Friday, April 16, 2010

Guacamole, to go with the tostadas!

I also made some homemade guac to go with the tinga tostadas I posted about yesterday. I absolutely love guac and every time I make it (which isn't very often) I'm flabbergasted by how easy and delicious it is. So. I encourage you to grab a few avocados and make yourself a tasty treat!

Guacamole (Adapted from Cook's Illustrated, May 1999 Chunky Guacamole)

Ingredients: 3 avocados, 2 T onion, minced, 2 cloves garlic, minced, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves, 1/4 t salt, 2 T lime juice.

Directions: Halve the avocados and remove the pit.  Using a spoon, scoop the avocado from its peel and combine the onion, garlic, salt and cilantro leaves with half of the avocado (1 1/2 avocados). Using a fork, mash the avocado until combined with the other ingredients.  Add the rest of the avocado and use the fork to combine the ingredients, mashing to the consistency you like.  If you like really chunky guacamole, chop up the remaining avocado before you add it and just mix a little. If you like smooth guacamole, just continue to mash until everything is smooth. As with most recipes, alter your ratios of onion, garlic, lime juice, etc to make your ideal flavor.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Shredded Pork Tostadas Made Simple

I love shredded pork. I also love fresh tacos, tostadas, etc that are full of meat and flavor but don't feel heavy. I had some people over for dinner tonight and was having trouble figuring out what to make. Whenever I want to make something nice that feels like a complete meal, I end up cooking very New England-y things. While the food is delicious, it's often warm, filling, hearty food. Bakes beans, roasted chicken with mashed potatoes, chili, beef stew, etc. So I was perusing my go-to cooking source - Cook's Illustrated (I subscribe to both the periodical and the online site) and there it was. The perfect recipe for this warmer, sunnier week in Seattle. Crisp Pork Tostadas or 'Tinga Tostadas' put simply, as tinga is the term for 'true Mexican shredded pork' according to Cook's Illustrated.

Wow. This was easy, impressive looking and delicious! I cooked the pork last night so that when I got home from work today, all I had to do was put the pork in the pan with a few more bits of seasoning, let it cook for 15 minutes in all and crisp the tortillas to make the tostadas. Ta da. Dinner served with a fairly clean kitchen to boot.

Crisp Pork Tostadas (from Cook's Illustrated, March 2010) Serves 4 to 6

Tinga (can be made the night before through Step 1)

Ingredients: 2 lbs boneless pork butt (or shoulder), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch pieces, 2 medium onions, 1 quartered and 1 chopped fine, 5 medium garlic cloves, 3 peeled and smashed, 2 minced, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, table salt, 2 T olive oil, 1/2 t dried oregano, 1 (14.5) oz can tomato sauce, 1 T ground chipotle powder, 2 bay leaves.

Directions: Bring pork, quartered onion, smashed garlic, thyme, 1 t salt and 6 cups of water to simmer in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and cook until pork is tender 75 to 90 minutes. Drain the pork through a strainer into a pyrex or bowl. Dump all but 1 cup of cooking liquid, reserving it to be used later in the recipe. Remove the onions, garlic and thyme and return the pork to the saucepan. Use a potato masher to smoosh the meat until it has shredded into rough pieces. Set aside. If you're making the meat the night before, put it in a airtight container and refrigerate it.

On the night of the meal, heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a 12 inch non-stick skillet or a broad, heavy bottomed pan such as a dutch oven. Once oil is shimmering, add shredded pork, chopped onion and oregano; cook, stirring often, until pork is well browned and crisp, 7 to 10 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce, chipotle powder, the reserved pork cooking liquid and the bay leaves. Simmer until almost all of the liquid has evaporated, 5-7 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves and season the tinga with salt.


Ingredients: 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas, table salt

Directions: Heat vegetable oil in an 8-inch heavy bottomed pan (such as a cast iron skillet) over medium heat. Allow the oil a bit of time to get hot (a few minutes is fine), using a fork, poke the center of each tortilla a few times (to prevent puffing). Fry 1 tortilla at a time, placing it in the pil and holding a metal potato masher upright to keep the tortilla submerged and to provide even cooking. Keep the tortilla submerged for 45-60 seconds, until it is crisp and lightly browned. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt to taste if you wish (I found this step unnecessary). Repeat with remaining tortillas.

To serve: Spoon a small amount of shredded pork onto each tostada and serve. Garnish with any variety of the following: Queso fresca or feta cheese, fresh cilantro leaves, sour cream, diced avocado, lime wedges. Of course, feel free to experiment with garnishes but I think these are the best ones (and so do the folks at Cook's Illustrated). I also reserved a bit of the diced onion when I dumped it into the pork and used it for garnish.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dark Chocolate Mint Fudge... a grand success!

I applied to graduate school this fall, and with that comes asking 3-4 professors, advisors, etc to write recommendations. They all were very nice about it and said they were happy to do it, but it seems like a pain to me, so I was and am very grateful to all of them for taking the time to say nice things about me in a time consuming, official format. I wrote them thank you cards once all my applications were in but that didn't quite seem sufficient for all they had done. In the last 2 months I have heard from all of the schools, visited a few and made a decision - very exciting! After a lot of emails, phone calls, meetings, class sit-ins and all that, I have decided to attend the University of Washington in the fall! I'll be attending the Evans School of Public Affairs as a masters candidate, and I can't wait! Anywho, back to the fudge. I wanted to give the people who wrote recommendations for me an update with another thank you note and include a gift - something thoughtful. So I made them fudge. The response has been very positive. I highly recommend you make it for anyone you wish to make here's the recipe!

Dark Chocolate Mint Fudge (from the Dec '92 Bon Appetit) Makes 2 dozen cubes.

Ingredients: 6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped, 1/4 cup marshmallow cream, 1 1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped, 1/2 t peppermint extract (or maybe a bit less, it was pretty strong), 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk, 1/3 cup water, 1/3 cup whipping cream, 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces.

Directions: Line a 9 x 5 loaf pan with foil, overlapping sides. Place first 4 ingredients in a large heat proof bowl. Mix sugar, milk, water, cream and butter in a heavy 3-quart saucepan (anything smaller and you'll have all the ingredients boil over and make a huge me). Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Brush down sugar crystals from sides of pan using a pastry brush dipped into water. Increase heat to high; bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium-high; stir slowly with a wooden spoon for about 9 minutes. If you have a candy thermometer, the temp should read 232 degrees, but the 9 minute time works just fine. Pour the boiling mixture over the ingredients in the heat proof bowl; do not scrape the pan. Stir vigorously with the wooden spoon until chocolate melts and fudge thickens slightly - about two minutes. Immediately pour fudge into prepared pan and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Refrigerate the fudge until firm enough to cut, at least 2 hours. Lift the fudge from the pan using the foil and fold down foil sides. Trim the ends of the fudge and then cut into 24 pieces. Wrap each piece with wax paper. Can be made up to one week ahead - keep chilled in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Just an FYI, this recipe uses about half a standard can of condensed milk - same goes for the small carton whipping cream so I ended up making two batches...but make sure if you do that you make them separately.

An adventure in cooking Ethiopian food, Part Two

Well, it's been two weeks but I'm back to post the recipes for Misser Wot and Lamb Tibs. It's been almost two months since we made Ethiopian food and I'm ready to do it again! My boyfriend grumbled when I told him this because it WAS a lot of work, just to make one dish you have to make 4, the dish, the spiced butter, the spice mix and the injera, but. It is totally worth it. If you're short on time, the Misser Wot doesn't use the spiced butter, could be made using store bought berbere and could easily be eaten without the bread.

The lamb tibs were good, but I think the two best dishes were the Doro Wot and the Misser Wot...but I suggest making them all (perhaps for more than 2 people) and seeing what dish each person picks as their favorite!

Misser Wot (Red Lentil Stew) Serves 4-6

Ingredients: 3 large onions, finely diced, 1/4 cup canola or olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, chopped, 1 T chopped fresh ginger, 2 T berbere, 1 t salt, 1 cup red lentils, 2 T tomato paste, 4 cups water.

Directions: Sauté onions with oil in a large saucepan on medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent, stirring constantly so they do not stick to the pan. Add garlic and ginger and continue to stir. Add berbere and salt and continue stirring. Add red lentils, tomato paste, and water; bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are cooked. The stew should thicken as it cooks. Add more water if the lentils start to become dry.

Those this is called a 'stew' ours didn't have any broth, and it's never had any when I've gotten it in Ethiopian restaurants, to make sure you don't add so much water that it has liquid.

Lamb Tibs (Lamb in Spicy Sauce) Serves 4-6

Ingredients: 1/2 onion, chopped, 2 T vegetable or canola oil, 1 lb boneless lamb meat, cut into about 1-inch pieces, 2 garlic cloves, chopped, 1 jalapeño, seeds & veins removed, chopped, 2 tomato, chopped, 2 t chopped fresh rosemary, 2 tsp awaze (see note), salt to taste.

Directions: In a large saucepan sauté onion in oil on high heat for a few minutes. Add lamb and contnue to stir while adding garlic and jalapeno. Stir until the lamb is no longer pink, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add tomato, rosemary and awaze and cook until heated through. Add salt and serve hot with injera.

Note: How to Make Awaze

Combine 1/4 cup berbere, 2 T vegetable or canola oil, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 2 T red wine, a dash of salt, and 1 t ground mustard seed; mis all ingredients to make a paste.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Salmon Cakes and Broccoli

When I was home for Christmas I had a chance to peruse an issue of Eating Well, which was both interesting and bursting with promising recipes. I read a feature about canned salmon, and ever since then, I've been intending to purchase canned salmon and do something with it! Last week, I revisited this intention by, well, doing just that.

With a quick effort on Eating Well's comprehensive website, I pulled up a recipe for salmon cakes, and promptly decided that half of such a recipe would be plenty of food for my one-person dinner! It occurred to me that salmon cakes, by themselves, weren't quite a meal... so I also pulled out a favorite cookbook of mine: For Goodness Taste, produced by the Junior League of Rochester! That's Rochester, New York, and the cookbook is much like you might imagine it - the ladies of the Junior League appear to have gathered up family favorites, thrown them into categories, and printed themselves a cookbook! I am lucky enough to own a copy, and I flipped through the flagged pages until I found a good companion for salmon cakes: Broccoli with Lemon Cream Sauce. As a bonus, one recipe needs an egg white, and the other recipe needs an egg yolk! Waste not, want not.

Here are the recipes, as I cooked them. I ended up only cooking half the salmon cakes, and when I cooked up the other half the next day, they were even more delicious. The recipe takes about 15 minutes from start to finish, so if you can mix it a day ahead of time, then it'll take about 8 minutes to do that... and another 7 minutes to cook them whenever you're ready to eat.

Salmon Cakes (2 servings)

1 (6-7 oz) can of boneless, skinless, Wild Pacific salmon, drained
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 egg and 1 egg white, lightly beaten
1.5 tsp grainy mustard
1 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/8 tsp salt

2 cups frozen shredded hash browns (I found a brand called Mr. Dell's in the frozen vegetable section. There are other brands in the processed frozen breakfasts section, too.)

Mix this together, and shape the cakes. (Make them one at a time, packing them into a one cup measure, and then turning them into the pan, and flattening with a spatula to create 3-inch cakes.) Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pan (mine is cast iron, which I recommend), and cook the salmon cakes, 3-5 minutes on each side.

Serve with ketchup, sour cream, or this sauce:
1/3 cup sour cream
1.5 tsp capers, chopped and rinsed
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Broccoli with Lemon Cream Sauce

Steam and drain one bunch of broccoli. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp butter. Stir in 1 cup of half and half, and heat to boiling. Boil 5 minutes until mixture is slightly reduced, stirring often; remove from heat. Stir a small amount of mixture into an egg yolk, lightly beaten. Slowly combine this combination back into the saucepan. Stir in 1/4 tsp salt and 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Return to heat and cook on low, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.

Pour sauce over broccoli and serve immediately.