Monday, December 29, 2008


Sorry about the lack of warning.  This was a unplanned hiatus.  Seriously, I meant to blog while I was here at my moms' house, but I've faced the facts: it just isn't going to happen.  The kitchen here is insane.  No offense mom, if you're reading this, but it drives me a little crazy to cook here.  My kitchen isn't much bigger, but it has all my stuff in it.  What can I say, I'm picky.  In addition, my mind has been occupied with other things, such as hanging out with the friends and family and reading every Haruki Murakami book ever written.  I will blog again soon, I promise.  I don't know if anyone has really missed my blog, but truthfully I have missed writing it.  I'll be back to blogging in a week or so when I get back home.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

(Not So) Secret Pomegranate Carnitas

This is the way I ate my carnitas: on a tortilla smothered in goat cheese.

 The truth is, I'd rather share the recipe than hoard it.  That's why I'm calling them (Not So) Secret Carnitas, rather than my initial inclination to call them Secret Carnitas.  The secret ingredients are mentioned in the directions, but not on the ingredients list.  I was inspired to create this recipe after working with the Chevy's Cookbook recipe several times.  They use Pepsi, I'm using sprite for a lighter and more fruity flavor.  They use OJ, and I am using several different juices.  The method is the same.  Anyway, enough with the explanations, here's the goods:

-1 lb pork butt or shoulder
-2 cloves garlic, chopped
-2 or 3 teaspoons paprika
-a pinch of cayenne
-salt & pepper
-1L of Sprite or maybe more, get a 2L bottle
-1/2 cup orange juice
-3 squirts lemon juice
-2 or 3 pomegranates
-3 tablespoons of shortening

1. Cut the pork into cubes.  Remove the excess fat.
2. Combine paprika, cayenne, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Toss the pork cubes in this mixture.
3. Pour in about 2 cups of sprite, the OJ, and the LJ.  Squeeze the juice of two pomegranates into the bowl.  Strain the juice through your (clean) hands so the skin doesn't get in there.  Let the seeds in though.  Stir.  Cover the bowl and marinate it in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
4.  When you are ready, take the pork out of the fridge.  Heat the shortening in a large pot until it starts smoking.  Then (carefully) put the pork into the shortening, reserving the marinade.
5. Brown the pork in the shortening for fifteen minutes.
6. Pour the reserved marinade into the pot.  Stir and then simmer for 2 hours.  (I know, it takes a long time, but it's worth it.)  
7. Cover with additional sprite, and add pomegranate juice as needed to cover.  *Psst: you can also add little bit of honey or sugar once everything gets cookin'!
8.When the pork is ready it will be dark and very moist.  It should sort of fall apart when you get ahold of it.  
9.To serve, warm a tortilla in a tiny bit of oil and heap a couple of pork pieces on top.  I spread *goat cheese on my yellow corn tortilla and layered the carnitas on top of that. The perfect taco?  Could be.  You could add whatever condiments you want.  Oh yeah.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Barack Obama Victory Chili

*Stock photo of Obama graciously provided by Ville13Stock

I promised I would make chili in honor of Barack Obama's historic election, and I did not lie.  Oh yes.  I made it.  It was yummy.  Unfortunately, I left my camera at my mamas' house last weekend, so there is no photo.  Instead I am inserting a photo of Obama.  Maybe I will make it again next week and then add in the photo of the chili.  My moms are coming down this weekend, and are bringing my beloved camera back to me.  Here is the recipe for my Barack Obama Victory Chili:

*Note: all of the meat I used was local, organic, and humanely treated.  I hope you spend a little extra money and effort to make sure the meat you eat is raised and butchered ethically.  If you can't, hey, make it vegetarian.  It will still taste good I promise.
-1/4 lb. ground chuck
-3 slices of bacon
-1 can  of pinto beans (You can use dried beans and soak them overnight.  I didn't have time, so I bought a dreaded can, but it was still really good.)
-1/2 white onion
-3 cloves of garlic (OK, let's be clear, I like a LOT of garlic.  You can use less.)
-2 small home-grown bell peppers, equivalent to 1/2 of a large store-bought bell pepper
-3 squirts of ketchup, or more if you want
-1 bay leaf, optional
-paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste
-olive oil

1. Chop your veggies and your bacon into small pieces so everything is ready.
2. Add some oil to a cast iron pan or whatever you want to use.  Sauté onions, and bell pepper until soft.
3. When the onions and bells are soft, add in the garlic.  I don't like to add the garlic too early because it can burn.
4. Add your ground chuck and bacon pieces to the pan.  Stir it all together, making sure the chuck gets broken up and browned on all sides.
5. Add paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste.  Careful with the cayenne, unless you like it real spicy.
6. Now add the can of beans.  I poured in the bean juice too, but you can strain it out if you don't want to use it.  If you don't use the bean juice, add some stock to keep your chili from being too thick.
7. This is where I add the bay leaf.  I wait until I have a liquid to add it into, so it doesn't burn.
8. Smoosh the beans until half of them are mushy and half are whole.  This gives the chili a nice thick consistency while still remaining chili and not bean soup.
9. Add 3 squirts of ketchup (or more) and stir the whole thing together.  Simmer until it looks right to you.
10. Take out the bay leaf and serve.
11. While you eat this glorious chili, take some time to reflect on the history of the U.S. and the significance of Barack Obama's election.  Also think about the mutual love of chili that you and Obama share. :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Goat Cheese Wrapped in Chard

OMG.  I think I have entered Nirvana.  I just made the most incredible dish. I got the idea from one of my FAVORITE blogs, Chez What?.  He made his in a fig leaf, but otherwise it is the same.  I wrapped up a chunk of goat cheese in a large chard leaf and popped it in a skillet.  Then I chopped up some tomatoes, dusted them with salt and pepper, and popped them in the skillet next to the chard and cheese packet.  Once the cheese was all soft and melty in the chard, I took the stuff out and unwrapped it.  The author of Chez What? served his tomatoes on top of the leaf and next to the cheese, with the leaf open.  I stuck my tomatoes in there, wrapped it back up and ate it like a burrito.  I served a spicy chicken sausage on the side.  I had this for lunch and it is so good I may eat it again for dinner.  I am not kidding.  Try it.  And visit Chez What? if you haven't already, because it is a truly incredible resource and a beautiful website.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Little Garden

This is a picture of the little fall garden I planted recently in my front yard.  I still need to cover the ground with mulch.  Right now I have several types of lettuce, broccoli, kale, red onions and white onions.  I've never grown any of them except for lettuce (which turned out great last year) so I'm excited to see how it will go.  They look pretty perky so far.  I'm posting this for anyone who has a small bit of dirt in which to plant and might be inspired to start their own little garden. It really doesn't take that much work, and it feels great to eat stuff you grew yourself. 

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sweet Potato and Spinach "Eggrolls" with Spicy Thai Chili Sauce

Make this dish!  Veggies have never tasted so good.  I mean it.  I am so excited to share this little concoction.  I was inspired by the sweet potato and spinach curry that I had recently at The Asian Rose restaurant in Santa Cruz.  I knew that I had some wonderful organic sweet potatoes in fridge. I found some spinach and a pack of Azumaya square eggroll wraps in the freezer.  I ad-libbed the rest, going to my regulars, onion and garlic, for help.  Here's the "recipe" although I have to say that the amounts may be off because I didn't measure everything.  I just went with my instincts, and you should too.  It's definitely more fun that way. 

Makes about 8 rolls, which fed me 4 times.  They save in the fridge for a couple of days–great for a busy student such as myself.

-2/3 large sweet potato
-1/3 box frozen spinach defrosted and drained (if you have fresh stuff, even better!)
-2  cloves of garlic
-1/4 white onion
-1/4 cup Korma sauce or other Indian sauce (I used store-bought, but you can make your own using this recipe from foodslut or one of the many others available on the internet.)
-1/8 cup Spicy Thai Chili sauce (also store-bought, and optional–you can use whatever sauce sounds good to you)
-1 tsp Cayenne pepper (optional)
-Salt & sugar to taste
-Oil to cook with (I used my Wok Oil again, but you can use whatever)

1. Defrost and drain the spinach.  Take out 1/3 of the box and put the rest in the fridge and use it to make a dip or something later.
2. Defrost your wraps if they are frozen (it only takes a few seconds so be careful!)
3. Peel the sweet potato, cut it into chunks, and boil until soft.
4. While the potato is boiling, sautee your garlic and onion in a little bit of oil.
5. After a few minutes, add your Korma sauce and spinach to the pan with the garlic and onion.  
6. By now your sweet potatoes should be soft.  Transfer them to a bowl and mash em up.
7. Add the spinach, garlic, onion and korma mixture to the mashed potatoes.
8. Taste it. (This is a very important step!)
9. Add salt and/or sugar, depending on how you like it.
10. Stick about 2 tablespoons of that yummy filling you just made into each wrap and roll them up.  Start by folding the bottom over the filling and then tucking it just under the filling.  Then fold in the sides and roll up.
11. Pan fry for a few minutes on each side.  Pay attention so you don't burn them.  I like to use my spatula to hold them on the narrow sides for a few seconds so they get cooked all around without deep-frying.
12. Stick those pockets of crispy goodness on a paper towel to drain some of the excess oil. 
13. Pop them on a plate.
14. Drizzle with Spicy Thai Chili sauce or other sauce of your choosing.
15. Eat!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Flaming Shrooms

Mikuni in Sacramento has the most amazing appetizer: Flaming Shrooms.  This is my home-cooked  version.  It's a first attempt, so I'm open to suggestions on how to improve it.  The original ones have crab in them too which would be awesome, but I didn't have any.  If you have crab around or you want to go get it by all means throw it in.  I also think it would be better if I covered the whole thing in panko and fried them, but these are a bit healthier.   I ate 5 of them in a flash, and I would definitely make them again.

-8 mushrooms
-oil (I used House of Tsang 'Wok Oil' but you can use whatever)

For the Filling:
-1/3 cup cream cheese
-1/8 cup jalepeños
-1 clove garlic
-a little bit of lemon juice
-a little bit of the juice from the jalepeños
-1/4 cup panko

1. Preheat oven to 375º
2. Get out a cookie sheet and grease it lightly.
4. Pull the stems out of the shrooms.
5. Stuff them with the cream cheese mix.
6. Top them with panko.
7. Stick the shrooms on the cookie sheet and drizzle some oil on top of each shroom.
8. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

For the sauce:
-2 tablespoons each of tempura and oyster sauce (or whatever asian sauce you have around)
-1/4 cup soy sauce
-1 cup chicken or veggie broth
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 tsp corn starch dissolved in a small amount of water, more if you need

1. Put all the sauce ingredients except for the cornstarch into a pot and bring them to a boil, stirring occasionally.
2. When the sauce is boiling, and the corn starch mix gradually until the sauce reaches it's desired thickness.  Use more than a tsp if you need, but don't forget to dissolve it in water first.  You can also add more soy sauce, stock, or sugar depending on how you like it.
3. When the shrooms are done, pull them out of the oven, drizzle with warm sauce and serve.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Asian Rose/Malabar Cafe

514 Front St, Santa Cruz CA

The Asian Rose restaurant is a wonderful find. It doesn't look spectacular from the outside. It's not ugly or anything, but it doesn't jump out at you. Although I have driven by it many times, I had never been there before last week, when a friend suggested it. It's all vegetarian food. We were able to get a combination lunch of four different vegetarian curries, as well as yummy warm spinach salad for under $20. The curries were creative and fresh, including everything from beets to plantains. My favorite was the spinach yam curry. Pure guilt-free delight. If you are in Santa Cruz, check out this sweet little spot.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Chevys Cookbook

Oh yeah baby. This is the real deal in Tex-Mex. Chevys may be a chain but it never fails to satisfy.  The  Fresh Mex Cookbook is truly unique.   Some of my favorite recipes in the book include the Carnitas (made with Pepsi!), Parmesan Crusted Dungeness Crab Quesadillas, and the basic Salsa Chicken filling for anything from tacos to enchiladas.  If you dig Mexican food as much as I do, you should check this cookbook out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Easy Pozole

Pozole cannot get any easier than this:

-2 ancho chilies, dried
-2 or 3 gloves of garlic, depending on how you like it
-1/2 onion (I love onion! You can use less)
-1 or 2 tomatoes (optional)
-1 can of white hominy
-Leftover meat that you can shred (pork or chicken work best)
-Salt, paprika and oregano to taste
-Olive oil or veggie oil

1. Cut open ancho chilies and use gloves to take out the seeds. You can use spicier chilies if you want, but I like 'em mild. Stick them in a pot of hot water (enough to cover) and simmer them until their soft.
2. While you're waiting for the chilies to soften, chop up some garlic, onions and tomatoes. Tomatoes don't come in traditional pozole but I think they are a good addition.
3. Heat up some veggie oil in a pot and sautee the onions and garlic.
4. Add a few pinches of oregano, salt, and paprika.
5. Throw in a few cans of broth (chicken, veggie, or whatever.)
6. Take a can of white hominy and the tomatoes, and stick them into pot with the broth.
7. By now, your chilies should be almost done. Toss the chilies (with the water they were cooked in) into a blender. Then toss that blended mix into the pot with the broth. Let that whole mix of goodies simmer for about twenty minutes.
8. Now shred your leftover chicken or pork (I used carnitas from last night) and put that in the pot, or leave it vegetarian. Let the pot simmer for a few minutes and you're done, unless you want to toppings. I used raw onions, but you can use shredded cabbage, radishes, cilantro, parsley, sour cream or whatever you want.