FLIPS & FLOPS
I’m sure you noticed the new header on What’s for dinner, Doc? Who can resist a pelican? My new series La Grinda Cooks became La Gringa Cooks: Flips & Flops from Baja, Mexico. The title speaks for itself but the idea for the flips & flops came while standing in my kitchen dressed in my kitchen uniform, shorts and you guessed it, flip-flops. Dreaming and waiting for my fresh pepper cheese to form lovely curds and whey, I caught a glimpse of the Sea of Cortez. Ok, to be fair it’s a sliver of blue ocean, if I stand on tip toes and tilt my head at a 45 degree angle south 😎. Anyway I waited and waited and waited. No beautiful curds, no clear whey, just a mess of salted acidic milk.
A Major FLOP. I have had other flops while trying to adapt my culinary skills to the climate, ingredients and flair of Mexican cuisine. So travel with me, summer attire optional, as I explore the best of the flips (hits) and flops (mishaps) in my Baja kitchen.
Now that I’ve peaked your interest and whet your appetite for acidic, salted milky cheese here’s the flop.
When milk does not becomes cheese:
Making quéso fresco is easy and I’ve succeeded many times in the U.S. You can find the recipe here. I purchased readily available pasteurized whole cow’s milk (leche de vaca entera) and white vinegar (vinagre blanco). I finely chopped jalapeño and red bell pepper in anticipation of making Quéso Fresco con Pimientos. The local goat ranchers make a fresh fabulous quéso and I was sure that I could recreate one with cow milk. I followed the directions exactly. The milk partially separated but the curds were minuscule and there was never a clear whey layer. The problem it seems was the milk. Mexican milk has less protein than U.S. milk and that can affect curd yield. The lower protein content makes it difficult to froth the milk for a cappuccino also. The most likely reason for cheese to fail is old milk which is too acidic or the milk has been ultra-pasteurized. The milk didn’t say ultra-pasteurized but who knows, it could have been. When in doubt, blame the milk. Next time I will use fresh goat milk from a local rancher. Stay tuned. I salvaged the thickened milky cheese layer from the sack cloth, added diced jalapeño pepper and red bell pepper and a sauce was born. I turned that flop into a flip with a slight of hand.
Finally the Recipe
Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Poblano and Red Bell Pepper
2 medium to large sweet potatoes (yams)
1 red onion
1 sweet red pepper
1 poblano pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Scrub vegetables and sweet potatoes, I leave the peel for more fiber and nutrition. Dice into 1 inch pieces, mix with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Microwave for 5 minutes to soft the potatoes. Grill in a grill basket over medium heat, 350-375F, until soft and slightly charred. Serve plain or drizzle with plain yogurt, la crema, or failed quéso fresco. Eat as a side dish with grilled meat or as a vegetarian entrée by adding legumes, nuts or more dairy to increase the protein content.
Savor every bite and enjoy the journey.
I’m taking this easy side dish to Fiesta Friday where you can find delicious recipes from around the globe.