Having just returned from Merida, Mexico and holiday memories are still fresh in our minds, we wanted to share a few of the city’s highlights.
Merida is the cultural heart and soul of the Yucatan with multiple museums, art galleries, restaurants, theaters and stores. Brion and I have made a point of staying in hotels which are a close walk to Paseo de Montejo. This main avenue of the city was named after the founder of Merida, Francisco de Montejo. Built at the end of the 19th century and inspired by the boulevards of France, Paseo de Montejo used to be the site of mega mansions belonging to the well-to-do families in the city. While many of them now are the headquarters of national and international banks and companies, they still retain the heritage of the city.
Music and dancing play an important role in the day to day life of Merida’s residents. Outdoor, live performances can be seen frequently around the city. Cultural activities are plentiful on Saturday and Sunday evenings. The main road is closed off to traffic on Sundays for ‘Family Bike Day’, a day when families are encouraged to get out and ride their bikes along Montejo avenue. This historic city offers a wonderful insight into its rich culture, incredible cuisine and friendly people.
If you care to read about some of the tours we took last year while we were in Merida, check out my blog articles on this site from February 2019.
Today’s blog recipe is called Mexican ‘lasagna’ due to the layering of tortillas in place of lasagna pasta noodles.
In a large saucepan, scramble-fry ground beef with celery, onion & green pepper. Add tomatoes, enchilada sauce, olives salt & pepper; simmer covered for about 15-20 minutes.
Heat oil in skillet. Cut 2 tortillas into quarters; cook remaining 6 tortillas & the quarters in oil till crisp & golden. Drain on paper towels. Set aside quartered tortillas & break up remaining six. In a bowl, combine cheddar, cottage cheese & slightly beaten egg.
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a 9 X 9-inch baking dish, spread 1/3 of meat mixture. Top with 1/2 of the cheese mixture then 1/2 of the BROKEN tortillas. Repeat layers, ending with meat mixture. Top with quartered tortillas.
Bake for 30 minutes then allow to stand 5 minutes before serving.
No doubt, since we have just finished the 2019 Christmas season, you enjoyed some Swedish meatball hors de ouvers. Personally, I love the little morsels so I thought it would be interesting to turn them into a main course casserole.
I have heard the question asked as to what the difference between Italian and Swedish meatballs is. First of all, the meat blend of ground beef, veal and pork are the main players in both styles. The difference comes in the ratio of each meat being used. While both varieties include ingredients such as minced onion and milk soaked bread or crumbs, the seasoning in these two iconic meatballs differs greatly. Swedish meatballs traditionally use spices such as allspice, nutmeg, white pepper and ginger while Italian calls for grated Parmesan, garlic, parsley, fennel seed and oregano.
Another ingredient that is most always used in Swedish meatballs is mashed potatoes. Size is important … Italian meatballs (other than in soup) are quite large whereas Swedish are generally like a hearty teaspoon full.
When it comes to sauce, this is a big part of the flavoring component that sets them apart. Swedish meatballs are cooked in a cream gravy made with beef broth whereas Italian meatballs are served in a tangy, bright red tomato sauce.
All that being said, it brings me back to my casserole. It combines all the ingredients of the Swedish meatballs put uniquely together in a casserole and topped with a mozzarella cheese. Perfect January meal!
Swedish Meatball & Potato Casserole
In a saucepan, cook margarine & flour until bubbly then slowly add broth & cream. Gently boil for a few minutes; add soya sauce, salt & pepper. Remove from heat & set aside.
Boil potatoes in salted water until tender but not overcooked; cut into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange them on the bottom & sides of a 8-inch round baking dish.
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a bowl, combine all meatball ingredients & form into balls. Arrange them over the slices of the potatoes on the bottom of baking dish. Use the remaining potato slices to create 'walls' between each meatball.
Pour white sauce into each meatball 'pocket'. Sprinkle entire dish with grated mozzarella cheese. Bake 45 minutes or until meatballs are cooked & cheese is golden.
- You can definitely use whatever ratio of meat combo you prefer or just use one one type, your choice.
At the heart of our Autumn cuisine is the squash. The signs of fall are all around us — cool, crisp mornings, the leaves have started to wear their autumn colors and winter squash is appearing in the farmer’s markets.
Winter squash are harvested late summer through fall, then ‘hardened off’ or ‘cured’ in the open air to toughen their exterior. Spaghetti squash is known for its unique flesh that separates into pasta-like strands after it is cooked. These squash are not particularly sweet but have a mild flavor that takes to a wide variety of preparations.
Native people considered corn, beans and squash three inseparable ‘sisters’. They planted the three crops together to create a more nutritious, sustainable soil with the exchange of nutrients between them.
Spaghetti squash has also been called ‘vegetable spaghetti’. In this recipe I’m serving it with tomato-beef meat sauce. Some fresh, homemade, Parmesan bread sticks should make a nice compliment to this meal.
Vegetable Spaghetti (Squash) with Beef & Tomatoes
Preheat oven to 375 F. Microwave squash for a few minutes to soften shell. Cut lengthwise & remove membrane & seeds. In a baking dish, place cut side down & bake for 45 minutes until tender. Remove from oven & cool until it can be handled. Using a fork, run it inside the squash to create spaghetti 'noodles'.
In a large saucepan, brown ground beef, onions, garlic & mushrooms. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Stir in tomatoes, green pepper & spices. Reduce heat & simmer for 10 minutes.
Divide spaghetti noodles between 4 serving plates & top each with a quarter of the meat sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan & serve with fresh bread sticks.