Monday, October 29, 2012

Coffee-Cured Pulled Pork

My brother lives in Virginia.  If you're not living under a rock or in a house without access to the outside world, you probably have heard about Hurricane Sandy.  Although my family is 4 hours from the coast, with a nice mountain range or two separating them from any tides, schools in the area have shut down already.  My brother is a teacher.  He is contemplating a week, possibly, without school, if things go as are expected, and plans on cooking.  A lot.  This recipe is for him at his request.  If his electricity holds up, this is in his plans.

I made this last week on the day the cold front moved through Central Texas.  It's the perfect winter meal---it roasts in a somewhat low oven for 6 hours---6 wonderful hours of a meaty aroma and the warmth of an oven filling the house.  My favorite part of the recipe was the burnt pieces, which was my kids' least favorite so it worked out perfectly!  We turned these into sandwiches and may still turn them into tacos.  The only thing about this recipe is it takes some planning ahead.  The meat should cure for 12 - 24 hours before you begin roasting.

This serves a lot of people and makes around 2 1/2 lbs of meat when all is said and done.

Coffee-Cured Pulled Pork
from Food and Wine magazine

1/2 c sugar
1/4 c coarsely ground coffee
1/2 c kosher or sea salt (coarse grain)
4 lb bone-in pork butt (also known as a Boston Butt)
1/3 c molasses or sorghum
1/3 c apple cider vinegar

In a large bowl combine, sugar, coffee and salt.  Add the pork and rub the mixture all over.  Leave in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 12 - 24 hours.

After the pork has cured, rinse the pork well and set in a roasting pan.  Roast the pork, uncovered, in a preheated 300 degrees oven for 6 hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 200 degrees.  After the pork has roasted 2 hours, cover--either with foil or the lid of the roasting pan (if you have the roasting pan like I do).  Once the meat thermometer reads 200 degrees.  Remove the pork from oven and let rest for 30 minutes.

While the pork is resting (all that roasting was hard work, you know), boil the molasses and vinegar together in a small saucepan.  Simmer until it is slightly reduced, about 10 minutes.  While the sauce simmers increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees.  Pour the glaze over pork and roast for 15 minutes (or less).  Let cool, then shred the pork.  Serve on buns with barbecue sauce (I think I sweet sauce would be best).

**Note, you may have noticed that after the curing, no salt was added anywhere.  That's on purpose.  Taste your meat before adding more salt.  Otherwise, your pork will be way too salty.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Warm Quinoa Salad with Grilled Chicken

I am in love with quinoa.  Seriously.  I love how it "pops" when it cooks.  I could easily eat a bowl of quinoa just seasoned with a bit of salt.

My husband doesn't share my emotions.  He can handle eating it, but is never thrilled by it.  He endures it. That all changed with this dish.  Maybe it was the fact I hadn't cooked for him in over a week (he worked late....I was out of town....), but he loved it.  Maybe it was due to the fact it was a hot day and he had biked home (yes, a hot day in October--very common here in Austin).  Regardless the reason, I was thrilled to find a quinoa recipe he loved.

We're not going to talk about the kids.  I need to serve quinoa a dozen or so more times before they'll agree to eat it.  It took them forever to start eating brown rice.  Patience is required with my three (in so, so many things).  They ate the grilled chicken eagerly and then Madeleine made them an alternate meal (so much easier to handle them not eating my cooking when I don't have to make the alternate).

I'll make this again, especially in the middle of winter when we are inundated with carrots.  This could easily be made vegetarian by just serving the salad without the chicken (which is how I am eating it for lunch today!).

Warm Quinoa Salad with Grilled Chicken
adapted just a little bit from Food and Wine

1 c quinoa (red, black or regular--I use regular because it's $3 a pound cheaper)
2 c water
1/4 c pine nuts
3 T olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into half moons (quarter lengthwise if they are fat)
2 t ground cumin
1 T balsamic vinegar (or 1 T plus 1 t sherry vinegar)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1" cubes
2 T mint leaves, coarsely chopped

Put the quinoa in small saucepan and cover with water.  Add a generous pinch of salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a large skillet over moderate heat until fragrant.  Watch carefully and stir often to prevent burning.  Remove from the skillet and set aside.  Heat the olive oil in a skillet.  Add the onions and the garlic and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the carrots and cumin, cover and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes or until the carrots are just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes (you want them to still have a little crunch---not much, just not mushy carrots).  Stir in the quinoa and vinegar.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the carrots are cooking, drizzle the chicken with olive oil and thread onto skewers (5 for us since there are 5 of us in our family).  Season with salt and pepper.  Grill over moderately high heat until the chicken is cooked through and browned, turning a time or two, about 5 - 10 minutes depending on how hot and even your grill is.

Garnish the quinoa and carrots with the pine nuts and mint.  To serve, take a good sized serving of the quinoa and carrots.  Top with the grilled chicken.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Warm Arugula Chicken Salad

One of the first greens to show up in our fall CSA boxes is arugula.  Tender leaves, a bit peppery, grace our boxes, a respite from all the other summer produce I've long grown tired of.

I have two favorite websites to get recipes from these days (in addition to pinterest of course).  Farmhouse Delivery and The Year in Food never cease to awe and inspire me.  Farmhouse Delivery is a local blog based off of seasonal eating, so I don't have to search in summer recipes for our October produce.  A Year in Food just is beautiful.  Beautiful.

While this recipe originally was a warm chicken salad, I transformed it to a warm arugula salad when I discovered the chicken I had reheated for the salad was extremely freezer-burnt and I couldn't stand to eat it.  (True story).  Next time, I plan on trying this again with chicken, but preferably chicken that hasn't been frozen yet....maybe a nice leftover chicken recipe for a roasted or rotisserie chicken.  If you want to leave out the chicken to make this vegetarian, you can.  You'll just have a nice, not-warm arugula apple salad instead.

I didn't serve this to the kids.  Curtis and I polished this off nicely for a Saturday lunch all by ourselves.

This serves 2 as a main dish.

Warm Arugula Chicken Salad
from Farmhouse Table (Farmhouse Delivery)

leftover roast chicken, wrapped in foil and re-warmed at 350 (save juices and drippings) (optional)
1/2 bunch arugula, washed carefully, stems removed, and torn
1 apple, sliced as thinly as possible
2 -3 sweet peppers slivered (if you have other sweet peppers besides bell, definitely use those!)
2 T pine nuts, toasted

1 T rosemary, minced
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 T sherry vinegar
1 T whole grain mustard
1/2 c olive oil

Combine warm chicken (if using), arugula, apple, sweet peppers, and pine nuts in a large salad bowl or serving platter.  Place rosemary, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard and olive oil in a small glass jar and shake vigorously until oil appears to be mixed in.  Add the saved chicken juices/drippings (if using), and continue to shake.  Add half the dressing to the salad and toss well to combine.  Serve the reminder of dressing on the side (in case someone wants more dressing).

Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bun Chay

Alas that you think I am out of recipes with fish sauce, let me reassure you that I am not!  This has been another easy, go-to summer recipe.

Here in ATX  (also known as Austin, Texas), fall does not start just because a calendar says it should.  Instead, summer lingers...with temperatures in the 90's all through September and a few days in the 90's sprinkled into October as well.  Summer produce is still in full swing---with our CSA box being loaded with eggplant, peppers, summer squash, and zucchini.

Thus, I am still cooking summer recipes.  I love this salad, plus its low calorie and low fat, which is always a plus.  Just like the taco salad, the kids are a bit hesitant because of the all the lettuce, but they'll eat the noodles no problem.

This serves 4 - 6.

Bun Chay
adapted from

1 lb tofu, pressed to remove extra water (place under a weighted plate for 30 minutes)
1/2 lb dried rice sticks or vermicelli
head of Romaine lettuce  (3+ cups)
1 c cucumber, julienned
large handfuls of basil, mint, and cilantro, coarsely chopped

1/4 c fresh lime juice
1/4 c fish sauce or soy sauce (soy sauce will keep this recipe vegetarian/vegan)
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c water

1/4 c peanuts, chopped

Fry the tofu in a some vegetable oil heated in a large pan (you can either pan fry the tofu, using just a bit of oil or deep fry the tofu, using enough hot oil to cover the tofu).  Drain excess oil and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling water according to the package directions.  Drain and rinse under cold water, separating the strands.  Drain completely.

In a little jar, combine the lime juice, fish sauce (soy sauce), sugar, and water.  Shake vigorously to combine.

To assemble the salad, place the lettuce in a large bowl and sprinkle with the fresh herbs.  Toss with the cucumbers and tofu.  Top with noodles and cucumbers and gently toss.  Drizzle the salad with the sauce to taste.  Serve and sprinkle with chopped peanuts if desired.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Taco Salad

When I was 14, my family took a 6 week camping trip across the US in just a pop-up camper.  We started in Virginia, made it to Pasadena, CA then up to Victoria Island, Canada, Banff National Park (also in Canada) and eventually back to Virginia.  We camped at the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Yellowstone.  We threw snowballs in Oregon in the middle of July and hiked on a glacier at Banff.  We spent a sleepless night at Lake Meade, so hot, that we attempted to sleep on wet towels.  We stayed at Circus Circus in Las Vegas and extra night or so (because we couldn't stand to spend another night at Lake Meade).  We visited relatives in Kansas, California, and Wisconsin and saw moose, deer, elk, and other wildlife.

All this camping and traveling meant we ate lots of easy of meals at our campsite.  One of our standby's was taco salad.  Recently, I found a recipe for Taco Salad on  Reading the recipe brought back all sorts of crazy camping memories of playing cards at our campsite and listening to ranger talks.  I decided to make it.

This has quickly made it into our summer recipe rotation, especially when time was short for making supper.  I took the recipe that had been updated (with ground buffalo meat and black beans) and reverted to the old recipe that I grew up with.  Feel free to add buffalo or beef if you want, we do this one vegetarian.

The kids will eat this, although a bit begrudingly because of all the lettuce.  I'm going to keep making it though, surely someday they'll start eating lettuce, right?

This serves 4 - 6 depending on how big your head of Romaine is and how hungry your crowd is.

Taco Salad
adapted from

1 (15-oz) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 - 2 T chili powder (I use New Mexico blend, great flavor, not very spicy)
1 (8-oz) bottle fancier French Dressing or Roasted Bell Pepper Dressing (Brianna's or Annie's)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 head Romaine lettuce, washed, drained and chopped
1 c (4 oz) sharp Cheddar, grated
1 (2.25-oz) can sliced ripe black olives, drained
2 c tortilla chips, lightly crushed

In a small bowl, combine the beans, chili powder and a dash of salt.  Set aside.  Place the lettuce in a large salad bowl.  Gently toss in the tomatoes, grated cheese, drained olives, and seasoned beans.  Pour 3/4 of the dressing over the salad and toss.  Taste and add more dressing if you'd like (we do).  Top with crushed tortilla chips toss just a bit, and serve.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Favorite Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

By the time this posts, it will be October.  October is fall at it's fullest, I think.  It's the month of Halloween, the first frosts in Northern vicinities, anticipating cool fronts in all vicinities and winter squash.  The name of this recipe is a bit inaccurate--in fact, there is no pumpkin in these whoopie pies.  How exciting does butternut squash or kabocha squash whoopie pies sound though?  There is no warm, cozy feeling emitted with either of those titles.  So although, no pumpkins were harmed in the cooking of this recipe, I am leaving the title as is.

Last year when I made my old pumpkin whoopie pie recipe, I was a bit disappointed.  It could be better, I felt, much better.  This year, after I had cooked down four smallish butternut squash I searched for a new recipe.

I love this recipe.  It has twice as much squash as my old recipe and fewer spices.  That's a good thing.  The flavor is better because of it.

This will make 2 dozen or so appropriately sized whoopie pies.  I know, that's not enough.  Just go ahead and double this recipe when you make it.  They freeze fabulously--just thaw a bit before eating.

Favorite Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
adapted from and Martha Stewart (maybe)

3 c flour
2 T cinnamon
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 t ground ginger
a dash of freshly grated nutmeg (or 1/2 t ground nutmeg)
1 c sugar
1 c dark brown sugar
1 c canola oil
3 c chilled butternut squash, kabocha squash, or pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin)
2 eggs
1 t vanilla

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 c butter, at room temperature
3 c powdered sugar
dash of freshly grated nutmeg
1 t vanilla

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, and nutmeg.  In a separate large bowl, beat with an electric mixer the sugars and the oil, until well combined.  Add the pumpkin and continue to beat until to combine thoroughly.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat some more.  Gradually add the flour mixture and beat gently until combined.  Using a small ice cream scoop, drop rounded heaping tablespoons of dough onto baking sheets.  Bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 12 or so minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centers come out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool completely on the racks.

Meanwhile, make the icing.  Beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add the powdered sugar and continue to beat until the icing is lump free.  Stir in the nutmeg and vanilla to combine.

To assemble the whoopie pies, pair the cooled cakes together, looking for cakes that are similar in size. Top on flat side of the cake with icing.  Top with the other cookie, flat side down against the icing.