30 December 2013

A Quick Leftover Recipe: Pork Colorado

Remember that slow roasted pork recipe I shared?  This would be a great way to use some of those leftovers in the freezer.  And if you have some other kind of meat, it will work just as well--roast beef, chicken, turkey...just pull it apart with two forks and substitute it.  This meal should be simple, fast, and comforting.  It's not for showing off, though it is delicious.

Pork Colorado

Serves 8-10

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups shredded pork
8 oz. light beer (or the leftover beer juice from a slow-roasted pork shoulder)
2 cups homemade enchilada sauce
2 15-oz cans red beans (or pintos)
1 tablespoon New Mexico chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
Salt and black pepper to taste
bunch cilantro, chopped (optional)

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and saute the onion until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the pork, beer, and enchilada sauce.  Cover and cook until the sauce begins to bubble, about  minutes.  Stir in the beans (do not drain), chili powder, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.  Lower to a simmer, return cover, and cook until beans are heated through.  Stir in the chopped cilantro and serve over steamed rice.

27 December 2013

Scraping together a meal when the kitchen is bare, or, why people hate the holidays, # 789534262

In all the holiday-themed travel I have experienced the past month, I am often left making do with very little in the kitchen the night before a flight.  I hate the thought of food spoiling in my fridge while I’m in another part of the country, and so I stop shopping for groceries at least five days before I leave, but as a result, those last dinners before the long trek to the airport can look pretty dire.  Or perhaps you have stayed home this year and allowed a band of marauders (like your family, for instance) eat all of your food, and you just can't stand grocery shopping yet again. Fortunately, a few staples we all tend to have around can save the day.  Well, that and booze.  Plenty of booze.

Pasta with tuna, lemon, and capers

Serves 4

1 can water-packed tuna, drained
1 small lemon
½ pound dry spaghetti, linguine, etc.
1 cup frozen spinach (optional)
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoon capers (or roughly chopped olives)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
bread crumbs (optional)

Bring a pot of salty water to boil.  Cook pasta according t package directions.  Add the frozen spinach in the last minute of cooking, if using.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the tuna (break it up a bit with a fork), juice and zest of the lemon, capers, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.  Drizzle a little bit of olive oil in and stir to combine.

Drain cooked pasta and toss with the tuna mixture and serve on four plates.  Sprinkle each serving with bread crumbs if desired.

Santa Fe Roasted Potatoes

Since we tend to eat light dinners like soups and salads, this stands alone as an evening meal before an early flight out in my house.  However, you could easily combine this with some cooked meat or seafood for more protein.

Serves 4

4 large russet potatoes, washed and cut into 1-in cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen broccoli
1 4-oz can chopped green chilies
1 small lime
Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, if you have it

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, toss the potatoes, olive oil, chili powder, and salt to coat evenly.  Spread out into a single layer and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, thaw the frozen corn and broccoli under hot water in a colander and leave to drain. Sprinkle with a little salt to taste. When the potatoes are done, toss them with the thawed vegetables, canned chilies, and cilantro, and squeeze the lime over the top.  If you have any leftover crumbly cheese, like feta or queso, you can sprinkle that on top, as well.

23 December 2013

A Rainbow of Brussels Sprouts!..and, er, other things...

I love my family very much, but how did they never serve Brussels sprouts when I was growing up?  I mean, seriously Mom and Dad, what the hell was wrong with you? These things are delicious!  

So, needless to say, Brussels sprouts were not a staple side dish at my childhood holiday meals, but they are now!  I think this particular recipe is my new favorite: it's colorful, easy, and it covers sweet, salty, and sour all in one bite.  And works so well with my Beer Braised Pork Shoulder for holiday meals.  

Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Potato, Cranberries, and Vinegar

Serves 8 as a side

1.5 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
½ yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (optional)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Black pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, combine the Brussels sprouts, onion, sweet potatoes, cumin, salt, and oil.  Spread in a single layer on two baking sheets and bake at 425°F (no need tp preheat the oven) until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice as they cook.

Transfer to a serving platter or bowl, stir in vinegar, season liberally with black pepper, and serve.

20 December 2013

Down with the Christmas Turkey!

Hey, you know what I hate eating?  Turkey.  That's right, I said it.  And if you've been reading for a while, you have probably noticed that I try to avoid the subject altogether, especially around the holidays.  It's just gross--somehow bland and gamey at the same time--and a total pain in the ass to cook.  You want to slowly cook some meat all day as part of your holiday ceremonies and then actually have something edible at the end of the whole ordeal?  Try this braised pork shoulder.  And if you've got leftovers, you can freeze small bags of it for use in other meals later this winter, sans gaminess.

Beer Braised Pork Shoulder

Serves 8-10

1 4-lb pork shoulder, bone in
1 tablespoon garlic powder
tablespoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
 teaspoon cumin
 teaspoon black pepper, ground
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
4 bay leaves
1 22 oz bottle of beer, preferably a lager or something light

Rinse the pork with water and pat dry with paper towels. 

In a small bowl combine garlic powder, paprika, salt, cumin, and black pepper. Rub spice mixture all over roast.

Heat a large stock pot or Dutch oven over high heat and add 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil. Place roast into the hot oil and sear meat until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes each side. Add the bay leaves, onion, and beer.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook at least 6 hours or until done through. 

Serve roast in chunks or shredded with a fork.

17 December 2013

A Soup to Fight the Cold

I love soup in the winter--it's warming and filling without leaving you with the feeling that you swallowed a lead weight (which can be fun--I'm looking at you, mashed potatoes and gravy--but not so good for you every day).  This is inspired by the classic barley and mushroom combination with a few other ingredients thrown in to keep it from getting monotonous.  Substitute as you wish, but I do love to see something orange or red, something green in there...

Winter Harvest Soup

Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 acorn squash
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups mixed mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped
1 bunch kale, thinly sliced
3 cups pearl barley, washed and sorted
6 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt and black pepper to taste

Cut the squash in half, rub the flesh with a little olive oil, and salt lightly.  Place both sides flesh-side down on a baking sheet and bake at 425°F (no need to preheat oven) until flesh is soft but still firm, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir constantly for 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms and sauté until they begin to release their moisture, then stir in the kale and barley.  Season liberally with salt, add the stock, cover and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer and cook until barley is tender but still a bit chewy, 20 minutes or more.

When the squash is tender but still firm, remove from oven.  Score the flesh with a sharp knife and scoop it out with a spoon.  Add to the soup just as the barley is about done.  Stir in soy sauce, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

13 December 2013

Spiked Traditions: Egg Nog

I can't help it--every year, as soon as they roll out all of the egg nog-flavored dairy and dairy substitute products, I crack.  I don't know why; I don't even recall drinking much egg nog as a kid.  I am able to bravely stave off urges for Pumpkin Spiced things all fall, but I am a whore for Silk Soy "Egg Nog" from the dairy case at Safeway.  And then it sits in my fridge until it gets clumpy, because let's face it, it's only fun to pour that stuff in your coffee about three times.  And drink it on its own?  With that creepily manufactured mouthfeel?  No thanks.

The only thing that cuts the sweetness and thickness of this stuff is booze.  Yep, that's right: it's cocktail time, egg nog style!

Spiked Egg Nog: 1oz. of spiced rum, brandy, or bourbon to 4 oz. egg nog, with cinnamon sprinkled on top

Egg Crusher: 1 oz. rum, 1 oz. Kahlua, 5 oz. egg nog

Brandy Alexander 2.0: 1.5 oz. brandy, 1 oz. creme de cacao, 2 oz. egg nog with nutmeg sprinkled on top

Ginger Snap: 1 oz. spiced rum, 1/2 oz. ginger brandy, 4 oz. egg nog

Imperial Egg Nog: 1 oz. brandy, 1.2 oz. apricot brandy, 4 oz. egg nog

Nashville Egg Nog: 1/2 oz. rum, 1/2 oz. brandy, 2 oz. bourbon, 5 oz. egg nog

Russian Nog: 1 oz. vodka, 1 oz. Kahlua, 1 oz. egg nog


10 December 2013

Gifts fit for a food lover

Winter Solstice is just around the corner (that's right, roll your eyes), and I love the excuse to give presents.  Not all of my friends care that much about food (ahem, french fry aficionado, you know who you are), but for the ones who do, food-themed presents are an easy way to give a unique, stand-out gift to your inner circle.  And hopefully they'll serve it when you're around. Here are some very clever products I have been checking out:

Boozy Stuff:

These mixers (and one very special bourbon) will make you into an alcoholic.  But a happy one. 

Owl's Brew Coco-Lada: a beverage mixer with pineapple, coconut, and chai spices (whaaat?!) with a black tea base makes vodka, rum, and just about anything else magical.

Quince & Apple Honey Lemon Syrup: pour it into whiskey

White Whale Filthy Liar: lychee-rosemary-clove mixer tastes great with gin or just club soda.

Wyoming Whiskey: in true cowboy fashion, these guys have had a slow and disorganized start, but if you can place an order early enough (or just make it a mid-winter surprise when it finally shows up), their small-batch whiskey and newly released bourbon really are worth the wait.

Stuff Your Face:

It's fun to do all of your own cooking and baking, but it's also fun to sample amazing talent from around the country while you sit on the couch watching t.v. and drinking fancy cocktails

Caramels from Fran's Chocolates: handmade in Washington state, the smoked salt caramels are my favorite.

French macarons from the iconic Macaron Cafe in NYC: I love the caramel "fleur de sel", cassisviolette, and jasmin, but you do what you want.

Looseleaf tea from englishteastore.com: the packaging is far from luxurious, but these guys have the best tea, hands down, and at a very low price.  I first discovered them when I had their Monk's Blend (black tea with vanilla, caramel, and grenadine) at an organic shop, but have since become hooked on their chocolate orange and Earl Grey cream, as well.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I get all my tea here.


It may seem a little old-fashioned, but I just don't believe that cookbooks translate well to e-reader, especially with the beautiful artwork modern books all seem to have.  Consider some beautiful, and practical, food porn for your favorite curmudgeon this year.  

Yvette van Boven: Homemade  
I loved her Homemade Summer, and this is the one that started it all.  She's Irish and runs a restaurant in the Netherlands, and her recipes combine traditions from the two cultures in a carefree, relaxed way. You know these people for whom hosting parties, making cocktails, looking perfect, etc., is just natural?  This is how her recipes will make you feel about your cooking.

Christopher Blain: In the Kitchen with Alain Passard: Inside the World (and Mind) of a Master Chef
Super fun graphic novel with clean, spare artwork.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: River Cottage Veg
I mentioned this cookbook here in this blog last summer, and it's still one of my new favorites. F-W is pragmatic in his love of vegetables; this is a no-fuss collection of recipes which will sometimes surprise you in the combinations and textures he manages to create.  Plus, he's the only guy who consistently put Gordon Ramsay in his place on the F-Word, so he's earned some serious street cred, as far as I'm concerned!

Michael Hudman and Anthony Ticer: Collards & Carbonara: Southern Cooking, Italian Roots
These recipes highlight the best of both Italian and Southern cooking, from the use of fresh, local produce in season to simple preparations that retain the character of the original foods.  

Aki Kamozawa and Alexander Talbot: Maximum Flavor: Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook
From the bloggers who created Ideas in Food, this book takes a very scientific approach to solving standard challenges in the kitchen.  These guys are geniuses, and you will learn more about your food so that you can be a more intelligent cook.

Edward Lee: Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen
For the meat lover; this guy was a real douchebag on Top Chef, but his recipes are brilliant, and I love the pairing of Asian and Southern elements--it works surprisingly well!

Ivan Orkin: Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo's Most Unlikely Noodle Joint
I think you all know how much I love ramen, but even if you are not as into it as I am, this will teach you a new appreciation for the art of excellent ramen making and give you some great recipes to try.  This book is total geekery. 

06 December 2013

Enchiladas for the skeptic

Who hasn't had bland enchiladas in their lifetime? Growing up in the Midwest, they were ubiquitous in Mexican restaurants (along with the seafood chimichanga, for more daring diners), and they generally consisted of some soggy corn tortillas filled with greasy ground beef and covered in ketchup. But with the right sauce, they can be quite satisfying. I have thrown in a couple atypical ingredients to this sauce to help give it a little more personality, and I urge you to try it before calling me nasty names.

Slow Enchilada Sauce

(Makes enough for two small batches of enchiladas in the following recipe)

1 teaspoon olive oil
3 small carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 serrano pepper
½ small red onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1-2 teaspoons New Mexico chili powder
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
tiny pinch ground cloves
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine

Chop the carrot, garlic, pepper, and onion in the food processor until very fine.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When it shimmers, add the carrot mixture and salt, and saute until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Add the cumin and chili powder and cook, stirring occasionally, another 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes (with juice), cloves (trust me), red wine, and black pepper to taste.  Stir, cover, and lower to a simmer.  Cook at least 35 minutes, but the longer the better. For a smoother sauce, you can run this through the blender at the end.  

Keep in the refrigerator up to one week, or it can be frozen up to one month.  

Enchiladas for the Skeptic 

Serves 4-6

1/2 batch Slow Enchilada Sauce, above
1 tablespoon red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
1 cup frozen or fresh corn, thawed
1/2 cup black beans
1 small green bell pepper, diced
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
8 medium corn or corn-flour hybrid tortillas
1 cup crumbled queso fresco
1/3 cup diced pepper jack cheese

Grease a 9 X 13 casserole dish and lay a very thin layer of sauce in the bottom, swirling to coat. Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a bowl, combine the onion, cilantro, corn, beans, pepper, diced pepper jack, and half of the queso. Season with lime juice and a dash of salt and stir.

Heat the tortillas until pliable, then fill each with equal parts of the cheese-corn mixture. As you roll each tortilla, place it seam side down in the casserole dish. When you have finished this process, cover the tortillas with the Slow Enchilada Sauce. Scatter the remaining queso on top and bake, uncovered, until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes.

Serve with crema or sour cream and guacamole on the side, if desired.

03 December 2013

Miso Poached Salmon and Wasabi Green Beans

Ugh, I always feel so faaaat after Thanksgiving.  It's times like these when I'm glad I keep some frozen fish on hand, and this meal comes together very quickly and with minimal babysitting. You can even poach the salmon without thawing it; just keep an eye on it to be sure it's thoroughly cooked before serving.

Miso Poached Salmon 

Serves 4

1 teaspoon peanut oil
4 salmon filets (or however many will fit in the pan)
½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon miso paste
2 cups water

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Sauté the onions with a pinch of salt until they are very soft, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and ginger and continue to cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the vinegar and scrape off any browned bits in the bottom of the pan, then add the water and stir in the miso paste.  Cover and bring to a boil; whisk in any remaining miso paste until you have a broth.  Lower the heat to a simmer and add the salmon, skin side down.  Sprinkle top of fish with a little salt and pepper, cover, and simmer no more than 10 minutes, or until fish is tender and cooked through.

Serve with jasmine rice with steamed edamame and chopped scallions mixed in, and . . .

Wasabi Green Beans

Serves 4 as a side

1 pound green beans
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon prepared wasabi paste (adjust to taste)
½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
Drizzle toasted sesame oil

Toast almonds in a dry, hot  pan until golden, about 1 minute.

Clean and trim green beans. Place in well-salted water and bring to a boil; cook until bright green and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, wasabi paste, ginger, and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil and whisk to incorporate.  Pour over hot green beans, stir in almonds, and serve.