Saturday, May 24, 2008

Indio and Guacamole

A chic new restaurant has made its mark in Uptown Minneapolis. Indio. A nuevo Mexican restaurant that is redefining what we had sadly come to know and accept as Mexican food in Minneapolis. I must admit, I never intended to eat there. We had originally set out to eat at another restaurant but, without reservations on a Friday night, had to quickly make other plans. Indio was just a couple stores down in the same plaza. Also, it was winter in Minnesota and I definitely did not want to stand around in the cold debating where we should go.

We were seated and began perusing the menu. I soon realized, my years of high school and college Spanish could not help me here. I guess this could be considered a sign of a restaurant's authenticity and originality: when the menu looks like nothing you have ever seen or eaten before. Some people might be turned off at this point. Not me. I like to be pleasantly surprised and I just live for new experiences. Why some people live all their lives without trying new things and stepping out of their comfort zones, is beyond me. I know some people who have never left the perimeter of their towns before! Something is wrong with that. The world is ours to explore and enjoy. Even more than that, I think we do ourselves a great disservice by not stepping outside of our comfort zones; it's a great way to learn and to develop. (Now, I know that some people have serious psychological problems that restrict them from venturing "out"; that is quite different from some one who is simply opposed to anything new or foreign.)

We placed our entree orders and started on the appetizer: guacamole. Sounds simple, right? It looked simple too but it the most delicious guacamole! And I'm not just saying that. Sweet, buttery, tart, and fresh. Fresh enough to make me forget that it's sub freezing outside, even if it were for just a brief moment. Our entrees came and we were just as impressed. I had the the corvina, my hunny had the ling cod and our friend chose the pork. Three unmistakably authentic Mexican dishes.

Back at home for the next couple days, we were still talking about how great Indio was. We suggested it to everyone we spoke to and they were all similarly impressed. Strangely, or maybe not too much so, I began craving guacamole! I just had to recreate it. At least, try to. I like my guacamole smooth and creamy; my hunny, on the other hand, likes it chunky. Like any good relationship, there was compromise. And it was good.


4 ripe Hass avocados
juice of 2 fresh limes
1 onion, finely diced
3 small garlic cloves, very finely minced
handful chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

1. Dice three avocados and place in a large bowl.
2. Mash the other avocado into another bowl.
3. Pour the lime juice onto the diced avocados and toss well.
4. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
5. Garnish with additional cilantro and serve with baked tortilla chips.

Indio Mexican Cuisine
1221 W. Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 821-9451

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Avocado Coleslaw

I bet you didn't think it were possible to have a coleslaw without mayonnaise, did you? After you have tried this recipe, I guarantee you will never have regular coleslaw again.

Avocado Coleslaw

1/2 cup green seedless grapes
1 Haas avocado
1 - 2 tbsp lime juice
4 cups shredded cabbage
1/3 cup fat free sour cream
1 clove garlic
1 soft boiled egg
salt and pepper

1. Slice grapes in half and coarsely chop avocado. Sprinkle lime juice on avocados to prevent oxidation.
2. Add cabbage, grapes and avocado to a large salad bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, grate garlic clove.
4. Add sour cream, and finely chopped egg to garlic. Mix thoroughly to produce a creamy dressing.
5. Add dressing to cabbage mixture and toss well to coat.

One lazy Saturday morning...

Last Saturday morning, after my coffee, I felt like doing nothing. I thought about going to the gym but I figured the treadmills were all taken since Saturday mornings are usually quite busy there. Maybe I was just making excuses. Either way, I ended up on the couch, flipping through television channels. TNT, nothing good was on, USA, nothing, Lifetime, no, then The Food Network, Paula and Bobby Deen where cooking. America knows and loves Paula Deen for her traditional southern cooking. Today, she was cooking with citrus. Her orange citrus bars caught my attention because they were similar to a traditional pound cake my mother and aunts made every Christmas. My sister and I would even beg to eat the batter. Why? It was creamy and so citrusy with tons of lime and orange zest adding to the flavor.

As I am sure I have mentioned before, I spent the first eight years of my life on an island country side where my father own acres of citrus and other fruit trees. Therefore, citrus was a regular part of our diet. Sometimes, we would have bowls of tiny tangerines as a snack, making it into a game: who could eat the most. Of course, we would wake up five times a night to use the bathroom but it was a small price to pay for the joy of sweet, refreshing citrus fruits.

So, I decided to make Paula Deen's orange citrus bars. There was one caveat, however. The other well know fact about Paula Deen is that she cooks with a tremendous amount of butter. I do not. I have no problem with people who cook with butter; it is a personal choice and I simply choose to use the least amount of butter and only when necessary. (That does not mean I won't eat buttery cakes and pastries when given the chance. Oh no! I'm not that disciplined. ) Paula's recipe called for 2 sticks of butter; I used only two tablespoons but added some vegetable oil while also using less sugar. The result of my lazy Saturday morning was this chewy, citrusy dessert which I just can't wait to make again.

Citrus Bars
Makes about 12

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 lime

1 egg plus 1 egg white
1/3 cup sugar
juice of 1 orange ( about 1/3 cup)
1 tsp lemon extract
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
zest of 1 orange

1. Set oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine flour, oil, butter sugar and lime zest so that they form a crumbly consistency and  stick together when compressed.
3. On a well greased baking dish, (I used a 9" pie dish) press the flour mixture unto the bottom to form a thin layer. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly golden brown.
4. Meanwhile, combine egg and egg white, 1/3 cup of sugar, orange juice, orange zest and lemon extract. Beat until well combine.
5. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
6. Once crust has been baked, remove from oven. Only then, combine flour and and egg mixtures. Stir to combine but do not over mix.
7. Add filling mixture to crust and bake for 20 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
8. Let cool for 5 minutes in dish and cut into bars. Place on wire rack to cool.

Friday, May 9, 2008

I'm Seeing Red

Strawberry Shortcake

Makes about 10

Strawberry sauce:

3 cups fresh strawberries

2 tbsp pomegranate juice

2 tbsp honey ( or more depending on sweetness of strawberries)

1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar 

pinch of salt


1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup cream

1/3 cup fat free ricotta cheese

1 tsp real vanilla extract

1 tbsp cream for brushing tops

extra sugar for sprinkling

Strawberry cream:

2 cups fat free cool whip

6 to 8 fresh strawberries

To prepare sauce:

Wash, hull and slice strawberries. Place in bowl together with pomegranate juice, honey, balsamic vinegar and salt. Mix and set aside. (This can be done up to a day ahead.)

To Prepare Biscuit: 

1. Set oven to 425 degrees F. 

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all purpose flour, pastry flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. 

3. In a separate bowl, combine cream, ricotta cheese and vanilla extract. 

4. Pour ricotta mixture into flour mixture and, using a spatula, combine until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Then, lightly knead until fully incorporated to form a ball. 

5. On a lightly floured surface gently roll out dough to form a 1" thick circle. 

7. Using a 2 1/2 " cookie cutter, cut  into 10 rounds. 

8. Place biscuit rounds on a well greased cookie sheet. Brush tops with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 10 minutes. 

9. Immediately remove from cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack.

To prepare cream topping: 

1. Wash and hull strawberries and puree in food processor or blender. Empty to bowl and fold in cool whip.

To assemble shortcake:

1. Using a fork, pierce around center of biscuit and separate into two halves. 

2. Drizzle some strawberry syrup unto halves and place bottom half on a serving plate. 

3. Spoon a tablespoon of strawberry sauce onto bottom biscuit half, followed by a dollop of strawberry cream and top with the top side of biscuit.  Serve with fresh strawberries on the side. 

Refreshing Watermelon Soup

Serves 4 to 5

5 - 6 cups cubed and seeded watermelon, chilled

4  mint leaves, plus more for garnish 

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tbsp honey

dash aromatic bitters (optional)

watermelon balls (optional) 

1. Combine all ingredients, except watermelon balls, in blender and puree until smooth.

2. Serve with watermelon balls and garnish with mint leaves.