Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It's Not Green Eggs and Ham, It's Green Sausage!

What is that in the photo, filling that taco with such a vibrant hue??? Why, it's green sausage, purchased at my new favorite place on Earth, Dos Hermanos Market near my summer sublet apartment!!!

Is this just about the coolest food item you've ever seen???

When I meandered into the market awhile ago and found it in the meat case, I simply had to have some. At just over $3/pound it's an incredible deal, even if it doesn't look particularly appetizing (colossal understatement!) before being cooked and transformed into the crucial ingredient for my tacos.

There were loud fans and music playing overhead, so it was difficult to talk to the man behind the meat counter; thus I don't have much information about the sausage, but I was feeling adventurous and so I bought it anyway. Suffice it to say I learned that this is handmade pork sausage, its vivid color coming from green salsa.

I recently made soft tacos with some lovely sauteed peppers, some pan-toasted corn, and -- of course! -- my green sausage. Or, let's give it a better Latin flair: Green Sausage = Salchicha Verde!

The salchicha verde isn't spicy at all, providing only the tiniest twinge of tingle at the end of my meal; if you like hotter food, you'd need to toss some potent salsa into this mix.

But it is still immensely flavorful; there is clearly a taste of cilantro, and a hint of sourness from the acidity of the salsa. This was a perfect contrast to the sweetness of the red and yellow peppers, as well as to the richness of the sour cream.

Dos Hermanos has an amazing array of spices, hot sauces, cheeses, traditional breads such as conchas (round loaves of a sweet bread with a swirled pattern on top), cactus leaves and plantains, spicy snacks, and even piñatas for sale. (And oh, you should smell the tantalizing aroma when you open the bread cabinet!!!) They even fry up their own pork rinds, which Jeremy and his dad adored when they were offered samples. (I'll eat pork, but not the fried skin ... ick. Jeremy thinks I'm a hypocrite 'cause my favorite part of the chicken is the skin! But I think I've been repulsed by the stench of the grocery store variety and can't get past it.)

Here are some photos:

Truly, a girl could have way too much fun shopping here!!!

But on to the tacos!

Interestingly, the sausage didn't brown; I probably cooked it for longer than was necessary, thinking that it would eventually. It was also fairly soft, rather than firming up as breakfast sausage patties do.

I tossed some frozen corn into a pan and cooked it just until it was starting to toast a bit and turn golden, and I grated a lovely Monterey Jack cheese (though a Pepper Jack could also work very well). I sauteed red, yellow and orange peppers with a sliced red onion in just a splash of salsa, as colorful contrasts to my attention-getting sausage.

Then I put it all together on corn tortillas and feasted ... truly! The meal was an absolute seduction of all my senses, from the colors to the aromas to the textures and tastes.

To each his or her own when it comes to putting these together; so there's no recipe "per se," but rather merely visual instructions.

It's too bad that those of you who are spread around the world can't just drop in on Dos Hermanos one evening and pick up some of this salchicha verde. All I can do is torment you by telling you how exceptional it was ... though maybe that's enough enticement for some of you to come visit me, huh???

Do come visit -- it'd be fun! And we'll go eating and grocery shopping throughout Southeast Michigan ... starting at Dos Hermanos, of course!

Dos Hermanos Market
412 W. Michigan Avenue, Ypsilanti

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

This seems a fairly easy recipe, hardly worth posting. And yet, I knew someone once who had no idea how to make this simple yet sophisticated treat. So, I offer it either as instruction or as inspiration ... your pick.

An old friend had once told me she was having a craving for chocolate-covered strawberries, and so she set about trying to make them even though she'd never done so before.

She took some berries and dipped them into Hershey's chocolate syrup ... uh oh. When they didn't set -- because, of course, syrup is a liquid and isn't going to firm up into a solid -- she placed the berries into the freezer, which promptly froze and destroyed them ... sigh.

I don't repeat this story to ridicule anyone -- we all have to learn things, and we all have areas of both expertise and ignorance.

It just demonstrates that what I think is easy may be out of someone else's knowledge base, while something like Sudoku -- so immensely popular, so many people can do it! -- baffles me, because I haven't figured out the key to it yet. Give me a New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle and a few hours, and I'm in my glory!

But I digress ....

So, here's a recipe for chocolate-covered strawberries, which are perfect for a Memorial Day picnic, a romantic evening, a treat while sitting on the front porch on a warm evening with either a good book or a best girlfriend, or "just because."

Really, it's strawberries and chocolate -- who needs a reason???

Now, I also have to share some good news with all of you: a photo I took at Big Bowl Cafe in Chicago, when I was there in October, was selected for the Chicago Schmap Online Guide!!! Here's the link -- Big Bowl Cafe ... :)

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon butter
6 very large strawberries, greens intact

Lay a sheet of foil onto a plate and lightly grease it.

Place the chocolate chips and butter into a small microwave-safe bowl; nuke for 60-90 seconds, stirring until smooth.

Carefully take one strawberry by the greens and dip it up to its shoulders into the chocolate; let excess chocolate drip off, then place onto the foil-covered plate. Repeat until each of the berries is coated, then refrigerate the plate until the chocolate is set.

Makes 6 strawberries. It's up to you whether you share ....

The Girl Creative


Friday, May 27, 2011

Frugal Floozie Friday -- Marcano's Take-Out

My BFF, Wendy, and I are on a mission: to find good food and fun for $5 or less per person. I'm serious! And it's possible to do it -- follow along and find out. This is the second installment of Frugal Floozie Friday, after all, with plenty more planned!

This week we head to Marcano's Take-Out, a small place painted the color of a gorgeous red wine, that will transport you to South America with its aromas and flavors.

When you walk in, you are greeted by the bright, open kitchen visible behind the counter; you can truly watch as your meal is made for you right after you order it. There is an extensive menu, and some photos of dishes are posted on the wall for illustration.

But even if you don't know the difference between an empanada (a fried turnover with your choice of fillings) and an arepa (filled white corn bread rolls), your tremendously friendly hostess -- Elizabeth Marcano-Kennedy, born and raised in Venezuela -- will happily and passionately explain any unfamiliar menu items to you, sharing her love of her native cuisine.

I, as always, had difficulty deciding what to order; but since my limit was $5, I settled upon the Cheese Empanadas. They were fried just for me, so they were golden, fragrant, very hot and slightly oily still when the take-out box was handed to me. The cheese was a semi-firm white one, slightly salty, which was very mild and was a nice smooth complement to the crispy fried exterior. Each of the two empanadas was about 5" in diameter, so together they were a hearty portion for one and could easily be shared by two.

Wendy ordered the Yuca Frita -- yuca (a.k.a.: cassava, a starchy tuber) fries, for $4. She loathes cooking, but loves these so much that she will actually -- gasp! -- make them herself sometimes to satisfy a craving; however, she admits that she doesn't have the patience to remove the stringy strands, and simply fries them up "as is." At Marcano's, strings are not a part of the package.

Wendy has also eaten yuca fries in Uganda and in Brazil, so she is quite the expert on how they should be prepared; and she told me that the ones from Marcano's were better than the ones she'd eaten in either of the countries where yuca is considered a food staple ... quite high praise, indeed! These came with some homemade ketchup, but Wendy doesn't like anything vinegary; I should have taken it for the empanadas, which were good without any accompaniment but would also have been quite nice with a dipping sauce.

There are many options on Marcano's menu that cost $5 or less. So whether you're craving something sweet or savory, you can still have a treat and stay within your budget. And since Marcano's is a take-out place, how perfect would it be to either pick up a goodie for a picnic or grab a quick lunch to take back to the office???

Personally, when I return I think I'm going to aim straight for the Tres Leches cake, at $3.50 ... :)

Marcano's Take-Out
1906 Packard
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Berries with Sweetened Sour Cream

I first tried this sweetened sour cream about 30 years ago at a restaurant whose name I've forgotten; it was dolloped over raspberries, and its richness compared to the sweet-tart fruit was extraordinary!

Unfortunately, I often forget about this simple treat, usually eating berries either in their plain but delicious glory, or making jam with them, or baking some sort of dessert featuring them.

But this is so sublime that it deserves to be remembered, and served often throughout the summer. Raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and even a mix thereof ... it will be truly luscious ... :)

Commenting update: I have found that if I type in "Yenta Mary" and my website URL, I can leave comments on some sites -- yay!!! However, this option isn't always brought up ... why the randomness??? Who knows? But I've been trying to stop by and visit and say "hi" to folks when I can, when the system grants me permission and acknowledges my existence ... sigh. If I didn't hate Wordpress so much, Blogger would lose me after all the nonsense of the past couple of weeks ....

Sweetened Sour Cream

1/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Mix all ingredients together. Serve over berries, or even as a dip for large strawberries.

Serves 2.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Curried Rhubarb Chicken

I love this chicken dish! Truly, it is one of my all-time favorites. It's ideal for Spring, with its abundance of seasonal rhubarb. And it's got curry, one of my most beloved flavors. What more can I say???

Well, let's see:

This is a great family dinner, though it's special enough for an event.

The house smells amazing while it cooks!

You get both protein and fruit in this meal, livened up by the rich flavor of the spices.

It's simple to make, requiring no special equipment or prolonged time frame.

Hmmm ... to paraphrase a line in the fabulous and extraordinary movie "Amadeus": I am passionate. Do I persuade???

I tried making a variation on this with pork one time, and it didn't work at all: the pork was tough, rather than meltingly tender as I'd expected it to be. Odd, but that's what happened. I haven't tried this with chicken breasts, though I imagine that using a different part of the same beast would still result in a luscious dish.

So, go ahead -- try this! And if you can't find all of the spices, just use some extra curry powder. It'll be fine, and your dinner will still be delicious ... :)

Please note that I am NOT ignoring all of my beloved blogging buddies, both new and old!!! Every time I've tried to post a comment, Blogger asks me to pick an identity; I choose "Google Account." I'm then asked to sign in, even though I'm perpetually signed in; then my comment comes back up, it claims to be from someone named "Anonymous" rather than from Yenta Mary, and then when I try to post it anyway I get taken right back to the sign-in page ... oy. Quite the Sisyphean frustration! So if I can ever manage to be myself again, I'll go back to letting all of you know how much I love what you write ....

Curried Rhubarb Chicken

2 tablespoons + 3 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon + 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup white wine (I used Flip Flop Wines Riesling)
1/2 pound rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut into 1/2” pieces
4 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 425F.

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes, coriander, cumin, ginger and curry powder; saute 1 minute. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion softens a bit. Add wine and rhubarb; bring to a boil, then cover and cook 10 minutes over medium heat. Stir, then re-cover and cook 10 more minutes until rhubarb has broken down into a sauce.

In a 10” skillet, heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Season chicken with remaining 2 teaspoons of salt and the black pepper. Place chicken into the skillet skin-side down; cook 5 minutes until well-browned, then turn chicken over and cook 5 more minutes. Place chicken skin-side up into a greased 9”x13” baking dish, and pour rhubarb sauce over it; sprinkle with brown sugar.

Place baking dish into the oven and bake chicken for 40-45 minutes.

Serves 6-8.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti

I haven't joined in on the "Teaser Tuesdays" party for awhile; but since I'm reading a food-related book right now, it seems appropriate to bring a contribution to the potluck.

"Teaser Tuesdays" is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

•Grab your current read

•Open to a random page

•Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

•BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

•Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I happen to be reading the very well-timed I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci. I'd heard of the book when it was first published, and then happened to just blunder into it at the library last week ... the universe offers us what we need at the right time, if we're paying attention.

Given that I've recently ended a relationship, and given that I'm living alone now and cooking all sorts of things I haven't been able to in recent years (due to the dietary and health quirks of many of my loved ones), this seemed like the perfect "sit on the sunny porch after dinner and read" kinda book.

It's filled with tales of hope and heartbreak, as well as stories of faith and foolishness ... and lots and lots of recipes. Giulia's parents were both Italian -- her father born in Italy, her mother raised by Sicilian immigrants -- so her love of food and her talent for creating sublime dishes are both exquisite!

Here are my two teaser sentences from page 13:

"He seemed truly smitten with me, and that kind of thing just didn't happen. I can count on my breasts the number of times I have missed a meal, but for several days after that date I ate next to nothing."

In contrast, I usually go into starvation mode when my heart feels as though it's been shattered into thousands of shards, and eat very enthusiastically when I'm happy and contented. To each her own coping mechanisms ....

I'm doing quite well and eating heartily, since the time was right (though it's still a sad situation) for my new-found freedom. And here, just 'cause they're so perfect, are two more quotes from the book that sum things up perfectly:

"But still, cooking was mine. It relaxed me .... It was a way to make sense out of my internal chaos. There is logic and order to cooking. What you put into it has everything to do with what you get out of it. With love, it's not so cut-and-dried."

"Because cooking and eating well are my raison d'être, I don't stop when there's no one else to feed."

And on that note, I thought I'd make one of the comforting recipes featured in this book about lost loves -- Sauteed Summer Peppers.

I just happened to have every one of the ingredients on hand, and even threw in some mushrooms that I needed to use up; then I served the dish over polenta, rather than with the recommended grilled sausages.

It was hearty, it was delicious ... it was absolutely sublime for a sunny Spring evening on the front porch ... :)

Sauteed Summer Peppers


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red onion, ends removed, sliced lengthwise into semicircular chunks
pinch dried oregano
3 bell peppers (1 red, 1 orange, 1 yellow), cored, seeds and pith removed, cut into strips
6 ounces sliced mushrooms
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
2 large tomatoes (or 4 plum tomatoes), seeded and cut into chunks
1/4 cup torn basil leaves
freshly ground pepper

Heat olive oil in large saute pan or Dutch oven over medium heat and saute garlic and onion with the oregano until the onion is soft and translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add peppers, mushrooms and 1 teaspoon salt and cook partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes. Add tomatoes and 1/4 teaspoon salt; continue to cook another 10 to 15 minutes until the peppers are very soft. Test for seasoning and serve with torn basil leaves and freshly ground pepper.


6 cups water
pinch of salt
1 cup cornmeal
freshly grated parmesan, for serving

Bring water and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Slowly whisk in cornmeal, and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes until thickened.

Place polenta into a serving dish and place peppers over it. Top with parmesan.

Serves 4.

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