Friday, December 30, 2011

Adapted Arepas

For the past few years, we've spent the week between Christmas and New Years at beautiful country house in Pennsylvania owned by very dear friends of ours. Whenever we're here, we get inspired to cook up some new dish. This year, I found a recipe for arepas with pulled pork and cheese in the Food & Wine magazine that our friends subscribe to. I looked in a few places here in the country for one of the arepas ingredients: masa harina, but couldn't find it. I thought I could substitute corn meal, but it didn't work. We adapted the recipe and instead made little corn cakes with pulled pork in the center. We served is as part of our little New Year's Day spread for a few friends who stopped by. They were delicious topped with sour cream, pickled cabbage, sliced jalapeno and chopped cilantro. We bought the pork from a local German place up here that sources their meat locally and does all their own butchering called the Alpine House.

Corn Fritters with Pulled Pork and Cheddar Cheese

For the fritters:

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1 egg, beaten
olive oil

For the pulled pork filling:

1 nice-sized pork butt
2 stalks of celery
2 carrots
1 medium onion
2 bottles of dark (or dark-ish) beer
a few cups of chicken or veggie stock
hot sauce
salt and pepper
1 cup of cheddar cheese

For the sides:

1 small head of red cabbage
1 medium red onion
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 bunch cilantro
1 jar of sliced jalapenos
1 cup sour cream

You can make your pulled pork in a slow cooker by placing all of the ingredients (browned pork butt, sliced onion, carrot and celery, 2 bottles of beer, salt & pepper, and enough broth to fully immerse the pork butt) in the cooker and leave on high for about 8 hours. We cooked ours in a heavy ceramic soup pot on low on the stove all day. It fills the house with a nice aroma. When the pork is very tender, remove from the liquid and let cool for a bit. Shred the pork to your liking. Place in a bowl as much of the pulled pork you need for your fritters (1 1/2 cup) and freeze the rest for pork tacos some other night. To the shredded pork that you've set aside, add 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese and hot sauce. Mix together.

While your pork is cooking, make the cabbage by finely shredding the red cabbage and onion, placing it in a bowl and covering with the red wine vinegar. Set aside to marinate.

To make your fritters, mix together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add milk and beaten egg. Stir until moistened. Set aside for a few hours.

To assemble the fritters, drop a heaping tablespoon of the batter into smoking oil in a frying pan. When the batter begins to solidify, drop a ball of the pork-cheese mixture in the center, and top with another tablespoon of the batter. When the "pancake" has some integrity, flip to the other side and fry until golden. Drain on a paper towel.

You can pop a dozen in the oven to keep warm until your guests come. Serve each fritter with a dollop of cream cheese, a pinch of red cabbage, a few sliced jalapenos, and a sprinkling of cilantro leaves.

Festivus Feast

For the past few years, I've been feeling like we need to go on a total cleanse diet after the holidays because we eat so much rich food between Halloween and the New Year. This year, we've been trying to celebrate in moderation to varying degrees of success. Kale is one of those restorative super foods (I've written about it here before), and has been looking pretty good at the farmer's markets this year. I've been trying to incorporate kale into a lot of the meals we eat for both of those reasons. Because I like to celebrate the hell out of every holiday, this is the meal we made for Festivus this year.

Tofu Stir Fry with Kale & Sweet Potato

1 8 oz package of firm tofu
1 sweet potato
A bunch of kale
4 large cloves
1 onion
1/4 of a head of green cabbage
1 small zucchini
olive oil
salt & pepper

Dry and gently squeeze the water out of the tofu and cut into bite-sized cubes. In a cast-iron skillet, heat some olive oil until smoking. Saute the onion and garlic until soft; add the cabbage and sweet potato and saute until tender. Then add the zucchini and kale until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the pan to a bowl and set aside. Heat a bit more oil in the pan and slowly brown the tofu cubes. When they are a nice golden color, add the vegetables back to the pan and heat through. We served this over Israeli couscous tossed with scallion, and a healthy side of kimchi.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Nuts about Nuts

My dad loves nuts. If I had to guess at his favorite, it would be hard to decide whether it's Planter's roasted peanuts or pistacchios. For the past few years, I've been experimenting with recipes for different kinds of nuts that I package and give him as a gift for Christmas. This year, I'm trying recipes with walnuts (chocolate-covered), pistacchios (simple roasted), almonds (cinnamon-covered), and these pecans. I've been so enamored by the local maple syrup we've been getting that I decided to try some sweet and spicy pecans with maple syrup. They're in the oven now. Fingers crossed, I hope they turn out as good as they look.

Sweet and Spicy Maple Glazed Pecans

Butter (for the pan)
1 pound unsalted pecans
3 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Set the oven at 375. Lightly butter a rimmed baking dish. In a bowl, toss the pecans with the melted butter, maple syrup, sugar,salt, adn cayenne. Transfer the nuts to the baking sheet. Bake, tossing often, for 10-12 minutes, until browned and fragrant. Cool on the baking sheet.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sick Burger

Inspired by an episode of Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives, D and I made the sickest burger you've ever heard of. The Minotaur's Lair is a burger designed by a place called Kuma's Corner in Chicago, made with pear, onions, brie, and bacon.

We used grass-fed beef from Fleischer's market in Brooklyn to make really nice meat patties, formed with some sauteed onion, garlic, salt and pepper. We grilled the burger patties on our little grill on the back porch. Then we poached and grilled some sliced pears. We served the grilled burgers on toasted ciabatta rolls with carmelized onions and brie, topped with the poached pears. Sick.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Leek Alternative

My experience with leeks,a vegetable I've always considered to be just a giant scallion, was limited to potato and leek soup until last night. I never think to buy leeks when I'm at the farmer's market, and when recipes call for leeks, I'll often cheat and substitute onion or scallion.

Yesterday at the farmer's market, I was looking for a good vegetable alternative for Sunday night's dinner with a few close friends and I saw the most attractive leeks. I had planned a roast chicken accompanied by rosemary potatoes, and thought that maybe roasted leeks would work. I consulted a number of difference recipe sites for the leek recipe, but in the end, I constructed my own.

Roasted Leeks Drizzled with Honey-Mustard Sauce

6 medium-sized leeks
olive oil
1 cup rich mushroom broth (you can substitute any other kind of stock)
3 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
salt & pepper

Wash leeks thoroughly! Especially if you've gotten your leeks directly from the farm, they will have a substantial amount of sand in the crevices of the skin. I would suggest chopping off a bit of the root end and most of the green (so that the leeks will fit in your roasting pan), then soaking them in cold water. Then, cut them in half lengthwise and wash again. Arrange in a baking pan coated with olive oil, cut side up. Drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Turn the seasoned leeks over, cut side down; season again. Pop in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees and monitor. You may need to add a little bit of water to the bottom of the pan to keep the leeks moist.

While the leeks are roasting, make the sauce by adding all of the remaining ingredients to the broth. Heat to a boil and then turn the mixture down, stirring frequently as the sauce thickens.

Serve the leeks alongside your favorite locally-produced poultry and allow your guests to drizzle the mustard sauce over meat and leek alike.