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Food & Drink

Food Network chef Valladolid prepares light, healthy dishes

| Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
Food Network Marcela Valladolid
FOOD NETWORK
Food Network Marcela Valladolid
Rice and Albóndiga Soup
Food Network
FOOD NETWORK
Rice and Albóndiga Soup Food Network
Chicken in Easy Adobo
FOOD NETWORK
Chicken in Easy Adobo

Chef Marcela Valladolid is on a mission to change consumers' perceptions of South-of-the-Border cuisine.

“Mexican food isn't all about tortillas and beans and rice,” says the host of the Food Network show “Mexican Made Easy.” “Here in Baja (California), we're all about fresh seafood and light and healthy dishes.”

Valladolid spends her time between Tijuana, Mexico, where her family lives, and San Diego, where she has a home with her 8-year-old son, Fausto. She will focus on healthy ethnic cooking at two appearances and cooking demonstrations this weekend at Giant Eagle Market District stores.

“You're never going to not have tortillas in Mexico,” she says, “but you can have fresh salsas that are packed with antioxidants.”

For her latest cookbook, which shares the same title as her TV show, she created several tasty salsas, ranging from a Roasted Apple and Tomatillo version to top a flour quesadilla along with sliced avocados, to a Pomegranate, Basil and Queso Fresco Salsa with pine nuts to serve as a topping for grilled fish.

She says her recipes are easy to make and don't require many ingredients, which makes them ideal for busy cooks. Even the exotic spices and other ingredients that some recipes feature — such as Cajeta (goat's milk caramel) and Crema (Mexican sour cream) — can be found in many grocery stores.

In her first cookbook, “Fresh Mexico: 100 Simple Recipes for True Mexican Flavor,” published in 2009, Valladolid's goal was to dispel the misconception that exotic ingredients and hours in the kitchen are required for making authentic Mexican meals.

On her cooking show, she demonstrates examples of how to whip up quick and easy entrees such as corn tamales and fish tacos, and fancy no-fuss desserts like grilled bananas with Mexican chocolate sauce, or grilled peaches served with frozen yogurt and drizzled with tequila syrup.

Having recently finished filming the show's fifth season, her fans can look forward to new episodes that spotlight the regions of California and Mexico where she lives and works.

“I'm back and forth all the time,” she says. “I want to give people a personal glimpse into my life.”

She would like to develop another cookbook that will explore the regional recipes of different parts of Mexico and says her biggest news is her new tabletop line that will debut at the end of October at Macy's stores. Marcela for Prima Design will feature dishes, linens, cookware and kitchen products with a Latin influence.

Valladolid was born in San Diego and raised in Tijuana, where she first learned about the art of cooking from her aunt, who owned a cooking school in Mexico City, and her grandfather, who worked as a chef. She studied at the Los Angeles Culinary Institute and attended the Ritz Escoffier Cooking School in Paris, where she graduated as a classical French pastry chef.

After operating a catering company in Tijuana, she worked as a food editor at Bon Appetit magazine and hosted a cooking show on a Spanish television channel before being cast on Martha Stewart's 2005 reality series, “Apprentice: Martha Stewart.” Her “Cooking Made Easy” show debuted in 2010 on Food Network.

Candy Williams is a contributing writer to Trib Total Media.

Chicken in Easy Adobo

Adobo, by definition, is a chile paste or mixture that you spread on chicken or meat before cooking. Usually, it is a mix of chiles, but just using the guajillo makes for easy prep, and you still get a wonderful adobo. Flattening the chicken allows you to mark it on the grill (love getting one of those charred pieces of skin!) and also shortens the cooking time. Smear the chicken with the adobo while you cook it, and make sure to use all of it. Serve with warm corn tortillas and slices of queso fresco for some stellar tacos.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 small white onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

10 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 2-inch pieces

1½ cups chicken broth, preferably organic

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 (4-pound) whole chicken, backbone removed, flattened slightly

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat the oil in a heavy, medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it is translucent, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the chiles and cook until they are darkened on both sides, for about 1 minute.

Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Cook until the chiles are soft, for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large, ovenproof grill pan over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, rub half of the adobo mixture all over the chicken. Sear the chicken, breast side down, until grill marks appear, for about 6 minutes. Turn the chicken breast side up and transfer to the oven. Roast the chicken, basting with the remaining adobo sauce every 20 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted registers an inner temperature of 180 degrees, for about 40 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

Rice and Albóndiga Soup

This is a one-dish meal complete with protein, carbs and veggies in every bite. Delicious, nutritious, easy, and spoon-friendly, it's a mom's BFF.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

12 small white onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

13 cup long-grain rice

1 pound ground sirloin

1 medium-size carrot, sliced

1 serrano chile

2 tablespoons tomato paste

8 cups vegetable broth

1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced

2 small zucchini, diced

In a large, heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until it is translucent, for about 5 minutes. Add the parsley and cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Let the onion cool slightly.

Mix the rice, ground sirloin, 2 teaspoons salt and 12 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Add the sauteed onion mixture and mix until incorporated. Using wet hands, shape the mixture into 20 meatballs, each about 1 inch in diameter.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the same pot and saute the carrot and serrano for 5 minutes. Mix in the tomato paste and vegetable stock, and bring to a boil. Add the meatballs, potato and zucchini. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through.

Season the soup with salt and pepper before ladling it into bowls.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Coconut Flan

Nonstick cooking spray

1 cup cajeta or caramel sauce, warm

3 cans (14 ounces each) sweetened condensed milk

1 can (14 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk

1 can (14 ounces) evaporated milk

6 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

12 teaspoon salt

Water

12 cup shredded, sweetened coconut, toasted

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a Bundt pan coated with cooking spray, drizzle the cajeta, turning to coat the bottom and sides. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the milks, eggs, vanilla extract and salt. Pour the mixture over the cajeta in the bundt pan. Place bundt pan inside a large roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with water to come halfway up the sides. Cover the bundt pan with foil.

Bake until the center of the flan jiggles slightly when the pan is moved, for about 1 hour, 40 minutes. Remove the flan from the oven and let it cool for 30 minutes, then transfer the flan to the refrigerator and chill for 3 hours or overnight.

Turn the flan out onto aplatter. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and serve.

Makes 12 servings.

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