Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Real Tortilla Casserole

We all know about the food memories of childhood--things we wouldn't cook now are remembered ever so fondly. I just heard a food show host tell how his father used to mash up canned salmon with a dollop of catsup and serve it on crackers. And his kids loved it!

It's funny how recipes change over time--but perhaps not so funny to my kids, who remember a tortilla casserole that I made for them long ago when they were little. The recipe was probably from some old 1950s gringo cookbook, copied down back when I lived in California or Washington or British Columbia and imagined that a red chile sauce was red because of the paprika.

And it's really funny to me that the original recipe card, just unearthed today, calls this "Beef Enchiladas," when we've always called it Tortilla Casserole.

Over the years, I stopped frying the tortillas and used them right out of the package; I forgot to add olives, and used whatever was in the fridge--any kind of leftover meat, vegetables, perhaps a chopped up tomato or potato or both. When we moved to New Mexico, I was able to use high quality red chile powder and chopped green chiles, all from crops grown right here in the Mesilla Valley. That's evolution and it happens in every kitchen.

But my grown children have always argued that there was once a very different version, the one they remember from childhood. For them, here it is (in case you don't want to decipher my handwriting on the card):

1 lb. ground beef
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbl. chile powder
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbl. paprika
1/2 tsp. oregano
3 tbl. flour

2 cups water

1 cup whole pitted olives.

6 tortillas [I'm sure this means corn tortillas, from back in the days when that was the only kind available in most grocery stores. I've used flour ones, too, in more recent times].

Grated cheese (the amount is up to you)

  • Brown the ground beef in a bit of oil. 
  • Add the salt, chile powder, garlic, paprika, oregano, and flour. Stir well. 
  • Add the water. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil. 
  • Add the olives.
  • Simmer for 15 minutes until sauce has thickened and reduced.
  • Alternate six lightly fried tortillas, the sauce, and grated cheese in a casserole
  • Bake at 350 for ten minutes. [This surprises me--I like it baked much longer so the edges of the tortillas start to get crisp]. 
  • Cut into wedges and serve with chopped lettuce [what else?] .

Friday, December 23, 2016

Jillian's Holiday Broccoli Cashew Salad

This recipe comes from my friend, Karen, who continues to believe that we actually eat vegetables when not in her presence. 

2 bunches broccoli, including stems, pulsed in food processor
1 cup finely grated cheddar cheese
1 cup cashews
1 cup dried cranberries (craisins)

3/4 cup light mayo
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar

Whisk in large bowl Mayo, sugar, and vinegar until well blended; add other ingredients and mix thoroughly.

This recipe is best if you mix the day ahead and refrigerate to allow the flavors to set.  Also, when you pulse the broccoli stems, do them "fine" and when you pulse the florets, do not over pulse or they will be too fine -- you want "fine" stems, and coarsely pulsed for the florets.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Betty Crocker's Classic White Bread

This is the best white bread I've ever made. The ingredients are like those in every other bread recipe, but this particular combination results in a perfect fragrant, moist loaf. I borrowed the details from this web page. 
If you've ever read any of Philip R. Craig's Martha's Vineyard Mysteries, you will remember that this bread recipe is mentioned in almost every single book. Craig's hero, J.W. Jackson, makes his white bread in batches of four loaves. To do the same, just double this recipe. 
This same recipe also appears in Craig's cookbook, Delish, which I couldn't resist buying after reading the Vineyard series and wondering about the delicious-sounding meals that J.W. cooks for his family. The book also contains some great ways to prepare fish.

6 to 7 cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour* or Better for Bread® bread flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons shortening
2 packages regular or quick active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
2 1/4 cups very warm water (120° to 130°F)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted, if desired

  • In large bowl, stir 3 1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt, shortening and yeast until well mixed. Add warm water. Beat with electric mixer on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Stir in enough remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, to make dough easy to handle.
  • Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead about 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy. Grease large bowl with shortening. Place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place 40 to 60 minutes or until dough has doubled in size. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.
  • Grease bottoms and sides of two 8x4-inch or 9x5-inch loaf pans with shortening or spray with cooking spray.
  • Gently push fist into dough to deflate. Divide dough in half. Flatten each half with hands or rolling pin into 18x9-inch rectangle on lightly floured surface. Roll dough up tightly, beginning at 9-inch side. Press with thumbs to seal after each turn. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal. Pinch each end of roll to seal. Fold ends under loaf. Place seam side down in pan. Brush loaves lightly with butter. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place 35 to 50 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.
  • Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 425°F.
  • Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until loaves are deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pans to wire rack. Brush loaves with butter; cool.

Note: I've found that if I wait until the following morning after baking, cooling, and storing the loaves in plastic bags I can easily slice them up for freezing.