Saturday, October 30, 2010

Easy Chili Verde Stew

Gathering the ingredients and showing off my new pot!
Christmas came early today and I am the happy recipient of a 7 quart oval enameled cast iron casserole. A RED one!!!!  What better way to break it in than to prep the second meal from my roast pork trilogy. Must say I am getting my money's worth on this .97 a pound pork shoulder roast.  Most of the ingredients are staples in my pantry so this is quick to pull together. I am excited to see how the roast with the Number Nine Rub compliments a family mainstay. This easy stew can really feed a crew, and you could add other veggies to suit.  I stretch it out with by serving with white rice and we like either flour tortillas or tortilla chips on the side with a nice beer. If you have leftovers, even better the next day.

What is your favorite way of making your meat choices stretch over a few dishes? I have one more meal up my sleeve, just wait and see....

Easy Chili Verde Stew
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Friday, October 29, 2010

Brussels Spouts, Toasted Walnuts and Bacon

What's not to like? Tender little cabbages, walnuts toasted in Limerock Orchards Walnut Oil and a smattering of bacon. Again I am working hard to make a star of the side.
Mushrooms, brussels sprouts and toasted walnuts.
Fresh, sauted in a combination of olive oil and walnut oil, carmalized onions and finished with a sprinkle of white balsmatic vinegar and chicken stock in the oven. Served with a bit of toasted walnuts and bacon. Love these little cabbages.  How do you like your brussels sprouts?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Spicy Pork Roast with Butternut Squash & Apples

Spicy Roasted Pork
Our autumn cold weather has set in and I am conjuring up stews, soups and other seasonal dishes. Are you doing that too?

Read on and you will catch me, I am guilty of being grocery thrifter (well sort of.... ) I look for the cheap meats and bargains in the adverts and plan my menu around them. You know you do it too, don't you? We all need to save money somewhere and sometimes it is our food budget that seems to have the most flexibility. At times, that means a whole-lotta-chicken! But this week large pork shoulder roasts were less than a buck a pound... less that a buck!   A massive chunk of meat can feed us nicely for most the week, but the trick is to mix it up. Otherwise we get bored and end up wasting it. I feel guilty when that happens, ack.

First on my wishlist is to satisfy my hankering for pork chili verde, a family favorite. But, for a Monday night, that takes just  too much cooking time. So I opted for roasting it for Dinner Number One. It is then easy enough to divide up the cooked meat and later whip up some nice pulled pork sandwiches and my verde in short order. Makes my work week cooking go so much faster.

Spicy Pork Roast
To flavor the roast I wanted to be sure to compliment and support the future dishes I have in mind. I jumped at the chance to revisit the wonderful spice rub I discovered over the summer. Thanks to Alton Brown and the recipe at Food Network, Rub Number Nine.  Supported by a delish concoction of butternut squash, apples, oranges and red onion and dinner is served. Guess what other secret ingredient made this roast extra special? It rhymes with October.  Curious? Post a comment to ask and I'll give it up.

Prep the roast by generously rubbing in the spices on all sides. Let rest 30 minutes to 1 hour before roasting. Would be even better if you had time to do overnight, the favors would really sink in.
Roast at 350˚ until meat thermometer reach about 170˚ at thickest part of roast. Put one half secret ingredient in roasting pan at beginning and balance when you put in the squash apple mixture the last hour of roasting. Let the roast rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Apples and Onion
Serves 4
Cut vegetables/fruit in uniform pieces - about 1/2" pieces
1 medium size butternut squash, peeled, seeded
1 large apple, cored, peel on (granny smith or other baking apple)
1/2 red onion cut up
1 orange peeled, segments cut into thirds
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt
Place fruit, squash and onion in bowl. Toss with lemon juice, olive oil and pinch of salt. This will need to roast for about 45 min - 1 hour with the pork roast. The spices in the rub mixture will gently flavor this mixture so no need to add more spices (for me.)  If you are prepping this for just a side without the above spicy pork roast a bit of nutmeg, cinnamon, chili powder, smoked paprika might go nice.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Triple “C” Chowder -- Crab, Corn and Chilis

Triple "C" Chowder Crab, Corn and Chilis!
Triple “C” Chowder -- Crab, Corn and Chilis

Something sweet, something hot, something seafood. This chowder has a fabulous warm burn and sweet lingering on your tongue. Inspired by a Corn and Chili Pepper Chowder from Pioneer Woman, here's my take on a terrific recipe. Warning: SPICY adjust to your heat level.

Click for Recipe 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Polenta my heart

Polenta topped with fried green tomatoes, and roasted pepper sauce.
Polenta, crispy on the top and creamy in the middle forms the basis for fried green tomatoes and a slathering of roasted pepper sauce.  I got my inspiration from a wonderful posting on Tasty Kitchen Fried Green Tomatoes on Polenta Rounds with peppers onions and bacon and my southern roots had a distinct hankering for fried green tomatoes. The special flavor comes from Good Ol Burgers Roasted Pepper Sauce (a gift from by son from the burger joint in Paso Robles.)

I don't know about you, but I have been anticipating the change of the season with some delight. Shifting gears to soups, stews, baking and the like. This dish has the cozy feeling to it and as we say at our house, "travels well" for left overs.

Pepper Frys
Chili Fries -- Really?

What else have I been up to? Playing at taking pictures of my lovely peppers and tomatoes before I have to say good-bye to them for the winter. Finding encouragement from some terrific flickr groups and new friends. I have been challenging myself to see more, imagine more, and take more shots. Do you find that taking a bit of time, focusing on your creative side lightens your heart, balances the stress and brings a sense of satisfaction to your heart? I cook, I photograph, but not for any other gain than to satisfy my palate, my vision, what is in my mind's eye or the tickling of my taste buds. Do I get a kick if someone else enjoys it, appreciates the effort ... absolutely! Share the love. But, not every shot, every dish is a masterpiece... far from it. The endeavor, the acknowledgement that each of us has a creative vision that is all ours is what satisfies my soul, something that is mine. Reaching out creates connections with kindred spirits. Seek what is within and share the experience, why hide who you really are? We all look for perfection, but you know sometimes good enough is pretty swell.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Better late than never

Late harverst peaches --- really late!
My much maligned peach tree. Never known for flavorful fruit, always green, never fragrant. Dried hard fruits that drop unripened in the autumn. This year my brave friend you delivered these golden orbs. Fragrant, oversized, and glorious of color. In your honor, peach-pineapple jam and maybe some sort of cobbler. Better late than never my October Peach. Just to show us, each year is different, each effort is to be honored... with anticipation of delight. I find each day I need to recognize the blessings and relish the joy that presents itself. This tree, each year, a different experience.  I cannot hold fast to the past as I may miss a wonderful experience.

Peach Pineapple Jam - the short list
4 cups peeled chopped ripe peaches
1 1/2 cup chopped fresh pineapple
3 cups sugar
1 - 2 teaspoons sweet butter
1 pkg less sugar Sure-Jell
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Makes about 5 cups. Use Sure-Jell directions and proper cooked jam canning procedures.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Middle Eastern Inspired Menu

Peach Chutney topped Swai, Curried Chickpeas
 Curry, chickpeas, chutney, mint, parsley. Sometimes dinner time seems like an episode of Chopped. Tonight while waiting for my little box of hair color to process I was mindlessly scanning the umpteenth magazine. Suddenly it hit me. "Hey, I have a can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas,) and cauliflower,  mint, peaches and fish!"  I can make a dinner out of that for sure. The double shot of espresso in the chilled latte before my hair appointment didn't seem hurt the creative adrenaline.  Once I got home it was a flurry of activity.  Peaches, peppers, onions -- chutney simmering while the chickpeas and cauliflower are roasting in the oven. Next step a mint-parsley vinaigrette to toss with shredded romaine and topped with Asian pear slices. Lastly, pan fry in butter/olive oil Swai fillets with a light sprinkle of Wondra, salt and pepper. 

Middle Eastern Inspired Menu
Curried Chickpeas and Cauliflower
Peach and Pepper Chutney over panfired Swai
Shredded Romaine Salad with Parsley-Mint Vinaigrette
Spice Blend: Curry, Tumeric, Paprika and Pepper
Drained and Dried Chickpeas
Curried Chickpeas and Cauliflower
Serves 4
1/4 head cauliflower, medium chopped
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed
1/2 cup choppped yellow onion
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon course ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven 350 degrees
Combine spices in small prep bowl. Place drained and rinses chickpeas on paper towel to remove all water.  When dry combine chickpeas, onion and cauliflower in bowl. Drizzle olive oil and stir to coat. Sprinkle spice mixture and stir to distribute evenly. Pour mixture on roasting pan. Bake in oven 30 minutes, until cauliflower is fork tender. Serve as side dish.
Simmering Peach Chutney
Peach Pepper Chutney

1 large peach peeled and chopped
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 ea Jalapeño peppers seeded and diced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 cup apple vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
dash kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander

In a small saucepan saute onion, peppers in olive oil. Add peaches and cook until onions are transparent -- about 5 minutes. Add vinegar, honey and coriander and bring to a boil. Turn down head and simmer for 15-20 minutes until peaches are soft and liquid reduced by 1/3. Set aside to cool and spoon over fish, pork or chicken.

Parsley-Mint Vinaigrette
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons lime juice (1/2 lime)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/8 teaspoon course ground pepper
dash kosher salt

Pour olive oil in small mixing bowl. Rinse, dry and chop parsley and mint. Add vinegar, lime juice, salt, pepper, sugar to olive oil. Whisk to emulisify. Add parsley and mint, stir to combine. Let rest 15-30 minutes to let flavors meld before dressing salad. Nice over shredded romaine lettuce.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Burgers and Lemon Curd

Family celebratory meals,  a decision to be made.. what the heck am I gonna cook? Go with something exotic or traditional. It all depends doesn't it? The day of the week, what time we're eating, how many attending and so on. I was recently planning a birthday celebration for my son who lives away from me.  I miss him. I really wanted something special for my boy that speaks to home and family.  My young man with discerning tastes, he lets us know that Saturday, one o'clock is the perfect time to squeeze us in between girlfriend, friends and flight back to Seattle.  I had no hesitation -- my boys love their burgers!  So cousins, siblings and family suitably invited, our Santa Cruz Mountain home finds us dining al fresco on our deck ringed with redwoods. The October "Indian Summer" is perfect and mid-day shade finds us comfortably around the table with delectable wines loosening our conversations. A menu of great grilled burgers set in motion with bacon, blue cheese, provolone, jalapenos and other fixings. Also on our plates, are Grandpa Hugh's potato salad, a beyond basic carrot salad with Mama's current twist of dried papaya, pineapple, mango and raisins.

For dessert something light and delicious resulted in a lemon tart with raspberries and whipped cream.
Meyer Lemon Tart
Meyer Lemon Tarts
After searching my library for a good lemon curd recipe, I found a new favorite on  I clearly recognize I don't need to reinvent every recipe when there are so any talented chefs that are sharing their techniques and passion for food. I used Meyer Lemons, but that was the only modification to this new favorite: Barefoot Contessa Lemon Curd

My special thanks to DH for doing the burgers, grilling, and the delightful tart crusts. Mostly, I avoid pastry for some crazy reason. Maybe because his pie crusts are so wonderful.  I find that preparing for these celebrations together is something special that we can share. What better gift for a son who needs so little in the way of purchases, but evidence of our love.

A special treat were wines we picked up on our recent trek to San Luis Obisbo County and Paso Robles for the Savor the Central Coast event (more on that soon.) Midnight Winery's 2008 Luna Rosé, a delightful sipping summer wine before dinner followed by Dark Star Winery's 2007 Soft Shoulder, a vintner's blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 10% Mourvédre, and Andretti Winery's 2007 North Coast Pinot Noir from our own celler.

Midnight Winery and Vineyards
Dark Star Cellers
Andretti Winery

Beyond Carrot Raisin Salad Recipe

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sometimes the side is the star

Harvest Walnuts and Kale with Seseme Crusted Ahi Tuna
I love Ahi Tuna, don't get me wrong. It is a go to main dish and I prepared it lots of different ways. Our grocery store has a nice frozen 12 ounce package and it goes on sale often.  I stock up when it goes on sale at usually less than six bucks. Tonight it is brushed with olive oil and crusted with sesame seeds and herbs and seared. Nice and pink in the middle. But what on earth goes with it? I was definitely not in the mood for more carbs, not potatoes, not rice, no noodles for me tonight.  A nice bunch of kale was waiting, beckoning. Kale can be tricky. I've blown it a couple of times. Sometimes bitter, tough and a bit too earthy for most folks. But tonight it worked! Combined with harvest toasted walnuts, cranberries and a surprise sprinkle-- ribbons of Jamón serrano -- it made the perfect side dish.

Harvest Walnuts and Kale