Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pulled Pork Ramen with Jalapeno Paste and Sauteed Mushrooms

Sometimes a trait or characteristic that seemed fixed and essential to defining ourselves can turn out to be not so unchanging after all.

I am the structured one in this relationship. I like having plans. If I'm going to sit and play notes on the keyboard, I absolutely positively need sheet music in front me. Without sheet music in front of me, there is nothing for me to do. If I'm playing with Max, I don't truly play, but instead declare it the time to count buttons in Spanish or the time to research flightless birds.

Seth, in contrast, eschews the structure, the structure to which I cling, and gravitates towards free play. He actually can play with Max in the way that play is actually meant to be done with a small child. When he sits in front of the keyboard, he explores all while rejecting my idea of playing a song from a book.

But when it comes to the kitchen, our characteristic structured/free play aspects reverse. He thrives under the guidance of instruction, while I feel constricted.

So Seth was skeptical about my free form, admittedly time-consuming kitchen play that led to this ramen. He did not think it would be something edible. but indeed it was, an umami filled bowl of deliciousness.  One full of pulled pork and a garlicky jalapeno paste and sauteed mushrooms and soft-boiled eggs.  One that can bridge the divide between the structuralists and free form players, even when that divide is within ourselves.

For the mushrooms:
8 ounces, sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
splash soy sauce
freshly ground pepper

For the jalapeno paste:
400 degrees
4 jalapenos, halved
5 garlic cloves
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon grated ginger

For the pulled pork:
4 lb pork shoulder
black pepper
1 tablespoon miso
1 tablespoon ground dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup mirin
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon ume plum vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 bottle porter beer (I like using Deschutes Black Butte)

For the broth:
1 large onion, quartered
2 scallions
2 celery stalks
handful baby carrots
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cloves
cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon miso
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

soft boiled eggs - Cooking Light has good instructions for this (1 for each bowl)
16 ounces fresh ramen noodles
chopped scallions

To make the mushrooms: Melt the butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Once the butter has melted and the bubbles in the mixture have started to subside, add the chopped mushrooms. Stir continuously, allowing the mushrooms to absorb the butter and oil mixture. After a few minutes, the mushrooms will brown. Drizzle with the soy sauce and sprinkle freshly ground black pepper.

To make the jalapeno paste: Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Place jalapeno halves and garlic cloves in a small baking dish. Drizzle olive oil, and sprinkle a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper.  Roast for 15 minutes, until jalapenos have browned.  Once roasted, place in food processor and add two tablespoons of olive oil and the grated ginger.  Pulse until a paste forms, adding more olive oil if needed.

To make the pulled pork: Rub the pork shoulder with freshly ground black pepper, miso, and the ground mushrooms.  Place in crockpot.  Pour mirin, vinegars, sesame oil, liquid smoke, brown sugar, soy sauce, and beer over it.  Set crockpot on high and cook for 5-6 hours, until the pork falls off the bone and is cooked through.

To make the pulled pork broth: Remove the pork from its cooking liquid.  Wrap peppercorns, clove, cinnamon, and star anise in cheese cloth.  Add onion, scallions, celery, carrots, cheesecloth with the spices, soy sauce, miso, vinegar, and liquid smoke to the pork cooking liquid.  Cook in crockpot for 2-3 hours on low.  Strain.

For the ramen bowls: Cook noodles according to package directions.  To serve, place some noodles, pulled pork, and soft boiled egg in a bowl and ladle broth over.  Sprinkle chopped scallions and place a bit of jalapeno paste on top.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Dessert Tartine with Sauteed Cardamom and Rose Pear Slices and Toasted Hazelnuts

What follows is a rundown of things I am embarrassed about. I have a nagging suspicion that I've done this before, so this is most definitely not a final list, as I am prone to both feeling embarrassment easily and also have a knack for getting myself into situations in which embarrassment is the only available possibility.

Item # 1 - buying seasonal decor items from drug stores and grocery stores. I feel as though I should be ashamed of my penchant for wandering into the seasonal decor aisle, finding everything 50% off, then stocking up on festive candles and glassware. I have even cultivated an appreciation for this pastime in Max, as he has just recently picked out his very own ugly owl-shaped pumpkin decoration during our last excursion.

Item #2 - eating dinner at an establishment named Buster's because we were too lazy too walk just a little bit further to a more respectable dining location. A place that would, in all likelihood, have offered up better choices than "extremely sweet chicken dish" and "extremely gross cioppino"

Item #3 - not being able to tell left from right without doing that trick of looking to see which hand makes the "L" shape when extending the pointer finger and thumb.

Item #4 - the amount of times I just pile and slather ingredients on bread, eat it, and declare it a recipe

I suppose I find bread to be such a fun canvas to work with - so delicious yet subtle, perfect for exploring flavor combinations. Here I sauteed sliced red pears in butter, brown sugar, rose and cardamom. Cream cheese and pomegranate juice were mixed together, and then spread on crusty bread. The bread was then topped with the pears and finished with some toasted hazelnuts. A most delicious way to rid oneself of embarrassment.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 sliced pears (I used Starkrimson, as they were just so beautiful)
1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground dried rose
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch kosher salt
4 ounces cold cream cheese
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
1/4 cup chopped hazlenuts, toasted
slices of warm, crusty bread

For the pears:
Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the pears, then sprinkle the sugar, rose, cardamom, and salt over the slices.  Let the pears become warm and soft, about 6 minutes.  Take off heat.

For the cream cheese mixture:
Beat the cream cheese and pomegranate juice with mixer until combined.

For assembling:
Spread cream cheese on a slice of bread.  Layer on pears, then sprinkle hazelnuts on top.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Mushroom and Rosemary Goat Cheese Sandwich with Red Onion

Repetition is a funny thing. Practice makes perfect, and all that.

It truly does help you learn. Including things you didn't even want to learn. 

Like, for instance, dinosaurs.  I am now able to recite a dinosaur name that starts with A all the way through the alphabet to the letter Z.  I'm also pretty good now at telling you whether that dinosaur was a carnivore or an herbivore.  Give me a few more weeks, and I will be able to tell you whether that dinosaur lived during the Triassic, Jurassic, or Cretaceous period, and on what continent.  All extremely boring facts that I never cared to learn.  All extremely boring facts that are taking up precious brain resources, leaving fewer brain cells to deal with the important life stuff.

And all learned because we read this book at least two times a day.  Two times a day, this book is recited. Two times a day, I say the name of the dinosaur, some facts about it, its preference for consuming meat or leaves, and the time in which it lived and the place.

My second grade self would be proud of all the dinosaur knowledge I've finally acquired. 

But repetition is also funny in its inconsistency. 

Goat cheese is apparently an acquired taste. But acquired how?  

In my case, it was not a gradual repetitive attempt to embrace it. Repeated attempts at eating it did not actually lead to enjoyment.

It was a sudden and random realization, a realization that did not occur in the vicinity of goat cheese, that now - now would be a good time to try it again. Now will be the time that I like it.

And so that instinct was right. I'm obsessed. Though, arguably, the reason could have been that I picked up a better tasting brand of the stuff this time.  Apparently, however, the little guy already somehow acquired the ability to enjoy the stuff, shoveling it in his mouth after his first bite.

To celebrate this new-found appreciation, a sandwich was made.  A sandwich stuffed with browned mushrooms scented with rosemary and balsamic vinegar, a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, kale leaves, and slices of red onion.  A sandwich that warrants repeating.

And to learn more about one of our very favorite ingredients, an ingredient that wasn't an acquired taste, but easily and readily embraced from the outset - the mushroom - click here.  Cooking Light has compiled a super informative article about our edible friend, including storage and selection tips and some fun trivia!

For the mushroom and rosemary mixture:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/4 of red onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch kosher salt
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

For the sandwiches:
sour dough bread
goat cheese
grated parmesan cheese
handful baby kale
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
lemon wedge
sliced red onions
mushroom mixture
canola oil, for skillet

To make the mushroom mixture: Melt the butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Once the butter has melted and the bubbles in the mixture have started to subside, add the sliced mushrooms, rosemary, and onion slices. Stir continuously, allowing the mushrooms to absorb the butter and oil mixture and the onion to soften. After a few minutes, the mushrooms will brown.  Turn heat down to low and add the garlic, pinch kosher salt and pepper.  Once fragrant (about a minute), remove from heat and add vinegar.

To make the sandwich: Assemble sandwich by spreading a layer of goat cheese on a slice of bread. Sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.  Add a handful of baby kale leaves.  Sprinkle the leaves with just a bit of kosher salt, pepper, and a drizzle of fresh lemon juice.  Add a layer of sliced red onions, then the mushroom mixture.  Add the other slice of bread.  Heat oil in skillet on medium-high heat.  Bronze the sandwich on one side, then flip over to get that brown color on the other side.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pork Lettuce Wrap with Yogurt Pomegranate Sauce

It was captivating, and perfectly located to view from the comfort of the bed that early in the morning. Once it was spotted, neither of us could turn away from it.

The flashes of light changed colors, a trick that was truly intriguing and also hypnotic.  Eventually, our trance was broken and we wanted more information. Why was this star - Spica - cycling through different colors?

We needed to know more. Yet when we entered our search terms about Spica into the search engine, we couldn't find anything about its flashing colors of light.

We were so confused. Were we at some special angle that only we could see this? Maybe it was really an airplane, stuck in the air. Or perhaps some other man made object. Or maybe, this pair of extremely amateur backyard astronomy enthusiasts just discovered something new, without even needing to leave the bed!

It was eventually revealed to us, that no, we did not indeed happen upon a new discovery. We were just completely and utterly wrong about the name of the star. We were looking at Sirius, not Spica. And oh wow, there was lots of information about this. Needless to say, no astronomical accolades would be garnered by us.

I may lack the ability to correctly identify celestial objects. But I am not wrong about the pleasures to be had in the eating of lettuce wraps.

The placing of the lettuce leaf on your plate. Spooning in some delicious meat, in this case fragrant with garlic and ginger and shallots, then lightly coated with a creamy sauce of Greek yogurt, pomegranate juice, orange juice, and orange zest. Then piling on the toppings - the extras that give each bite its own personality, its unique combination of crunchy jicama, of sweetness from the carrots, of refreshing and cooling mint, of spicy jalapeno. A drizzle of fresh orange juice perks everything up. The bright fresh lettuce and toppings makes a delicious and beautiful contrast with the pork. A meal that is captivating as Sirius.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound ground pork
4 garlic cloves
2 shallots
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno, or to taste
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
4 teaspoons pomegranate juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon orange juice
1 tablespoon thick soy sauce
butter lettuce leaves

mint leaves
chopped scallions
jicama, julienned
carrots, julienned
jalapeno slices

In a small bowl, stir together yogurt, pomegranate juice, orange zest, orange juice, and thick soy sauce.  Set aside.  Heat canola oil on high heat in saute pan.  Add pork.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Once pork is cooked, lower heat and add shallots and jalapeno.  Once those have become soft, add the garlic and ginger.  Saute for a minute.  Stir the yogurt mixture into the pork.

To assemble wrap, spoon pork into the lettuce and then add toppings.  Drizzle with fresh orange juice

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Quick Pickled Blueberries, Goat Cheese, Honey, Pluot, Sage, Pistachio Tartines

When one wakes up in the middle of the night, it takes awhile for truth to be understood. You hold some beliefs that make incredible sense at the moment upon awakening.

But after a bit of time, one realizes that everything thought to be true, thought to be factual, was wrong.

The puff cat on the pillow is actually the pig cat imitating the puff's favored sleep position. The fluffy soft cat making its way to your hand for cuddles is not a random stray third cat that you keep wishing would magically appear at your doorstep in need of a loving home. And that the lump near your legs isn't a sleeping pig cat. In reality, the fluffy cuddly cat is your very own JiJi. And the lump near your legs is not even a cat. But a mini-sized person who should have been sleeping in his own bed. And by the time all these facts and truths are revealed you are extremely awake.

At which point, even more truths can come out as well.  Like you realize with a flutter of panic that you never said goodbye to blueberries.  They were here  - so small and round and indigo in color and now they are gone - replaced by nonsense like figs.

This month's Creative Cooking Crew Challenge is to "pickle it"  The roundup will be hosted by Joan of Foodalogue, so I will post the link here once the roundup goes live! Here is the link to the roundup - definitely check it out, there are so many amazing, creative dishes!

After I realized my mistake, I figured this - the blueberries - would be the thing to pickle.  I would somehow obtain a box, and have my chance to say goodbye.  I decided to do a quick pickling of the blueberries so that my mom would be able to say her goodbyes to the fruit as well while she was visiting.

From there, we built a tartine with a goat cheese and cream cheese mixture, honey, pluots, sage, and chopped pistachios.  A tartine to truly awaken the taste buds.

2 cups blueberries
1 cup red wine vinegar (I wanted the sour taste to be prominent, so I used only vinegar, but feel free to substitute water for part of the vinegar.  I probably wouldn't go over 1/2 cup of water)
3 tablespoons wild dandelion honey
1 cinnamon stick
2 inch orange peel
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon whole tellicherry peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon juniper berries
1 teaspoon kosher salt

4 ounces goat cheese
3 ounces cold cream cheese

chopped salted pistachios
wild dandelion honey
pluot, sliced
torn sage leaves
goat cheese spread
pickled blueberries
slices of good quality bread

In a small pot, bring the vinegar (and water, if using), honey, cinnamon, orange peel, fennel, cloves, peppercorns, juniper berries, and salt to boil.  Place the blueberries in a mason jar, then pour the vinegar mixture over the berries.  Refrigerate overnight.

In mixer, beat goat cheese with the cream cheese.

To assemble the tartines: Spread goat cheese mixture on bread.  Brush on a bit of honey.  Add pluot slices, sage leaves, pickled blueberries, and chopped pistachios.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Chocolate Banana Malt Smoothie

Reasons you have gone from peacefully asleep to being jolted awake an hour earlier than actually necessary, depriving you of the ability of going back to sleep before the actual appointed time of waking up:

  1. You have to pee the equivalent of three pees.
  2. The dark shadowy blob on the ceiling is, without a doubt, a ghost.
  3. The lovable but psychotic cat is tearing apart cardboard with his teeth.  This is not a quiet sound
  4. Your mom is arriving today, and while you are introverted, anxious, and socially reclusive, you absolutely cannot feel anything but excitement about seeing your mom and having her spend a week with you.
  5. Your husband is leaving for a week, and you will miss having him around.
On those days, those days where you are anxious and nervous and excited and yet oh so tired, one must indulge.  Reward oneself for getting through the day.  Like with a banana chocolate malt shake.  Or is it a smoothie?  I'm not really sure.

Banana, chocolate, and peanut butter are well acquainted with each other.  It is the barley malt syrup that makes it irresistible, the reason the taste buds keep going back for just one more sip. The reason you are gathering what little remains in the bowl with a colorful, well-worn spatula and then shoveling into your mouth. The reason you are actually licking the bowl, to get just one more taste, one more moment of bliss amidst the mix of emotions churning inside your head.

3 frozen bananas
1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
3 tablespoons barley malt syrup
1/2 cup-3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
pinch of salt

Place all ingredients in blender (or use an immersion blender).  Blend together.  Pour in glass(es) and enjoy.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Turkey Sliders with Kale and Roasted Broccoli Spread

I'm generally okay with getting older.  Some people desire the ability to time travel back to high school, longing to be 16 again and rejoining cheerleading squads and all that jazz.  I'm not one of those sorts.  I have the "older is wiser" philosophy of life. However, while I don't wish to relive the past, I do wish I possessed the ability to stop myself from doing certain things.  But I digress.

One of the things I'm not okay with is my waning lack of enthusiasm for thrill rides.  And more specifically, roller coasters.  There was a time when I absolutely could not wait to be tall enough to go on a roller coaster, and as soon as I became tall enough, gleefully and joyfully rode those roller coasters.  I considered my love of roller coasters as an integral part of my identity, akin to being a reader or a person with brunette hair.

But now?  My love has has been frittered away.  I find them painful.  Painful.  Both physically, and now emotionally, as being tossed around in a tiny car appears to not be a kind thing to do to this almost 30 year-old body.  And emotionally, as this thing that I would look forward to doing each summer, this thing that I was always proud of doing, is no longer mine to claim.

One thing that will not wane, or I absolutely refuse to let it - is an enthusiasm for miniature foods.  I have fond memories of mini hamburgers (i don't remember calling them sliders at the time) being served by my mom. And absolutely loving their adorable size, a trait that never ceases to thrill me to this day.  Here we made little turkey burgers, and punched up their umami flavor with some tomato paste, Parmesan cheese, ground dried porcini mushrooms and Worcestershire sauce.  The patties were moist (we may have had a casualty) but it is worth the trade off.  Topping them with a slice of Parmesan and a roasted broccoli spread punches up the flavor, while raw kale adds a bit of crunch. A food for the ages.

And if you are obsessed with the idea of miniature burgers and need more recipe ideas, Cooking Light has you covered! This slideshow here features all sorts of these mini sandwiches - from Bacon and Cheddar to Beet and Brown Rice! Endless possibilities!

For the turkey patties:
20 ounces ground turkey
1 teaspoon ground dried porcini mushrooms (run the dried mushrooms through a spice grinder)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
pinch kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

For the roasted broccoli spread:
3-4 cups broccoli florets
4 garlic cloves
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
drizzle of lemon juice
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon of mango flesh
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground pasilla
2 tablespoons chives
1 scallion
cayenne, to taste
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the burgers:
12-14 miniature burger (slider) buns
slices of Parmesan cheese (I like using my y-shaped vegetable peeler for this)
kale leaves (tough stems removed)
cooked turkey patties
roasted broccoli spread

To make the turkey patties: In a large bowl, mix together the turkey, ground mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, Greek yogurt, garlic powder, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.  Form the mixture into small patties.  I get 12-14 patties from it.

To make the roasted broccoli spread:  Heat oven to 425.  Spread the florets and garlic on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.  Roast for 20-30 minutes, until browned.

Remove the broccoli/garlic from pan and place in bowl.  Add the Greek yogurt, olive oil, mango, lemon juice, pasilla, chives, and scallion.  Blend with an immersion blender (or put everything in a food processor to make the spread).  Adjust cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste.

To make the burgers:  Heat canola oil over high heat in a cast iron skillet.  Add the patties.  Brown one side (about 3 minutes or so).  Flip the burgers over and add a Parmesan cheese slice to each.  Keep the heat on high to brown the bottoms.  Cover skillet with a baking sheet or lid and turn the heat to low to finish cooking the turkey and to melt the cheese.  Once the burgers are fully cooked and the cheese has melted, remove from pan.

To assemble the sliders:  Place a piece of kale and a cooked burger patty on each bun.  Spread the roasted broccoli sauce on each before closing.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Strawberry Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Muffins

There are many experiences in life to which I have absolutely no inclination to become a participant.  Like running a marathon.  Or bungee jumping. Or learning computer programming. Or Living in a snowy/icy location.  I just have no interest in these.

And I'm thinking that eating muffins without chocolate chips has to be added to that list.  Non-chocolate-chip muffins can sound so wonderful and so delicious.  And I'm taken in by their charms, their warmth, their smell (I'm looking at you apple muffins). And I will bake some.  And after I eat one, and the remaining 11 or so muffins are waiting to be eaten, my mind starts to regret this muffin path that I have chosen, and I fervently wish that a chocolate chip muffin, of some kind, of any kind, was in front of me instead.

I now put chocolate chips in banana muffins, zucchini muffins, muffins without fruit - ALL the muffins. Including these ones. I imagine that someone will assume that all the muffins taste the same. But that is just complete and utter nonsense.

Do I want that sweet banana taste with my chocolate chips or do I want some sweet berries? What kind of texture should the muffin have today? These are important questions. And lead to very (okay maybe not very) but still, they are all different muffins. All very different vehicles for delivering chocolate chips into my mouth.

Instead of leaving things well enough alone, I took out the lemon from this recipe and added vanilla extract and a bit of almond extract and some cinnamon and nutmeg for some fragrance. And, most importantly, chocolate chips were added to the mix. It is a muffin path with no regrets.

1 ½ cups chopped strawberries + 2 tablespoons flour
2 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350. In a small bowl, gently coat the strawberries with the 2 tablespoons flour together and set aside. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk 2 ½ cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. In a large bowl, mix together extracts, sugar, egg, buttermilk, and oil. Mix the dry ingredients into wet, stirring until just combined. Gently mix in the strawberries that have been tossed with flour, as well as the chocolate chips. Line a muffin pan with liners then divide batter among the prepared cups. Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. 
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