Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ropa Vieja


The weather in South Florida has been so gloomy these couple of days, so I longed for something warm, comforting... something to satisfy my soul. So I thought of Ropa Vieja.

Ropa Vieja, or translated literraly as "tattered clothes or rags", is a Latin American cuisine. It is named as such because the shredded beef resembles so much like the ragged edges of an old clothing.... as explained to me by my Hispanic friends.


This dish is very similar to some dishes that we have in the Philippines, that's why I've taken so much liking to it. It is actually nothing but beef stewed in a tomato-based sauce. What makes this different though, is that it requires a specific cut of meat – flank - which can be shredded in long pieces.

In my opinion, the real secret to this dish is in the length of time the meat is braised. Longer braising allows more time for the flavors to meld well together, resulting in a very flavorful, tender meat that just melts in your mouth! Yum!


Pictured here is my version of Ropa Vieja. It is my opinion that the best way to enjoy this dish is to have it with rice. Plain rice. A little maduros (or fried plantains) on the side completes the meal.

Then you will be a happy camper.

Ropa Vieja
Adapted from Cooking Light

Cooking spray
2 (1-pound) flank steaks, trimmed
3 cups thinly vertically sliced red onion
2 cups red bell pepper strips (about 2 peppers)
2 cups green bell pepper strips (about 2 peppers)
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 tablespoons thinly sliced pitted green olives
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons sherry vinegar
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon no-salt-added tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add 1 steak to pan; cook 2 1/2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove steak from pan. Repeat procedure with cooking spray and remaining steak.

Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, bell peppers, and garlic to pan; cook 7 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in olives and next 5 ingredients (through black pepper); cook 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir in vinegar, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; cook for 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Stir in broth, tomato paste, and bay leaves. Add steaks; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 1 1/2 hours or until steaks are very tender. Discard bay leaves.

Remove steaks from pan; shred with two forks. Stir shredded beef and cilantro into pan.

Note: This dish is definitely better the next day. Left-over meat can also be eaten with tortilla or taco.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Breakfast Light and Delicious

Hello friends!

It has been a while since our blog has been updated. Life has a funny way of demanding your full attention, but hopefully it will once again permit us to share with you some incredible dishes we've created recently.

A wonderful opportunity came our way. A few months back, Mr. J and I have joined the hospitality ministry in our church. Every so often, roughly once a month, we have the pleasure of preparing breakfast for the awesome staff at our church,Metro Life Church,on Sundays between the two services. Yay! We love to do this since it is a good outlet for our culinary adventures. But wait, this came with a couple of minor challenges. First, the food has to be low-fat, whole grain and "heart-healthy" for the sake of our dear Pastor who has had a serious heart attack a couple of years back. We are primarily cooking for him so this has to be strictly followed. Secondly, the food has to be simple enough since the staff has only 25-30 minutes to eat breakfast before the next service starts.

Hmmmm... healthy breakfast. We can't serve oatmeal/muesli, fruits or dry whole wheat toast all the time, can we now? Definitely, the challenge is for us to come up with healthy breakfasts without sacrificing the deliciousness of our food.

For starters, we created a kind of deconstructed eggs florentine inspired by my fave celebrity Chef, Giada de Laurentiis. Normally, eggs florentine is served on English muffins, but instead, the beefsteak tomatoes took its place. This definitely lightened the dish a lot. The tomatoes are cut into almost 1/2 inch thick slices, seasoned with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Then they are topped with a creamy, cheesy spinach. For a healthier version, we used non-fat milk instead of heavy cream and reduced-fat cheese for the spinach. Then, lightly poached eggs went on top of the tomato-creamy spinach layer. Finally, we garnished it with strips of baked turkey bacon . (I wanted to just crumble them on top, but I discovered that turkey bacon is not crumbly like the regular one).

Almost always, some type of fruit is provided either as an alternative to those wanting something lighter, or as a side dish complimenting the main dishes. Today, we served fruit salad with strawberry, kiwi, and bananas sliced into bite-sized pieces. We let the strawberry and kiwi macerate in sugar and limoncello (lemon-flavored liqueur). Yes, we served a liqueur infused fruit to our Pastor - no wonder he was preaching so good today!!! LOL!!! Seriously, we only used a couple of tablespoons of it so it provided zero intoxicating effect . The limoncello infused the fruit with a bit of lemon flavor and served double-duty by keeping the bananas from turning brown. It was a wonderful alternative to using lime or lemon. Thanks, Ina Garten for this idea!

For the finale, we wanted to make sure any hunger pangs were satisfied, so we made a Danish pastry braid with two different kinds of filling: apple-cinnamon and apricot with confectioner's cream. Both Danishes were topped with coffee-infused glaze. The recipe came from the book, Baking with Julia.

In order to make the Danish a bit "healthier", I decided to experiment a little bit by using whole wheat pastry flour with the apricot-cream filled Danish. Admittedly, I had a bit of apprehension since I've never used whole wheat for pastry dough before. So, as a fall back, I decided to also make the regular dough using all purpose flour incase the whole wheat pastry was unsuccessful. I decided to fill the whole wheat pastry with the cream-apricot filling; while the regular pastry was filled with the apple-cinnamon.

Thankfully, the whole wheat pastry dough worked! They both tasted delish. There's nothing better than freshly baked Danish pastry! I did notice though that the regular all purpose flour came out more puffy than the whole wheat one. Not that this matters since it didn't affect the taste; and I'm not sure if the puff was was due to the flour, or due to how I handled the dough.

Any theories, you pastry Chef's out there? Anyhow, everyone liked the breakfast.. **sigh of relief here**.

It's a great feeling to know that your food is well appreciated, isn't it? We are cooking again in two weeks so we'll keep you posted. Hopefully, we'll be able to come up with another creative, healthy breakfast. Suggestions are welcome.

Eggs Florentine
by Giada de Laurentiis

You Need:
Vegetable oil cooking spray
4 thin slices prosciutto
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups (5 ounces) baby spinach
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 beefsteak tomatoes, trimmed and cut into 1-inch thick slices

1. Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray.

2. Arrange the prosciutto in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake until crispy, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely before crumbling into small pieces.

3. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and nutmeg and cook until the spinach has wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

4. Fill a small saucepan with 3 inches of water. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the lemon juice. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Crack an egg in a small bowl, taking care not to break the yolk. Slowly slide the egg into the water. Using a wooden spoon, carefully stir the water around the egg. Cook for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes until the white has set and the yolk is still soft. Using a slotted spoon, remove the egg from the water and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining eggs.

5. To serve, place a tomato slice on each salad plate and season with salt and pepper. Spoon 1/4 of the spinach sauce over the tomato slice. Top with a poached egg and sprinkle with the crumbled prosciutto. Serve warm.