Grilled Asparagus

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Last month for my birthday Jeff gave me the Toro Bravo cookbook. It’s an awesome book with lots of background stories told by John Gorham, creator of Toro Bravo, Tasty N Sons, and so much more here. He’s had a pretty interesting life and I read it cover to cover, which I normally don’t do with a cookbook. But he’s funny and talks about all the challenges of starting and running a restaurant. Within the first year, the Toro Bravo restaurant had a flood, a fire, and a burglary! So much drama. Anyways, I came across this recipe and it sounded good, plus I was able to use some of my Preserved Lemons. I always get excited when I can use them, and this is a staple in the Toro Bravo kitchen. If you are ever in Portland, this restaurant is a must. The food is spectacular, so much flavor and depth. It’s Spanish tapas style servings shared for the table, it’s fun to get dish after dish after dish, and just when you think you’ve had enough, one more.

This recipe has a lot of bold flavors, with preserved lemon, olives, pepper and Jamón. What the heck is Jamón? It’s a cured Spanish ham, it has intense flavor and it’s used sparingly in this dish. It’s also very expensive and I had to really dig to find this in the store, it was about $10 for 2 ounces. If you can’t find it you could substitute with bacon or even pepperoni, Jamón has that same intense flavor. Oh, here it is on Amazon if you want to splurge but I don’t think it’s necessary for the dish.

The asparagus is blanched before grilling which I recommend doing. I’ve grilled asparagus without blanching and get mixed results. The tips burn while the stalk is barely cooked. By blanching you only need to grill for a few minutes to get them charred and your done. 

Below is a half version of the recipe (a lot of the recipes are for huge portions!). This is a good side dish, or tapas dish for about 3-4 people. If you have a 6-8 just double up the recipe.

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Grilled Asparagus

  • 1 lb Asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon + 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 slices Jamón, very finely julienned
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 Preserved lemon, pulp removed, skin julienned
  • 1 1/2 Calabrian chilis (or a few Mama Lil’s peppers)
  • 1/4 cup Marinated Olives

Start you grill. 

Snap each asparagus spear at the spot where it stops being woody and gets soft. Discard the woody parts. Peel the skin away from the lower part of the remaining asparagus. You want to peel about 1 1/2” of the bottom of your asparagus. 

Bring a gallon of water to a boil with 1/3 cup salt (this was for the original recipe which I’ve halved so you might not need this much water for 1 pound of asparagus). Once the water is boiling add the asparagus and boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on the size. Remove the asparagus to a plate and let it cool.

In a medium saute pan over med-high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and Jamón and cook, stirring constantly until nicely crisped, about 1 minute. Strain and discard the oil and set the Jamón aside. (as the Jamón sits it gets crisper)

Dry the asparagus, season with olive oil, salt and pepper, toss to coat.

Grill the asparagus until nicely charred, 3-4 minutes, and remove to a plate and set aside.

Put the butter in a medium saute pan and let it just get to browning, then add the preserved lemon skin and give the pan a good couple shakes. One the lemon turns a little white, and is starting to get crispy, after about 1-2 minutes, add the chilies, then the olives and give the pan another good shake. Stir and allow the mix to bloom for about 20 seconds.

Add the Jamón, shake and top the asparagus with the mix. Serve immediately.

Preserved Lemon + Herb Focaccia

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And I’m back with a Preserved Lemon recipe! You might remember I preserved lemons in April and wanted to follow up with some ideas on how to use them. I’ve since added them to dishes like rice salad and they really add some great flavor. The lemons are super salty (even after rinsing) which makes me think I might have used too much salt, so something to keep in mind for next time. I got the idea for this Focaccia bread not too long ago. The bakery at my local grocery store makes this and wow, it’s incredible. It’s very flavorful, you can eat it on its own or with pasta or salad. For this recipe I used dried oregano, I wished I had used more so that it would look a little more “herby” for the photos.

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Preserved Lemon + Herb Focaccia

  • 2 cups warm water (105°-110°F)
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • olive oil
  • Oregano (fresh or dried)
  • 2 preserved lemons, rinsed, rinds chopped
  • kosher or sea salt for sprinkling over the top

 

Preheat oven to 425°F

Put the yeast in a stand mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook. Pour in the warm water. Add the salt and 2 cups of the flour, mix into a soft and sticky dough. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour and mix well. (The dough will be sticky)

In a large bowl add olive oil, enough to cover interior of bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and cover the dough with some olive oil. Cover and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place.

Press out the dough on a well oiled baking sheet. Using your fingers, shape into a rectangle approximately 9”x13”.

Add olive oil to the top of the dough, poking the bread surface and leaving little pools of oil. Do this all over the bread. Don't skimp; this will result in great flavor after the bread is baked.

Top with the preserved lemon and oregano and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden.

 

Adapted from The View from Great Island

Smoked Pork Tacos

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You might remember last year we purchased a smoker grill after the bacon making class. Since then we’ve used it for chicken and vegetables, but this is the first time trying a slow smoked pork shoulder. The Kamado ceramic style smoker grill we have is difficult for low and slow cooking, but we do it anyway. The pork should be cooked around 225°F, and we did all we could to keep the temperature below 300°F. Our 7 lb pork shoulder was done in 6 hours, and it really should have taken 7-10 hours. Regardless it tasted amazing. Below is the Bobby Flay recipe I used. I didn’t make the slaw he suggested but I’ve included it below, so I can’t really comment on the taste for that. The slaw I made was pretty simple: shredded cabbage, lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, chopped jalapeño and salt. The longer you let it sit the better it tastes. Well that was our Cinco De Mayo last weekend, these tacos and margaritas! The pork tastes awesome and I would recommend this recipe. :)

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Slow Smoked Pork Shoulder with Napa Cabbage Slaw and Queso Fresco

Smoked Pork Shoulder

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 2 heaping tablespoons ancho chile powder
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 or 2 chipotle in adobo, finely chopped
  • 1 boneless pork shoulder (about 5 pounds)
  • Warm corn tortillas
  • Napa Cabbage Slaw, recipe follows
  • Hot sauce
  • Fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup crumbled queso fresco

Slaw

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 green onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 serrano chiles
  • 1 head Napa cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco

Special equipment: 2 cups wood chips (hickory or apple), soaked in water 30 minutes

Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the thyme, garlic, onions, ancho chile powder, brown sugar, cumin, coriander, orange juice, lime juice, 1/2 water and chipotle, and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool. Put the pork in a large pan and pour over the marinade. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the pork from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.

Preheat a charcoal grill for indirect heat and place the soaked wood chips on top of the coals.

Place the pork on the grill, cover and let smoke until the temperature inside the grill is 220 degrees F. Add chips as necessary to continue smoking until the internal temperature of the pork reaches140 degrees F. Then just let the pork finish cooking until the internal temperature reaches about 190 degrees F. This can take about 5 hours. Let the pork rest 30 minutes.

Shred the pork and serve in the warm tortillas topped with some Napa Cabbage Slaw, hot sauce, fresh cilantro leaves and queso fresco.

Napa Cabbage Slaw:

Whisk the mayonnaise, vinegar, oil and celery seeds until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the green onions and serrano chiles. Place the cabbage and carrots in a large bowl. Add the dressing and the queso fresco, and toss to combine.

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Preserved Lemons

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One night last week we walked over to Wilder for happy hour. One of the things we ordered was Fried Green Beans with spicy remoulade, and on top of the green beans laid a few slices of fried Preserved Lemons, and, wow, that’s what got me wanting to make them. The flavor is intense! Super rich lemony flavor, and not tart, they’re really amazing. Eating them on their own is a bit much, even when fried like french fries, so they’re mostly used to enhance flavors in salads, tabouli or fish.

I’m looking forward to using these in the next few weeks (they need to sit for 3-4 weeks, most people say 4 weeks) I’m going with the most basic recipe here. I’ve seen other recipes that add sugar, sometimes fresh herb or peppercorns. And from what I’ve read they will last a very long time refrigerated, some say a year, some say forever! But something tells me they won’t sit forever in the fridge. A couple things to keep in mind:

Salt. I did a little research on what kind of salt to use. I have Morton kosher salt and Mrs. Wages Pickling Salt, and everyone seems to say to use a kosher salt or any salt free of iodine, which can inhibit fermentation, so you won’t want to use basic table salt. I went with Mrs. Wages pickling salt since I still have quite a bit left from my pickling adventures. Also, the amount of salt? I’ve seen anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1 cup for a one quart jar. I ended up using 1/2 cup and I think a lot depends on the kind of salt you use, kosher is more granular so you would probably want to use more of that than pickling or a finer salt. 

Lemons. Many people recommend Meyer lemons, but you can use any kind of lemon, I would recommend using organic since you’ll be eating the peel. I used six large lemons, four for preserving in jar and two for additional juice.

See you in a few weeks with maybe a Moroccan dish! I’m looking forward to it.

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Preserved Lemons

  • 6 large Organic Lemons (or 8-9 Meyer Lemons)
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt (see notes above)

Sterilize a 1 quart canning jar. Fill jar with boiling water and let sit at least 10 minutes, then discard water. 

Trim the ends off lemons then slice the lemons into quarters.

Add 1/4 cup of salt to bottom of jar, add 2 or 3 slices of lemon, mash them with wooden spoon until they become soft and release their juice. Add a teaspoon or two of salt and then add more lemons, then more salt. Continue adding lemons, mashing and salting until jar is full. Top with more lemon juice if needed.

Ferment at room temperature for a couple days, giving the jar a shake here and there. Then refrigerate. In a few days, the salt will draw out enough juice to cover the lemons, add more lemon juice if needed. They will be ready to use in 3 to 4 weeks. They can be kept refrigerated up to 1 year.

Dill Rye Bread

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It’s strange. I forgot that I had wanted to make this bread back in late January and just now found the text doc I started, which was a week before my mother became ill with pneumonia. I was writing about this bread, how she discovered it on a trip to California in the 1970s and brought back a loaf in her suitcase. It wasn’t something she could find in Connecticut and really loved it. The words I wrote just a few weeks ago couldn't possibly express the emotions that I feel now that she’s gone. 

I’m going through a lot of… I should have called her more, I should have visited her more, and just missing her so much. While I’m experiencing the sadness of losing her, it’s left me with a greater appreciation for family and friends, and life in general. This post is for my sweet Mom who introduced me to Dill Rye Bread.

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Dill Rye Bread

  • 8 oz rye flour (2 cups)
  • 12 oz all-purpose flour (almost 3 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant (rapid-rise) yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 15 oz water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dry dill weed

In a large bowl combine flours, yeast, salt, dill and caraway seeds. Add water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with towel and let rest about 15 minutes.

Place the dough in a cast-iron loaf pan, cover with a cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. 

Preheat oven to 450°F. Score the dough down the middle. Bake about 45 minutes until loaf is browned and internal temp reaches 190°F. Cool on a rack about an hour before slicing.

While looking for ideas for an open faced sandwich with rye bread I came across the Danish Smorrebrod here. Pictured above, I layered the rye slices with creme fraiche, smoked salmon, sliced cucumber and fresh dill. It tastes amazing on this bread.

Sous Vide Egg Bites

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“Oh no! Not another kitchen gadget!” That was my response when Jeff suggested we get a Sous Vide. But the more I read about it the more I wanted it. The Egg Bites were fun and easy to make, but where the Sous Vide really excels is for cooking chicken breasts. Because of the precise temperature control the meat will cook remarkably consistent. And it’s also good for cooking steak followed by a quick sear. When I was researching what to make with the Sous Vide I came across this recipe for Egg Bites, apparently made popular by Starbucks. This recipe is for 6 servings, so you can make ahead, refrigerate and reheat them. It looks a bit like a science-lab, and with food sealed you can’t smell anything cooking so it tends to not feel like cooking at all. But the results are impressive and it’s been a good addition to our kitchen. One note on the jars, you want to make sure they are loosely secured so a little air can release (or they will explode!), when you tighten the lid, loosen it then tighten lightly with two fingers. If the jars float and will not stay on the bottom you will have to fix the lids, once they are sealed properly you will see some air bubbles rising and they will stay on the bottom of your container. The final result is a perfectly creamy cooked egg dish, similar to baked eggs, but not one part of it is overcooked. 

Oh and I just came across this article about Sous Vide which is pretty silly about men trying to impress women with their mad cooking skills, more interesting comments on David Lebovitz Facebook post here, it’s not for everyone or for every type of cooking, but it really is amazing for certain things like meat. And Egg Bites too!

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Sous Vide Egg Bites

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 strips of bacon cooked, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Oven-dried tomatoes
  • Fresh basil (or any herb you like)
  • 6 four-ounce mason jars

Preheat water to 172°F

Butter mason jars and set aside. In a blender mix eggs and cream until combined. Use any variation of ingredients you like, I made three using cheese, oven dried tomatoes, basil, and three with Gruyere and bacon.

Place bacon, herbs, cheese in bottom of jars, pour egg mixture in each jar, top with a bit more cheese, loosely secure lids on jars, submerge in water (if the jars float the lids are on too tight, adjust and they should remain on bottom of container releasing air bubbles), cook for 90 minutes, remove from jars and serve or place in refrigerator for up to 1 week. 

Adapted from Anova

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Olive Tapenade

I heard a song the other day in the car, it was so cute, if a song can be cute, that I had to pull over and Shazam it. The song was We’re Going to Be Friends by The White Stripes, a band I’ve never heard of, but it’s what I’m listening to now while I’m trying to write about olives. We had a few neighbors over for a wine and cheese get together recently, we had some olives and a neighbor brought more, and so here I am making my first olive tapenade. It turned out really delicious. So much flavor! I excluded capers and anchovies from the original recipe because, yuck. I think what really makes the flavors work here are the Oven-Dried Tomatoes that I made last year, they held up remarkably well in the freezer. I would recommend adding those to this Tapenade. We make them every summer when the tomato plants are overflowing with tomatoes.

Olive Tapenade

  • 1 cup black olives, pitted
  • 1 cup green olives, pitted
  • 1/3 cup Dried Tomatoes with Herbs
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a food processor, combine all the ingredients except the olive oil. Using the pulse button, process until coarsely chopped and well blended. Continue to process, slowly adding the olive oil. Refrigerate in a covered container. Use as needed. Tapenade will keep up to 1 week, refrigerated, in a covered container.

Adapted from Epicurious - Wolfgang Puck

Green Bean Salad with Mustard Seeds and Tarragon

Green on green on green. We’ve been eating more vegetarian meals for dinner lately. Sometimes with fish, others just vegetables and quinoa or rice. It’s been a while since I’ve looked through Ottolenghi’s Plenty, and it wasn’t hard to find something new right away. The book is front to back vegetarian dishes with amazing flavors. This recipe caught my eye because of the tarragon, I have so much tarragon growing in the garden and I don’t use it as often as I like. It works great in this salad as lemon and tarragon are a perfect match. 

I skipped the nigella seeds because it sounded like one of those expensive exotic spices I might only use once. But who knows it might taste really good, people cannot even agree on what the flavor actually is. We had this last night over a bed of quinoa and a drizzle of sriracha, I skipped the red chile so this added some heat. I’ve tweaked a few things here but overall this is a great salad.

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Green Bean Salad with Mustard Seeds and Tarragon

  • 1 1/4 cups green beans, trimmed
  • 2 1/4 cups snow peas, trimmed
  • 1 3/4 cups green peas, (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 teaspoon coriander seeds, roughly crushed with mortar and pestle (or 3/4 teaspoon ground)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon nigella seeds (huh?)
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 mild fresh red chile, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup baby chard leaves or pea shoots

In a small bowl place the finely chopped red onion and add the sherry vinegar (enough to cover onions) and allow to sit for 30 minutes or so. When ready drain the onions.

Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Prepare a large bowl with water and ice. Blanch the green beans for 4 minutes, then remove and place in ice bath. Drain and dry. Then blanch the snow peas for 1 minute, place in ice bath then drain and dry. Blanch the peas for 20 seconds, refresh, drain and dry. Place all the beans and peas in a large bowl.

Put the coriander seeds, mustard seeds and oil in a small saucepan and heat up. When the seeds begin to pop (after a few minutes) pour the mixture over the vegetables. Toss together and add nigella seeds, red onion, chile, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest and tarragon. Mix well and season with salt to taste. Before serving fold in the chard leaves, or top with pea shoots, or both! 

Adapted from Plenty