Carnitas Cubano and Logo Reveal!

13 May
Carnitas Cubano

Carnitas Cubano

With an over-glut of carnitas on hand from recipe testing, I settled on whipping up some Cubano sammies, carnitas-style! No recipe really needed for this. Slather both sides of of two slices of bread with butter (I used Seattle Sourdough) and skillet grill one side of each. Spread mustard on grilled side, then layer carnitas or any other cooked pork, sliced ham, dill pickle slices, and Swiss cheese. Add the other grilled side face down on top, then press and grill until browned, using either a panini-style press or another heavy skillet on top. Oh my, decadent and finger-licking good!

And…

Here is the logo for my new taco food cart!

Austin Street Tacos Logo

Austin Street Tacos Logo

I’m still deciding on colors and what-not, but my temporary white sign really pops on the cart. One more inspection and permit to go, then I’m in business!

Shrimp in Pepita Tomatillo Sauce

7 May
Shrimp in Pepita Tomatillo Sauce

Shrimp in Pepita Tomatillo Sauce

We have a nice stash of jumbo (16-20 count) shrimp in the freezer, and this tasty/tangy shrimp dish caught my eye in my blog readerboard a couple of weeks ago. It is right up my alley using Mexican-inspired ingredients, and is served over something other than a tortilla, ha!

I adapted this from Josette’s Shrimp in Green Mole over at thebrookcook, and the vibrant green sauce did not disappoint. I halved the shrimp amount since there were only two of us eating it, but kept the sauce amount the same since she said she would have enjoyed more sauce. I substituted pepitas, which are pre-roasted baby pumpkin seeds and ground cumin for seeds, so that eliminated a couple of steps. I’m all about easy. I also omitted the romaine lettuce in the sauce, which admittedly was a mistake but the sauce came out delish all the same! Here’s how I did it:

Shrimp in Pepita Tomatillo Sauce
Adapted from Shrimp in Green Mole at thebrookcook

1/2 cup hulled pepitas
1/2 pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed and quartered
1/2 serrano or jalapeño, stemmed
1/4 cup chopped white onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup tightly pack chopped cilantro
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 pound jumbo tail-on shrimp, shelled and deveined
Pepitas and cilantro, for garnish
Cooked rice, for serving

Place the pepitas, tomatillos, chile pepper, onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, and 1/2 cup of the chicken stock in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, stirring and scraping down sides as necessary.

Heat the oil in a skillet (cast-iron if available) over medium-high heat. Add the tomatillo mixture, which will spatter so be prepared with a screen or lid! Cook, stirring often, for about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the remaining chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to medium low, simmering softly and stirring often until sauce is thick and creamy, about another 10 minutes. Season to taste, with salt if necessary.

Season shrimp with kosher salt and pepper, then add to the simmering sauce. Cook on each side for 3 or 4 minutes until the shrimp are just cooked through. Serve over rice garnished with pepitas and cilantro.

 

 

 

Easy Chicken Gratin and a Partial Reveal

30 Apr
Chicken Gratin

Chicken Gratin

As much as I love tacos, truth be told we cannot simply eat tacos every night of the week. Therefore I’m still cooking other things and taking a photo here and again. Due to the time I’m committing to my new venture now, I’m limiting my recipe photos to one or two.

I saw this lovely dish on Food52 website and knew it would be a meal I’d be making soon. It’s very simple and cooks up in one dish! My kind of dinner. If you use the amount of chicken called for the chicken can nestle further into the gratin sauce, but my lonely piece wasn’t so fortunate. However, my husband was duly impressed with the curdled lemon cheese sauce (it’s supposed to be that way!) and it was truly an elegant meal.  I served the chicken over buttered rice and peas. Delicious!

Here is a link to the recipe —> Richard Olney’s Chicken Gratin (which is printable over there if you are so inclined).

Of course, you’ll need to adapt depending on the amount of chicken you are cooking.

NOW, drumroll please…

My new food cart name is…

 

Austin Street Tacos

 

This is not the full logo, as I sent it back for some tweaking. But I couldn’t resist sharing! I also wanted to give a HUGE thank  you to all my friends and readers for your overwhelming support for my new career. It means the world to me. xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

My Big Announcement

22 Apr

I know some of my readers have been chomping at the bit to hear my latest news. As many of you know, I was unceremoniously laid off from my job recently as a geeky software business analyst of almost 16 years with the company in one fashion or other.

One of my friends asked me, “So now what are you going to do with your life?” My knee-jerk reaction was to say, “Well I guess get another business analyst job.”

But then I woke up that night with an epiphany. Do I REALLY have to go back into the same profession? My future is a blank slate! I have many skills besides being an analyst and writer. I like to cook, I like like to make great food and serve it to others (and I’ve been blogging about it for over 6 freakin’ years). WHY NOT OPEN MY OWN FOOD TRUCK???

And so I did.

My Food Cart

My Food Cart

Well, technically it’s a Class IV food cart, but to me it’s my own food truck and my future. The permitting process has been tedious at best, but we are getting so close to the final stretch.

I’ll be selling Texas-style street tacos on a busy riverfront plaza downtown where I live, and have the option to work events and festivals (with more permits, of course). I’ll serve breakfast tacos for the morning downtown workers, then regular street tacos for lunch and weekend nights (beef, pork and chicken). And my creamy spicy pinto beans will be served up all day!

Creamy Spicy Pinto Beans

Creamy Spicy Pinto Beans

The logo and website designs are still in process, as well as the final street vendor permit. I don’t want to say much more about that part lest I jinx any outcomes. Of course I’ll be using the standard social media platforms to also promote my new business.

I’ve been cooking up a storm with my recipe development, and my poor family is about taco-ed out, ha!

Carne Asada Street Tacos

Carne Asada Street Tacos

I’ve also landed my first gig catering a breakfast taco brunch, which will be a good test for cooking larger quantities. I have a commissary/commercial kitchen at my disposal for my food prep, but all food will be dished up fresh and hot on the cart, complete with cast-iron warmed corn and flour tortillas. I also have three signature salsas for patrons (my Texas Green Sauce has been getting raves) to choose from, as well as the other standard street taco garnishes.

Egg, Potato and Cheese Breakfast Taco with Texas Green Sauce

Egg, Potato and Cheese Breakfast Taco with Texas Green Sauce

So that’s it! Oh, you want to know the name of my business too? Well I’m sorry you’ll have to wait longer on that one until everything is finalized. I know, I am such a tease. Many of my close friends and family know, but I’d really like to kick off with my new logo. Stay tuned! XOXO

Shrimp and Chorizo Soup

15 Apr
Shrimp and Chorizo Soup

Shrimp and Chorizo Soup

I saw this recipe on Food52 a few days ago, the daughter was gone for the night (she doesn’t like shrimp, crazy huh?) and it was a quick and easy recipe — especially since I had a bag of homemade shrimp stock in the freezer. No-brainer for me. Thirty minutes TOPS to make this if you have the stock. There are lots of great flavors going on in this. If you don’t have shrimp stock on hand, the original recipe here has the method to make it, which doesn’t take that long. Don’t forget the crusty bread to sop up the soup!

I was hoping to post my “big announcement” this weekend, but I’m still dealing with the logistics. Hopefully next week!

Shrimp and Chorizo Soup
Adapted from Shrimp and Chorizo Stew, by Josh Cohen at Food52

4 ounces Mexican chorizo sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup minced shallots
1/2 cup diced tomatoes (fresh is better if you have it)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups shrimp stock
1/2 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt, to taste
Fresh thyme sprigs, for garnish
Crusty toasted buttered bread, for serving

Chorizo and Shallots

Chorizo and Shallots

Remove the chorizo from its casing and cook in the oil over medium-high heat in a deep skillet, until cooked through and a bit caramelized. Add the minced shallots and cook until translucent, then add the diced tomatoes and smoked paprika. Cook and stir gently until tomatoes just start to break down.

Tomatoes and Smoked Paprika Added

Tomatoes and Smoked Paprika Added

Add the white wine and shrimp stock, then turn to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat until just simmering, then add the shrimp.

Simmering Shrimp

Simmering Shrimp

At this point you can start toasting your bread.  When the shrimp are cooked through (about 5 to 7 minutes), turn off heat, taste for salt, and add if necessary. Ladle into bowls, garnish with fresh thyme leaves, and serve with hot buttered crusty bread.

Shrimp and Chorizo Soup

Shrimp and Chorizo Soup

Sous Vide Pork Scallops with Lemons and Capers

9 Apr
Sous Vide Pork Scallops with Lemons and Capers

Sous Vide Pork Scallops with Lemons and Capers

I’m a sucker for deals on meat, no matter what cut you end up with. Because with a sous vide circulator, you can make delicious meals with even the cheapest of cuts. In this case, I had a couple of boneless pork loins, each in a very different shape and thickness. I cut and pounded the meat into similar-sized portions, spiced and bagged, then let the sous vide do its magic. After a relatively short bath, a quick sear and gravy will give you a restaurant-worthy dish. Pair it with a quick pressure-cooked risotto and peas side, and you’ve got a meal!

Down to business:

Sous Vide Pork Scallops with Lemons and Capers
Slightly adapted from Foodiecrush

3/4 pound boneless pork
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh sage leaves, one per slice
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 teaspoons oil, preferably high-heat such as grapeseed
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 lemon, half for juice and half sliced
1/8 cup capers

Seasoned and Vacuum Sealed Pork Scallops

Seasoned and Vacuum Sealed Pork Scallops

Cut pork into equal portions, then pound to about 1/4-inch thickness. Salt and pepper each side, to taste. Press a sage leaf onto each portion, then a small pat of butter on top of each leaf. Place the pork in one layer in a gallon zip-top bag, then vacuum seal using the water immersion method.

Cook in the sous vide bath for one hour with the temperature set at 139 degrees F. When done, remove pork to a plate and discard sage leaves. Reserve the juice left in the bag for the gravy.

Quick-Searing the Pork

Quick-Searing the Pork

Heat oil in a skillet to medium high, then sear the pork quickly on each side until browned. Remember the pork is cooked through now. Set pork aside on a plate and make the gravy.

Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet, then stir in the flour to make a paste. Pour in the reserved pork juices, wine, and chicken stock, whisking until thickened.

Lemon and Caper Pan Sauce

Lemon and Caper Pan Sauce

Squeeze in the juice of half the lemon, the capers, and stir to combine. Nestle the pork scallops into the gravy, then top with remaining lemon slices. Heat until pork is warmed through. Serve with pan-gravy and sides of choice.

Sous Vide Pork Scallops with Lemons and Capers2

Sous Vide Pork Scallops with Lemons and Capers

p.s. I have some exciting news to share with you soon regarding my future, so stay tuned!

 

Braised Beef Shanks with Tomatoes

1 Apr
Braised Beef Shanks with Tomatoes

Braised Beef Shanks with Tomatoes

I know this beef man from Ireland, and Conor Bofin is his name. He’s the closest I know to a connoisseur of any part of the damned cow that I know, even the unusual and sketchy bits. But he can cook the most amazing meals with that lowly bovine, so I jumped on the chance to sort-of copy-cat this wonderful braise of beef shanks with some nice meaty ones from our quarter cow.

While my photos won’t do it justice — and I wasn’t about to try and plate it for a shot — I think anyone who makes this will be satisfied with the most delicious gravy and tender beef. I served mine with some Parmesan risotto, but pasta or potatoes would work fantastic too. One of my deviations from the original recipe was to reduce the mushrooms (not enough on hand) and add a couple of almost-overripe tomatoes to the braise, which added a wonderful color and flavor to the gravy. (The long braise makes your house smell dreamy, too!)

Braised Beef Shanks with Tomatoes
Adapted from Daub of Beef from One Man’s Meat

2 meaty beef shanks, seasoned with pepper and salt
1 tablespoon high-heat oil (I used grapeseed)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Half of a very large onion, chunked up
4 ounces whole white mushrooms, quartered
2 medium ripe tomatoes, cut in eighths
Half head of garlic, peeled and sliced thick
2 1/2 cups homemade or high-quality beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup good red wine (I used an Oregon Pinot Noir)
2 bay leaves
Handful of thyme sprigs
Black pepper and salt, to taste

Beef Shank Ingredients

Beef Shank Ingredients (Mostly)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Season the beef shanks with pepper and salt, then score the membrane in several places on the sides. Heat a Dutch oven to medium high heat and add the oil, then sear the beef until very browned on all sides. Remove and set aside to a plate.

Browned Beef Shanks

Browned Beef Shanks

Add the butter, then toss in the onions and mushrooms. Reduce heat a bit. Cook and stir until the mushrooms have browned and onions are softened.

Veggie Madness

Veggie Madness (I like to dose my dishes with pepper at random moments)

Top with the tomatoes and garlic, then pour in the beef stock. Grind more pepper over if your feeling it. Stir in the tomato paste until combined. Now pour in the red wine and bring up a a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Nestle the beef shanks into the liquid, then add in the bay leaves and thyme.

Braise Ready for Oven

Braise Ready for Oven ~ Time to read a book now. I did. Really.

Cover and cook in the oven for 4 to 5 hours, until beef is fall-apart tender. Remove the beef to a plate, then remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs and gently stir gravy to combine. Taste for additional seasonings and add, if needed. Serve each shank with risotto, pasta, or potatoes, topping the shanks with a generous amount of gravy and veggies.

Download and Print this Recipe

Download and Print this Yummy Recipe!

Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

24 Mar
Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

You’d think being unemployed would have all kinds of perks, like lots of free time for cooking and blogging, right? Long story short, that is not the case, so my quest for easy and delicious dinners remains the same.

Here’s one I made a few weeks ago I had waiting in the wings (thank goodness because my spare time has been minimal) that is chock full of flavor and spice! This hearty soup was one of those welcome, warming dinners on a cold and dreary evening. I hope you think so too.

Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

8 ounces dried black beans, soaked overnight (or sub two cans)
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled, tips removed
Olive oil for garlic
1 tablespoon bacon grease or olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrot
4 ounces ground spicy Italian sausage
1 chipotle in Adobo sauce, minced plus one tablespoon of the sauce
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups ham or chicken stock
1 14.5 ounce can tomatoes with liquid (I used my homemade canned tomatoes)
1 tablespoon dry sherry or apple cider vinegar
Salt, to taste
Lime wedges, cilantro, sour cream, for garnish

Garlic Ready for Roasting

Garlic Ready for Roasting

Drain and rinse beans (dried or canned) and set aside. Nestle cloves of garlic cut tips up in aluminum foil and drizzle olive oil over top. Wrap tightly and place in 350-degree toaster oven (or oven) for 25 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the tablespoon bacon grease or olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and ground sausage, stirring until sausage is cooked through. Drain any grease, if necessary. Stir in the chipotle and sauce, smoked paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper until combined and fragrant.

Sausage and Veggie Mixture

Sausage and Veggie Mixture

Pour in the stock, then squeeze the cloves of roasted garlic out of their skins into the soup. Now add the beans. Bring up to a boil, then turn down and simmer until the beans are cooked through. For dried beans, this could take an hour or more depending on how old the beans are. Canned beans are ready when heated through.

Pureed Tomatoes

Pureed Tomatoes

Puree the tomatoes with liquid in a container using an immersion blender stick, or a blender or food processor. (I used my new Cuisinart stick!) Once the beans are tender, pour in the tomatoes and sherry or vinegar. Taste for salt, and add if necessary.

Puree about half the soup using an immersion stick, or add to blender or food processor in batches. I like mine a bit chunky. Once soup has warmed through again, serve immediately and pass with lime wedges, cilantro, and sour cream.

Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

 

Sausage and Spinach Pasta with Homemade Ricotta

18 Mar
Sausage and Spinach Pasta with Homemade Ricotta

Sausage and Spinach Pasta with Homemade Ricotta

This is a very quick and easy dinner to throw together, especially if you have your favorite homemade spaghetti sauce stashed in the freezer (nevermindthefacthatIjustgotlaidoffanddon’tneedtimesavingrecipesrightnow). And if you make the ricotta in the morning (or even use store-bought) then you are way ahead of the game! And pssst, did you know making your own ricotta is super easy? I sure didn’t!

Prior to my life-changing event on Friday, I was always looking for dinner shortcuts. When I saw my friend Debbie’s post for Baked Pasta with Meatballs and Spinach, I knew it was something I totally wanted to make, but didn’t have the time to bother with making meatballs. So I did the next best thing and used the meatball ingredients as the base for the pasta. In hindsight, if I had made this in my large cast-iron skillet, I could have just popped it straight from the stove top into the oven! (I didn’t have the foresight, but I’m going to remember this for sure next time.)

Sausage and Spinach Pasta with Homemade Ricotta
Adapted from The Mountain Kitchen

2 cups dried pasta (I used Mostaccioli)
8 ounces ground hot Italian sausage
6 ounces baby spinach
Ground pepper, to taste (some red chile flakes would be great too)
4 cups homemade spaghetti sauce, or your favorite jarred
1 cup shredded mozzarella (not bagged variety)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (homemade or store bought)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, cook the sausage in a large skillet (cast iron if you have one!) until cooked through. Drain any grease, if necessary. Leaving the sausage in the pan, add 1/4 cup water and the spinach, stirring until wilted. Season with ground pepper, to taste.

Sausage and Spinach

Sausage and Spinach

Add the spaghetti sauce to the skillet, combine, and bring to a simmer.

Sauce Mixture

Sauce Mixture

Pour into a large casserole dish (or leave in in the skillet if using cast-iron), then stir in the cooked pasta, half the mozzarella and half the ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with the rest of the mozzarella and place dollops of the remaining ricotta over top.

Casserole Ready to Bake

Casserole Ready to Bake

Place in oven for about 10 minutes, then turn the oven to broil and cook until golden brown on top, about 5 to 7 more minutes. Serve immediately. WOW, so much flavor for so few ingredients!

Sausage and Spinach Pasta with Homemade Ricotta

Sausage and Spinach Pasta with Homemade Ricotta

BONUS! Here’s Debbie’s recipe for Homemade Ricotta:

Homemade Ricotta

4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar or lemon juice

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Add 2 layers of cheesecloth (I used meshed cotton veggie bags) over a sieve or strainer on top of a bowl. Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan and bring to a full boil, stirring occasionally. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t overboil! Turn off heat and stir in the vinegar or lemon juice and let it sit for a few minutes. Pour the mixture over the cheesecloth and allow it to drain for about 25 minutes. Then place in refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Store unused cheese in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

Braised Lemon Chicken with Artichokes and Salami over Pasta

11 Mar
Braised Lemon Chicken with Artichokes and Calabrese Salami Over Pasta

Braised Lemon Chicken with Artichokes and Calabrese Salami Over Pasta

Call me crazy for making this, but it turned out so awesome (to me) that I ate it for lunch THREE DAYS STRAIGHT. Never mind the opinions of the household members.

I had some lingering Calabrese salami and frozen artichokes hanging out in the usual places, and decided to throw caution to the wind and make something up. As it turns out, mixing chicken and salami is not so uncommon (it’s a New Orlean’s dish). Neither is mixing artichokes and salami (pizza, anyone?). Why not marry them all into one dish?? And then serve it over pasta?

This is a delight for the taste buds and even guest-worthy, if you have friends who aren’t intimidated by the bold and adventurous. 🙂

Braised Lemon Chicken with Artichokes and Salami over Pasta

1 1/4 pounds chicken breasts or thighs (mine were boneless/skinless breasts)
Salt and black pepper for seasoning chicken, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup sliced onions
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
1/2 cup sliced fennel bulb
5 ounces frozen artichokes (that’s 1/2 bag of Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup large-diced salami (I used Calabrese, also TJ’s)
1 large stalk fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leafed parsley, plus more for garnish
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
Juice of 1/2 small lemon, plus lemon slices from the other half
Cooked pasta of choice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut chicken into large sections, if large. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Over medium-high heat, add the oil and sear the chicken until browned on all sides, a few minutes a side. The chicken will cook more later, so remove and place in a 2-quart casserole dish with a cover.

Veggies and Salami

Veggies and Salami

Add the sliced onion and fennel to the hot skillet for about 5 minutes, stirring until starting to soften and brown, then add the salami and sage. Cook until the salami begins to crisp up a bit. Add the garlic, artichoke hearts, oregano, parsley, and red pepper flakes.

Beautiful Base for Sauce

Beautiful Base for Sauce

Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping the bits off the bottom. Add the tomato paste and stir to incorporate. Then add the flour, again stirring to incorporate. Now pour in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until slightly thickened. Last, squeeze in the juice of the half lemon.

Sauce Mixture for Chicken

Sauce Mixture for Chicken

Pour the mixture over the chicken in the casserole dish, arrange sliced lemons over top, cover with foil, then with the lid.

Cooked Chicken in Veggie Salami Sauce

Cooked Chicken in Veggie Salami Sauce

Place in heated oven and roast for about 40 to 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions.

Uncover and sprinkle with fresh parsley, for garnish. Serve over cooked pasta of choice (I used angel hair) with plenty of sauce and vegetables. For the leftovers, I found shredded Mozzarella cheese to be a fantastic addition!

Braised Lemon Chicken with Artichokes and Calabrese Salami

Braised Lemon Chicken with Artichokes and Calabrese Salami

 

Download and Print this Recipe

Download and Print this Recipe

 

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