September 26, 2009

Beef Fajita Marinade Deliciousness and a Baking Revelation

I realize I haven't posted in a while but it is because of of my amazing work ethic I've been exhibiting on that other writing project. I finished a complete draft of one of my dissertation chapters! Only two more hard ones to go and I'm done! (Not to say I don't still have a lot of work) I feel so proud. In fact, this is somewhat inspired my baking revelation! I usually hate baking, hate may be a strong word, but I tend to not have the patience for it and baking makes me worry that I've messed it all up and I have to wait until it's done baking to see if I've done everything right. While I was baking this beautiful cake (that ended up being perfect) I realized that baking is a lot like scholarly writing. It takes advance preparation (read whole recipe/read other scholarship), the putting together of things in a certain order (dry ingredients, wet ingredients/several sections come together to make a whole) and some faith that it is all going to come out all right (rising dough and/or baking time in the oven/knowing that you will get the right combo together and have a finished product sometime). Yes it's hard work, but you have to have faith in the process, the more you work at it the better at it you'll be, the better prepared you are in advance then the more likely something better will come out of it! Like this deliciousness...

I made this cake to bring over to A's friend/co-worker, S' house for a dinner that we planned because she wanted to cook with me based on my prowess! This isn't my first invitation to someone else's kitchen but I am very excited that my blog has inspired the potential for cooking collaborations.

I decided to bring a marinated steak for fajitas. This is a really great and easy marinade, I made it the morning of our dinner and allowed the meat to soak it all up for about twelve hours. If you are marinating a meat, I would definitely suggest the longer the better. The flavor of the steak was absolutely tasty, grilling it outside on S' giant grill also enhanced the flavors. The pictures that I have of the process are of my time making fajitas a couple of weeks ago on my grill pan, not quite as awesome as the outside grill, but an amazing implement to have in my kitchen arsenal.

This marinade will be enough for one pretty large sized steak. Squeeze the juice from two limes. Add one tablespoon each of olive oil and red chile powder (or to taste). Cut up about half a jalapeño, two cloves of garlic (minced) and whatever else you think might add a tasty flavor, in the case of the other night I added in some chopped onions. Let your steak soak it all in, it will totally be worth it.

This was a really thick steak but I recommend seven to five minutes on each side and then you're good to go. Don't forget to quickly saute some onions and peppers to top your fajitas. I often throw the second half of the jalapeño in with my veggies to add some flavor, apparently I'm a sucker when it comes to jalapeño, I mean seriously, I might have a problem.

I like to make sure I don't have them too soggy, I like them with a little bite and crunch in my fajita, so literally they're only on the stove for a few minutes, I try not to stir too soon after they head in for their olive oil dip, so that the onions and peppers can be brown and deliciously caramelized.

Slice your meat into thin strips and pull your tortillas out of the oven. I like to warm them in foil for fajitas because to the soft tortilla juxtaposed to the crunchy veggies and chewy carne is heaven.

Assemble it all together and you have a really great meal that is relatively easy to do. Serve with sour cream of course and some salsa/pico if you feel like you need some tomato.

Here are my awesome fajitas along side some Mexican rice, I'll divulge those secrets on another post, but for now, I will just revel in the power of positive thinking, weekly writing action plans and persistence, because all of these things make it possible for me to survive. Thanks for letting me have this venue to talk out some things, it feels good to be in this informal voice instead of dissertation voice, it's a balance that I need to achieve to make all of my writing better. And make these fajitas, especially if you're in the mood for something fast and filling, and maybe try to bake a cake from scratch, you'll be surprised if you can accomplish baking a cake from scratch, you might just feel like you can do anything!

September 14, 2009

La Kitchen Chicana or Brown Hands

My abuelita's hands making her delicious enchiladas

As I have been an official blogger for at least a month now, I thought it might benefit my readers if they knew a little bit about how this blog emerged. Specifically, a conference paper on Gloria Anzaldúa was the initial inkling that I might want to engage with the issues of food, identity and family in a meaningful way. For those of you who know me are probably in no way surprised by this revelation, because her seminal text Borderlands/La Frontera defines my life and my approach to so many things. But as I begun to think about these ideas, A's mother, my wonderful mother-in-law J or as I often refer to her as, The Lone Baker also started a blog a little bit before mine took off and she really made me think that it was worth a go. I briefly mentioned in my last post about the ways that I feel trapped in the Borderlands as an emerging food blogger. By this, I mean, I don't feel my recipes are necessarily going to win any major food awards anytime soon, but it's always been more about the process and what goes on behind the scenes that has been important to me. What was it that made a hot dog in a tortilla so good? I laugh to think of how I define my own identity as the ways that Mexican food (tortilla) and American (hot dog) come together to form Mexican American? I promise this is not the last that you will read on the topic, but I love the ways that my identity can be traced through both enchilladas and pot roast, meals served to me by my abuela and my grandmother respectively. I am so happy that I created this blog as an outlet to explore my identity through food and perhaps share a recipe or two.

The real reason for this post is that I wanted to put a link to a piece that gives a little more into the backstory behind this blog, well, a little piece of the puzzle so to speak. I am going to be a regular contributor for a new online ezine called LuchaVista Magazine the inaugural issue just came out today and has a poem and piece about my family and the role of food in their lives. I urge you to check it out because it goes hand and hand with my blog, if you're interested. Check it out by following the link: Brown Hands, Comida & Love

Thanks for reading.

September 04, 2009

Kr's (Mini) Tuna Melts

Long before Brangelina, more like back in the day when Brad and Jennifer were still together lived the infamous Krandace. Two resident assistants living in Oliver Hall at the University of Kansas on the fifth and eighth floors became one over the course of our sophomore years. Amidst fire alarms, calling the KUPD on students smoking pot, busting up keggers, avoiding Cutco knife salesman and honoring our 10:00pm curfews Kristy and Kandace became Krandace: the ultimate life long friends. As our lives intertwined throughout our college years and Kr worked her way up the Res Hall perpetual ladder by our senior year (I mean, given a few more years we would've been in that main office - that is just how awesome Krandace is - just ask Dr. Stoner!) Kr had worked her way up into having her own kitchen and multiple room apartments our last summer together and began working her way around the kitchen.

I feel it is important to divulge a bit about Kr's background. You see, she comes from a culinary-inspired family where there is cocktail hour and courses involved for every dinner! Quite a change from anything I had ever known growing up. I guess that's how you roll in the burbs of chi-town. Anyways, Kr has always amazed me in the kitchen because I believe R and B's (her parents') positive attitude about food and finding flavors that mesh well together translated into her own ambitious mixing of whatever she has in the kitchen to make delicious meals, I should know she had done this on plenty of occasions long after Krandace had to physically part (but clearly never in our heart). Check out her free spirit here as a guest blogger on Graficionada. But the point of this heartwarming story is one time, I do believe in my first apartment in Minenapolis, Kr and I cooked up some delicious tuna melts, this is a little bit of an adaptation but tuna melts are always a quick and easy lunch or dinner meal. So consider this for one of those times when you don't have much in your kitchen but you're hungry and need something filling. The amount of foods used here was enough for two people with leftovers depending on your appetite. Thank you Kr for your wonderful spirit and being the Kr to my andace.

Now, onto the meat! Two notes about my beautiful display of ingredients here:

1) I forgot a key ingredient to tuna melts - mayonnaise ugh, I try so hard to make it look pretty and this is what I do, leave out key ingredients.

2) La Kitchen Chicana is not a professional operation, I am happy about this for the most part, sure my femme sensibilities sometime push me to want prettier bowls, or dream of shopping sprees at expensive cooking, baking and dish stores but I do recognize that I have an amazing arsenal of plenty of more than adequate cookware and dishes in my kitchen. However, I am often amazed at how much money, time and effort a lot of food bloggers spend on their kitchens and their blogging. Imagine my surprise when The Lone Baker informed me that most of these bloggers have professional photography equipment to make beautifully lit photos, that alone means some serious money is involved. Then to begin to think about the amazing equipment these bloggers have in their kitchens one can become quite upset with one's own lacks in the kitchen area. I like to say what I lack in equipment I make up in love. Well, as the doctoral candidate that I am, we all know that I am not in any sort of financial situation where I can spend endless amount of money on professional photo lighting so that I can make prettier pictures, nor do I have the time to take hundreds of pictures of my food from every angle (people seriously do this - but I do scarily see the appeal) to be honest if I capture the gist of the thing I'm ok with that (for some examples of this type of blogging behavior check out the blogs that had their pics chosen on Food Gawker or one of my other favorites Pioneer Woman.)

I think these are important issues to discuss on the interwebs because blogging and the internet in general has been seen as a "liberatory" tool of the masses. In fact, I have a (albeit small) audience of people who put up with my ramblings in this published format and blogging becomes a means of communication around issues that one might not have access to in the realms of the general/mass media. Clearly, one of these issues should be global capitalism and the selling of certain "ideals" in terms of what you should be if you are a food blogger - mainly, a well-off housewife comes to mind. But what about those of us who clearly do not fit into this world? Am I destined yet again, to be in the borderlands (see Gloria Anzaldúa for more) of cyber space, trying to navigate a world that presumes class privilege while making foods that are meant for those who are clearly not in that status? It's almost too much to bear, but I keep on because I think this blog is as much about my identity as a Chicana who loves food as it is about the food I make. I'm sure I have plenty more of this to discuss but that will come, with my ruminations on future meals. I fear my audience is ready to get to the recipe already.

A perfect way to ponder these very issues is to make up these CHEAP tuna melts and share them over some lively conversation - be my guest. A and I however, enjoyed ours watching Project Runway, so maybe this is more a suggestion and definitely not lead-by-example type advice. Open and drain two cans of tuna. Add some mayonnaise I would say this is about two heaping tablespoons. Mix with a fork to combine.

Now add the secret ingredient, that when I first made these for A she was like, "hmm... what is that in there? It's good but different." That special ingredient would be (yellow) curry powder. Add in about 1/2 tablespoon and a teaspoon (to taste) of red chile powder. Mix it in thoroughly. At this stage I also add in a pinch of kosher salt and some freshly cracked black pepper.

Next comes the delicious crunch. chop up some jalapeños and put into your tuna concoction. I love jalapeños and since I have a high tolerance for spice I put in about 1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeño peppers. I would NOT suggest putting in this much if you are using a fresh jalapeño, chop that finely in that case but do not add this much or you might die from over-spiced tuna melt syndrome. At this point I also add about 1/4 cup of shredded cheese - I'm using again the three cheese blend from Trader Joe's here, my favorite for easy melting.

Stir it all together and you should have something pretty chunky because of the cheese and the jalapeños and you're ready to go.

Since we're making mini tuna melts today, I cut up about half of a french bread loaf that I got at Cub that morning. It felt fresh at the time, to my disappointment it was really dry on the inside, meaning it was really difficult to cut, I think I lost about two pieces due to squishing them and their insides crumbling out. You may of course use whatever bread you would like.

Then give a little piece to your kitchen assistant, just to make sure it's edible. A will be happy to know that Sandie is working on her poses. Look at her smiling with her eyes, or is she contemplating how to bite my finger off for some additional protein? Alas, we may never know.

Now, I decided to use my Broil King because I wanted to make them all at once. You may of course (which might be the preferable method) use the broil setting on your oven. I had a hard time getting my tuna melt to melt with the BK unfortunately so, I will either use a lower setting (because my bread did get toasty) or put this in the oven to broil to ensure the insides get heated enough. There's almost nothing worse in your mouth than a lukewarm, soggy tuna sandwich. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I used butter to coat my Broil King and then I was able to make this many mini sandwiches from my tuna mix. I let both sides of the bread toast but flipped the top up onto the sandwich part sooner than later in an attempt to warm up my tuna to make it nice and melty.

When your bread gets toasty and your insides are melty, you're ready to eat! You can see that I've paired these with some delicious macaroni and cheese. This made me feel like I needed to add some different colors in my food but another day means another meal means another lengthy blog about it. Until the next time we break bread with one another...