Sunday, June 7, 2009

Yes, Virgina...there is a cook in the kitchen

Summer is finally here, allowing me a much-anticipated opportunity to get back in the kitchen. Perhaps I should be more gives me an opportunity to blog about what's happening in the kitchen. I have been in there...some. Really.

Having found myself vegetable-starved, a couple of recipes from the May/June issue of Vegetarian Times caught my eye. Off I went to the Mexican market for masa harina, zucchini, chayote squash, and jalapenos. I came home and whipped up the Oven Baked Sopes with Zucchini Corn Filling. As always with VT recipes, I found that the recipes weren't necessarily true to the results. Let's start, for instance, with the sopes. These begin with a soft dough of masa horina, Parmesan cheese (not really authentic, but it adds nice flavor), baking powder, and hot water. This soft dough sits a few minutes, then a beaten egg and some olive oil are added. Now, the instructions say to take 1/4 cup of mixture, pat it into a 3" round on a parchment-lined sheet, then pull the edges up around a drinking glass. That part all works. However, the part where it says it makes 24? Unh-uh. No way, Jose. Twelve. Exactly. No more, no less. (Well, I probably could have squeezed out thirteen, but that wouldn't be very lucky now, would it?)

Really, how hard is THIS to get right? Does anybody at VT check this stuff out? Whoever counted to 24 for the yield on this...well, let's just say their math skills need a little work. It's one thing to say, "walnut sized pieces." Maybe my walnuts and your walnuts don't really fall from the same tree. But 1/4 cup...I think they're pretty consistent.

At any rate, I put my 12 sopes into the oven. Instead of the 10-minute baking time, it took about 25 minutes, yet another sign that these were supposed to use a lot less dough. As these firmed up, I took them out and sprinkled them with shredded Monterey Jack cheese, then popped them back in the oven until the cheese was melted.

Fortunately, this extended baking time allowed plenty of time to create the filling. Onions, garlic, jalapeno, zucchini, and corn all cooked to a nice, caramelized brown. Add a bit of lime, chopped cilantro, and a dusting of chile powder, and that's all you need. The sopes came out, I filled them,and served them alongside the Nopalitos-Style Chayote Salad.

The earthy flavor of this salad was nicely set off by the bite of the radishes, the al dente cubes of chayote squash, and the lime and chile dressing. All together, this made a meal that was beyond satisfying.

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