Thursday, April 28, 2016

Roasted Boneless Pork Ribs with Tamarind BBQ Sauce 

Most people go into the kitchen to cook something to eat and do not think twice about it. That is not a bad thing; it is just not their passion.  Some people's passion is art, as is the case with my dear friend, Miss Maria.  While she is quite a talented cook, I think her passion is music and her art.  She is a magnificent painter. My youngest son's passion is Everything Disney, and one of my friend's passion is baseball. I have yet another friend whose passion is making beer, and he has make quite the career of it. My passions are teaching, writing, gardening and cooking.  I love it best when I can meld them altogether.  I am talking about passion because people feel their best when they can invest themselves in their passion and fully enjoy it.  When I get into the kitchen on days when I am dog-tired or quite stressed out (as I have been this week) I rather get lost in the process of cooking and simply enjoy each spice, the color and aroma of each herb, each granule of salt, the marble of each cut of meat, the aroma of spice mixes and sauces and searing or grilling meat, the aroma of roasting meats and much more.  I sometimes lose myself in the process and forget all of my troubles. passion. 

Life is not always kind, and we all have problems, be it money or relationships, just to name a tiny few. EVERYONE is struggling with something, going through something and fighting internal battles no one ever knows about. Finding your passion, or A Passion, I am convinced, can help people find a few minutes of peace each day, week or whenever.  In my case, I call it "culinary therapy".  I always feel cleansed, in a way, though I may be smelly and drenched with sweat, after I have completed a meal. I am sure that people who love baseball or another sport do not feel cleansed when their team wins big, but the euphoria is still the same, the satisfaction, with the edorphins working, is still the same. It is Happiness, pure and simple. 

So this Has been a stressful week, and I have been in the kitchen a bit more than usual. I have to admit, I had to force myself and drag my carcass to the kitchen.  Once there, with no dishes to (the death of my passion is having to do dishes), I focused on what it is I had in the frig and the freezer and what I wanted to do.  I decided to go back to my basics and my love for Mexican and middle eastern flavors and I made my Tamarind BBQ Sauce.  I made the sauce Tuesday night with chicken thighs I'd been thawing in the refrigerator, and saved the rest for boneless pork ribs to slow cook for Thursday.  And as I stated above, it was the process that lured me into a groove of peace and complete satisfaction of a job well-done.  Culinary Therapy took my cares away. 

I'd love to share my recipe with you all.  Let's get to it!

Tamarind BBQ Sauce
3 tablespoons grape seed oil, 1 tablespoon separated
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 red onion or one shallot, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed and paper removed
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chile molido
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons or splashes of apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic
1/4 cup Tamarind paste
2 cups ketchup
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro 

In a mini food processor, add the onion, garlic and cilantro and pulse.  Add 1 tablespoon of the grape seed oil to the processor and pulse to bring the aromatics together.  Now, add dry spices, the mirin, apple cider vinegar and balsamic.  Pulse until thoroughly combined.  Now, in a small sauce pan or pot, add the rest of the grape seed oil over medium heat.  When the oil ripples, add the aromatics and spices processed mixture and saute for three minutes.  The aroma will be simply amazing!  Next, add the ketchup, tomato paste and the tamarind paste and 1/4 cup of water.  Stir well to combine and allow to come to a gentle boil.  Stir again very thoroughly, as the Tamarind paste needs time to loosen up.  Reduce the heat to low and partially cover.  Allow to simmer away for thirty minutes.  Remove the lid and allow to reduce further for another twenty minutes.  If it is still loose, allow to reduce for ten more minutes. Remove from the heat.  As it cools, the sauce will, indeed, thicken up. 

*If needed, add a teaspoon of corn starch to thicken up the sauce, but it should reduce nicely in that time frame.  However, some stove tops cook differently, depending on location, elevation and such. 

My fully reduced Tamarind BBQ Sauce

Roasted Boneless Pork Ribs Dry Rub
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon season salt
1 rounded teaspoon dried oregano 
1 rounded teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon granulate garlic
1 rounded teaspoon ground cumin or cumin seed
1 tablespoon coriander seed

In a small skillet, toast the spices over low heat. When you can smell their heated aroma, add the spices to a spice grinder and grind them thoroughly. Add them to a small bowl and either with your fingers or a spoon, sprinkle the pork ribs with half of the spice rub, turn, and rub the other side with the spice rub.  Let sit for thirty minutes, uncovered. 

Next, slice two onions into rings or half moons. Spray a large baking pan with non-stick spray and place the onions all over the bottom of pan, flat as possible. Sprinkle with a little salt. This will help bring out the sugars in the onions and help them break down and release flavor. 

Now, time to get cooking!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Spices and onions and meat for my Roasted Pork Ribs with Tamarind BBQ Sauce

Sear the seasoned ribs after thirty minutes and place atop the onion bed in the baking pan. 

I have to admit, I had a little of the seasoning left over, so i added it to the onion bed before placing the seared ribs atop them. I also added a little drizzle of balsamic, Worcestershire sauce and grape seed oil over the onion bed, first. 

When all of the ribs have been seared and placed atop the onion bed, drizzle the Tamarind BBQ Sauce atop the ribs, slather them rather, turn, and slather them again.  Now, pull off an exaggerated sheet of aluminum foil and cover the ribs, but make a tent over them; you do not want to firmly cover them.  Before placing into the preheated oven, add a half cup of water. The tent will allow the steam to escape but, will also allow the heat to break down the onions and also steam and braise the ribs.  The process is efficient and the meat, after two hours, falls apart and is incredibly flavorful!

Place the foil tented baking pan into the oven (at 400-degrees) for twenty minutes.  Afterward, reduce the heat to 350-degrees and allow to slow roast for two or more hours.  As mentioned above, the meat will be extremely tender and if you want to shred it, it will shred without force. 

Once done, remove the ribs carefully, as they may fall apart, with tongs or a spider.  There will be quite a bit of fat rendering and liquid at the bottom of the pan.  Also, remove the onions.  That is next. 

Skim about three tablespoons of the fat from the baking pan and add to a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and carefully add the onions. They will be very soft, but, we want more color to them.  Once the heat is up, and onions begin to sizzle, reduce heat to low and allow them to further caramelize for twenty or so minutes until they are deep golden or dark brown.  Then they are ready to serve or store.  I stored my ribs and onions for Friday's dinner. 

Further the caramelization process until the onions are a deep or dark golden color.  Then serve or store.  

I hope you have enjoyed this recipe.  It really is not complicated, and you can accomplish a great deal during the roasting time, or, engage yourself in one of your other passions!  Take a nap, putter in or work in your garden and enjoy how your plants are growing, play with your family, your pets, or just relax and watch your favorite shows.  Cooking is all about LOVE, enjoying the food and your friends and family, loved ones and feeling at peace.  

Now, GO COOK SOMETHING for someone you love!
You deserve the happiness, and they deserve you and the love you can cook for them.  


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Tre Colore Capsicum Bolognese con Radiatore

I had the great honor and pleasure of creating a recipe using the incredibly delightful pasta made by my friend, Chef Jeff Gardner, the Pasta Gardner, in Eugene, Oregon.  Chef Jeff sent me his red wheat radiatore and upon looking at the pasta, I realized a hearty, beefy pepper sauce would work exceptionally well with the pasta.  The radiatore would easily catch the beefy pepper sauce and cheese and the pasta would absorb the loose pasta sauce and maximize the flavors.  Pefect match!

Rather than create a traditional beef bolognese, I traded the mire poix of a traditional bolongnese for red, yellow and orange peppers. Let's get to it, shall we?  

Three Pepper Bolognese Sauce
1.5 pounds 80/20 or 90/10 ground beef
1 red, yellow and red bell peppers, ribbed and seeded and coarsely chopped
1 large red or yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
six fresh basil leaves, chiffonade and halved
2 sprigs fresh oregano, and halved
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons dried Italian herb seasonings
1/3 cup shaved parmesan
1 lemon, zest and juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bag, or, one pound Pasta Gardner Red Wheat Radiatore Pasta
1 14.5-ounce can Italian style tomatoes, chef's cut
1 28-ounce can tomato puree (I use Cento, my favorite)
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

In a large sauce pot, add three rounds or three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, crumble and "brown", as my mom would say, meaning, get a good caramelization on the ground beef. Just as the last red of the beef is "browning", add the onion and garlic, a little salt and pepper, and stir thoroughly to incorporate, about four minutes.  Next, add the red wine vinegar to deglaze the pot and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up the burnt beef bits on the bottom of the pot; those little bits of burnt beef are flavor!  Next, add the three peppers and stir in well.  Add half of the seasonings and incorporate well. 

After four or so minutes, add the canned tomato products, the remaining seasonings and incorporate very well. Also, add the zest and juice of the lemon and half a cup of water.  Bring the mixture to a boil and then partially cover and reduce the heat to low.  Allow the sauce to simmer for at least and hour. 

About fifteen minutes prior to the sauce being done, although the longer it simmers, the better it will become, bring six quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Once the water is at a roiling boil, add a generous amount of salt to the water and stir. This is the only chance you will get to season the pasta!  Boil the pasta about twelve to fourteen minutes.  Test at about twelve minutes.  When it is just al dente, strain all but a cup of reserved starchy pasta water and toss the pasta in the sauce with a little of the pasta water, or, set it aside and top the pasta with the sauce. Growing up, however, my neighbor's Italian mother said that the pasta must always be tossed with the sauce, not the sauce placed atop the pasta.  While I have a tendency to remember what Nonna said, I say do what you enjoy.  My mom always topped the pasta with the sauce, which is how my dad liked it. In this case, and per my preference, I toss the pasta with the sauce and some of the fresh herbs. 

I like to top my pasta with shaved parmesan and some fresh herbs. 

I hope you have enjoyed this recipe.  I certainly loved making it and also sharing it with one of my dear friend's family.  
Now, go cook something for someone you love!
Buon Appetito!

Friday, April 22, 2016

WELCOME to YET ANOTHER Episode of "What I Have Been Up To In My Kitchen"!

This is the last quarter of my work year and the busiest times of the year for me, and my time in the kitchen is limited to a night here, a night there, where I can prepare dishes for future lunches or just enjoy a quick, enjoyable favorite dish. In THIS episode of "What I Have Been Up To In My Kitchen", I will show you my Herb Buttered Cornish Game Hens, a Taco dish and a savory and filling pasta bake. Let's get to it!

Herb Buttered Cornish Game Hens
2 Cornish game hens (usually, they come two to a package)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
6 sprigs fresh rosemary, thyme and sage, separated in half, half finely chopped
1 stick softened butter
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon smoke paprika
1 teaspoon ground yellow mustard
1 large onion, sliced into discs or 2 medium onions, sliced into discs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425-degrees.

Wash and with paper towels, pat dry the Cornish game hens.  Remove any innards, if your purchase has them. Meanwhile, stir in the garlic and the fresh finely chopped herbs and paprika into the softened butter.  Leave the butter out at room temperature. 

Using your index finger, loosen up the skin over the breast, back and between the breast and the thighs.  Get a good amount of butter on your fingers and generously rub the herb butter under the skin everywhere.  Repeat until you a have a very generous amount of the herb butter slathered under the skin. Next, do the same on every orifice on the outside of the carcasses. Arrange the rest of the fresh herbs into the tail end of the hens.  This will add delicate but defined herbal flavor the inside of the hens. 

Wash your hands quite thoroughly and slice the onion or onions into quarter to half in thick discs. In a cast iron skillet, add the discs, which will be beds for the hens. Now, sprinkle the discs with the evoo and some salt and pepper. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the Cornish Game Hens, as well.  Using utensils, or your hands, though we want to "handle" the hens as little as possible, move them onto the onion discs in the cast iron skillet.  

Note, in my photos, I am not using a cast iron skillet.  I have in the past, and while my pan here was quite adequate, I had to use two of them so as to space the hens, but there is NOTHING like a cast iron skillet to roast fowl. Therefore, a cast iron skillet is my recommendation. 

Now, roast the hens uncovered for twenty minutes at 425-degrees.  Cover the hens with foil after twenty minutes, reduce the heat to 375-degrees and roast for an hour. Uncover the hens and roast another twenty minutes.  They will turn a nice golden brown. Carefully, remove from the skillet, place onto a grooved cutting board and allow the hens to rest twenty minutes, to allow the juices to redistribute. 

Carefully place the hot skillet on the stove top, add a half cup of white wine and a good couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and finish caramelizing the onions that were the onion bed. Add a little more salt and pepper in the process. Once the onions have reduced to a dark color, they are ready.  

Not the most attractive view of this hen.  Sorry!

Serve the Cornish Game Hens with the caramelized onions and with whatever starch or vegetable that makes you happy!  I hope you enjoy this recipe!

Next.................TACO MANIA!!!!

Verde Carne de Puerco Tacos!

I struck gold at the store last weekend and purchased a package of pre-pounded out thin pork cutlets that were ready to be prepped for tacos; all they needed was to be seared or diced and sauteed.  The best part about the purchase is that they were from the pork shoulder/butt (that we make pulled pork from).  I chose to marinate and saute the pork in a screaming hot skillet. My tacos were flavorful, savory and hit the spot perfectly. Here is my recipe for my Verde Carne de Puerco Tacos. 

1 pound thin pork cutlets, pounded out to 1/4 inch thickness
2 cans fire roasted green chiles or, two fire roasted fresh Anaheim or Pasilla chiles, peel rubbed off after resting in a paper or plastic bag, seeded, stemmed and diced.
1 red or yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 teaspoon Chile Molido
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 rounded tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fresh or dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme
zest and juice of two limes
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
grape seed oil (to use as needed with each batch of meat)

*I also toasted the spices before adding them to the marinade. 

Dice the pork cutlets and place them in a large bowl. Add all of the additional ingredients and stir together very well, or, use your hands to mix the meat and aromatics and spices all together, making sure that all of the meat receives all of the flavorful goodness of the marinade. 

Marinade the mixture for an hour to overnight.  I let the meat marinate for two hours. 

When you are ready to get a good searing saute on the meat, add a tablespoon of grape seed oil to the skillet.  I use grape seed for high heat sears or sautes because it does not interfere with the flavor balance of the marinade and, it has a high heat and smoke tolerance. I saute the meat in batches so as to get the best sear on the meat and for faster aromatics cook time. 

Each batch should take about four-to-five minutes tops to get a good caramelization on the pork (puerco) and to begin softening the onions and garlic.

Once you have completed cooking all of the batches of Verde Carne de Puerco, it is time to plate and serve! I added a few pickled sliced jalapenos to my dish (which were leftover from previous dishes) and some Mexican mozzarella and fresh oregano leaves, diced.  Add whatever sauce or pico de gallo you love and enjoy!  Who doesn't love a good taco, now I ask you?

Now, go cook for someone you love!  This is such an easy recipe to prep and serve, it is ridiculous.  You can make it ahead of time and freeze it for a few days or, you can make it all in one evening, whether your marinade it for thirty minutes, an hour or overnight.  Regardless, your loved ones will be thrilled with this dish, as much as I was.  
Muchas Gracias!


Now, on to the pasta dish busy working folks and mom's feeding families on a budget will very much appreciate!  Whether you are feeding yourself for a week for lunch or dinner, or feeding a family for a few days, or, if unexpected guests arrive, this next dish covers it all!  

My "Back to Basics" Farfalle Pasta Bake

Farfalle pasta is best known at "bowtie" pasta and is a favorite for festive cold pasta salads and veg tossed pasta topped with a little parmesan and fresh or dried herbs.  This time, however, while I normally would use a rigatoni or penne rigate, I chose farfalle, or, bowtie pasta, as it is excellent at catching a beefy tomato based sauce and it catches layers of cheese in a pasta bake expertly. 

Let's get to the sauce, shall we? 

Beefy Pasta Sauce
1 pound of 80/20 ground beef
1 large red or yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning herbs
2 tablespoons paprika
salt and pepper + salt for the pasta water
1 teaspoon fresh or dried oregano, chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped off
6 basil leaves, rolled and chiffonade
2 splashes red wine vinegar or, the zest and juice of half a lemon
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes, or, 1 Fresno chile, seeded and ribbed, finely chopped (I used the fresh Fresno chile for this dish)
1 rounded cup grated mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup provolone or Fontina cheeses (mixed is even better!)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 14.5-ounce can chef's cut tomatoes (Italian style)
1 28-ounce can tomato puree (I use Cento, my favorite)
non-stick spray

1 box (1 pound) Farfalle pasta
4 quarts water

In a large pot, add the evoo over medium-high heat.  When the oil ripples, add the ground beef and break it up with a heavy duty wooden spoon and, as my mother would say, "brown" the meat.  Add a little salt and pepper to season the beef. After about six minutes, add the onion and garlic and mix well.  After four more minutes, add the lemon juice and zest or the red wine vinegar.  This will deglaze the bottom of the pot and you can scrape up all of those burnt on bits of flavorful beef!  

Next, add the canned tomato products and incorporate well.  Add the dried and/or fresh herbs and stir in well.  (NOTE:  add only half of the fresh basil.  Save the rest for garnish upon serving)!  Now, bring the pasta sauce to a boil and partially cover, and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer for thirty minutes to one hour; whichever you have time for. 

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees. 

Meanwhile, bring four quarts of water to a roiling boil. Add a hefty palm full or so of salt to the water and stir well.  It is the only chance you get to season the pasta itself.  Cook the pasta until just prior to al dente, about eight minutes, and strain in a colander.  

Spray a large 9"x 11" or so baking pan with non-stick spray and set near the pasta sauce and the strained pasta.  If your sink is not near your stop top, place the colander on a plate and move it over to an assembly station.  Now, take a ladle/spoon and ladle a nice amount of sauce to the pan. Be generous and spread it out all over the bottom of the pan.  Add a layer of the farfalle/bowtie pasta, a layer of cheese, a generous layer of sauce, and repeat until you have no sauce left.  Top with mozzarella and some shaved parmesan, dried oregano, dried parsley and sprinkle with smoked paprika.  

If you have not gathered it, this is very much a lasagna style pasta bake. It is one of my favorite ways to spread a buck or feed a number of hungry guests a substantial, savory, flavorful meal they will not soon forget.  Bake at 400-degrees for 45 minutes.  

When done, the top should be a delectable dark golden brown on top. 

The scientific part of it is, although we cook the pasta to and remove shortly before it is "done", it will fully cook by soaking up the pasta sauce loose liquids and become even more flavorful than if it were merely tossed in the sauce and served promptly.  Double the flavor!  Boom!!!  (Drops mic)

You can see the layers, and better yet?  You can smell it and taste it!

One last view before I bid you good night! I served with a delicious garlic butter, cheesy sourdough Foccacia bread from Sacramento Bread Company.  I love it!

Thank You, dear friends and gentle readers, for your time, patience and consideration.  I very much appreciate your visits!

Now, go cook something for someone you love!

Image result for Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!!!

Monday, April 18, 2016


Rib-eye Steak with Tomato Cucumber Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

Everyone loves a great steak.  Whether yours is a porterhouse, a New York Strip or filet, a steak is a perfect treat after a tough work week.  My personal favorite is a well-marbled rib-eye steak seasoned simply with salt and pepper and seared to achieve a luscious caramelization and gently oven finished. Sometimes.  I love nothing more than a flavorful cold salad with tomatoes, shaved cucumber, shaved red onion, crumbled cheese, herbs and dressed with a tangy vinaigrette.  I just wanted to share this little bit with you. 

Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and rub each steak on both sides.  Gently season with salt and pepper and rub in.  Let the steaks come to room temperature. For a bit more of a smoky flavor, add a little ground cumin along with the salt and pepper and rub that into the steak.  Let it sit to come to room temperature, about thirty minutes, before cooking. 

Whether you enjoy grilling or searing, you first must have a hot surface and a cooler surface. To achieve that insanely delicious crust, you must grill or sear it on a screaming hot surface, about four or five minutes per side.  That enables that delectable, mouth-watering sugars induced crust to develop in conjunction with the seasonings. Next, place the steak on the cooler side of the grill.  

The steak I cooked was boneless, but you can certainly cook it with the bone in, which is incredibly delicious.  For more about That, check out my friend, Vincenzo's Plate, on facebook or twitter, and view his current video about cooking the perfect bone-in ribeye steak.  Tell him Martin (@grnmn1 on Twitter) sent ya!  

I seared my steak (above, and below) for five minutes per side, as it was quite thick. Once seared, I added a little garlic butter which I had prepared in advance (1 large clove garlic grated into 1/4 very softened butter and mixed thoroughly) to the cast iron skillet over medium heat and basted the steak for several more minutes until the steak read 145-degrees on my meat thermometer. This basting not only adds extra flavor, but the entire process weakens the connective tissues, thus releasing sugars and softening.  And who Doesn't love a tender, juicy steak, now I ask you?  By-the-way, 140 is rare on a meat thermometer. I removed it to a cutting board and let the meat rest about eight minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute.

I added a little cumin to the steaks to add a smoky flavor, and a little garlic butter to the evoo to baste the steaks once seared. 

Now, for the salad.  
To a cup of baby spring mix with kale, I added 1/4 cup shaved partly peeled cucumber, 1/3 cup shaved red onion and grape tomatoes. 

For my vinaigrette
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 rounded tablespoons "whole grain" stone ground brown mustard
2 tablespoons chardonnay
1 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons white champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
pinch salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, finely grated 
crumbled goat cheese, however much you like!
***Whisked vigorously, added to the veg and all set into the frig to marinate. 

When you are ready to serve, plate generously and savor every bite!
Thank You so much for your time and consideration.  Now, go and cook for someone you love!!!