• 05Jan

    I’ve been a bit obsessed with Mexico City recently following a trip in November. It’s pretty fantastic (if you can handle the smog  and speak at least a bit of Spanish) – great art, great culture, amazing food, etc. – I’m going back this month. But in the meantime, back up here in the cold, I wanted to bring myself  back to a bit of a warmer state of mind, and what better excuse to use everyone’s favorite  winter warmer, the slow cooker?

    So I decided to try a spin on a DF classic – al pastor. So I polled a couple Mexican friends  (ok, exactly two) for a recipe, and combining them got a semi-coherent list of ingredients
    with vague proportions. But it sounded good, and I’m not big on precise measurements anyhow.  Also note that al pastor is generally defined by use of the guajillo chili, which I didn’t
    have handy. I used chipotle. I also had no pineapple juice, so that got mucked about a bit,  and obviously I slow-cooked instead or spit-grilling.Tasty, not authentic

    You read the title, right?

    I also added the onion because I thought it seemed right. It was.

    I used:

    Product:

    • 2lbs pork butt country ribs, separated and stabbed repeatedly
    • 1/2 yellow onion, quartered
    • 11 oz cubed fresh pineapple

    Marinade:

    • 2 tbs achiote (anatto) seed, ground
    • 2 tbs ground chipotle
    • 1 tbs garlic powder
    • 1 tbs oregano
    • 1 tbs cumin
    • 1 tbs salt
    • 1 tbs pepper
    • 1c cider vinegar
    • 3/4c water
    • 1 tbs agave nectar

    Preparation is wonderfully simple: put all the ingredients in a glass or ceramic bowl, cover and marinate overnight. In the morning before leaving for work, I poured everything into my trusty slow cooker, and set it on low for 9.5 hours (its longest setting, just because it’s not like I was getting home in less than 11) . I arrived home that evening to a gorgeous aroma from the pot, now happily keeping things warm, from which I heaped lovely, fall-apart tender pork. It was truly delicious alone, but over some rice (I suspect hominy would be good too) it was really awesome.

    The cooked marinade, by the way, is a keeper: this may become a go-to barbecue sauce for me: transfer it to a saucepan and let reduce. Thicken with cornstarch or flour, and toss the pork back in, you could make tacos. I’m just sayin’.

    Buen provecho!

     – MAW

  • 20Sep

    We tested out Strong Fit Meals‘ menu last week, and were pleasantly surprised. With menus called the “Lean Menu” and “Clean Menu,” our fear was that we would be sacrificing flavor in a quest for healthy food.

    We tried 5 items from the Clean Menu and one from the Lean Menu. The meals we sampled from the Clean menu were the Chicken Satay, Salmon, Beef Burger, Chicken  Fajitas, and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers. From the Lean Menu, we were given the Chicken Breast.

    The meals were definitely better than expected (of healthy cuisine), and were fresh, with the absolute standouts being the Chicken Satay and the Chicken Fajitas (with Cilantro Rice), which were both delicious. I will say that if I had found the Chicken Satay in a store, I would have passed it up since it has P28 powder which does not sound like an appetizing (or necessary) ingredient. And, they could work on the flavor and texture of the pickled cucumbers that were packaged with that dish. The Beef Burger is more like meatloaf (hello egg whites!) but is good, as long as you skip the low sugar ketchup (ick). The Chicken Breast with Green Beans was nice as well.

    I think I overheated the Salmon, so won’t critique it. Stuffed Peppers aren’t my thing in general, so I’ll skip talking about them.

    The Lean menu consists of lean proteins such as Grilled Chicken Breast, Grilled Steak, Tilapia, Salmon, and Ground Turkey. When ordering from the Lean Menu, you can select from various vegetables and starches as sides. This week’s Clean Menu includes Spicy Plum Chicken, Blackened Chicken, Turkey Enchilada Bake, Swedish Meatballs, and Peanut Chicken.

    This is definitely a good service for someone who wants healthy well-packaged and home delivered (to DC, Bethesda or Virginia) meals. I can see people bringing these meals to work for lunch.

    -JAY

  • 27Jun

    Being a junkie for greens runs in my family, and my mother’s new garden plot has been churning out prodigious quantities this year – lacinato kale and rainbow chard, particularly. However, one thing that she does that drives me bonkers is that she trims and only eats the leafy bits – she wastes those lovely crunchy stems (ditto with beets, radishes and carrots – she never uses the greens)!! I’ve taken tons home from family dinners to use myself. I usually crisp-fry them or just add to other greens I’m making, but recently stumbled across this fantastic idea over on the Food52 blog – chard stem hummusHelping my mom cook the other night I couldn’t help but secretly smile as I berated her for again ‘wasting’ the lovely chard stems and beet greens (we made a raw chard salad with fresh lemon and crispy onions, roasted beets, and prosciutto-wrapped halibut). I was taking all those lovelies home, and I had plans for them.

    Being me, of course, I couldn’t possibly follow the recipe exactly. I used:20150627_122124

    • 100 grams chopped chard stems
    • 100 grams chopped beet stems
    • 2oz (1/4 cup) tahini
    • 2oz (1/4 cup) olive oil
    • 2 tbs. fresh lime juice
    • 4 cloves garlic

    First, I washed and chopped the stems, and threw them in a pot of about 4 cups boiling water, to which I also added a tablespoon of salt and half cup vinegar (doing this adds a bit of flavor and improves the texture of the greens for blending). While boiling, I smashed and peeled the garlic, and measured everything else into my blender. After 15 minutes, my stems were soft, and I strained them into the blender, adding about a tablespoon of the liquid to pull in more flavor. I blended it until not-exactly-smooth to yield the comedically pink condiment you see at right.

    How’s it taste, you ask? It’s good. Really good.  Can-I-fit-my-whole-head-in-the-blender-to-lick-it-clean? good. And that’s just the ‘base’ version – I’ve played with is a bit, adding sumac, cayenne, cumin, and in one attempt flax seeds, all of which can dramatically change the flavor to fit whatever dish you’re pairing with the hummus.

    Enjoy!

    – MAW

  • 09Oct

    Being furloughed and not really having much in particular to do (but needing to save money!), I’ve been experimenting with African cuisine, particularly soups and stews, and even more particularly rekindling my love of (a) couscous and (b) fufu.

    What follows is my favorite concoction so far, a hybrid recipe using ideas from a few places – mostly from The African Food Joint, Serious Eats, and Leslie Cerier. Being me I couldn’t be bothered to follow any of the recipes exactly, but the result was sufficiently delicious (if not all that authentic), to make it very worth sharing.

    Vegetable StewI used:

    •  2 cups cherry tomatoes
    • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
    • 1 Scotch bonnet Pepper, seeded and minced
    • 1 large Yam (the purple kind with white flesh), cubed
    • ½ cup raisins
    • 1 can Garbanzo Beans
    • 4 cups kale, chopped
    • 6 small garlic cloves, finely diced
    • 1 Cinnamon stick
    • 1 tablespoon Sesame oil
    • 4 cups Chicken Stock
    • Salt, pepper, cayenne to taste

    What I did:

    •  In a large pot (I used an aluminum stock pot), add the tomatoes, onion, 3 cloves of garlic, and Scotch bonnet and toss with the oil over high heat, just until it starts to get fragrant.
    •  Add 1 cup of stock and bring to a boil for about 2 minutes, then blend using your hand blender.
    •  Add your remaining stock and bring back to a boil, adding your yams and cinnamon stick. Boil on high heat for about 5 minutes. Now lower heat to simmer, cover the pot, and leave for about 15 minutes.
    •  Next, add your chickpeas, up the heat to medium, and taste/adjust heat level using cayenne. Stir in your kale and remaining garlic, cooking a few minutes till the kale is done.
    •  Season with salt, black pepper, and more cayenne if needed.

    The first night I made this, I made fufu as described in the African Food Joint recipe, except I made quenelles out of it which I then fried in butter, because I just got back from France, but it goes well with the more traditional fufu, and couscous too. If I were going to adjust this recipe next time, I’d again call out to my French culinary habits and add in some cream in the second step (the blending), and maybe use a second Scotch bonnet as opposed to extra cayenne. That said, I’m going to happily keep eating this batch till it’s gone!

     – MAW

  • 19Aug

    I’m on a protein kick – I’ve been going for over 100g/day which, unless you’re willing to suffer masses of artificially-flavored shakes and supplements, can be a challenge. I also avoid processed foods, so I have learned to be pretty handy with shrimp and quinoa. This is one of my favorites.

    Gambas!You’ll need:

    • About 20 shrimp
    • 3 cloves of garlic, diced.
    • A mix of about 2.5 tablespoons of fresh ground black pepper with about 1/2 tablespoon salt. Grind in a few sichuan peppercorns too for a nice extra somethin’-somethin’.
    • 1/4 cup lemon juice
    • Olive Oil
    • Quinoa

    I use frozen cleaned shrimp because I’m lazy. Fresh would make this even more awesome.

    So, get your quinoa cooking as you do. While that cooks, saute your garlic in olive oil. Toss in the shrimp (at room temperature), and stir in about half of the pepper/salt mix. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the shrimp are almost done. At that point, stir in the rest of the salt and pepper.

    When the shrimp are fully cooked, remove them to your serving dish and deglaze the pan with some more oil and the lemon juice. When it’s reduced halfway, and you’ve got all the good charred pepper and garlic crust re-emulsified into a sauce, pour that directly over the shrimp and quinoa. A parsley garnish is a nice touch if you’re feeling fancy.

    And here’s your dinner – bloody good, pretty quick, and full of protein!

    -MAW

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