Reddish Mole (Mole Coloradito)

 Many years ago, I brought back a cookbook from our trip to Mexico.  I read through it on the plane and when I returned, I got really excited about cooking up some traditional dishes.  I even brought back a large bag of Mexican oregano (that turned some heads at customs...).  Skip ahead a few years (has it really been 13 years since our trip??) and I had yet to fully explore everything this cookbook had to offer - including an opportunity to practice my Spanish because all of the recipes were bilingual.

A few weekends ago, as the sky had the shade of autumn grey that I love, I decided to dust off this cookbook and make something in the slow cooker.  After foraging through my cupboards, refrigerator and freezer, I decided on this mole.  I didn't want to have to spend too long preparing everything - just wanted to get it in the pot and get back to more important things (Call of Duty).

We had a very good haul of peppers and produce this year.  My husband, (the Pepper Whisperer I've started calling him), worked his magic and we had so many peppers I didn't know what to do with them!  Bajan Hot Sauce, Trini Hot Sauce, smoked paprika powder, piri piri sauce, Caribbean chopped seasoning, smoked Anchos, chili flakes and so much more.  Near the end I froze them whole and will decide what to do with them later on.

I pretty much used the ingredients as listed in this recipe, but changed the method to use the slow cooker.  We have so much meat in our freezer (thanks to my husband's diligent eye for a deal - which he inherited from his mother) that I needed to start working through it all.  I knew there was a pork shoulder (or three) down there - good place to start!  (I think a pork tenderloin would render a drier product).

The recipe calls for 2 lbs, I think the pork shoulder was a bit more, but in the end it doesn't matter if it's a bit more or less - as long as the sauce covers the meat entirely.  I also used low-sodium chicken stock versus the chicken stock powder (it's what I had).  I didn't bother to brown the meat, I just put everything into the Crock pot and turned it on high and walked away.  The smells coming from the kitchen were entirely intoxicating and was the source of much distraction whilst trying to win my xBox campaign.  I digress...

I cut the meat off the bone and kept the bone. I cut it into 2" chunks and put it in the Crock Pot.  Next, the mole.

Re-hydrate the peppers in boiling water until soft. then chop along with onions, tomato and garlic

Re-hydrated peppers
Quick blitz in the blender.  I added enough stock to make a sauce the consistency of ketchup
Poured sauce over meat and reserved bone - then set it and forget it for 6 hours on high
I decided the only thing that would make this dish better, would be some corn tortillas.  I sent my husband out to get some.  You need to know that I live in a small town, so you know where I'm going with this when I say that after many phone calls of  'They don't have any corn tortillas, can you use flour?  No!' -  from many different locations, I decided to make them myself.  Next challenge was finding Masa Harina (the flour used to make corn tortillas).  Eventually he located some.  This flour, unlike corn meal, is treated with lime (essentially calcium) and produces a nice and somewhat pliable dough.  Do not try this with corn meal, trust me on that.

I normally have a tortilla press but there was an incident a while one was hurt, except the press (ahem).   Hand rolling does not get the same uniform texture I was hoping for, but the taste was still there - slightly charred and warm.  I think I need more practice is all.  Nothing can compare to the taste of a fresh and warm corn tortilla.

Just follow the directions on the package - be sure to use warm water, it absorbs better.

Golf-ball sized dough, rolled between two layers of wax paper.
Grilled in a hot, dry non-stick pan (no oil) This one wasn't round, but it was an early one, still tasty though!
They were kept warm in my handy tortilla warmer until the rest of the meal was ready.  To me, they are not good right away (if I had some more practice maybe), they develop a nice soft texture after sitting and steaming together for a while and don't break apart when folded for inserting into mouth.

After six hours, the meat was almost falling apart.  I did check it at 4 hours, then at 5 hours, but it didn't quite 'give' when prodded with a fork, so I left it alone to do its job.

Not the most appetizing shot, upon reflection, however, you get the idea of how tender the meat was
I partially shredded the meat and added some of the cooking sauce to it. Next I thought I would make some pico to go with the mole.

1/2 c of grape tomatoes, 1/4 c chopped onion, 1 tb cilantro, 1 tb lime, salt and pepper to taste

Time for the assembly.  Warm tortilla, mole, extra sauce, pico de gallo, fresh cilantro, slivered red onion and a squeeze of lime to taste.

These were so yummy that I made them again the next week!  I couldn't throw out that precious sauce or see it relegated to the freezer, so I re-used it (thinned with a bit of water) and enjoyed them again with some fresh coleslaw and more pico.

Buen Provecho!

Flying Home with Flying Fish

Swordfish - trimmed and ready to be frozen
We always try to bring home fish when we come back from Barbados.  I thought I would share with you our process in getting fish home.

We like to visit the Bridgetown fish market because they tend to have more variety.  (However, I will say that the fishmongers in Oistins do a better job of cleaning and filleting the fish).  We checked out a few stalls to see what was on offer.  When you are there, ask if the fish is fresh - give it a once over. Are the eyes clear?  Does the fish look intact?  Are the gills bright pink?  If you can't see the whole fish, ask if it's been frozen.

This time we decided on the following:  shark, marlin, swordfish, flying fish, a whole kingfish and a whole Mahi-Mahi.

I asked for the whole fishes to be cleaned and filleted only.  I prefer to portion them myself before freezing.  I asked for two pounds each of the others and one package of flying fish.

We used to have access to a Food Saver, however, it died a slow death and had to be put down.  We discovered the Ziploc freezer bags which come with a pump to remove the air.  You can buy these at Massey grocery stores.  These bags work great and we have had frozen fish in them in the freezer for up to one year without any loss of seal.  I've not yet been able to find them here in Ontario.

Ziploc Vacuum bags with Pump.
I portion off the fish (for two servings at a time) and put them into the freezer bags, suck out the air (the instructions are on the bags), then it's ready for the freezer.  Don't forget to label each type of fish - trust me when I say that you will not remember which piece is which after three months in the freezer - they all start to look the same.  I also label some bags as 'trim' to be used in a stew later.

One boned side of Kingfish.

Kingfish portioned

It takes about two days to freeze the fish solid, so give yourself enough time.  The day of departure, we put the fish into a thermal bag, then nestle the bag amongst clothing (sometimes wrapped in a towel) for the journey home.

Before sealing

After sealing.  Air is removed by placing the pump on the 'circle' and pumping it out.
It takes about two days for the fish to freeze solid.  About thirty minutes before we're ready to leave, I pack the fish into a cooler bag we bring from home, then pack it in our suitcase.

Freshly sealed packaged ready for freezing.

Two days later frozen and packed in the cooler bag

Ready for the suitcase

Ready to be zipped up and put in the car. Layer some laundry on top for more insulation
On the plane, when filling out your Canada Customs declaration form, be sure to declare your fish.  You are allowed to bring fish back, but you have to declare it.  There is a section to declare meat, fish, seafood, eggs, cheese etc.  When it was our turn to speak to the Customs Officer, he asked what I had, I said frozen fish fillets and then we were on our way.  No secondary inspection required this time.

14 hours later (still frozen) and the fish has arrived safely to its new home - our freezer in the basement.

3:00 am and in our freezer at home
The shark, mahi-mahi, marlin, swordfish and kingfish were $7/lb BBD (~$3.50 USD).  The flying fish were a little steeper this time at $25 BBD per pack - usually $15 per pack.  This batch of fish cost us about $112 BBD for 16 pounds of fish plus $25 BBD per package of 10 flying fish fillets for a total of $137 BBD (~$ 70 US).  This would cost me considerably more at home and I find it difficult to find kingfish where I live.  So, for us, it is definitely worth the process.

Small fishing boat with fish cleaning facilities in the background - Martin's Bay, St. John

Oistins Fish Fry at Home

Grilled dolphin (mahi mahi), pigeon peas, rice and gravy, salad, Delish and rum punch
I can never get enough of the fish fries in Barbados.  From Oistins, Christchurch to Half Moon Fort in St. Lucy to Martin's Bay in St. John.  Love it.  Sadly, when we return from holidays in Barbados we always crave a repeat as soon as possible.

Last weekend seemed like the perfect afternoon for a repeat of our favourite evenings there.  I even surrendered a lazy afternoon on the couch to clean the gazebo for us to enjoy our dinner in.

You'll need some mahi mahi which is easily available (frozen) at a reasonable price (about $10).  I recently discovered these individually frozen ones at Loblaws and Independent's and they have become a staple in the freezer.

The weight of each piece is pretty equal, despite my poor picture.

For the grilled fish (serves 2)
2 pieces of mahi mahi (dolphin)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of Chopped Seasoning (see below)
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Thaw the fish, pat it dry with a paper towel and coat with a teaspoon of oil (this helps the seasoning to penetrate and stick better to the fish).  Season with the salt and pepper and the chopped seasoning. Marinate covered in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours (overnight would be best).

Prepare your BBQ grill (oil the grill before lighting - safety first!) and grill the fish for about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden and you can see it flaking.  Serve with your choice of accompaniments and enjoy.  I even made a couple of rum punches to make it a true fish fry experience (recipe below).

Bajan Chopped Seasoning
1 bunch of green onions
1 bunch of chives
1 bunch of parsley
1 white onion
1/2 bunch of fresh thyme or 2 tb broad leaf thyme
3 springs of sweet marjoram
5 cloves of garlic
1 Scotch Bonnet Pepper - seeds removed
1 tablespoon of salt
2 teaspoons of pepper
1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lime juice

Chop the ingredients by hand or in a food processor.  Do not puree!   You want to see the pieces of seasoning.  Add the salt, pepper and vinegar or lime juice and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.  Use it on poultry, pork and seafood.  Stir it into your sauces and stews.  Add some Bajan to the dish.

Rice and peas (serves 4 generously)
1 c of parboiled white rice
1 can of pigeon peas
2 cups of chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
2 bay leaves

Heat the oil in a medium sized pot until it shimmer, add the rice, thyme, black pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and stir to coat.  Saute the dry mixture for a couple of minutes, then bring the heat to high and add the liquid and the bay leaves.  Bring to a rolling boil, put the lid on the pot and turn the heat down to minimum and cook for 20 minutes at a very low simmer.  Check at the 20 minute mark to ensure all the water has evaporated.  If not, close the lid and let it cook another couple of minutes.  When it's finished, turn off the heat, leave the lid on the pot and leave the pot to rest off of the burner to steam for a few minutes.

For rice and peas - 1 cup of rice to one can of pigeon peas

Broad Leaf Thyme - nurtured in my kitchen for 15 years

'Delish' on every dish!
Rum Punch - 1 serving
1 part sour - 1/2 ounce of lime juice
2 parts sweet - 1 ounce of simple syrup
3 parts strong - 1-1/2 ounces of Mount Gay Rum
4 parts weak - 2 ounces of water

Garnish with a bit of Grenadine syrup, a few dashes of Angostura Bitters and a few grindings of fresh nutmeg.


Coriander and Fennel Baked Salmon

Hidden Freezer Treasure
My freezer, while being useful, is a place where a food hoarder like myself (but it was on sale!) can stow away many treats for a rainy day.  I went downstairs the other day to find a small pool of water on the ground in front of the freezer.  Slight wave a panic and nausea as I imagined my treasures thawing and dying a slow painful death.  This cannot be.  We quickly sprung into action.  My husband went to buy bags of ice and I did some triage of the freezer contents.   Several garbage bags later (no judgements please), we had whittled down the contents of the freezer to three coolers packed with ice.  During the adventure I found a side of salmon that was the result of our fishing trip to BC a couple of years ago.  I decided to make it for supper today after a great camping weekend - some clean eating after a weekend of mild debauchery.

Pin boned and trimmed

The preparation for this dish is simple.

Coriander and Fennel Salmon - serves 6

1 side of pacific salmon, skin on (see note below)
1 tb olive oil

Coriander & Fennel Rub:
1 tb coriander seed
1 tb fennel seed
1 tb coarse salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp grated lemon zest

Fennel and coriander seeds

Liberally season the fish - select how coarse you want the mixture

To prepare the salmon, I removed it from the shrink wrap,  then removed the pin bones, trimmed some of the belly fat off (chef's treat for later), rinsed it off (to remove any errant scales) and patted it dry with a clean kitchen towel.

Next, in a mortar and pestle (or electric spice grinder), grind all the rub ingredients together to a coarse texture and set aside.  Rub the olive oil onto the salmon then sprinkle all the rub onto the fish and lightly press to make sure it adheres to the surface of the fish.  Let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  Then, take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking (but up to one hour) to let it come closer to room temperature - this helps to ensure more even cooking.

Preheat the oven to 425F and cook the fish for about 4 minutes per inch.  You can use a thermometer to check - the temperature should be about 145F.  This side of salmon took 8 minutes.

Note:  Yes, you can use Atlantic salmon, and it can be skinless.  I decided to leave the skin on as it provides a little extra moisture during cooking.

Served over spaghettini sautéed with spinach, tomato, onion, garlic and anchovies.
The salmon was cooked as I like it - moist and delicious.  Each bite provided a little pop of fennel or coriander, delectable notes of lemon and liquorice.  I don't like the taste of liquorice, but it works so well with the salmon and the coriander.   A keeper.  As an aside, the salmon showed no signs of degradation.  It was as fresh as the day we caught it.

P.S.:  Everything that was packed in ice survived (for three days) and so did our freezer.  We've just given it some room to breath.  Now, to resist a good sale...

Making Paprika

Banana peppers at various stages of ripeness.  The runty one was picked to save it from the frost.
Don't you love it when someone has a great idea - that really means work for you?  I actually didn't mind...this time.  My husband has become somewhat of a green thumb when it comes to pepper plants.  This year he grew Serrano, jalapeño, sweet green peppers, Trinidadian seasoning peppers and banana peppers.  The idea was for us (me) to make paprika.  Why not?  Most of the hard work is preparing the peppers for dehydrating.  I accepted the challenge.

My husband left the banana peppers on the vine until they were red and these are what we used for the paprika.  I used a total of seven peppers in all.

First step, wash the peppers and dry with a towel.  Split the peppers in half and remove the ribs and seeds.

Next, I rigged up an indoor smoker (a pot with a colander inside so the smoke could envelope the peppers) and smoked the peppers for about an hour.  I recently acquired a Smoking Gun and it came in very handy.

After the peppers were smoked, I put them into a 200F oven for 12 hours (I am getting a dehydrator for the next time).  The peppers went from a bright red to a deep blood red colour.  Beautiful.

I put them in the Vitamix and after a few seconds in the blender we observed a paprika tornado inside.  Experiment = success.

Ground to a fine powder.  The resulting powder was a deep reddish brown and delicious.

The yield on this was about two tablespoons of paprika with a slightly smoky scent and intense pepper flavour.  I Will definitely make more next season.  Now I need to do some research on the perfect recipe to showcase the paprika.  Good call Dale :-)

Maui - The Return

After a long haul (YOW->YWG->YYC->OGG), we arrived a little weary, but generally in good spirits.  Thanks to Air Canada's (points redemption ticket) routing, we were able to spend some time visiting with my brother in Calgary.  We made a pit stop for some delicious roti and curry goat at his favourite local spot, then back to the airport for the last leg.

The Canadian Rockies from the plane
I was able to capture a couple of really stellar shots of the Rockies as we flew over.  It was pure luck really.  I had the blinds closed (glare was interfering with me catching up on Scandal on my tablet), and just decided to open them to see where we were.  The sight that lay below us was truly amazing.  I quickly grabbed my phone (yes, you can still take pictures when your phone is in airplane mode) and snapped a couple of quick pics.

The seven hour flight from Calgary to Maui went pretty fast.  I was able to get about three hours sleep, which helped with the groggy factor - seeing that we had about a 45 minute drive ahead of us, to our hotel.  This time we are staying at the Westin Ka'anapali just north of Lahaina.  Studio villa with kitchenette and laundry facilities (which enabled us to fly with only carry on luggage).

Our first day was a full one.  We stayed up late (6 hr time difference between Maui and Ottawa) to enable us acclimating to the time change more quickly.  We got up at 6:30 and went for a walk along the beach.  There is a beautiful boardwalk which follows along the beach.  We made it as far as the Castaway Cafe, for a delicious breakfast.  I enjoyed the Huevos Rancheros with a generous serving of pinto beans delightfully peppered with crumbled chorizo sausage.  (Bonus - saw a whale breaching in the distance during breakfast)

Later that morning, we decided to check out Napili Bay - just north of where we are staying.  An acquaintance on Twitter suggested we go to The Sea House.  After a couple of turns, we found it and walked over to investigate.  We took a server's advice and decided to return for Happy Hour later that afternoon.  The eats that were on offer for Happy Hour did not disappoint.  (I will include those details in a separate post).

We went the Fish Market afterwards to get something to prepare for dinner.  Once again the fish on offer were so beautiful.  And once again, I was tempted to snatch something right out of the case for a nibble.  We decided on the Opah (Moonfish) this time.  I also bought some garlic infused oil to grill it with.  A quick trip to the Times Supermarket completed our afternoon errands.

The sun put on a spectacular display at closing time.  A truly remarkable sunset on this day.  I almost missed it, as I was feeling lazy and didn't feel like leaving the couch.  However, the call of the conch shell roused me from my lethargy and I was rewarded with quite a show (close to sunset at this hotel, the conch shell is sounded and tiki torches around the property are lit by handsome young men in Polynesian garb).

Our grilled opah was accompanied with a sauté of snow peas, Maui onion and oyster mushrooms.  The texture of the opah was very good.  We enjoyed the fish grilled medium (thanks to the use of several community gas grills on the property) which was seasoned with the garlic infused oil, salt and pepper.  I also grilled a couple pieces of garlic oil brushed ciabatta bread as well.

Enjoying Mai Tai's at the Sea House Bar - great view
Napili Bay
 Day 1 - A+