Pulled Balsamic Pork Chalupas

_MG_3814etitleThis was one of those times where I saw a recipe online and decided to just take parts of it and make it into something else.  Go figure.  I thought the recipe as it was written sounded wonderful, but events conspired against its complete creation.  It was presented as slow cooked balsamic pork that was to be served on cheesy polenta.  That sounds delicious, but polenta is really, really hard to find around here.  I found already-prepared polenta, which wouldn’t work at all, and I found quick-cooking polenta, which I might have been able to adapt–but in the end, I saw the package of fresh corn tortillas sitting on the counter and I thought this pork would make excellent chalupas.  And I was right.

_MG_3790eSo I slow-cooked the pork loin for six hours in a savory balsamic broth, used two forks to shred it, and then took some of it and chopped it a little finer to use on these chalupas.

 

 

 

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Then I made the delicious avocado-cilantro-yogurt and lime sauce…_MG_3816e

…and crisp-fried my tortillas, and combined everything with a sprinkle of Monterrey Jack on top.

The sauce is very tart and would be an excellent dip for vegetables.

The recipe is as follows:

Pulled Balsamic Pork with Avocado Cream
serves 4-6
2½ pound boneless pork loin
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
Combine all ingredients in crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours.  Shred pork and return to broth.

To make chalupas, fry corn tortillas until they are crisp, add warm pork and sprinkle with Monterrey Jack cheese.  Dollop with Avocado Cream.

Avocado Cream
1 avocado
juice of 1 lime
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup cilantro
Combine in mini-processor or puree in hand blender.  IMG_3809e

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Provençal New Potatoes

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I was planning to make this the post after the one about the Salmon Burgers, since those two dishes go together so well, but I got so excited about the Lemon Zucchini Bread that I forgot.  Anyway, I love these Provençal New Potatoes, the recipe for which I originally got from the wonderful Simply Recipes blog.  I have changed it a bit over the years so I will re-post the recipe here.  This dish goes well with simple meats like roast chicken, steak, or pork chops, to name a few.  One thing I love about it is that it is best at room temperature, so you can make it early and let it sit while you are preparing other things, or make it the day before, refrigerate, and then let it come to room temperature before serving.  It makes a great pot-luck dish too.

Provençal New Potatoes
from Simply Recipes–serves 4-6

2 lb small new potatoes (look for the smallest you can find; the potatoes should be no bigger than 1 1/2 inches, if they are bigger, cut them into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces)
1 medium onion, sliced in the direction of root to top
6 whole cloves of garlic, peel left onIMG_3432
15-20 grape tomatoes, or the equivalent amount of halved cherry tomatoes
20 pitted olives, green and black (Kalamata and Nicoise)
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 Tablespoon herbes de Provence
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh chives for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Put all ingredients (except chives) into a bowl, toss with your (clean) hands to coat completely with oil and seasonings. IMG_3438Spread out in an even layer in a roasting pan. Put the potatoes in the oven, cook for fifteen minutes at 400°F. Then reduce the heat to 375° and cook for 30 to 40 minutes more, until the onions and tomatoes are somewhat caramelized and the potatoes are cooked through. Halfway througIMG_3442h cooking, stir the potatoes so that they remain well coated with oil and do not get dried out, and the bottom of the pan stays coated with oil.

IMG_3443Remove from oven and let sit until cooled to room temperature.  Remove garlic cloves from their skins and slice, if desired.

Sprinkle with freshly chopped chives to serve.

 

 

 

 

You won’t believe the heavenly smell while these are cooking.

 

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Lemon-Glazed Zucchini Bread

IMG_3650For years–probably more than 40 of them–I’ve been making the same recipe for Zucchini Bread.  It has always been my go-to recipe, because it has pineapple in it and it is SO moist and delicious.  I still love my Zucchini-Pineapple Bread.  But as of yesterday, there’s a new kid in town, and it involves lemons.

I got the recipe for it here and I followed it pretty much to the letter.  I will tell you, though, that when the recipe says “greased pan”, you better make sure you take heed.  In fact, next time I make this recipe I am going to grease and flour it, because I had a hard time getting it to come out of the pan.  I also had to bake it for about 15 minutes longer than the recipe says to, but if you just make sure to start testing it at 45 minutes you should be fine.IMG_3660e

Those caveats aside, I am really, really in love with this lemony bread.  It is just as moist as my zucchini-pineapple bread, but it is less sweet and more tart and bright.  IMG_3654e

I’m not going to abandon my old friend, but the new one is definitely going to get some attention as well.

Here is the recipe for the Zucchini-Pineapple Bread, which came from an ancient issue of Bon Appetit.  You should really try both, and see which one you prefer.

Pineapple-Zucchini Loaf
makes 2 loaves

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups peeled, grated and well drained zucchini
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour 2 9×5 inch loaf pans.  Beat eggs until fluffy.  Add sugar, oil and vanilla and blend well.  Add zucchini.  Sift together flour, baking powder, soda and salt and add to batter.  Stir in pineapple and mix well.  Turn into pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour.  Cool on wire rack before removing from pans.  Wrap and store overnight to develop flavors before slicing.

zucchini-pineapple bread

zucchini-pineapple bread

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Salmon Burgers with Hatch Chilies and Chipotle Mayonnaise

Salmon burger

Because it’s Hatch Chile season, (even though we are many miles from New Mexico, and to my knowledge Hatch green chiles are not grown in Texas), my local grocery chain, HEB, goes all out to celebrate it.  There are roastings at some of the stores, and this year they’ve been spotlighting new Hatch products that are seasonal–i.e., I will get hooked on them and then they won’t be around any more.  To that end, I bought several packages of these raw salmon burgers that were for sale the other day.  They come two to a package, so I broke the packages up, rewrapped the burgers individually, and stuck them in the freezer.  This way I will be able to enjoy these for a while. And even after they are gone, there really is no reason that I can’t chop up some raw salmon and add stuff to it.  I will have to think about that after I use up all six of the patties I have squirreled away.

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This is how the burgers look when you buy them.  They have all kinds of goodness inside, like red peppers, onions, little chunks of cheese, and of course, the Hatch chiles.  For these burgers, I divided each patty into two and reshaped them.  I think these would make great sliders, and I may try those, breaking these into three or even four pieces.  They don’t lose much volume in the cooking process.

To begin, I made chipotle mayonnaise.  This is a very quick and easy process that I discuss in this post.IMG_0377Then I toasted the buns.  I used King’s Hawaiian hamburger buns for this recipe, and they worked great, but any old hamburger bun would do.IMG_3472IMG_3474Then I fried the salmon patties, which are raw, in a cast iron skillet until they were brown and cooked through, but not dry.IMG_3475

Finally, I sliced up some avocado and tomato, because really, what sandwich would not benefit from that, and then I slathered the bun with my chipotle mayonnaise.IMG_3482

These went really well with my Provenςal potatoes, which I will discuss in the next post.

 

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Shishito Peppers

IMG_3263I finally see what all the hype is about.  The shishito craze has been around awhile but I had never seen the peppers  for sale anywhere, until today, when I ran across them at my farmer’s market.  I had been reading about how delicious these were, simply prepared and eaten as a snack.  I admit to being skeptical, because as much as I love peppers, they are just peppers.

The lady at the farmer’s market said she had a devil of a time getting them to grow around here.  She said they do better in cooler climates, but that she had finally had success.  So I bought a few (the peppers you see here were $4.00; nobody tell my husband).

But they were tasty, I have to admit.  I loved them, in fact, and will be going back to the market next week to see if I can score some more.  They have a very mild, very delicious and delicate flavor, with just a hint of tanginess, and no heat whatsoever–though the seller did warn me that very occasionally you can get a hot one.  I assured her that that did not bother me.  If she only knew.

They are very simple to prepare.

first you wash them

first you wash them

...then you dry them well

…then you dry them well

Get out a cast iron skillet, get it very hot, then put in just a tiny bit of oil.  I used olive, but olive oil will smoke so you need to be right there to fry the peppers right away.  Add the dry peppers to the very hot pan and stir them around to coat with oil.  They will start to sputter and pop.

fry them

fry them

Turn and fry them some more.  Keep frying them as they blister and char.fry2When they are all  blistered and charred in spots, remove from the pan.

blot on paper towels and sprinkle with flaky sea salt

blot on paper towels and sprinkle with flaky sea salt

Blot them and sprinkle with salt while they are still hot.

plate of peppers

all gone

nothing left but the stems

I may or may not have eaten all these peppers all by myself.  Don’t judge.  Better to eat a whole plate full of peppers than a whole plate of potato chips, am I right?

Shishito peppers–cross another thing off my bucket list.

 

 

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Peanut Soup

IMG_1297eEvery time I think about ruthlessly winnowing down my extensive cookbook collection, which takes up more space and collects more dust than I’m comfortable with, it just so happens that I will be idly thumbing through a long-forgotten tome and come across a recipe that turns out to be a real winner.

That’s the thing about print, if I may be allowed a librarianly aside.  No doubt I can find any number of iterations of peanut soup on the Internet.  Some of them will have been tested and some of them won’t, but I can certainly apply my critical skills to perusing as many of them as I have patience for, and decide which one to use.  But with a printed cookbook, there’s something so familiar and comforting about the leisurely progression through the pages and the finding of hidden gems.  Not to mention that there’s a kind of perverse, old-fashioned-seeming ease to just taking the book into the kitchen and cooking from it.  With recipes I find on my computer, I have to either print them, email them to myself on my iPad or phone, or re-search them on the phone or pad.  Then there’s the hassle of cooking from the screen, which I have yet to master satisfactorily, though I have certainly done it enough.   I think I’ll keep my books a little longer.

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In any case, I found this recipe in a very old cookbook set called Great Meals in Minutes.  I adapted it to my own tastes quite a bit so I’m not going to copy it straight out of the book, but rather I’m going to tell you how I did it.  Since this comes from the …in Minutes series, it’s no surprise that it was quick and easy.  Next time I plan to cook some rice separately and add it at the end.  And it can easily become vegetarian with just a broth substitution.

Peanut Soup
serves 4-6

1 medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
1 cup peanut butter
for garnish and accompaniment, all optional:
diced tomatoes
sliced green onions
lime wedges
chopped peanuts
red pepper flakes
chopped cilantro
In a saucepan, heat olive oil.  Sauté onion and garlic until soft.  Add curry powder and cook for a minute.  Add broth, coconut milk, and peanut butter.  Heat at a simmer until slightly thickened.  Serve with any or all of the garnishes.

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Fried Rice

IMG_9759eFried rice is not rocket science.  It’s so easy, providing you can make good rice in the first place.  It depends on having nice, fluffy, non-sticky cooked rice that has had some time to cool.  Ideally it would be made with rice that was cooked the day before and refrigerated, making it the ideal quick-to-cook meal that also has the advantage of using up leftovers.

Fried rice can be made with any meat and any vegetable, pretty much.  This is my favorite treatment of it; ham isn’t traditional but I like using it in fried rice because the meat stands up and stands out.  I find chicken fried rice a little bland, but it is certainly a good alternative, as are regular cooked pork, seafood, or even cooked beef.  A mix would be awesome too.

As for vegetables, most restaurants add peas, and I would too if I kept them around.  You can add carrots, broccoli, mushrooms…anything you like.  To me, the absolutely necessary add-ins are the egg and the green onions.  The rest is very flexible.

Ham Fried Rice
(about 8 servings as a side dish)
2 cups raw rice (I like to use Jasmine for this, but any long grain rice will work fine)
1 Tablespoon oil
2 eggs
1 cup diced ham
4 green onions, sliced
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
red pepper flakes to taste
Cook the rice according to package directions, or however you usually cook rice.  Allow to cool–overnight is best, but if you are pressed for time, cook it and immediately turn it out onto a cookie sheet, spread it out, and let it cool as long as possible.IMG_0131e

Have the vegetables and meat prepared and ready to go.  Mix the soy sauce, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes in a bowl and set aside.

In a wok or a very large frying pan, heat the oil to very hot.  Break the eggs in a bowl and beat them, reduce the heat to medium, then pour into the wok.  Allow them to cook on one side until completely set, then flip the omelet over and cook the other side.  Remove the omelet to a cutting board and dice.IMG_0133eIn the same wok and without wiping it out, add the cooked rice.  Stir it around to break up any clumps, and add the sesame oil/soy sauce mixture.  Stir fry it until it is all one color.IMG_0135e

Add the vegetables and meat, and stir fry until everything is heated through.  Add the egg and serve.IMG_0140eIMG_9763e

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Chiles Rellenos de Camarones

IMG_0114eA few days ago my brother, who has been annoying me for the past 58 years and shows no signs of stopping, sent me a Youtube video of a guy making chiles rellenos with a shrimp and cheese filling.  The video was in Spanish but cooking translates pretty well visually.  So well, in fact, that I became suddenly obsessed with chiles rellenos.  It was the culinary equivalent of getting a song stuck in your head, except in my case it was food.  Every time I thought about cooking something, a little voice piped up and suggested that I might want to make chiles rellenos.  So finally, I gave in.

There wasn’t a recipe associated with the video, and I don’t understand enough Spanish to follow it all, but I figured it out well enough to get the thing done.  Here’s how I did it.  I will say by way of a disclaimer that I did not add cheese because I’m not crazy about cheese, but these would certainly benefit from adding cheese to the filling if you are a cheese person.  I like shrimp, and these were really delicious, but I would also like to try these with a ground beef filling.

Chiles Rellenos con Camarones
(makes 3)
3 fresh whole poblano peppers
1/2 lb. fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup grated Monterrey Jack cheese (if desired)
3 eggs, separated
flour for dredging
oil for frying
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
3-4 canned chipotles in adobo sauce
1 fresh Roma tomato, diced
1 clove garlic
cumin, salt, and pepper to taste
First, roast the fresh poblanos over an open flame or on a griddle until blackened.  Place peppers in a plastic bag, close the bag, and allow the peppers to cool.  When cool enough to handle, remove them and peel the charred bits off the peppers.
Make a slit down the middle of each pepper, and remove the seeds with a spoon.  Set aside.
Coarsely chop the raw shrimp.  If you want, you can certainly pulse them in a food processor briefly, but since I was already using every implement in my kitchen I decided not to get the food processor dirty.  

In a mixer, whip the egg whites until they hold peaks.  Add the egg yolks and mix together briefly.
Fill the peppers with the shrimp (and cheese, if using) and close the peppers.  Fasten with toothpicks.IMG_0087e
Dredge the filled peppers in flour, then submerge in the egg batter.  This batter is very fluffy but it should stay on the pepper pretty well.  IMG_0091eIMG_0093e
Heat about a half inch of oil in a frying pan.  Place the battered peppers in the hot oil, and cook on each side until browned, approximately 5 minutes total, depending on the heat of the pan.IMG_0097eIMG_0098e
Preheat the oven to 350°.
In a blender, combine the tomato sauce, the chipotles, the fresh tomato, and the seasonings.  Blend until it is as smooth as you like it.
Pour the sauce over the peppers in an ovenproof pan, and bake at 350° for 20 minutes.  At the end of this time, the shrimp will be done and the pepper will still have a little bite; if you want the pepper to be softer, bake longer.IMG_0104e

Serve with Mexican rice and beans, if desired.

I think I have at least put that obsession to rest, now.IMG_0112e

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Steamed Pork Dumplings

IMG_6466textAn oldie but definitely a goodie.  I’ve been making these since I first saw the recipe in Bon Appetit back in the 70’s.  When my kids were small, we used to have a New Year’s get together with friends and I made these every year.  I tend to make them for parties because they make a lot, you can make them ahead, and re-steam them to serve.  For buffet tables, I like to put my electric wok out with the steam basket inserted, and keep it going on low with these dumplings in it.

The making of these is simple, considering the rewards.  The filling has a lot of ingredients but after you do the chopping, all you have to do is mix it together a bit with your hands, like meat loaf.IMG_6450eAfter the filling is mixed, fill potsticker wrappers (found in Asian groceries and some supermarkets) with a little of the mixture (a small cookie scoop makes this a breeze), hold it in the palm of your hand, and bring the wrapper up around the filling with the top open.  I like to tap the completed dumpling on the counter once to flatten the bottom.IMG_6460eIMG_6464After filling all of the dumplings, it’s time to steam them.  I like to use these bamboo steaming baskets sitting  inside my water-filled wok, but you can do it with anything you might have handy that you use for steaming.  Just be sure to spray the basket you are using with cooking spray, because otherwise these things will stick.  I promise you, they will stick.IMG_6454Steam the dumplings over boiling water for about 20 minutes, and immediately remove from the steamer and allow to cool a bit.  I like to serve them with a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, and a tiny bit of rice vinegar as a dip.

Steamed Meat Dumplings (Siu Mai)
1 lb ground pork
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
8 water chestnuts (about 1/2 of 8 oz. Can), diced
3/4 cup chopped canned straw mushrooms, or one can regular mushrooms, chopped
1 green onion, minced
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sherry
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
5 dozen purchased won ton or siu mai wrappers
Combine all ingredients except won ton wrappers in large bowl and blend well.  If using square won ton wrappers, cut corners off with scissors.  Put about 1 teaspoon filling on each wrapper, gather up sides and allow dough to pleat naturally.  Flatten filling slightly with thumb and gently tap bottom on flat surface so dumpling will stand upright.

Arrange dumplings in steamer and steam 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve hot with dip.
makes 5 dozen

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Blackberry Clafoutis

IMG_5659eBehold the clafoutis.  It is so pretty, and easy, and delicious, and best of all, versatile.  It tastes kind of like a thick crepe, and you can put different fruits in it depending on your mood or what you have on hand.IMG_5640ecroppedThis one has blackberries, but I have made it with raspberries, blueberries, and cherries.  I believe that the cherry clafoutis is the classic, but certainly the other fruits are a great substitute.  A mixed berry clafoutis would be really good too.IMG_5656eThe prep for this dish took about 5 minutes, and it bakes for 45 minutes, so you can have this delicious dessert ready in an hour.  It tastes good hot, at room temperature, or cold, and I like it best with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, neither of which I had on hand today, sadly.  But it is totally delicious by itself.

This is the recipe I followed, which I believe is an adaptation of Julia Child’s recipe.  The only variation I made was to use almond milk in place of the dairy milk, something I have been doing more of in baking.  I didn’t really see any difference in the finished dish.IMG_5648e

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