Stuck eating canned goods? Here are some tips to help your dinners taste a lot better.
Chef Gloria Jordan of La Trattoria Cafe Napoli in Fort Myers shares some of her favorite recipes using ingredients found at Asian and Latin markets.
Forced to stay home due to COVID-19, many people are rediscovering their kitchen and cooking. Social media sites are full of home cooks and professional chefs posting videos and photos of what they are preparing in quarantine.
Gloria Jordan is one of them. Her south Fort Myers restaurant, La Trattoria Café Napoli, is open for take out; however, she has been cooking up a storm at home.
Cooking is her therapy.
“I release my stress in the kitchen,” Jordan says. “It’s my escape, it’s my medicine.”
She puts together dishes designed for repurposing, turning one meal into several.
“I come from Cuba,” she says, “and a home where we didn’t waste food.”
When big grocers and retailers are running out of supplies, smaller, locally owned international markets are, for the most part, staying stocked and are a flavor treasure trove.
It’s those stores, outdoor markets and local farms where Jordan has been shopping. Using the ingredients found, she offers a few recipes to try at home.
Going back to her roots, she makes a pot roast.
“It’s so easy and the pressure cooker is magic, especially for people who don’t like to cook.”
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The leftovers are perfect for tacos using fresh corn tortillas found at a Latin market.
Inspired at the Asian market, Jordan collected ingredients for a hearty soup substituting mung beans for lentils. It’s filling on its own or good alongside her mortadella sandwich, a nod to local Italian stores.
“Cali-style” is what she calls the meals she’s assembled for us.
“California is a melting pot of cuisine especially with so much Mexican and Asian influences,” she says.
“It makes me sad to see the recent discrimination against these groups.
“Cooking is about bringing flavors and cultures together. I mean we’re all in this together right?”
Gloria Jordan’s reusable pot roast
2 pounds beef roast
Root vegetables: Gloria uses 3 boniato (Cuban sweet potatoes) and one small butternut squash cut into chunks
1 small onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, diced
For the marinade
Melanage Savor and Sense Blends (substitute your favorite spice blend or make your own. These contain garlic, onion, red pepper, tomato, rosemary, thyme, white pepper)
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Rub ingredients over roast, coating well. Marinate in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
For pot roast
Coat bottom of a large, deep pot with light olive oil and heat to medium high until smoking slightly. Reduce heat to medium and using tongs, sear all sides of the roast. Remove pot from heat. Add vegetables, salt and leftover juice from the marinade and sear lightly.
Scoop vegetables into the pressure cooker first, place meat on top. Sprinkle all with salt and set timer for 90 minutes. If using slow cooker, follow manufacturer’s instructions. Serve as a hearty stew.
Gloria’s notes: Use any hearty vegetables you have: potato, rutabaga, carrots; nothing soft. In Cuba we used Calabasas pumpkin a lot. The secret to good pot roast is a good marinade. You can use any mix of herbs and spices you like.
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch culantro (can substitute parsley)
3 whole green onions
salt to taste
Put herbs and onion in a blender. Add ¼ cup of water and mix. If too thick add more water. Squeeze lemon and add salt to taste.
Gloria’s note: Use this salsa on sandwiches, chicken salad and eggs
Pot roast tacos
Heat the tortillas. Fill with strips of the leftover roast, then top with salsa, onions, cilantro and crème fraiche. Add hot sauce as desired.
Mung bean soup with dried shiitakes
1 small white onion, diced
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
½ zucchini, diced
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
1 handful mint, chopped
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon muscade, or seven-spice blend as an alternate
7 ounces dried mung beans
1 or more ounces dehydrated shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon miso
Re-hydrate mushrooms according to package directions.
Saute vegetables, herbs and spices in light olive oil until fragrant. Add mung beans, stirring frequently. Add soy sauce. Add water from shiitakes and more to cover vegetables, about four cups total.
Bring to a boil, reduce to medium low, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes.
Add mushrooms five minutes before serving and remove from heat. Top with bean sprouts and serve.
Gloria’s note: If you want a little heat, add a spoonful of chili-garlic sauce. I’m obsessed with it. I put it in everything. I love dehydrated stuff, like the shiitakes. What a good idea to keep in the pantry so they won’t get bad.
Farmer’s mortadella sandwich
Ciabatta bread (may substitute a thin baguette)
½ cup ricotta
1 tomato, sliced and sprinkled with salt
1 onion, thinly sliced
Fresh basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Drizzle olive oil and chili oil into ricotta and mix well. Cut cibatta into thick slices. Spread ricotta on each slice. Layer half with basil, mortadella, onion and tomato. Drizzle with more EVOO and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Lightly toast open-face in toaster oven. Put together and serve.
Gina Birch writes about food and wine for The News-Press and at thebirchbeat.blogspot.com. Follow her as @ginabirch on Twitter and find her on Facebook.
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