Recipe fantasy to food reality.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Torture by Pork

Slow-cooking is best done outdoors or in a crock pot while you're at work. Otherwise, you spend 8 hours smelling the delicious meal that is cooking, unable to really taste it. I put together some pork for burritos this afternoon, and I still have a couple of agonizing hours left before I can eat it.

This is pretty much the only application I use my crock pot for, but it's worth buying a cheap little one to make this. Setting it up the night before you intend to make it, and then throwing it into the crock pot in the morning is something you'll thank yourself for when you come home in the evening to a house that smells amazing, with a hot dinner ready to be assembled.

~2.5 lbs pork sirloin
2 cans diced, peeled tomatoes
2 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp oregano
1.5 tsp kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp chili powder
2 pasilla peppers, seeded and diced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
1/2 cup roughly-chopped onion

I throw all of this stuff in my crock pot (if the pork isn't completely submerged, I'll add water until it is), leave it on high heat for about 8 hours, and then pull the pork out (using a strainer to keep it from retaining too much liquid). Shredding this pork and adding it to a burrito with beans, rice, sour cream and cheese is a truly amazing experience, especially considering the minute amount of work that goes into making it.

How do they do it?

I am too lazy to cook some nights, or just really want a burrito from Taco Time. Other nights, I am hungry enough by the time I finish cooking that I don't have time to prettify my food enough for picture-taking. Seriously, how do they do it?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Pesto Parmesan Chicken Sandwich

This sandwich idea was lifted from the dining service at Washington State University (which is where I work). I realize that putting bell pepper, asiago, basil pesto and chicken together is probably the most obvious go-to yumminess recipe ever. I'm posting it anyway, because it's keeping easy, quick and yummy ideas in mind that keeps me from eating fast food to get my stomach to quiet down when I get home from work. If this recipe can help one person somewhere avoid a trip to McDonald's, I'll feel justified in purveying this low-hanging culinary fruit.

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 cups chicken broth
1 clove garlic
1 cup basil pesto
1/2 cup jarred roasted sweet bell pepper, diced and drained
asiago (or other hard Italian cheese), shredded
sandwich rolls

Bring chicken broth to boil in a wide pot or pan for which you have a lid lying around somewhere. Crush the garlic clove and toss into the boiling broth. Add the chicken to the boiling pot, and lower the heat to a simmer. If the chicken is not covered by the liquid, add water until the chicken is totally submerged. Poach the chicken for about 25 minutes, until it is cooked through and tender. Remove the chicken from the pot to a medium-sized bowl, and shred it with two forks. Stir in the pesto and bell peppers. Butter your rolls (however many you feel like eating) and toast under the broiler. Spoon the pesto chicken onto the roll, and sprinkle the cheese on the chicken.

Grand Opening

It opened a little while ago, but today there was a grand opening party for Moscow's just-moved food co-op. It's grown to at least twice its old size, and acquired a meat department, and a much larger selection of pretty much everything. Also, it's gorgeous. I went down and sampled some cheeses and cowgirl chocolates (a Palouse original), and took some neat pictures. I may live in a small town, but I still feel pretty lucky to live within two blocks of a large supermarket, a food co-op, two wine stores (one of which is run by a local winery), a produce stand, and the farmer's market during the summer.

Smoked Paprika Tomato Sauce

A few comments asked for the recipe for the tomato sauce I mentioned in my last post, so I guess I'll expand on it a little. Unfortunately, it brings up some painful memories, though I feel it's been long enough that I can discuss it now.

I picked up a copy of Saveur magazine a few weeks ago, and it had in it a gorgeous-looking Argentine recipe for potato gnocchi with tomato sauce. One Wednesday night, I decided that no matter the time needed, I was going to make this dish. Somehow, the trip to the grocery store for this one meal ended up costing me $50. I was even more determined to have the most delicious meal of my life. I put my heart and soul into those gnocchi, and they came out a soggy mess. I've never made gnocchi before, and I think I now realize that I just don't like gnocchi. Still, I felt betrayed by my wet little pillows of potato and egg.

Andy had the task of making the tomato sauce, and his outcome was better than mine (adding to my consternation, I assure you). This is the sauce that I put on the polenta and garlic-rubbed jarlsberg, and I'm sure we'll make it again.

Adapted from Saveur magazine, October 2005, no. 87, pg 99.

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
1 carrot, peeled, trimmed and grated
1 jarred, peeled, roasted red bell pepper, drained and chopped
6 tbsp. tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put oil and onions into a wide pan and cook over medium heat until soft, 8-10 minutes. Stir in garlic. Redice heat to medium low, crush tomatoes with your hands into pan, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from heat. Pulse tomatoes, pepper, carrot and a large spoonful of the tomato sauce in a food processor. Add remaining sauce and process until chunky. Return sauce to pan, stir in tomato paste, bay leaf, and spices. Simmer the sauce partially covered over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Why, oh why did I ever go to Jack in the Box?

Midnight snack:

Brown slices of firm polenta in olive oil. Rub slices of jarlsberg cheese with raw garlic. Top browned slices of polenta with jarlsberg. Cover in warm smoked paprika tomato sauce.


The Old European

I'm not usually in the mood for cooking in the morning. On weekends, I usually ooze out of bed around 11 or 12, and then drag myself into a restaurant or fast food place to indugle in some grease. Then, I head back home to nap or go to the gym, depending on my level of ambition. One of the best places to go for breakfast on the Palouse is the Old European in Pullman, Washington. My family only rarely ever went out to eat, and all through college I had no car, so I didn't discover the place until a couple of years ago. If you're in the area, you must go! They make almost everything in-house, from salad dressing to jam to fresh bread. It's not really an eggs and hashbrowns sort of place, but the potato pancakes, dutch peach pie, and waffles are amazing.


I've always liked the idea of brunch. It's got a dorky name, and is a great mix of hoity-toity and slobishness. You're drinking mimosas at a table with a lace tablecloth, but you're hung-over and couldn't get up in time for breakfast. I'd like to host a big brunch someday, after a big party. Ideally it would be during summer, and served outside.

I've thought a lot of the aesthetics through (and practiced the night-before partying), but the food is something I haven't quite nailed down - not to mention getting the lovely home and yard where all of this would be set.

Today I actually woke up and had cooking on the brain. It helps that Food Network has so many recipe-oriented cooking shows on weekend mornings. I have been craving polenta lately, so I looked up some recipes on the Food Network site, and found a dandy. "Polenta Stacks with Ham, Spinach and Cheese" isn't the prettiest of all names, but it turned out to be delicious. I used already-firmed polenta I bought at the grocery store, and browned slices of it on the stove. Then, as the recipe called for, I heated some garlic and crushed red pepper flakes in olive oil, and wilted spinach in this. To serve, it was just a matter of arranging the sliced polenta, slices of jarlsberg (it's all I had lying around, but it's an amazing pair with a heavy garlic flavor), ham and wilted spinach, and then covering with warm marinara. It was easy with the shortcuts I took (marinara from a jar, polenta pre-firmed, spinach pre-washed), and a flavorful breakfast that wasn't too heavy.

Definitely a recipe to keep away in my fantasy food party file.