies to create a savory blend for this quesadilla.

IMG_0057

Ingredients:

  • Six Treasures (Shitake Mushrooms, Leeks, Spinach, Carrots, Bean Sprouts, Bamboo Shoots)
  • Large Tortilla
  • Satay/Stir Fry Sauce (soy sauce, minced ginger, black vinegar, red chili pepper sauce, and a dash of sweet chili sauce)
  • Peanut Sauce (optional)

Compiling the Treasure Chest:

  1. Stir fry/saute all the veggies, stirring in the sauce until veggies are cooked and well-seasoned. Set aside.
  2. Brush pan with a little olive oil, and lay down a piece of tortilla. Spread out the 6 treasures on the tortilla and top with another piece of tortilla. Brush on with more olive oil.
  3. Keep flipping and cooking until quesadilla becomes crispy and browned.
  4. Top off with peanut sauce, cut into slices and enjoy!

IMG_0061

IMG_0062 

 

 

 

 

 

Variations:

  • Try these alternate “treasures”: celery, cabbage, firm tofu, water chestnuts, baby corn, eggplant, eggs, red pepper
  • Use Plum or Sweet & Sour Sauce for a sweeter tang
  • Use black bean sauce for a more earthy, salty flavor
  • Fry the veggies in some rice, and wrap it all up in the tortilla like a burrito
  • Feel free to use herbs like basil, parsley, or cilantro

Thus concludes today’s journey. Stay tuned for our next experimental adventure!

Insalata Caprese on Foodista

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