Monday, February 16, 2009

pulled pork sandwiches

  • paprika
  • cayenne pepper
  • adobo
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • liquid smoke
  • 2 chili peppers, seeded and chopped fine
  • 1 bell pepper (I used half a yellow and half an orange), chopped
  • 1 boneless pork shoulder roast
  • prepared bbq sauce, or homemade if you need a hobby

Combine paprika, cayenne pepper (just a little), adobo and black pepper, spread mixture evenly on roast, cover (Tupperware or saran wrap is fine, but never tin foil) and refrigerate over night. The next morning mix together vinegar and brown sugar (over heat works best, but right in the crock pot will do), add a few dashes liquid smoke, peppers and roast, and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Right before serving, drain roast in colander reserving a few drops of liquid on the meat, return to crock pot and shred with fork or wooden spoon and add some bbq sauce (I usually try to make my own, but went with Dr. Pepper flavored sauce this time and it worked quite nicely). Serve on your favorite rolls (Rockland bakery in the burgh if you're local) with extra sauce on the side.

The dish: I'm blessed to be 33 and have both my grandmothers still be alive. I could always tell when my birthday was 2 days away because I would get two cards, one from my maternal grandmother that had a bunch of scratch off tickets that were ALWAYS winners, and one from my paternal grandmother that would have a check for $20 inside. Usually the proceeds of both were spent acquainting myself with a host of designer inebriants, but I would always tell my grandmothers I spent the money on something more benign: no nan, I didn't get loaded with your birthday money, I bought a nice shirt. About three weeks before my 26th birthday I decided that I wanted a crock pot. "What a perfect idea" I thought, I can even tell my grandmothers I spent their bday money on it. By the time my day rolled around my pot already had some mileage on it and I was looking forward to telling my nans. I was shocked when the cards came but nothing was inside, apparently 25 was the cutoff for such things- who knew? I wound up telling both my grandmothers the full story and they got a kick out of it, but they also reminded me what being 26 meant, you've got to love the depression era. I've since used the hell out of my crock pot and have convinced many of my friends to buy one, becoming a champion of a kitchen gadget that probably reached the zenith of its popularity when I was in diapers. Pulled pork is always one of the first things I advise people to make. The recipe above is the advanced one, for ease you can just throw the roast in the cooker with some bbq sauce and be amazed at the results. If you're not down with the other white meat you can use beef, and if animals aren't your thing then lentils work well also, just cook them a little ahead of time.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tuscan chili

  • 4 cans cannelini beans, drained and washed

  • 1 bag frozen chopped spinach

  • 1 jar sun dried tomatoes, drained of oil

  • 2 bell peppers, diced (I prefer yellow and orange)

  • 3 cloves chopped garlic, or 3 tablespoons prepared garlic

  • 3 tablespoons prepared pesto

  • 4 links sausage

  • 1/2 cup of vegetable stock

  • chopped fresh parsley

If using raw sausage, brown meat in skillet and slice. If using cooked sausage, slice meat, then combine all ingredients except half of fresh parsley in crock pot (yeah, I'm that guy), season with dried Italian sounding herbs (look for lots of vowels- I used oregano), and cook on low for 8 hours. Garnish servings with fresh parsley.

The dish: I'm not really sure what makes a chili a chili, although typing this I'm inclined to think the presence of chili peppers does, but whatever. This is a great meal that has a chili-like satisfaction to it. Beans, peppers, meat- other than the Italian twist it's straight up chili. Like the more traditional variety of chili you can notch up the spice on this by adding some hot peppers, you can even find them Italian style if you wish to remain true to the name. If you're reading this and know me, you know the one thing on the planet that I CANNOT STAND is green peppers, which is fine because the yellow and orange ones really give off nice color alongside the green spinach and white beans. I used regular Italian sausage, but you could just as easily use a nice chicken sausage or no meat at all and this dish would satisfy. If you don't already own one I highly recommend picking up a crock pot as there is no way that we'd have a hot dinner half the time if we just didn't walk into it at the end of the day.

Monday, February 9, 2009

split pea soup

  • 1 pound dried split peas
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 8oz ham stock
  • 32oz ham stock
  • 1 cup cooked ham, cubed
  • dried oregano
  • fresh or dried parsley
  • bay leaves
  • adobo

Either soak peas in water overnight or boil for 10 minutes. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker (or crock pot for those of you that are cool with disrespecting intellectual property) and cook on low for 8 hours. Leftover ham on the bone works the best here, but I didn't have any so I went ghetto and chopped up a ham steak. Garnish with some nice croutons.

The dish: I think every kid is predisposed to liking pea soup because it gets a shout out from Yukon Cornelius in the Rudolph movie. Which is odd, because even as an adult, it's really not too attractive to look at. This is the first time I've tried it with the ham stock and it added a nice flavor, but it's just as good without.

Israeli couscous salad

  • 2 cups Israeli couscous, cooked
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • kosher salt
  • white pepper

In a large pot bring 2.5 cups of water to a boil, add couscous, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk together juice, oil and vinegar. When couscous is cooked add mixture and season with salt and pepper. If mixture is too dry, add more of the liquids. Serve cold.

The dish: Israeli couscous is a funky little ball of almost pasta that has a really unique consistency. This salad is basically a rip off of one that Hannaford sells in the warmer months. This is the first batch I've made and I kind of winged the recipe, and it's quite good but truthfully, Hanny's is better. I'll remake this a few times before salad season gets into full swing and see if we can't surpass the goodness from the deli counter.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

insider tuna

  • 3 cans of tuna, drained
  • 1/3 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • adobo, I prefer the con pimienta variety
  • dried dill
  • old bay seasoning

Combine drained tuna with other ingredients and blend well. If mixture appears to have too much mayonnaise, add more breadcrumbs for balance. If mixture appears too dry, then add more mayonnaise. Use just a little old bay seasoning, with a healthy shake of the adobo and 2 healthy shakes of the dill. Serve on your favorite bread with spinach for extra flavor.

The dish: If you've ever ordered a tuna sandwich at a deli and thought, "why doesn't my tuna come out like this", the answer is in three parts: 1. the original idea was to cut costs, but adding breadcrumbs to the mixture totally enhances the flavor. 2. Always drain your tuna before you do anything with it, the funk in the can doesn't bring anything to the party. 3. The deli only makes tuna once, maybe twice a week. The longer all these flavors sit together (within reason, of course) the better they all become. If you happen to have a ripe avocado, which I did not at time of writing this, a few slices on top turns this sandwich into a superstar.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

macaroni & beef

  • 1 pound short pasta
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 14.5oz can of tomato paste
  • 2 14.5oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • assorted Italian herbs, fresh or dried

Boil water in large pot with a pinch of salt, cook pasta according to directions. Meanwhile, in large skillet, begin browning meat over medium high flame. After about 3 minutes add garlic and a tiny amount of olive oil, continue browning, stirring frequently. Once meat is browned (about 5 minutes) stir in can of tomato paste. Once paste is worked in, add other tomatoes and herbs and a pinch of Adobo, or just garlic powder if you don't have, cook over low flame until pasta is done (but just done!), then mix together with drained pasta. Add cheese to garnish if you feel there isn't quite enough plaque in your arteries.

The dish: Kim wasn't feeling so hot today, which worked out well for me because it meant I could take her shiny new car to the office. I offered to make or bring in whatever she felt like eating and while I would have expected won-ton or homemade chicken noodle soup, a homemade version of Stouffer's macaroni and beef threw me a curve. I haven't had the frozen dish in years, but took a good look at it while at the store and figured it out pretty well. I used dried oregano and basil, but fresh parsley. Had Kim not been sick this definitely would have some cheese on top, but we didn't really miss it as is.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mediterranean Boboli pizza

  • 1 Boboli crust
  • prepared pesto
  • fresh spinach, chopped finely
  • pitted kalamata olives, sliced
  • 1 jar of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • ricotta cheese

Preheat oven to 425. If you have a pizza stone leave in and make sure it gets all hot, otherwise cook it directly on the rack, but if you're wondering why pizza you make at home sucks it's because you don't have one. Meanwhile, spoon dollops of pesto and ricotta randomly on crust and cover with rest of ingredients being generous as most of this stuff is pretty good for you. Cook in hot oven for 10 minutes or until toppings are hot and crust is crispy.

The dish: There is no substitute for real New York style thin crust, so when I make pizza at home I don't even try to replicate it. Boboli makes a pretty good and very easy crust and I try to load it up with all kinds of things I would never ask the dude with the vowel-heavy name behind the counter at the local pizzeria to top one of his slices with. Themes work well, this Mediterranean one is great for loading up on veggies, but you could just as easily be non-virtuous and have a bbq chicken or meats from around the world pie.

penne with broccoli rabe and chicken sausage

  • penne or any other short pasta
  • good quality chicken sausage, sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, chopped
  • olive oil
  • chicken or other light stock

In a large pot filled with lightly salted water cook pasta until JUST done. In skillet over medium high heat saute garlic in the olive oil for 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of broth and broccoli rabe, reduce heat to medium and cook until the leaves on the broccoli begin to wilt. Add sausage and more stock as needed and cook, stirring frequently. Top cooked pasta with mixture and your favorite shredded Italian cheese.

The dish: Another easy one that's always a hit. There's a lot of pre-cooked chicken sausages available today. For this dish I use ones that tend toward Italian herb and garlic styles. Don't be afraid of using garlic sausage with fresh garlic, they have two different flavors that work well together. Since the sausage is pre-cooked there's really no need to do much more than just heat it up here. As always, overcooked pasta will kill this dish, make sure to check it a few minutes before the package cooking time suggests. Always cook pasta in water with a pinch of salt, but never with any oil. Pasta clumps because it's poor quality, not because of lack of added lubricants, oil just makes sure the sauce falls off it. I prefer Barilla Plus, which has a whole host of goodness including Omega 3 and fiber, but if you're near a Hannford, they have a house brand with all the extra stuff that cooks just as well.

veggie and tofu ginger stir-fry

  • 1 brick of tofu, cubed

  • 1 yellow pepper, cut into matchsticks, or julienned if you think that highly of yourself

  • 1 bag of cut green beans and carrots

  • wok oil

  • mirin

  • soy sauce

  • ginger flavored soy sauce

  • cooked rice

Heat your wok over the hottest flame you can find for about 5 minutes. While doing that combine a generous amount of ginger flavored soy sauce with smaller amounts of mirin and regular soy sauce. When the wok gets red hot add the wok oil and swirl around being careful not to cause a small fire. Add the tofu and cook over high heat until firm and browned about 5 minutes. Add a little more wok oil and the veggies, cook for another 3-5 minutes. Toss in sauce to mixture and serve over rice.

The dish: I don't reinvent the wheel, I buy rice from my local Chinese place; it cost about a buck and tastes better than any rice I've ever made. Good wok skills boil down to three basic factors: 1. Use good quality, authentic ingredients. Do not cook in a wok with any oil other than wok oil, it has a high smoke point and a neutral flavor. 2. Be prepared. Cooking in a wok came about as a way to conserve energy, so cooking times are short and the flame is always high. Make sure everything is prepped beforehand. 3. Be not afraid. There is a good chance that between the high heat and its odd shape that you will set the thing on fire, it's no big deal if you do. Seriously, in the event of any kitchen fire, turn the heat on the stove off, RIGHT AWAY. If you're thinking clearly you can wet a kitchen towel and throw it over the flames, but NEVER throw water directly onto a burning stove.

ravioli with toasted walnuts

  • 1 package frozen or fresh ravioli

  • 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • chopped fresh parsley

  • olive oil

Fill the biggest pot you own with water and a pinch of salt, bring to boil and prepare ravioli according to package instructions. While juggling that Herculean task, begin toasting dry walnuts in skillet, cast iron works best, over a medium flame. After about 3 minutes add garlic and a generous pass of olive oil. Reduce heat to low and add parsley, cook for as long as the ravioli take, shouldn't be more than a few minutes. Drizzle mixture with additional olive oil as needed and serve over cooked (but not overcooked) ravioli.

The dish: This is an easy dish that presents as harder than it is. The one in the photo was actually one of my least favorite preparations. I normally use whole walnuts and chop them myself, but I had a bag a of chopped ones on hand and I just used them. Their texture was a little too small and predictable for this dish. Using an interesting ravioli helps as well. This time it was a fresh 5 cheese and herb, but my favorite was a frozen butternut squash ravioli that lent itself to this in a great way. My rule with olive oil is this: if it's being cooked it can't be too cheap; if served raw it can't be too expensive. Olive oil is very delicate and really doesn't stand up to heat, so go ahead and buy the store brand, don't even splurge for the virgin or extra at that. However, also have some on hand that your initial thought regarding it was "who in the hell would spend this much on canola's snobby cousin"? My trick is to go to Marshall's or TJ Max or some such store and buy it on close out, you can get a great bottle for about $7. In this recipe I cooked with my cheap stuff, but after the heat went off I drizzled the mixture with my private reserve.

kale and friends winter soup

  • 1 bunch of kale, torn into bite size pieces
  • 1 cubed butternut squash
  • 2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup cooked chicken, diced
  • 4+ cups of high quality chicken broth
  • assorted green herbs

combine all ingredients in large slow cooker (or "crock pot" if you just don't give a damn about trademarks), season with kosher salt and fresh black pepper, cover, cook on low for 8 hours. Add more broth if it appears to not have a soup-like consistency. I used leftover rotisserie chicken, but any will work. If using frozen squash, wait until the final 20 minutes of cooking to add.

The Dish: This is a hearty soup, great for those busy and freezing winter nights (of which we've had many this year). I've done it several times using both fresh and frozen squash and I've determined that fresh tastes better, it's just a pain in the ass to cut something the shape of Grimace into cubes. I had leftover rosemary and parsley on hand and they added nicely to it, but just about any green herb would work, although I'd avoid dill. Good chicken broth is key here, I had some frozen homemade stuff and I supplemented it with Rachel Ray's brand, the only stock with cleavage!! I have a 4.5 quart crock pot and this recipe makes plenty for us to have at least two meals. Great when served with hot garlic bread, or my favorite: Hannaford garlic toast, Texas style.