Porky Piña Cole-Slaw-Da Slidas’

It’s not easy moving to a new city.  I knew this before moving to Portland, but I didn’t really think about it all too much before our arrival.  That is, until we pulled into the driveway with a car full o’ crap, a puppy and merely the clothes on our backs.  Now luckily we had a place to call home for a couple of weeks in a small trailer on a chestnut farm just outside of Portland, which we had arranged through WWOOF.  

But other than that, there was no plan laid out ahead.  No house to call our own, no jobs lined up, no family to greet us with love and hugs.  As exciting as it may have been, to say that the uncertainty wasn’t overwhelming would be a lie.

It’s certainly a comfort to know of a few people in the big bad city, to know that if you absolutely need somebody to call, there are people out there.  Aquaintences, facebook friends maybe who you rarely, if ever, talk to.  But it’s absolutely a great feeling when someone reaches out a hand to make you feel especially welcomed.  I have Alice to thank for that (yes, the same Alice who I took a cheese making class with a while ago).

Alice is an old friend who I met back in my days at Vassar, once upon a time when I played soccer competitively.  Through a series of events I found myself, for the first time in my life, not only living in a new city but one that was entirely across the country from everything and everyone that I ever knew.  I wouldn’t call Alice my first friend or even my closest friend during my freshmen year, but she was always the nicest and friendliest of teammates despite the seemingly inherent senior-freshmen discrepancy.  Before I knew it, I was a sophomore and she a graduate moving on to continue her chem studies at UC Berkeley.  There, she played soccer on the same adult league team as my sister (who lives in San Francisco) as well as myself for the season that I spent in San Francisco.  And then, I left for Aspen.

Somehow the stars aligned once again, and fast forward two years later we have found ourselves both living in Portland.  It was about a week after moving into our new place that she invited us to her upcoming get together. In this Iron Chef-style competition, attendees bring dishes or drinks highlighting one key not-so-secret ingredient.  The first one I was able to attend was an avocado theme, and with little preparation time I whipped up a porcini mushroom and avocado salad with a lemon parsley vinaigrette, Lucia’s recipe.  It was good, but most other dishes were better. 

A few months later, Iron Chef: Cilantro was underway.  I stepped up my game with Tequila Lime Cilantricles, boozy popsicles tasting somewhat of a jalapeno cilantro-spiced margarita similar to the ones described in an earlier post.  I was in the running, but was eventually beat out by my more savory-minded counterparts.

And this past weekend, I competed in my third event, Iron Chef: Coconut.  For this one, I decided to take a bit of a different approach.  Instead of featuring the themed ingredient, I decided to use it as more of a backdrop, incorporating coconut into my dish in many different, yet subtle, ways.  I wanted to use an ingredient that paired well with coconut, so naturally I went in the direction of pineapple.  But I didn’t want to make a sweet dish, and I also wanted to use meat as a challenge to myself more than anything.  I’m fairly sure I’ve heard of others using pineapple juice in a marinade for pork, so that’s when the idea of a pulled pork slider came into play.  Pulled pork and coleslaw, naturally.   After a few days, I settled on my plan.  Pineapple pulled pork slider with coconut cole slaw.  Frankly, my idea was pretty awesome if I do say so myself!

After an hour of pacing back and forth through the aisles of New Seasons checking off my grocery list and doubting that I had everything I needed, I went home to begin prep.  Six hours of slow cooking the meat, reducing a sauce, and chopping veggies went by and before I knew it I was out the door and on my way to Alice’s house with about ten different tupper-wared components in tow.

These Iron Chef parties are, I’ve learned, not to be taken lightly.  There is extensive planning, countless shit-talking emails, graphic designing, outfit wearing, and libation-consuming to be had before the entries even get plated, and it’s exhausting!  But moreso awesome, because as soon as the party starts chaos ensues in the kitchen, with everyone putting last minute touches on their dishes, starting with drinks and appetizers and continuing to main dishes and then desserts.

At the end of the event, after everyone’s bellies are stuffed and we are no longer capable of taking another bite, we all roll ourselves into the living room and the votes are tallied, with each person getting a total of 6 points awarded to their top three votes (three for first, two for second, one for third).   The winner is awarded the coveted Golden Frying Pan for the duration of their reign, bragging rights and the choice of the next theme ingredient.  Unfortunately for me, my “Porky Piña Cole-slaw-da Slidas'” were beat out in the final ballot by a point, putting me at a tie for second with Alice’s coco-licious cheesecake.  The bar was set high for this battle, and I’m comforted by the moment of silence that overswept the room as they bit into my sliders.  A moment of tasty bliss, I’d like to believe.

It is a victory I can and will still look forward to.  Someday, perhaps.

Alas, here is the somewhat informal recipe of my sliders, dedicated to my friend Alice (and her fiance Mike as well as many of their lovely friends).  Thanks for making me feel so welcomed in this little big town called Portlandia.

Porky Piña Cole-Slaw-da Slidas

Apologies but no measurements here- I don’t generally use measurements but more so just go by sight and taste.

Ingredients:

Pulled Pork:

  • Humanely-raised pork shoulder (I asked for about two lbs. from the butcher)
  • Pineapple juice
  • Whole grain dijon mustard
  • soy sauce
  • Coconut juice (or water, with pulp if possible)
  • Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce
  • Apple cider vinegar, splash
  • Salt/Pepper

Cole Slaw:

  • Napa cabbage
  • Red cabbage
  • Carrot, 1 or 2 grated
  • Pineapple chunks, minced
  • Dried coconut flakes, toasted lightly
  • Vegannaise (can also use regular mayo or other mayo substitute)
  • Coconut Milk
  • Whole-grain dijon mustard
  • Apple cider vinegar, a splash
  • Small jalapeno pepper (optional), finely chopped
  • Chives, minced for garnish
  • One loaf of challah bread, sliced evenly

Glaze:

  • Pineapple Juice
  • Coconut juice (or water)
  • Maple syrup

Begin by placing the pork in a slow cooker and turn the timer onto 6 (or more, if you have the time) hours.  In a small bowl, combine 4 parts pineapple juice, 1 part dijon,  1 part soy sauce, 2 parts coconut juice, 1 part SBR’s BBQ sauce, and a splash of apple cider vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add to the slow cooker with the pork and leave it be.

You can wait a few hours before preparing the rest of the components.

In a small saucepan, combine 2 parts pineapple juice, one part coconut juice and 1/2 part maple syrup.  Stir on low to medium heat for at least fifteen minutes, until the water has evaporated and the syrup will coat the back of a spoon.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Begin your coleslaw by finely chopping your cabbages either by hand with a knife or with a mandolin, and collect into a large bowl.  Add grated carrots, minced pineapple chunks (if the chopping of the pineapple creates residual juice, add that to the mix as well), chopped jalapeno and a handful of toasted coconut flakes.  In a small bowl, combine equal parts Vegannaise and coconut milk, a small spoon of dijon and a splash of AC vinegar.  Combine well and then fold into the cabbage and carrot mix.  Season with salt and pepper as needed, then keep in the fridge until service.

At this point you can toast the challah slices at about 250 degrees on each side until golden brown, should take no more than 15 minutes in the oven.

One the meat is fully cooked and tender enough to break apart with a fork, turn off the heat and remove any super fatty pieces.  To assemble sliders,  put a heaping spoonful of pulled pork on a slice of toasted challah, drizzle lightly with pineapple glaze, top with an equal portion of coleslaw to pork and top with a light sprinkle of toasted coconut and minced chives.  Top the slider with another slice of challah,  and stick a large toothpick through to keep it in place.

For the next battle, Iron Chef: Persimmon…Allez Cuisine!

Advertisements

Garden Greens with Grilled Peaches and Figs

The other day on my way to the dog park, I saw a sign for an estate sale in bright orange paint on a bright yellow poster.  Now, seeing as every four houses on a saturday in Portland is either having a garage sale or an estate sale, I normally wouldn’t detour too far out of my way for one unless I was truly on the hunt.  But this sign, for some reason, called to me.  I turned a sharp right on the next street, found a parking spot and went inside.  Among piles and piles of needless stuff,  I almost immediately spotted and couldn’t take my eyes off of a cast iron grill pan that was sitting quietly in the corner of the kitchen.  I couldn’t leave without it, and I knew I had to have it.  Instantly we were bonded.  It may sound silly, but it almost felt to me as if it had spent its entire existence at this house so that it would be sold, for eight dollars, to me.

Serendipity.  It’s not just a horribly cheesy movie.  It’s also pretty much how I try to live my life.  Opportunities present themselves, sometimes in the form of a job or experience opportunity, sometimes in new and old friends and acquaintances, and sometimes in bright yellow signs with orange paint.  I make an effort to leave space and time in my life for spontaneity, and for the most part I am rewarded.  I’ve also learned to let the things go which do not bring positivity into my life without necessarily being prepared to replace it.  Usually, in this case I am rewarded too.

It’s not easy moving to a new place without having any sort of concrete plans or a solid friend base.  I have my boyfriend, who’s not only a boyfriend but a true friend above all else.  We have an amazing puppy.  We both have at least one job that fulfills us, that makes us happy and has rewarded us in some way.  We are meeting some great people.  We’ve already encountered bumps in the road, impediments that force us to make difficult decisions and sometimes ones with unforeseeable outcomes.  But in making time for the good stuff, and in weeding out the bad, we are making it happen.  Slowly, things are coming together.

I received some great news today, and consequently spent the morning tearfully overjoyed and hugging my puppy.  Yes, good things are brewing on the home front.  Sorry to leave you in suspense, but it’s too early to divulge…and no, I’m not pregnant.  Just wanted to clear that one up.

So instead, I’ll just leave you with this recipe for garden greens with grilled peaches and figs.  There’s really nothing serendipitous about it, except for the fact that I used my amazing new-ish cast iron grill pan and it met- nay surpassed- my expectations.

Garden Greens with Grilled Peaches and Figs

Ingredients:

  • Juicy peaches
  • figs
  • An assortment of garden greens.  Mostly arugula and spinach.
  • Mint
  • Pistachios
  • Some kind of crumbly cheese.  I used homemade farmer’s cheese from my Portland Culinary Workshop class)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Juice of half a lemon

Start by gathering your greens.  Farmer’s Market, Trader Joe’s, New Seasons, your neighbor’s garden.  Don’t matta.  Just pick up a bunch and make sure they’re organic and healthy looking.  None of that supermarket iceburg crap.

For this salad, I mooched some spicy arugula, refreshing spinach, and cooling mint leaves from my neighbor’s backyard.  Rinsed, chopped, thrown into a bowl.

Chop the peaches into slices, half the figs and place on a sizzling hot griddle pan with maybe a drizzle of olive oil.  Allow to grill for a few minutes on each side, using tongs to flip, until the fruit is softened and has some grill marks on both sides.

Meanwhile, shell some pistachios.  Use a knife to smush and crack them into smaller pieces (as you would a garlic clove to remove the peel) and throw them in a small pan on low to medium heat for a few minutes to bring out a roasted nutty flavor. Watch carefully so as not to burn, as nuts can and will burn quickly if you don’t keep an eye on them.    Remove from heat, allow to cool.

When your fruit is sufficiently grilled, turn off the heat and remove from the grillpan (or grill).  Allow to cool then cut into chunks.

Assemble the salad.  Throw the greens into a bowl, sprinkle the pistachio, grilled fruit, and some goat cheese, farmer’s cheese, or feta.  Or maybe even blue cheese if you have that on hand instead.  Drizzle generously with a mix of olive oil, salt, pepper, and the juice of half a lemon.  Take a moment to appreciate the simple beauty of the dish.

And then devour.

Simply Roasted Cherries with Rosemary

I would like to start by saying: my aunt Jane is an amazing lady.

Not only did she send me this antique cherry picker she found at a garage sale a couple of weeks ago, but she is pretty much responsible for my complete and utter obsession with garage sale-ing and flea market-ing.  She also taught me how to bargain.  Before I was even ten years old.  Believe it.

She’d take me to garage sales and flea markets all over the Bay Area on the weekends, and helped me to start a small ceramic dog collection by showing me the bargaining ropes. For you newbies, I’m talking about how to suggest a price that’s well lower than what’s listed and then slowly work your way to the middle.   Or how to pretend like you only have only two dollars in your wallet when you actually have ten.  It’s a skill that, as insignificant as it may seem to you, is incredibly important to me to this day, and especially so now that I’m living in Portland, the garage sale capitol of the world.

There are many, many other life’s lessons and skills that I’ve learned from Aunt Jane, but today I’m thankful for our common appreciation for antiques (especially kitchenware) and good bargains.

Might I add, she’s also quite the cooking extraordinaire, and one of my first true kitchen role models growing up.

I hope she would approve of this simple, yet delicious creation.  Something tells me she would.

Simply Roasted Cherries with Rosemary 

Ingredients

  • A whole bunch o’ cherries, washed and de-stemmed
  • A sprig or two of rosemary, de-stemmed and roughly chopped

You don’t necessarily need a cherry pitter, although it is quite handy and useful!

First you must preheat the oven to a low and slow 250 degrees.  As it’s heating up, you will want to pit your cherries.  I’ve seen recipes where people roast cherries with the pits in, or even entirely whole and with the stems still attached, but I’d rather avoid the nuisance and since I now have a cherry pitter, I went all out on the preparation.  De-stemmed, pitted, halved, the whole nine yards.

So yes, chop in half, and spread onto a baking sheet, skin side down.  Sprinkle with coursely chopped rosemary, and place in the oven.  Allow to bake for at least an hour, if not more, keeping an eye to watch for burning.  Bubbling or crackling noises are okay.  After a long while, your cherries should have shunk to about half their original size, browned or crisped up a bit, and shriveled up like your skin after a long bath (how’s that for kitchen imagery?). If you pop one into your mouth, you will notice how the flavor and sweetness of the cherry is greatly enhanced.

From this point forward, the world is your oyster!  Er, cherry.  You may do with them what you please.  Pop them in your mouth as a healthy snack, throw them on some crackers with your favorite chevre as a beautiful and delicious appetizer, add them to fresh greens in a salad, or even incorporate them into a pastry of your choosing.  It would be utterly impossible to find dissatisfaction in your outcome.

Now, this recipe isn’t quite brain surgery.  In fact, it’s safe to say you could probably do it blindfolded.  It’s the concept that I’m trying to emphasize here, that uncommon pairings of fruits and herbs can and DO go well together.  Also, that fruit can be enjoyed in more ways than just fresh, or in a pie or pastry.  In fact, in many cases roasting or grilling is an incredibly useful method for enhancing the sweetness of the fruit.  It’s also a fabulous way to disguise fruit that you’ve allowed to go a day or two past it’s prime.

If you want to cook simply and do it well, then you will allow the ingredients to speak for themselves.  This is what I’m learning.

 

 

 

 

Cheesy Vegan Kale Chips

This isn’t the first time I’ve done a blog post devoted to kale chips, but they’re just so gosh darn delicious (and addicting, I might add) that they deserve to be brought back to the forefront of my blog for this evening.

HA! Tricked you.  You totally thought this was my veggie garden, didn’t you?

I WISH.

Actually, my rad new neighbor(s) stopped by for a chat this morning and mentioned that their backyard veggie garden is in serious summer surplus mode and demand is at a premium.  It’s. A. Rough. Life. For. Us.

As a self-diagnosed veggie hoarder (note the pic of the current state of my fruit/veg drawer in the fridge), I pretty much teleported myself to their backyard as soon as I possibly could to get my hands on some.

Among the wide variety of awesomeness I found, I came home with some basil, rosemary, a few leaves of rainbow chard, and kale.  I have some manners.  Some.

Having just picked up a new bunch of purple kale at the farmer’s market yesterday, I knew that throwing the leaves in the fridge would likely result in a mess of yucky smelly goo on the bottom of the veggie bin. It’s never a good thing to let fresh food go to waste, let alone a very nasty waste.   And anyone who’s ever suddenly found themselves with a surplus of kale can likely attest to this phenomenon.  If not, then you my friend are a jedi of kale.   But for us less gifted, there is one solution to this problem and it is a good one at that: kale chips.  Make a batch and, I swear, you’ll be down to a workable amount of fresh kale before you know it.  These babies are so addicting (and guilt-free), they’ll be gone before you leave the kitchen.  Literally.  As in, I put them in a bowl to share with everyone else and just stood in front of the bowl shoving them in my mouth for like five minutes until they were gone.

Cheesy Vegan Kale Chips 

Ingredients:

  • One bunch of organic kale, de-stemmed and chopped into large pieces
  • One healthy dose of olive oil, maybe two to three tablespoons, poured in small increments
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Chili Flakes
  • Two or three large pinches of nutritional yeast (“healthier” alternative to cheese, many vegans use it as a substitute to that cheesy flavor.  For instance, my old roommate Susan used to make vegan mac ‘n cheese with nutritional yeast.  It doesn’t compare to cheese in texture by any means, but I actually really enjoy using it  on popcorn, scrambled eggs, kale chips, etc.)

Preheat oven to 250 (any higher and your kale chips will burn).  In a bowl, toss kale with the rest of ingredients and ensure an even coating.  Spread out evenly on a baking sheet or large piece of aluminum foil.

Place in oven and bake for about an hour, or until the chips are completely dehydrated and crispy.  Remove from oven, and enjoy.

Lesson learned today: Dino kale is the best type of kale to use for chips due to its rigidity.  It’s the kind with the long and thinner crinkled dark green leaves pictured above.  A close second is the green kale- the firm, almost sharp looking leaves that you can usually find in the market or grocery store.  Try to avoid using Russian or Purple kale.  Also, don’t over oil the greens.  Use only enough to very thinly coat each leaf, as the oilyness comes out when crispy and the idea is to avoid greasiness.

Ingredient of the Week: Fresh Turmeric

In an attempt to expand my mental pantry, I’m going to be selecting an ingredient each week to highlight right here on this blog.  These explorations will likely feature something I’ve never or hardly ever used in my cooking that I may come across at the market or read about on a food blog or book.

To start this project I’d like to introduce you all to fresh turmeric.  I found this root ingredient at the Aspen Emporium and Flying Circus the other day while I was picking up some produce.  At first glance I thought it was ginger root because of the similarity in skin and appearance.  Upon closer look though, I was able to distinguished turmeric by its deep orange color underneath the skin as well as it’s smaller size and less nobby shape in comparison to ginger.   I’ve seen ground turmeric among spice selections at most markets, and in fact have some in the spice cupboard here at home, but fresh turmeric root is something new and entirely different from it’s dried and ground counterpart.  You can find ground turmeric in the spice aisle of most supermarkets, but fresh turmeric can be more difficult to find.  Believe me, it’s worth the hunt.

If you know the difference in flavor between ground ginger and fresh ginger or garlic powder and fresh garlic, then you can understand why fresh turmeric was an exciting find for me.  The freshly grated adds a mild, earthy and almost refreshing flavor to dishes that the dried version absolutely lacks, without being overpowering.  I was warned before purchasing that it is commonly used as a coloring agent in cooking, acting as a naturally yellow dye to many of the products we see in the grocery store today: mustards, curry powders, etc.  After having cooked with it rather carelessly, I now know what they were talking about: the dye is so powerful that it actually stains your skin yellow when you handle it.  For both color and flavor it is an essential component in curries and thus a staple ingredient many Indian, Moroccan and Middle Eastern dishes.

Parsnips, brussel sprouts and red jalapeno with fresh turmeric (check out that color!) served over brown rice with a farm greens salad (these greens were brought home from CRMPI)

Aside from color and flavor, (fresh) turmeric contains the active ingredient curcumin which boasts some incredible health benefits.  Research suggests that in addition to it’s  high antioxidant content, it is also purported to aid in anti-inflammation, lower both blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and may even prevent certain types of cancers.  Other benefits of turmeric (curcumin) include stomach-soothing, antibacterial and liver detoxifying properties.  For these reasons, curcumin can now be found in many health food and alternative medicine stores in powder and pill forms for supplemental use.

Below are two simple recipes featuring fresh turmeric:

Turmeric Kale Chips

Ingredients:

  • 3 or 4 leaves of kale, rinsed, stems removed and roughly chopped (I brought these home from CRMPI)
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • generous grating of fresh turmeric
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • dried chili flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 425.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well to incorporate the oil and spices evenly onto the kale pieces.  

Spread kale on baking sheet and spread out so that the leaves are overlapping as little as possible.  

Bake for 45 to an hour, until the leaves are dried and crispy without any sogginess.  They should not be brown or burnt but rather take on a darker green hue.  Remove from oven, allow to cool for five minutes, and enjoy.

Deviled Farm Eggs with Fresh Turmeric 

I was reminded of my love for deviled eggs at The Cheese Shop’s Farm-to-Table Dinner (they used duck eggs) a few weeks ago, and going by the fairly traditional recipe of curried deviled eggs I was inspired to create my own version using freshly grated turmeric.

Ingredients

  • However many farm eggs you’d like (For a snack portion, I used two of the farm eggs I took home from CRMPI)
  • Mayonnaise, aioli, or anything similar (Vegannaise is also a great healthier option)
  • Dijon mustard
  • Generous grating of fresh turmeric
  • half a scallion, minced (can also use garlic, onion or shallot), also a few more slices for a nice garnish
  • dash of dried chili flakes to taste (you can also use a hot sauce like Tabasco or Cholula if you like the heat)
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • paprika, for garnish

First you must hard boil the eggs.  To do this place the eggs in a saucepan and fill with water so as to immerse the eggs entirely in the water.  Bring the water to a boil on high heat, simmer at a boil for a minute and then turn the heat down low and let simmer for fifteen or so minutes.  My eggs actually took over a half hour simmering, because I live at 8500 feet and they still were just barely cooked through at the fifteen minute mark.  I personally would recommend allowing the eggs to simmer for longer than instructed, but the only way to know is to sacrifice an egg, peel it open and if it’s ready, great; if not, keep them simmering and, alas, savor that soft-boiled deliciousness.  Once the eggs have been cooking for as long as your patience can handle, drain the hot water and re-fill the saucepan with cold water (a few ice cubes speed up the cooling proces) and allow to sit for about 10 minutes as this will ease the already difficult task of peeling the eggs.

Once peeled, slice eggs in half and separate the yolks from the whites.  In a bowl, combine yolks with mayo, mustard, fresh turmeric, scallion, chili flakes, salt and pepper, using a fork to mix and incorporate all ingredients.  The mixture should become silky and soft, rather than chunky, after a few minutes of mixing.  Spoon or pipe the mix back into the whites and top with some sliced scallions and a sprinkle of paprika.

I encourage you all to get out there and give fresh turmeric a try for yourself.  Besides these recipes, I would suggest adding freshly grated turmeric to simply sauteed veggies, or incorporating it into traditional recipes for those extra little kicks of flavor, color, and sheer nutritional value.