Friday, May 27, 2016

Welcome to Another Episode of What I Have Been Up To In My Kitchen!

After having spend much of the month of May in "Crunch" mode, I was inspired earlier this week to cook, something I was a bit worried about.  I knew I would regain my culinary inspiration after my work year ends at the end of next week, but I was so pleased when it struck me the other day.  I become like a dog with a bone this time of year, determined and intent to wrap up my year smartly, efficiently and quite professionally.  I love my job, I live and breathe it, as most all of us do, as it is incredibly rewarding.  It is very important to me, a passion, as is cooking.  Again, I was so pleased when I was hit with the idea to create a taco lasagna.  I Know it is Not an original idea, but my version is pretty healthy and intensely flavorful.  While I do use a pound of lean ground beef, I also use soy chorizo, known as "soyrizo", and beans and corn.  In addition, I use my very own Mexican Spice Blend, which I share below. This first meal, my Taco Lasagna, is perfect for health-conscious individuals seeking a very filling meal for either lunches at work or for convenient dinners afterward. You could certainly leave out the beef or, if you wish, going the opposite way, you could use pork or beef chorizo.  Either way, it is a magnificent flavor addition!  In the end, it is not exactly pretty, but it sure is tasty!

Let's get to it, shall we?  

Base Ingredients for the Lasagna:
1-pound lean ground beef
2 links soy chorizo
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 can red kidney beans
1 can black beans (both cans of beans drained and rinsed).
1 can corn
1 + 1 can diced roasted green chiles
Vegetable oil
1.5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 leg or 2 regular packages small corn tortillas.

Taco Seasoning:
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon Pasilla powder
1 tablespoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1.5 teaspoons cumin seeds
Salt and pepper

Blend or grind the spices.

Sauté the beef and soy chorizo in a skillet with a little vegetable oil, s&p and one can diced roasted green chiles over medium-high heat. In a large pot with three tablespoons vegetable oil over high heat, sauté the onion and garlic for four minutes before adding the beans and corn. Add the apple cider vinegar and stir. Add half of the spice blend to the beef and soyrizo and half to the veg.

Meanwhile, spray a 9 x 13" baking pan with non-stick spray. Add a layer of tortillas, a sprinkle of your favorite Mexican cheese, a layer of the beef-veg mixture, and repeat until you have used up all of the filling. Top with cheese and oregano. Bake 20 minutes at 375-degrees. Let sit to set about 15-minutes and serve!

Hoisin Bacon Cheeseburger

Everyone knows how much I love to fuse together traditional dishes with non-traditional flavors. With this burger, I added Hoisin sauce - salty, tangy, sweet - into the ground beef with the usual hamburger suspects:  Worcestershire sauce, dijon mustard, onion, garlic, but also turmeric, Ponzu and fresh, finely chopped ginger. In addition, after searing to get a fantastic Hoisin caramelization, I topped it with mozzarella cheese discs cut from a fresh log. I seasoned the bacon with ground ginger and chipotle.  What incredible flavors! I've only two shots of it, so please enjoy! 

Gooey cheese and sourdough toast with mustard dripping from atop the burger. 

Bacon and Cheese for days, with that Hoisin crust just waiting to have a bite taken out of it!

Thank You, Gentle Readers, for your time and consideration.  Now, please go and cook something for someone you love!!!


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Baked Double-Cheesy BBQ Pork Rib Sandwiches with Pinwheel Pasta Salad

I wish I had a snazzy theme for this meal other than a tasty and flavorful use of meat leftovers accompanied by a fresh, tangy spring pasta salad, a blend of hot and cold on our warm late spring Cali afternoons. Interestingly, if you are everyone who is me, I was inspired to make the pasta salad when I opened my linen/catering closet door and saw the box of pinwheel pasta on the top shelf. Instantly, the salad came together in the eternal mystery that is my brain, and I knew immediately what warm item should accompany it.  Here is my inspired meal. 

 Pinwheel Pasta Salad
1 pound pinwheel pasta
2 inner stems celery with the leaves attached, thinly sliced, leaves finely chopped
1 small bundle fresh chives, finely chopped
2 scallions, finely chopped + 1 thinly sliced
3/4 partly peeled cucumber, finely cubed
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard with white wine
2 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
(I also added a good splash of white champagne vinegar)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup plus a sprinkling of grated Fontina and Asiago cheese
Smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried or fresh terragon leaves (if fresh, finely chop)

Bring four quarts of water to a roiling boil.  Salt the water generously (don't worry, I won't say it this time!) and add the pasta.  Stir to make sure the pasta does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Allow to boil 7 - 8 minutes, until al dente.  Strain in a colander and set aside, using a spatula to toss the pasta now and then to make sure the pasta does not stick together.  

In a large bowl, add the yogurt and the mayo.  Stir together well.  Add the mustard, scallions, sliced celery and leaves, the thyme, terragon, cucumber cubes, the thyme, and the vinegars, a pinch of salt and pepper, for starters, and combine thoroughly. Next, add the 1/3 cup of cheeses and stir in gently, but very thoroughly. Place the pasta salad in a serving bowl, top with the remaining cheese and remaining scallions, and sprinkle with a little smoked paprika (for color and warmth). Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate at least an hour prior to serving. Overnight would be best, so as to allow the flavors to marry.  

I couldn't help but add both photos I took of the pasta salad at this stage. :)

Ready to cover with saran wrap!

Baked BBQ Pork Rib Sandwiches
3 warmed through boneless pork ribs (that had previously been roasted or braised) and shred or cut into small chunks easy to serve on sandwiches. 
1.5 cups your favorite cheese (I used Mexican blend cheese on the bottom and the remaining Fontina and Asiago on the top layer) 
3+ buns*, sliced into top and bottom
condiments (mustard, mayo, whatever your favorites are)
non-stick spray

Spray the bottom of a baking pan with non-stick spray.  I lined mine with foil, but it is not necessary. *If you are feeding a large crowd, dinner buns (small) can be used, sliced into tops and bottoms.  I used only three rolls as they were much larger than dinner rolls and I wanted leftovers. You could line the entire bottom of the baking pan with the bottoms if you are serving a large group. Now, add whatever spread or condiment you wish to the bottom rolls.  Top that with half of the 1.5 cups of cheese.  Ok, use MORE if you want!!!  I know, I am a bad influence!  Sorry!  Add the BBQ pork rib meat, top generously with cheese and add the top buns or rolls with whatever condiment (mustard or an spread) you wish. These are going to be baked, but you Could add a hearty green, such as arugula, which would hold up under the heat, in this case, pretty well.  Cover with foil and bake at 350-degrees for 18 - 20 minutes, until the cheese is a gooey, bubbly mess.  That is delightful idea!

Time to plate!  Add a pork rib sandwich, cheese oozing everywhere, add a heaping spoonful of the chilled pinwheel pasta salad and some tomatoes for color.  Enjoy!  

I hope you make the Pinwheel Pasta Salad and enjoy it as much as I am. You can serve this with whatever meat (or not) you want.  Burger sliders, chicken sliders or what-have-you.  Whatever YOU like!!!  As always, THANK YOU for your time and consideration.  
Now, go cook something for someone you love!