You can officially call me “tomatillo lady.” At least that’s what my favorite stand at the farmers market has started calling me due to the frequency and quantity of my tomatillo purchases. I was elated to find tomatillos at my farmers market a few months ago during the summer (can you believe it’s technically fall…
You can officially call me “tomatillo lady.” At least that’s what my favorite stand at the farmers market has started calling me due to the frequency and quantity of my tomatillo purchases.
I was elated to find tomatillos at my farmers market a few months ago during the summer (can you believe it’s technically fall already!) and I’ve been purchasing a quart pretty much every week. My husband and I have been eating stews, enchiladas, chilaquiles and salsas in an effort to enjoy the abundance of ripe tomatillos while we have them here in Boston. After this brief abundance of tomatillos I will be relegated to the scant pile of bland tomatillos at my local grocery store once again, so it’s been carpe-tomatillo-diem in our home recently. Among the many delicious stews and enchiladas and salsas one clear keeper has emerged, this tomatillo burrata hot pot.
This is technically an appetizer but it is so delicious that I sometimes make it as a meal. This tomatillo burrata hot pot is my take on an appetizer served at áperi, an upscale restaurant in San Miguel de Allende that I visited this summer. Among the three weeks of excellent cuisine, the meal I ate there was one of my absolute favorites.
Although I usually gloss over the appetizers my dinner buddy and I both agreed that we had to try the burrata tibia, which consisted of burrata, roasted tomatillos and grilled tomatoes. I was intrigued by the tomatillo and burrata combo. Tomato, burrata, and bread- yes! But tomatillos…? I was intrigued.
When the small cazuela was placed on our table minutes later, I scooped up the still cool burrata, clearly just nestled in the pot of tomato chunks and tomatillo salsa before being delivered to us. I plopped a dollop of cheese and salsa on a piece of charred bread, tried it and let out a small sigh. It was creamy, tangy, perfection.
The variety of textures and temperatures, the creamy and cool burrata which “cooks” a little on the outside in the residual heat of the tomatillo salsa, which turns the outside into a stringy queso fundido while the insider remains cool cream. The burrata along with the sweet burst of fresh tomatoes, and the crispy crunch of the pan al carbon. Sigh…
Since then I’ve made it a few times and it has been loved by all who try it. The tomatillo pot featured here includes colorful tomatoes from my coworkers garden and the farmers market. The fresh burst of perfectly ripened tomatoes is something else, especially when eaten in the same bite as the cheese, and the tangy tomatillo “Salsa” that is refreshing and not spicy at all. You pretty much need this in your life.
Things have been pretty quiet on the blog recently. After a crazy, food-filled summer, I needed some time to realign priorities and get myself ready for the school year. Year four looks promising and I am thoroughly enjoying my Spanish classes this year.
Apart from tangy pots of things that start with “tom,” I have also been obsessed with this book. It has revolutionized the way I think about food. I am no longer afraid to use salt and I’ve been liberally sprinkling salt on every meal since the fateful day my hands landed on this book.
Because of this book, I have become a big fan of brining chicken and have been using this method religiously. For the first time ever my chicken is well flavored and instead of salt making a delicious, but superficial, coating on my chicken, the salt is inside the chicken giving me the juiciest and most delicious chicken breasts ever.
I’ve also discovered this new way of cooking chicken that practically poaches chicken in its own juice. Take the afore mentioned well seasoned chicken breast, cook it this way and you’ll end up with the juiciest, healthiest chicken there ever was.
On a not so healthy note, I’ve also been eating lots of butter thanks to this hand crock. My husband actually discovered it a friends house and was instantly smitten, it is the first kitchen purchase he’s made in years. This single purchase might account for the five pounds I’ve gained this past month so proceed with caution.
In summary, you should go to your local store and pick up the last few pints of tomatoes, tomatillos and go home to make this tomatillo burrata hot pot. It’s seriously the best.
Happy last days of summer!
Notes: The recipe below is made with boiled tomatillo salsa to make the cooking time shorter but dry roasting your ingredients will yield a more complex salsa. If you can spare an extra 5-10 minutes I highly recommend it! I use a korean clay pot in my photos but any cazuela de barro or small pot with a top will do. This is key because you want to bring your salsa to a low simmer, add the burrata and serve immediately! The longer the burrata is in the hot salsa the more it will cook. It will still be delicious but you will lose some of the contrasting temperature beauty and creaminess of the cheese as it cooks. The original appetizer I ate in San Miguel came with grilled tomatoes but I have exclusively used raw tomatoes, added to heat only for a minute. I like the pot this way because the tomatoes don’t “cook” too much and provide different textures rather than getting mushy but if you try cooking them before, let me know what you think! Finally, the paprika is not optional. Paprika, although a pretty lame spice on it’s own, has a way of transforming into subtly smoky deliciousness when paired with creamy things. On the burrata it takes the tomatillo burrata hot pot to the next level.
Tomatillo Burrata Hot Pot
Cooking + Prep time: 30 mins
Yields: 1 pot
1 lb of tomatillos, de husked and cleaned
½ white onion
1 jalapeño or serrano pepper
Salt, to taste
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, whole or cut into bite size pieces depending on size
1 ball of burrata cheese
A dash of smoked paprika
1 baguette, cut into small pieces and toasted
- Boil tomatillos, onion, and pepper until tomatillos are half olive green and half their original hue (about 5 minutes). Then place them in blender and puree until smooth. Taste and add salt to taste.
- In a small pot with cover bring tomatillo sauce to a low simmer. When sauce is slightly bubbling add cherry tomatoes and turn off.
- With heat off, add burrata. Sprinkle burrata with smoked paprika and cover pot.
- Serve immediately.
One of the tensions I’ve always struggled with in regards to cooking Mexican food is that of cooking “authentic” Mexican food with the ingredients available to me in Boston. I promise this is not another one of those posts where I complain about how much Mexican produce sucks around here. Although I’m often disappointed by the quality of the ingredients I have to work with, every now and then I find a gem at at a local supermarket, or more often, at my local Farmers Market (AKA as the best farmers market).
This past Saturday while perusing Neighborhood Farm’s stand, I stumbled upon amaranth blooms. When I asked what the beautiful burgundy plant that I was eyeing was, I was informed that it was amaranth and my jaw dropped. I looked closely and sure enough, I could even see amaranth seeds within the burgundy blooms. The awesome worker at the stall also informed that they carried vegetable amaranth greens (for cooking) at which point I may have audibly squealed. She showed me the amaranth greens, which TBH I’d never known were a separate plant or that they could have beautiful burgundy markings like the ones below. I obviously had to buy a bunch. From the moment I saw the gorgeous amaranth greens, I knew that I’d recreate and amaranth soup I’d tried in Oaxaca. Before that soup, I’d only really thought of amaranth as the small puffed seeds that I mainly consumed as alegrias, mexican candy, and had never heard of amaranth leaves being edible.
I came home and flipped through my recipes from the Mexico trip to locate the recipe from the Seasons of my Heart cooking class. I was pleased to find the recipe but then dismayed that I did not have one key ingredient, the soup is officially titled “Caldo de Amaranto con Albondigas de soya,” but lo and behold, there was no soya, or soy textured protein (TVP) to be found in my house. This is one of those moments that normally sends me into a frenzy. Do I run to the store to buy TVP in order to stick to the recipe or do I make do with what I have? The choice in this case was easier, since soya is not a native Mexican ingredient and I was already amazed by the serendipity in finding amaranth greens that morning to begin with. I chose to make the soup with ground beef meatballs.
This might not seem like a conundrum to you. But I often tow the line between authenticity and integrity in relation to my food values. My food values aren’t fully hammered out yet but they go something like this: support awesome businesses and food practices and eat local and seasonal as much as possible. The obvious problem here is that eating locally and seasonally in Boston is often at odds with my intent to cook Mexican food. Sure, when I’m trying to cook enchiladas verdes, I can hunt down some puny tomatillos that were picked before their prime and traveled a week to get to me, but is it worth it? Often times, for me, the answer is no. When I do that, the food lacks the very freshness and flavor that I so admire about Mexican cuisine.
So I often choose to improvise and keep techniques and seasonings intact even as I sometimes have to change key parts of a meal to make it work. This a key question that I am currently wrestling with: can I somehow stay true to my desire to cook “Mexican” food, honoring the dishes that I love and admire, while eating with integrity?
There’s no easy answer and it’s something I’m continuing to think through, especially in light of my recent trip to Mexico, but last Saturday, I chose to improvise.
Amaranth leaves are mildly flavored and these burgundy hued ones yielded a light pink broth which perfectly complemented the smoky and spicy meatballs. This amaranth meatball soup was hearty due to the greens but could be paired with some brown rice to make it an even more filling meal.
Let me know if you give it a go!
Notes: Chintestle is a chile paste made with chiles pasillas oaxaqueños, not to be confused with chiles pasillas, salt and garlic and which is very common in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. It is my new favorite food as it is smoky and very spicy and a tiny bit goes a long way. If you don’t have chintestle, you can use canned chipotle chile peppers instead. Although you will need to use more to obtain the same level of smokiness and spice. You can also buy chintestle here if you want to give it a try. The chintestle is a little pricey but it smells and tastes like Oaxaca and there are so many uses for it. I did not have avocado leaves so I substituted those for bay leaves. Finally, I made my meatballs with ground beef instead of TVP, since that is what I had at home but if you want to make this soup vegetarian you simply need to substitute 1lb of ground meat for 1 cup of TVP reconstituted in 1 cup of hot water. My recipe, loosely based on Susana Trilling’s recipe for “Caldo de Amaranto con Albondigas de Soya” is below.
Amaranth Meatball Soup
Yields: 4 servings
Total time: 30 minutes
- 1 large bunch of amaranth greens, washed and chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- ½ onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon of mexican oregano
- 2 avocado leaves, or bay leaves
- Sea salt, to taste
- Black pepper, to taste
- 1 lb of ground meat
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- ¼ medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon mexican oregano
- ½ teaspoon of chintestle paste
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon of black pepper
- ¼ cup oil
- Combine all ingredients for the soup except for amaranth greens with six cups of water in a small pot. Bring to boil. Cook for 10-15 minutes on medium heat. Then, add amaranth greens and cook another 10-15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasons according to your taste.
- Combine all ingredients for meatballs in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Then shape into golf size balls.
- In a large pan, heat oil to medium heat and add meatballs. Fry meatballs for 5-8 minutes, or until fully cooked, turning them a few times so that all sides are evenly browned.
- Add meatballs to soup and serve.
So I’m back from Mexico after three weeks and my brain is still reeling a little. I have a lot to share but this is not that post. Things I’m enjoying right now include: not paying to use the restroom, brushing my teeth with tap water, and sleeping in my own bed. I arrived home late Saturday night and immediately unpacked all of my treasures from the trip and set them out on the kitchen table like this. Don’t worry, more than half of that stuff is for classroom use, but some, is indeed, for my own personal consumption.
Sunday morning, I went to church and came home like a haunted woman, longing for some of my favorite tastes from Mexico. I realized how much of a paradigm shift took place when I saw the bowl of nectarines in my dinning room table and immediately thought of making Agua Fresca with them. Not what I would normally do with nectarines! I proceeded to toast some chiles pasilla to make salsa for dinner which I doused over a fried egg, avocado slices and chips. Then, I dug out my concha recipe from my recipe folder, measured all of the ingredients carefully into my stand mixer, kneaded like crazy and had some sweet dough resting in the fridge within 30 minutes. Finally, I moved on to the sugar toppings and made five flavors of concha toppings: chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon brown sugar, matcha and a top secret flavor.
The conchas were a big hit with John and my neighbors, but I am still working on the previously mentioned top secret concha flavor, so I am not sharing that recipe with you quite yet. Instead, you get to try these delicious dulce de leche mochi bars! That’s right. Dulce de leche mochi bars are a thing and you can be gobbling some up in under 1 hour. After you get yourself to Hmart for some mochiko and you also stop by the Hispanic foods aisle and get some dulce de leche that is–so maybe a little bit longer than an hour–but still, these dulce de leche mochi bars are very easy to make and utterly delicious.
Before we move forward, let me say: I love mochi. If you have not been introduced to this delicious, Japanese rice cake, you are seriously missing out. Something about the plump, gummy texture and powdery coating makes me smile every time. There are many variants of mochi, even within Japanese food, but most commonly when I hear mochi, I think of mochi balls filled with bean paste and sometimes ice cream.
I don’t remember my first introduction to mochi. Perhaps it was in the form of small mochi balls served as a topping at my favorite fro yo place back when that was a thing. Or maybe it was one of my Korean friends who introduced me to “mochi” in the form of tteok, a Korean rice cake made with various grains, the most commonly used being short grain glutinous rice.
However I came to try mochi, it has quickly become one of my favorite treats. I love the subtle sweetness of treats made with glutinous rice flour like the mochi bars I am sharing with you today. The base recipe for the dulce de leche mochi bars came from my mother-in-law. She made these mochi bars, which she calls chapssal cake, for us one day and I loved how easy it was to make them and how delicious and chewy the bars were. After one bite, I immediately asked my mother-in-law for the recipe. I still have that email bookmarked and often make these when I need an easy dessert.
The dulce de leche addition came about recently because I love dulce the leche anything. After trying it on top of the mochi bars I decided to add it directly into the batter. The result was a swirly bar with caramelized edges where de dulce the leche was incorporated into the batter and baked touching an edge, a sweet addition to an already amazing recipe.
If you’re unsure about the dulce de leche, try the base vanilla recipe below first and see what you think. My friends love these and I hope you do too. Please let me know if you try these in the comments, and let me know if you have any new flavor suggestions.
Notes: You should know that these bars may feel a little goopier than normal when they’re done baking, and that is OK since the rice flour in the recipe yields that gummy, mochi texture we all love. These keep well in the fridge and firm up with each passing day. If you find them too firm the next day, pop them in the microwave for a few seconds to soften.
Dulce de Leche Mochi Bars:
Yields: however many bars you cut them into
Total Time: 1 hour
- 1lb Mochiko, or any other sweet rice glutinous flour + ¼ cup
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 egg
- 3 cups of milk
- ¼ cup of melted butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt (only if butter is unsalted)
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
- 1 cup of dulce de leche, more for drizzling
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Plain Vanilla Mochi batter: Mix 1lb of sweet rice flour, sugar, egg, milk , vanilla and salt. Then, add melted butter. Stir to incorporate, when the batter is a thick and uniform in consistency put one cup of batter aside for the dulce the leche swirl.
- Dulce de Leche batter: Take the reserved cup of plain mochi batter, add 1 cup of dulce de leche and ¼ cup of mochiko. Mix thoroughly.
- Alternate dropping dollops of the dulce de leche and vanilla mochi batter into your baking pan. Then create swirls using a knife or chopstick.
- Bake at 375 for 50 minutes. Mochi bars may seem a little soft and goopy and this is OK; they will get firmer over time.