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Showing posts with label pork. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pork. Show all posts

Friday, March 8, 2013

Asian Noodles Take a Trip to Italy

My wife is out town. I'm home alone and hungry. Since I work at the house, my routine is to write during the day and have dinner with my wife when she gets home from her office. Cooking our dinner gives shape to my day, since I plan the meal in the morning and do the prep when I'm taking breaks during the day.

Having dinner together is a fun part of the day. Over a meal with a salad, main course and a couple of side dishes, we have time to catch up.

Now I have to contemplate dinner for one and that's not as much fun.
Staring at the open refrigerator, considering what left-overs I could eat or what bits and pieces I could put together to make a meal (a farmers market Fuji apple with slices of comte cheese and bacon from breakfast), a different approach occurred to me.

Having grown up eating instant ramen, a cup of noodles is always the way to go when hunger strikes. But I'm a bit hesitant to go that route because of the high salt content and the predominance of chemical additives in the soup base. Happily, shopping at Asian markets, it's easy to see that ramen is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to easy-to-make noodles.
Even in mainstream supermarkets, if you look in the Asian foods section, you'll find packages of dried egg and rice noodles. Go to an Asian market and the selection will border on the comic with aisle after aisle of fresh and dried noodles. Costing two or three dollars, one package of Asian noodles will easily feed 4-6 people.
If you want, you can certainly prepare the noodles with Asian sauces and ingredients. Personally, I like to combine the noodles with braised meat or poultry and vegetables from our local farmers market. The result is a deliciously comforting Asian-Italian fusion.

I like the dish so much, when my wife comes home, I'll make a bowl for her.

Asian Noodles, Italian Style

Use raw meat and poultry or leftovers from another meal. For stock, home made is preferable to avoid the excessive amounts of sodium in canned versions. The dish can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the meat and poultry. Other vegetables can be added or substituted for the ones I used and, if you like heat, dust the braise with cayenne or a scattering of pepper flakes.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 pounds uncooked deboned chicken, pork shoulder or top sirloin, washed, pat dried and thin sliced or use 1 1/2 pounds cooked chicken, pork or beef
1 medium yellow onion, washed, ends removed, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, root ends removed, finely chopped
6 shiitake mushrooms, washed, stems trimmed to remove dirt, thin sliced
2 carrots, washed, ends removed, peeled, cut into rounds
2 cups broccoli crowns, washed, sliced into florets
4 cups kale leaves, washed, stems removed or spinach leaves, washed, roughly chopped
2 cups stock, chicken, beef, pork or vegetarian, preferably home made
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 to 1 pound of Asian noodles
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sweet butter (optional)

Directions

Heat a large pot with water. Bring to a boil. Unlike Italian pasta, Asian noodles do not require adding salt or oil to the water. Wait to add the noodles until the braise is finished because the drained noodles will congeal quickly.

In a large saucepan or chefs pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic and shiitake mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned.  If using uncooked chicken or meat, add now and cook until lightly browned.

Add the broccoli and kale and sauté until wilted. If using cooked chicken or meat, add along with the carrots and stock. Simmer 10 minutes until the carrots are tender.

Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt, pepper and (optional) the sweet butter. Reduce liquid to half by cooking another 5 minutes. Lower the flame.

Add the noodles to the boiling water and stir well using tongs or chop sticks to separate the noodles. Read directions for cooking time. Before draining, taste a noodle and confirm doneness. Drain.

Add the noodles to the braise and toss well to coat with the sauce.

Serve hot in bowls with chop sticks or on plates with forks and large spoons.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pork Belly and Vegetable Pasta

I wrote a recipe for Zester Daily about my latest, favorite dish, a pasta with pork belly meat, flavored by Vietnamese style pickled vegetables.

I love pork belly but not pork belly fat. 
The recipe is my attempt to split the difference. 
I let the fat tenderize and season the meat. 
The only part of the fat I put into the pasta is the thin crackling layer, that luscious bubbling, crispy top layer. 
The cracklings are ground up and sprinkled on the pasta to give a sweet crunch to the tender, moist meat.

The pickled vegetables add to the pork's deep rich flavors. Included in the pickling are pieces of ginger which brings a subtle heat to bear on the dish.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why Eat Out?

The obvious reason why we eat outside our homes is we are hungry and want someone else to do the work of cooking and cleaning up afterwards.  But there other reasons, ones that will enrich our lives back in our own kitchens.
For Zesterdaily, I wrote about a memorable meal at a restaurant that led to one of my favorite meals at home.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Italian Sausages and Roasted Tomatoes

With summer still months away, the tomatoes at the Farmers' Market leave something to be desired. Still juicy and fragrant, they lack the exquisite flavor of tomatoes ripened by the full heat of the sun.

And yet....

Roasted, with a little olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, spring tomatoes add depth to a braise or stew. Traditional Italian recipes pair sausages with peppers and onions. Substituting roasted tomatoes for the peppers softens and sweetens the flavors. Adding pasta makes a main dish that is filling, economical, and easy-to-make.

Roasted Tomatoes

Yield: 1 quart

Time: 60 minutes

Ingredients

3 pounds tomatoes, washed, stems removed
1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the tomatoes on a Silpat or aluminum foil covered baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Place in the oven
and roast for 60 minutes.

Use a rubber spatula to save the clear liquid, tomato essence that has accumulated on the baking sheet. Place the cooked tomatoes and the liquid into an airtight container. The tomatoes can be refrigerated for several days or frozen for months.

Italian Sausages and Roasted Tomatoes

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

4 Italian sausages, washed, pat dry
1 quart roasted tomatoes, skins removed, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, skins removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, finely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, washed, skins, tops, and stems removed
1/2 pound mushrooms, brown or shiitake, washed, thin sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 box pasta
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

The sausages and pasta can be made ahead and reheated with the sauce or prepared simultaneously while you are sauteing the vegetables.

Brown the sausages either by grilling or roasting in a 400 degree oven. Remove and let cool so you can cut them into 1/2" thick rounds. Set aside.

Boil 4 quarts water with kosher salt. Add the pasta. Stir well to prevent sticking. Cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta and return to the cooking pot. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the unsalted butter. Stir well. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Lightly cover with a sheet of aluminum foil. Set aside.

Saute the garlic, parsley, onions, and mushrooms with olive oil until lightly browned. Add the sausages, roasted tomatoes, and tomato liquid. Simmer 15 minutes, reducing the sauce by half.

Add the cooked pasta and 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Stir well to coat. Simmer for a few minutes.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Variations

To the sauteed vegetables, add 2 cups spinach leaves, washed, stems removed, roughly chopped

For heat, use hot Italian sausages

Monday, September 8, 2008

Word of Mouth: San Gabriel’s Chung King

Finding a new and a great restaurant isn’t easy. I read hundreds of reviews and clip the best ones but they usually just languish in a file. I would never have gone to Chung King but for Jonas Goodman who leads expeditions to new restaurants. Foremost on his list of must-try-restaurants is Chung King, recommended to him by his friend, the wonderful novelist, Nicole Mones, an expert in all things-Chinese.


Not all Chung King’s are created equally. The only one to try, according to Nicole is the one run by Linda Huang’s at her address at 1000 S. San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776 (626/286-0298). The restaurant inhabits a cinderblock building on a non-descript block in San Gabriel. The exterior doesn’t invite you in, which is why the recommendation of a noted author and respected authority on Chinese cooking is needed.


We weren’t able to join Jonas when he led a recent outing to the restaurant. Our visit last weekend was completely serendipitous. We had driven out to Banning to pay our respects to my mom who is buried there. If you have ever gone to Palm Springs, you have passed through Banning, which sits at the foot of the Idyllwild road. My parents moved there when I was in High School and I don’t have fond memories of the town but that’s where my mother is buried, so we make the trip there to spend a quiet moment with her.


My mom used to joke that the most beautiful place in Banning was the cemetery and our last trip there proved her correct on that score. Blissfully quiet, the graves are placed on a broad plateau that sits high above the desert floor. No freeway or town noise reaches this far up into the mountains. Eventhough the dry heat bakes the landscape, the well-watered grass is green around the graves and the trees that surround the plateau stand straight and tall. We shared a peaceful moment with my mom, had a group hug, and then headed back to LA.


We were tired and hungry and debated whether or not we should take the time to stop and eat or just go straight home. We realized that we would drive through San Gabriel so we decided we shouldn’t miss the opportunity to finally try out Chung King.


The advantage of eating with a large group is being able to sample more of the menu. With four of us, we stayed close to familiar dishes: Kung Pao Chicken (#59), Green Beans (#105), Wonton Soup (#31), and Szechwan Shredded Pork (#53). I took a chance with a dish I hadn't seen before, something called Crispy Rice Crust with Shrimp (#77). Frank discovered the pickled Szechwan vegetables on the cold table; he picked the bean sprouts and sea weed. We ordered steamed rice for the table and now we waited to see if the restaurant deserved the rave given to it by Nicole and Jonas.


The first dish was the Szechwan Flavors Cold Dishes. Perfectly seasoned with just the right amount of heat, the sea weed and bean sprouts (with a few slices of carrots and shredded scallions thrown in for contrast) were delicious. I ate them as a topping to the steaming rice. We had barely gotten half way through the large serving when the Kung Pao Chicken arrived, Michael’s favorite. The outside of the chicken was crispy, the inside moist. The caramelized sauce was counter-balanced by the heat of the Szechwan peppers and the barely cooked scallions.


Then the Shredded Pork arrived. Again, the flavors were perfectly balanced, the meat succulent. After our time in the desert and almost four hours driving, the meal was starting to revive us. Then came two revelations: the Crispy Rice Crust with Shrimp and the Won Ton Soup.


Actually called Broth Wonton, the soup was a minimalist version of a won ton soup. No carrots, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, bok choy, or chicken, the soup was as advertised, broth + wontons with a sprinkling of chopped scallions. The soup was lightly spiced with black pepper but was otherwise fat free and clear. The pork inside the won tons was sweet and lightly seasoned. This was soup and won ton wrapper and pork, pure and simple. Each ingredient as fresh as possible, each complimening the other with simplicity. In her novels and food articles, Nicole Mones speaks eloquently about the sophistication of Chinese cooking. The soup was such a good example of what she describes.


And then there was the Crispy Rice. I thought this might be like a Korean rice dish I’d had before with the rice crisped on the bottom of a hot stone pot, but this was something else entirely. A clear sauce, stir fried vegetables—bok choy, carrots, onions, tree mushrooms, fresh bamboo shoots--and shrimp were ladled on top of half a dozen crispy rice cakes. Where the sauce had touched the rice cakes, they had begun to soften, but where they were still separate from the sauce, they retained their crunchy, smoky flavor.


We ate and talked and ate again, the food reviving us after a long, hot day. The meal was perfect for the occasion, because we were hungry and because my mother was famously a lover of Asian food: Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese (her favorite). It was appropriate that we had visited her just before and then eaten at Chung King. She would have enjoyed the meal.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

From Los Angeles to UC Davis with a Stop at San Francisco's Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market

On our way to UC Davis for our son Michael's freshman orientation, we first went to San Francisco. Taking I-5 we drove straight up the Central Valley with its seemingly endless miles of rich farmland, passing truck after truck filled to overflowing with California's bounty: tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, squash, lettuce, onions... Like most Californians we love being on a road trip but nowadays we don't have the luxury of time so we usually fly when we travel. For this trip we had set aside five days and we relished a rare opportunity to get in the car and hit the road.
In San Francisco we stayed with Michelle's cousin Marii, her husband Ron, and their daughter Claire. Their house is in the Marina so we could take walks along the Bay within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge. Ron is a great cook and we decided that one night he, Michelle, and I would cook dinner for Michael, Marii, and Claire.
Saturday morning, while Michael slept in, we went to the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market to prep the meal.

The last time I shopped at the market I was working for San Francisco based DotComix, a web animation site that imploded when the internet bubble popped in 2000. At that time, the farmers' market was across the street from the Ferry in a small parking lot. Now the market encircles the Ferry building and fills the Plaza on the southern end, giving the shoppers a clear view of the Bay Bridge.

For an appetizer Ron was going to barbeque skewers of Wagyu beef he'd ordered on-line from ADiRECT Foods. The night before we'd eaten at a neighborhood Japanese-fusion restaurant called Umami. We talked a lot about what created that extra flavor ("umami") that is neither sweet, bitter, sour, salty but something more. We knew using mushrooms was one way to create that extra flavor. At the market he found fresh morels that he wanted to try with the beef. For our part Michelle and I wanted to keep dinner as summer-friendly as possible so we focused on buying ingredients we could grill and use for salads. Dessert would be a Banana-Chocolate Chip Walnut Cake I'd made at home.

There were stand-outs at the market: large bunches of watercress from White Crane Springs Ranch, peaches and nectarines from Frog Hollow Farm, and Ella Bella Farm's broccoli di cicco (sprouted broccoli). We also bought corn, tomatoes, arugula, and Italian parsley. The market is such a treat. Even if you didn't need to shop, walking through the crowds and enjoying the visual experience of the waterfront setting is more than enough reason to come to the market.

Ironically we would have missed one of the best parts of the market if the forest fires weren't raging in California and Nevada. We were just about finished shopping when we were surprised to see our friends Val and Florence. They live a block away from us in LA. Florence is one of the most accomplished cooks I know. There was no one better to give us tips about the market. They were two days into a week-long vacation in Reno when the forest fires came close enough that they had to leave, as Val put it, "because it was raining ash." Having traveled frequently to San Francisco, Florence knew where to buy the best peaches--Frog Hollow Farm--and which vendors had the best prepared food.

We hadn't planned to eat at the market because we were on our way to Sausalito to have lunch with friends, but Florence insisted that we couldn't leave without sampling her favorites. Luckily there were four of us to share. There was lox, cream cheese and a slice of thick-cut tomato on sourdough bread topped with red onions and lavender sea salt from Cap'n Mike's Holy Smoked Salmon, toastadas de ceviche with shrimp and avocado from Primavera, and RoliRoti's porchetta sandwich, the crispy pork sliced to order by chef-owner Thomas Odermatt. Florence told us that the porchetta sandwich was just like the ones she loved in Rome. For us the porchetta sandwich was a highlight of our trip. With napkins in hand and our stomachs full, we thanked Florence and Val for their much-appreciated advice.

Claire had patiently endured our extra time at the market. We owed it to her to finish shopping quickly. While she ate a breakfast muffin from Downtown Bakery, I picked up a chicken from the Golden Gate Meat Company and a piece of Capricious cheese from Achadinha Cheese Company.

Later that afternoon Ron, Michelle, and I cooked our dinner, which included grilled chicken, sausages, and vegetables; a summer drink of white rum, mint, and limes that combines the best of a Mojito and a Caipirinha; Ron's skewers of Wagyu beef and morels were amazing, the morels' earthiness perfectly complimented the meat's buttery sweetness; chopped liver and egg salad; grilled lavash; arugula and carrot salad; chopped salad; watercress with grated Capricious cheese; and the banana chocolate chip walnut cake.
We had a wonderfully leisurely dinner with time to catch up about family, tell jokes, and talk about favorite movies. As a reward for my helping cook dinner, Claire made me a drawing in recognition of my "hard work and generosity." Appreciation is a great gift for anyone who cooks.

Of all the dishes we made, what Marii liked best was the chopped salad with grilled vegetables and Italian parsley. There will be more about the rest of the dinner in subsequent posts, but I wanted to start with Marii's favorite dish.

Summer's Best Chopped Salad

A salad with an infinite number of variations.

Yield 4 servings
Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

2 bunches Italian parsley (washed, finely chopped, leaves and stems)
1 large avocado (peeled, pit removed, roughly chopped)
4 carrots (washed, peeled, cut into 1/4" thick, 2" long slabs)
2 scallions (washed, ends trimmed)
4 ears of corn (husks and silks removed, washed)
1/2 pound broccoli (washed, ends trimmed, stems peeled, florets cut into 1/4" thick, 2" long slabs; if using sprouted broccoli grill whole)
1/2 pound string beans (washed, ends trimmed)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Put the chopped parsley and avocado into a large mixing bowl. Heat a barbecue grill. Drizzle olive oil on the vegetables, season with sea salt and pepper. Grill 5-10 minutes until lightly brown. If you don't have a grill, you can accomplish a similar result in a 350 degree oven. Turn frequently in either case so the vegetables don't burn. Remove and let cool.

Reduce the balsamic vinegar in a saucepan on a low flame until you have a quarter of the original volume. The vinegar will become sweet.

Finely chop the grilled vegetables, add to the parsley, drizzle with olive oil and reduced balsamic, season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Toss well and transfer to a salad bowl.

Variations

Keep the salad vegetarian and grill any vegetable you enjoy, like squash, asparagus, onions or mushrooms, chop, and add to the salad.
Add grilled meats like Italian sausage or chicken or shellfish like shrimp, lobster and crab.

Add cheese such as crumbled feta, finely chopped comte, mozzarella, Swiss or cheddar.
Add chopped olives.
Add chopped salami.
Add chopped grilled eggplant.

Add chopped artichoke bottoms.

Add chopped hardboiled eggs.

Add homemade croutons.

Add chopped roasted beets.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Loteria! Grill Hollywood

Growing up in LA, you eat a lot of Mexican food. For the most part the standard fare of tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, toquitos, and quesadillas are enjoyable but not always memorable.

Once in awhile there's a standout. When I first ate at the Loteria! Grill, the mole was a revelation.

Just about everyone we know has eaten at the original Loteria! Grill at the Farmers Market. Located in the geographic center of the Market, there is always a line waiting to order. The lunch time crowd tends to be tourists and people who work in the area. At night families have dinner before they go to the multiplex at the Grove.

For Jimmy Shaw, the chef-owner, Loteria! Grill is a passion project. Born into a family of cooks, trained by his mother in their Mexico City home, Jimmy opened the Grill because so many of his friends missed the taste of authentic Mexican food. An instant success, the Farmers' Market Loteria! Grill was the talk of LA.

Looking to the east Jimmy has opened Loteria! Grill Hollywood, a restaurant-bar in the heart of Hollywood (6627 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood 90028, 323/465-2500) next door to Geisha House.

With an open space and high ceiling, the interior has the feeling of a modern cantina. Jimmy held onto the favorites from the Farmers' Market menu: his incomparable mole sauce, the comforting tortilla soup, the perfectly seasoned black beans...

There are so many great dishes, a first-timer can get an overview by circumnavigating the menu with the Probaditas Sampler and its dozen mini tacos on hand-made tortillas. Sit at the bar, order an ice cold margarita, and you'll be happy for the rest of the evening.

We were part of a lucky group invited to a preview dinner. Served practically every dish on the menu, our favorites were the Mole Poblano con Pollo (of course), the Sopa de Tortilla (ditto), the Champinones con Epazote (mushrooms with Eeazote), the Albondigas En Chipotle (meatballs in a tomato and chipolte Sauce), the Enchiladas de Mole (with chicken), the Summer Salad, the Guacamole y Chips, the Aguas Frescas (watermelon, lemonade, horchata)... I'm probably giving away the fact that we enjoyed every dish.

Jimmy was so generous in letting us sample the menu that we found ourselves with food to spare. Not one to waste food I braved the embarrassment of carrying out to-go containers and took home some of the Carnitas en salsa Morita (pork in a spicy sauce), the black beans, and rice. The next day I was happy to have such terrific ingredients and made a delicious soup. Our friends Ron and Annette came over for our weekly Sunday dinner and we served the soup as the main course. We raised our glasses to toast Jimmy Shaw, to thank his mother for teaching him how to cook, and to our returning to Loteria! Grill Hollywood.

Black Beans, Farmers' Market Vegetables, and Spicy Pork Soup

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup cooked pork
1 small onion, washed, peeled, finely chopped
1 slice of bacon, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 ear of corn, washed, kernels cut off the cob
1 carrot, washed, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, finely chopped
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 cup cooked rice
Olive oil
Pepper

Method

In a large sauce pan sauté the onions, garlic, bacon, corn, carrots, and parsley in the olive oil until lightly browned. Shred the meat and add to the sauté. If you are using pork, chicken, or beef that is already seasoned, then you may not need to add any heat. Taste and add Tabasco or taco sauce as needed.

Add the black beans and chicken stock. Simmer for 30 minutes. Just before serving reheat the rice in a microwave oven. Put 1/4 cup of rice in the bottom of each soup bowl, then ladle in the hot soup.

Variations

For a vegetarian version, don't use the meat, bacon, or chicken stock (use 4 cups water + 1 tablespoon butter instead).

Use cilantro instead of Italian parsley

Substitute cooked chicken or beef for the pork

Add 3 cups of spinach leaves (washed, stems removed, roughly chopped) to the sauté

Add 1 cup chopped raw shrimp (washed, deveined) to the sauté

Add 1 cup grilled sausage rounds

Top with homemade croutons and shredded cheddar cheese when serving