Open-Faced Poached Egg and Hummus Quesadilla

Open-Faced Quesadilla with Poached Egg and Hummus

Here’s a colorful quick breakfast (and, for me, lunch) idea: poached eggs atop hummus on a open-faced quesadilla of flour tortilla with sharp cheddar cheese, tomato salsa, fresh scallion and habanero pepper.

This is simply a melenge of favorite ingredients that I almost always have on hand.

Poached Egg and Hummus Quesadilla

Oh, on an urelated note, Happy Canada Day! :)
Here some interesting Canadian craft beers for the occasion:

Scrambled Egg with Tortilla Strips and Portabella Mushroom

Scrambled Egg with Tortilla Strips and Portabella Mushroom

Here’s a typical sort of quick breakfast that I make… especially since plain scrambled egg is *boring*.

First, cut one or two corn tortillas into strips (maximum length about half the diameter of the tortilla) and crisp these in olive oil in a pan, then remove from heat.  Saute sliced baby bella mushroom, perhaps with some garlic, salt and pepper, and place those aside as well.  Prepare one or two scrambled eggs as you like; here I mixed in about 1 T. of kyopoolu sauce; I’ve mentioned this red pepper, eggplant, and garlic-based sauce in a number of earlier posts.  Lastly, mix the ingredients together and top with cheese if you like:
A great way to add taste and texture to boring old scrambled egg!

I learned to add crisp corn tortilla strips to scrambled egg from my Mexican sister-in-law. :-)

Tilapia Tostadas

Wow, I see I haven’t posted in 3 weeks!  I bet you were all worried, “Is Dave still eating?”

I offer this hiatus as evidence that I do have a job… actually, I was doing my research work and also had a nice week visit to San Diego for a workshop and to visit old and new friends.

So, lets catch up with some quick-and-dirty foods.

This one is simply a serving suggestion: tilapia tostadas… mashed black beans, shredded napa cabbage, queso fresco, and a tilapia filet (from frozen, defrosted in water and patted dry) lightly pan-fried in oil with oregano, salt, pepper, and a jalapeno hot sauce, and scallion greens, all atop a crisp corn tortilla.

One tip I have for you is to buy corn tortillas and bake them in the oven to crisp them, rather than using those “hard” deep-fried corn tortillas for tostadas.

Chicken Tinga

Chicken Tinga Tostada topped with ripe avocado, scotch bonnet queso fresco, and cilantro leaf.

I’m a huge fan of Mexican and Tex-Mex food; if pressed, I usually say it’s my favorite. As such, I was surprised that, to the best of my recollection, I’d not heard of this fantastic dish.

In preface, I can say that after making this in my kitchen, I’m pretty sure my house has never smelled so good. Perhaps it did on Thanksgiving Day. :-)

My inspiration was: (a) to make something Mexican in honor of Cinco de Mayo – despite the idiocy that sometimes surrounds its “observance” in the U.S., and (b) to use up my chorizo.

Chicken Tinga ingredients.

I started with this impressive recipe: chicken tinga, apparently by a Kiwi chef now living in the Yucatan. One thing that struck me about this recipe is that many ingredients are used twice: to poach the chicken and also to make the sauce.

Here’s are my modifications:

  • I used well over 2 pounds of chicken breasts; perhaps 5, so approximately doubled the onion and spices to poach the chicken.
  • I used dried thyme and oregano rather than fresh.
  • I used one medium to large red onion (rather than white) in the sauce.
  • I used reconstituted dried ancho chilies (~7 small-medium), rather than using chipotle chilies in adobo sauce.
  • I used the water from the rehydrated chilies both to boil the chicken, and as part of the blended portion of the sauce.
  • I used 1 14.5 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, instead of fresh tomatoes.
  • I used 1/2 white vinegar and 1/2 apple cider vinegar.
  • I used an additional 1 T. brown sugar, to taste, to balance the vinegar.

First, when rehydrating ancho chilies, I do as Rick Bayless suggested, and cover them with a small plate to keep them submerged, for 30-45 minutes.  Remove the stems and the seeds and rinse them before blending them into the sauce.

Rehydrating ancho chiles

I tasted the chicken before combining it with the sauce, and it was quite flavorful on its own.  (I’ve often prepared chicken breasts for pulled or shredded chicken by boiling it in V8 juice; that’s a nice short-cut, but not nearly as good as with these spices.)

Poaching/boiling chicken breasts

Sautéing red onion strips and browning chorizo.

Preparing the sauce: onions, chorizo, and garlic

Sauce with blended tomatoes, ancho chiles, vinegar, sugar, and spice added

My total prep time was about 1 1/4 hours, including a wait for the chicken to cool so that I could pull or shred it rather finely, finishing by stirring it into the sauce to simmer for 5 minutes.

I took the Chicken Tinga to a friend’s house where we served atop both crisp tostadas and warmed corn tortillas along with shredded iceberg lettuce, ripe avocado, cilanto leaves, and crumbled Scotch Bonnet Queso Fresco.

Chicken Tinga tostada

I’m really happy with how this Chicken Tinga turned out, and, if I’m to believe them, so were the 3 friends, including one child, that have tasted it so far!  I can also suggest the substitution of ancho chilies (that are just a bit spicy); their flavor worked really well in the sauce.

Here’s the recipe that I adapted:

On a subsequent morning, I placed a poached egg atop Chicken Tinga for a nice breakfast from the leftovers… a serving suggestion from the video linked above.

Chicken Tinga with poached egg and queso fresco on spiced bread.

There are some complementary mexican recipes and interesting videos here:

Scotch Bonnet Queso Fresco

Scotch Bonnet Queso Fresco

This is my second foray into cheese-making; my first was making paneer, that I made according to this post: Paneer 101.

As far as I know, Mexican queso fresco is pretty much the same thing as paneer, except usually saltier and is made using vinegar to cause the milk to curdle, instead of lemon juice.  It’s a simple, fresh, crumbly, non-melting cheese that is great for Mexican dishes.

If you’ve followed my blog, you might have noticed I’ve been having a love/hate, hmm no, just a relationship with scotch bonnet peppers. I’ve loved habaneros for both their heat and flavor, but most recently bought about 10 scotch bonnets instead, after seeing their similarity and learning they’re related varieties. Unfortunately, I’m not enjoying them as much. To me, the scotch bonnet has just been a ridiculously hot and a less flavorful, red version of the tasty orange habanero. Oh, well, I only have one scotch bonnet left so I’m determined to use it; I thought, “Why not put it in a cheese, to be soothing from its heat and impart some nice color and spice to this typically mild cheese?”

Preparing to make queso fresco.


  • milk, 1 gallon; I used 2% just because that’s what I had on hand.
    (Higher fat content means higher yield, so one would typically use whole milk.)
  • vinegar, white or other, ~6 T.
  • salt, 2 T., plus more to taste
  • optional: 1-3 scotch bonnet peppers, finely minced and lightly sautéed

Since the scotch bonnet addition was an experiment, I decided to prepare 2/3 of the cheese as plain queso fresco, and 1/3 with the pepper, hence I used only one pepper.


You know what? I’m not going to describe this. It’s written up well in both of these recipes:

Squeezing the whey from the curd in cheese cloth

Scotch Bonnet Queso Fresco before pressing

Using plates to press moisture from the cheese
(I pressed it with the plates held vertically over the sink.)

Drying queso fresco under weight

I will leave you with these tips from my experience, however:

  • The first time, when I made paneer, I didn’t squeeze enough of the moisture from the cheese.  This time, at a friend’s suggestion, I pressed it between plates, and that did the trick.
  • Still concerned that I hadn’t removed enough moisture, I made the mistake of letting it sit in the refrigerator, in cheese cloth after pressing, for 6-8 hours, intending to dehydrate it;  this was a bit too much.  If it’s squeezed properly, 2 hours on the countertop is probably plenty “drying” time.
  • Queso fresco is typically quite salty.  Even though I added 2 T. of salt to the milk, the result wasn’t very salty, so before squeezing it in cheese cloth, I added some more salt (at the same time as the minced hot pepper); in my opinion it still wasn’t enough salt.  Next time I will add even more salt when squeezing it, before pressing it.

Scotch Bonnet Queso Fresco

This was a good Cinco de Mayo project, and I was left with two varieties of queso fresco ready for my forthcoming Chicken Tinga tostadas and tacos!

Avocado & Shrimp Quesadilla

Avocado & Shrimp Quesadilla with Coconut Lime-Peanut Sauce

The Shrimp Week posts continue!

With some left-over grilled shrimp and dipping sauce, I made this delicious quesadilla for a quick breakfast.

It is simply hummus, cooked shrimp cut to bite-sized pieces, ripe avocado, and a coconut milk-based Peanut-Lime Dipping Sauce warmed open-faced in a pan over medium heat until the tortilla reaches the desired crispness.
I wait to add the avocado at the end, since I prefer it unwarmed.

As it happens, hummus is commonly eaten for breakfast in its countries of origin.

Avocado & Shrimp Quesadilla with Coconut Peanut-Lime Sauce

Hmm, now that I think of it, since I substituted hummus for cheese, I guess it’s not a proper quesadilla.  How do I get away with this stuff?  Yay for fusion cooking!

I’ve been making quesadillas since I was a child, having been introduced to them by my California cousin.

Here’s a quesadilla-making tip: while I didn’t do it here, when warming the quesadilla in the pan, spread the ingredients, especially the cheese, over the whole tortilla, not just one half.  The cheese melts faster, and the other ingredients warm faster, so you’re less likely to over-brown your tortilla… and the melted cheese acts as an adhesive so you can still fold it over without having the ingredients falling off the “top” half.

Here’s the recipe for the sauce:

Chorizo & Chips Huevos Rancheros

Chorizo & Chips Huevos Rancheros

I’m not a “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” kinda guy. I don’t often eat breakfast, owing to the fact that I start the day later than most of you. :)
But, if I’m not going to have lunch, a big breakfast is in order.

Here’s one of my huevos rancheros variations.
(Triple-Decker Huevos Rancheros is my pièce de résistance.)

This morning, to serve just myself, I fried 3 sliced multi-colored small potatoes in canola oil, seasoned with salt & pepper and minced garlic at the end, so as not to burn the garlic.
Making potato chips in a pan is a bit tedious, but a texture somewhat crisp is achievable; use a big pan on medium to medium-high heat, and arrange the potato slices so that they don’t overlap much, and flip them periodically. A very thin, metal spatula works well.

A mild, mexican (uncooked) chorizo.

Meanwhile, I fried 3-4 oz. mild mexican chorizo, crumbling it as it browned. While both the chips and chorizo drained on paper towel to soak excess oil, I scrambled 2 eggs in the chorizo pan, and stirred in a bit of sour cream and chives when the eggs were done.  Adding a cream or sauce to scrambled egg, just when done, lowers its temperature immediately to help prevent overcooking.

I served it topped with hot sauce and chopped chive.
How is it?  It’s hard to beat potatoes, eggs, and sausage for breakfast… or lunch. :)

Huevos Rancheros with Mild Chorizo & Garlic Potato Chips

P.S. If breakfast were a country, this would be its flag:

Flag of the Republic of Breakfast

Un Cuento de Dos Chiles Rellenos

A Tale of Two Stuffed Peppers

Chile Relleno de Queso with Ancho Chile Sauce and Scotch Bonnet Beans and Rice

Baked Chile Relleno stuffed with Queso Fresco, Beans and Rice, atop Ancho Chile Sauce, accompanied by Rice Fritters

The ranting chef, in a recent post, asked, “Do you have a `go to’ test dish for the places you go?”
My favorite “go to” dishes for mexican restaurants are: (1) torta and (2) chiles rellenos.  I’d not made either of these at home, so now I’m tackling chiles rellenos.  In my experience, chiles rellenos are typically poblano peppers, stuffed with cheese, batter-dipped, and deep-fried to a golden brown.  As with other stuffed peppers, there are many variations involving the stuffing and the coating.  For instance, many years ago at a restaurant, I enjoyed a nice chile rellenos coated with crushed, multi-colored tortilla chips.  Since I mostly avoid deep-fried foods, that was a great alternative that, instead of submersing in oil, could be baked – like the relatively bland, but convenient bell-pepper-based stuffed peppers my mom used to make with ground beef, rice, and tomato sauce…  and, yes, I know tortilla chips are deep-fried.  But, while shunning explicitly deep-fried foods, I did also allow myself potato chips, but not french fries.  Whatever; live and let me live with my own innocuous delusions. :)

Last week I bought three fresh poblano peppers (about $1.50) and some queso fresco (about $7 for 12 oz. – seemed expensive, but that’s Whole Foods for you) and decided I would make each as a differently-prepared chili relleno.

Making chiles rellanos for the first time is non-trivial.  First, you’ll want an accompanying sauce or salsa.  Then, you’ll need to blacken or blister and peel the peppers (to remove the bitter skin), carefully clean and stuff them, coat them, and then cook them, preferably without the filling falling out and without the result looking disgusting.  I managed that on two out of three of the peppers I prepared: (1) a typical cheese-stuffed pepper, and (2) a baked, tortilla chip-encrusted pepper with a more interesting filling;  the third pepper we’ll appropriately name, “chile relleno not appearing in this post.”  (It will, however, be appearing on my plate of leftovers for dinner sometime soon, i.e., too ugly to post, but not too ugly to eat.  Full disclosure:  I waited too long to batter-dip it and the batter had lost its meringue-ness, and thus did not coat the pepper well.)

To accompany the chiles, I used an Ancho Chile Sauce that I had prepared in advance.  I liked the idea of matching the stuffed poblano with an ancho chile-based sauce, since the ancho chile is actually a dried, ripe poblano pepper.

Typical Chiles Rellenos ingredients:

  • large fresh green poblano peppers (2)
  • canola oil
  • queso fresco (~4 oz., crumbled)
  • all-purpose flour
  • eggs (3 separated, whites whisked until frothy and smooth, yolks carefully folded in)

As an alternative filling, I created a Scotch Bonnet Beans & Rice, since I wanted a spicy kick, as chiles rellenos are typically quite mild; I acheived a moderate level of heat by using just a single scotch bonnet pepper, with seeds and veins removed.

Baked, Tortilla Chip-encrusted Chile Relleno ingredients:

  • large fresh green poblano pepper (1)
  • queso fresco (~1.5 oz., crumbled)
  • scotch bonnet beans and rice (see below, or use another stuffing)
  • egg (1, whisked, as a wash)
  • tortilla chips (crushed, ~1/2 cup)

To get started, we need to blacken and blister the skin of the peppers as thoroughly as possible. This is so that we can peel them.  I used a combination of methods: directly placing them over the stovetop gas flame and turning them in a pan over high heat.  Previously I’ve done this under the broiler (turning frequently); in hindsight, I think the broiler works best.
Once blackened and blistered, place them in a plastic Zip Loc bag to steam and cool.

Blistering the Poblano Peppers for peeling

While the peppers are cooling, prepare the stuffing(s).

Scotch Bonnet Beans and Rice ingredients:

  • rice (I used 1 cup rinsed jasmine rice, because that’s what I had on hand)
  • water from reconstituted ancho chiles or soup stock (2 cups)
  • scallions (2 chopped, white and green portions separated)
  • black beans (1 can, rinsed and drained)
  • garlic (2 cloves minced)
  • sweet corn (frozen, ~2/3 cup)
  • pimento (2 oz.)
  • large green olives (~6, sliced, I used jalapeno-stuffed olives)
  • pickled jalapeno (1 T., minced)
  • scotch bonnet pepper (optional, 1, seeded, deveined, dry roasted, and minced as finely as possible, or substitute a habanero, jalapeno, or some other milder pepper)
  • cumin seed (1/2 t.)
  • saffron threads (optional)

Scotch Bonnet Beans & Rice Ingredients

I placed most of the ingredients (except for the beans and scallion greens) in a rice cooker, with the corn in the steamer basket, and cooked with the rice.

Cooking the Rice

When rice is done, toss in the steamed corn, black beans, scallion greens, and salt to taste; and using chopsticks; using chopsticks is a good tip if ever you need to mix fine ingredients into a moist or somewhat sticky rice because it won’t stick to the utensils too much.

Scotch Bonnet Beans & Rice for stuffing, as a side dish, and for rice fritters

Our simpler stuffing is the queso fresco.

Crumbled Queso Fresco

When the peppers are reasonably cooled, carefully peel them, rinse them in water, cut a slit perhaps 2/3 down one side and carefully remove the seed bunch, any veins, and any loose seeds.  I leave the stem intact for handling and for presentation.

Deseeding and Cleaning Poblano Peppers

Next, carefully stuff the peppers as desired.  For some, simply fill them moderately with crumbled queso fresco.  For others, perhaps stir queso fresco in with the beans and rice to form a stuffing.

To bake peppers rolled in tortilla chip crumbs, first dip the stuffed pepper in an egg wash, then roll in crushed tortilla chips, and place in a greased baking pan.  Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour (occassionally check to be sure chips aren’t too brown), or partially bake (e.g., 1/2 hour) and store to reheat by baking later.

To fry peppers in oil, prepare the egg batter for the peppers by vigorously whip the egg whites with a whisk into a meringue consistency (a large metal bowl is best, but I don’t have one), then carefully fold the yolks in to mix evenly, but be careful not to overstir, which will cause the whites to collapse.

Whipped Egg Whites and Separated Yolks to be folded together for Batter.

For the peppers to be fried in oil, first coat them with flour.

Dipping a Stuffed Poblano in Flour before Egg Batter

Then dip them in the egg batter, and place them in hot oil, e.g., about 1/2 inch deep; I tested the oil temperature by frying some corn tortilla strips.  Be sure to adjust the temperature so that it sizzles when something is dipped in, but doesn’t cook so fast that it will quickly burn.

Blurry Action Shot: Frying Chile Relleno

Turn the peppers occasionally to cook on each side, being careful to avoid spilling the filling.  (Be particularly careful when cooking the side that was slit open.)
After frying, place on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Plate the chile relleno atop a sauce or salsa, and accompany with a side, such as my scotch bonnet beans and rice.

Chile Relleno with Ancho Chile Sauce and Scotch Bonnet Beans & Rice

As an optional side, and since my beans and rice was a bit sticky, I formed small balls (~1 in.), rolled them in the egg batter and fried them in the remaining oil to make rice fritters.

Frying Rice Fritters

Of the two chiles rellenos preparations (fried and baked), I was more pleased with the appearance of the typical fried chile relleno stuffed with cheese.

Lastly, while I kept this meal completely vegetarian, I can’t help but think that cooked chorizo would be a great additional ingredient to the stuffing. :)

This was a respectable first try, and I enjoyed the result, and even used some leftover rice and beans to make a breakfast burrito this morning.

Let me know your chiles rellenos tricks or tips!  This is definitely a recipe that benefits from experience.

Here are some recipes I consulted for ideas:

Oh ya, and here’s a non-mexican Stuffed Bell Pepper recipe you might like from Katja’s Kitchen. :)

Ancho Chile Sauce

Ancho Chile Sauce, counter-clockwise from left: the finished sauce, the dried ancho chiles used to make it, the poblano pepper (that is called ancho when dried), the water left from reconstituting/steeping the ancho chiles used to make the sauce.

This past weekend I went to a great grilling party hosted by some friends from South Africa; they use the term “braai” the way Americans might use barbecue, and this party was a “bring ‘n’ braai,” i.e., bring what you’re going to grill and share.

I decided to make flank steak tacos, so I prepared this flavorful, dark red sauce as both a marinade for the steak and a taco sauce.

I have been interested in experimenting with the ancho chile for some time and to reproduce some of the great things I’ve had at mexican restauraunts; last week I stumbled across the peppers at an asian grocery for about for about $1.50 for a bag with enough to make this recipe 2-3 times.  The “ancho,” meaning “wide”, is a dried, ripe poblano pepper;  in the photo above I’ve also shown the fresh, green poblano, but it is not used in this recipe!  I guess the dried version is called “wide” because it typically appears wide and flat.

Sauce ingredients (to yield ~2 cups):

  • 4 large dried ancho chiles, pan roasted, reconstituted (save water), stemmed and seeded, rinsed, and coarsely torn
  • water from reconstituted chiles
  • roasted garlic, 6 medium-large cloves (e.g., pan roasted in skin, then peeled)
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 2 T. Worcestershire sauce (or substitute another fish sauce or soy sauce)
  • 1 T. ground cumin
  • salt to taste

Begin by dry roasting the dried ancho chiles and the unpeeled garlic cloves in a pan on medium heat.  For such preparations, Chef Rick Bayless suggests doing this until the peppers just begin to smoke (flipping the peppers to do this on each side); he uses a spatula to push them flat to make better contact with the hot surface.  Roast the garlic cloves in their skin, turning occassionally, until it is tender then peel.

Dry Roasting Ancho Chiles and Garlic Cloves

Next, rinse the dried ancho chiles to clean them, and reconstitute them for at least 1/2 hour in warm water, perhaps 3 cups in a large pan or bowl; place a plate over them during this time so that the peppers stay submerged. (Alternately, you can steep them in boiling water.)  Then remove the chiles, save the water, and tear them over the sink and remove the seeds and veins, and rinse the peppers inside.

Lastly, simply combine the reconstituted chiles and other ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth; use the water saved from reconstituted chiles to acheive the desired sauce consistency.  If you have a blender with narrow-bottomed container , as I do, add the ingredients just a bit at a time with a bit of the water so that they will blend more easily.

An aside: save the rest of the water used to reconstitute the peppers!  Use it to flavor other salsa or rice, such as my Scotch Bonnet Beans & Rice!

If the sauce is too watery, reduce by simmering it in a pan until desired consistency.

Use the sauce as a marinade for flank steak, skirt steak, or other meats; apply it liberally to all sides and marinate for at least 1/2 hour, then get to grillin’!

The sauce can also be used as a dip for chips or to complement tacos and other dishes.

Chile Rellenos with Ancho Chile Sauce

Tonight it accompanied my Chiles Rellenos!
(That post is forthcoming; I’m just too tired to do it tonight.)

Here are some related recipes that I consulted: Ancho Chile Sauce, Red Chile Adobo SauceCarne Adobada, and Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole.

P.S. Yay for Pati’s Mexican Table: a wonderful program on PBS that I just discovered this past weekend!  This is a nice addition to one of my favorites: Rick Bayless’ Mexico – One Plate at a Time.

Asian Fish Tacos

I imagine you’re thinking, “Wow, Dave hasn’t made any asian dishes in a while…”
Not true.

Well, following my visit to no less than four grocery stores today, I am prepared to soon embark on new culinarily adventures, so I’m using up some of these fresh ingredients.

Asian Fish Tacos

I absolutely love fish tacos, thus made up these asian-fused-with-Tex-Mex fish tacos for lunch.
Typically fish tacos consist of three components atop corn tortillas: fish, a cabbage slaw, and a sauce.

For one serving (3 tacos), I first prepared a slaw from the following ingredients (approximately equal parts of the first 3 vegetables):

  • napa cabbage (3 leaves, green separated from white – see photos below, greens finely sliced/shredded)
  • carrot (1 medium, julienned)
  • bean sprouts (a small handful)
  • scallion greens
  • garlic (1 clove, minced)
  • rice vinegar (~2 T.)
  • hoisin sauce (~2 t.)
  • sesame oil (just a splash)
  • toasted sesame seeds or chopped toasted pine nuts (I used the latter)
  • lime zest (~1 t.)

Dissolve the hoisin sauce in the rice vinegar and toss with the rest of the slaw ingredients and let sit until needed.

For the sauce, simply mix equal parts of mayonnaise and chili garlic sauce.

I used about 2 t. each, per serving (i.e., 3 tacos) and taste-tested it… I think I decided to add half again as much chili sauce.  OK, that’s easy!

Chili Garlic Mayonnaise

For the fish, I chose a tilapia fillet (from frozen, thawed in water), and poached it in a salmon-and-vegetable-based fish stock along with a couple teaspoons of soy sauce.  Here, I had just separated some pieces to test for doneness (i.e., if it will flake apart.)  Concurrently, I warmed corn tortillas in a skillet, and then wrapped them in a towel; this keeps them from getting wet underneath, e.g., if set on a plate when they’re very warm.

Poaching tilapia in fish stock

Warming tortillas

Lastly, I assembled the tacos, topped with a dab more of chili garlic sauce and, as you can see, placed “points” of the white portion of a napa cabbage leaf under each taco.  While intended for presentation, this worked out nicely to support the taco in hand; otherwise, one often must resorts to using two tortillas per taco so that they don’t break when the moist ingredients are placed on top.

Napa cabbage "point."

These tacos were easy and delicious.  They’d probably be nice with mu shu pancakes or flour tortillas as well.