Friday, March 29, 2013

Asian Roast Pork with Broccoli Slaw and Pasta

I recently spent a wonderful relaxing weekend in the sun with three girlfriends and we made this recipe together. It's actually considered a salad and can be served either warm or at room temperature. It's very light and  healthy although it's full of flavor - a perfect spring dish.  Although it came out great that weekend, I re-created it for this post back at home instead of using that experience for the visuals.  The reason has to do with what I call "full-bore blogger mode", which is what a food blogger is in when they're creating a blog recipe.  It goes something like this.

Dining with a Food Blogger
1.  Expect that the entire process of making the dish will be interrupted repeatedly for photo ops.
2.  You may be pressed into service as a hand model for action shots (see The Lawyer below for an example).
3.  When the recipe is done, the blogger will carefully and painstakingly plate and garnish one serving, then disappear to whatever part of the house has the best light for pictures (for example, the bathroom - bathrooms have great light).  You, on the other hand, are left to your own devices to plate your food.
4.  Particularly if other props are involved, the blogger could be gone for several minutes at which time the food may or may not still be hot.
5.  As you eat, you'll discuss the recipe.  Generic comments like "it tastes good" are nowhere near adequate.  You're expected to comment on the colors, visual appeal, plating, balance of flavors and textures, overall flavor profile, and what (if anything) should be changed.
6.  You may be interrupted as you eat if the blogger is particularly struck by how your plate looks and needs a picture.
7.  After you're finished, don't be surprised if you're left with a kitchen of dirty dishes as the blogger dashes off to the computer to check out all the visuals.

OK, that might be slightly exaggerated, but not much.  Now you know why the only person I regularly subject to blog recipes is the The Lawyer.  All I can say is that he's a very patient man.  Certainly I didn't want to do that to my friends, whose sole goal for the weekend was to relax and lay in the sun.

Not that this is a difficult recipe at all.   The hardest part is figuring out how to grate a carrot without grating your fingernails or knuckles in the process.  (If you can find a bag of shredded carrots at your store, go for it.)

Basically you make an Asian barbecue sauce out of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, ginger and garlic, then rub some of it on a pork tenderloin and roast it in the oven, saving the rest of the sauce to serve over the finished dish.

The Lawyer as a hand model
While the pork roasts, you briefly blanch some broccoli slaw and toss it with the carrots, cilantro and a little sesame oil.  (If you don't like cilantro, just leave it out.)

Then you cook some pasta and toss that with sesame oil also.  All that's left is the plating.  And the photography, of course.

printable recipe

Asian Roast Pork with Broccoli Slaw and Pasta
Serves 4

For the sauce:
1 ¼ cups hoisin sauce
5 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice wine or dry white wine
2 ½ tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped

1 pork tenderloin, approximately 1 lb
6 oz broccoli slaw
1 ½ cups carrots, grated or shredded
¼ cup chopped cilantro
½ lb spaghetti, broken in half
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
Salt and pepper

For the sauce:  mix all ingredients with ¾ cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until thickened, approximately 5 minutes.  Let cool.

Preheat oven to 350d.  Line a roasting pan with foil.

Put the tenderloin in the roasting pan; spread 1/3 of sauce over all surfaces.  Roast 25-35 minutes, until the internal temperature is 140d (temperature will continue to rise as the meat rests to the eventual target of 145d).  Remove and let cool slightly.

Reheat the remaining sauce to a simmer.

Bring water to a boil in a large pot; add broccoli slaw and cook 30 seconds.  Using a strainer, remove vegetables (do not dump the hot water) and refresh in cold water, then drain again.  In a medium bowl, toss the broccoli slaw, carrots and cilantro with 1 teaspoon sesame oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Reheat the water and cook the spaghetti according to directions.  Drain and toss with the remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil.

Cut the pork across the grain into thin slices.  Arrange pasta on each plate, top with carrot/broccoli slaw mixture and some pork slices.  Drizzle some sauce over the mixture and serve the remaining sauce on the side.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Egg Gratin

Last year's post: Rustic Egg Tart

This recipe would be great for Easter or Mother's Day brunch. It's different from typical egg dishes - omelets, frittatas, scrambled eggs, stratas or souffles  - because it's made with hard-boiled eggs, peas and green onions that are baked in a delicious cheese sauce. It can be assembled in advance so all you have to do is bake it before serving, which makes it great for entertaining. It's also perfect for an easy but impressive dinner any night of the week.

I used to make a similar version fairly often while in college because it was cheap and good, cheap being the most important of the two virtues at the time. That version called for some sort of cream soup but I try to avoid canned soups now due to their additives and high sodium levels, plus it's easy to make the sauce from scratch.  Have you looked at the ingredient list on a can of soup lately?

fun at the grocery store
Let's talk about eggs for a minute. Eggs have a number of good qualities and one drawback. The drawback is that they're fairly high in cholesterol so you don't want to eat them every day, but in my opinion that's outweighed by the good qualities. Eggs are all-natural and packed with a number of nutrients. One egg has 13 essential vitamins and minerals in varying amounts, high-quality protein, unsaturated fats and antioxidants, all for 70 calories. Eggs' nutrients can help you with weight management, muscle strength, eye health, brain function and having a healthy pregnancy. Particularly important for aiding healthy brain function and pregnancy is choline (pronounced KOH-leen), which is amply present in eggs. (Can you tell I've been doing research on the egg council website?)  This recipe calls for six eggs and feeds 4-5 people, so you're only consuming a little more than one egg per serving.

Is this considered a vegetarian meal?  Not to get overly detailed, but most people who describe themselves as vegetarians are actually lacto-ovo vegetarians if they eat eggs and dairy products. "Flexitarians" is a new term that describes people who eat a mostly vegetarian diet but occasionally eat meat.  Vegans, on the other hand, do not eat meat of any kind and also do not eat eggs, dairy products, or processed foods containing those or other animal-derived ingredients such as gelatin.  Undoubtedly that was way more than you really wanted to know, but basically I consider this a vegetarian meal.  Unless, of course, you add a garnish of some crispy bacon.  Umm, bacon.  (If you have vegetarian friends it would probably be a good idea to ask if they eat eggs before serving this dish.)

You could substitute spinach for the peas in the recipe, but my old version had peas so I like them for sentimental reasons. You could also substitute cheddar or swiss cheese for the Gruyere, and use English muffins or French bread instead of Italian bread - just be sure whatever bread you use is toasted or grilled until crisp to provide textural contrast to the creamy eggs.

Obviously the garnish is optional but I thought it made the plate look more springtime-ish and the daikon sprouts add a fresh taste with just the barest hint of radish spiciness.  Or there's always bacon. (If you're feeling wild and crazy you could even fry up some chorizo.)

There's a world of opinions regarding how to hard-boil eggs, the two issues being how to avoid a green ring around the yolk and how to make sure the shell is easy to remove.  All I can tell you is that I cook eggs the way my mother taught me and I've never had green rings and very rarely have issues with the shells.  Here's how: place the eggs in a small saucepan and just barely cover them with tap water.

Bring to a boil uncovered, then turn the heat down and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.  Stick the saucepan in the sink and run cold water on the eggs for a couple of minutes to cool them down and stop the cooking process.  Done.

If you're planning to serve this for guests I would encourage you to buy a gratin dish because it looks so pretty.  Basically they're shallow baking dishes, usually oval in shape.  This dish is approximately 7.5" by 12" (not counting the handles) and the recipe fit perfectly.  If you plan to double the recipe larger gratin dishes are readily available.  Of course any regular baking dish will work but won't have quite the same wow factor.

printable recipe

Egg Gratin
Serves 4-5

6 hard-boiled eggs
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups milk (whole or 2%)
1 teaspoon salt, divided
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 ¼ cups shredded cheese (Gruyere, cheddar or swiss)
4 green onions, sliced
1 cup frozen peas (not thawed)
daikon sprouts (optional)
crumbled cooked bacon (optional)
grilled or toasted Italian bread, French bread, or English muffins

Preheat the oven to 450d.

Grease a 6-cup (1.5L) gratin or casserole dish.  Slice the eggs crosswise into 5-6 pieces each and arrange in the dish. 

Reserving a few green onions for garnish, sprinkle the remaining green onions and the peas over the eggs.

 In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in flour and cook, stirring, for about 90 seconds, without browning.  Gradually whisk in milk, then add ½ teaspoon salt, the pepper, and nutmeg.  Continue whisking and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat; stir in 1 cup of the cheese until melted.  Taste for seasoning and add the additional salt if needed.

 Pour the sauce evenly over the eggs, peas and onions to cover all.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  

Bake on the oven’s center rack until bubbly and very slightly browned, about 25 minutes.  Turn the oven to broil and allow the dish to brown to your liking while watching closely, approximately 30-60 seconds.

Remove and garnish with paprika and the remaining green onions.

 Serve over grilled or toasted bread, garnished with daikon sprouts and/or bacon (optional).

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hibachi Shrimp (or Chicken or Beef)

Last year's post: Swordfish en Papillote

Who doesn't like the food at Japanese steakhouses?  But it can get pricey, and it's surprisingly easy to create your own hibachi dinner at home that tastes exactly like the restaurant version.  You could always cook chicken or beef instead of or in addition to the shrimp, but I particularly like hibachi shrimp (or even lobster!).  You can indulge when you make your own meal at home, because it's so much less expensive than a restaurant.

Hibachi dinners are usually served with sauteed vegetables and rice.  Another benefit of cooking at home is that you choose the vegetables you like - zucchini and onion are traditional, but broccoli, carrot, mushrooms and even red peppers are fun.  For this dinner, we chose to serve zucchini, onion and mushrooms.

The final ingredient is the dipping sauce.  I've seen three different sauces served at Japanese steakhouses - a soy-based ginger sauce, a pale creamy pinkish sauce (aka Japanese white sauce), and a mustard sauce.  Some restaurants serve two and claim one is better for steak and the other is better for seafood; others serve you one for everything. The pale pink sauce is supposedly for seafood and the mustard sauce is for steak, although we recently ate at a restaurant that served the pink sauce with everything. Whatever. My personal opinion is to make whatever sauce(s) you like best.  I've included recipes for all three, although we opted to make the ginger sauce to go with shrimp.  The Lawyer liked the sauce so much that he dumped it on the rest of his rice and vegetables and mixed the whole thing together after his shrimp were eaten.

So basically you have four components - the dipping sauce (make in advance), the rice (make second), the sauteed vegetables and the shrimp/chicken/steak (make last).  Making the dipping sauce in advance simplifies things, plus the foam from blending everything goes away in a half hour or so and the beautiful dark sauce is clear.

Because the preparation is so simple, the quality of your meat or seafood will make all the difference.  That's why Japanese steakhouses use filet mignon or sirloin rather than top round. Start by buying the best - in our case, the most beautiful raw shrimp we could find. It's easiest if they're shelled and deveined first, then all you have to do is pull the tails off and butterfly them by cutting down the curved back (where the vein was) almost but not all the way through. That helps them cook more evenly.  If you're using chicken or steak, just cut them into bite-sized pieces.

click here for a printable recipe version
Hibachi Shrimp (or Chicken or Steak)
Makes 4 servings

For the ginger dipping sauce (see the other two sauces below):
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
½ lemon, juiced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon white vinegar

For the hibachi vegetables:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ teaspoon sesame oil
½ onion, sliced
3 cups zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces (or broccoli, carrots, red pepper, mushrooms, etc.)
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
salt and pepper

For the shrimp (or chicken or steak):
16 large or 12 jumbo shrimp, shelled, tails removed, butterflied (or 16 oz chicken or steak, cut into bite-sized pieces)
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice

hot cooked white or brown rice

For the dipping sauce: combine all sauce ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.  Serve at room temperature.

For the vegetables: heat the vegetable oil and sesame oil in a large skillet or wok on medium high heat. Add the onion and other vegetables and sauté for 4-5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add butter, soy sauce, and salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, heat a second wok or skillet over high heat letting it get very hot. Add shrimp and butter, then add soy sauce and lemon juice. Stir-fry until cooked, about 2 minutes. Add pepper to taste.  (For chicken, stir-fry until no longer pink in the middle, approximately 3-4 minutes.  For steak, stir-fry to desired degree of doneness.)

Serve the shrimp and vegetables with hot cooked brown or white rice and the ginger (or alternate) dipping sauce.

Alternate Sauces:

#2 - mustard
3 tablespoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons hot water
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
1 garlic clove

In a small bowl, blend mustard and water into a paste.
Pour paste into blender container; add remaining ingredients and process about 1 minute or until smooth.

#3- pink  (also called Japanese white sauce)
1-1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
dash cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly until well combined and the sauce is smooth. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Orange-Pecan Salmon with Three Pea Salad

Last Year's Post: Spinach Salad with Spicy Orange Dressing

Think Spring
For some reason this dinner says "spring" to me, although the ingredients are available year-round.  Maybe it's the beautiful green peas or the sweet-tart orange sauce on the salmon.  Whatever, if you find yourself longing for spring this is a great meal to make plus it's healthy.

The salmon is quickly marinated and then served with a unique and fabulous sauce made with orange marmalade, soy sauce, and chopped pecans. Although the salmon recipe specifies plain toasted pecans, I like to make a batch of spiced pecans to freeze and use for recipes like this in addition to topping salads or stir fries.  The sweet-spicy coating adds another layer of flavor to the dish without being overwhelming.

The three pea salad is made with sugar snap peas, snow peas, and green peas with a fresh and light vinaigrette.  It goes beautifully with the salmon.  Here's another idea - if you're planning Easter dinner, the three pea salad would be a fabulous side dish to an entree of ham along with some au gratin potatoes.  The pink ham and creamy white potatoes would look beautiful alongside the emerald green peas.  (I learned the importance of food colors on the plate from The Lawyer's parents, who are both artists.)
The recipe that was the inspiration for this salad included sour cream in the dressing.  I couldn't imagine covering up that beautiful green color with a creamy dressing so my version leaves it out.

After this meal we found ourselves with some leftovers and combined them the next day with some cooked brown rice for a great cold salad.  The orange sauce flavored the rice while the peas added crunch and the salmon added meatiness.  Yum.  Be sure to make extras!

Orange-Pecan Salmon printable recipe

Orange-Pecan Salmon

Serves 4
1 cup orange marmalade
½ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
4 6-oz salmon fillets, approximately 1” thick, skinned
1 cup toasted chopped pecans
In a small bowl, combine the marmalade, soy sauce, salt and pepper.  Pour 1/2 cup marinade into a large resealable plastic bag.  Add the salmon; seal bag and turn to coat.  Refrigerate for up to 30 minutes.  Set aside the remaining marinade.

Drain and discard marinade from salmon.  Place salmon in a greased 11”x7” baking dish and bake, uncovered, at 350d for 20-25 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

In a small saucepan, bring reserved marinade to a boil; cook and stir until slightly thickened.  Serve sauce over the salmon; sprinkle with pecans.

Three Pea Salad printable recipe

Three Pea Salad
Serves 4
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
¼ lb sugar snap peas
¼ lb snow peas
6 oz frozen baby peas

In a large bowl, whisk together the shallot and vinegar.  Add the olive oil while whisking, then add salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside to allow the flavors to meld.

Trim the sugar snap peas and snow peas by cutting off the tough ends.  Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil.  Fill a large bowl with ice water.  Add the sugar snap peas to the boiling water and blanch for 20 seconds.  Add the snow peas and cook an additional 20 seconds.  Add the frozen baby peas and cook for 30 seconds longer.  Drain and immediately transfer the colander with the peas to the ice water to stop the cooking.  Drain again; spread the peas out on a clean towel and pat dry.

Add the peas to the dressing and toss to coat.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sloppy Joes for Grownups

Last year's post:Lasagna Techniques

Until I found this recipe a few years ago, I hadn't had Sloppy Joes probably since grade school although I understand they're one of the most popular sandwiches around.  I've never been a fan of ground beef with a "can of something" stirred in, but this recipe is entirely different and so good. It has southwestern influences from green chiles, ancho and chipotle powders plus (a trick borrowed from pulled pork BBQ sandwiches) coleslaw right in the sandwich.  Having grown up in the Midwest, when I heard about BBQ sandwiches with coleslaw served on top rather than on the side I thought that was the strangest thing I had ever heard.  A couple of BBQ-loving southern co-workers persuaded me to try it at lunch one day on a road trip, and I've been hooked ever since.  Like many great dishes, it's the contrast of textures, temperatures and flavors that makes it work.  In this case, the cool and crunchy coleslaw contrasts with the rich, warm meat mixture, oozy cheese and toasty bun perfectly. And if that's not enough, it fits in a healthy diet because it's made with lean turkey.

I thought it was particularly interesting that the coleslaw doesn't have any mayonnaise in the dressing - just honey, cilantro, seasoning and lime juice.  It gives the coleslaw a clean taste that's very appealing.  (If you're a cilantro-hater, just substitute parsley instead.) 

If you're not familiar with ancho and chipotle, they're types of chile powders. (Whole chipotle peppers - actually smoke-dried jalapenos - can also be found canned in adobo sauce in the grocery aisle, or dried in the produce section.) Ancho has a rich warm flavor without being hot, and chipotle is very smoky and slightly hot.  If you can't find them in your grocery store you could order them at (my favorite spice resource) or you could substitute regular chile powder, but it won't be quite the same.  As written, the recipe is what I would consider to be slightly spicy but it's tamed by the coleslaw.  You can adjust the chile amounts (particularly the chipotle) up or down to your taste.

You want to use sturdy, over-sized buns for this sandwich such as kaiser rolls or ciabatta buns (not soft squishy hamburger buns) for two reasons.  First, a soft hamburger bun can quickly become soggy.  And second, using an over-sized bun allows you to hollow out the top and bottom to securely enclose the filling without it spilling all over.  The Neat Freak in me likes that part. 

While I was reading the recipe and came to ketchup as an ingredient I had to smile because it brings back a great childhood memory of my brother.  When he was around 2 years old he put ketchup on just about everything he ate.  I was watching him eat one time and he stuck a pickle spear in his ketchup and took a bite.  I was appalled on several levels and told him with all the superiority a 7 year old can muster that "we (meaning any sane child) do not eat pickles, much less pickles with ketchup".  Without any change in expression, he calmly stuck his pickle in the ketchup again and took another bite, never taking his eyes off me.  He was a difficult child.  At that point his only redeeming feature in my eyes was that he was the same approximate size as one of my dolls.  My sister and I would dress him up in doll clothes when our mom wasn't looking and then fall on the floor laughing. Good thing he doesn't read my blog or I'd be in big trouble for telling that story.  I know for a fact that he doesn't read my blog because I don't think he's ever cooked anything that didn't come out of a microwave in his entire life.  If he had been born 100 years earlier he probably would have starved to death.

Anyway, try the Sloppy Joes........if for no other reason than that they're a great excuse to eat potato chips.  :-)

click here for a printable recipe

Sloppy Joes for Grown Ups
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb ground turkey
½ cup onion, chopped
½ cup ketchup
1 (4.5 oz) can diced green chiles
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tsp Dijon or yellow mustard
1 tsp ground cumin
¾ tsp ancho chile powder
¼ tsp chipotle chile powder
salt to taste
4 slices cheddar cheese
4 kaiser rolls or ciabatta buns

For the honey lime coleslaw:
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
4 cups coleslaw mix
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

To make the coleslaw, combine all ingredients and set aside.

Preheat broiler to high; line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the turkey and onion and sauté for about five minutes, until the turkey is cooked through.  Drain.  Stir in ketchup, green chiles, brown sugar, mustard and spices; simmer five minutes.

Meanwhile, split the rolls and hollow out the tops and bottoms by removing some of the bread crumbs.  

Place the tops and bottoms on the baking sheet and divide the turkey mixture between the bottoms.  Top the turkey mixture with the cheese slices and place the baking sheet under the broiler.  Broil, watching carefully, until the cheese is melted and the bun tops are toasted.  To serve, spoon coleslaw onto each sandwich, replace the bun tops and press gently to close.