Irma’s Fruit Salad “Ensalada” Juice

Andy’s favorite drink of all time is his mother’s fruit salad, or “Ensalada”, juice.  His mother makes this juice for every family gathering. I made it for the first time this weekend for a dinner party.

We originally thought this drink was singular to Andy’s family, but recently we discovered another El Salvadoran-American family who makes a similar drink.  When I did a little online research we realized that “Ensalada” is a very popular homemade drink in El Salvador and is also served in El Salvadoran restaurants.  Every home cook makes it a little differently, and in El Salvador they use whatever fruits are available. Here is the recipe for the version Irma brought with her when she immigrated to the U.S.:

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Ingredients: four oranges, two apples, one mango, one pineapple, one can of frozen orange concentrate, one bottle of mango concentrate, and one bottle of jugo de marañón (cashew juice).  Not pictured: water and sugar, to taste

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I started by pouring the cashew juice, mango concentrate and orange concentrate into a large stock pot.

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Then I sliced one of the oranges and used a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from the mango.  I chopped it into manageable pieces and…

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This next step is where I became a cheater-cheater-pumpkin-eater.  When Andy’s mom makes this juice she hacks at each fruit with a machete-like knife.  For hours.  Hack! Hack! Hack! One by one the tiny and juicy pieces of fruit fall into the bowl and swim about in the fruit concentrate. It’s beautiful and authentic.

I used a food processor.  Please don’t tell her.

The chopped mango went into the processor first for a few seconds on “pulse” and then I scooped it directly into the concentrate.

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Next, I cut up the apples, leaving the skin on per Irma’s instructions.  Then I unceremoniously dumped the apple pieces into the food processor and hit the pulse button.

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For the pineapple I used a chef’s knife to cut off the top and bottom to create a stable surface for cutting, then I sliced off the rind and cut the fruit off the core.  The pineapple took three trips to the food processor.

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Did I mention my husband was supposed to be making this juice?

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Next I added three quarts of water, but you could add more or less depending on how thick you prefer your juice.  There’s a ton of fruit pieces in this, so it’s gonna be somewhat thick no matter how much water is added.

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The recipe Andy got from his mother said to sweeten to taste. After a thorough search of my cupboards I was only able to find one and a half cups of regular sugar, and I added the entire kit and kaboodle to the juice.  My version tasted much less sweet than Irma’s, so I’m guessing she typically uses at least another cup of sugar, depending on the ripeness of the fruit.

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I sliced the remaining oranges (which I hadn’t sliced earlier only because I forgot after I got caught up in my rebellious use of the food processor) and put them into the juice.

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It made about a gallon and a half, easily quenching the thirst of all eight adults at the dinner party with some leftover for the next day.  I think I’ll go have another glass.

-Norma

French Onion Soup and Imperial Chicken

Today I decided that I would try my hand at french onion soup because I had a bunch of leftover onions from the holidays wasting away in my basket and with Mark getting ready to go out of town, I didn’t see another good opportunity to use them all before they went bad.  I also had a sliver of Gruyère cheese leftover as well, and that cheese is expensive so it was nice to find a use for the rest of it also.

I searched the interwebs for a recipe and ending up combing ones from Tyler Florence via Food Network, Smitten Kitchen and The Pioneer Woman. Let’s get started.

First I threw a stick of butter into a dutch oven and put the pot over a burner on medium heat.

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Then I started peeling, halving, and slicing 5 medium to large sized sweet onions.  The recipes generally call for regular, yellow onions but I generally tend to buy the sweet ones because I prefer them in most things, so that’s what I used.

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ImageOnce the onions were sliced, the butter was melted and just starting to brown.

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So I threw the onions in and stirred them around to coat them in the butter and then let them cook (stirring occasionally) for about 20 minutes.  While the onions were cooking on the stove, I pre-heated the oven to 400 degrees and grated this little nub of Greyere cheese that I had left:

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I added a little bit of parmesean as well to stretch the cheese and increase the flavor profile.

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I didn’t have alot of bread choices on hand today, so I took 4 slices of regular Shepherd’s sandwich bread and I used a biscuit cutter to cut circles that would fit inside of my ramekins.  But you could (and probably should) use slices of french loaf.

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After I cut the bread, I buttered it on both sides and set it aside for now.

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After about 20 minutes, the onions looked like this:

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I put the pot in the oven and cracked the lid just a bit to let out some of the steam.

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Then I walked away and watched the football game for 30 minutes.  When I came back, they looked like this:

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I stirred the onions a bit and added a half a teaspoon of sugar to help with the browning…

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And 2 bay leaves to help with the flavor.

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Then I mostly covered the pot again and put it back in the oven for another 45 minutes.  When I took it out, it looked like this:

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I set the pot back on the stove top over medium/high heat, removed the bay leaves, added about a cup of white wine, scraped down the sides, and let it cook down about 10 minutes.

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Then I reduced the heat to low, added about 3 tablespoons of flour, and simmered for another 5-10 minutes.

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Then I turned the heat back up to high and added two boxes (aka two quarts) of beef stock, three cloves of minced garlic, and a couple of dashes of Worcestershire.  Once it came to a boil, I turned the heat down and let it simmer for 45 minutes.

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While the soup was simmering, I started on the “Imperial Chicken.”  This is a version of a recipe I actually learned to make as a child through a cooking class my mom signed me up for.  It’s nothing special, but I thought it would pair well with the soup.  First take two chicken breasts…

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And slice them in half…

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So that you have 4 breast pieces.

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Then you need to assemble the breading stations.  I use wax paper for the dry stations for easy clean up and less dishes.  On the first piece of wax paper, pour about a cup of flour, then melt a half a stick of butter in a bowl.  On the last piece of wax paper, combine about a half of cup of Parmesean cheese, a cup or so of bread crumbs, and about 2 teaspoons each of oregano, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.  You can really use any seasonings that sound good to you, or you can use pre-seasoned bread crumbs, there’s no magic formula.

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Before you started assembling the breaded chicken breasts, heat a large pan with about 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of oil on medium/high.  Really you can use any lipid that you want, but I find that half butter and half canola oil is great for browning.  The important thing is that the amount should be enough to fully coat the pan.

Drop each piece of chicken in the flour…

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Then in the butter…

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Then in the bread crumb mixture.

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Once they are all prepared, place them in the hot pan and cook for about 7-10 minutes on each side.  You want the outside to look like this:

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And you also want the insides cooked through so if your crust is getting nicely browned, yet it still gives to the touch of your finger in the middle, turn the heat down and let it cook a little bit longer.  While this was happening to took the opportunity to move my dirty dishes to the sink…

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Wipe down my counter… Image

And set the table.

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When the chicken is brown on the outside and cooked through, remove to a plate and let rest for 10 minutes.

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While the chicken is resting, turn on your broiler (if it has a low setting, use it) and place the buttered pieces of bread under it until it’s nice and golden brown.

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Once the bread is toasted, pour the soup into ramekins until they are about 3/4 full…

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Then add two pieces of bread, (if you used french loaf, you could just use once slice)…

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And then a handful of cheese.

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Stick the ramekins on a cookie sheet and place them under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly and browning on the corners, like this:

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Place the ramekins on a plate with the chicken and serve.

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I liked this dinner because it really was easy to make and the flavors went well together. Here’s a link to the recipe.  Try it sometime when it’s cold and grey outside like it was today.

— Kate

NYE

We had a great New Year’s Eve party at Julia’s house.  Since they had recently re-refinished their basement after some flooding issues (good times!), we were so excited to party it up in the new space!

They chose a 20’s/Speakeasy theme and everyone really got into the spirit of it!  Here’s some pics of the costumes.  (Of course I fussed around with them in Photoshop to give them a vintage feel.)

 

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We had such a good time celebrating and the food was delicious!  Here’s some of what we ate:

Happy New Year!

– The Playing Houses Girls