Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pulled Pork Burritos

I loved pulled pork. I especially love it because it seems so labor-intensive, but it's exactly the opposite. You can prepare it in the morning, let it cook in the crock pot (slow cooker) all day, and then shred it and toss it with sauce when you get home. It cooks itself! We used it for burritos.

I stopped at Trader Joe's on the way home from work tonite. The new one in Brooklyn is at Court and Atlantic, and it is lovely. The Trader Joe's at Union Square is heinous compared to this one. The store, built into an old bank, is spacious and clean...the aisles are wide, and the staff is really friendly. I have to think that the calmness of the shoppers has to do with the fact that they're in Brooklyn; the shoppers in Manhattan are rude and they fly through the aisles mindlessly. I picked up some brown rice tortillas, organic pepper jack cheese, and arugula (and some dark chocolate pistaccio toffee!).


2 lb pork butt (with bone)
2 onions
2 carrots
2 stalks of celery
salt & pepper
Barbeque sauce (I used the tamarind barbeque sauce from the salmon dish described in an earlier post)
Pepper Jack cheese
Diced tomato
Diced onion
Hot sauce (optional)

Season the pork butt with salt and pepper, then brown the butt in a cast iron skilet with olive oil. Cut up the onions, carrots, and celery--they're just for flavor, so you don't have to cut them neatly--and put them in your slow cooker. Set the roast on top. If the pork butt left pieces in the cast iron skillet, deglaze with about 1/4 cup of beer, scraping up any bits stuck to the pan. Pour the liquid, and remaining beer, over the roast. Cook on low for about 8 hours. This is perfect for those of us who try to work 8 hour days....I don't know what to tell the rest of you who work for 12, 14 hours straight except: "chill out!"

When you get home, turn off the crock pot and remove roast. When it is cool enough to work with, shred the meat with 2 forks until it is completely pulled apart, discarding any chunks of fat you come across. Heat the barbeque sauce, and when it is warm, stir it into the meat. Return the shredded bbq pork to the crock pot and keep it on warm.

Heat the tortillas over an open flame and layer with shredded cheese, pork, tomato, and onion. Fold up and bite!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Zucchini Kofte with Beet-Bulghur Pilaf

There are a bunch of women in my office who cook amazing dishes....going into the lunchroom on any given weekday is like reaching into a culinary treasure chest. There's one woman that grows her own vegetables and herbs and belongs to a cooking club where she and six of her friends cook food on Sunday and then exchange the leftovers so that everyone has a new dish to bring for lunch each day. And then there's another woman who experiments with healthy vegetarian fare, like this Zucchini Köfte with Beet-Bulgur Pilaf that everyone was raving about. I didn't actually see it on the day she brought it in, but I saw the recipe printed out at the copier and I snatched it up. Turns out everyone wanted the recipe, and for good reason. This was a delicious find, definitely a keeper. The recipe is originally from the October 2008 Gourmet magazine, I adapted it a bit. The original recipe made way too much bulghur pilaf for the kofte balls it yielded. So unless you want a ton of bulghur pilaf left over (not such a bad idea because it's so yummy!), I would halve the recipe for the bulghur.

Zucchini Köfte (Mediterranean vegetarian meatballs)

1 pound zucchini (3 medium)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup rinsed and drained canned chickpeas
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 cup panko
About 4 cups vegetable oil for frying

Beet-Bulghur Pilaf

1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/4 cups bulgur
1 pound medium beets with greens, beets peeled and diced (1/4 inch), stems discarded, and greens coarsely chopped
4 cups water
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Yogurt sauce

1 cup plain yogurt (preferably Greek)
1 teaspooon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Make köfte by coarsely grate zucchini in a food processor fitted with the medium shredding disk. Toss with 1 teaspoon salt in a colander. Let stand 10 minutes.
Pulse garlic, parsley, and cilantro in food processor until finely chopped.
Wrap zucchini in a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and twist to wring out as much liquid as possible. Mash chickpeas with a fork, then toss with zucchini, garlic mixture, spices, bread crumbs, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Roll 2-tablespoons portions into balls and chill köfte in a 4-sided sheet pan while making bulghur.

Make bulghur by cooking onion and garlic in oil in a deep 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in bulghur, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant and a shade darker, about 4 minutes. Stir in beets (but not greens) and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until water is absorbed and beets are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in greens and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Fluff bulghur with a fork, then sprinkle with almonds.

Fry köfte balls by heating 1 inch of oil in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Fry köfte in 2 batches, turning once, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

To make the yogurt sauce, stir together yogurt, garlic, cilantro, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.

Serve warm köfte and bulghur with sauce.


We rarely go out to restaurants these days--what with trying to save some money, and the fact that we rarely find dishes that are better than what we prepare ourselves--but when we do go out, we try to choose our restaurants well. Lately, we've been dining out at places that use local ingredients or have seasonal menus. james, a restaurant right around the corner from where D grew up in Prospect Heights, was a great choice. The ambience in a restaurant is always very important to me--the only thing missing from this place was little Christmas lights. It was decorated beautifully, very rustic, with whitewashed walls and an antique mirror. They also had this cool back-lighting behind the seating booths that created a really warm feel.

We loved the selections on the menu, but could not settle on anything, so we shared three appetizers and an entree. The Heirloom Tomato with Globe Basil, Sea Salt, Warm Chèvre Fondue tasted great, although the presentation could have been better. The tomato slices were all stacked up on top of one another. I thought it would have been better to lay them out in an array so that you could appreciate the different colors. The chevre was awesome. The Seared Diver Scallops with Watercress Puree was also very good--the scallops were cooked to perfection, and the watercress puree was a simple and clean compliment. Our served offered a special tuna tartare appetizer which we couldn't resist. It was simply four thinly sliced pieces of fish over fresh sprouty-greens with serrano pepper and a vinagrette. The tast combination was amazing...we savored every bite. Perfection. For our shared entree, we had the butternut squash ravioli. The taste was great, but the entree wasn't really worth the price ($19 for four raviolis). The Ricotta Beignets with Raspberry Red Wine Coulis were light and delicious, a great way to end the meal. I would definitely come back to james again. Maybe around the holidays they'll have Christmas lights.

Maple-Roasted Chicken with Apple-Mushroom Wild Rice and Lentil Pilaf

The only things you should have to do on Sunday are: watch Meet the Press, read your favorite parts of the New York Times, go on a bike ride, and make a nice dinner. If those are the criteria for a perfect Sunday, I outdid myself and had a more perfect Sunday. Colin Powell started my morning by giving the most eloquent and poignant endorsement of Barack Obama, the Times had an awesome feature on Rachel Maddow, the park was at its fall best and my new bike was awesome (so was my partner, who encouraged me to keep going up those hills!), and the dinner we chose was soul-warming. On the way home from the park, we stopped by a Barack O'Bake Sale run by four neighborhood kids. Their enthusiasm was something else!

I got a free-range chicken at Fairway and brined it in water, kosher salt, a chopped up onion, and a sprig of rosemary. I left the chicken in the fridge in its brine for about 8 hours. When I took it out of the fridge, I rinsed it throughly, rubbed it with olive oil, and coated it with a spice mixture I got from a poultry-seller at the Grand Army Plaza Farmer's Market in Prospect Park. The spice mixture uses maple crystals as its base, so it was nice and sweet. We didn't do anything else to the chicken--just roasted it at 400 degrees for about an hour.

For the Apple-Mushroom Wild Rice and Lentil Pilaf, we didn't follow a recipe really. I got the idea from a fall recipe newsletter that advertised an Apple-Leek Stuffing. I couldn't find leeks anywhere this weekend, so I just used the apple part to inspire a nice side dish. In general, the pilaf was made this way:

Combine wild rice with a touch of olive oil in a small bowl. Sautee onion and garlic in a sauce pan. Once they are carmelized, add chopped mushrooms and celery. When they are soft, add the wild rice, chicken stock, and about 1/2 cup of lentils. Add salt and pepper and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes. When the rice is nearly done, add chopped apples to the mixture. Uncover and continue to cook until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed.

The dish is even better for lunch the next day.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Simple Brown Bread

I am so loving the chill in the air. I like to open all the windows in the house and wrap up in a sweater and fuzzy slippers and putter about the house doing little things on days like this. Smelling bread baking in this kind of air is so comforting. I found this really basic recipe in the October Cooking Light magazine. The issue had a whole section devoted to recipes from the American Shaker community from the 1800s....really simple, wholesome food. So I adapted this one for Steamed Brown Bread.

Steamed Brown Bread

Just over one cup of whole wheat flour
1 cup rye flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup raisins
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, cornmeal, raisins, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine buttermilk, molasses, honey, and butter. Add to dry ingredients; stir just until moistened. Divide batter evenly between 2 (8-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Tightly cover each pan with foil. Place pans in a 13 x 9–inch baking pan. Add boiling water to a depth of 1 inch. Cover larger pan with foil. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. (Top of bread will feel slightly sticky.) Remove pans from water. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pans; cool completely.

Enjoy with a steaming cup of Earl Grey tea with milk, and some good friends. Delicious.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Coconut Crusted Salmon with Tamarind Barbeque Sauce

I got this recipe from Cooking Light magazine, October 2008. It was delicious. I paired it with roasted cauliflower and garlic for D's birthday. I spent weeks looking for tamarind extract, but ultimately I didn't need it. Tamarind concentrate worked, and tamarind paste would have worked just as well. We found the tamarind concentrate at Sahadi's.

Barbeque Sauce

1 tsp canola oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1 tblsp peeled and chopped fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tblsp tomato paste
1 cup hot water
1 tblsp mirin (sweet cooking wine)
3 tblsp tamarind concentrate
3 tblsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
1 tblsp tamari
1 tsp toasted sesame oil


1 lb nice piece of salmon
3 tblsp panko
3 tblsp flaked coconut*
1/8 tsp ground tumeric
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
olive oil cooking spray

To make the barbeque sauce, heat oil in a cast iron pan. Add shallots, sautee 2 minutes; add the ginger and the garlic and sautee for another minute, stirring constantly. They will start to key sticky. Add tomato paste, cook another minute, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup of hot water, tamarind extract, mirin, brown sugar and ground red pepper, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and then stir in tamari and sesame oil. Set aside or refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. To prepare the salmon, combine the panko, coconut and tumeric in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle the salmon evenly with salt, coriander, and pepper. Dredge fillets in panko mixture. Heat your cast iron pan again and pour in about 2 tblsp oil. Add salmon to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Carefully turn the fish over and cook the same on the other side. Stick in the oven for about 6 minutes. Serve with a tblsp of the barbeque sauce and a nice, roasted vegetable (I used cauliflower).

*The recipe called for sweetened coconut. I used 2 tblsp unsweetened coconut and 1 tblsp sweetened coconut.

Crazy Birthday Cake

This was the funniest birthday cake I've ever made. Chocolate cake made from unsweetened chocolate from Guatemala, kahlua, buttercream with vanilla from beans I brought back from Mexico, ganache, and white chocolate from Whole Foods. I was looking around for about a month for the recipe I wanted and just couldn't find one. I cobbled and adapted until I got what I wanted. It wasn't pretty, and there were some issues with the cake, but it sure is tasty.

The night before I made the cake, I had to buy another cake for my uncle's birthday at Whole Foods. I asked them to write "Happy Birthday" on the cake, and when they showed it to me, I asked the guy whether he had to pass a calligraphy test to get the job. He said, "You can do it, too," but I found his instructions (buy some parchment paper, melt white chocolate, build a tube, pour the chocolate in, work some magic to make it into a writing instrument...) too much to handle. I asked if he'd sell me one of his. He called his manager over and they just gave me the tube of white chocolate. So nice.

Chocolate Layer Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and
Dark Chocolate Ganache


3 oz. unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate
½ cup water
½ cup butter
1 ½ cup sugar
3 eggs
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
1 cup sour cream
2 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons soda
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease two 8-inch cake pans. Melt the chocolate in water over low heat and set aside to cool. Mix the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs to butter and sugar one at a time, beating well after each egg is added. Fold in the cooled chocolate and the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients alternating with the sour cream, beating after each addition. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes until the cake center springs back to the touch. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans. Allow to cool completely before adding the frosting.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, scraped

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 cup milk
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream

Cream the butter in a medium-size bowl until very smooth. Stir in the vanilla-bean seeds until they're evenly distributed. Add the salt, milk and vanilla extract, and stir until combined. Sift the sugar over the butter mixture and stir the mixture until it's perfectly smooth. If the frosting is too loose, add a few more tablespoons of confectioner's sugar, and stir until smooth. Add whipping cream and beat until really smooth. Cover with plastic wrap until you're ready to use; mix well just before using.


8 ounces (227 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth. If desired, add the liqueur.

Makes enough ganache to cover a 9 inch (23 cm) cake or torte.

Now, to assemble: Cut each of the round cakes in half to make four equal rounds. Frost the top of the bottom layer with the buttercream, place the next round on top. Then frost the next top layer, and place the third layer on top. Now, here you have a choice: you can take the fourth round and set it aside to eat all by yourself, or you can make a fourth layer...and a really tall cake! Once the layers are assembled, spread the buttercream all over the cake and smooth out with a metal spatula. Pop it in the fridge and let it sit for an hour or so. When you've made the ganache, cool it down a bit, and then pour some over the top of the buttercream frosted cake. Smooth out with a clean spatula to make a nice, shiny top. Let it sit for a bit and harden, and then decorate with a tube of icing. I used white chocolate. The advice I got from the Whole Foods guy? Don't do it as though you are writing with the icing, think of it as laying the icing down in script.