Saturday, May 30, 2015

Cucumber and Shaved Radish Salad #OXOGreenSaver

When you hear about how much food Americans waste, what's the first thing you think of? Is the picture in your head about uneaten food on plates?

But what about all the food that never makes it to the plate? The stuff that goes bad before it gets cooked?

As hard as I try, I'm guilty of that, at least once in a while. I know there's a lime in the crisper, but when I reach in to grab it, the poor thing is petrified. Or the zucchini is slimy. Or half of the lettuce is brown.

Sometimes you can trim off the bad bits, but sometimes there's a lot heading to the compost bin. Which is better than trash. But still ... not what we intend when we buy fresh vegetables.

So when OXO offered to let me test one of their GreenSaver containers, I was very interested. When they sweetened the pot by adding some vegetables from Melissa's Produce, I knew it would be fun.

I chose mini cucumbers, and when they arrived, I kept four as my control group and put the rest into the GreenSaver container. I let them sit for two entire weeks.

Well, okay, I reached into the container a few times to grab a cucumber for a salad. But I left most of them for two weeks. I figured that would give them enough time to show me the difference the GreenSaver would make.

The theory behind the GreenSaver is that there are three reasons why produce goes bad. First, there's ethylene gas that speeds up ripening. One step beyond ripening is rotting. Fruits and vegetables give off their own ethylene gas, but the carbon filter in the OXO container absorbs it, so it takes longer for the vegetable to proceed to the rotting stage.

The second problem is airflow. The product that sits against the side of a container or bag doesn't have air flowing around it. Moisture tends to accumulate, and then things get slimy. The OXO container has an inner basket that keeps food away from the container's sides. The basket comes out, and you can use it as a colander to rinse the vegetables before using.

The third problem is humidity. Different fruits and vegetables and leafy things need different levels of humidity to keep them crisp and to avoid wilting - while also keeping them from getting wet or soggy. The OXO container has a vent on top and a cheat-sheet printed on the underside, which shows which vegetables need more humidity and which want less.

Just realized the light is out in the fridge. Oops.
After two solid weeks, none of the cucumbers were ready to be discarded (they're pretty sturdy, compared to some vegetables), and it was hard to tell the difference between the two groups just by looking at them casually.

Upon closer inspection, the cucmbers left outside the GreenSaver container looked slightly more wrinkled. But the real difference was when I started peeling and cutting. The ones inside the container were crisp, while the ones outside the container were much less crisp and even a little bendy. They were on their way to becoming compost. Not quite there yet, but close.

The reason I chose cucumbers for my vegetable was that I love cucumber salads in the summer. They're crisp and clean and crunchy and sweet ... and they just remind me of summer.

This salad actually has two lives. Served immediately or within about an hour of mixing - it's a fresh crisp salad. Left to marinate overnight, it becomes more "pickled" as the vegetables absorb the tartness of the vinegar and lemon juice.

It's not so tart that you couldn't eat it as a side dish, but you could also use it as the pickled component on a sandwich.

Cucumber and Shaved Radish Salad

8 mini cucumbers, peeled and sliced thin
1 small onion (or half of a large one), peeled and sliced very thin
4 radishes, sliced extremely thin
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons neutral-flavored vegetable* oil
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon dill weed (fresh or dry)
Pinch of sugar

If you have a mandolin vegetable slicer, this is a good time to drag it out. If you cut the onions very thinly, they'll marinate faster and lose their harshness quickly.

Meanwhile, if you can manage to cut the radishes paper-thin, they look much more interesting in the salad, because you can see through them. And cutting the cucumbers evenly lets them marinate at the same rate. And it just looks nicer.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Let it sit 15-20 minutes before serving, if you have time, or longer if you prefer. The longer the salad sits, the less harsh the onions will be.

Refrigerate the leftovers - they'll have a more "pickled" flavor the next day, which I find particularly appealing. It's almost like a quick pickle - but not so quick, and not quite as tart.

*You can use olive oil, if you prefer, but I prefer a very mild oil for this. While I love olive oil, I think it can be too assertive for this, unless it's a "light" olive oil.

This post was sponsored by OXO and Melissa's Produce. For more posts about the GreenSaver, look for the hashtag #OXOGreenSaver and look for @OXO and @MelissasProduce on social media.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tarted Up Spinach and Beet Greens

Not too long ago, I did a sponsored post for Cut 'n Clean Greens, which fulfilled my obligation to them. It didn't however, take care of the vast amount of greens they sent me. I'm beginning to turn a little bit green here.

But it's oh-so-healthy, right?

I grabbed a container that was labeled spinach and beet green salad, but I wasn't planning on using it as salad. I love spinach - but mostly I love it cooked. Much of the time, it's just spinach and lemon, but another one of my favorites is spinach with hot bacon dressing.

That recipe dates back to when my mom used to gather dandelion greens in the early spring, and she'd make hot bacon dressing. Since the dandelions needed to be picked before they flowered, we usually only had them once a year. And that's about the only time we had the hot bacon dressing.

Once in a while, though, we'd have spinach with hot bacon dressing. While I don't go picking dandelions in the spring like my mom did, I make spinach salad once in a while.

This is similar to that salad, but instead of bacon, I used butter for the richness. And, well, to cook the onions. The flavor in his dish is cleaner and crisper because it doesn't have the smoke flavor from the bacon.

The wine vinegar gives it a nice sharpness, and the sugar counters it with a little bit of sweet. If you want to veer into sweet-sour flavor, you can add more sugar.

It also has interesting color from the beet greens,which turned the onions a pretty pink. It's not just a bowl of green.

While the original dish was called a salad, it was really more of a side dish. You'd serve it with a meal, and not ahead of it.

Tarted Up Spinach and Beet Greens

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Several grinds black pepper
Pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
1 onion, diced
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 8-ounce package Cut 'n Clean Greens spinach and beet green salad

Melt the butter on medium heat in a saute pan. Add the onion and salt. Cook, stirring, until the onions soften.

Add the greens, pepper, sugar, and wine vinegar.

Cook, turning the greens with tongs, until they wilt evenly. Taste and add more salt, sugar, or pepper, if desired.

This is done as soon as the greens are wilted, but if you prefer, you can continue cooking until the greens soften even more - it's up to you.

Serve hot.

I received the greens from Cut 'n Clean Greens at no cost to me for use in a previous post. I was not expected or required to write about them again.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Three Recipes: Grape, Pistachio and Goat Cheese “Truffles,” Beet “Tartare,” and Camembert Grilled Cheese with Apple

In November of 2013, I went to a cheese fest where there were a number of speakers. Best, for me, was Hosea Rosenberg, who prepared three quick recipes while he took questions from the audience.

A lot of what he talked about was about his experiences on Top Chef, but he also talked about life before and after the show.

And of course he talked about food.

Back when Rosenberg was on the show, he was chef at Jax Fish House. Now, he's got his own catering company in Boulder, Blackbelly Catering. And he seems like he's having a heck of a lot of fun.

Chef Hosea Rosenberg kindly offered to let me post his recipes here, which is pretty awesome.

The grape truffles were really interesting - it's simple in terms of ingredients, but the flavors mingled in ways you might not expect. He said the key is to get a super-thin layer of the goat cheese because the flavor of goat cheese is so strong, it could easily overpower everything else.

I wish I had a photo of the finished products, but the venue wasn't really conducive for taking any photos. The interesting thing was how the goat cheese was a tiny layer. Like, the thickness of ... uh... really thin. As thin as you can get it. Nearly impossibly thin.

Grape, Pistachio  Goat Cheese “Truffles” 
Recipe courtesy of Hosea Rosenberg from Blackbelly Catering
Used with permission; all rights reserved.
serves 4-8

40 fresh, juicy green & red grapes
8 ounces plain goat cheese
8 ounces shelled pistachios, toasted
grey sea salt
truffle oil

1.  Pick grapes, wash gently in cold water and dry on paper towels.
2.  Roll a very small ball of goat cheese in your hands (roughly half the size of a grape) and flatten in the palm of one hand with your thumb.
3.  Place one grape in center of goat cheese and gently work cheese around until grape is entirely covered.  Chill.
4.  Crush toasted pistachios in food processor until very fine.  Place in bowl.
5.  Roll goat cheese grapes in pistachios, gently pressing, until covered in nuts.  Chill.
6.  To serve, slice grapes in half and set on platter with cut side facing up.  Garnish each cut grape with a couple grains of salt and one drop of truffle salt.  Serve immediately.

Beets me

Next up, we have a beet "tartare." But before you start questioning the idea of raw beets, that's not what's going on here. Hosea called it a tartare because it looks like one. The beets are fully cooked.

Beet “Tartare”
Recipe courtesy of Hosea Rosenberg from Blackbelly Catering
Used with permission; all rights reserved.
serves 10

2 pounds large red beets
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp  fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp  shallots, chopped fine
2 Tbsp capers, chopped
hot sauce, to taste (optional)
kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper

Boil beets in water until cooked through, but still al dente.  Remove from water and chill in ice water until cold.  Peel and dice very small.  Combine with remaining ingredients and season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce if desired.

Serve on crackers with shaved hard cheese (queso de mano from Haystack is our recommended choice).

Grilled and Cheesy

The last recipe is a grilled cheese. Yeah, I know. We all know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. Even our moms knew how to make them. But this one's got a twist, with apples two ways in the sandwich.

And some spices you might not think of.

As far as the cheese, since Hosea is a local, he chose a local cheese. You can find more info on Haystack Mountain's cheeses here.

Haystack Camembert Grilled Cheese with Apple
Recipe courtesy of Hosea Rosenberg from Blackbelly Catering
Used with permission; all rights reserved.
serves one!

bread of choice
Haystack Mountain camembert cheese, sliced
honeycrips apple, sliced
apple jam (recipe below)

Spread butter on one side of two slices of bread and place in hot pan.  Spread jam on one side, top with cheese and apple.  Place other slice of bread on top and press with spatula.  Flip occasionally until both slices are golden brown and cheese is melted.

apple jam:
2 Honeycrisp apples diced very small
2 Tbps sugar
1 tsp dry mustard seeds
2 C apple cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise pod

Combine all ingredients in pot and bring to boil.  Turn heat to low and simmer until thick and jammy. Remove star anise and cinnamon stick. Cool and keep in refrigerator until ready to use.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Spicy Pork and Mac Stew - Is it chili, or is it hot dish?

My mother was the queen of transforming leftovers into something that didn't look like leftovers. Sure, sometimes we had reheated reruns. But other times, it was alchemy.

Some might say it was her depression-era need to use every scrap of food. But really, I think it was everyday lack of funds that meant that dollars needed to be stretched.

I inherited some of that, I guess. I'm always looking at leftovers with an eye at making them something new and different. That's particularly true when it comes to roasts. As much as I like a perfectly-cooked pork or beef roast, they're usually a lot of food for two people. The price-per-pound is tempting, but the leftovers can be daunting.

A while back, I made a lovely pork roast ... but then what? After we'd eaten it sliced and as sandwiches, I knew it needed transformation. Mom's usual leftover pork dish was her chop suey, bolstered by canned Chinese vegetables and copious amounts of soy sauce. With rice on the side, that chop suey could stretch a humble pork roast for several days.

I actually considered chop suey, but decided to go with a spicier option. Some might call this chili, while others might be horrified at calling it chili. Some might call it hot dish (hello Minnesotans!) What it is, though, is a throwback to mom's chili mac - it's comfort food, pure and simple.

When I was done cutting up the roast, I had two pounds of diced meat in one pile, and some bones, bits, fat, and crusty parts that went into a saucepan with some water to make about a quart of pork stock that I used for soup.

See, nothing wasted!

You can make this as hot (or not) as you like by using mild, medium, or hot versions of the peppers and spices. Make it your way!

Spicy Pork and Mac Stew

2 pounds cooked pork shoulder roast, trimmed of fat and cut into bite-size cubes
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 15.5-ounce can red kidney beans, drained
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained
1 14.5-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
1 10-ounce can Hatch diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 4-ounce can diced Hatch chilies
1 can beer* (I suggest something mild, like Corona or similar)
2 tablespoons Penzey's Chili con Carne spice (or chili powder)
2 tablespoons dry masa (maseca)
1 tablespoon adobo seasoning
1 tablespoon** salt (or to taste)
4 ounces dry elbow macaroni, cooked al dente, drained

Put everything except the pasta into a slow cooker (yes, you can also cook this in a Dutch oven on the stove, if you like). Stir to combine and cook on high for 4 hours, or until the vegetables are cooked through.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if needed. If it's not spicy enough for you, add more chili powder.

Add the cooked pasta, and let the stew simmer for just a little longer, uncovered, to let the pasta soak up just a little of the sauce.

Serve hot.

You can garnish this with any of the things you like with chili - sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado, or diced avocado are all wonderful.

*If you're not a beer drinker and you have no urge to buy beer just for this recipe, use water. There's enough flavor here that the beer won't be horribly missed.

** If your chili powder and adobo seasoning are heavy on the salt, hold back a little bit on the salt until you taste - you can always add more if you need it.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Super-Easy Lemon Bars

A while back I reviewed Christina Tosi's book, Milk Bar Life on my book blog. Shortly after that, I wrote about the ranch dip mix in the book.

But that ranch dip is something served at the Milk Bar restaurant, rather than one of Tosi's at-home recipes ... so I felt that the dip might not be the best example of the sorts of recipes in Milk Bar Life.

This recipe for lemon bars might give you a better feel for the book.

I liked these bars, but I think that bars with lemon curd have a slight edge over these, just because lemon curd is so danged good.

On the other hand, I'm thinking of toying with the recipe a bit. I don't normally start my recipes with cake mixes, but sometimes a shortcut is a good thing, and this could be the perfect thing to make if you've got an office potluck and no time for anything more complicated.

For more reading, check out my review of Milk Bar Life and the recipe for Ranch Dip Mix.

Lemon Bars
Adapted from Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi

For the crust:
1 (15-ounce) box lemon cake mix
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/3 cup crust mix
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest and juice from 2 lemons

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 pan with baking spray.

To make the crust:
Mix the cake mix, butter and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until it is well mixed. It will be dense.

Scoop out and reserve 1/3 cup of this mixture and dump the rest of it into the 9x13 pan. Press it firmly and evenly onto the bottom of the pan. You can use your fingers, or the bottom of a measuring cup, or a pastry roller, which is what I used.

To make the filling:
Return the 1/3 cup of crust mix to the stand mixer bowl and add the cream cheese. Mix with the paddle attachment until it is well combined. Add the powdered sugar, salt, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix until well combined and smooth.

Transfer the filling to the pan and use a spatula (an offset pastry spatula works well) to make a smooth, even layer.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top has puffed slightly and is golden brown and beginning to crack. (Mine took a bit longer to get any brown at all, and it never cracked. Use your judgement.)

Let the pan cool completely on a rack. You can cut the bars in the pan, or remove the whole thing and cut on a board - your choice.

Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Strawberry-Orange Margarita - and Sandra Lee

If there's one thing we can all agree on about Sandra Lee, it's that she knows her way around the cocktails. So when a mystery package containing two bottles of Sandra Lee pre-made margaritas showed up at my door, I knew it was ...

... Cocktail Time.

I decided to avoid the whole concept of tablescapes, so I followed the instructions on the neck of the bottle to chill and serve. Well, I chilled the strawberry margarita. The key lime is still unopened. One at a time, yanno.

And then I spied some information about using the margarita mix as an ingredient in a cocktail. So ... use a cocktail to make a totally different cocktail? Sure, why not?

I decided not to go too far afield with the margarita, but I wanted to add some more tartness and freshness to it. Orange juice was my choice. It added zing I wanted, and it changed the color from pink to more of a dark salmon color. And, obviously, it cut the alcoholic content a bit, so I could have a little extra.

I like my margaritas on the rocks rather than blended, but this would be just as good blended.

Strawberry-Orange Margarita

Equal parts of:
Sandra Lee Cocktail Time Strawberry Margarita
Orange juice

Dash of orange bitters

Add ice to your glass. Add the margarita and orange juice, then add the dash of bitters.

Stir and serve.

If you like, garnish with some fruit - lime would be nice, or a slice of orange or a whole strawberry. A sprig of mint would also be appropriate.

I received the margaritas as a surprise from the manufacturer, at no cost to me. I like surprises!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Rum Citrus Punch - Make some for your next picnic or barbecue!

I love tart flavors. Even as a kid, I was a fiend for pickles and vinegar & oil salad dressings, and pies filled with sour cherries. Sure, I liked sweet, too, but I was more likely to grab a dill pickle to snack on than to go looking for cookies.

I still have that love for tart foods. A quick look in the refrigerator will confirm that we might have a slight pickle problem.

Recently, when I was thinking about making a jug of punch, I ignored the pink-and-sweet-and-fruity versions and settled on a refreshing citrus punch that would work just as well for a barbecue or for a brunch.

This starts out with one of my favorite combos - Captain Morgan Grapefruit Rum mixed with orange-pineapple-banana juice.

I've tried all three of the new Captain Morgan rums - pineapple, grapefruit, and coconut, and I have to admit that I'm particularly enamored with the grapefruit. Which is sort of strange, because I'm not a huge fan of plain old grapefruit. But here's the thing - the rum has the flavor of grapefruit without the bitterness that sometimes comes along for the ride.

And, well, it tastes like rum. So that's a plus.

When I was brainstorming my punch, I knew that rum and juice wasn't quite enough to write about. (But give it a try, if you have a chance!) So I got into the kitchen and mixed up a big old jug of citrus and fruit punch.

Speaking of jugs, an iced tea dispenser jug is perfect for punch, particularly if you're serving outdoors. You can seal the top, so you won't get flying critters nose-diving into a punch bowl, and you can set the thing in a cooler or bucket of ice to keep it chilled when it's not in use.

Even better, many of them have a top handle, which makes it easy to carry, and it dispenses from the bottom, so you don't have to tip a large container to pour.

If you're hosting indoors a pitcher is a good choice for the serving area - you can keep extra punch in the refrigerator to refill the pitcher as needed, so there's no need to dilute the mix with ice.

If you mix the punch in advance, stir it again before you start serving - some of the fruit pulp tends to settle to the bottom.

But note! If your party includes kids or non-drinkers, you might want to be very explicit about labeling the container and keeping it out of reach of the younger ones. Or you can leave the alcohol out of the mix, and let folks add their own to each glass.

Rum Citrus Punch
Makes at least a dozen generous servings

1 12-ounce can frozen orange-pineapple-banana juice concentrate
1 12-ounce can frozen orange-peach-mango juice concentrate
9 cups water (to dilute the concentrate per recipe instructions)
1/4 cup yuzu* juice
1 cup Captain Morgan Grapefruit Rum
Frozen or fresh fruit, to garnish
Bitters, optional (cherry bitters would be nice!)

Combine the frozen concentrates, water, yuzu juice, and rum in a large pitcher, punch bowl, or ice tea dispenser.

Stir until the frozen concentrates are melted and mixed in.

Fill each glass with ice at serving time. Add a dash of bitters (if you're using it), then add the punch.

Garnish with fresh or frozen fruit, as desired. In this case I used peaches. Note that if you use frozen fruit, it will help to keep the drinks chilled without diluting them.

*Yuzu is a Japanese citrus that I'm rather fond of. You can buy the bottled juice online if you can't find it elsewhere. Or substitute lime juice - the flavor isn't the same, but it will give you another flavor that isn't already in the mix.

The nice folks at Captain Morgan sponsored this post.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Gin and Dry Juniper Soda - A light and summery cocktail

I used to think that I didn't like gin. What I eventually realised was that gin isn't just one thing, and some gins are absolutely delicious.

The funny thing about my dislike for gin for all those years is that the main flavor in many gins - juniper berries - is something that I like a lot in marinades.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the cocktail is juniper-berry-flavored Dry Soda. The soda isn't dry, that's just the name. It's wet. And fizzy.

I've been a fan of Dry Soda since the very first time I tried it. It's not too sweet, which is great for me - I think most sodas are waaaay too sweet for regular drinking.

Dry is lower in calorie, too, if that's important to you.

The soda is totally clear - so no need to worry about artificial colors - and the flavors are crisp and bright and different. Which means they're ideal for cocktails. I mean, where have you found a juniper berry or a lavender soda before?

Of course they're great for drinking straight, too. I just finished drinking a bottle of their rhubarb flavor, and I'm a huge fan of cucumber. Actually, I like all the flavors I've tried, and I think I've tried them all.

But this time, I decided to use one of them for a cocktail. I hadn't made a gin cocktail for a while, so I decided it was about time.

This is a great cocktail for a hot day. It's light and refreshing and not sweet at all. The lime adds just a little tartness, but if you want more, you can squeeze in a little extra lime juice.

Gin and Juniper Soda

1 ounce Tanqueray 10 gin
1 bottle Dry Juniper Berry soda
1 wedge of lime

Add ice to a glass and pour in the gin and soda. Garnish with a lime wedge - squeeze in as much as you like.

Stir and serve.

I received a selection of Dry soda for my use. I was not required to post.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Salmon Croquettes with Dill Sauce

My mom used to make salmon patties (she never called them croquettes) and they were actually a lot like these, so I was a little surprised to find them in a book called Soul Food Love.

But I hadn't made them in quite a long time, so I figured I'd give them a try. I always liked them, but they're just not something I think of very often.

For more about the book, I did a review over on Munching on Books.

The one difference between mom's recipe and this one - besides the name - is that mom served hers with ketchup. Which sounds weird, if you think about it. But it totally worked.

On the other hand, the dill sauce works just fine, too. I thought it was a touch heavy on the mustard, so I suggest that you start with less mustard and add more until it's the way you like it.

The recipe as written was intended to serve 8, so I cut it in half, which was pretty easy to do. I ended up with quite a bit of the leftover dill sauce once the patties were gone. I think about half of the sauce recipe would have been enough for all of the salmon - but I'll let you decide on that. I guess some folks might want a lot more sauce.

Salmon Croquettes with Dill Sauce
Adapted from Soul Food Love by Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams

1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt or sour cream*
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
6 springs fresh dill, chopped
2 14.75-ounce cans salmon packed in water**
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste; I used less)
1 tablespoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
Bread crumbs, optional***

To make the dill sauce, whisk the yogurt, mustard, and dill in a small bowl. Set aside.

Drain the salmon an remove and discard the skin and bones. (If you're using salmon from pouches, just drain the small amount of liquid, since there are no bones or skin bits.)

Mix the salmon, celery, onion, eggs, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Form the mixture into patties the size you like. I liked smaller patties - and they held together better. The recipe called for 8 patties from the full recipe, and I had about 10 of them from half of the recipe. Do what you like!

Add the olive oil to a large pan and heat on medium-high. When the oil is hot add the patties. Cook until well-browned on one side, then flip and brown well on the second side. Figure about 5 minutes per side.

Serve the patties with the dill sauce.

If you're not into creamy sauces with fish, a squeeze of lemon over the patties would work well, or serve them with lemon wedges.

Or, they'd also be good with some hot sauce - either straight-up, or perhaps a sriracha mayonnaise or even a salsa.

Mom served hers with ketchup. So ... once they're on the plate, it's up to you.

* The recipe called for plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream. I'm not a big fan of fat-free sour cream,
but if you like it, go ahead and use it.

I used part Greek yogurt and part regular sour cream.

** I prefer the salmon in the pouches, There's very little liquid, and the skin and bones have been removed already. The pouches I saw were 5 ounces, so 3 pouches was enough for 1/2 of this recipe, which was what I made.

*** Although the recipe said that bread crumbs were optional, I didn't see any way this was going to hold together without them. The recipe suggests 3/4 cup for the full recipe, but use what you need to keep it from being too wet, and so that it sticks together.

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of a review - which I've already done. I was not obligated to also post a recipe.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Half-Moon Taco Burgers

Ground meat isn't unusual in a taco, but I decided to change things up by making half-moon shaped burgers that would fit neatly inside a tortilla.

I flavored them with peppers and chili powder, melted cheese on top, and served them in warm tortillas with guacamole and pepper.

The result was a really really really tasty burger that looked unique, nestled it its tortilla home.

The meat I used was a combination of beef and chicken from a company called Cluck 'n Moo that provided product for the blog group 37 Cooks that I belong to.

Because the meat includes chicken, it needs to be cooked to a safe temperature - no rare burgers with this stuff.

You can make these less spicy by using mild pepper and mild chile powder, or make it more spicy by using hotter peppers and chile powder. And of course, you can add extra spice with your choice of condiments, like peppers or salsa.

Half-Moon Taco Burgers

1 pound Cluck 'n Moo ground chicken and beef
1 4-ounce can diced Hatch chiles (hot or mild, your choice)
2 teaspoons chili powder (hot or mild, your choice)
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 cup shredded cheese (I used a mix of cheeses, but any good-melting cheese will work)

In a medium bowl, combine the ground meat, chiles, and chili powder.

Divide the meat into four portions. Shape each portion into a half-mood shape that will fit into your tortilla. I used 6-inch tortillas and made the burgers slightly smaller that the tortillas - keep in mind that the tortillas need to wrap the meat.

Heat your grill. Sprinkle the burgers with salt as desired, and cook, flipping as needed, until just about done. Divide the cheese onto the tops of the four burgers, close the grill, and let them cook until the cheese is almost melted.

When the cheese is almost melted, place the tortillas on the grill (on a cooler part of the grill, if possible). Place the burgers on the tortillas and close the grill again. Cook until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are warmed.

Serve with your favorite taco toppings. I used guacamole and pickled jalapenos. Other options are shredded lettuce, salsa, cilantro, crema, or chopped fresh tomatoes.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Roast Pork Shoulder with Sepo Sauce

I bought a pork roast specifically so I could test a device called The Ribalizer. I'm reviewing it for my review blog, but when I'm reviewing a cooking tool, it usually means I've got some cooking to do.

The Ribalizer is designed for cooking ribs, but the instructions said that with the rib separator rack removed, you could use it for roasts. Well, okay. I had already cooked ribs with it, so it made sense to try its other function.

While The Ribalizer is intended to be used on an outdoor grill, the weather wasn't cooperating. It was chilly and rainy and I wasn't in the mood for going in and out of the nasty weather. Staying in a warm, cozy house made more sense.

So I fired up the oven instead of the grill. And then I checked the size of The Ribalizer to make sure it would fit in my oven. Luckily, it did.

The ribalizer is covered in more detail on my review blog, but basically it's a two-piece metal rack that's designed to fit into disposable aluminum roasting pans, and its main purpose is cooking ribs. If you don't happen to have a ribalizer sitting around, you can cook your roast with this method in a lidded roasting pan with a rack.

I knew that I wanted to use some spices or a sauce or ... something ... on top of the roast, but I didn't make the final decision until the roast was at that stage (you'll see). So I started digging around in the refrigerator to see what might be interesting.

I grabbed a jar of Sepo Sauce that I got from a company called Seponifiq. It's supposed to be used as a dip, sandwich spread, or salad dressing, but I thought it might be just right for adding a little flavor to the crust of my pork.

I had already tried it drizzled on vegetables, so I knew what it tasted like - it reminded me a bit of Caesar dressing, but not quite the same. I thought the garlic flavor would work really well with the pork. And, gee, I was right.

The beauty of this recipe is the versatility of the leftovers. You can slice thin for sandwiches (hot or cold) or cut the meat into chunks for stew, green chili, or mom's midwestern chop suey. You can continue cooking it until it falls apart for pulled pork. Or ... I'm sure you can think of more!

Roast Pork Shoulder

Roast pork in the oven!
1 8-9 pound* pork shoulder roast
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup (or as needed) Sepo Sauce
Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Season the roast on all sides with salt and pepper, as desired.

Put the pork shoulder, fat-side up, in a ribalizer or in a roasting pan on a rack. Add about water to the pan to cover the bottom of the pan with about 1/4 inch of water - just make sure it's below the level of the rack - you don't want the meat swimming, you just want to create steam.

Put the lid on the ribalizer or the roasting pan. Place it in the oven and cook, covered, for 4 hours.

Remove the cover. The pork should be tender if you stab it with a fork. It shouldn't be falling apart, but it should be easy to poke. Brush Sepo Sauce on the top and sides of the roast and return it to the oven, uncovered. Cook for another 45 minutes.

Let the roast rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

*it doesn't need to be exactly this size - a little larger or smaller isn't going to kill the recipe, but if you stray too far, the cooking time might need to be adjusted.

I received the Ribalizer for the purpose of a review on Cookistry Reviews; I was not required to mention it in a recipe. I received Sepo Sauce from the manufacturer; I wasn not required to use it in a recipe.