Category Archives: dinner

Dr. Pepper Chipotle Pulled Pork

I know the title of this recipe sounds like some sort of white trashed fucked up mumbo jumbo but it’s really not. Okay maybe it’s a bit on the white trash side and maybe it is a little fucked up to cook with soda, but it is delicious. I was skeptical at first myself. Everyone around me was skeptical. They were like really, have you tried this before? I don’t know. Are you sure you want to make this for a party the first time you cook it? Yes. Parties are my favorite place to try new recipes that I would never otherwise cook. It is the only time there are enough people around to eat an entire shoulder of pork.

Roughly chop an onion and put it at the bottom of the slow cooker. 

Four pounds of pork shoulder. Fat side up. 

I love pork shoulder. Slow cooked, falling apart with the push of a spoon, it is one of my favorite cuts of meat. I used to cook it all the time with my roommate in college. This recipe is incredibly simple and was inspired by two cooks that I would never cop to liking: Sandra Lee (that creepy Semi-Homemade lady) and Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman…okay, I think she’s awesome at least).

The two recipes are pretty much the same. Pioneer Woman writes in her blog as if she was the first person to ever think this up, but really she’s not. In the southern part of the United States it’s fairly common to cook with soda pop (either cola or dr. pepper). Her pictures turned out a lot prettier than mine so definitely check her post out.

First you need to chop an onion roughly. Here is where the PW recipe deviates from the SL (Sandra Lee) one. PW calls for one onion and SL calls for two. I ended up with one onion because I accidentally put two onions in my chili verde (see earlier post). This goes in the bottom of your slow cooker. Oh yeah, PW puts hers in the oven and SL uses a slow cooker. I used a slow cooker because I didn’t want my oven running for six hours. On top of your onions goes your pork shoulder (otherwise known as a pork butt, incorrectly), which should go fat side up. Liberally salt and pepper your pork roast.

Then you should your two cinnamon sticks and bay leaf. SL also adds cloves. Cloves are expensive and I do not already have cloves in my cupboard so I did not use them. You can use them if you like. Now add your can of chipotle peppers. SL’s recipe does not call for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, but PW does. I wanted something spicy so I got a small can of chipotle peppers (these are found on the international foods aisle of most grocery stores). Let me just say I’m rather confused about the international foods aisle. Does that mean that the rest of the store is made up of white American food? It’s also not very international in my neck of the woods: kosher, Italian, Mexican and “Asian”. These are all very white washed versions of those foods as well. Okay enough of my ranting about the inherent racism found in the grocery system.

Add cinnamon and bay leaf. 

Pour your chipotle peppers on top of your roast. Now add twelve ounces of Dr. Pepper. I used Diet Dr. Pepper because I could not find a small bottle of Dr. Pepper anywhere in Safeway. I did not want a 2 liter of Dr. Pepper, so Diet Dr. Pepper it was. It works just as well. You could also use cola, Pepsi, RC, root beer, whatever dark soda you like. I think the concept is the same. You also cannot really taste the soda at the end of it.

Add chipotle peppers with adobo sauce. 

Now cook on low for approximately eight hours. You can cook it on high for 3-4 hours in your slow cooker. You can also do it in the oven for six hours at a temperature of 300 degrees. At around six hours it will start to fall apart with the touch of a wooden spoon.

The roast after two hours.

The sauce after two hours of cooking. 

The end result. Yum!

Drain the fat from the sauce, shred the pork with a fork, and then serve however you like. It’s good with tortillas or on a roll with some bbq sauce. We just ate it with tortilla chips.

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Vegan Chili Verde

This is one of my favorite cook book recipes. I’ve been recently mulling over my distaste for the way most cookbooks are set up. I find reading through the list of ingredients and directions for dummies to be tedious, boring, and uninspiring. The majority of cook books are made for the lowest common denominator, which is fine for when I want to learn how to cook something that I’ve never cooked before. That is when I turn to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I’ve learned a lot about the basics of cooking from reading his book.

I think the problem boils down to this: when an author writes in his or her introduction that he/she is passionate about cooking, food, and states that they show their soul through the cooking and then write the most soulless, scientific sounding recipes then I just don’t believe them. I find it disingenuous. Give me some character, heart, and explain to me how you feel as you cook. If you are not a gifted writer, then have someone else do the writing for you and you provide the recipes.

I’m veering wildly off-topic here. Back to what I cooked this weekend. This weekend we finally made our move back to Santa Cruz from the Silicon Valley. We had a housewarming party on Saturday, the day after we moved in. Andrew and I are amazingly efficient movers; we had our entire house set up and everything unpacked by mid-Saturday morning. That was with our movers being an hour and a half late on Friday and with me having to make multiple trips over the winding mountain highway in between Santa Cruz and the bay area.

I knew that I wanted to make the chili verde from the Veganomicon. I purchased the Veganomicon when I had my foray into veganism. I still enjoy vegan cooking. It’s something completely different than recipes that rely upon meat, dairy, and eggs. It’s a challenge and it’s interesting. The Veganomicon for me is the vegan cookbook to purchase. It’s easy enough to follow if you’re a beginner while still maintaining a level of variation and interest. They give fun, pithy explanations of each dish before starting in on the recipe which makes it enjoyable to read. Some of the recipes are damn good, such as the manzana chili verde, chickpea cutlets, and vanilla pound cake, while others suck incredibly (the mustard sauce is one of the most heinous things I’ve ever put in my mouth).

This recipe is based off of and inspired by the Manzana Chili Verde found on page 171 of the Veganomicon by Terry Hope Romero and Isa Chandra Moskowitz. These are also the same ladies who brought you Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  They know what they’re doing. I forsake traditional recipe writing here. If you want to know exact ingredients and cooking times please refer to that cookbook. The result is a tangy, spicy, filling concoction that is great as a tip or as a meatless dinner.

1. First wash the following produce: one pound of baby yukon gold potatoes (I used “gold potatoes” whatever the hell those are because Safeway didn’t have baby Yukons), two Granny Smith apples, two poblano peppers (my recipe deviates here and I ended up having to use two green bell peppers. Use green bell peppers if you’re not a fan of the spicy.), and three jalapeño peppers. Set aside the apples and peppers for now.

Wash and roughly chop potatoes

2. Set yourself to work on roughly chopping your potatoes. Then put them in a large pot of cold water and bring to a boil. You want them to boil for about twenty minutes at this point. Use this time to peel and chop your onion (I accidentally used two onions and this was perfectly fine) and chop the peppers. Roughly chop them. It doesn’t matter honestly because you’re going to be putting this through a food processor eventually. Leave the seeds in the jalapeño peppers if you want it to be spicy.

Peel and roughly chop the onion

Wash and chop the peppers. You want it in smaller pieces than this picture shows. 

3. Once your potatoes are tender enough to stick a fork easily in them take them off the heat and drain them. Now get some oil cooking on medium high and then add your peppers and onion. Cook for about ten minutes. While these are cooking, chop your garlic (I used an entire head. Use as much as you like. Exact measurements DO NOT MATTER), and get the cumin (I did not use cumin), chili powder (I used chili powder and the original recipe does not), a teaspoon of oregano,  and 2 cups of vegetable broth ready. Chop the apples into bite sized pieces. Prepare your tomatillos.

Note: To prepare tomatillos you need to remove the papery skins on the outside. Tomatillos are like little green apple and tomato hybrids. They can also be rather sticky. Remove the papery skins and then wash. Chop into small pieces.

Cook the onions and peppers on medium high in olive oil for about ten minutes.

Onions and peppers after 10 minutes

4. When the peppers and onions have reached a soft translucency, add the garlic, tomatillos and spices. Cook for about another minute then add the vegetable broth and apples. Cover and simmer for twenty minutes. I forgot to warn at the beginning of this that this is a rather time consuming recipe, but completely worth it.

Add tomatillos

Add apples and vegetable broth. Cook for another 20 minutes.

5. After the twenty or so minutes are up, carefully ladle your mixture into a food processor. If you have a large food processor good for you it will get done quicker. If you have an immersion blender well then you’re just super awesome and lucky aren’t you. Use that. If you don’t have either, but you have a food mill then use that, but be careful no matter because this shit is hot and can possibly burn you. Go through the entire batch and food process, blend, or mill until it reaches a rough smoothness.

Chili verde after its been in the food processor and the beans/potatoes are added. 

6. Add potatoes and two cans of beans (the original recipe calls for one can of beans but I found that meager). Simmer until heated through. I actually served mine at room temperature with tortilla chips and that was delicious.

People enjoying the manzana chili verde. 

Homemade Fresh Whole Wheat Pasta and Branzino

Andrew and I are in the process of moving back to Santa Cruz. We are so happy to be leaving Santa Clara and to live in Santa Cruz again. As people who do not enjoy city life, suburban landscapes or 100 degree weather, Santa Cruz is a much better fit for our temperaments. We both love hiking in the redwoods, walking along the beach, and of course, banana slugs. Not to mention, New Leaf Market is one of the few places in the area that still sells raw milk, unless you want to buy it straight from the source or from the farmer’s market. Plus in Santa Cruz I can go foraging for berries and I’m closer to work.

Since we are in the process of moving, I needed to procure boxes this morning. Alas, when I arrived at Staples they were not open yet and I had half an hour to kill. I decided to hop on over to Whole Foods Market on Stevens Creek in Cupertino. I knew when I got there that I wanted pasta, tomato sauce, and fish. I wanted to cook a whole fish. Their selection of whole fish is meager at Whole Foods. They had branzino, sardines, and a large fish that I can’t recall the name of. I did not want to cook sardines. Nothing against sardines, but I wasn’t feeling it. Instead I bought one whole branzino which weighed in around a pound. I had no idea what a branzino was or how it was typically cooked or what you served it with. It sounded like a character from a 1970s John Travolta movie. Hard to pass up.

Branzino Head. Branzino is also called European Sea Bass. 

When I got home, I did not cook the fish straight away. Instead I packed a couple boxes and then got to work on my tomato sauce. I heated up a giant soup pot on the electric burner of death and inaccuracy on what my stove top considers high. High on my stove top means awful burning smell, fan blasting on high, all the windows open, and the pot getting to about what would be on any other stove medium-high. While I was preparing to burn down my house, I cut a dozen tomatoes in half. Note: always use a serrated knife when cutting ripe tomatoes. Much easier than a chef’s knife. Once my pot was hot I added a couple turns of olive oil. I don’t know how much olive oil it was. Add as much or as little as you like. It will smoke. Your pot is hot. That’s the point. Then add your tomatoes. It will splatter. You may get burned. I always get burned. It happens. Do not disturb your tomatoes. They want to be left alone as they die. While your tomatoes are charring on the bottom of your pot, roughly chop an onion, preferably white or yellow. Then peel as much garlic as you like. I like garlic a lot so I used a whole head. The recipe that I was following called for one clove. That is a recipe for pansies.

Tomatoes, onions, and garlic cooking. 

Add your onions and garlic without disturbing your tomatoes. Let it sit for about five minutes. Then add a good amount of red wine. I used a cabernet sauvignon. I don’t drink wine generally and most use it for cooking. You can use any red wine. You could use white wine. Please do not use plum wine or any other sort of fruit wine. Now is when you get to stir. Stir it a few times to distribute the onions and garlic in with the tomatoes. Add salt and pepper. You can also add oregano, thyme, etc at this point. I realized I had none of these herbs in my cupboard/fridge so I did not use them. Add as much as you like. This is your sauce not Prego’s.

Whole wheat pasta dough. 

I let my sauce cook for another ten to fifteen minutes while I made my pasta. Pasta is simple to make. Cookbooks make a big deal out of the well. Don’t worry about it. You don’t need to make a volcano. Sure it’s fun to make a volcano but it’s really not going to change a fucking thing and I think the only reason that people insist on the well is that they want to intimidate you. These people are members of the cooking masons and don’t want you to learn the secret handshake of hollandaise. I put in a generous amount of whole wheat flour. Purists will insist on semolina. You can use whole wheat, you can use all purpose, don’t use bread flour because it has too much gluten. Otherwise, have fun and experiment. This is your food. I then separated two extra large eggs, tossed the egg white aside and used two yolks for my dough. I did make a well and put my eggs in that well. Then I added a quarter cup of cold water at a time until I had mixed a firm dough. You do not want it to be sticky. You want it to be firm. Now set aside in a bowl and cover with plastic.

The sauce after it has cooked but before it went into the food processor. 

While I let my pasta dough rest (this is so the gluten in the dough relaxes), I began processing my tomato sauce. I hate chunky foods, especially chunky foods that are in sauces with crunchy onions. Yeah I have sensory issues, deal with it. I put my tomato sauce through a food processor in small batches. Make sure that your sauce is no longer boiling when you do this. Make sure you are not pouring boiling hot tomato sauce from a large pot into a small food processor. I use a ladle for this. I also cover the hole in my food processor with a towel so I don’t burn myself.  You don’t have to do this step. You can leave your sauce as chunky or smooth as you like. A food mill will remove the tomato skins and seeds leaving you with a chunkier sauce than a food processor.

Sauce after it went through the food processor. 

It makes a lot of sauce.

After you are done making your sauce, you can start rolling out and cutting your pasta dough. Find a flat wood surface and dust it with flour. Make sure there is enough flour so your dough does not stick. Then get a rolling pin and flour that. Now roll out your dough to desired thickness. You want it to be around 1/16 to an 1/8 inch. It will expand and get thicker when you boil it. Once it is rolled out get a knife and start cutting strips or whatever shape you want. Or you could do all this in a fancy pasta maker. I don’t have a fancy pasta maker and a knife does just fine if you don’t care about uniformity or aesthetics. Once you have cut up your strips lay them gently down on a floured surface and cover with a dish towel so they do not dry out. You can always boil them at this point, but I had other things to do.

Roll out your dough to a thickness of 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch.

Fresh whole wheat noodles before they’re cooked. 

Such as going to REI. At REI you will stand in front of the sleeping bags for twenty minutes waiting for a sales associate to help you which they will not because you are a single female surrounded by males and families. Then you will get annoyed and go up to a sales associate and demand they find your sleeping bag. Then bring your sleeping bag home and bask in its less than three pound backpacking appropriate glory.

Branzino stuffed with lemon slices and seasoned with salt and olive oil. 

Just stuff everything on in there. Unless you overcook it, this fish is quite moist. 

When you get home from your successful but annoying trip to REI where you also bought these awesome foldable camping plates and iodine tablets, you will then discover that your boyfriend has set an ENTIRE CASE OF BEER on top of your pasta. It is a mess. They are all stuck together and you have to roll out your dough all over again and cut them again. 😦

While I was cutting up my pasta for the second time, I got a large pot of water boiling and set my oven to 400 F. I then got my fish out from the fridge and washed it. They had gutted and scaled it at the market for me, which was very nice of them. I sliced up a lemon from the garden, stuffed as much as I could into the cavity, then squirted the rest on top of the fish. I liberally sprinkled it with salt and then drizzled it with olive oil. Cook on one side for four minutes then flip it over and cook for another four minutes. Then turn the oven to broil and let it broil for about three to five minutes then take out of the oven. Foil will greatly help in the clean up.

Whole roasted branzino

While your fish cooking, make your pasta. It will cook in about five to seven minutes depending on how thick and wide your pieces are. Then drain and rinse. Whole wheat pasta can get a little gummy, hence the rinsing. Pasta made from semolina or all-purpose will most likely not need to be rinsed.

Top with fish, sauce, and  maybe a bit of parmesan. Enjoy!

Crispy Skinned Salmon: An Ode to Ranch 99

I have probably waxed poetic about the beauty of Ranch 99 before. Ranch 99 is a chain of Asian supermarkets found in the Bay Area (and I’ve heard rumors of them existing in other parts of California as well). Right down the street from us is the Ranch 99 Cupertino store. It is in a busy shopping center with one of the most dangerous parking lots I’ve ever encountered along with a large number of mostly Chinese restaurants and bubble tea stores. I like having this grocery store within walking distance and it will be one of the few things that I will miss after we move back to Santa Cruz.

Fresh wild salmon filet with large ribbons of fat running through it.

One of the best things about Ranch 99 is the fresh seafood. They have live shellfish of all shapes, sizes, and varieties there. They also have live fish there that you can choose from. Now I am not so knowledgeable, skilled, or adventurous enough at the moment to choose my own fish and gut it at home. Instead Andrew and I opted to purchase their fresh, wild salmon filets stored on ice in the fish market. These filets were huge and mine alone was over a pound of brightly colored, fat ribboned salmon glory.

Salmon Skin is not only beautiful but incredibly delicious and crispy when grilled. 

 I went for a simple treatment of the fish. I marinated it in the juice of one lemon, two tablespoons of soy sauce, and rubbed some brown sugar into the flesh. Before marinating make sure to wash the fish so any slime comes off and pat it dry with paper towels. This is also a good time to debone the fish if there are any. There were so few bones in my fish that I just skipped this step all together. Let it marinate on the counter for thirty minutes before throwing it on the grill.

Marinating salmon in soy sauce, lemon juice, and brown sugar. 

Grill the salmon skin side down so the skin becomes crispy and delicious. The skin may stick to the grill. It did in my case because of the marinade that we put on it, but Andrew’s simple treatment of olive oil and lemon juice did not stick to the grill. You want to grill it on medium high heat with about four inches of space from your rack to your heat source (we use a propane grill). Our filets were large so it took about twenty minutes for them to cook to about medium. It will be less time if your filets are thinner or if you want to go for medium rare. Only eat medium rare or rare fish if it is very very fresh and you know the source. Just because the grocery store says it is sushi grade does not necessarily mean that you can it rare.

We served the salmon with asparagus cooked on the stovetop with olive oil and lemon and brown rice.

 

Rigate with Black Pepper Meat Sauce

After making hamburgers for a number of days in a row you are bound to get tired of them. However, I did not run out of ground beef before I ran out of desire for hamburgers so I was left with a considerable amount of ground chuck in my fridge. What do with it? Meat sauce with pasta was the first thing that came to mind.

Unlike most of the world, I do not like tomatoes. I find their taste to be off-putting, I abhor the squishy texture that squirts out seeds, and to top it all off they hurt my stomach. It took me a long time to get used to eating ground beef, never enjoying the texture until the last couple of years. I never get near a bolognese sauce, a meat lasagna, or spaghetti with meat balls. I didn’t just want to cook ground beef and eat it with pasta. That would be boring, bland, uninspiring.

What I did decide to do was a non-tomato based meat sauce with asparagus and penne rigate. I cooked the meat in some olive oil, though I realized later that was unnecessary since the meat had plenty of fat to keep it from sticking too much to the pan and the sauce turned out a little greasy, added salt, worcestshire sauce, chili powder, and a ton of black pepper. Once the meat was browned, I added cut up of asparagus, about four or five fat stalks and cooked until the asparagus was tender.

I added this to the top of the penne rigate which was an excellent conduit for the sauce. The sauce was a full-flavored punch of peppery, salty, meaty goodness and the asparagus was a crisp, tender addition. I would add more asparagus next time and maybe spinach, and remove the olive oil.

A Different Take on Kielbasa Stew

I have posted on kielbasa stew/soup before. I have stated before that it is a staple around our house. I have never been able to grasp the delicious richness, the depth of flavor that I achieved the first time I made it. I still did not achieve that today, but I got closer and somewhere different today. Part of that is getting our kielbasa from Shopper’s Corner (http://www.shopperscorner.com/).

The Sausage

I’m not sure what bargain Shopper’s Corner made with the Devil, but they have the most amazing steaks, tri-tips, and sausages. According to their website they are:

Shopper’s is one of the last old-time meat markets around, staffed with highly-skilled and entertaining butchers.

We get fresh local fish 7 days-a-week, sell only ultra-fresh USDA Choice and Prime-grade beef, and boast a large selection of sausages, pre-soaked meats for BBQs, and specialty cuts.

Their kielbasa packs a spiced up, fatty punch very different from the rubbery, Vienna sausage on steroid crap you get from Hillshire Farms or the watered down, mealy kielbasa that Wholefoods shills out. I’m not sure if this is how they make it in Poland, but it is one of my favorite sausages. And just to let you know, Shopper’s Corner is located in Santa Cruz so you can enjoy the redwoods, beaches, and delicious MEAT in one place.

Dice the kielbasa up and put it in the soup as the last ingredient along with the kale.

The Vegetables

This time around I left out the parsnips because they were incredibly water and of terrible quality the last time I made this soup. We picked up some lovely pre-historic looking and appropriately named Dino kale at Shopper’s Corner. If you’re not familiar with kale, it is

Kale or borecole is a form of cabbage (Brassica oleraceaAcephala Group), green or purple, in which the central leaves do not form a head. It is considered to be closer to wild cabbage than most domesticated forms. The species Brassica oleracea contains a wide array of vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and brussels sprouts. The cultivar group Acephala also includes spring greens and collard greens, which are extremely similar genetically.

It can be used in soups, salads, or anywhere you have cooked greens. I was surprised that I like it because I usually hate cooked greens. I find them slimy and mushy, but these were tender and decidedly not mucous like.

The kale was joined by chopped baby carrots, baby new potatoes, half a yellow onion, and a head of garlic. Chop the onions and garlic up first and cook in olive oil first. Then chop the baby carrots and potatoes and add to the onion/garlic mixture. After letting these cook for about twenty minutes, add the chopped kale and kielbasa.

The Liquid

I was lacking stock today. I usually have some stock floating around in the back of my pantry, vegetable, chicken, beef, sometimes fish, but today I was out. And it made a difference. There was a lack of depth in the flavor of the soup that I think can only be gained from using stock.

I tried to make up for it by using some Italian imported white wine that we won’t ever drink. Andrew and I don’t drink wine, but my friend Amy gave me some for my birthday: a bottle of white and a bottle of red. When friends Peter and Susannah came over last weekend they went through the bottle of red and three-quarters of the white, which I decided to use for this soup. It added a nice sweetness and acidity to the soup that was very nice.

The Grain

I wasn’t going to add a grain this time around, but Andrew insists on maximum carbohydrates in a soup. Usually I do barley or a mixture of barley and rice, but this time I did just plain white rice, which I have about twenty pounds of in my pantry. Eventually, the rice soaked up the wine, the kielbasa, the vegetables and became creamy as I left the soup onto boil. I love the versatility of grains.

The Result

It is so pretty! Much prettier than the last stew I made. I am very proud of the aesthetics of this dish.

 

Shirred Eggs

 

The first ever food challenge is EGGS! I chose eggs because they are versatile and cheap. They also appeal to vegetarians and meat eaters. They are a superfood, a near complete protein with plenty of vitamins and nutrients. They can be incredibly easy in the form of hard boiled or scrambled, or some of the most complex intimidating dishes people encounter: souffles and quiches.

My entry is the shirred or baked egg. This is a yummy, easy dish to make that is very versatile. It can use up leftovers and makes for a quick weekend breakfast; it may be a little on the slow side for weekday breakfasts.

In my version I buttered the small baking dish then cut a slice of sourdough to fit in the dish. I cracked two eggs into the dish then put green salsa on top. Finally I sprinkled “Mexican Mix” cheese on top. these baked in the oven for about twelve minutes at 375 degrees. I would have liked them a little more cooked and I think I should have toasted the bread first because it got slightly soggy. Otherwise it was really tasty!