Linguine with Fresh Spinach, Red Pepper, and Lemon

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I love going to the grocery store; I do it several times a week, if only for a few things. I know, I know, it is poor planning on my part, but I enjoy weaving through the aisles, checking out new and interesting ingredients I may have missed during my previous visit. I recall going to the grocery store with my dad when I was small. He would take a list with everything we needed but inevitably, we’d return home with something he wanted. I remember riding in the cart or walking alongside my dad down every aisle in the grocery store. He’d take his time, selecting a bottle of this, or a jar of that, turning it over in his hands, considering its use, before returning it to the shelf or placing it in our cart. Mom never really knew what he’d bring home. Sometimes it was a jar of pickled herring, sometimes it was a new mustard, and sometimes it was a package of cookies he’d open on the drive home for the two of us to sample.

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Ginger-Basil Chicken Thighs with Green Tomato

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I’ve professed my love for The Kitchn many times on this blog, but this time, it’s serious.  We have a tomato explosion in our garden this year, and as I was staring out my office window and all of the lovely green beauties hanging on their vines, I happened to stumble upon this delightful recipe.  It’s also culinary bonus when I find that I have all the ingredients on hand necessary to complete the dish!

In general, I try to avoid using my oven too much during the summer.  But when zucchini abound, I bake zucchini bread.  When peaches are in season, I bake peach pie.  And when a roasted chicken and tomato dish like this comes along, I do not hesitate to turn on my oven.  It’s that good.

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One of my favorite flavor combinations is ginger and garlic.  The addition of fresh basil from my garden elevated this dish and offered a summery depth of flavor that went perfectly with the green tomatoes.

The original recipe called for Sherry, but I was out, so I used Shaohsing rice cooking wine instead.  You should be able to find it at any Asian market and often in the “international” aisle of your local grocery store.

I also added a little fish sauce and some chopped scallions to round it all off.  The whole dish came together so quickly, which was perfect for a summer night.

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All the ingredients go in the same roasting dish!  So easy!

I chose to pair this with steamed jasmine rice sprinkled with a little rice vinegar.  Roasting the green tomatoes made them slightly sweeter, but they still retained a little sour bite, which went really well with the juicy chicken thighs.  Give this dish a try and let me know how you like it!  Enjoy!

Ginger-Basil Chicken Thighs with Green Tomato
Adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients:

1 large (or two medium) green tomatoes, cored, halved, and sliced 1/2 -inch thick
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Shaohsing rice cooking wine
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2-3 scallions, chopped
steamed jasmine rice sprinkled with rice vinegar (for serving)

Method:

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except 1 tablespoon basil and all the chopped scallions; stir to fully incorporate.

Turn out into a 9×13-inch roasting dish.  Roast until chicken is fully cooked and the tomatoes are softened, around 25 minutes.  Stir halfway through roasting time to make sure all chicken is cooked through.  Serve on steamed rice and garnish with remaining basil and chopped scallions.

 

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Roasted Carrot Soup

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The weather here in Omaha is on the fence.  It doesn’t know what it wants.  Sunny?  Overcast?  Chilly?  Rainy?  Make up your mind already and move on!  Yes, it is Spring, but my brain wants nonstop sunny weather.  Anyway, I woke up the other morning unsure of what to make for that night’s dinner.  I knew I had some things going on during the day, so standing over the stove for hours wasn’t an option.  I wanted something fresh, something Spring-like, something easy.

After my day’s activities, I stopped at the market.  Wandering around the produce section, I spotted some bright orange carrots.  They were exactly what the overcast day called for.  I thought, “Well, I could roast these and maybe have pork chops or something on the side.”  But I wanted to do something more with them.  Carrots are an under-utilized vegetable, if you ask me.  They have a natural sweetness that comes out during the roasting process, but I didn’t want to stop there.

Soup.  I came up with soup.  Sounds boring, right?  Or weird, maybe?  Well, you’d be wrong on both accounts.  This soup was easily one of the tastiest vegetable-centered dishes to come out of my kitchen.  I could hardly believe it!  Not that it was without faults, but those aside, it was hearty, spicy, a little sweet, and totally satisfying.

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This recipe was also just enough for Scott and I to have dinner and then leftovers the following day for lunch.  It reheated on the stove quite nicely and paired well with a sliced baguette and salted butter.

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Roasted Carrot Soup

**You’ll need an immersion blender or regular blender for this soup.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 – 2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds or half-moons
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
cracked black pepper
kosher salt
1 leek, white and light green parts only, sliced lengthwise and then into half-moons
3 large shallots, chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons ginger paste
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake (adjust if you like it a little spicier)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 quart chicken stock (use vegetable stock if you want to go vegetarian)

Method:

Heat oven to 400ºF.  Place carrots in a medium bowl and drizzle evenly with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Sprinkle with cracked black pepper and kosher salt.  Toss with your hands so the carrots are evenly coated and turn out onto a large rimmed baking sheet.  Roast for 25 to 30 minutes or until tender.  Remove from oven and set aside.

When carrots are done, heat remaining 1 tablespoon in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Add shallots and leek to pan, sprinkle with kosher salt and cracked black pepper and sauté until tender, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring often.  Be mindful not to burn the shallots and leeks, adjust heat if necessary.

Add minced garlic and ginger paste, stir well.  Sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in crushed red pepper flake, ground cumin, and ground coriander and stir until fragrant.  Add sherry vinegar and honey, stir into mixture.  Add roasted carrots and chicken stock.

Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and allow it to simmer for at least 15 minutes.  Use an immersion blender or regular blender to purée.  Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil.  A dollop of crème fraîche or some chopped fresh cilantro would be lovely, as well.

 

 


Pernil (Puerto Rican Roast Pork)

“Less cake, more meat!”

This was the single comment left on my last post.  The post about cake.  I know I post a lot about desserts.  I know this.

As I was writing, this song happened to pop up.  It seems fitting, no?  The great Dizzy Gillespie had it right:  Hey Pete! Let’s Eat More Meat!

So, this post is about meat.  Pork, more specifically.  A few months ago, I drove with my friend Sarah, to a heritage breed hog farm about 75 miles straight south of Omaha.  It’s called TD Niche Pork, and it’s run by a lifelong hog farmer named Travis Dunekacke.  After our visit, Sarah and I decided we’d go in on a hog together.  We each ended up with a quarter of Berkshire Hog #50.

Let me tell you.  There was something strange and equally delicious about having 45 pounds of pork in our deep freezer.  Chops, roasts, bacon, ham steaks, hocks, and even the heart, were tucked neatly in a box and placed with love in our freezer.  That was July, and our stash is dwindling.  Without a doubt, sustainably-raised (and local) pork has a much richer flavor than anything you can get at the grocery store.  I’m on a mission to convert those that have yet to taste the true pork flavor of a happy hog.

Just look at it.  How lovely is that, right?

With this gorgeous 3-pound pork shoulder, I wanted to make sure it had tons of flavor, and I wanted to do something relatively simple with it.  I chose to slather it in garlic, adobo seasoning, and oregano and roast it in the oven for a couple of hours.

The dish is traditionally called Pernil, and it comes from Puerto Rico.  And it was absolutely delicious.  Seriously delicious.  And it made our house smell amazing.

This was the result of two hours in the oven (I apologize for the poor quality of the photo).  It was perfectly cooked and was so tender and juicy.  I chose to chop it up and make small tacos with a red cabbage slaw on top.  I served them with a side of spicy black beans.  Yum.  I plan to use the leftover pork in a chili.  Oh my, I can only imagine how tasty that will be!

Pernil (Puerto Rican Roast Pork)

Ingredients:

One 3-pound, bone-in pork shoulder
4-5 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon adobo seasoning
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Method:

Using a small knife, pierce the pork shoulder in several places, making sure not to go too deep with the knife, maybe 1 or 1 1/2 inches in depth.  Place on plate or synthetic cutting board.

Smash garlic cloves and mince finely.  Sprinkle salt, oregano, and black pepper over the garlic.  Using the flat side of your knife, mash the ingredients into a paste.  If you’re uncomfortable with this method, you can use a food processor or mortar and pestle instead.

In a small bowl, combine the adobo seasoning, olive oil, and white wine vinegar.  Add the garlic/oregano mixture, and stir to combine.

Making sure to get mixture into the slits in the pork, slather the garlic mixture all over.  Wrap the pork shoulder in plastic cling film and place in refrigerator to marinate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

Allow meat to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to cooking.  Preheat oven to 325ºF.

Unwrap pork and place, fat side up, in roasting pan fitted with a rack insert.

Roast for at least 2 hours, uncovered.  At that point, using an instant-read thermometer, check the pork.  A thermometer inserted into the center of the pork should read 180ºF.  If not, leave in the oven for another 30 minutes or so.

If your pork is at the correct temperature, remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Slice and serve with your favorite side dish, or chop up, squeeze a little lime over it and serve in corn tortillas with slaw and black beans.