Baked Goat Cheese

Baked Goat Cheese - Breaded

Goat cheese always reminds me of my friend Peggy. It would be her way of treating herself after a great accomplishment, or perhaps just a long hard week. She would bake it in the oven in a bed of marinara sauce, and sco0p it up with fresh bread from a local bakery. I was always impressed with how decadent it appeared, yet how simple it was to prepare. It’s been a year or so since I’ve watch her make her creation, yet I’d never made it myself. But what better way to unwind with something rich and indulgent (yet surprisingly healthy) and so simple to prepare?

Baked Goat Cheese - EnteroBakes Goat Cheese - SlicedBaked Goat Cheese - MarinatingBaked Goat Cheese - On Cracker

When I saw this recipe I was reminded of my friend — and so, nostalgic, we went to the store and bought some to prepare. It was simple, yet you can make it more involved if you like. I chose to marinated it, as David recommended, in a little olive oil and herbs. When we were ready to eat I quickly dredged the slices in some homemade breadcrumbs (although store-bought pre-seasoned works just as well if you’re in a rush) and stuck it in the oven for a matter of minutes. Served with a warm tomato sauce and on some nice toasty bread or homemade crackers, a delicate bed of greens — it is a simple, decadent meal on its own, or it can be an appetizer or accompaniment to your main course. Now that I’m working and much too busy to spend hours on recipes, this will become a semi-frequent staple for those nights we want something special.

Baked Goat Cheese

Ingredients:
6 oz Soft Fresh Goat Cheese

Marinade (optional):
2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary
2 teaspoons fresh chopped sage
Fresh ground pepper
Dash of Salt

Bread Crumbs:
2 slices day old bread, crumbled (should make 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary (minced)
1 teaspoon fresh sage (minced)

Directions:
1. Prepare the marinade. Mix salt, pepper, rosemary, sage, and olive oil in a dish to marinate. Slice goat cheese in 1/2 thick disks and place in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate up to 2 days.

2. Toast bread crumbs. Crumble the bread finely. Mix with 1 teaspoon olive oil until just coated. Season with salt and pepper. Toast in oven at 400ºF for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix with chopped herbs.

3. Bake. Preheat oven to 450ºF. Remove cheese from marinade, allowing excess oil to drip off. Dredge in bread crumbs and place in oiled baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes, or until cheese starts to ooze out a bit. Serve on fresh toasted bread or crackers.

Grapefruit Salad with Emmenthal-Apple Croutons

Grapefruit Salad - Salad and Toast

This is a light refreshing salad, accompanied by a savory-sweet, even tangy cheese toast. The red onion gives its usual bite, which complemented quite nicely the refreshing bittersweetness of the juicy grapefruit. And I always enjoy the savory crunch of the pepita tossed on top. The toast adds to this light salad a bit more substance, so that as a lunch it could last you through the afternoon. I used Emmenthal cheese, initially because it was what we had leftover from the fondue, but I’ll tell you that it was a true complement to the grapefruit. Remembering how the apple was the favorite of all the dunkers in our fondue mixture, I decided to place a sliver of a slice of an apple on the whole wheat bread before layering on the slices of cheese and baking it until it bubbled over to a crisp. Cut into little triangles made a lovely appearance, and the toast gave was just enough robustness to make this salad a meal.

Grapefruit Salad - Solo SaladGrapefruit Salad - Toast in Oven

Continue reading

Greek Salad, Guatemalan Style

Greek Salad

I eat lots of salads these days, and they are continually changing and evolving depending on the ingredients we happen to have, how productive my herbs have been, and where my cravings may be leading me. In general, my “Salad” entries will probably be quite short (although this one is not), because there are plenty of them. And in all honestly they’re not that complicated, and perhaps not anything too out of the ordinary. But I love salads, and I am quite particular about the way I have my salads (I rarely order a salad as-is on the menu, and always ask for the dressing on the side because I abhor soaked salads). Besides, this is a blog about everything I love foodwise, so I’m gonna write about them anyway. Also, its often an exploration into ingredients that are new to me that I discovered in Guatemala. Perhaps you are already very familiar with them, or perhaps they will be ingredients that are difficult to find outside of Guatemala or Central America, and maybe sometimes they will be ingredients I am longing for (like sweet wide-leaf basil).

This is a Greek-style salad. I say this mainly because it has olives (yes, we found a shop with high-quality Kalamata olives with pits in the brine – I also abhor canned olives), tomato, and a white crumbly cheese — all things that remind me of a good Greek salad. Also, I don’t care for cucumber unless peeled and seeded, so that will always be left out of my Greek Salad. This salad is different, however, because the cheese is not feta. Feta you can find here in Guate, and its not all that expensive (1/2 lb for 3USD, does that sound reasonable? I really don’t remember). Nonetheless, queso seco, a crumbly salty dry (seco means dry) is much more common, less expensive, and very Guatemalan. Despite my love of international cuisine and goods, I really enjoy keeping with Guatemalan goods and produce wherever possible. After all, when I eventually move away, it will be difficult to find some of these things. So I used queso seco.

Additionally, I added to my salad some toasted pepita, or pumpkin seeds. I was not very familiar with pepita before coming to Guatemala, although have seen them used in a few bloggers’ recipes. Here in Guate they use it on everything. They put toasted and ground pepita on unripe mangos with lime and salt, on oranges, and they even make a fresco, or juice, from it. I use pepita in a lot of my recipes, both whole and ground, especially lately. They are very inexpensive, when toasted they offer a wonderfully crisp pop to in your mouth, when ground they add a nutty flavor and crumbly texture. I especially love the sound they make when toasting — in just a few seconds in a hot pan or in the oven they pop very much like popcorn. I like to prepare everything in my salad and then toast them, and throw them on top still warm and making popping noises. I know people say to let everything cool before putting them onto greens, however I love the effect the hot seeds have on the rest of the textures and flavors.

Greek Salad Guatemalan Style (for one):

Ingredients:
3 Leaves Red Escarole, or two handfuls of any other green you prefer
1 roma tomato, diced (seeded if you prefer, but I like the juice)
5 olives, pitted and sliced
Red onion, slivered (use as much as you like)
2 Tablespoons queso seco (alternatively, finely grated romano)
2 Tablespoons toasted pepitas (perhpas sunflower seeds as an alternative)
A dash of red wine vinegar or juice of 1/2 a lime (both are lovely)
A dash of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste (the cheese is salty, so you may not need any)Directions:
Start with the greens finely torn. Add the diced tomato and sliced olives, and cheese. Salt and pepper a pinch and few turns. Vinegar and Olive oil last, tossing with your fork.

Roasted Winter Squash with Rosemary

IMG_1914

I am a wimp when it comes to being cold, being wet, and especially both at the same time. Before my first visit to Guatemala my impression was that, because it was further south than Texas and Florida which are notoriously warm, it would be insanely hot — as the tropics should be, right?. My first summer here I brought all my favorite skirts, shorts, tank tops….but only one pair of jeans and one sweater. That was dumb. I obviously didn’t research, or even ask the simple question “what is the weather like”. So I was pretty chilly in those skirts. I believe they only made an appearance the first week or two, after I finally realized I looked ridiculous covered in goosebumps. Initially I was like a teenage girl, dying to wear her new spring clothes that she bought all the way back in February, and come April there is still snow on the ground, but by-golly its spring time so shes gonna wear her spring clothes, dangit! The weather won out, and I wore those poor jeans thin in the seat. Two months in I bought a cheap pair from the market because I feared one day playing rough with the children they might just split down the back.

Anyway, my point is that Guate isn’t so tropical as it is mild. It does get very hot in March and April, but when the rains begin in May it cools off a bit although there will still be days when it is hot and humid. In the middle of the rainy season there is a canicula, or a few week respite from the summer showers. But the rain can continue through October, even the beginning of November. Once November hits it actually gets cold. I remember the night Héc’s mom called telling us to bundle up, that the cold had arrived. I don’t know if it was the look in the clouds, or the feel of the wind, but she has an intuition like no other. And sure enough the rains blew away and the cold settled in. “What!” I thought. “Cold?!” Now it’s not Chicago winter by any means, but it can get down to 40ºF at night where we live up in the hills. And the homes don’t have central heat or even insulation, and the windows are vented and don’t entirely seal, so there is a draft. Sometimes inside out apartment it is colder than outside, so inside the house I’ll use my hat, scarf, and gloves (with tips cut off so I can write and cook, ect). It was a shock.

But this year I’m feeling strong. It’s almost September, and the rain has barely touched us. We’re in the middle of a drought for sure, and I actually feel myself missing the rain. And when the days gets above 75º I complain that it’s too hot, and the chilly evenings I find refreshing. This is not typical Sarah behavior. I think this winter I’ll be ok. I honestly believe it.

IMG_1890IMG_1893IMG_1897IMG_1901

But even if I’m not strong this year, you know what makes those freezing winter nights bearable? Comfort food. A nice vegetarian chili with cornbread; hot chocolate; warm oatmeal. One of my all time favorite comfort foods is baked squash. My mom made this delicious butternut squash with gorgonzola cheese crumbled on top. It was heavenly. Eating a big warm bowl of it, with the rich flavors of the squash, olive oil, herbs, and cheese, fill you belly and send a surge of warmth throughout your limbs.

I haven’t seen butternut squash here in Guate, but there is güicoy (pictured above). I find it very similar to an acorn squash in flavor, but it really serves the purpose of either. The problem is that they are huge, so when we buy one we will eat it all week long. But it is so versatile. Sweet, savory, soups, casseroles. You can do a lot. But this is one of my all time favorite preparations, especially for the winter months. While it is still quite warm here and this dish isn’t exactly a summer food, I’ve been dreaming of the first chilly day, and we had the squash. So I made it anyway. But! Yesterday we got the first hard rain I can remember since May, and it didn’t reach above 70ºF the entire day. Today its hot and humid again. Anyway, even if its not appropriate for the season I see it as preparation: slowly building my repertoire of warming comfort foods for those day I just might not be able to bear it (although I still think I’m gonna be strong!)

This recipe combines winter squash diced into 1/2″ cubes, fresh chopped rosemary – my favorite herb, sliced red onion, plenty of olive oil for a rich taste, and fresh parmesan cheese. Next time I think I will use gorogonzola or goat cheese. I think the textures combine more pleasantly.

Roasted Winter Squash with Rosemary:

Ingredients:
One medium acorn squash (or small butternut)
1/2 red onion, thickly sliced
5 sprigs rosemary, coarsly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
Large pinch of salt
Few turns of fresh cracked pepper
1/3 cup cheese (parmesan, gorgonzola, blue, ect).

Directions:
Cube squash and place in bowl. Add onions, rosemary, salt, pepper, and toss. Coat with oil and toss. Place in glass baking dish, and bake for about 45 minutes – until squash is tender. Add cheese on top, and bake another 15 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Serve warm.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

IMG_2261

This is a simple, healthy, Mediterranean-style salad which can be served as an entrée or as an accompaniment. The fresh ingredients stand out for themselves, so there is little need for fancy culinary IMG_2216skills. It looks like a work of art, yet it is so simple. I would have added some nice fresh tomatoes, perhaps cherry, if I had had them, or also feta cheese.

Mediterranean-Style Chickpea Salad


Ingredients:
2 cups chickpeas, soaked, cooked, and patted dry (or 1 can, drained).
1 red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, roasted, seeded, and peeled*
10-12 fresh olives with their pits
24 cloves garlic, roasted** (more or less to your taste)
Handful of  either fresh cilantro, basil, parsley and mint (I used a mixture of all), torn.
Olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 lime

Directions:
Make sure the garbanzos are patted dry. Heat some olive oil in a pan on high heat. When the oil is hot, add the beans. Sauté until the outsides become golden brown, and crispy in a few areas. Then add the chopped red onion and remove from heat. You may cook it all the way through, or leave it raw. I like it with a bit of a bite, but wanted to soften it a bit for this recipe. Heating it slightly in this way will start the cooking process but leave it with some of its sharpness. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Add a few glugs of olive oil, the lime juice, zest, and fresh herbs. Add salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste. Let the mixture marinate for at least an hour. The longer it sits the better it tastes, in my opinion. I like this at room temperature, but it is good both hot and cold as well.

IMG_2252

*Roast the bell pepper at 400ºF for about 10 minutes, or until the pepper has become soft. Seal in a ziplock bag and let cool. Once cooled, remove from bag and the skin should easily peel off.


**Roast the garlic at 400ºF wrapped in foil, drizzled with olive oil for about 45 minutes until soft.

Chilled Winter Squash Salad with Garam Masala, Walnut, and Coconut

IMG_2012

Initially I was going to make baked squash like my mom used to. We would have Acorn squash, halved, baked with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. The closest thing to acorn sqaush in Guate is qüicoy, but the taste is very similar. But from there it took a very different turn. In place of cinnamon I used Garam Masala, and I added apples and carrots to the mix, and because I had to run some errands and then later forgot about the veggies, it turned into a cold salad with yogurt dressing. Somehow toasted coconut and walnuts ended up being tossed in at the very last minute, adding rich flavors and textures that complimented the salad beautifully. I really think they make it so spectacular.

IMG_2126

I imagine some chopped dates or raisins would add a nice texture and natural sweetness as well, and for certain sweet potato is another veggie that fits in with squash carrots and apple.

Continue reading

Zucchini Fritata

IMG_2093

I love eggs — from a simple egg over-easy on top of a piece of toast, eggs with ketchup or salsa, to scrambled eggs with onion garlic, tomato, and some fresh basil. We tend to eat eggs quite often, and not just for breakfast. A very traditional Guatemalan meal which has become a part of my cooking repitior is huevitos con frijoles: refried beans scrambled with eggs. They are satisfying, healthy, enjoyable meals, but simple enough to throw together at the end of those long days when we haven’t had time to shop or put on our creative thinking caps. This mediterranean meal, too, is just as simple.

This was another recipe developed to consume our overabundance of zucchini. But what a delight it turned out to be. This is a colorful, nutritious dish, and can be adapted to any palate and awaits your creative take. Don’t like dill, don’t have it? IMG_2038Use some fresh mint, cilantro, or parsley instead. No zucchini? How about some spinach. Have some red peppers, capers, sun dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes? Those would work too. Any veggie or even meat that you would put into an omelet would work here. Its somewhere along the lines of a quiche, but with a little bit of flour and baking powder to give it a lighter fluffier texture. It went very well with the zucchini tatziki we had along side. You could serve this as an appetizer, side, or main entrée. It is delicious warm, cold, and at room temperature. You can increase the amount of cheese, decrease the amount of flour. Basically make it how you like. Its hard to mess up.

Continue reading