Chilaquiles Verdes or Tortilla Casserole with Green Sauce

It's a real bonus when what you have, especially items that need to be used up, coincide with an easy, quick and delicious Mexican meal.  The IHCC theme this week was a Potluck with any of the past chefs, and Rick Bayless was my choice with his excellent book, Authentic Mexican.

I had just enough chicken, chicken broth, left-over tomatillo green sauce, the tortillas, and etc. etc.  Perfect.

You start by letting your tortillas sort of air dry.  We want them to be firm so that when simmered in the sauce they end up a bit like a coarse polenta. Mine were sprouted corn tortillas.

I used parsley for my husband and cilantro for myself instead of the epazote, which is unavailable here.  The dish was really good, and I would make it again for sure.  I served it with a nice, fresh green salad of cherry tomatoes, basil and lettuce.

Will be sharing this at Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event, as well as at the IHCC (I Heart Cooking Clubs site for the Potluck.  Be sure to stop by and check out all the good food.


The Bee's Kiss and Madeira Cake with Passion Fruit Glaze

This seems to be the season for slightly shady or shall we say perversely themed novels on my shelf.  The Frida thing done, I picked up The Bee's Kiss, by Barbara Cleverly, another in her Joe Sandilands mystery series.  I've enjoyed them so far, and am reading the books in order, this being her 5th in the series. The year is 1926 and Joe is back in London after a number of cases had kept the Commander in India.

A prominent, aristocratic feminist leader, Dame Beatrice, with high up connections, who turns out not not to be entirely what she seems, is bludgeoned to death in her suite at the Ritz.  Often mysteries will have a really unsympathetic and despicable character murdered at the start, and I am privately cheering.  This is definitely one of those.  Still the crime must be solved, the backstory discovered, and that is where we readers get involved and interested in the motives and whodunit.   Of course, this one does get resolved, not quite as we would expect, with all the internal betrayal, and upper level corruption going on, but still with unexpected twists and turns, solved in the end.

An enjoyable addition to the Sandilands collection.  Hopefully she'll send him back to India next, where the setting was a bit more unique and colorful. Right at the end of this one, Joe is resting up at his sister's Surrey country house, and is joined by my favorite character in the novel, Dorcas a 14 year old, delightful, precocious and intelligent young niece of the victim.
"'Lydia's asked me to bring you a tea tray, Joe,' said Dorcas, waking him from a blessed snooze in the sunshine on the lawn.  'You've hot Assam and scones and jam.  We're finishing up last year's strawberry so you can have lots.  And I made the Madeira cake.'"

And so I did.  That was my inspiration to actually bake a cake, as it had been quite awhile, and never a Madeira.  I mistakenly thought there would be Madeira wine drizzled over or soaked in, but no, this quintessential British cake was instead named after the wine, a Portuguese brew from the islands, which was popular in England at the time, and often served with this cake.  So, to be served with wine, coffee, cocoa or tea.  Sounded good.


Pork Medallions in a Dark Chocolate Chipolte Sauce

Our current (August/September) Cook the Books Club selection is The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo, by F.G. Haghenbeck, and I began his novel, intrigued to learn more about the famous artist.  My interest in her was originally piqued by a mole demonstration I attended at the Kona Chocolate Festival several years ago.  The very charming Mexican chef prepared a recipe for Mole Poblano which he said could be found in the book, Frida's Fiestas.  And after tasting his delicious meal, I ran right out (via Amazon) to get that book, which is indeed a beautiful one, filled with wonderful recipes, art and photography, much of it taken at her famous Blue House, and co-written by Frida's step-daughter, Guadalupe Rivera, who states in an Epilogue that the purpose of her writing was to offer "a different aspect of Frida's way of life, the joyous one."

That said, I must admit to dismay and a bit of revulsion at the other side of her life, as revealed in  Haghenbeck's novelized account of Frida's mostly painful and amoral life.  It was difficult finding very much to relate to or admire in the book, dragging on as it did with sordidness and pain. Not a fun or uplifting read.

In spite of the awkwardness of  the writing (due partly to translation?) and fictionalized bits, dream sequences, etc., it seems to be a true enough rendering, at least in spirit, of Frida's life, according to her more accurate biography, Frida by Hayden Herrera, upon which the movie was based.

Inspiring though, as far as food goes, lots of recipes and references to wonderful meals.  I just love eating and cooking Mexican.  How to choose??  Then whilst reading one of my little mystery thrillers, there happened to be a mention of "Pork Medallions in a Dark Chocolate Chipolte Sauce".  Now that grabbed my attention.


Tangy Larb with Roast Chicken

I only recently even heard of this dish, often found in Thai restaurants (though actually a Laotian specialty).  Guess I wasn't looking too closely at the menus.  Perhaps the name had something to do with that??  Anyway, I did make it last month with ground beef, but having a nice bit of left-over roast chicken, thought I'd mince that up for a quick no-cook dinner.  Always good to have something different to do with extra chicken, and a beautiful idea in this hot weather.  Usually larb has some sort of ground meat or tofu, which you then cook before adding the flavoring ingredients and lettuce leaves to dish it into.  Many larb recipes call for roasted, ground rice, which I left out, not being certain this added step is necessary.  Easy peasy dinner. 


Making Passion-fruit Mead

Is fermenting cooking?  At any rate, it's food related.  Wine or mead is something I make with excess fruit.  And right now it is passion-fruit, known in Hawaii as lillikoi.  Lots of it around here, some of which I've given away, some made into sorbet, or syrup.  Jam is good.  But, I have to say the easiest way to deal with large quantities of fruit is to dump it all into a nylon straining bag and ferment.  Yea, no worries about the seeds.  The bag will be pulled out at the end of the week, with only seeds left in it.


Pineapple, Pepperoni Pizza with Mint

Fresh mint is fabulous with fresh pineapple, so why not on pizza, I asked myself, rhetorically speaking.  And if ham and pineapple go on pizza, why not pepperoni and pineapple?  And yes, as things turn out,  it was a fabulously yummo pizza.  What can I say?  When you're right, you're right.


Salmon en Croute and Scarlet Feather for Cook the Books Club

Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy has been our June/July book pick for Cook the Books Club, as well as my first hosting experience there.  I was pretty sure I had read this novel sometime in the past, but to be honest, once I got (re-)? reading it, the story was absolutely new to me.  Maeve Binchy was the starting point however.  Knowing that I wanted us at Cook the Books Club to feature one of her wonderful novels, I selected this one for the culinary connection.  And it does indeed contain lots of foodie inspirations

The book concerns a pair of friends from cooking school who have the dream of opening their own catering business.  An engrossing story, covering the process of getting Scarlet Feather (named for the duo - Tom Feather and Cathy Scarlet) the perfect premises, funded and established, including the connections and interesting personalities of all the various relatives, friends and, unknown to them, enemies, with lots of humor and understanding.
Binchy is well known for her delightful and humorous depiction of unique  and memorable characters, both good and bad, and this novel has plenty of them.  I especially loved the funny, precocious, abandoned  twins who come to stay and end up living with Cathy and her family.  Tom and Cathy face almost insurmountable odds both in their personal lives as well as with their business.  But, are a fictional illustration of what can be overcome and be the impetus for growth in life.

Among many treats mentioned in the book was Salmon en Croute, which called to mind some wonderful meals we enjoyed in Ireland featuring salmon.  A fish which also brings to mind an old Irish legend about the "Salmon of Knowledge."  Perhaps eating salmon makes you wiser?


Quick and Easy Chilled Gazpacho


You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto!

We're rockin' out with tomatoes this week at IHCC and chef Curtis Stone.  The weather, being so muggy and hot, has been inspiring me to more salads and less cooking.  A Gazpacho sounded quite cool and refreshing, and it was, it is!  This recipe may be found on his web site and in his book, Relaxed Cooking, as well.


Green Pineapple Chutney with Cranberries

You see here a couple of green, unripe pineapples that no one in their right mind would pick.  However, at the beginning of the season, when the desire for a lovely, sweet, fresh pineapple overrides common sense,  we usually make this mistake at least once, thinking maybe it's ready.  Hope prevails.  Both Bob and I did it.  They sat around for a week or more, and I could see those guys were never going to ripen up.  Meanwhile really, truly ripe ones were happening.

Cooking them into a tangy chutney was the solution.  Lots of wonderful spices, red peppercorns, cranberries, you get the picture.  A double rescue.