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I’m back again to talk about the Cubano–a sandwich so tasty, it deserves a few more pictures (and a song!) to tell its story.

Start with club rolls. Around here, let me save you a trip or two and tell you Tri-Town in Portland sells them. Stop & Shop and Price Chopper do not.

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Now, remember that pork tenderloin from the other day? Slice it. Then, send it on a quick trip in the microwave (about 20 seconds or so) to warm it up.

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Now, let’s load up the rolls: spread mustard on one side, then layer:

  • Swiss cheese (or provolone, if you prefer)
  • Thinly sliced ham (I used Boar’s Head habanero ham)
  • A Vlasic stacker
  • Pork

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And now, you’re ready to grill. Melt some butter in a pan and have another pan ready for pressing purposes.

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Do you like my fancy press? In case it’s hard to tell, it’s a frying pan covered by a teakettle filled with water for weight on top. And now, amici, we grill, flip, grill again and it’s time to eat! What else can I say but I like it like that! 

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I got my mojo back–and am back with mojo! If you’ve seen “Chef,” maybe you, too, were inspired by some of the food you saw in the movie and thought: I wanna eat that! Or maybe even, I wanna make that! And, if you haven’t seen the movie, puh-LEASE go out for something delicious to eat, then go see it.

Shortly after I saw “Chef,” I found an article with recipes from the movie. I used that as a jump-off point, crossed it with some good ideas from Epicurious, et voilà–a delicious mojo for pork tenderloin. A meal so nice, you’ll enjoy it twice–once as a main dish, and the next day as a delicious Cubano!

So, let’s get the party started with a “Bang Bang”–did I mention you’ll love the soundtrack, too?

MOJO PORK TENDERLOIN
adapted from Roy Choi, Matt Lee and Tedd Lee

Juice of 3 orange, zest of two of them = 1 1/2 cups juice
1 1/2 lemons and their zest = 1/4 cup juice
2 limes and their zest = 1/4 cup juice
2 tiny jalapeños, sliced thin (one normal jalapeno would be great)
5 cloves garlic, pressed
1/3 cup fresh oregano (I just bought a new hot & spicy oregano plant–highly recommend!), finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk together all ingredients. Set aside 2/3 cup of this mixture and refrigerate.

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Pour the rest into a sealable plastic bag (a gallon Hefty OneZip works beautifully) with two pounds of pork tenderloin.

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Let marinate about eight hours. Remove the pork from the bag and place on a large baking sheet. I put plenty of the chopped herbs, zest and jalapenos on top.

Cook in an oven preheated to 375 degrees F until the pork’s internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F, then let the meat rest for three minutes before slicing. I have one of those handy thermometers that beeps outside the oven when it hits the set temperature. In my kitchen, that took somewhere between 30-35 minutes. But, don’t just take it from me, the National Pork Board will tell you no different!

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Don’t forget to serve with the 2/3 cup of mojo you set aside. Not only is it crazy delicious as a main meal–it’s a total treat as part of a delicious Cubano the next day.

CUBANOS (CUBAN SANDWICHES)

Club rolls (sorta like these)
Thinly sliced ham (try the habanero ham from Boar’s Head, NOM, NOM!)
Thinly sliced Swiss cheese (or provolone, if you prefer)
Vlasic Stacker dill pickles
Mustard (I prefer Grey Poupon Harvest Coarse Ground)

Slice the rolls in half, spread one side with mustard. Place a layer of cheese, two slices of ham, several slices of warmed-up pork (send on a quick trip to the microwave) to go from end to end, then a pickle. You’re pretty much making a fancy Cuban grilled ham and cheese. Double the pig, double the fun!

Next, in a large frying pan, melt about a teaspoon or so of butter to coat the bottom. Swirl the sandwiches around to get ‘em buttered up, then put another frying pan on top to press them. You can also weigh them down with a teakettle on top of the second frying pan. After a few minutes or so, add more butter and flip them over. Once again, press down. And now, we have Cubanos. ♬ BEEP-BEEP, HAAAAAAA! ♬

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There are lots of blueberry bar recipes out there. But last night, I found my thrill on a different blueberry hill. Sometimes, other recipes spark ideas about something new to do with the tried and true. So I doubled my favorite almond shortbread recipe, baked it up with fresh blueberries in the middle and almonds on top. Know what? It worked, it’s delicious and it’s really pretty, too!

BLUEBERRY ALMOND SHORTBREAD

For filling
2 cups blueberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ a lemon, zested
juice of slightly less than ½ a lemon
2 teaspoons cornstarch

For shortbread
1/2 cup almond flour (or 1/2 cup almonds processed till finely ground in a food processor)
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter (salted), softened
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

For topping
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter an 8″ square baking dish.

Let’s make the filling first. Combine blueberries, 1/3 cup sugar, lemon juice, zest and cornstarch. Set aside.

Next, with a mixer, cream butter, 1/2 cup sugar and almond extract. Add almond flour, all-purpose flour and salt; mix till smooth.

Divide the dough into two equal parts–cover the bottom of the pan completely. Pat dough into the dish, smooth the top of the dough evenly (an offset spatula is very helpful here), then pour blueberry filling evenly over this layer.

To help make an even top layer, drop small pieces of the dough over the blueberry layer, then smooth it out with an offset spatula or a knife. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and turbinado sugar.

Bake for 45 minutes. Cool completely before cutting. OK, I let the rest of the pan cool completely, but not the quality control squares–those were insanely piping hot. I cut the rest of the pan into oversized squares, then diamonds, ’cause don’t you know, diamonds are a girl’s best friend?

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If you’ve never bought mushroom ravioli, you may never have wondered what kind of sauce to make to go with them. But mushroom ravs are things of deliciousness. And if you live in driving distance of DiFiore Pasta Co. in Hartford’s Little Italy, you really owe it to yourself to get there. Don’t like mushroom ravs? They have plenty of options, traditional and creative, and sauces to go with. And their manicotti are outta this world.

Here’s my special sauce for mushroom ravs. We’re pretty fond of this combo ’round heah. Hope you will be, too.

MUSHROOM HARVEY’S BRISTOL CREAM SAUCE FOR RAVIOLI
(for two)

2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, minced
1 rib celery, diced
8 oz. of your favorite mushrooms, sliced–plain ol’ white shrooms are fine, as are baby bellas or shiitakes
¼ cup Harvey’s Bristol Cream
Salt and pepper to taste (honestly, you can get away without it)
½ cup light cream (you can also use half-and half)*

*½ cup is plenty for 2 people; ¾ cup is nice for 1 more portion

Optional:
sprinkle of tarragon or fresh lemon thyme

Set a pot of water to boil for your ravs.

Meanwhile, melt butter, sauté shallot and celery about 4-5 minutes over medium heat, then add mushrooms.

Note: This is a perfect time to add the ravioli to the pot of water, which should be boiling by now.

Add tarragon or lemon thyme if you like, cook mushrooms about 7-8 minutes. They’ll get nice and golden. Add Harvey’s Bristol Cream. Give it about a minute before you add the cream. It will get all bubbly in the pan. Now your sauce is done–and so are your ravs!

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Don’t forget to swing into Modern Pastry Shop while you’re up on Franklin Ave. Their lobster tails filled with light-as-air cannoli cream are totally worth the extra calories as are their (leave the gun, take the …) cannoli.

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How about something for dinner that tastes oh so gourmet, yet requires minimal prep and effort? It’s a new recipe that’s so easy, it’s almost not a recipe–the best kind in my book.

I made this dish for two; you can easily multiply to make for more people. I bought a 1-pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, split it into two cutlets, then baked the rest of the chicken to make chicken salad tomorrow. Three cheers for efficiency, rolled up with the greatness of local goat cheese, native asparagus and one of my favorite hams!

CHICKEN ROLLATINI WITH ASPARAGUS, HAM AND FRESH CHEVRE

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2 chicken cutlets

For each cutlet:
Coat with olive oil, season with salt and pepper on both sides.

Layer a slice of your favorite ham over cutlet.
[I love Niman Ranch's uncured Jambon Royal. You can find it at Whole Foods.]
Spread about a tablespoon fresh chevre over the ham. [Try Beltane Farm's fresh chevre with chives.]
Break off woody ends at bottom of each asparagus spear. Place 4-5 asparagus spears over the chevre.
Top with 1 tablespoon breadcrumb mixture.
Breadcrumb mixture:
Melt about 1.5 teaspoons salted butter, stir with 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs and a drizzle of white truffle oil.
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Roll up and skewer with toothpicks. Sprinkle with dried rosemary.
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Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes.
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Dinner is served! Isn’t it almost like magic when something so delicious can be so simple and impressive–and quick? And makes lunch for the next day, too?

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Let’s try something new and Italian this week–something to add to an Italian combo grinder, sandwich or antipasto. I made a batch today and am eagerly awaiting a killer sandwich later this week! It’s very easy to make, just a matter of waiting between steps.

MARINATED EGGPLANT

1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 eggplant (1 to 1.25-lb.)
1 jalapeno in slices
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
Fresh parsley (you can also use fresh mint, fresh oregano or dried oregano)

To boil:
2 cups water
1 cup white vinegar
Peel eggplant. Slice into thin strips, then cut again so they’re like thin french fries.

Set eggplant strips in a colander, sprinkle with Kosher salt. Toss with your hands to distribute the salt evenly.

Set colander inside a large bowl, then place another bowl on top of the eggplant with a heavy can inside (I used a can of crushed tomatoes) to weigh it down. Set aside for four hours at room temperature. Give the eggplant strips a gentle squeeze by the handful before you boil them.Before we get too far ahead, sterilize (run through the dishwasher) two 8 oz. glass jars or containers.In a saucepan, bring water and vinegar to a boil. Add eggplant and continue to boil, stirring occasionally till eggplant is tender–2 to 3 minutes only.
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Drain in colander promptly, then set colander inside a bowl. Once again, place another bowl on top of the eggplant with a heavy can inside to weigh it down. Continue to drain, covered for about 2-3 hours on the counter. Gently squeeze eggplant by the handful to remove excess liquid.
Coat the bottom of each jar/container with olive oil, then layer in eggplant, hot pepper rings, garlic and parsley. Repeat till the jar is almost full, leaving enough room to top with additional olive oil. Look at all the pretty colors! It could only possibly be prettier if you grabbed a red hot pepper instead of a green one. Sadly, all the red hots at the store were looking pathetic yesterday. But you might be able to create your own Italian flag of marinated produce–2 cups’ worth!
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How many days before I dig in? Tick-tock, tick-tock! :D Not too many, I don’t think…but I’ll try to give it a couple of days for the flavors to meld together. So, till Tuesday, amici (if not before!)!
 

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I missed Cinco de Mayo, but it’s as good time a time as any to share my recipe for taco soup. It’s what you get when you cross tacos with black bean soup. I really enjoy it and hope you will, too.

TACO SOUP
olive oil to coat the bottom of your pan
1 pound ground chicken or pork
1/2 a large sweet onion
1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
2 15-oz. cans of beans, drained in rinsed (1 black, 1 white or pink)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño, chopped
1 14.5 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup of your favorite salsa (I love Frontera’s chipotle)
1 cup beer
1 cup water
1 tablespoon chili powder (or my way: 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder, 1 teaspoon chipotle powder)
1 teaspoon epazote
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1/2 lime, squeezed (optional)

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until golden, about 5-6 minutes. Add ground pork or chicken, sprinkle with adobo, breaking the meat into small pieces as you cook it. Add beans, both peppers, fire-roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa, beer, water, spices and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the corn at the end–just for maybe 5 minutes or so. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice if you like.

Garnish with any or all of the following for a true taco in a bowl:
fresh cilantro
diced grape tomatoes
chopped green onion
sour cream
crumbled tortilla chips

It makes plenty and freezes beautifully, so you can enjoy it now and later. Though for now, the closest I’ll get to Mexico again anytime soon will be musically with JT. Wanna come with? :D

 

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