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Taco beans. June 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 3:50 am
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Quick post, since I ended up making a pretty lazy dinner: tacos. And for the most part, I scrounged these together, so I think that’s kinda cool. I think the key to a taco is the quality of tortilla. If you are going to pile on tons of flavor and toppings, or make a batch of enchiladas, go ahead and get Casa Crapito. But if you want something easy (and healthy), it’s worth spending a little more money and a few more calories on the good stuff. Lately I am partial to Mi Abuelita Bonita’s green chili corn tortillas, but these are only available in Northern California.

Other than the tortillas, the only other thing to worry about are your beans. If you have lots of toppings, plain black or pinto beans (drained and rinsed, if canned) are fine. But for a simple taco, I recommend the following: Saute up 1/2 diced onion in some olive oil (canola oil would work, too) on med-low heat. While your onion is cooking, open/drain/rinse a can of black beans. You’ll also have time to chop up 2 cloves garlic and throw them in with the onion. Spice with cayenne pepper and cumin (~1/2t each, to taste). Canned beans are high sodium, so salt to taste/as needed.  Give all the flavors a minute to come together and become aromatic, then dump in your beans and heat through:

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From there, trudge forth with whatever is in your fridge or cabinets. For me, this involved sour cream, red pepper strips, and a wedge of lime:

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Tomorrow I may saute up my lonely little zucchini, or shred some cabbage, or experiment with black bean and goat cheese tacos. I love a bean taco.

**Next day update: black bean and goat cheese quesadilla with diced red peppers and a squeeze of lime was really good for lunch today!! No picture because I like my tortillas burnt and crispy and unphotogenic.

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Chilled corn bisque and BBQ pork! Summertime! June 17, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 6:12 am

Because of work stress, I haven’t been cooking much. I was overdue for some dinner hosting (my favorite cooking conditions) and a casual dinner with a friend turned into a small dinner party. Everything came off great. This meal also came together very well for me even though I’m swamped with work, which really speaks to the simplicity of the recipes.

Last night I prepped my corn bisque. I got the recipe from the CL website, and although the reviews were unanimously rave, a few folks claimed it to be too much work for a non-hosting occasion. Pish posh!! Soup, in general, is a combination of easy and time consuming. This is more of the former than the latter, honestly. Prepping a day of head of time is practical, but not much work if you enjoy being in the kitchen. Since the recipe is blended and then strained, you don’t need to worry too much about your chopping technique. With the simmering stage, I didn’t worry too much about how thawed my frozen corn was, either. Like I said, easy.

Melt 1T butter over med-high heat, and add 1 cup chopped onion until clear. While your onion is cooking, whisk together 3T cornstarch into 3 cups chicken broth (mine included some homemade stock, which I would normally caution against in a veggie soup, but a bisque can handle it). Right about now your onion should be cooked through (about 3 minutes), just quickly chop up a clove or two of garlic and add to onions for 30sec or so.

Add broth/cornstarch mixture, and 4 cups corn kernels (= 8 ears = 2 standard frozen bags). Don’t forget salt and pepper, and be generous with cayenne pepper. The creaminess of the dairy and sweetness of the corn are a great match for some kick! Bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes:

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Using a food processor (or blender), puree the soup in appropriate batches. Strain each batch through a sieve or mesh. A generous mopping of your mixture over the mesh will increase your soup yield, and it’s also fun and mushy. You can either discard your mush, or play around with it for some fried corn cakes! Once you have strained your soup, add a 1/2 cup each milk and half-and-half. Chill in fridge.

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When ready to serve, bring to room temperature for about 30 minutes. The bisque is great with 2-3T crab meat and 1T avocado. I soaked canned crab in milk (to reduce tin flavor) during the room temp period, and didn’t bother draining since it was going into a creamy bisque. The original recipe calls for fresh chopped basil, which would be a great compliment, but is not missed too much if you don’t have it.

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In total, this recipe made me about 6 appetizer servings of bisque, and it was totally worth it. Simmer, strain, fridge, serve. Pretty easy. The key is to get enough cayenne, but I am in the habit of never measuring spices anymore so you’ll have to go with your gut!

Now to the heavy stuff. Historically speaking, I’m not a big pork fan. I like cured pork meat, but that’s about the extent of it. But this summer I have been embracing the pulled pork sandwich like nobodies business. I also have a beautiful Crock Pot I have not used yet, despite deep longing to. So, it seemed obvious to make this recipe when it was handed down by a friend.

The really fun part about this was preparing the meat and Crock Pot before going to work. It reminded me of childhood meals, I felt like a multi-tasking professional mother. (Although, you could probably cook the pork for 4h on High, if you needed to sleep in before hosting a weekend bbq!)

This morning I took my 3lb pork shoulder (bone in preferred) and knife-cut 10-15 deep X’s in the tissue and shoved whole cloves of garlic into each cut in the meat. Rub all sides generously with a spice blend of whatever you want. I used salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and even a few dashes of dry mustard and cumin. You can always spice at the end, if neccesary (although I doubt it will be!):

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IMG_0429Brown the edges of your pork in a pan, starting with the fattiest side. This should take about 10 minutes, all told. This helps seal in flavors and texture, but the meat will fully cook in the slow cooker so no need to worry about perfection on this step. Toss your shoulder roast in the Crock and top with a whisked mixture of 1 cup root beer (or other dark soda) and 1 cup bbq sauce. Cook on Low setting for 8 hours or until you get home.

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When you get home your house will smell really good. Simply drag your shoulder roast out, and start peeling the meat off with two forks. Discard the fat and bones. It’s really fun.

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Combine your meat back with the sauce in a pot, and cook over low heat until the liquid thickens (you can also do this in your slow cooker), maybe 10-20 minutes…

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Enjoy on a bun with coleslaw:

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We have a winner! June 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 4:45 am
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Clockwise from 10 o’clock:

Trader Joes brown rice medley. I never cook rice at home, but this stuff is delicious and hearty and complex is flavor. Don’t be scared by the daikon radish seeds, this stuff is not crunchy at all. It’s chewy in the way a good brown rice should be, with an extra nutty flavor.

Roasted green beans, with lemon wedge. Crank up the oven to 400. Toss trimmed green beans with olive oil, a couple cloves minced garlic, salt, pepper, and grated lemon rind. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve with fresh squeezed lemon juice. Although I used fresh green beans, this would definitely be freezer bean friendly, just thaw beforehand or cook frozen for an extra 10 minutes or so.

Roasted garlic bread. Store bought. Couldn’t resist.

Pisto Manchego! With my upcoming trip to Spain, I’m finally diving into some home Spanish cooking. This recipe is incredibly healthy, easy, and surprisingly delicious in it’s simplicity. I pulled it from one of my favorite sources, the New York Times’ Recipe for Health page. What appealed to me at first was that I could use up the zucchini and canned tomatoes I already had lying around, but also that egg cooked in!! Is there anything a runny yolk won’t make taste great?? If you look over the recipe it may look deceptive because there is no spicing, but you won’t notice.  It’s also probably the healthiest entree I’ve made all year: it’s just a lot of veggies, and a little bit of oil.

On to the cooking. The great thing about cooking foods like these is that you can chop up your veggies as you go. Timing isn’t really that essential, because remember, it will all cook down for a long time.

Heat up 2T olive oil over medium heat. Toss in 1 chopped onion, cook for a few minutes. Then add in the 4 cloves chopped garlic you cut up while that was cooking, and stir for another couple minutes. Toss in 2 pounds of diced zucchini and/or summer squash, and salt (I used a 2lb package from Trader Joe’s, missing a couple zucchini from last week’s pasta salad). A fun variation would be to add in some bell peppers! Stir your zucchini for about 5 minutes. Then toss in one large can of Muir Glen fire roasted diced tomatoes. I’m not normally a brand girl, but if you’ve ever had Muir Glen roasted tomatoes, you will never turn back, the flavor is off the charts. Make sure to add in a pinch of sugar and a generous helping of salt, and turn up the heat so as to start reducing the liquids a bit. This mixture should stay at this temperature for about 10 minutes. At that point, turn down the heat to med-low, and let the mixture simmer for 30-35 minutes. I stirred every 5-10 minutes or so, and you can also taste for seasoning while stirring. The idea is to get your veggies nice and mushy, and cook off the liquids. If you look at the original recipe, they refer to adding water, but with the canned tomatoes this wasn’t an issue. However, you may want to make sure your mix is staying moist enough.

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Now the good part! Create a little well in your mixture, and crack an egg inside. The whole thing is good for 6 or so eggs, but the egg won’t save for leftovers, so just cook what you will eat and save the rest for later. Cover, and cook until the whites are set, but not the yolk. Ready to serve, especially with some shredded asiago for extra flavor and saltiness!

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This dish can easily made as a side without an egg. Or you can save it in the fridge, and make leftovers with eggs in the oven. I’m going to toss it with some pasta. This stuff is GREAT, so filling, so yummy, so healthy, and pretty f’ing easy (although a bit time consuming).