NetDiva’s Awesome Hot Sauce

I needed a sauce to put over the fresh tamales we made the other night. I whipped this together with veggies that I had lying around. It was delicious and perfectly spicy.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped red onion (about 1/2 large onion)
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 pasilla pepper (with seeds)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeño (with seeds)
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar, (Bragg’s or other natural vinegar is recommended.)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Instructions

Finely chop all vegetables and place in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add all other ingredients. Bring to a boil and then simmer over medium-low, covered, for 15-20 minutes or until all vegetables are very soft and stewed.

Using a stick blender, purée the mixture until it’s a thick, even sauce. If you don’t have a stick blender, a regular blender or food processor will work, too.

Add more salt, sugar or red pepper flakes to taste.

Can be served warm or cold.

Seafood Paella

My grandmother taught me that Spanish cooking tends to include whatever is fresh and available. In otherwords, to make a good paella, you need to go to the market and see what looks good. Some ingredients, like the sofrito, should not be substituted. But the meats and seafoods really need to come from local stock.

I made this paella last night for a house full of hungry guests who gave it rave reviews.

Ingredients

  • About a cup of olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 6 cups of chicken broth

Sofrito

  • 1 chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 chopped red onion
  • salt

Everything Else

  • 4 large fresh Spanish Chorizos, chopped into 1/2″ slices
  • 5 cups of Bomba Rice
  • 4 roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 lb live clams
  • 1 lb live mussels
  • 1 lb whole shrimp with heads on
  • 1 lb whole langostine with heads on
  • 2 tsp saffron, crumbled
  • 2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika

Instructions

Pour the chicken stock into a pot and heat to not quite boiling. Cover and leave over medium-low.

Place an 18″ paella pan over two burners on high to get the pan hot. Add about 3 tbsp of olive oil and heat. It’s hot enough when you drizzle a few drops of water into the oil and its sputters. Turn the heat down a little and throw in the garlic cloves. Toast until golden brown and remove them from the oil. Put the garlic in a bowl and save for later.

Make the Sofrito

You may need to add another splash of olive oil. Toss the chopped bell peppers an onion into the hot olive oil and heat on medium-high with a pinch of kosher salt until the vegetables are soft. Remove the mixture from the pan leaving as much oil in the pan as possible. Place mixture in a bowl and set aside.

Make Everything Else

Toss the chorizo into the pan and brown on both sides. Remove from heat and set aside in a bowl. (Are you starting to sense a theme here?)

Leave enough oil in the pan to cover the surface, but not more than about 1/16 of an inch deep. Drain the rest and pour it over your dog’s kibble. She’ll love you forever!

Cut each tomato in half and grate the soft part on a box grater. Throw out the skins. Set aside.

Pour the rice into the pan of hot oil and stir. Heat until the rice is evenly coated with oil for a minute or two. You want the rice to get a little bit clear, so you can see a white dot in the middle of each grain.

Now add in the hot chicken broth, the tomatoes, the garlic, the sofrito, saffron, paprika, plenty of salt and the chorizo. Stir and simmer on med-low for about five minutes.

Stir in the peas.

Add the shellfish to the the mixture. Don’t stir it in but layer it evenly on top. Simmer on medium-low without stirring. Rotate pan 1/4 turn about every ten minutes so that it cooks evenly. Paella is done when the rice is tender, the clams and mussels have opened and the shrimp and langoustine are red. There should be a slightly burnt, brown not black, crust on the bottom, called the soccarat.

Serve with french bread and red wine.

Barcelona Mercat Boqueria – the Ultimate Super Market

Mushrooms at La Boqueria, Barcelona

Wild Mushrooms at La Boqueria, Barcelona

You already know how much I detest the American Supermarket. If you ask me, local merchants are the way to go. While I love San Francisco farmers markets, I’d never seen anything like the Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona, Spain.

I just returned from a vacation on Barcelona; a place where food is serious business. We rented a little flat which was just across from the Boqueria, an open air market which has been running daily since the mid-nineteenth century. (Read more about the history of the Boqueria.) Here you can find every manner of delicacy from whole pigs, to wild mushrooms, spices, foie gras, game, every manner of vegetable, shepherd-made cheeses, cured meats and even snails— and I’m not even scratching the surface.

I will admit, that the amount offered, is a bit mind boggling. Add that to the winding aisles of vendors and it’s quite easy to get lost here. We seemed to get lost every time we visited. Thankfully, there are a few places to sit down and have a drink or a snack.

Like everything in Barcelona, it’s open late. They officially close 8:30pm, although, if you wander in at eight, don’t be surprised to see merchants who are more interested in cleaning up than answering your questions.

If you’re visiting this glorious market and curious about what you can bring back to the states, I found this guide, Bring It on Home very helpful. In a nutshell, no produce, no meats (cured or otherwise), and no cheese runnier than brie. The good news is that you can bring home most of those wonderful stinky cheeses, as well as candies and spices!

For my photos of Barcelona’s Boqueria see my flickr set.

Spicy Sausage and Roasted Red Pepper Bolognese

This pasta sauce is somewhere between a bolognese and an arrabiata. It doesn’t matter what you call it, though, this is an absolutely delicious and spicy dinner. The sauce gets stuck i the twists of the fusilli pasta. You can adjust the spiciness by reducing the amount of crushed red pepper flakes –but I wouldn’t recommend it. 😉

Ingredients

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 4 tomatoes
  • red wine vinegar
  • 1 red onion
  • olive oil
  • 4 italian sausages —I like these.
  • 1 lb fusilli pasta
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated or shreaded
  • salt
  • 6 chopped mushrooms
  • 1 14-oz can of tomato sauce

Instructions

Preheat your broiler and then stick both bell peppers into the broiler. Thoroughly blacken all sides.

Put a gallon of water on to boil in one pot.

Put a quart of water on to boil in another pot.

Core tomatoes and slice crosses only through the skin on two sides. Prepare a bowl of ice water large enough to fit the tomatoes. When the smaller pot of water boils, drop the tomatoes in for thirty seconds. Remove them with tongs and drop them into the ice water and set aside.

In a large skillet, brown the red onion, some salt and the sausage (remove sausage casings).

Peel the tomatoes. The skin should come right off, easily. If these directions aren’t clear, check out this site on peeling tomatoes.

Next cut each tomato into eight wedges. Place in a large flat pan (like a pie pan). Drizzle with red wine vinegar and sprinkle with salt. Roast in a 500°F for ten minutes.

When all sides of the bell peppers are black, remove from heat. Using tongs and a fork, remove the skin. It should come right up. Chop off the stem and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. This should be very easy. If the skin isn’t coming off, you didn’t roast the peppers long enough.

When the large pot of water is boiling, add your fusilli. Cook until al dente.

Add sausage mixture, basil, garlic, cheese, about 1/4 cup of olive oil and tomatoes to your food processor. Pulse a few times to make a thick mixture which is slightly coarser than a paste.

In the same skillet, sauté the chopped mushrooms for a few minutes. Add the mixture from the food processor, the red pepper flakes and the tomato sauce. Simmer for fifteen minutes.

In pasta bowls, add the pasta and spoon generous amounts of sauce over the top. Add a few more shreds of cheese to the top and sliced mushroom for garnish. I suggest serving with garlic bread.

Serves: 6-8
Cook + Prep time: 45 min – 1 hour

Diva’s Chili

Chili

Chili

I don’t have a long story to tell with this recipe. It doesn’t have any kind of generational history. Admittedly, I originally learned to cook chili from my mom’s recipe, which I’m pretty sure is based on this. But mom got me started cooking her recipe when I was a child. I’ve never been one to stick to a recipe. I like to get creative. And so, my version has changed and evolved, and now, it’s most definitely my own creation.

I’ve won two chili cook-offs with this recipe. Although they were small contests, I don’t think there’s anyone who is going to deny that this is some damned amazing chili. By publishing the recipe, in some way, I feel like I’m giving away the family jewels. However, I believe in sharing the source and so, I will….

Diva’s Chili

  • 1 splash olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion (white, yellow or red are all fine)
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 1 habañero
  • 1 handful crimini mushrooms
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 16 oz kidney beans
  • 24 oz tomato sauce
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped oregano
  • 1 large tomato
  • salt
  • pepper

Method

Chop an onion and heat up a very large skillet. Add olive oil to skillet. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Stir and sweat until onion is translucent.

Chop bell peppers and toss into skillet. Chop garlic, jalapeño and habañero very finely and add to pan. Stir. Then add chopped mushrooms.

Stir in ground beef and add salt, pepper, garlic and 1 tbsp of chili powder. Brown mixture.

Drain kidney beans and add beans, tomato sauce, red wine and other ingredients except for tomato. Taste and add more spices if needed. Simmer for ten minutes and add chopped tomato. Simmer another fifteen minutes or so.

Cool and serve with a few strands of grated cheddar and maybe a dollop of sour cream. Buttered french bread is great with this too!

Cook + Prep Time: 45-60 min
Feeds: 6-8
Notes: This is really spicy. For those of you that like things milder, cut out the jalapeño, habañero and cut the chili powder down to about 2 tbsp. For those of you that like it hot, try adding in chipotles.

Arroz Con Pollo

Grandma Abuela and Arroz con Pollo

Luisa Garcia, my Grandma Abuela

Luisa Garcia, my "Grandma Abuela"

Although she died when I was five or six, I still have vivid memories of my great grandmother. She was a short, fat, old Spanish lady and I called her “Grandma Abuela”. When you think of elderly women from “the old country” she’s it!

Despite the fact that both of her young daughters looked like pin-ups, even in Luisa’s wedding picture, she was a stern looking woman.

She moved to the United States from Spain during Spain’s war in Haiti in 1920. My great grandfather was avoiding the draft and moved to the U.S. in 1918. Once he had saved up enough money, he sent for her.

By the time I came around, in the early 70’s, Luisa was an old woman living on a farm in Fontana, California. For years, she and José had raised conejos at the “Rabbitree”. I think they retired and closed the farm in the late sixties. But when I was a child, they still raised enough poultry for themselves. She used to take me out to the chicken coup to see the gallinas.

I never remember her calling me by my first name. It was always niña. In fact, I also never remember her speaking a word of English.

Luisa and Jose's Wedding Picture

Luisa and José's Wedding Picture

My first memories of Christmas Day were at Grandpa Abuelo and Grandma Abuela’s house. The old house was full of funny Spanish odds and ends –I remember a figurine of a bull with picadores sticking out and lots of dolls of Spanish beauties dancing the Flamenco.

Among the piles of food would be turron candy in round metal tins. But the most exciting thing would be the arroz con pollo. Abuela would make a recipe that had by then been in the family for generations.

When she passed on in the early eighties, my grandmother continued the tradition for the next fifteen years or so. And when Grandma passed on, my mom made Arroz every Christmas. Now I, too, make Arroz each year. I can’t imagine Christmas without it.

The 40 lb Turkey

The 40 lb Turkey

In my life, four generations have made this meal—all were slightly different reflections the women who made it and their environments.

Getting the recipe for this on paper wasn’t easy. The old lady measured things by handfuls and timed things by when it looks about right. My mother stood over my grandmother measuring out the eyeballed amounts and trying to get it right. (Mom is not from the Spanish side of the family, so she didn’t grow up making this recipe, but she still makes a damned good rendition!)

Very important to note is that z in arroz is pronounced like the th in thought.

Ingredients

  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb chicken thighs or drumettes
  • 1 lb pork roast cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 2 white onions
  • Spanish red paprika
  • Spanish cooking chorizo
  • Bomba rice
  • Saffron
  • Bay Leaves

Instructions

In a large pan (I tend to use a turkey roaster pan over two burners), toast ten cloves of garlic in olive oil. Take the cloves out of the oil and set them aside. Remove the garlic and place in bowl for future use.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Brown chicken until golden color in same oil. Place chicken on paper towel covered dish.

Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Cube pork and brown in same oil.

Return chicken to pan with pork. Cover chicken and pork and let simmer until tender. Approximately 45 minutes.

Chop bell peppers and onion. Add to chicken/pork.

In a bowl, mix garlic, salt, pepper, and red paprika with two cups of water.

Pour the paprika mixture over the chicken/pork and let simmer for at least 30 minutes to allow the meat to soak up the flavors.

Boil chorizo for half hour. Take out and drain on paper towel. Cut chorizo lengthwise. Place under broiler until slightly crispy. Cut into small pieces and add to chicken/pork mixture.

Pour six cups of rice into the meat/oil/spices mixture. Swish the rice around so that it can soak up the flavorful oil mixture. Add twelve cups of water.

Add a few strings of saffron. Stir everything all around.

Cover and cook over low flame until rice is soft and tender. Besides the spices and tender meat, the most important thing in making good arroz is making sure the rice is cooked all the way through. Crunchy rice is not a good thing.

Time in the kitchen: about half a day
Feeds: about 10 —This makes amazing leftovers!

Grand Pop!

When I was not quite 18 years old, I went off to college. I started in the summer. My grandpa bought me an air-pop popcorn popper, The Popcorn Pumper. I’ll be 35 next month. That was half my life ago.

My grandpa was a funny old cuss. As a child, he crossed the country from Kansas to L.A. in an actual covered wagon. At least that’s what he told me, but I was never sure what stories were actually true. He also told me about one night when he hitched a truck to an outhouse and towed that shitter through town while his friend was locked inside.

He owned an auto shop his whole life. Not surprising that my mom also married a mechanic.

Grandpa used to withhold pay from his employees in the early 70’s until they got haircuts. He wasn’t payin’ no longhairs.

When you asked him how he was doing, he would either curtly reply, “sick”, or happily exclaim,”finer than frog hair.” If you did something worth praise, he’d emphatically let you know that “you won the fur-lined vinegar bottle.” I have no idea what anyone would want with a fur-lined vinegar bottle, but I heard it so often that sometimes, it still comes out of my mouth.

I miss my grandpa. He died not long after I went off to school.

I still have that air popper. In fact, I have used it several nights a week for almost all of my adult life. Popcorn a staple around here. My husband calls it “Diva Corn”. I can’t stand microwaved popcorn. It’s not the same thing.

Over the past two weeks, the Popcorn Pumper has been starting to go. It’s burning the corn and not blowing it out. I’ve tried cleaning it out but the problem is just getting worse. A new air popper is only about $20. The investment in a new popper is mostly emotional.

So I guess I’m saying goodbye to a kitchen appliance that has lasted through seven cities, about a dozen homes, plenty of jobs, more than one marriage and every other “phase” imaginable. It’s been with me my entire adult life. Plus, it came from my grandpa.

I’m not quite ready to replace it yet; it may take me a while. Here’s one of my many popcorn recipes. I love the stuff!

Diva Corn

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernalshint! try experimenting with other varieties of kernals
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • salt
  • chili powder

Pop the popcorn in an air popper. Melt the butter in the microwave. Pour the butter and squeeze the lemon over your popcorn. Mix thoroughly with two spoons. Sprinkle with chili powder and salt to taste.