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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Triple Squash Roasted Red Pepper "Spaghetti" and Tomato Sauce

Whether you have a garden this Summer, you're participating in a CSA, or you just enjoy the abundance of fresh US-grown veggies this time of year, this is an excellent hearty and healthy, put-it-together-in-a-flash weeknight meal.  Let's not forget how inexpensive it is too!  I couldn't believe how great this meal tasted.  I almost felt bad for how quickly it came together once the veggies were roasted.  Roasting veggies doesn't exactly take much effort or babysitting on the part of the cook, so I can't even really count that part.  You really don't even need to cook this sauce beyond simply warming it to desired serving temperature, if you opt not to add the wine.  The key here is quality canned tomatoes and roasting the veggies.  It brings out an unparalleled flavor that will have everyone begging for more!  No one else needs to know how little effort it took to pull together. Get ready to try a new family favorite!  Yum, yum, yum!

1 large can whole plum tomatoes in sauce (I recommend Hunt's or Kroger Private Selection)
1 large can crushed tomatoes  (I recommend Hunt's or Kroger Private Selection)
1 large spaghetti squash
1 large red bell pepper
2 pieces zucchini squash
2 pieces yellow summer squash (straight or crookneck)
1 fresh tomato, if you have it (no worries if you don't)
5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1 fistful of fresh basil (no dried!)
1 tsp crushed red pepper
about 1 TB salt (preferably sea salt)
lots of black pepper to taste (preferably coarse ground or freshly ground)
1/2 glass Chardonnay (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 450 F

2.Split spaghetti squash in half length-wise and scoop out seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Place split-side down on a lined pan.

3. In a separate lined pan, place yellow squash, zucchini squash, red pepper, garlic, and tomato.  Drizzle with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Spread in one even layer across pan.

4.  Bake spaghetti squash and mixed veggie pans uncovered until squashes (including spaghetti squash) are fork tender and other vegetables are roasted and soft to touch.
Note: Zucchini and yellow summer squash and other veggies may finish before spaghetti squash.  Remove from oven and set aside once done.

5. Once mixed veggies done, add peeled tomato, peeled garlic, peeled red pepper, basil, can of plum tomatoes, salt, and pepper to a blender or food processor and process until desired smoothness achieved.  I like mine uniform, but still somewhat chunky.  Yellow squash and zucchini will remain set aside.
Note: You may want to put tomato and roasted red pepper into a plastic bag once cooled someone and seal in steam for a few minutes to aid in removal of skin.

6. Allow spaghetti squash to cool.

7. Meanwhile, place pureed veggies, crushed tomatoes, and crushed red pepper, in a pot over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Add in grated Parmesan to taste.  Adjust salt and pepper

8. At this point, the sauce is absolutely divine!  If you'd like, you can add in half a glass of wine.  I did Chardonnay.  Without the wine, the sauce is fresher tasting and, with it, it tastes deeper, richer.  I loved both ways.

9.  Gently stir in yellow squash and zucchini squash, along with any pan juices, and voila!  Serve a ladle-full of sauce on top of your spaghetti squash "pasta" and top with extra Parm, and you're done!  That simple :)  Enjoy :)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jamaican Jerk Marinade

Jamaican Jerk Marinade

2 TB salt
1 onion
1/2tsp black pepper
1/2c orange juice (I had tangerine, so I just used that)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
¼ c White vinegar
4 scallions (I had only had two, so that's what I used)
5 sprigs fresh thyme or equivalent amount dried thyme (fresh is MUCH better!)
7 cloves garlic
2 TB soy sauce
1/2c packed brown sugar
2-3 habanero peppers
1/4c oil

1. Blend all ingredients in food processor until they form a smooth puree.  You can keep the marinade on hand for later use or freeze it.  

2. In a foil-lined roasting pan, which you will also use for cooking, marinade chicken or pork for a minimum of two hours or up to overnight.  Let meat reach room temperature before placing in 400F oven or, even better, on a charcoal grill.  

3. If preparing meat in oven, cook uncovered for one hour then broil, turning meat occasionally for about 5 min, or so until you get charred edges on all sides.  You need the sugars to caramelize for a good jerk.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pernil dominicano - Dominican Marinated Pork Shoulder

One of my favorite foods on earth is pernil, or latin style pulled pork.  It's juicy, it's citrus-y, it's herby, it has the yummy crunch of crispy bits of skin, and it's topped with the sweet-acidic pop of marinated onions.  mmmm!  Pernil always reminds me of the heavenly street stands in the Dominican Republic where you can buy yourself a portion of a nice whole roasted pig.  What could be better?  

Well, just like I dream of walking up and pointing to just the right piece of a sweet suckling pig to call my own, most Dominicans do the same (okay, so they don't really have to dream of it, they just do it.  Lucky ducks!).  Few people make their own  lechon (roast suckling pig) or pernil at home.  Even for special occasions, people by them.  I mean, there are people who specialize in this art, and it can be a very time-consuming one if you're talking about roasting a whole pig.  The whole pig, of course, is extra special because it gives you more crispy skin deliciousness to savor, so that's what most people will go for when possible.

Soooo, the reality is, if you're just doing a pernil, it's actually pretty easy stuff.  All you need is time on your hands ("tiiiiime on my hands, since you went away boy" in my Mary J. Blidge voice).  You don't need to watch this dish much, just leave it be.  You can watch some movies, clean the house, whatever you need to do.  At the end of the day, four hours is nothing when you taste the gem of a slab of meat that awaits.

Pernil dominicano
9lb pernil (pork shoulder or butt)

Mash in a pilon or run through blender or food processor
14 garlic cloves
1 TB oregano
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt per pound

3TB oil
1/4c lime
3/4c bitter orange (you can buy a bottle from the Latin market or international aisle at some supermarkets)
1c white vinegar

Slices of fresh lime
Sweet onion slices marinated in White vinegar

1. Blend all of the seasoning, including the oil, together in a bowl.

2. Inject the pork like crazy, and pour over any excess marinade.

3. Allow to marinate in the fridge 1-2 days.

4. On roast day, place the pork, fat side up, in a foil lined roasting pan, pour over any extra marinade and cover tightly with foil. Line the pan well or you will have a huge mess to clean up later.

5. Allow to roast at 300F for 4 hours.  Do not open the oven or uncover the roasting pan during this time.  This keeps it nice and moist.

6. Once your pork baby is in the oven, thinly slice a sweet white or red onion and set aside for it to marinade until the pork is ready.  This will be a very yummy topping once you serve the meat.

7. At the four hour point, uncover the meat.  It should be falling off the bone or at about 190 - 200F.

8. Remove foil and remove roasting pan from oven, baste the meat with its juices, and set pan aside. Crank up oven to 450.  Brown the meat for 30 mins once oven is up to temp.

9. Remove the fat from the meat and incorporate some of it into the meat.  If the fat has still not browned sufficiently, chop it up coarsely and crisp it up on the stove top over medium high heat.  Chop some of the fat into small bits and incorporate it into the meat once shredded.  There’s no need to use anywhere near all of it, just some.

10.  Allow the meat to cool then shred it with two forks.  Don’t forget to incorporate your crackling bits. 

11.  Top each serving with pickled onions, drained of course, and slices of fresh lime.  Yum!  Serve with rice, boiled or fried yucca, and stewed red beans or pigeon peas in coconut milk.

Inspired by:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Jewish Cranberry Holiday Chutney

When I lived in Northern Virginia, one of my absolute favorite  places to eat was Chutzpah (HOOTZ pah) Deli in Fairfax.  It is a delicious New York-style Jewish deli owned by former New Yorkers who just love cooking and serving up great food.  The food is hearty, and tastes like someone's grandma is cooking in the kitchen, portions are huge, and quality is great.  It's the type of food that you'd be proud to serve your family. 

Well, one of my favorite dishes from Chutzpah was their open-faced brisket and gravy sandwich with mashed potatoes and cranberry chutney.  Talk about gooooood!  Inspired by Chutzpah and a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, New Kosher Cuisine, by Mollie Katzen, this recipe is a real hit with everyone who is fortunate enough to try it.  It's fresh, it's healthy, and it has just the right touch of cinnamon to make you feel warm and cozy, and loved by someone special.  Try it for yourself, and it's sure to be a real hit!  This recipe alone is the reason why I stock up on fresh cranberries to freeze so that I can enjoy this deliciousness year round.

"How do I eat it?" and "what do I eat it with?" you might ask.  Well, you can eat it with your turkey if you feel so inclined, but I love it by itself as a snack or an after-dinner treat.  I love it on my holiday plate as a side, and I love it as a healthy snack with lunch.  You can enjoy this dish sweet or savory, and even with your morning oatmeal or yogurt.  I am not a cranberry sauce person, even when it's good cranberry sauce, but this is just a dream of a dish.  It's a simple way to wow anyone at your next family gathering.  If you can't cook, you will shock them and prove them all wrong if you show up with this very special treat.  Well, enough talking...get cooking!

Jewish Cranberry Chutney
1 bag of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
about 2 c sugar (taste it as you add.  It should still be tart.)
Scant ½ c combo of tangerine or fresh pineapple juice
1 cinnamon stick
1c coarsely chopped walnuts
About 1-1/2 c chopped fresh pineapple
Segments from 3 tangerines (you will use their juice above)
4 packages unflavored powdered gelatin, bloomed in a warm little tangerine juice.

1. Place first 4 ingredients in a pot over low to medium low heat.  Be sure to add sugar in portions, as you may need less, depending on sweetness of fruit.  You want the end result to be tangy, not flat and all sweet only.  
2. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes, or until cranberries are soft.  Don't rush the process by turning up the heat, or your cranberries will be tough.
3. Stir in pineapple, tangerine, and walnuts.
4. Refrigerate until cool and serve or freeze for later use. 

5. Has great shelf life if you can keep yourself from eating it!

This is a great recipe to play around with.  Substitute pecans for the walnuts.  Use pineapple or orange juice instead of tangerine.  Use canned mandarins instead of fresh citrus.  Use cloves or allspice in place of cinnamon stick.  This is a super versatile and forgiving recipe.  Have fun with it!  Enjoy!