Growing up, I was somberly informed that eating the occasional bowl of fruit-flecked Muesli was as zany, immoderate and exorbitantly indulgent as being allowed to stay up to watch Dallas; it was a wonderful thing that could be indulged in occasionally, but it was not an example upon which a pattern of behavior should be established. Fresh fruit was to be cut up and put in pies or eaten alone, and sauces that weren’t direct descendants of stock, butter and herb-based gravies were regarded with the darkest of suspicion. Raisins were, quite clearly, grapes that had failed, and until I was of voting age, I spurned them with the same knee-jerk repulsion reserved for fat, hairy green spiders that happened to cross my path.
Sprinkling cookies, sweet sauces or even sundaes with sea salt? Preposterous! I’d be just as likely to throw on a mink coat and head out to a Greenpeace rally.
Then college happened. I lived with Amy and Beth, free-thinking ladies who systematically hypnotized and enchanted me with their bean-soaking, tofu-frying, mosh-pit of Mediterranean flavor ways. Tahini, hummus, quinoa, pomegranates, kale all began to appear in my mini-fridge. They even tricked me into liking raisin bread (I assumed the shriveled fruit husks were chocolate chips, it was dark, there may have been a few beers involved), which opened up an entirely new section of the health food market they dragged me too – dried produce! Raisins were the gateway pome, but before long I was indulging in dried blueberries, cherries, cranberries, even figs and dates when I really needed to hit the flavor motherlode.
While I still fail to subscribe to all of their vegan, yeast-harvesting, herb-pot-as-a-medicine-cabinet conventions, I no longer think it’s frothing-at-the-mouth crazy talk to serve duck with a tart little cherry sauce or to throw some dried apricots in with my braised lamb. While I still can’t help but feel like I’m somehow transgressing when I mix up my sweet and savory courses, the results are too delicious to be denied.
This weekend, Stephen and I made raisin-flecked Baked Burritos with Walnut Sauce and Skillet Cornbread, with just a touch of sugar (I know, I know – sugar and cornbread is technically a no-no, but I’ve built up a tolerance for dried fruit and I have to get my kicks somehow, see? ) We also committed another delicious sin against common culinary sense: beer milkshakes!
Dig in, below.
Baked Burritos with Walnut Sauce
Makes 6 servings
Ingredients for filling:
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- ½ small yellow onion, medium dice
- 1 Cubanelle pepper (poblano or plain old bell would be fine too), medium dice
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound ground chicken (not lean)
- ½ – 1 tsp each cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon
- 1 TBSP flour
- ½ cup golden raisins (dried currants would be great too)
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 1 cup tomato sauce (homemade or canned is fine)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Ingredients for Sauce:
- 3 ounces queso fresco (fresh white cheese, mozzarella will work in a pinch), grated
- ½ cup walnuts
- 1 TBSP sugar
- 1 cup milk (whole)
- Salt to taste
Ingredients for Assembling Dish:
- 2 ounces queso fresco, grated
- 6 flour tortillas
- Vegetable oil spray
- Optional: Parsley, chopped, for garnish; salsa, sour cream, more grated cheese for garnish
- Heat olive oil in medium stockpot. When hot, add onions and cook over medium-high heat until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add peppers and cook until softened, about 2 more minutes. Add garic and cook until fragrant, being careful to not burn the garlic. Add salt and pepper as you go.
- Add meat and spices and stir it regularly until it’s almost cooked through. Add flour and stir to incorporate. Toss in raisins, parsley and the tomato sauce. This can be done up to two days ahead of time and stored, tightly covered, in the fridge.
- To make the sauce, puree all of the ingredients in a blender and add salt and pepper to taste.
- To assemble, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Portion out about ½ cup of filling in each flour tortilla and wrap up, sealing all but one end. Lay rolled up burritos in a shallow gratin or casserole dish sprayed with vegetable oil. Sprinkle 2 ounces queso fresco on, cover with foil and pop in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until heated through. Uncover, pour on sauce and pop back in the oven to just slightly warm the sauce, about 2 minutes. Garnish with parsley and go!
Nutritional Breakdown for Baked Burritos with Walnut Sauce: About 490 calories and 21 grams of fat, mostly good Omega-3 packed fats. High in protein, iron, cholesterol. Decent source of manganese, copper.
Cost Breakdown for Baked Burritos with Walnut Sauce: About $2.75 per serving.
Verdict / In the Future: Surprisingly complex flavors, fairly easy assembly, fun to eat, holds well for lunch leftovers. This is definitely going in our rotation.
Makes 10 servings
- 2 TBSP vegetable oil or lard
- 1 ½ cups fine yellow cornmeal
- ½ cup flour
- 2 cobs corn (shucked and roasted with plenty of salt, wrapped in foil, in a 350 oven for about 10 minutes cut the corn from the cob) or 1 ½ cups canned corn (drained)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 egg, lightly beaten with fork
- 1 ½ cups milk (whole)
- ½ cup sour cream (light is fine, not fat free)
- 2 oz sharp cheddar, grated
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Pour lard or oil in cast-iron skillet and heat. When hot, set aside (should heat up in a few minutes).
- Mix dry ingredients (except cheese and corn) and set aside.
- Whisk the eggs, milk and sour cream. Make well in dry ingredients and mix in the milk, cheese, corn and hot oil. Stir until just combined. Plop into skillet and cook until golden brown. The cornbread will pull away from the skillet sides a bit.
- Cool in skillet for about 10-20 minutes, invert on a plate. Slice up like a pie and serve!
Nutritional Breakdown for Skillet Cornbread: About 265 calories and 8 grams of fat. So-so source of fiber, calcium.
Cost Breakdown for Skillet Cornbread: About $0.50 per serving.
Verdict / In the Future: This is great grab and go cornbread; perfect for a picnic or cookout. “It’s not cakey; it’s solid and it doesn’t crumble, but it doesn’t taste too heavy,” Stephen said, ticking off his trifecta of cornbread sins (cakey, crumbly, excessively lardy). The fresh corn adds texture and interest too.
Salted Guinness Shake
Makes 4 lady-like servings, 2 big gulps
- 1 1/2 cups vanilla or chocolate ice cream or frozen yogurt (I wussed out and made it with fat-free vanilla froyo because I wanted a light summer drink; real ice cream would have been a lot richer and arguably, tastier)
- 1/2 cup cubes of ice (optional; this will create more froth, a thinner shake)
- ½ cup whole milk
- 1 12-oz bottle Guinness
- ½ tsp salt (sea salt or truffle salt if you have it)
- Cinnamon to taste
- Mr. Goodbar for garnish, just because
- Blend and serve!
Nutritional Breakdown for Guinness Shake: 235 calories and 2 grams of fat for the big gulps. Full of calcium and a so-so source for iron. Guinness is lower in iron than previously thought, but is strangely high in artery de-clogging antioxidants. Slainte.
Cost Breakdown for Guinness Shake: About $1 a serving.
Verdict / In the Future: It would be glorious with whipped cream and chocolate shavings / sprinkles. Sadly we drank ours sans. For me, it was the perfect Guinness with dessert’s cozy embrace; for Stephen, it was an evil trick. “It’s bitter in a way that I wasn’t expecting and did not appreciate! Guinness is supposed to be bitter, but … ptoo!”