Tenderloin and Beet Greens

Loving what you do, learning something new every day, working to have a good life, it all fits into our way of life.  Before retirement we had time for so little, between work, taking care of a house, yard, Jennifer which was the best part…the days fell very short of hours, our lives were a constant rush here, rush there.  Looking back I find it amazing that we accomplished as much as we did.  So now I have the time to shop for the best quality in meats, vegetables and fruits. Taking my time and most of the time meal planning based on what is available.

We have been blessed to have lived in such abundant countries as the US, Panama, Ecuador and now Uruguay. Uruguay is known around the world for its delicious beef.  I picked up a pound of tenderloin and found fresh beets with just perfect greens attached.  That became our mid-day meal.

montevideo-2-4-11I cut the steaks into about 4 ounce portions, more than enough for Joe and I for our lunch. I brought water to a boil and after cleaning the greens cooked them in salted boiling water for just 2 minutes.  When drained I added them to a frying pan that had a good glug of olive oil, chopped garlic, chopped shallots and chopped hot red pepper.  Saute it for just a few minutes, sprinkle with salt and it was ready to serve.  Dropped the steaks on a roaring hot frying pan and turned them in 3 minutes, cooking on the other side for just 2 minutes more.  Set aside, top with a dab of butter, a sprinkling of chopped hot red peppers and we are ready.

montevideo-2-4-15 montevideo-2-4-12 Steak was tender, juicy and very flavorful.  Loved the beet greens with their similar to mustard greens flavor they were a big hit. So next time when you see the leaves still on the beets, look for the freshest bunch and try this, you will get a nice addition to your next meal.

Chunky Beef Chili

I can’t say that we ever get really cold weather, but some days when it is overcast and the wind is whipping off the ocean, it is fairly cool. On those days I really love a good stew or soup – or even better, chili.

Early this week I had all the ingredients needed to make a mean chili.

San Clemente 8.3.2013 005The first thing I did was make a spice blend of dried chili peppers.

San Clemente 8.3a.2013 004A friend brought these back from the states, I have only seen dried chili peppers in a small open air market in Quito three years ago. It is not something that you would find at Super Maxi on a regular basis. But adding different types of ground dry peppers adds not  so much heat but intense flavor to your chili sauce. Even when we were living in the US and able to find all sorts of prepackaged chili mixes I still added this special touch to bring an authentic quality to my chili.

Beef Chunk Chili with Fresh Red Beans

  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs of Lomo Fino (tenderloin of beef) cut into bite sized pieces (I know, steak, but we pay $2.50 / lb. off the truck for it)
  • green and red peppers cut into chunks
  • tomatoes cut into quarters
  • 1 lb of fresh red beans, washed and picked through
  • red onion cut into quarters
  • carrots cut into large pieces
  • garlic crushed
  • celery cut into large pieces
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of chili seasoning (see recipe below)
  • large bunch of cilantro chopped fine (save 2 tablespoons for sprinkling on finished chili)
  • vegetable oil for browning meat
  • 1/2 Cup of red wine (drinking variety not cooking wine)
  • 4 cups of beef or vegetable stock (fresh is best but a few cubes in water will work)
  • pepper
  • salt and dried red pepper flakes to taste…if you used stock cubes use salt sparingly

First I took one of the large New Mexico Chilies and three of the smaller Chili Japones peppers and with scissors cut them into small strips, seeds and all. Added 1/2 teaspoon of my dried yellow pepper flakes but first dry cooked them on low heat on the stove until I started to cry and Joe needed to leave the house…To this I added cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper and garlic powder. Honestly I have no real measurements so use your imagination. Do not burn, just gently sauté until you can smell the spices. Set aside to cool. Add this cooled mixture to a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder.

Brown the meat with a small amount of vegetable oil in a large pressure pot until the meat is colored on all sides and the juices are sealed in. Do this step in stages so as not to crowd the pan or you wind up boiling the meat. You want to seal in the juices so the heat should be high and the oil hot. Remove meat and set aside. Turn up the heat and add the red wine to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Add the balance of the ingredients plus the meat back to the pot, stir and bring the liquids to a boil. Turn down the heat and secure the lid. After the pressure valve begins to rock, cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour depending upon the amount of veggies added. Remember do not overfill the pressure pot. Keep the heat low and the pressure valve rocking slowly or your food will scorch to the bottom of the pan.

I do not like seasoning with salt until the meat is completely cooked. Taste for seasoning and add salt and extra red pepper flakes at this time.

San Clemente 8.3.2013 007Sprinkle balance of cilantro on chili and serve with rolls or crackers. Honestly this is a great dish and can be made ahead and refrigerated for several days to intensify the flavors even more. If you are not into spicy, use more of the dried peppers and less of the hot pepper flakes and cayenne. Buen Provecho!

Susan and Jimmy in Paradise

We met Susan and Jimmy Dufrene many months back when Susan started following the blog. We continued our email conversations until a few weeks ago with they arrived here in Ecuador for an extended vacation. Yesterday finally we were able to get together for lunch at our home. It was great getting to know these lovely folks a little better.

San Clemente 6.9.2013 006

We talked for hours, had a nice lunch, a few cervezas and some wine before heading out to the garden to get away from the sun that eventually hits our porch.  What nice folks. I think Ecuador and especially San Clemente has a special place in their hearts and we will see them return again and again to enjoy part of their retirement in paradise.

Lomo Fino – Carne de Res (Beef Tenderloin)

My purchases of Lomo Fino (beef tenderloin) since moving to San Clemente have been of  sporadic quality. It has not been the Lomo Fino that we have come to love…it has been chewy, chewy, chewy. Sort of like a zapatilla (sneaker) instead of a tender piece of steak.  I honestly must tell you that I have actually cut a Lomo Fino up into chucks and stewed it for hours and still did not have what I wanted. To use it as a fine piece of tenderloin has not been an option. I spoke with my traveling butcher on Thursday when he stopped by with only Chancho and requested five pounds of carne de res – lomo fino – but I wanted small filets not something from the oldest cow in the bunch. Early Saturday morning, I mean 6:30am early he was outside my gate with these steaks.

Well they sure looked beautiful but the true test is can I serve them as a suave steak? Both Joe and I have researched at home methods of tenderizing meat after our friend Scott from Las Tunas, down the coast told us about how he puts his beef in a large pot on a wire rack and leaves it in the refrigerator for several days to tenderizer.  We wrapped our steaks in clean dish towels according to the American Test Kitchen you tube video and placed them on a wire rack at the lowest point in our refrigerator, they will stay there for four days.  I have used this process with my last purchase of the larger tenderloins and was disappointed as it did not seem to tenderizer them one little bit.

I will let you know how it turns out, if not I will need to find a butcher in Portoviejo who has aged beef.