Monthly Archives: February 2014

Mamitas

Mamita’s Restaurante Latino is a new latin-themed, Bring Your Own (BYO) restaurant in Newtown that re-imagines traditional latin fare with a fusion of unique tastes that will delight the palate.  Complementing a fresh menu that is updated regularly with seasonal specials, is an assortment of home-made drink mixes featuring pear, papaya, mango, blueberry, and other seasonal fruits that go well with Tequila.  That’s why at Mamita’s, they don’t say BYOB, they say BYOT where the “T” stands for Tequila!

Pollo Borracho - grilled tequila marinated chicken breast topped with pasilla peppers tequila sauce served over rice and black beans
Pollo Borracho – grilled tequila marinated chicken breast topped with pasilla peppers tequila sauce served over rice and black beans
Steak Enchiladas al Mole - served with a thick, rich chocolate tinged sauce made from chilies and exotic spices served over rice with black beans
Steak Enchiladas al Mole – served with a thick, rich chocolate tinged sauce made from chilies and exotic spices served over rice with black beans

A recent newcomer on the scene in Newtown, PA, we have frequented Mamitas on numerous occasions over the past year. And with each visit, our menu choices have been terrific! During our latest reservation, Russ thoroughly enjoyed his Steak Enchiladas al Molé while Lynn chose the delicious Pollo Borracho (and of course brought home a doggie bag for leftovers the following morning.)

From their website: When you visit Mamita’s you will experience Chef Argueta’s love of cooking, attention to detail and his commitment to delivering a memorable dining experience. Francisco’s desire to create his own fabulous dishes with his own flavors and quality ingredients motivated him to open his first restaurant – Florentino’s (in honor of his father). Florentino’s became a quick success with its unique Northern Italian inspired dishes. Francisco then found a stunning location on the river in Washington Crossing to provide guests with another opportunity to savor their favorite meals while enjoying a beautiful view at Francisco’s On The River.

It has been our pleasure to dine at all three of his restaurants with some regularity. I’ll be blogging about the other two in the future…

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Guest Appearances

By now you know I love to cook and bake — although I haven’t blogged much about baking as of yet, other than my decorated sugar cookies. But I’m excited to add another dimension to Accounting for Taste, and that is to highlight family and friends who also share my passion for food. And first up is my cousin and good friend, Maureen Evans Kelly. We hope you’ll enjoy our exchange as we discuss her baking talents in the new segment “Guest Appearances.”

Me and Maureen Evans Kelly a in her kitchen in Oxford, NJ several years ago.
Lynn Holl and Maureen Evans Kelly in her spacious kitchen in Oxford, NJ several years ago… hmmmmm, we look like the Cheshire cat!

Savoy Cabbage Gratin

Soft braised cabbage meets triple-cream French cheese in this recipe adapted from our go-to cookbook, Molly Stevens’s All About Braising. It’s pure decadence, and perfect along side some roast pork or chicken during these cold winter months. Savoy cabbage, by comparison to other cabbages, is milder and sweeter, making it not only a good fit in salads, but also a much preferred alternative in just about any recipe that includes cabbage.

Just baked savoy cabbage with Saint-Marcellin cheese.
Just baked savoy cabbage with Saint-Marcellin cheese.

Take a ration of soft, creamy, pungent cheese – Molly Stevens calls for Saint-Marcellin, (and that’s what we used — it comes in a tiny little terra cotta clay crock) – and cut it into bits and nubs, which you then scatter over the top of the dish of meltingly tender cabbage. Next, return said cabbage to the oven for another ten minutes, just long enough to melt the cheese and make the kitchen smell outrageously savory and complex.

Small crock of saint-marcellin cheese.
Small crock of saint-marcellin cheese.

Savoy Cabbage Gratin with Saint-Marcellin

  • 3 T. butter
  • 1 head savoy cabbage (about 1 1/2 lbs), quartered, cored, and sliced into 1/2 inch wide shreds
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, sliced into 1/2 inch-wide pieces
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/4 c. chicken stock
  • 1 ripe Saint-Marcellin cheese (about 3 oz) (substitute a good triple-cream cheese such as Brillat-Savarin, Saint Andre, Explorateur, etc)
Chopped savoy cabbage and scallions ready for the braise.
Chopped savoy cabbage and scallions ready for the braise.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a large gratin dish.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the cabbage and scallions, season with salt and pepper, and saute, stirring ofen until the cabbage is just beginning to brown, 10-12 minutes.  Pour in the stock, bring to a steady simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan, and cook for about 2 mintues.

Scrape the cabbage mixture and all its juices into the gratin dish.  Cover tightly with foil then place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil and contine to cook until the liquid is mostly evaporated, another 20 minutes or so.

Cut or tear the cheese into small lumps and scatter across the gratin.  Increase oven temperature to 375 and cook until the cheese is thoroughly melted, about 10 minutes.  Serve hot or warm as a first course, side dish, or on its own as a light supper.  Enjoy!

What is savoy cabbage?  Let’s start with the appearance. Savoy cabbage has a very distinctive look. The highly contrasting shades of green, combined with the the deeply crinkled texture of the leaves, make savoy cabbages very appealing to the eye. Some may look at these rough looking leaves and assume that they are tough and hard, even more so than the common, green cabbage that most people are used to, but they would be wrong.Image

Luscious Soups

It goes to figure, the day I post my blog on soul-satisfying, hearty soups, the temps outside are near 60 degrees! And we have been experiencing one of the most excruciating winters in a long time what with the polar vortex, two snow storms per week, pot holes the size of small vehicles, and this morning, heavy fog… Oh well, the weather people say it will be short-lived and we’ll be back into the freezing temps in a few short days. So don’t get your knickers in a knot, make yourself some homemade soup… and relax… Check out some recipes in my new blog on “Soups”

Velvety Cauliflower Soup

Kaffir Lime Leaves

In contrast to the lime, it is the leaf of the tree, and not its fruit that is prized by cooks for the distinctive lime-lemon aroma and flavor in making Thai dishes. The fragrance and essence of the kaffir lime leaf is incomparable. Due to their special and irreplaceable flavor, it is so important that when following a Thai recipe you should take the time to find the real mccoy. Read all about them on my latest blog under “Bits N Pieces.”
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A Little House Cleaning

In the spirit of Spring cleaning (wishful thinking here), I decided to do a bit of Blog rearranging. Under a new page category “Bits N Pieces” I filed some earlier blogs on guacamole, winter squash pasta, and grilled paella; while also including a new blog on “Chili Beef Stir Fry.”
And there’s another addition to the “Dining with Friends” column about a local go-to Italian restaurant “Piccolo Trattoria.” I hope you enjoy them all!

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Russ Hartman, Barb Walsh and Brad Collins patiently waiting for their pizza orders.

Love Foods

History is rife with the human pursuit of aphrodisiacs in many forms. Scientific tests have proven that some aromas can cause a greater effect on the body than the actual ingestion of foods.

Consider these options:

Champagne: viewed as the “drink of love,” moderate quantities lower inhibitions and cause a warm glow in the body. (gotta love those bubbles!)

Chocolate: contains both a sedative which relaxes and lowers inhibitions and a stimulant to increase activity and the desire for physical contact. It was actually banned from some monasteries centuries ago. (hmmm, why just monasteries!?)

Figs: seasonal crops were celebrated by ancient Greeks in a frenzied copulation ritual. (might not want to serve figs at your next house party 😉 )

Oysters: Some oysters repeatedly change their sex from male to female and back, giving rise to claims that the oyster lets one experience the masculine and feminine sides of love. (Androgyny anyone?)

Truffles: probably due to its rarity and musky aroma, it has long been considered to arouse the palate and the body. To sustain his masculinity, an ancient lover in lore was said to have gorged himself to death on Alba truffles during the wedding feast. (typical male behavior 😉 )

Banana: due not only to its shape, but also its creamy, lush texture, some studies show its enzyme bromelain enhances male performance. (no comment…)

So enjoy your Valentine dinner!

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The Latest Ethnic Dining Experience

Today, during our eighth (or is ninth??) winter snow storm of the season, it reminds me of our most recent ethnic dining experience at the Noord Eet Cafe because there was 8″ of snow in Philly the day prior to our reservation. But let me tell you, it was well worth it! Check out the blog under “The Ethic Dining Group” … it may prompt you to get into the kitchen while snow bound…

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Retro Meatballs

By now you are aware that I tend to gravitate toward spicy foods. In highlighting this “Sweet and Tangy Retro Meatballs” appetizer, it’s like taking a trip in the way-back machine because I vaguely remember this being popular back in, dare I say, the 70’s! We recently came across it while on our iPad researching an appetizer to bring to a New Year’s Eve party. It was listed in the Seattle Times online newspaper from a fellow named Robert Levine of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (my home state!) Although it was titled “Grape Jelly/Chili Sauce Meatballs,” I prefer my title…

I tweaked the recipe a touch to reduce the amount of grape jelly resulting in a spicier sauce. So if you prefer them a little sweeter, adjust the jelly and chili sauce accordingly. Whisk the ingredients well on a low simmer while you prepare and cook the meatballs. If you will be transporting them to a party, throw it all into a crockpot… just make sure there is an outlet available when you get there. This appetizer holds up fabulously well for hours in the crockpot on low heat.

You have to heat the chili sauce and grape jelly until well-combined. In this photo, the ingredients have not yet melded together.
You have to heat the chili sauce and grape jelly until well-combined. In this photo, the ingredients have not yet melded together.
Recipe (makes 20-25 meatballs)

I usually double the amounts, depending on the size of party.

Sauce:
12 oz. (1 bottle) Heinz Chili Sauce
16 oz. grape jelly

Meatballs:
1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef (we use meatloaf mix)
1/2 dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

  1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine chili sauce and grape jelly in a pot over medium-low heat until melted and well combined, about 15-20 minutes. Stir often with whisk.
  3. Combine meat, breadcrumbs, ketchup, beaten egg, onion, salt and pepper in large bowl.
  4. Form into meatballs, 1 inch in diameter. Place on rimmed baking sheet.
  5. Cook in oven for 20 minutes. Let cool slightly. Add to crockpot or other serving vessel, pour sauce over meatballs and serve.

And if there are leftovers that you won’t be using for a while, just freeze them in an airtight ziploc.

I came across another version by Emeril Lagasse in which he uses Worcestershire sauce, grated parmesan and minced garlic in the meatball mix, with ketchup (instead of chili sauce) and a squirt of sriracha in the grape jelly. He cooks them in a heavy skillet, turning until brown on all sides. He then pours the sauce over the meat and cooks for an additional 20 minutes in a 350 oven. I find it much easier to cook in the oven from the start, with no need to turn the meatballs (unless you feel you should because your oven cooks unevenly.)

Let me know how you tweaked your meatballs 🙂
Start planning that retro party now!
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Game Day Greats

There are certain food items that come to mind when you think of football parties and tailgating. Among them are hot wings, pizzas, hoagies, chips and dip… and a few of our favorites, which are Super Nachos and Quesadillas. So that’s exactly what I made today to watch the big game (and what a disappointment it’s been so far!)

Last Sunday in the Parade supplement of the newspaper was a recipe from Iron Chef Mario Batali for Spicy Chicken and Cheddar Quesadillas, so I decided that we would put his recipe to the test. It differs in the way I usually assemble them in that it calls for ground chicken meat to which you add the spices. WOW were they good, I have to say, Mario’s quesadillas are a keeper!

Mario Batali's Spicy Chicken and Cheddar Quesadillas.
Mario Batali’s Spicy Chicken and Cheddar Quesadillas.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • 1 (4-oz.) can diced green chilies, drained
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 1 chipotle pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 8 flour tortillas, quesadilla size
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Warm oil in cast iron skillet over high heat. Add chicken and cook, breaking up meat, until no longer pink
  2. Add green chilies, garlic, chipotle, cumin and salt and cook, stirring for 1 minute.
  3. Add salsa and cook until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
  4. To assemble, top each tortilla with 1/8 of the chicken mixture and 1/8 of the cheese. Fold tortilla in half. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
  5. Toast in cast iron pan over medium-high heat, about 4 minutes per side. Cut each quesadilla into 4 wedges and serve.

Always fabulous to serve with a topping of the Great Guacamole and a side of salsa!

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Lynn’s Super Nachos

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I have been creating Super Nachos for decades and I don’t think I ever use exactly the same ingredients from one time to the next. The trick is to make sure they don’t come out soggy, which has certainly happened in the past! To help address the soggy issue, don’t microwave the nachos! Preheat your oven to 400-450 degrees while you assemble the platter. If you choose to use ground meat (beef, turkey, chicken, pork or lamb — which is what we used today), cook and crumble until done, drain off the fat and add taco or other seasoning to flavor. I also stir in some salsa for more depth.

It’s best not to spoon the salsa (or chili) directly on the nacho chips. First lay a foundation of about half the veggies you plan to use. I typically include a variety of chopped colored peppers, sliced black olives, and scallions. At this point, top with your warmed ground meat or chili. Then add plenty of shredded cheese and top with more of your veggies for color. And of course, always add a generous amount of chopped pickled jalapeños. Repeat all steps for another layer.

Pop into the preheated oven for a few minutes. Make sure to keep an eyeball on them so that they don’t burn, but the cheese is melted. Once out of the oven you can top with shredded lettuce, and add the guacamole and sour cream or serve along side of the platter.

You can also omit the meat for vegetarian nachos, or use mini shrimp or good tuna for seafood nachos.