Detail of Chargrilled Shrimp with Cactus and Onions
English, Recipes

Charbroiled Shrimp with Cactus and Onions

Have you ever tried cactus? It’s turning up in supermarkets more often these days. You can find fresh cactus (scientific name: Opuntia) already chopped, with thorns removed, bagged and ready for boiling. The flavor is lemony and mild, with a texture like green beans. Cactus is high in fiber and vitamin C, and definitely worth trying if you are curious.

Cactus isn’t very tasty when raw, and should be boiled or sautéed before using. FYI, I prefer a quick boiling. Simply place the cactus in a sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for one or two minutes. Remove from the heat, drain the water, and rinse the naturally gooey pectin from the boiled cactus. Once it is boiled, it’s ready for use. Jarred cactus has already been cooked, and is ready for use right out of the package.

I got a little frustrated with my photography studio stove, as it is a rinky-dinky model, and the broiler is fairly wimpy. It took a while to get the onions and cactus to the level of char that I wanted. It may not take you 20 minutes to charbroil your onions and cactus, maybe 10 or 15 minutes if you have a more powerful broiler in your oven. Don’t worry kids, you can definitely blame your equipment if your dishes don’t turn out the way you want.

You can also make this dish by pan frying the onions and cactus first, and then adding the shrimp at the end. Shrimp only take a few minutes to cook.

Also, think about buying some fresh bread while you were at the supermarket. The delicious olive oil that you use for charbroiling is garlicky, oniony, and perfect for dunking.  And the tender roasted cloves of garlic smashed into a spread are simply divine.

 

Charbroiled Shrimp with Cactus and Onions

1 cup olive oil (250ml)

12 oz. cactus, without thorns, washed and chopped* (340gr)

1 onion, sliced

1 head garlic, peeled

Salt and pepper to taste

1 lb shrimp, deveined and peeled with tails left on (500gr)

Place the cactus in a 2qt / 2lt saucepan. Cover with water, and bring to a boil on the stove. Simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Drain the cactus in a colander, and rinse well. Allow water to drain completely.

Heat the broiler in your oven. Pour the olive oil into an oven proof skillet or baking pan. Stir in the cooked cactus, onions and garlic, tossing well to coat the vegetables with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place under the heated broiler for 10-20 minutes, until the vegetable become well caramelized.

Remove the pan from the oven, then add the shrimp. Stir the shrimp into the vegetables. Return the pan to the broiler, and allow to broil for 5 minutes more, until the shrimp turn pink and opaque.

Remove the pan from the oven, and serve immediately.

*Jarred cactus is ready to use and does not need to be boiled, although you may choose to rinse the cactus in a colander before use.

Serves 2-4

 

 

 

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English, Recipes

Red & Green Ceviche

Oh, for a frosty flute of cava, a dish of fresh ceviche, and a beach somewhere…take me there now…

Not too many dishes whisk you away from your humdrum meat-and-potatoes-life like a chilled serving of ceviche. Composed of raw marinated seafood, ceviche is believed to have originated in Peru. And if you have ever been to Peru, you understand that the Peruvians treasure and celebrate seafood with absolute passion. Peruvian ceviche is sublime.

However, Peru may not own all the credit for the existence of ceviche. When I am tracking down the source of any recipe, I usually look at its name. Unfortunately, the origin of the name ceviche is a little unclear. Some scholars insist that ceviche relates to the Arabic word sikbaj, which means meat marinated in vinegar, and others argue that the roots of the word are Quechua, the language of the Inca tribe of Peru.

Most ceviche recipes feature onions, which were not a native vegetable in the Americas. Onions are native to Central Asia. Citrus fruits, such as lime or sour orange, also originated in Southeast Asia, so the traditional onion flavor and acidic marinades of Peruvian ceviche were later additions to the recipe.

I believe that the Incans of Peru traditionally ate raw fish that had been cured with salt and aji chiles. Once the Spanish arrived in Peru in the 1500’s, and brought their ingredients such as citrus and onions from the Old World, the recipe changed. Almost all ceviche that I have ever enjoyed contain both crispy fresh onions and tangy citrus juice. Ceviche evolved from simply a raw fish to a combination of Old and New World ingredients.

This is a great dish for novice chefs. Easy, impressive, and loads of history to chat about, while you pour yourself another glass of Cava.

Red and Green Ceviche

1 lb. uncooked fish, such as tilapia or red snapper (500gr)
8 oz. uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined (250gr)
1 cup fresh lime juice or sour orange juice (240ml)
½ cup shaved red onion
3 green onions, minced
1 ripe medium avocado, cut into ½” cubes (1.25cm)
Your favorite flavored salt, such as smoked sea salt
Fresh lime wedges for garnish

Cut the fish into 1” cubes (2.5cm), and place in a large glass bowl, along with the uncooked shrimp. Pour over the fresh lime or sour orange juice. Add the red and green onion, and toss to combine well. Cover, place in the refrigerator, and allow to cure for 20-30 minutes. Fish and shrimp will turn opaque in color.

Using a slotted spoon, serve the ceviche in individual portion dishes. Top with avocado, and dust generously with your favorite flavored salt. Serve with fresh lime wedges.

Serves 2-4

English, Recipes

Conchas (Traditional Mexican Sweet Bread)

200 Years Old, and We Still Love ’em.

Some call them conchas, others call them pan de dulce or simply pan dulce,  but anyone that grew up near a traditional panaderia cherishes the memories of the happiness a warm concha.

These lightly sweet rolls are popular throughout Mexico, usually purchased in the morning for breakfast, or reserved for a light evening snack with a cup of frothy hot chocolate. Dunking is a must.

The bread base of a concha is the same dough used for Pan de Muertos, Rosca de Reyes, and Pan de Huevo. In fact, all of these breads mentioned are variations of Pan de Huevo. The toppings are simply changed for variety.

They Go Where Cupcakes Fear To Tread

What’s impressive about conchas is that the original baker that developed these classic treats  figured out how to make a sweet frosting-like topping that does not melt. The average temperature of my South Texas home on the Mexican border is 88 degrees Fahrenheit.

Every. Day.

That’s no place for a cupcake. The fact that they don’t melt in the car is probably why we like them so much.

Concha Memories

In his older years, my grandfather would send me to pick up his groceries in town, and he always requested conchas, and his favorites were the white ones. “Hey grandad,” I finally told him, “the topping is just colored, and it doesn’t have any flavoring. So why does it matter which ones I bring home?”

“I just like the white ones.” he would reply.

So that’s what I would bring him. Two white conchas in a paper bag, which would have obvious grease spots by the time I got back to the ranch. But their sweet frosting never melted.

Even Stale Conchas Are Delicious

Homemade conchas are extra amazing, but they do go stale pretty quickly, within 12 hours of making them. The remedy is to simply slice the concha and toast it under the broiler (not the toaster, which I learned when hubby tried. The topping caught fire and I lost my trusty appliance.)

And of course, dunking them in your coffee or hot chocolate is always a good call.

Conchas

Bread:

6 – 7 cups all purpose flour (750-875 gr)
3/4 cup sugar (150gr)
2 pkg yeast (16gr)
1 tsp. salt (6gr)
1/2 cup milk (120ml)
1/2 cup water (120ml)
1/2 cup butter (114gr)
3 eggs
3 egg yolks

Topping:

6 tbsp. vegetable shortening, softened (77gr)
1/2 cup powdered sugar (60gr)
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup flour (94gr)

coloring options:
2-3 drops yellow food coloring
2-3 drops red food coloring
1 tablespoon powdered cocoa (4gr)

Place 5 cups of the flour (625gr) in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar and salt, and set aside.

Heat the milk, water, and the butter in a small saucepan over low heat, until the liquid reaches 100°-110°F (38°-43°C) on a thermometer. Add the yeast and stir until completely dissolved. Pour the milk mixture over the flour and stir until well combined. Add the whole eggs and the yolks, and mix well. The dough will be sticky at first. Add more flour, 1 large spoonful at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead with your hands for approximately 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic, flouring the surface if the dough becomes sticky. Continue to knead until the dough no longer sticks to your hands or to the counter surface. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and allow it to rise in a warm (about 85°F), draft free environment for 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Divide the dough into 9 equal pieces and form each into a round, domed patty (like a hamburger bun). Place the dough patties on a greased baking sheet. Allow to rise for 1 hour.

While the bread is rising, prepare the topping. In a small mixing bowl, combine the vegetable shortening, powdered sugar, egg yolks and flour. Press the mixture with the back of a spoon to knead the ingredients together. When the dough is well combined, divide the dough into 3 portions, coloring one portion with the yellow food coloring, another portion with the red food coloring (pink is the desired color) and the remaining portion with the cocoa powder.

Heat the oven to 350°F (177°C).

Form each colored dough into 3 balls, for a total of 9 balls. Using a rolling pin or a tortilla press, flatten each of the balls into a thin circle that is just smaller in diameter than the risen bread. Place a flattened circle of topping on each of the completely risen breads. Mark each topping using a concha stamp.

Bake the conchas for 25-30 minutes, until they are golden brown around the edges.

Makes 9 Conchas