Jazz up your humdrum beans from Food Storage with this May recipe of the month - 7 layer black bean dip. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo during this time of social distancing with a little flair! Great for any celebration.
1 cup dried beans - soaked and cooked according to package
Place beans and garlic in a food processor, Puree beans and garlic until smooth. Blend in cream cheese, cilantro, cayenne, chili powder, and cumin. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with your favorite chips! It can be refrigerated for 3 days.
For 7 layer dip, spread black bean mixture into a 9x13 pan. Just before serving top with cheese, green onions, tomatoes, olives, avocados, and salsa. Serve and enjoy!
Indulge me in a little bragging - I make the best fajitas in the world. I’ve searched everywhere and never found better ones than these. Frankly, it’s not even close. This is bold I know. But when you’ve got it, flaunt it, right?
What’s fascinating about this dauntless claim is that the recipe and techniques are quite simple and nothing secret. Indeed, the simplicity is one of the keys. When cooking Tex-Mex style foods we often gravitate towards intense marinades and complex spice mixes. With fajitas though, the best results are achieved by allowing the primary flavors of the meat (usually steak or chicken), the peppers, and the fire itself, to shine.
The other key to success is understanding and timing three distinct stages of cooking. First, sear your steak or chicken as hot as possible to a beautiful char and crust. While the meat is resting, cook the vegetables over a medium high heat. Finally, slice the meat, toss with the vegetables, and allow the mix to finish at a low temp while swirling in wood smoke.
Gather your equipment:
Your grill and your fuel. I use a charcoal grill for the entire process. It’s the simplest option and produces the best results. Hardwood / lump charcoal is recommended. Briquettes can also work well. Avoid using Matchlight or other similar briquettes. You can make excellent fajitas on a gas grill, but you’ll need a smoker box or other wood burning accessory to approximate the charcoal grill flavor. Similarly, a Traeger or other pellet cooker can work wonderfully for the final stage of cooking, but you’ll need a different apparatus with a higher and more direct heat for first stages.
Your basic grilling tools: tongs, spatula, fork, oil, onion, rake, apron, and gloves.
A grill basket is highly recommended to cook the vegetables.
Wood chips. And a chip soaker is super convenient.
Cutting board, knife and fork, serving dish.
Gather your ingredients:
1 flank steak OR 5-6 chicken breasts as desired
2 large red onions and 4 large sweet peppers (green, red, orange, yellow, or a mix as desired), cut into thick strips
3 tablespoons minced garlic
salt and pepper
tortillas (see my recipe for homemade flour tortillas)
toppings (see my suggested favorites below)
Instructions (assuming a charcoal grill; adjust as appropriate for other devices):
Mix garlic with a splash of lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Rub onto the steak or chicken. Set aside at room temperature while you ready the vegetables and the grill.
Toss the peppers and onions with vegetable oil, salt and pepper. Set aside at room temperature while you prepare the grill.
Set your wood chips to soak in water.
Light your charcoal (a chimney is recommended) and allow to burn until evenly ashed over and very hot. Gather your coals together in a single zone of your grill in order to focus the heat for the searing stage.
Sear the steak or chicken over your hot searing zone for ~3-4 minutes or until a nice crust has developed. Flip and sear the other side for ~3-4 minutes and nicely crusted as well. Don’t worry about doneness at this point. Remove from the grill, cover loosely with foil, and set aside.
While the protein is carryover cooking / resting, spread out your fire for a more medium heat zone. Using a basket, cook the peppers and onions, turning occasionally until tender and lightly charred - ~10 minutes. Depending on the size of your grill, fire, and basket, you may opt to cook the vegetables in more than one batch. Remove the vegetables from the fire.
Slice the steak or chicken on the bias and against the grain, into thin strips. Toss the meat with the cooked vegetables in the grilling basket. Sprinkle your soaked wood chips onto the coals. Put the basket over the coals and wood. Cover the grill with a lid to trap and swirl the smoke. Reduce the openings of the grill vents to reduce the burn rate and temperature.
Check and stir your mix approximately every 5 minutes. Cook until the peppers have a wonderful wood smoke flavor and the meat is done to your desired temperature. Warm your tortillas during this time. Serve immediately, hot from the grill.
Homemade Flour Tortillas Ingredients:
2 ¾ cups of flour
6 tablespoons of choice of fat - I prefer 3 tbs European butter with 3 tbs of lard. However using 6 tbs of just one works fine. Substituting vegetable shortening works too.
1 teaspoon of salt
¾ cup of warm (~110 F) water
Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter and lard until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the warm water and stir until combined. Knead briefly - the goal is to make a smooth and cohesive mix, but to not develop the gluten as much as you would for bread.
Divide the dough into 8-12 (depending on desired size) even pieces and roll into 1-2” balls. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
When you’re ready to cook the tortillas, pre-heat a large nonstick or cast iron skillet over a medium heat.. Remove the balls from refrigeration and roll into 6-9” rounds.
Lightly grease the hot skillet and reduce heat to medium low. Lay tortillas onto hot skillet and cook for ~1 minute on each side or until lightly browned and nicely puffed. Remove from heat and cover with a towel.
Note that although the tortillas are best right from the skillet, they can be made several hours or even a day in advance. Simply rewarm pre-made tortillas briefly in a microwave prior to service.
Favorite Fajita Accoutrements:
cheese - especially mild, moist, soft, and easy melting cheese
avocado - can be fresh sliced avocado, guacamole, or both
fresh or grilled jalapenos
your favorite hot sauce
And finally, fajitas are a dish made to be shared family style around a table with plenty family and friends. During quarantine though, your immediate family only is perfect. We suggest perfecting your fajitas now. And as soon as it's appropriate, invite the neighbors over for dinner.
We love spring and early summer! Try this delicious asparagus recipe as a wonderful side for any of your meals this season.
Asparagus & Prosciutto
36 asparagus spears (about 2 bundles), trimmed
1/2 lb puff pastry (available in frozen sheets at your local grocer, but check out our instructions on how to make your own here.
6 (or 12 if like most of our chefs, you prefer a little extra pork!) slices of prosciutto - for our friends here in Utah, may we suggest Creminelli Fine Meats
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon cream
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped mint
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease baking sheet, line with parchment paper, set aside.
Divide puff pastry dough into 2 even pieces. Roll each piece into a rectangle approximately 15" long x 4" wide x 1/8" thick. Cut each rectangle into 3 even pieces.
Toss asparagus in olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble, place 1-2 slices of prosciutto over each piece of pastry. Top with 6 spears of asparagus. Roll each piece tightly with the pastry facing out. Evenly space the bundles on your prepared sheet pan.
In a small bowl, whisk egg, cream, and a dash of salt until smooth and creamy. Using a brush, apply the egg wash to the surface of the pastry dough.
Bake for 12-16 minutes until puff pastry is golden brown.
While bundles are baking, mix together yogurt, mint, lemon zest, juice, salt and pepper to taste.
This recipe will work with any flour. But it's better with whole wheat flour. And it's best with freshly ground (immediately prior to mixing) whole wheat flour. As with all food, the ingredients matter most!
The proteins and starches in wheat make both yeast and quick leavened bread structurally and chemically possible. And the proteins and starches in flour are relatively stable - even old flour can bake up a crusty and chewy sourdough or a light and fluffy pancake. However, it's the oils from the wheat that carry the most and best aromas and flavors - the fresh green earthy smell that fills your kitchen as you grind flour, and the lightly sweet nutty notes that make the best artisan bread shine.
When still whole grains, the oils are tucked away in the heart of the berry (the germ), completely protected from the air that would make them degrade. This is why whole wheat lasts so long. Once ground though, the oils begin to oxidize. Very soon they lose the height of their appeal. Eventually, they fade towards boring. And ultimately they become quite unpleasant and bitter.
Storing your flour in the right conditions (airtight, cold, and dark) can help the flavor last as long as possible. But really, the only way to enjoy the wonderful flavors of grains at their best is to grind it fresh and use it immediately. We grind flour about once a week at our house (not as hard as it sounds and once you get in the habit you'll wonder why you ever did anything else). And whenever possible flour day = pancake day.
Whole Wheat Pancakes
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter
2 cups whole wheat flour (fresh ground preferred)
1/3 c sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat griddle to medium-high heat.
While the griddle is heating, in a medium bowl, sift together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and melted butter. Add wet mix to the dry and fold gently just until combined, taking care not to over mix.
Grease the griddle with butter. Scoop approximately 1/4 cup (more or less as desired for size) per pancake onto hot, greased griddle. Cook until edges and underside are browned and the top is lightly bubbling - usually ~2 minutes. Turn and cook until golden brown on the flip side ~1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.
Pro-tip from Ryan: Once you've gone to the trouble of grinding your own flour for these pancakes, take the same care with your toppings. Opt for a European butter (never margarine) and pure maple syrup (skip the maple-flavored pancake syrup). Or consider making a batch of homemade buttermilk syrup and keeping it in your fridge for pancake day!
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vanilla
In a large saucepan melt the butter on low to medium heat. Add buttermilk and sugar, increase heat to medium and bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Cook for ~3 minutes until sugar completely dissolves. Remove From heat and add baking soda. Stir gently until foaming stops and syrup begins to settle again. Whisk in the vanilla.
Can keep in the fridge for up to 4 weeks. Serve warm. Enjoy!