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Category Archives: Ethnic Cuisine

Chipotle Meatloaf

It’s springtime in Wisconsin, which in a good year means the tulips are poking their heads through a light blanket of snow. But this year has been absolutely amazing. Eighty-degree weather in March brought out the most beautiful and long-lasting blooms that just keep on giving through April.  Fortunately the days and nights are still quite cool because I am apparently not yet ready to trade in my comfort food cravings for grilled meat and cool summer salads.

I came across a recipe in a recent Bon Appetit magazine that stirred up my craving for both comfort and spice. Or perhaps it was my recent trip to New Mexico that left me longing for some good southwest flavors, something I didn’t get from the hotel food I had while subjected to daily meetings. At any rate I adapted this chipotle meatloaf somewhat for the ingredients I had on hand, along with my own personal flavor preferences. Fortunately for me I am no longer living by the former ingredient restrictions I placed upon my life a year ago, so I was able to use store-bought panko breadcrumbs, which I think held the loaf together much better than homemade breadcrumbs would have.

With flavors so amazingly blended to spicy perfection in the meatloaf, it leaves me to wonder if the secret is really in the sauce as the original recipe suggested? I guess I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Chipotle Meatloaf

2 strips smoked bacon, chopped finely (I prefer Neuske’s)

1 pound ground chuck

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped celery

1 tablespoon minced garlic

¼ cup half and half

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

1 large egg

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced

1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

3 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon ancho chili powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Cooking spray to coat the loaf pan

 

For the sauce:

¼ cup ketchup

1 tablespoon finely minced or pureed chipotle chilies in adobo sauce (including the sauce)

 

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet and add the onion and celery. Sauté for about 8 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for one minute longer. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, combine the meats (bacon and chuck) in a large bowl along with the panko breadcrumbs, adding the fresh cilantro and parsley to the meat/breadcrumb mixture. In a smaller bowl, combine the rest of the spices (thyme, rosemary, salt, ancho chili powder, and smoked paprika. Add the sautéed vegetables when cooled.

Now is a good time to coat your baking pan with cooking oil.

Beat together the egg and half and half, and add it to the meat mixture. Blend well with your fingers until the mixture can be formed into a loaf. Press meat mixture into loaf pan.

This is when I decided to cover the mixture and let it rest in my refrigerator for 30-45 minutes to let the flavors blend together. I believe that made a significant difference in the end product. Kick your feet up, have a beer, read a magazine. It’s worth the wait.

Preheat your oven to 400°. Combine the ketchup and pureed chipotle pepper so that it too can meld in flavor.

Bake the loaf for 30 minutes or until it temps to about 150°. Remove the loaf from the oven and cover it with the chipotle sauce. My loaf pulled away from the sides of the pan, so make sure the sauce drips down the sides too. Return the loaf to the oven for another 10 minutes to allow the chipotle sauce to caramelize a bit.

Remove from the oven and allow the meatloaf to sit for 5 minutes before slicing.

Serve with roasted sweet potatoes and cornbread. And just try to stop yourself from going back for seconds. Lunch tomorrow… meatloaf sandwiches with a little guacamole and more of the chipotle sauce!

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Posole – The Perfect Summer Food

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How do you plan to stay cool when the weather gets a little hotter this summer? Working in an office environment I’m constantly amused by the variety of comfort or discomfort that’s determined by a simple “tweak” of the thermostat. Sweaters go off and on for some people, while others open the window and let in the 98° air because they are too chilled by the 74° indoor climate.

For me, I’d much rather be warm than cold any day. I like it when the weather so hot you can smell the heat rising from the sidewalk. I’d much prefer a beach vacation to a mountain retreat, although I can appreciate both quite easily. So, I’ve learned over the years to appreciate both warm and spicy food on a hot summer day as the perfect way to stay in my comfort zone.

I made this pork posole a few weeks ago, a dish I had been craving ever since we returned from New Mexico in March. Posole is one of those dishes that is made a number of different ways, so if you had it one way and didn’t like it don’t write it off. I love the rich flavors that come from chipotle chiles and I’ve now discovered a new favorite – guajillo chiles. I could only find them dried here in Wisconsin, and serendipitously the recipe I found uses dried guajillos that you roast in the oven for four minutes, which brings out the amazing flavor of this mild chile. Staying true to much of what I learned last year, I used my own homemade stock (I had beef instead of chicken), but I did rely on canned hominy. But what made this dish truly awesome, besides the guajillos, was the Berkshire pork shoulder my co-op is now selling. Berkshire pork is well worth using if you can find it – is the new red meat and what I imagine pork used to taste like before the flavor, and yes, fat, was bred out of it.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Toasted Guajillo And Pork Posole (adapted from Cooking Light)

3 dried guajillo chiles

1 ½ pounds pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1 tablespoon canola oil

3 cups homemade stock (chicken or beef)

3 cups water

2 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

3-5 garlic cloves, crushed

1 medium onion, cut into 4 wedges

2 tablespoons chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (1 tablespoon of sauce, 1 tablespoon of chopped chiles)

1 can (29 oz) hominy, rinsed and drained

Cilantro, chopped cabbage, and limes to garnish and add flavor at the end.

Preheat the oven to 400° and place the guajillo chiles on a baking sheet. Bake for about 4-5 minutes until they begin to darken and the fragrance of the chile really opens up. Let them cool and remove both the stems and seeds.

Take the pork you’ve trimmed and cut into smaller pieces, and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Heat up the canola oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the pork and cook for 5 minutes or until the pieces are browned. Remove the pork from the pan and wipe the drippings from the pan. (Note: I didn’t do this, I just drained the pan and I regret not following the directions, as the posole was a little fatty.)

Return the pork to the pan and add the stock, water, cumin, cloves, garlic, and onion, scraping up any browned bits along the way. Add the guajillo chiles, adobo sauce and chopped chipotle chiles and bring this all to a boil. When it boils, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer and let it simmer for about 2 hours. The pork will be tender enough to pull apart when this has cooked long enough.

Remove the guajillo chiles, pieces of onion and garlic. Take about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the liquid from the pot and place in a blender. This liquid is hot, so remove the center piece from the cover of the blender lid to allow steam to escape. Place a towl over the opening in case your blender enthusiastically spurts out this hot mixture. Blend until smooth and return this liquid to the pan, stirring it in along with the hominy. Cook for another 10 minutes and it’s ready to serve.

We garnished our posole with cilantro, chopped cabbage, and a squeeze of limejuice at the end. It was fabulous!

Week 51 – Relief or Regret?

I’ve been feeling a little guilty about my second to last week of this challenge. Not because I was cheating per se, but because I was away from home on business for almost the entire week and couldn’t do any cooking. Really Pam… guilty because you can’t cook? What has this year done to me?

I guess I wasn’t thinking too carefully about the return trip home, as my guilt turned into panic looking at the empty refrigerator and pantry. No bread, no granola, no leftovers for lunch. You see most of the time I’m away from home Lisa lives like a bachelorette and eats fish from a can, or just cooks a head of cauliflower for dinner – all the foods I don’t really like to smell in the house. Speaking of smells, when I returned home my kimchi from the week prior was fermenting away in the refrigerator but putting off what I thought was a rather unpleasant odor. In fact, as the week went by the kitchen kept getting smellier and smellier each time we opened the refrigerator door. “Good lord, we’re going to eat that stuff?” I couldn’t believe how bad it smelled. Lisa got out two plastic storage bags and double-bagged it. Well that didn’t help, in fact it was really starting to smell more and more like dead fish. Fast forward to Tuesday night and as I’m digging through the vegetable drawer I stumble upon the tiny little bowl of chopped garlic I put in the refrigerator about two weeks ago. Yes it was covered with a small piece of plastic wrap, but that didn’t stop the wretched stench from escaping it. Thank goodness it wasn’t the kimchi (that I almost threw out) because I finally had the courage to taste it and my, it is soooooo delicious.

I returned home late Friday night, thankful to sleep in my own bed again but even more thankful to leave all the conference buffet food behind. When you mainly cook everything from scratch you really begin to notice the amount of salt and fat in other foods. I came home to a weekend of get-togethers with friends and family, so my cooking from scratch jump started on Saturday preparing some rock shrimp tacos (with homemade tortillas) , pork carnitas, and guacamole for the evening food fest at my DPW gathering. The DPW’s (my four girlfriends and I are an unexpected group that stumbled upon each other from the professional world), we gather quarterly to laugh hard and often, cry mostly from laughing so hard, and to eat some really great food. For anyone who cares the DPW stands for Dirty Polish Whores and really has nothing to do with who we are (trust me), but has stuck with us over the years. Each time we get together I believe we unintentionally try to outdo each other in the food category, much to the surprise and pleasure of all of us. While my homemade corn tortillas entered into the “wow” category, Margaret’s Whoreo cookies (yes you read that right), were da bomb.

After a long and laugh-filled Saturday night, Sunday came a bit earlier than expected and a Sunday brunch invitation meant getting up earlier than my body wanted to in order to make the asparagus salad. Ah yes, it is spring and the best part of spring in my opinion are the sweet delicious stalks of asparagus. While April is a bit early here for any local crops, it is coming into our store from domestic sources which are much more delicious than from Mexico or Chile. I used a recipe from my co-op that was a great accompaniment to hot ham sandwiches at brunch, but went even better with the BBQ chicken I made for dinner. We had a rare day in spring here in Wisconsin where the temperature got way above the 60 degrees we would all settle for, so when the temperature peaks at 80 everyone in my neighborhood dusts off their grill and throws on some kind of meat. Since barbeque sauce was on my list of things to make that I had never before tried, I pulled together what was more of a marinade but it did however give the chicken both a sweet and savory flavor. As the recipe says, “deep flavor, rich tasting… fabulous with steak, chicken or pork.” The recipe said to “mop” this on at the end of the grilling process so the skin wouldn’t char, but I decided to brave it and marinade the chicken pieces in the sauce for about an hour before cooking. I made sure to keep the chicken away from the direct heat of the coals so I could continue to mop on the sauce as they cooked. While I do prefer the tomato-based barbeque sauces, this one was really rather good and since I have some left over I will be using it again.

I’m almost at the end of week 52 as I’m writing this post, and feeling a little sad that this adventure is almost over. Or is it? I mean once you start something like this does the adventure really ever end? It is food we’re talking about, and while I learned a lot about cooking from scratch over the past 52 weeks, there is still so much more to learn. So my question is, should I keep blogging? What do you think?

Coffee Bourbon BBQ Sauce (from The Gourmet Cookbook)

1 cup strong brewed coffee

½ cup bourbon

½ cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat (a simmer) for about 30-45 minutes. Stir occasionally. You want the sauce to cook down to about 1 cup so the flavors can develop nicely. The sauce will be thin.

If you are cooking the meat over direct heat, the recipe says to brush on the sauce at the end of the cooking so that the sugars don’t char.

Spring Asparagus Salad (from Outpost Natural Foods Co-op)

1 ½ pounds fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon tamari (soy sauce)

1 teaspoon white sugar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Salt to taste

Whisk together the vinegars, tamari, sugar, Dijon, and oils. Make sure you whisk them vigorously in order to emulsify. Set aside.

Bring a pot of lightly-salted water to a boil and add the asparagus. Cook for 1-4 minutes, until just tender but still mostly firm. Remove from the water and rinse under cold water immediately to stop the cooking.

Place the asparagus in a large bowl and drizzle the dressing over the asparagus, tossing it until it is evenly coated. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and toss again.

Chill or serve immediately.

Week 50 – Inspiration Comes In Many Forms

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My inspiration in week 50 came in the form of two pretty amazing experiences. The first was the launch of my co-op’s new magazine, appropriately titled GRAZE. The second was a culinary trip to one of the newer Asian supermarkets in town called Pacific Coast. When I put the two amazing experiences together, it resulted in a batch of homemade kimchi, something I’ve never considered making before this.

GRAZE is the inspiration of our fabulous marketing team at Outpost Natural Foods, and the very essence of what my co-op is all about. Subtitled, “around the kitchen table” GRAZE promises to tempt novice and experienced foodies alike with the products, flavors, and recipes of our amazing local artisans. The magazine, only available in our stores, is not supported by any outside advertising so that we could be sure and have the space to talk about the foods and vendors we love. The inspiration I drew upon this week was a recipe we published from local chef Jan Kelly from the restaurant Meritage. We gave Jan a challenge of one ingredient that she needed to design a meal around, and that was kimchi. Jan of course even made the kimchi from scratch, so I figured, why don’t I try?

Making kimchi from scratch meant picking up some traditional flavors to stock up my pantry, which meant a trip to Pacific Coast. Now growing up as a child of the 60’s and 70’s, an Asian-inspired dinner at home usually meant chicken chow mein, often but not always from a can. I’m sure we had an Asian grocery store in town back then, small as it might have been, but my family would have never ventured to see it. I do however remember going to San Francisco for the first time, must have been around 1972, and my parent’s friends took us to Chinatown for dinner. My world of Asian flavors was expanded that night, not only on the streets and in the marketplace, but also at the dinner table. When I first heard about Kimchi a number of years ago what I heard was that it was some kind of pickled concoction of rotting food that was buried in a jar (yes, in the ground) for a year or so until it was ready to… um, eat. But if you search for it online you’ll see that it can be interpreted a number of different ways, everything from pasta sauce to pickles. Everyone has a different take on it and claims theirs is the best. At least that means it can be customized to include whatever your favorite vegetable or flavor. There were at least three very different looking varieties of kimchi offered fresh at Pacific Coast.

My first impression of Pacific Coast was that I had just stepped into the Mecca of Asian convenience foods. During the past 50 weeks of inconvenience I really haven’t been spending much time at all in the center aisles of any store, so it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise to me that foreign convenience foods would be so enticing. Freezer upon freezer was filled with noodles, pot stickers, buns, shumai dumplings, purple yams, mochi ice cream, and an inordinate amount of fish balls. Lisa began filling her shopping basket almost immediately in what appeared to be a convenience inspired food frenzy. Meanwhile I was having fun looking at all of the graphics and marketing ploys used to sell products to people of differentcultures, knowing how easily it is to buy into the kitsch of it all. Yes, we came home with the giant tin of cream crackers (perfectly toasted and flaky like a pie crust), rice crackers, udon noodles, as well as the ingredients needed for my kimchi. Heck, I could easily be eating those convenience foods in just two short weeks from now, if there is any left that is.

So I started the kimchi that afternoon, before leaving town for a week on business. That meant Lisa would finish making the kimchi as the first step was to let the cabbage tossed with salt and sugar, sit overnight in the refrigerator. She said that she modified the recipe somewhat, using two carrots and grating them instead of julienne, and using a little less chili powder not knowing how potent it was going to be. The size of the cabbage will definitely determine the yield, our batch made about a quart.

I’m really looking forward to getting home from this business trip I’m on, so I can try it on a grilled pork or chicken taco, or with fish as chef Jan had prepared. Do share your kimchi experiences with me, I’d really love to learn more about it.

 

Refrigerator Kimchi (from Jan Kelly, chef and owner of Meritage Restaurant)

1 head Napa cabbage

2 tablespoons Kosher salt

½ cup sugar plus two tablespoons

3 tablespoons chopped garlic

3 to 4 tablespoons chopped ginger

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup fish sauce

½ cup Asian chili powder

2 teaspoons salted shrimp (in a jar)

½ cup julienned carrots (optional)

½ cup sliced green onions (optional)

Water if needed

  1. Cut the cabbage in half then cut crosswise into one-inch pieces.
  2. Toss cabbage with salt and two tablespoons sugar and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. Make the bring: combine the garlic, ginger, Asian chili powder, fish sauce, soy sauce, shrimp, and ½ cup sugar. The consistency will be like creamy dressing. If it’s too thick, add a little water.
  4. Add the carrots and green onions to the brine if using.
  5. Drain any water off the cabbage and add it to the brine. Make sure and coat it really well.
  6. Cover and/or store in jars in your refrigerator. Let it sit for at least 24 hours before using. The longer it sits, the stronger the flavor, so keep trying it until you find the flavor that you like.

We used less hot pepper and it was still plenty zesty. We also cut back on the soy sauce and fish sauce because both are quite salty. That’s the beauty of kimchi, it’s infinitely customizable to your taste!

 

Week 47 – St. Patty’s Is Simple, So Do It

I struggled again with what to write this week. No whining, no complaining, no sniveling as the Irish say. It was a tough week for me, as tough as week six was last May. So many hours spent working, so little time spent preparing for meals. So when faced with those pressures this past week I learned a few more cooking shortcuts. Too little too late you ask? Perhaps, but it gave me some peace of mind in terms of finishing up what I’ve started.

Short cut number one, bake off the easy things while enjoying your morning cup of coffee. I made a one-pound batch of granola on Saturday morning, which took me 10 minutes to combine the ingredients and 20 minutes to bake (stirring two times at each 10 minute baking interval). How easy was that? It didn’t need to be time away from a fun or productive day (okay, it was another day of work) but we were out of granola and believe me, it almost got ugly the day before when I ate the last bit of it. I did the same thing on Sunday morning, making up a batch of my favorite granola bars. Again it took about 20 minutes toasting the grains and combining them with the sweeteners, and another 20 minutes of baking. The second delicious accomplishment that didn’t dig into my Sunday hours one bit.

Short cut number two, and you still have two days to accomplish this yourself, is to make yourself a nice Saint Patrick’s Day Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner in the slow cooker. Seriously, this was one of the easiest meals I’ve made this entire year, and was right up there on the list of deliciousness. What could be better than a one-pot meal that cooks while you are away at work, filling your kitchen with that savory aroma of someone slaving over the stove all day? Just make sure you don’t over-cook it, so if you have a timer or a crock pot with a timing function, set it for 6-7 hours just to be safe.

Here is my St. Patrick’s offering, the quick, easy, and delicious recipe. I don’t think I spent any more than 25 minutes all together in gathering the ingredients from my refrigerator, peeling, chopping and putting them into the Crockpot. Enjoy with a tall glass of Guinness after that long day of work.

St. Patrick’s Day Corned Beef And Cabbage

One 3-4 pound piece of uncooked corned beef

2 cups water

One 12-ounce beer (Guinness or any kind of lager will do)

1 small head of green cabbage, cored and quartered

1 large onion, quartered

2-3 large carrots, sliced diagonally into bite-size pieces

6-8 red potatoes, peeled slightly (not thoroughly) and quartered

2-3 generous sprigs of fresh thyme

1-2 bay leaves

 

Lay the corned beef on the bottom of the slow cooker and top with all of the vegetables, thyme, and bay leaves. Pour in the beer and water. Cover and cook for 6-8 hours until the beef is tender.

Transfer the beef to a cutting board and cut into thin slices. Serve in shallow bowls surrounded by the vegetables, and make sure you serve some of the cooking liquid over the top because that is the truly delicious part!

 

A Year Of Inconvenience In The News

Photo by Kristyna Wentz-Graff Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Today is the day our local paper runs the story on my blog. Little did I realize it would be almost 3 pages of story, along with two online videos. Pretty cool indeed! I hope you enjoy it, I know my Mom and Dad will!

Week 43 – Time For Sushi

It’s Valentines Day and while many people will have their hearts set on chocolate or cake or other sweet delectable’s of the day, I say there’s no better way to celebrate with your sweetie than with sushi.

Sushi is something I had given up for the year (the sushi made at my co-op), although I have been invited out to celebrate special occasions with friends where local sushi was the destination. Sushi also has a special place in my heart for Valentine’s Day. I met my sweetie for the first time about 16 years ago while I was sampling homemade sushi at one of our stores and she was sampling apple cider as one of our sales reps. It’s unfortunate I don’t have a strong recollection of the day or event – but that doesn’t mean a lasting impression wasn’t made – or that it was the beginning of the best of the rest of the years of my life!

To many people sushi means “raw fish” and if that were the case I would avoid it like the plague. My very first sushi experience was in 1983 when I went to a natural products trade show and was introduced to the great folks at Eden Foods. I was invited to a party they were sponsoring after hours at the show, and it was there I learned how to roll my first sushi roll. (Yes, it was sushi I was rolling.) It was filled with fresh vegetables, daikon radish, umeboshi plum paste – all flavors I had never had before that day. I instantly became a sushi convert.

So this year I made sushi for Valentine’s Day. And Lisa found another vintage garlic keeper on Ebay to replace last week’s unfortunate mishap. Life is really great!

Sushi Made Easy (really, it is easy)

1 package Sushi Nori

2 cups sushi rice or short-grain brown rice

¼ cup brown rice vinegar

Filling:

Fresh vegetables like avocado, cucumber, carrots, watercress, or lightly steamed asparagus

Cream cheese, smoked salmon, steamed shrimp

Accompaniments:

Wasabi (a spicy hot green Japanese mustard)

Soy Sauce

Pickled Ginger

 

Cook the rice, 1 cup of rice to 2 cups water. If cooking brown rice it will take twice the amount of time as white sushi rice. Sushi rice cooks in about 25 minutes. Brown rice will take about 40 minutes.

Allow the rice to sit covered for 10 minutes after it is cooked. Remove the cover and empty into a large bowl to cool down. After it has cooled a bit (15-20 minutes), add the brown rice vinegar and stir, careful to not over-mix and make the rice too sticky.

 

Prepare your vegetable or fish fillings. I cut veggies into thin matchstick size pieces. If using shrimp or smoked salmon, make sure those pieces are also long and thin, rather than diced. They will stay together in the roll much better.

Lay a sheet of sushi nori on top of a dishtowel that is folded in half. Line up the end of the nori with the end of the dishtowel closest to you. You will use the towel as a rolling mat.

Crumble 1 cup of cooked rice over the top of the nori, leaving about two inches at the top of the sheet uncovered by rice.

 

Moisten your fingers with water (I keep a small bowl next to me) and press down on the rice until it holds together (it will be very sticky). Make a groove in the rice near the center and arrange your veggies and fish across the rice inside the groove.

 

 

Moisten the 2-inch edge of the nori with water so it becomes subtle. This will help seal the roll at the end of your rolling.

 

Using the edge of your dishtowel as your guide, begin rolling the nori roll away from you, pressing firmly like rolling up a jellyroll. Keep rolling using the towel as a guide around the roll until it gets going, then lay the end of the towel down and finish the roll by sealing the nori to itself.

 

When I have all the rolls rolled up, I like to wrap the roll in plastic and refrigerate for a bit to firm it up. After it has chilled, slice the rolls carefully into eight or more pieces. Serve with the accompaniments.