Friday, July 8, 2011

Peeling Ginger root

Am I over-tired or is this picture slightly phallic? Or both?

ANYWAYS... It occurred to me that not everyone may be familiar with how to handle fresh ginger root.  Ginger root boasts anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. It is also known to aid in digestion, soothe upset stomachs, relieve menstrual cramps and improve circulation amongst other medicinal qualities.  So, now that you & ginger are slightly acquainted you should feel more comfortable peelings its skin off and exposing some flesh[what is going on here???]. With the edge of a teaspoon or the "blade" of a butter knife gently scrape off the thin skin. And thats it! Now you're good to go!

If you end up peeling more ginger than needed for a recipe, don't throw it out! Infuse it.  You can make a simple ginger tea by simmering a small piece or two of fresh ginger root in water for about 8 minutes, but you can make it stronger if you desire. Sweeten it with honey and if you're stummy isn't aching, top it with some whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon. yummmm.  I learned that recipe from my dearest Monica when we were living together back on Guilden Street.  As of last summer she prided herself on barely being able to grill a burger, but I'm not fooled.  She knows how to cook rice AND I've seen her make platanos. Everyone has their own culinary strengths, some just haven't discovered them yet.

As promised...

I'm tired and have lots of work ahead of me, so my aim is to keep this brief but as we all know- when it comes to food I easily get lost in the moment.

First things first: the marinade for the boneless pork tenderloin.
This marinade is STELLAR for flank steak and will be well-suited for boneless, skinless chicken thighs as well.  Chicken breasts are way too mild in flavor and are not be favorable for this recipe.  I encourage you to inquire about cooking times and marinade times for different types of meat if you are not sure.

4 boneless pork tenderloins [about 1" thick]

2.5 Tbsp Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
pinch of Salt [no, this is not a typo]
3 cloves of Garlic, smashed & peeled
1/2 inch [give or take] nub of ginger, peeled and cut in quarters
1 Tbsp packed Light Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Honey
3/4 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 tsp Organic* Orange Zest
the juice of 1/2 your Organic Orange
1/2 Tbsp 100% Pure Sesame Oil

*The use of ORGANiC orange zest is especially important.  Pesticides are sprayed onto the surfaces of conventionally grown produce and these plants are not grown in test-tubes, sheltered from the elements, so the chemicals are meant to withstand ample amounts of water.  That 5 second "wash" in the sink ain't gonna cut it.  Spend the extra 50 cents on an organic orange and save the $$$'s on medical bills later in life.  You wouldn't spray raid into your marinade, so why grate pesticides directly into your food?
  • Combine all of the marinade ingredients and none of the pork in a food processor. Taste it. It should have a nice kick, balanced by subtle sweetness.  Does it need more salt? Add more salt rather than more soy sauce, the low-sodium stuff will dilute your marinade and inhibit the flavors we've got goin' on.
  • Place the tenderloins in a large ziploc bag and pour the entire contents of the food processor on top of them.  Seal the bag, squeezing out excess air, and work the meat until fully coated with flavor. Marinate, refrigerated, for 2-6 hours max.
  • Remove meat from the fridge and preheat the grill to the higher side of medium-high [8-8.5 out of 10].
  • Place pig on the heat and let sit, undisturbed for 3 minutes.  Rotate your meat 90 degrees and let sit for another 3 minutes. Flip and allow to finish cooking on the other side, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Let the meat rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Before I venture into the rice recipe, I would like to disclose to you that I am awful at the simple practice of cooking rice. My sister, an excellent cook as well, can't make small grain couscous, which is ridiculously easy and barely requires active cooking time.  So don't feel intimidated by the act of cooking, we all have our weaknesses!

No-Fry Rice:
1/2 Cup Brown Rice, uncooked [follow the cooking directions and ratio on the package.  Different types of grains require different ratios and cooking times.] 
2 Tbsp ground Flax Seed
1 large bunch Scallions, snip the root end and remove any residue or unfit to eat bits & pieces
14 Shiitake Mushrooms, caps only, sliced
1 Tbsp Rice Vinegar, divided [you will need half for the mushrooms and the other half for finishing the rice]
1 clove garlic, chopped
1.5 Tbsp 100% Pure Sesame Oil, divided [1 Tbsp for the mushrooms, 1/2 Tbsp for finishing the rice]
1 Tbsp Canola Oil 
Kosher salt, as needed
  • Cook the brown rice as directed on the package.  When it is finished cooking, sprinkle in the ground flax seed and fluff with a fork.
  • While the rice is cooking, preheat a grill or grill pan on high heat. Coat the scallions with the canola oil and season lightly with a pinch of salt. Grill the scallions until very nicely caramelized on each side, about 1 minute per side. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, cut into 1" pieces.
  • In a large non-stick saute pan, combine 1 Tbsp Sesame Oil and the garlic and bring to heat on med-high temperature.  Once the garlic begins to sizzle throw in the sliced Shiitakes and a pinch of salt.  You will notice that the Shiitakes pretty much absorb all of the oil in the pan, now add the 1/2 Tbsp Rice Vinegar.   
  • Once the mushrooms are tender, lower the heat and add the chopped, grilled scallions and cooked brown rice to the pan, carefully toss to distribute ingredients.  Add the remaining Sesame Oil and Rice Vinegar, toss gently to incorporate.  Hold on low heat, gently stirring occasionally, until serving. 

P.S.- Grilled scallions are AWESOME!!! Do not limit them to this recipe, use them on burgers, keep them whole & serve with spicy Romesco Sauce, they are sooo delicious! You will be surprised by how sweet a scallion can be!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

For the record-

Don't be discouraged by any recipes containing pork or ingredients you do not include in your diet.  I will typically suggest a substitute or stand-in for ingredients that may conflicting with personal or religious beliefs.  And if stunt doubles are not suggested, please feel free to ask me via comment; this applies to all recipes!  I promise to do the best I can to answer any and all questions.

"Please don't eat me. I love you!"
ohhhh little piggy, I eat you because I love you. 

post-it note.

I won't have time to write up any recipes this evening, but I figured the least I could do is tell you what to dream about until tomorrow ;o)

Tonight's menu will consist of a sweet, Asian-inspired boneless pork tenderloin accompanied by a grilled scallion and shiitake no-fried rice.

Stay tuned!

oh, bother.

Cell phone reception is notoriously shabby in the valley, which often leads to my sub-par cellular photos taking the scenic route to my inbox.  I decided this marinade is too good to make you wait for a "suggestive photo" that would not do the dish any justice anyways.

I have to say, those who loathe chicken the most, cook it the best.  We have all been victim to the dried out, unseasoned "healthy choice" on menus far and wide, this garlic & oregano based marinade will give some poor little chicken the after-life it deserves. I actually enjoyed this recipe over a salad[I tend to scoff at salads as well as chicken, I don't know why. I must just be cut from a strange cloth.], my vinaigrette recipe will follow this simple marinade, don't you worry.

What you will need:
4 chicken breasts, preferably organic

3.5 Tbsp White Balsamic* Vinegar 
7 cloves of Garlic, smashed & peeled
1 Tbsp Fresh Oregano leaves [guesstimate what roughly 30 leaves would look like. If using dried, reduce to 1 tsp]
1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Cracked Black Pepper

*white balsamic is a touch sweeter & milder than regular balsamic... think about the difference between white and red wines.  

Feel free to measure all of the ingredients, except for the chicken, directly into a small food processor.
[tip #1: if you do not have a food processor, use a garlic press or finely mince the garlic and then sprinkle it with some of the kosher salt called for by the recipe and use a regular tablespoon to work it into a paste. tip #2: if you do have a food processor, make sure the blade is in the unit before adding your ingredients; laoding my food processor up and then realizing I forgot to put the blade in is one of my biggest gripes!]
  • Now that all of the ingredients, minus the chicken, is in the food processor, blend it until the garlic and oregano are finely chopped and all of the ingredients are incorporated [this should take about 1 minute of constant buzzing, max.]
  • Place the chicken breasts into a gallon-size ziploc bag.  Dump the marinade right into the ziploc bag on top of the chicken [don't forget to carefully remove the blade first, tapping any residual marinade back into the bowl of food processor!]; use a small rubber spatula, or your fingers if you really want to get into it, and be sure to scrape out as much of the marinade from the base of the processor as possible. 
  • Seal the bag, being mindful to squeeze out any excess air.  Make sure the bag is sealed and give those breasts a nice deep massage; you really want to make sure each breast is completely coated in garlicky goodness.
  • Marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour, or overnight.
Now lets get cookin'!
  • Preheat your grill, or grill pan, to medium-high heat [on a scale from 1-10, 1 being low, 10 being high, we're aiming for a 7-7.5 here, folks.].
  • While the grates of your grill are getting nice and hot, take the chicken out of the fridge and allow it to acclimate room temperature for no longer than 10-15 minutes.
  • Lightly lube up the grill and place the chicken on it, allowing room for rotation. Let the chicken sit for 4.5 minutes, undisturbed, and then rotate it roughly 90 degrees and let it sit, undisturbed, for another 4 minutes.  Flip the chicken over & allow to continue cooking for 5-6 more minutes, feel free to admire your grill marks in the meantime. 
  • Remove the chicken from the the heat and allow to rest on a serving platter or cutting board for 6-8 minutes before serving.

The following vinaigrette pairs famously with the recipe above.  Use it as a salad dressing or in place of oil & vinegar on a sandwich.

This recipe should yield approximately 1/4 Cup of deliciousness.  Here is what you will need:
1 tsp Honey [Eyeball it, or most of the honey will still be in your measuring spoon! Squeeze the honey into the base of a mixing bowl and once it is about the size of a quarter you have enough.  It should spread out to roughly the size a silver dollar.]
1/2 tsp dried Basil
2.5 Tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1.5 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 turns Cracked Black Pepper
1 tsp Salt [Adjust as necessary. The vinaigrette should be slightly on the saltier side if you are using it to dress a salad because the dressing is responsible for seasoning the vegetables.]
  • Whisk all of the ingredients together. Taste it. Adjust seasoning with salt & pepper to taste. If you are using this vinaigrette for a salad, just whisk it all together in a large mixing bowl or your intended serving bowl and then mix the salad in that very bowl. If using this vinaigrette on a cold-cut based sandwich, cut the amount of salt by half; cold cuts are so salty, your poor taste buds may go into shock!]
And last, but not least, is just an example of some of the ingredients I used in my salad. A wonderful addition would be cherry tomatoes...

Salad for Four [though it served 2 in my house, because I'm a beast]:

1 healthy head of red leaf Romaine Lettuce, washed, thoroughly dried, and chopped [regular Romaine will suffice]
2 carrots, peeled and cut however you may please
1 small Yellow or Red Bell Pepper
1 handful of Alfalfa Sprouts [these little guys love to hog the dressing, so be sure to toss these in once the others have gotten their fair share]

Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

flavors of summer

Move over mayo! Sweet grape tomatoes & fragrant basil embody all that is summertime. Try this simple pasta salad for your next cook out or family meal:

Here's what you will need:

1- 1lb box of your favorite pasta shape [I fancy rigatoni for this dish] 
1 pint of Grape Tomatoes
1 bunch of Basil, leaves only, chopped or hand torn
5 cloves of Garlic, peeled and sliced [I love garlic, but if you are concerned about your social life, feel free to reduce the amount]
Extra virgin olive oil [2.5 Tbsp for the tomatoes, 2 Tbsp for the dressing]
3.5 Tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Cracked Black Pepper, to taste

Now what?
  • Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Get a large pot of water on the stove, unsalted, and bring it to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, add about 2 Tbsp of salt [this will flavor your pasta while it is cooking] and a little oil [to prevent the pasta from sticking together once you drain it].
  • In the meantime, slice the tomatoes in half, lengthwise, and throw them on a non-stick sheet tray or cookie sheet. Season them liberally with salt & pepper, and then coat them with 2.5 Tbsp of olive oil. *do not line the baking sheet with aluminum foil. the acid from the tomatoes will leach the aluminum into your food and you do not want that in your body, or in your salad! Place the tomatoes in the oven and roast them until the skin is blistered and the edges of the tomato are deeply caramelized [about 6-10 minutes, depending on your oven].
  • Dump your pasta into the salted, boiling water and stir.  Cook the pasta just 1 minute short of the suggested cooking time on the box. Drain, and transfer to a large bowl.
  • While the pasta is cooking, get your sliced garlic and remaining olive oil in a small saute pan and heat it through on low heat; this will infuse the oil with delicious garlic flavor as well as gently cook the garlic & denature its harsh, spicy qualities.  Once the garlic is slightly sizzling turn off the heat and simply let it steep.
  • Using a plastic spatula or wooden spoon, guide the tomatoes off of the sheet tray into the bowl with your pasta, be sure to include any yummy juices from the tomatoes as well. Add the garlic & the garlic oil, white balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper, and gently toss until the ingredients are evenly distributed and the pasta is coated.
  • Taste it! Is it salted enough?  Do you get a nice little kick from the fresh cracked pepper? If not, add a little more.  If the flavors are not popping enough, sprinkle in a touch more vinegar. This is good served at room temperature, or you can make it earlier in the day and hold it in the fridge until game time. 
*Barilla Plus is an excellent whole grain pasta substitution.
** A pound of baby spinach or arugula make great additions to this salad.  Empty the green into the bottom of the bowl, season them very lightly with salt, and then pour the hot tomatoes, right out of the oven and the garlic & oil on top of them. The tomatoes will gently wilt the spinach or arugula, and then follow the rest of the recipe.

To be fair, I cannot take credit for creating this recipe.  I learned it from my mom :o)

Monday, July 4, 2011

getting into the 4th of July spirit

Home-made ice cream from the Chelsea Royal Diner = Fourth of July foreplay. 

All American apple pie smashed into sweet cream ice cream... bring on tomorrow's BBQ, and then bring on the detox! I'm livin la vida americana this weekend!

... and repenting for my gluttony come Tuesday. sigh.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

some thoughts on healthy eating

Don't let those filthy hippies confuse you, healthy food can be easily incorporated into your diet without making tofu a staple.

Here is a delicious marinade recipe for plain ol' chicken breasts:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts [preferably organic]

3 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
1 Tbsp Honey
1 tsp dried Oregano
1/8 tsp ground Turmeric
1/2 tsp ground Chipolte pepper [reduce to 1/4 tsp for milder spice]
1/8 tsp Sweet Paprika
1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
3 turns cracked Black Pepper [or roughly 1/8 tsp]
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • With the exception of the chicken, whisk all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  • Place the chicken in a gallon sized ziploc bag and pour the entire contents of the bowl into the bag.  Use a rubber spatular to make sure you get every last bit of goodness out of that bowl and into the bag with your chicken.
  • Seal the bag, and be mindful to squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible.  Once the bag is sealed, rub the chicken and marinade around together, making sure each breast is completely coated.  Marinate, in the refrigerator, for at least 1 hour, but for no longer than 24.
To cook:
  • Preheat a grill, or grill pan, to medium-high heat [if low is 1 and high is 10, med-high should fall at right about 7-7.5].
  • Remove chicken from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature [about 12-15 minutes].
  • Lightly grease the grill and place the chicken on it, let the chicken sit, undisturbed, for about 4 minutes, then rotate the breast 90 degrees and allow to sit, undisturbed, for about 3-4 minutes; when you flip the chicken over you should have some impressive looking grill marks.  Allow the chicken to cook on the bottom side for about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken from heat and allow to rest at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving.
*the times for this recipe are based on thick breasts, un-pounded chicken breasts. If using thin slice breasts [scaloppini] reduce the cooking time by half, if using only tenderloins reduce the cooking times by 1/3. 

These chicken breasts would be great with a light, and crisp red leaf romaine salad and some crumbled feta, or you can use them to make elegant chicken sandwiches.  The possibilities are endless... its chicken!