Monthly Archives: July 2014

PERNIL BORINQUEN…A SLOW COOKED PUERTO RICAN PORK ROAST

PERNIL BORINQUEN…A SLOW COOKED PUERTO RICAN PORK ROAST

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If you are a PORK lover this is your ticket to Nirvana.  I am a Pork lover and the best treats for me are always the long roasted versions, like our American style BBQ smoked Ribs, the Italian Porchetta, Pulled Pork, and what I consider the best of them all, the Spanish influenced Roast Pork Shoulder, in particular the one made by the Puerto Ricans called PERNIL.  Other Hispanic cultures use the same term for it but each culture, from Filipino to Dominican, Mexican to Venezuelan to Hawaiian Kalua pig , they all rub the meat down in a mixture of salt, pepper, Abodo seasonings, and lots of garlic.  The Borinquen( Puerto Rican) version contains my favorite condiment Vinegar.

This tough and fatty piece of meat is broken down by the slow oven roasting and flavored from within by piercing the roast with a long knife in various places and pressing into the holes what is known as “ADOBO MOJADO”, or wet adobo, a paste of fresh garlic, dried oregano, black pepper, kosher salt, olive oil and vinegar. 004

Wow. Between the self basting of this piece of meat and all the internal flavors you infused it with, it breaks down into a pulled pork -like consistency and is served with rice and/or beans.  Heaven.  Muy bueno!  Make your Adobo first.  No clear cut recipe for this, just the same ingredients all the time…family to family this mix may have a little more of this or that…for a 4 lb Picnic cut pork shoulder (1/2 it’s normal size) make a paste of 4 sliced garlic cloves, 1 1/2 tsp. of dried oregano, 1 tsp. of kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. of ground black pepper; 4 tbs. of olive oil and 3 tsp. of red wine vinegar. Mash together in a mortar and pestle, best implement for this as it does a better job at re- leasing the oils in the oregano and garlic..if you dont have one a quick pulsing in a food processor will do it.  Rinse off the pork roast and pat dry with paper towels.  With a long sharp knife blade pierce the thick skin all the way through to the inside of the roast in at least 10 spots.  If the pork skin is too hard for your knife PLEASE don’t force it, instead, pierce the meat side in the same manner.  Into each of the holes with your finger add the paste in all the holes until you’ve almost used it up.  Rub what’s left over the whole roast, then salt, pepper, granulated garlic and oregano gets sprinkled all over the roast.  Pour 1/8 cup of vinegar over the roast after you placed it into a roasting pan.  Cover and let sit in your fridge for up to 2 hours.

Be generous with the salt and pepper! For the novice to the cut known as the Picnic Roast…it’s one of the most unadulterrated butcher items left…the thick pigskin is still attached…this will crisp up and roast to become another Puerto Rican treat known as the CHICHARRON, or crackling…It’s KEY to this roasts unctuous quality.  Do not remove until after cooking.  Then, for the heartier pork lovers in the house, this will be like dying and going to porcine heaven.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  When it’s at temperature add the roast, uncovered. and let it cook for at least 1 hour.  Then add 1 cup of 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar to the pan,2 bay leaves, lower the temperature to 375 and roast for 2 hours.  If the roast starts to blacken at all towards the end of the 2hour time, cover with foil.   The key to this dish, besides the cut of pork and ingredients, is that the meat pulls apart, you should be able to shred it. To test, take 2 forks and see if you can easily pry the meat from the bone.  If you can’t, roast uncovered for additional 20 minutes.  When it’s at that point, let it rest for at least 15 minutes.

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Then pull all the meat apart, re- moving any visible fat pieces.  Pry the top skin off and discard all the white fat between the skin and the meat.  Mix the shredded meat with the meat juices and cover, heat in oven for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves.  Serves 5-6.  Works best with yellow rice (Arroz Amarillo), or rice and beans.  Something to make when you have the time, a lazy day in the house.  The flavor is sutble and strong at the same time (makes no sense, does that?) but you will know what I mean when you eat it.

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MUSSELS WITH SOUTH AFRICAN STYLE LEMON BUTTER SAUCE

0002  Lemony bright, creamy and buttery without being heavy this recipe idea I am happily bringing home to you from my recent trip to South Africa.  These are my favorite souvenirs, the food idea ones that allow me to via my kitchen table transport us back to a place where we really enjoyed ourselves relaxing.  I love my home but it’s much work and it’s not a vacation.  Two weeks ago I was introduced to this sauce during our travels and in South Africa it is served along with Piri-Piri (an African/Portuguese chile sauce) and Garlic Butter Sauce with all of their grilled and steamed seafood dishes.  A plate of shellfish or fish was always accompanied by 3 small pitchers or ramekins of these sauces.165994_3211681293308_1441686714_n (1) That awesome platter was local mussels, Prince Prawns from Mozambique (right up the coast from South Africa) and Patagonian Calamari (WOW, thicker than our Atlantic and Mediterranean types but as soft as butter, amazing), a scoop of rice with peppers and onions and the three sauces.  This meal was had at the TWO OCEANS RESTAURANT where we had spectacular views of the tip of Africa (Cape of Good Hope) where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans converge.  Top lifetime dining experiences, even if the food sucked it would have been amazing but the food rocked our world and so it was just the best, as was the whole trip.  Wild baboons completed the whole experience as they romped outside of the restaurant and around our parked cars.  It was on this wonderful vacation that my oldest daughter decided the seafood looked just too good (maybe it was the surroundings that helped influence her) and she asked to try the mussels in the LEMON BUTTER SAUCE.  One taste and she was hooked.  Seriously, HOW COULD YOU NOT BE???  Yes a simple butter, lemon and cream sauce is addictive enough that less than a week after getting home A FOOD OBSESSION (me) had to try the recipe out in our home kitchen (the AFO KITCHEN).

Online I found a recipe from the OCEAN BASKET, which I’ll say is the South African equivalent of the U.S. chain Red Lobster with a very big difference, the seafood was AMAZING at the Ocean Basket.  These were not farm raised preservative shot-up shrimp, these were fresh then probably frozen prawns, split with their heads and shells still attached for grilling.  Superior seafood.   Anyhow it’s very hard to contain my excitement for this trip and most of the food I ate/encountered so this will be the first of many home experiments I will share with you based on the trip.

Here’s the sauce:

Prep Time: Cook Time: Serves:
0 15minutes 4

This rich, creamy lemon sauce is delicious served with fish. You can also add other spices to it for extra flavour such as garlic or mixed fish spice.

Ingredients

125ml (1/2 cup) thickened cream
20g butter (if you are using unsalted butter, add salt to taste)
1 1/2 tablespoons (30ml) fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Method
Step 1

Heat cream to just below boiling point, do not boil

Step 2

Add butter, lemon juice and parsley and stir until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.

Step 3

If the sauce is a little thin, simmer, stirring constantly, until it reaches the desired consistency.

Step 4

If the sauce is too thick and/or separated, add a little water (one teaspoon at a time) and stir or whisk vigorously until sauce is fixed. Serve immediately.

A PESTO MADE WITH SUN DRIED TOMATO AND SEASONAL BASIL, BLACK OLIVES

387295_2248118564842_1304531591_31903770_900548458_n   Basil is a wonderful herb which is very much at home with tomatoes either fresh or preserved.  One of the most popular ways of tomato preservation is the sun dried version.  Careful, some versions are better than others.  The hard as a rock type are not my go-to, i like the ones that are still somewhat soft or packed in Olive Oil.  While your basil is flourishing in your garden try this “Condimento” on your next pasta dish, Sun Dried Tomato, Basil, and Black Olive Pesto.

for 4 people (1 lb of cooked pasta)…takes 10 minutes to prepare…then needs to “cure” for at least 3 hours at room temperature.

1 cup packed rinsed FRESH (see that, dried basil has no place in this recipe)BASIL LEAVES

1/8 cup toasted PIGNOLI

1/4 cup EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1/4 cup SUN DRIED TOMATOES (if using Olive Oil packed, drain and reserve that oil, use it in the recipe, but only if it’s OLIVE OIL)

1 clove GARLIC

1/2 cup GRATED PECORINO ROMANO (i find Pecorino is better with the strong flavored Tomatoes and Olives than Parmigiano)

1/8 cup pitted CURED BLACK OLIVES

1 tbs. RED WINE VINEGAR

1 lb PASTA cooked Al DENTE, my preference? glad you asked…CAVATAPPI, those long corkscrews with a hole down the center..

KOSHER or SEA SALT, PEPPER to taste

1 cup whole milk RICOTTA

Using a food processor add all the ingredients except the Oil and Vinegar, salt and pepper, just until everything is chopped up.  Then with the machine running add the vinegar and oil. When it’s smooth stop.  Taste.  Add salt and pepper to season at that point, again, with all that Pecorino which is slightly salty you want to make sure you do not over salt the pesto.

Let this sit for up to 3 hours. Why?  You are using a dehydrated food..it will need time to “bloom” with it’s flavors.  I know, excessive foodie blogger speak, sometimes it’s necessary. In non-foodie speak the locked in flavors of dried foods need to be awakened and letting the pesto sit for a while will do that.  Do not refrigerate it at this point.

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When the pesto is ready cook the pasta, drain, lightly drizzle it with olive oil and a grating of Pecorino Romano, then mix in the Pesto.  When fully mixed in let it sit for about 5 minutes then serve.  Piping hot food many times keeps you from savoring the flavors.

Serve the pasta with a scoop of ricotta on the side.  Very tasty!!

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WHITEBEANS SWEET CORN GREEN LENTIL SALAD

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Must share this salad I just had with you all because it was so delicious and fresh. Currently on a plane flying home from Cape Town South Africa on Etihad Airlines. This food was made in Abu Dhabi U AE and the freshness of the vegetables really came through. It’s a room temperature salad of white beans, green lentils, shallots, cilantro, olive oil , lime juice or vinegar , chopped chiles, sweet corn, chick peas, crushed cumin seeds. All the flavors of being in the Emirates and very bright and Summery. let’s cook!

For four people. Takes about 20 minutes then let it sit for at least 3 hours

1/2 cup sweet cooked corn
1/2 cup cooked green lentils. Drained
1/4 cup cooked chick peas drained
1/2 cup cooked white kidney beans(cannellini) drained
1 finely diced green chile no seeds
1 finely diced shallot
Salt.
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup lime juice or vinegar
2 tbs chopped cilantro or parsley or mint
1/2 tsp crushed cumin seeds or 1/4 tsp ground cumin

Whisk everything except the corn and beans and lentils together. Taste for seasoning. Add salt or more honey to your liking. Now add the rest of the ingredients. Blend well.
Let this sit for 3 hours covered at room temperature then serve. This goes great with grilled fish or seafood or meats and poultry or grilled vegetables.

BROCCOLI RABE ,SAUSAGE , And PASTA

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Some combinations are pure classics. There’s cookies and milk, peanut butter and jelly, Sonny and Cher ( did I just go there??) and tomato and mozzarella just to name a few. Let me add the very southern Italian combination of bitter earthy greens with sweet fennel sausage, garlic and oil mixed with pasta. It’s heaven. Something really wonderful happens when you mix them together. The origins of this dish lie somewhere in Puglia and Basilicata where the toothsome water and flour pastas are traditionally paired like cavatelli and orecchiette. Dried pastas work well also but most important is the shape. You want something that’s going to cup or grab onto the bits of rabe and sausage so stick with orecchiette, medium shells, cavatelli, garganelli(shown in this recipe), Cavatappi, pipette. Ready for a trip to Southern Italy? Ok. No passport necessary just a stove and a hungry group to feed and we will take them all to Puglia or Basilicata in Italy. Let’s cook!

Feeds 4-5. Time: about 45 minutes

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1 lb cavatelli or orecchiette or garganelli or pipette or medium shells or Cavatappi. Cooked to al dente according to the package instructions
1 lb sweet Italian fennel pork sausage out of the casings or if using Luganega ( thinner rope sausage) just cut into small pieces
1 lb chopped and blanched broccoli rabe.
3 cloves of garlic sliced
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp peperoncino
1/8 cup white wine
Kosher salt
Pecorino Romano grated
Half fresh lemon
After you’ve chopped and blanched the broccoli Rabe in salted water drain and reserve. Use that water to cook the pasta. Don’t let it go down the drain. Place a colander over a pot to collect the broccoli rabe infused water.
In a large wide pan add 1/2 the olive oil. Then the sausage and cook this whole moving it around the pan for at least 8 minutes. Now add the peperoncino and the garlic and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine, mix, then add the broccoli rabe and simmer until most of the liquid is gone and everything is soft and the sausage is cooked. Season with a little salt. Now add the drained pasta and mix well cook for 5 minutes on low. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and turn off the heat. Add 1/8 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Ricotta Salata cheese and mix. Squeeze the Lemon over the pasta and mix again. Serve with extra pecorino and peperoncino on the side. What a dish!!! For those who don’t care for the bitterness of broccoli rabe substitute Swiss chard or spinach or regular broccoli florets.

SIMPLE FOODS MAKE EXTRAORDINARY DISHES

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One of the pleasures of eating aside from it being necessary nourishment is the taste. Most foods are delicious. I will not bore you with all the ones that I don’t think taste good but certainly will talk about a few that when paired together are perfection. Fresh mozzarella or creamy burrata paper with seasonal tomatoes, olive oil, herbs, olives,greens. There are so many variations like the delicious Caprese. Tonight we enjoyed a plate that so simple and substantial enough for it to be a starter or entree.
Crushed Piennolo tomatoes from Campania were mashed with basil and olive oil on whole wheat crostini and served with briny black oil cured olives from Gaeta and Burrata made with Buffalo milk in Campania. Heyyyy. One minute. You are thinking simple. That’s a whole bunch of sourcing going on there. You are correct. This was a great plate made with great ingredients. However this is not practical for most so here is what you do. Find a good fresh mozzarella or burrata in your area. Leave it at room temperature the day you are serving it. In some warm olive oil slowly melt down a pint of ripe grape tomatoes simply add some salt. Toast 8 slices of good country style Italian bread on both sides. Top each with a drizzle of olive oil then spread with the tomatoes. On a platter cover the bottom with rinsed and dried baby arugula. Place the crostini at on end. The mozzarella or burrata in the middle. Garnish with pitted Gaeta olives or a good oil cured black olives. Add some torn basil over the crostini. This serves about 4. Enjoy this treat as much as I enjoyed this platter at Obika Mozzarella Bar in London England.

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A BEAN DISH FROM TUSCANY, FAGIOLI ALL’UCCELLETTO…TOMATOES,BEANS,SAGE

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One of the most nutritious and versatile foods on Earth is the humble bean.  Humble not in taste but in availability, they are grown everywhere.  They are the base of many diets around the world.  They are eaten by the very rich and the very poor.   Once dried they will have a very long shelf life.  They are, in short, an amazing food not to mention their very healthy makeup.  Simply put beans are an excellent food source, loaded with everything a human body needs.  They are truly delicious and can be made in many ways.  Let’s travel for a moment to Tuscany, that fabled and romantic central Italian region where the bean ( FAGIOLI in Italian) is King.  A typical Tuscan main dish or side will be Fagioli of some sort.

National Bean Day is on July 3 every year so this is my contribution to that celebration.  Let’s cook!

 

For 4 people and takes under 1/2 hour (if using canned beans..there are great brands out there, many domestic and many imported from Italy, simply drain the can and rinse the excess packing salt off them)

2 cans of Cannellini Beans (White Kidney Beans), drained and rinsed

1 28 oz can of San Marzano Tomatoes run through a food mill or food processor to make smooth

1 1/2 tbs. olive oil

2 sliced cloves of garlic

6 fresh whole sage leaves

kosher salt, ground black pepper

 

In a dutch oven, heat the oil, add the garlic, season with a salt…then add 3 sage leaves..and RIGHT as that garlic starts to turn golden add the tomatoes. Stir.  Bring this to a boil then add the beans.  Bring to a boil again and then place on medium heat/simmer and cook this, stirring periodically.  This will allow everything to infuse and the tomato to thicken.  Let it cook for 20 minutes like this.  If you need it to be “thicker”, continue for another 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning at this point, add the salt and pepper and the remaining 3 leaves.  My tip for better flavor is to let it completely cool and reheat later on or better yet overnight.

I like mine with Pecorino or Parmigiano grated over it with a drizzle of really fruity olive oil.

So what’s up with the long Italian name of this dish? As with many Italian recipes there are stories and traditions and legends with each one, especially the colorfully named ones.  Apparently small birds (Uccelletti) are stewed in tomato in Tuscany and the people tagged the beans in tomato with the name since it resembles the bird dish.  No little birds were harmed in the making of this pot of beans, no worries.

You can also add seared Italian Sausages into this pot, but your cooking time would be about 10 minutes longer or until the sausages are cooked.