Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Do you absolutely love Mexican food? Last night I spent the evening with my granddaughter, Ali, and the rest of her family, to celebrate her birthday. Her choice of restaurant was Cactus Grill in Leawood here in Johnson County, Kansas. I've been going to Cactus Grill since it opened in the early '90s. It is always good and I love their Creamy Cilanto Chicken soup. I started making it when I was a personal chef for a doctor and his family. After tweaking the recipe, this is a favorite.

Creamy Cilantro Chicken Soup

6 1/2 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
4 cups (packed) fresh cilantro
2 cups (packed) fresh Italian parsley
6 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 fresh marjoram sprig
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds

Note: You may make your own broth with a fresh chicken, having both the broth and shredded chicken for this recipe; Or you may use a good canned broth and shred a rotisserie chicken from the deli.
Combine 2 cups broth, 2 cups cilantro, parsley, cream cheese, and almonds in blender; blend until smooth. Heat 4 1/2 cups broth in large saucepan. Whisk in herb-cheese mixture and marjoram. Simmer 25 minutes to blend flavors. Transfer 1 cup soup and remaining 2 cups cilantro to blender; puree until smooth. Add puree to soup in pan. Season with salt and pepper. Bring soup to simmer, thinning with more broth if desired. Top each bowl of soup with a 1/4 cup warm shredded chicken and a few toasted sliced almonds for garnish .

Granted, this is not just Mexican, it is actually rather worldly.

To have this as part of a Southwestern/Mexican meal, serve it as the 1st course in a dinner of more traditional Mexican food.

May I suggest
Braised Short Ribs in Pasilla Chile Pozole

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground mustard seed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds beef short ribs, cleaned, excess fat removed, and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 dried pasilla chiles, seeded and stemmed
1 cup hot water
1 white onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 bunch celery, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 cups red wine
2 tomatoes, quartered
3 to 4 cups beef broth
1 (16-ounce) can white hominy or pozole, drained
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Place flour in a bowl with all ground spices. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Once well mixed, add to a shallow dish.
Dredge short ribs one by one on both sides, making sure to shake off any excess flour. In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil. When the oil smokes, add the short ribs. Brown short ribs for 5 minutes on each side until a golden crust starts to form. Once brown, reserve, and continue until all are brown. Set ribs aside.
While the short ribs are browning, heat a cast iron skillet. When skillet is hot, add the pasilla chiles and toast for 4 minutes until they start to smoke. Remove and submerge in 1 cup hot water. Allow to steep for 10 minutes until they become soft and pliable. Remove from water and puree in blender with 1/4 cup of the water. Set aside puree mixture.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic to the dutch oven. Cook for 15 minutes until the vegetables caramelize. Deglaze pot with red wine, then add tomatoes, beef broth, hominy, and pasilla chile puree. Bring the whole mixture to a simmer. Start adding all the browned short ribs back into the pan.
Cover and cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes until short ribs barely start falling off the bone. Season with salt, pepper, cilantro, and parsley, and serve.
A simple green salad and warm flour tortillas will complete your special meal.
Back to the Studio
I am so excited! I actually started a new painting yesterday. After 6 weeks of picking up a paint brush just to lay it down again, I am thrilled I actually put some paint on a canvas! I have two paintings that I need to complete, plus several new paintings that I need to start, so it is a good thing that my heart and mind are once again back into my painting. I suppose the fact that I am once again right in the middle of planning the next Art in the Vines show at Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery might be jump starting my creativity. Whatever might be the catalyst, I am grateful!

I am so lonely for my friends and teachers at ARTichokes! I have found I paint better and am more prolific when I am involved with Becky Pashia, Ada Koch and Kristin Goering, the premier instructors at ARTichokes. Due to my schedule during the holidays, I have not been able to participate in their classes, but beginning February 1st....I AM BACK! I hope I am smart enough to be selfish when I schedule my time in the future....I need to paint!

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