Tag Archives: South American

{ Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde }

Turns out my spicy avocado dipping sauce was so good last night, that it was eaten at an unproportional rate with repect to my empanadas. I have left over empanadas, but no more sauce, providing me the perfect opportunity to experiement with cooking a new one. In keeping with the green theme, I decided to give roasted tomatillo salsa (aka salsa verde) a whirl tonight. I would love to say it is my own recipe, however, I stole it from Tyler Florence. And with this confession now out in the open, I say that it deserves two thumbs up and earns a respectiable place among my collection of favorite recipes.

This salsa combines the favors of roasted garlic, Spanish onions, sweet tomatillo tomatoes, spicy jalapeños, and lime juice to create a condiment suitable for topping any protein or corn product. You can put it over chicken, over pork, over seafood, over nachos, hell, you can even spread it on a piece of toast for a banging Mexican-inspired snack. It is flavorful, yet not overpowering, which makes it one of my new favorite condiments.

{ Ingredients }

  • 10 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 1-2 jalapeños, stemmed
  • 1 spanish onion, quartered
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 lime, juiced

{ To Make the Salsa Verde } Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the tomatillos in half (NOTE: you should have already removed the husks and washed them). Place them cut side down on a baking sheet. Add the garlic cloves, jalapeños, and onion to the tray and roast for 12-15 minutes.

Transfer the roasted vegetables and the juices from the pan into a food processor. Add the cumin, salt, cilantro, and lime juice and pulse the mixture until well combined but still chunky.

Adjust the seasonings to desired taste. I always add a couple dashes of tobasco for more spice, as well as extra lime juice.

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{ Cuban Ropa Vieja }

The beef in Argentina is ri-freaking-diculous. Its tender, juicy, and requires nothing except a little salt and charcoal to taste divine (and this is coming from an au poirve/bernaise enthusiast) So why is it so much better, you ask? Because the the cows in Argentina roam about in pastures and feed on grass all day. Unlike the cattle in the US, which are kept in tiny pens, unable to move around, being force fed steroid-enhanced grain day in and day out. Of course thats not to say you can’t find grass fed beef in the US at all, but it’s usually that little package of meat in the Wholefood’s fridge thats like double the cost of all the others. You stare at it for like 10 minutes straight, debating whether or not it will really taste $15 dollars better than the other cuts of meat. Ahhh screw it, you’d rather get 2 for 1 drinks at happy hour with that money….back in the case it goes.

But in Argentina there is no meat grade hierarchy, it’s all good. You just have to decide which cut of meat is your favorite– a task that is easier said than done since they utilize a lot more of parts of the cow than we do in the US. Sometimes, I think they try to use too many parts…I found brain to the right of my filet mignon yesterday…ewe!

Anyways, while I am here, I am attempting to make every beef recipe that is in my pinterest “grub” file (aka my “to cook” list) because I know that it is going to be damn good. Recipe number one: Ropa Vieja….a little tribute to Casa Larios in Miami, which I happen miss more than anything.

Ropa vieja is shredded flank steak stewed in tomato sauce with peppers and onions, usually served over a bed of rice with black beans (and gobs of hot sauce in my case!). So fa, this dish has not made an appearance in Argentina, and so tonight I decided to cook it myself. The meat was very was to cook, although the shredding takes a little elbow work (I enlisted the help of my roommate since I had to shred 1.1 kilos!). And instead of serving this over plain white rice, I made a lime cilantro rice with corn, beans, and tomatoes. Top the dish with a little sliced avocado and some fresh green onions, and disfruta los sabores de Cuba!

{ Ingredients for Ropa Vieja }

  • 2 1/2 pounds flank steak (or 1.1 kilos of entraña if your in south america!)
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 onions, 1 diced for sauce and one halved for broth
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 hot pepper, diced
  • 2 cups of canned diced tomato and their juices
  • 1 cup beef broth (from cooking meat)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, as desired

{ To Make the Ropa Vieja }

Place the flank steak, the onion, the carrot, and the celery in a large stock pot and cover the contents with water.

Add some kosher salt to to the water and bring the water to a boil. Then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for an hour or two, until the meat is tender.

Remove the meat from the pot and allow to cool. Then using two forks, or your finger tips, shred the beef and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium high heat. Sautée the chopped onion, garlic, onions, and peppers until the onion is translucent. Add the cumin and cayenne pepper, stirring to combine. Add the tomatoes, beef broth, and kosher salt to desired taste (I also add a couple dashes of tobasco sauce, since I like my food spicy).

Add the shredded beef to the pan and continue cooking for another hour on a low heat. The consistency should be thicker than soup, more like a stew. Use tomato paste to thicken the sauce and extra beef broth to thin it out.


To serve Laddle the Ropa Vieja over plain white rice, or my cilantro lime rice, and top with sliced avocado. Or use the meat to make a delicious burrito filling, similar to a barbacoa.


**Remember: Ropa Vieja, like all soups and stews, develops more flavor the longer it sits. So this dish will taste better the following day, making it an ideal pre-made party food.

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Kendall’s Spicy Beef Taco Meat *****

Kendall’s Spicy Beef Taco Meat

Obviously this recipe gets 5 stars, considering it is my very own creation, which I have spent 2 years now perfecting. I could have posted it prematurely, but instead, I waited until I got everything just right before putting on the blog (be thankful for this because I experimented with a lot of different types of hot peppers, and lets just say several tears and sweat when into getting the measurements just right). The final recipe is not crazy spicy, but it packs a little heat. If you can handle the Fire hot sauce as Taco Bell, then you are fine. If you can’t handle the Fire hot sauce, then go lighter on the cayenne pepper and omit the jalapeno!

This taco meat is almost like a chili, because I let it stew in tomato sauce and chicken broth. It goes great on taco salads, nacho platters, over rice, and of course, on tacos!

The only piece of advice that I can give is make sure that you splurge and buy the lean ground sirloin meat. Yes, it is more expensive, but it is so much less fatty than the ground chuck. The one time I accidentally bought ground chuck, the meat was so oily it was almost inedible. The grease just coated my mouth.

Also, this meat freezes really well. I like to make it and put it in individual freezer containers and it lasts months. Just pop it in the microwave and defrost when you’re ready to eat it.

**This can be made with Ground Turkey as well, and if you like black beans, feel free to add a can (drained and rinsed)**

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, chopped
  • 1 16-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, 8 diced and 1/3 cup juices
  • 4-5 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons of Worcheshire Sauce
  • 3 heaping tablespoons of chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1 ½ lbs of ground sirloin
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock or beef stock
  • 2 Jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 4-5 shakes of Cholula hot sauce
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, add the onion and allow to sautee for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the garlic and allow to sautee until fragrant (about 1-2 min), but do not let burn!!

Add the ground sirloin, Jalapeno, Worchesire sauce, Cayenne Pepper, Cumin, and Chili Powder, salt, and pepper and crumble meat using the back of the spoon. Keep moving the meat so that it starts to break apart and cook faster. Once the meat looks brown and crumbly, increase the heat and add the tomatoes and their juices and allow to simmer for 3 minutes. Add the chicken or beef stock and cholula hot sauce.

Reduce heat to medium and let cook uncovered for 15-29 minutes, until the sauce reduced slightly. (Note: Check the seasonings at this point, add more salt, chili powder, or cayenne pepper now if you need too. Remember, seasoning after something has cooked if not the same as seasoning while its cooking, you need to do this now!)

Removed from heat and serve!

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{ Homemade Churros with Cinnamon Sugar }

Homemade Churros with Cinnamon Sugar and Chocolate Sauce

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I decided to try my hand at making churros for the very first time. I know they aren’t technically Mexican, but they’re Spanish and delicious, and that’s an excuse enough for me! The recipe itself is super easy to make, but you do need a pastry bag and star-shaped pastry tip to squeeze the dough from. Cooking them is also a little bit of a process because hot oil frying always gets messy. However, the work is totally worth it because this recipe is delicious!!

When making the dough, it is really important that you whisk the constantly after adding the eggs to the flour mixture because the pot will still be warm and you don’t want the eggs to become scrambled eggs!

Also, it is very important that the oil is good and hot before you begin frying or the churros will be soggy. I like to test the oil temperature with a breadcrumb or small squeeze of dough first. You know it’s ready if it immediately begins to sizzle around the edges.

This recipe made about 20 small churros (4 inches each), and they were only the table for about 5 minutes before they were gone. I would definitely make these again.

{ Ingredients }

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter, unsalted
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

{ To Make the ChurrosHeat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high flame.

In a small mixing bowl combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

Combine the water, butter, brown sugar, and salt in a medium sauce pan and bring to a gentle boil. Remove from heat and add the flour, stirring continuously until dough forms and mixture is well blended.

In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and vanilla extract and then add this to the flour mixture. (NOTE: this is where you need to use some muscle and keep stirring!! You do not want the eggs to sit in the warm pot and turn into scrambled eggs!)

Then fit a pastry bag (or 1 gallon freezer bag) with your largest star tip, and fill the bag with the dough.

Test the oil to make sure that it is hot enough and then squeeze dough straight into the pan. Allow to cook about 1 minute on each side, until golden brown and then turn with slotted spoon, and remove from oil. If you like your churros softer then don’t leave them in the oil as long, and if you like them crispy….let em’ burn.

Once you remove the churros from the oil with slotted spoon, allow to rest on plate lined with paper towels. You want to let some of the oil drip off. Then while still warm, roll the churros in cinnamon sugar mixture made earlier!

**If you want, you can also serve these with chocolate drizzle, which is really good. Or dip them in hot chocolate!

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Barrio Latino ****

16-oz Churrasco with Chimichurri, Served with White Rice, Black Beans, and Yucca

305.692.4455 
3585 NE 207 St
Miami, Fl 33180

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In just a few short weeks, I will be sipping Malbec and eating churrasco con chimichurri off the coast of Argentina. No, I’m not going on vacation. I am moving there….indefinitely (with Ariana, of course!). We have decided to become career gypsies while the US economy recovers…that sounds like a reasonable excuse, right? In the meantime, however,  I have been getting my churrasco fix at a restaurant right here in Miami, called Barrio Latino. They are located in both Aventura and now near Sunset in Miami, and they serve an outrageously good 16-ounce Churrasco for just $20. My favorite part is their homemade chimichurri sauce, which is a little bit unconventional because of its sweetness, but it is awesome. Included in the price are two sides, choices include: rice and beans, tostones, mashed potatoes, yucca, maduros, french fries, or baked sweet potato. I’ve tried almost all of them by now, and my favorites are the rice and beans, maduros, and baked sweet potato. Just as a disclaimer, the baked sweet potato is enormous…don’t tell me that thing is not genetically modified (see photo).

On days when I am really hungry, I also like to start with an appetizer. I suggest the Mariquitas (fried green plantain chips) with Mojo sauce. Their mojo sauce is as good as their chimichurri, but very strong in garlic…so be careful if you’re on a date!

Fried Green Plantains Chips (Mariquitas) with Mojo Sauce

I also love the Proveoleta Parrillera, which is a thick slice of imported Argentine provolone grilled until slightly melted and then drizzled with olive oil and topped with a roasted tomato. There is nothing better than hot cheese, in my opinion, and this shit is hello good! It is also great to put on top of the mariquitas!

Grilled Provolone Cheese Topped with Oven-Roasted Tomato (Provoleta Parillera)

Another great appetizer that I have tried is the Mollejas Al Limon, which are beef sweetbread grilled with lime juice. I was super hesitant to try these at first because sweetbreads refers to the glands of an animal (nice way to sugar coat the name, right?), but after I got over the fattiness of the texture, I realized that they were pretty delicious. Just make sure that you use a lot of lemon juice to help cut the fat taste.

In addition to the churrasco, I have also had the Vacio, which is a 20 ounce Argentine style Flank Steak also served with chimichurri and your choice of two sides. The Vacio is much thicker and juicer than the churrasco (which is a thin skirt steak), so it all depends what you are in the mood for. I usually prefer the skirt steak.

20-oz Vacio Steak and Chimichurri Served with Baked Sweet Potato, White Rice, and Black Beans

If you really cannot decide though, and you want to try a little bit of everything (or if you’re just obscenely hungry…have no shame), then order the Parrillada Argentina, which is a sizzling hot plate packed with Chorizos (sausages), Vacio, Mollejas al Limon, Morillas (blood sausages), and Churrasco. It also comes with your choice of four sides, and is certainly intended for two people to share. Check out my before and after photos….

La Parillada de Argentina when if was brought to the table…..

La Parillada Argentina when my friend and I were finished with it!

And, if you don’t want to do a full steak, I suggest the Ropa Vieja, which is a Cuban classic with shredded beef stewed in tomato sauce, served over rice with black beans and maduros (sweet plantains). Mix it all together, put a dash of Tabasco on it, and call it a day.

Ropa Vieja Served with White Rice, Black Beans, and Maduros

Love, love, love Barrio Latino. Great food, great prices, great service, and you will leave full. It is often a one meal kind of day for me when I go because I tend to over eat.

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Cafeina ****

Hot Passion Cocktail, made with rum, cointreau, fresh passion fruit puree, fresh citrus, and then jalapeno.

305.438.0792
297 NW 23 St
Wynwood, Fl 

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Every second Saturday of the month, there is an artwalk that takes place in the Design District here in Miami. The people who attend are just as interesting to look at as the art, and the alcohol is usually free. This being said, my roommate, Ariana, and I look forward to going every month. It is a nice change from the frat scene in the Grove, and it is probably the most “cultural” event that exists in Miami…sadly. Anyways, this Saturday we decided to grab some dinner at Cafeina before heading to the galleries.

Cafeina is certainly more of a bar/lounge scene than a restaurant (not suggested for a dinner date), but the food is surprisingly delicious! My girlfriends and I sat on a sofa around a low table and got started with a round of drinks—the hot passion cocktail, made with rum, cointreau, fresh passion fruit puree, fresh citrus, and then jalapeno. This drink reminded me a lot of the Chili Passion Martini from the Setai(which is my favorite drink ever) and so naturally, I loved this one too. Anything with jalapeno is good in my book.

Then for food we ordered up a Flatbread, made with artichokes, roasted chicken, tomato sauce, mushrooms, mozzarella, and hoisin sauce. The hoisin sauce was a really nice and unique flavor with the pizza, but I had some problems with the dough. The crust tasted like frozen pizza dough, which is unacceptable at any food establishment in my opinion. It had the cardboard texture of communion wafers that you receive on Sundays at mass. I don’t know about you, but personally, I’d rather my pizza not remind me of the body of Christ!

Flatbread, made with artichokes, roasted chicken, tomato sauce, mushrooms, mozzarella, and hoisin sauce

Next to be served were the Beef Empanadas served with spicy “criolla” sauce. These were awesome! It is hard to screw up anything meaty and fried but he dipping sauce that accompanied these took it to another level! I would definitely order these again.

Beef Empanadas with Spicy Criolla Sauce

Speaking of fried things, we also got an order of the Goat Cheese Croquettes made with homemade guava sauce. I knew I would compare these to the ones served at Sugarcane (which are my favorite and amazing!!), and these actually exceeded my expectation. They were very, very similar and the sauce was equally as delicious. We fork-fought over the last couple bites, and I shamelessly scraped he plate clean.

Goat Cheese Croquettes with Homemade Guava Sauce

Last but not least, we couldn’t resist ordering the Truffle Fries served with cilantro truffle mayo. The truffle oil was surprisingly good quality, considering the bucket of fries was only four dollars, and after polishing off the first order, we got a second! The mayo dip was an outrageous combination. Cafeina gets the value in good condiments and it takes their otherwise standard menu to an elevated level.

Truffle Fries with Cilantro Truffle Mayo

Overall, I really enjoyed the Cafeina experience. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and presentation of the food, considering it is more of a bar/lounge than restaurant and I thought that the atmosphere was perfect for starting off the night. They had artwork set up in the outdoor area and the people were very friendly. Just make sure that you make a reservation, especially if you want to sit outside!!! They fill up fast!

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Mercadito ***

Tacos Pescados, which were tilapia, chile poblano, and tomatillo-garlic mojo

786.369.0430
3252 NE 1st Ave
Miami, Fl 33137

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My roommate, Ariana, and I are always looking to get a deal—we call it finagling. We finagle our way into clubs and shows without paying, we finagle lower prices at clothing stores, and we love to finagle free food (this may be the reason that Whole Foods in Sunset stopped offering samples, our apologies!). However, when we can’t finagle food for free, we at least try to get it at a better price. So this week Ariana spent some time researching (a.k.a googling) weeknight food specials at local restaurants. She knew he found a winner when she came across Mercadito’s Taco Tuesdays! Mercadito is a very popular and trendy restaurant located in midtown, directly next to Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill. They are known for their wide variety and changing seasonal menu of tacos, guacamoles, and salsas. The prices are fairly steep for Mexican fair—with pre-fix dinner costing $35 per person and lunch tacos costing 3 for $10.50—but on Tuesday nights you can get tacos for just $2.50 (minimum 2) and margaritas for $5. This was in our budget and so we tried it out for our first time this past Tuesday.

We started off with an order of Traditional Margaritas and an Auntie Ox, which is green tea infused vodka, passion fruit, agave, orange, and guajillo. The margaritas were stronger when ordered from the table than the bar, and Ariana claimed that the Auntie Ox was the best drink that she has ever tried yet.

Mercadito Traditional Margarita

Auntie Ox

Next we ordered a Traditional Guacamole, made with avocado, garlic, key lime, cilantro, and tomatillo pico de gallo and a Habanero Salsa made with grilled tomato, garlic, chile habanero, and lemon. The guacamole was very good and a good portion, but I thought that it was kind of ridiculous to have to pay $3 per little dish of salsa. We went through two dishes among three people, and we didn’t even get to use it on our tacos. Despite our waiter’s warning about the heat of the habanero salsa (which does sounds intimidating), we all agreed that the salsa was not spicy! It had a great flavor, but I still needed tobasco sauce to get my spice.

Traditional Guacamole made with avocado, garlic, key lime, cilantro, and tomatillo pico de gallo

Habanero Salsa made with grilled tomato, garlic, chile habanero, and lemon

As far as tacos go, we pretty much ordered every kind on the menu. First we got the Chicken Tacos, with grilled chicken, cactus salad, tomatillo salsa, and avocado. This was my favorite taco because I felt like it had the most toppings and flavor. Each bite was juicy and flavorful.

Chicken Tacos, with grilled chicken, cactus salad, tomatillo salsa, and avocado

Next were the Carnitas Tacos, with Michoacan style braised pork, chile de arbol coleslaw, and toasted peanuts. The flavor was almost Asian inspired on this taco, with the crushed peanuts reminding me of pad thai. The pulled pork was very tender and flavorful but the coleslaw was lacking.

Carnitas Tacos, with Michoacan style braised pork, chile de arbol coleslaw, and toasted peanuts

Then came the Tacos al Pastor, with chile ancho rubbed pork, grilled pineapple, and chile de arbol salsa. There weren’t a lot of components to this taco but it was yummy in its simplicity. The spice of the salsa was a nice contrast with the pineapple and the meat was very good.

Tacos al Pastor, with chile ancho rubbed pork, grilled pineapple, and chile de arbol salsa

As I loosened up my belt a notch, the next order of tacos were brought to the table—Carne Tacos, with skirt steak, grilled pear, shaved brussel sprouts, chile de arbol vinaigrette, and crispy leeks. I was the most excited for this particular taco because of how many components the menu described, but I found it very disappointing, because I felt like a lot of those items were missing or undetectable when served.

Carne Tacos, with skirt steak, grilled pear, shaved brussel sprouts, chile de arbol vinaigrette, and crispy leeks

And last but not least, we got an order of the Tacos Pescados, which were tilapia, chile poblano, and tomatillo-garlic mojo. I am not that big into fish tacos, but these were tasty…still not my thing though (pictured at top).

Overall, I thought that the portions were very small and that although the tacos were good, they were not mind blowing or sensational. I would have been just as happy (and a little better off financially) if I had just eaten a burrito from Chipotle. Also had the prices not been happy hour specials, I would have been dumbfounded when the bill arrived, because even with the happy hour menu, we ended up paying $35 per person! I think that the food is good and that the atmosphere is very pleasant, but I do not think it deserves the price it commands. I would definitely suggest trying the Mercadito experience, but only on a Taco Tuesday night.

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