Coffee-molasses glazed pork chops

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This Alton Brown inspired glaze is so easy and versatile, you’ll want to keep it in your regular rotation. I used it on chicken thighs and pork chops, but I think that it would be great on roasted veggies, tofu, salmon and most other meats. I served it with a carrot-yam puree and seared broccoli.

  • 1 cup strong brewed coffee (I actually just dumped in fine ground coffee, about 1/2 cup, and some warm water. Worked well!)
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 3 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Marinate the protein in the a zip-top bag for 2-3 hours and then grill to desired doneness (3-4 minutes/side for pork chops). Strain the marinade into a small saucepan and reduce until syrupy. Drizzle a little glaze over each serving. If using on roasted veggies, I would suggest reducing the marinade down and tossing with the veggies during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

French onion soup – warmth in a bowl

I will confess upfront that this soup was consumed so fast that I didn’t get a photo of the final plated (bowled?) dish. I served it with toasted sourdough croutons and melted Gruyere cheese, and I can assure you, it was tasty.

I made the stock from scratch, using meaty short ribs, dried maitake mushrooms, and a bunch of veggies.

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Next, I slowly caramelized about 5 large sliced onions in lots of butter and 4-5 cloves of sliced garlic. I started them on the stove and then moved them to a 300 F oven, stirring them every 30 minutes until they were a dark brown.

I strained the broth, shredded the bits of meat and added those plus the broth into the pan of onions, scraping up all of the browned bits. I added a dash of Cognac and adjusted the salt and pepper. To serve, I topped individual bowls with toasted cubes of sourdough (I find cubes easier to eat than a whole toast) and shredded Gruyere, melted under the broiler.

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My Nana’s ravioli (spinach and ricotta)

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While my family was not too happy about this, I spent this past holiday at home making ravioli for my partner and I. No travel, no visitors, just quiet, cozy cooking.

My first memory of ravioli is from my Nana, and I have never had any that taste quite like them. Any homemade ravioli are usually pretty dreamy, but these have the added bonus of nostalgia for me. The flavor difference between these and other spinach-ricotta ravioli is a tablespoon or two of grated, glassed onion. I always use fresh ricotta and spinach, and that makes a difference in terms of texture and flavor for sure.

I used the same pasta recipe as I normally do, so I’ll just include the filling recipe here.

1 1/2 cup fresh ricotta, drained for at least one hour in cheese cloth and colander
1 cup cooked spinach, chopped fine and squeezed completely dry
2 tablespoons grated onion, glassed in a bit of olive oil (cooked until translucent but not browned at all)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
1 small egg

Mix all ingredients together, except for egg, and season to taste. Add egg and mix to combine. Once you fill the pasta sheets, let dry for a bit before cooking in slowly boiling water. They only need to cook for about a minute, or until they float to the surface.

 

Cooler-cooked steaks

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I finally tried the whole sous-vide thing, but I did it in a beer cooler! Thanks to The Food Lab, I also salted and air-cured the ribeyes for three days in my fridge. I’d do both of these things again, but I recommend reducing the number of curing days. For the record though, my partner says that it was the best steak ever and wouldn’t change a thing.

I paired the ribeye with grilled green beans and new potatoes and a homemade Bearnaise sauce (which is kind of like hollandaise but with white wine vinegar instead of lemon juice and the addition of tarragon).

First pat your thick-cut steaks dry and pat all over with kosher salt. Set them on a rack over a pan and place in your fridge for 12-24 hours. Brush off any remaining salt and seal the steaks in a vacuum sealed bag (or a ziplock bag). Then follow Kenji’s instructions for cooking meat in a beer cooler. I have to say, I was skeptical, but the ability to consistently attain the perfect temperature steak each and every time is pretty alluring. Plus, if you are having a bunch of folks over, the meat could be held in the water bath, and you can sear to order in a matter of minutes. No need to stand over a grill/stove while your guests are having fun, and lower chance of getting distracted and over cooking.

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It’s squash roasting season, obviously, but I wanted to make a specific plug for spaghetti squash. Cut it in half, scrape out the seeds, coat with olive oil and fill the halves with sliced garlic, herb sprigs and a sprinkle of salt.

Place, cut side down, on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until the squash strands separate as you drag a fork across them. The texture should remain crisp, and it’s better to under-bake than over. If you really want to soften it, just throw it back in the oven for a few more minutes. An over-baked squash is just mushy and sad.

I like to toss the strands with toasted walnuts, red pepper flakes, black pepper and shards of parmesan or aged gouda. It’s also great coated with some fresh pesto.

Savory rice waffles (again)

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This post is only to remind you that you should make rice waffles for dinner very soon, and, more broadly, that you can put so many things in your waffle maker! These rice waffles were pretty basic, but topped with some seared bass, sauteed cabbage and a spicy black bean sauce.

Just take day-old (or week old, I’m not judging) rice, mix in an egg, some salt and any other add-ins (green onions, basil, chopped bacon, diced cooked shrimp). Cook in your waffle maker until the edges are nice and crispy. Top with sauteed veggies, meats, gravies, melted cheese, you name it. You can usually make a topping in the time it takes your waffle to crisp up!

Chocolate cookie ice-box cake

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It’s always fun when something is even better tasting than you imagined. This was one of them. I made it as a celebration cake for a loved one using Smitten Kitchen’s recipe (minuse the peanut butter). I didn’t bother making it look perfect, so the shape was more modern art than “bakery case ready,” but that didn’t affect our enjoyment of it one bit. I did top with chocolate curls and cocoa nibs, so that made up for the shape a little.

While it was a lot of work to roll out and bake each layer individually, it was fun to have the layered look when cutting into it. I might not bother in the future, just rolling out random shapes and then layering them up as best I can like a triffle. Either way, super delicous.

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Johnny cakes for every meal

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Johnny cakes are kind of like fried cornbread, but easier to make. While the roots of the name are debated, we definitely can give credit to Native Tribes up and down the eastern Americas for the dish itself. While you can make more of a cornbread batter and fry like pancakes, these are simpler, denser, and satisfyingly toothsome. I like them savory with melted butter or cheese, as a side for BBQ or braised meats, or sweet with a drizzle of maple syrup or  honey.

  • 1 cup course cornmeal (this is a great time to use that heirloom, stoneground stuff you’ve been saving, because the taste of the corn is front and center)
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water or milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (if you want them sweet, otherwise, you can leave it out)

Combine all of the ingredients, pouring in the boiling water or milk gradually until you get a wet mixture that will plop off the end of your spoon and flatten out slightly. Cook in a greased medium-hot griddle or pan for about 6-10 minutes per side, depending on how dark you like your edges. I like to keep them warm in the oven on a rack while I make a whole batch. The time in the oven also helps to soften the corn granules in the middle, as they can be a bit crunchy at first.

Mu shu pork with homemade pancakes

Mu shu (fill in your preferred protein here: chicken, pork, tofu, etc) has always been a favorite go-to Chinese take-out fave for me. I find that even in restaurants where quality is meh, the mu shu is a safe bet. Like many restaurant dishes, if I like it, I figure out how to make it. Mu shu can be super easy by substituting in flour tortillas for the pancakes, but making the pancakes from scratch isn’t too much work if you have some extra time (and don’t mind flour all over the kitchen…and you)

  • 8oz white flour (you could probably use whole wheat, but might need a bit more water)
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup boiling water

Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl and add in the boiling water. Stir to combine and then knead with your hands for 5 minutes or so. Cover in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Roll dough into a long snake and cut into 12 pieces. Traditionally, and in order to get a really thin pancake, you then dip one piece of dough into toasted sesame oil and press against another piece of dough. By rolling and cooking these paired pancakes together, you can peel them apart at the end to get 2 super thin pancakes. Depending on your mastery of this, it can be a more or less successful technique. You may also want to just roll each piece on its own using a well floured rolling pin and counter.

Either way, cook the pancakes in a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute. Flip and cook for another 30 seconds. If you’ve rolled and cooked them as pairs, be sure to peel them apart (gently) while still hot. Cover with a dish towel to keep warm while you cook the rest.

The filling often has sliced napa cabbage, wood ear mushrooms, omelette strips, scallions and some kind of protein. I survey the fridge and make it with whatever I have on hand, and it seems to work. This time I had green cabbage, mustard greens, carrots, and shitake mushrooms hanging around. I also had some fresh bamboo shoot from our CSA that was really fun to play with. (tip: you have to boil it for about an hour before you can peel, slice and use it) The basic idea is to stir-fry your veggies, starting with the ones that take longer to cook, with garlic, ginger, soy and sesame.

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I like to cook the veggies in batches, moving the cooked ones to a large bowl. It allows me to get the pan screaming hot for each new type of veggie, which gives me that little bit of char that tastes so good. I made omelette strips by whisking 2 eggs with a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil, salt and some chive blossoms. Cook in a non-stick skillet until firm and cut into strips.

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To serve, each person takes a pancake and smears on some hoisin sauce (also called plum sauce, which can be found in most grocery stores, or you can try making your own!). I also like to add some chili paste for heat. Add some filling, roll up and enjoy!

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Rhubarb, apple, strawberry crumble

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Our CSA share came with rhubarb this week, and I couldn’t resist making a crumble. With my family visiting (including a loved one who can’t eat milk but can have yogurt), I also whipped up some easy frozen yogurt to go with it for a special treat.

There were only 4 stalks of rhubarb in the share, so I bulked up the crumble with strawberries and apples. The apples didn’t cook down as much as the other fruit (not surprising), so they had more of a bite to them. Not a bad thing, but I might cook them a bit on their own before adding to the crumble next time. I always make a double batch of topping, because everyone loves extra topping. I don’t use a recipe anymore, so if you want precision, I am not the place. I think if you have the general ratios, you’ll be fine. Just taste it before you bake it to make sure it has enough sugar, spice, salt, etc.

  • 4 stalks rhubarb, leaves trimmed away (they’re poisonous) and diced (bright red is best)
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, diced
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled, quartered if large
  • juice and grated zest of 1/2 lime or lemon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch

Mix all above ingredients together in a large bowl to blend. Place them into a buttered pie or tart pan. I like to use a wide, shallow dish to allow for the extra topping to get crispy.

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  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (can use gluten free flour)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (be sure they are gluten free if you making this gluten free, not all oats are)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Place flour, sugar, oats, salt and cinnamon into a food processor and mix to combine. Pulse in the diced butter until mixture looks like coarse pebbles. Add the walnuts and vanilla and pulse to combine. Take handful of the mixture and squeeze together, crumbling over the fruit filling. Cover fruit evenly with topping.

Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 40-45 minutes until golden brown, crispy and bubbling around the edges. Let cool slightly before serving. This is also yummy room temp or cold.

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I served mine with some strawberry-raspberry fro yo. Take your favorite full-fat fruit yogurt and sweeten a little bit more. I used maple syrup. Sweetness is dulled by the cold temperature of fro yo or ice cream, so you want the starting mixture to be slightly sweeter than what the final product will taste like. I also added some lime zest and a dash of salt. Process in your ice cream maker and serve right away for soft-serve style or freeze until hard for scoop-able fro yo.