Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Cuban Ropa Vieja

By: The Food Hunter

I had my first taste of Cuban food many years ago in Miami Beach and since then routinely crave it. I stop at Porto's Bakery when we are in Los Angeles and Guantemmerra when we are in NYC but never before now have I attempted to make it at home...and I'm not sure why.

Ropa Vieja literally translates to old clothes, and is a dish that slow cooks beef in a tomato based sauce, until tender and falling apart and then shreds the meat into rags. This dish can be eaten on it's own though it's delicious served with black beans and rice.

Scouring the internet for that perfect recipe I turned up the one below from The Daring Gourmet, who seemed to do a lot of research, which means I didn't have to. I followed the recipe almost exactly and was pleased with the results. No more waiting until we travel for a taste of Cuban food with this recipe available.

Cuban Ropa Vieja
(Adapted from The Daring Gourmet)
  • 2 pounds chuck (ask your butcher to cut it taller than wider so you get long strands of beef along the grain)
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 of each large green, red and yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 16 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large carrot, cut in half
  • 1 large stalk celery, cut in half
  • 1 cup green olives, rinsed and sliced
  • ½ cup thinly sliced roasted red peppers, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley
  1. Pat the beef dry and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Heat a little oil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Once very hot add the beef and brown generously on all sides. Transfer the beef to a plate. (Do not discard the drippings and blackened bits in the pot, they are key to the flavor.)
  3. Add the sliced vegetables to the pot and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes until caramelized. Add the garlic and spices and cook for another minute. Add the white wine and bring it to a rapid boil, deglazing the bottom of the pan (scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan).
  4. Add the broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and bay leaves. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Return the roast to the pot along with the pieces of carrots and celery. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 3-4 hours or until the beef is fork tender and falls apart easily. Discard the celery, carrots and bay leaves.
  6. Transfer the beef to a plate and shred it.
  7. Stir in the olives, roasted red peppers, and capers. Simmer uncovered to thicken the sauce for 30 minutes. Stir in the parsley and add salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Maple Macaroons

By: The Food Hunter

If you love coconut as much as I do you will love these soft chewy white clouds dipped in rich dark chocolate. Even those that don't love coconut find them hard to resist. I was gifted a Cake in a Crate box that included the recipe and all the ingredients to make these delicious bite-sized treats.

The original recipe called for pumpkin seeds but I didn't feel they added anything special to the cookie so I left them out. I also experimented with not dipping some of the cookies in chocolate, but everyone agreed the chocolate dipped were better. Below is the recipe with my changes.

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Maple Macaroons
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup full fat canned coconut milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch of flaky sea salt
3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Flaked Coconut
1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour
5 ounces dark chocolate melted

In a small saucepan set over medium heat, combine the maple syrup, coconut milk and coconut oil. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring continuously, for 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened slightly and reduced to ¾ cup.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Add the coconut, almond flour, and all but 1/4 cup of the caramel (reserve the 1/4 cup caramel for topping) to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mix is finely chopped and holds together when squeezed into a ball.

Drop tablespoon size balls of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Make sure the balls are packed tight; if needed, use your hands to finely pack the balls together. Transfer to the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes or until the tops of the macaroons just begin to appear toasted. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Melt chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl for thirty second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth.

Gently dip the bottom of each macaroon into the melted chocolate and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with any remaining chocolate and caramel sauce. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Tempe's Annual Spring Arts Festival Celebrates 40 Years!

By: The Food Hunter

The 40th annual Spring Tempe Festival of the Arts is just around the corner. From March 31st thru April 2nd, 2017 Downtown Tempe will be bustling with artists, art lovers and festival attendees. Over 300 artists from around the country will be showcasing their works from 10am until 5:30pm each day. The festival is free to attend and includes food and beverage vendors, live entertainment, roving street performers, family friendly activities and more.

Those familiar with the festival will be happy to know that Sixth + Mill Makers area will be returning along with Food Truck Alley and Kids Block. Visitors can look forward to shopping popular and up and coming local vendors such as Standard Wax, Pure Life Jewelry, Lucky Air Plant and Iconic Cocktail.

Festival attendees can sip wine from Arizona Stronghold Vineyards, Cellar 433 and many more local favorites while noshing on local fair and some of the Valley’s favorite food trucks and vendors. Three beer & wine gardens will be located throughout the festival as well as savory snacks on the go with an expanded selection of tasty bites in the food court area and at Food Truck Alley.

Need a break from the crowds? Check out Downtown Tempe’s famed restaurants, pubs, breweries and shops. You'll find lots of delicious options.
Making it even more exciting I've partnered with Downtown Tempe and will be giving away a local  retailers gift set worth over $100.
One lucky reader will randomly be chosen to win and will be asked to pick-up their prize at the festival!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 20, 2017

T.Cooks Cellar Series Dinner

By: The Food Hunter

Last week my husband and I attended the monthly Cellar Series dinner at T.Cooks, featuring the wines of Silver Oak and sister winery Twomey Cellars. The dinner was attended by local wine enthusiasts, area food lovers and representatives from the vineyard. Though typically held outdoors, the night we attended dinner was moved into the Vernadero room; a beautiful room featuring a large pietra stone fireplace, original estate chandeliers, and an antique mahogany table.

Silver Oak Cellars is a family-owned, California winery established in 1972 by Ray Duncan and Justin Meyer that is dedicated to producing only Cabernet Sauvignon. The also established Twomey Cellars in 1999, where they produce Pinot Noir, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.

Our evening began outside in the Mansion Courtyard where we were served Twomey Sauvignon Blanc along-side a selection of bites created by T.Cooks' Chef Allison. This sophisticated white wine  was refreshing with hints of citrus...perfect for the start of a meal.

For our first course Chef Allison prepared Maine diver sea scallops accompanied by a cassoulet of Spanish chorizo and flageolet beans. This exquisite combination was paired with the clean crisp Twomey Russian River Pinot Noir.

Our second course was New Zealand venison served with Brussels sprouts and a parsnip puree.

 This course was complimented with generous pours of the Silver Oak Alexander Valley. This full-bodied red with bold tannins is a favorite of mine.

We enjoyed a dark chocolate panna cotta topped with salted caramel and orange snicker doodles for dessert.
At $120 per person the Cellar Series dinners are a wonderful opportunity to learn about particular vineyards and their wines while enjoying a perfectly curated meal in a stunning atmosphere. To find out more information about upcoming Cellar Series Dinners contact T. Cook’s (602) 808-0766.

This experience was provided complimentary, all opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Healthy Gluten Free/Low-Carb Almond Apple Cake

By: The Food Hunter

Pureed apples and almond flour gives this cake it's moist texture and delicious taste along with making it somewhat healthy. This is a wonderful dessert option for those following a gluten-free or low-carb diet. And if the amount of sugar is an issue, it can easily be reduced and substituted with cinnamon without sacrificing flavor. Either way, this cake is hard to resist!

Healthy Gluten Free/Low-Carb Almond Apple Cake
(adapted from Nigella Lawson)
For the Apple Sauce
2 apples
1 squeeze fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar 

Peel, core and chop apples. Put apples in a saucepan with sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. Bring to a boil and cover. Cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes or until apples are soft enough to smash with the back of a fork. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
For the Cake
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 9 inch round pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Put the cooled puree in the bowl of a food processor. Add eggs, almond flour, sugar and lemon juice. Mix until combined, scraping bowl as needed,  Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle with the slivered almonds. Bake 30-40 minutes. 

Allow to cool on rack. Remove from pan and serve.