Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My Abuela's Table with the Novel Bakers

The Novel Bakers are celebrating Cinco de Mayo with a charming cookbook:
My Abuela's Table--an Illustrated Journey into Mexican Cooking by Daniella Germain. 

"My memories of Mexico revolve around my Abuela's table. Whether in her old house in Mexico City, or at 'La Granja' (the farm) in Alvarado, her table is a place where our large family come together, and a place that will always feel like home to me, even though our lives are worlds apart."
--Daniella Germain, author and illustrator.

The book outlines the basics--equipment, herbs, chiles, and staples. Family photographs are peppered through the chapters, giving us a glimpse into the author's loving Mexican family. All in all, it's an adorable book, with exquisite illustrations, step-by-step recipes, and an introduction to authentic Mexican cuisine.

Let's begin with Sangria Mexicana--fresh fruit, red wine, and lemonade. Mix 2 cups red wine and 2 cups lemonade. Add fruit. Steep in the refrigerator for several hours. Serve over ice.

 Next, we'll sample Huevos Rancheros. It can best be described as a breakfast pizza, but it's perfect for lunch or supper. 

Huevos Rancheros

Bacon adds a Southern spin to a traditional Mexican breakfast dish. 

In a non-stick skillet, fry 4 slices of bacon. Drain bacon on paper towels. Use the drippings to sautee 1 chopped onion and chopped bell pepper. Add red pepper flakes or fresh jalapeno--as much (or little) as you desire. When the onion is translucent, add 1/2 teaspoon garlic. Cook 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, 3 T. chopped fresh cilantro. Season with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper. 
In a separate skillet, stack 2 tortillas. Spoon homemade salsa over top. Use the back of your spoon to carve out four "nests" in the salsa. Drop a fresh egg into each nest. Sprinkle everything with shredded Mexican cheese. Salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is brown. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Garnish with crumbled bacon (or chorizo), avocados (squeeze fresh lemon juice over them to maintain their color), cilantro, and caramelized cherry tomatoes, sour cream. (How to Prepare the Whole Cherry Tomatoes: Place them in a shallow skillet--sprinkle tomatoes with a little sugar, Kosher salt, and olive oil. Cook over a medium high flame. When the tomatoes develop a nice sear, remove from heat and place on paper towels. You'll use these as as a garnish. Add a drop of tequila if you dare!) 

Mexican Pull-Apart Bread
1 bakery loaf
ground round, cooked, drained, and crumbled
1 package taco seasoning
refried beans (if desired)
tomatoes, green onions
Mexican cheese, shredded.
Slice the bread into 1 inch cubes, taking care not to cut all the way through the crust. Pan fry the beef. Drain fat and add taco seasoning (follow directions on the packet). Between each square, add beans, beef, and cheese. Sprinkle with green onions. Wrap loaf in foil and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Remove foil and bake 10 more minutes. Remove from oven. Garnish with slices tomatoes and cilantro.

Bean Dip is hearty and comforting. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large, oven-proof sautee pan, cook 1 chopped onion in bacon drippings. Add 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, if desired. Spoon in 1 large can of refried beans.Blend. Add 1/4 cup chopped fresh tomatoes. Season with ground cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. You can add a few sprigs of chopped cilantro if you like. Blend in 3 tablespoons cream cheese. Remove from heat. Sprinkle bean mixture with shredded Mexican cheese and shredded Pepper Jack. Bake 20 minutes or until cheese is slightly brown and bubbly. 

Bandwidth always makes a special contribution to the Novel Bakers, and for Cinco de Mayo, he decided to make tortillas from scratch.

"For homemade tortillas, you'll need masa flour. Follow the instructions on the bag. The dough balls should be slightly moist, so be sure to cover it with damp towels. Line the press with a Zip Lock bag (cut in half). She the dough ball on the press--make sure to put it a little off center. Cover it with plastic, then press. Cook each side on a medium flame for 50 seconds (each side). To make tacos, heat 1 quart peanut oil in a Dutch oven to 350 degrees F. Using tongs, cook the tortilla. Shape it, if desired."
--Bandwidth, biochemist and cook

The book explains exactly how to make masa dough and homemade tortillas.
"A perfect tortilla is said to be one that puffs up with cooking. It is tradition to eat this perfect tortilla immediately--fresh off the pan!"
--page 39, My Abuela's Table

Season the tortillas with salt and lime juice for added flavor. They are flaky, yet they aren't brittle--and the taste is sublime.

To make fajitas, marinate* a 2 pound skirt steak for 1 hour. Grill meat on direct heat for 1 minute 30 seconds, then flip. Cook another 1 1/2 minutes. Wrap in tin foil and allow meat to rest for 15 minutes.

Bandwidth used Alton Brown's marinade:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
4 green onions, cut in half
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 Tbs dark brown sugar

Mix all ingredients in a blender.

The meal ended with a deep dish tequila key lime pie. This is a super easy recipe, made with 3 egg yolks, 2 cans Eagle Brand condensed milk, 1/2 c key lime juice, key lime zest, pinch of salt, and 2 tablespoons tequila for a kick. Whisk. The crust is spiffed up with 2/3 c. chopped almonds and 1 1/2 c. buttery graham cracker crumbs, 1 stick butter,  plus 1/4 c  sugar. Mix and press into pie pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool. Add filling. Place in freezer. When ready to serve, top with whipped cream and zest. Bandwidth's recipe is equally delicious.

Fabulous Cinco de Mayo celebrations continue today with the Novel Bakers!
The Novel Bakers

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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  1. Oh my, these photos are gorgeous! In particular, I'm feeling the sangria and the huevos rancheros. Yum! Happy Cinco de Mayo! :)

  2. Beautifully styled photos Michael Lee, and all the food looks and sounds divine~ the book is simply delightful, I love the artist's illustration style, and your menu is mouth watering! I haven't ever seen a south of the border version of pull apart bread, yum, and I love the addition of cream cheese to your bean dip, not to mention the tequila in your key lime pie, Olé!
    Homemade tortillas for fajitas are definitely the icing on your Cinco de Mayo celebration!

  3. All of your photos are so enticing, Michael Lee, and I want to try each and every recipe!! The huevos rancheros are the prettiest I've ever seen and that Mexican pull apart bread is a meal in itself. I love that Bandy made his own corn tortillas for those yummy fajitas. What a perfect Cinco de Mayo feast you've shared with us, complete with sangria and pie.

  4. This all looks lovely!! I'll have to try the huevos rancheros for sure!

  5. I have never seen anything like that Mexican Pull Apart Bread - looks so yummy, as does everything on your menu.

  6. Michael Lee,
    You have such an artistic eye~~every setting is a little work of art and the food photos make me want to reach in and pluck a bite from the screen. The huevos rancheros look more delicious than I could have imagined from just reading the recipe and that pie! I love key lime pie!! And the Sangria is so beautifully displayed and packed full of fruit. I think I needed to add more fruit to mine. It was too easy to drink :) I'm also drooling over Bandy's delicious tacos! Now that I've seen what a real one looks like, it will never be the same eating a dry taco shell from the box.
    This book was full of fun--thanks for letting me play along!

  7. i woke up this morning to the lovely sound of a vomiting dog, oh the joys of returning home, they can eat grass til the cows come home, oh wait, i mean they can eat grass, crawl in bed and then vomit. i ran as fast as i could from the room, kindle fire in hand at 3 am and began my fabulous cinco de mayo tour with the novel bakers! do you know how extra vibrant your post looks in the heart of the night, FAN FREAKING TASTIC!

    from your first shot i was hooked, i love the authentic look, the vibrant colors, every square inch of staging, i need a lesson in backdrops!

    theres that darn sangria, i made white of course, i was having fish ;-) it was extra refreshing wasn't it! i will say my fruit was barely ripe, i thought what a i disappointment as i was chopping it up... umm, news flash, it doesn't matter when soaked in wine! plus the hot sun really juiced up the fruit, well, and me too! ALL your shots are just magical~

    look how delish you eggs came out! love your addition of bacon. how did i miss this mexican pull apart bread! well besides bein drunk... dang it looks mouthwateringly inviting! or is it all the magic of your camera again, you always take THE best shots~

    girl you have a full one fiesta going, on to beans even!

    so impressed with bandy making his own tortillas, i pondered it, then swallowed another gulp of sangria to wipe that idea away! dang dang dang you had some fabulous cooking with fajitas and PIE! again the shots , are truly making me salivate... tequila in pie, you southerners are not afraid of you liquor!

    from the flowers, to the feast, to the photography, one hell of great share girl! thank you so much for being a novel baker, you made my morning delightful!

  8. What a fun and BEAUTIFUL post! I always enjoy your Novel Baker posts, and this one is no different. Now to hunt down a copy of this book.

  9. Oh my word, I am starving!! Drooling on the keyboard! :) You know, here in Texas we consider Mexican food a staple and part of our food pyramid. Everything here looks and sounds delish! Your photos are always so enticing. I would have to say if I had the sangria, bread and pie I'd be a happy camper right now! Thanks so much for sharing these wonderful recipes and the book.


  10. I am so enjoying visiting all of you, Novel Bakers and delighting in your presentations! The book looks fantastic and your photos are beautiful. Now I am hungry again:)

  11. Michael Lee, I snuck a peek at this post this morning before dashing out the door. I was hungry then and I'm hungry now... I love your Southern spin with the addition of bacon on your Huevos Rancheros. I agree with Kitty, they're the prettiest I've seen. Your Key Lime Pie is drool-worthy with the lemon zest and perfectly piped whipped cream. I know I would love the crust with the addition of your almonds! Bandy's homemade tortillas are tempting me. I have some masa left over from my cheesy masa cups, no tortilla press but I could squash 'em flat with a cast iron skillet! The fajitas look wonderful in the homemade shells, but I'd be just as happy with some bean dip slathered on them :) And the pull apart bread... just give me that and a glass of sangria!

    As usual your photos are beautiful and I can always count on you to have a flower somewhere! Your bottle blooms are so pretty paired with your woven mat and colorful backdrop.

    Thanks for the feast for the eyes and the fiesta! I hope Zap is in your lap and you have some sangria in your hand. ♥

  12. Your pics are very pretty Michael! Love the Mexican version of pull apart bread and your cast iron tortilla press is really neat! Happy Cinco de Mayo-enjoy:@)

  13. Beautiful photos...and amazing food.....I LOVE Key Lime Pie...and you just made it better with Tequila! Happy Cinco de Mayo!

  14. I could stare at those photos all day! I love Key Lime Pie, and perhaps I should be adventurous and try it with Tequila! There is nothing like homemade tortillas. I made the mistake of giving my pup a piece of my tortilla, and found out she was allergic to cornmeal. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

  15. Photos are gourmet us, pie I can jump in for!

  16. Please don't ever stop these Novel Baker posts, they are the best! I love checking out all four of your posts to see the inspiration that each of you drew from the same book. It's utterly fascinating, and when coupled with so much talent, it's a true feast for the eyes. You are a fantastic artist, both, in the kitchen, and behind a camera lens. I've learned a lot about staging by looking at your pictures. The food looks delicious!

  17. Your photos are fabulous and the food looks and sounds delicious! That pie looks absolutely perfect!

  18. Now I'm starving! Thank goodness I'm having Mexican tonight lol