Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pineapple Spam Skewers with a Ginger Soy Glaze

Most people find spam unpalatable, or at least believe they do.  Granted, the look of that gelatinous compressed mold of meat product right out of can certainly turns my stomach.  However, what you do with that meat loaf after it oozes out of the can makes a world of difference.

I moved from the country's largest consumer of spam, where during emergencies you were limited to one pallet of the stuff at the store; to the country's number one producer, where a museum was erected to its gelatinous pink awesomeness.  I will never escape it.  Time to attempt embracing it.

Last year at our mid-winter luau, I subjected our guests to spam musubi.  They graciously left the lion's share for us to consume for days to come.  It was not a hit.

So this year in an attempt appeal to those beyond the few adventurous eaters, I turned to the classic culinary trick of pairing salty with sweet.  Pineapple was alternated with chunks of spam and brushed with a quick glaze.  After a pass under the broiler, the caramelized, salty sweet treats were ready to go.  Nothing was left of the spam this year.

the recipe is my own

serves 16

The Ingredients:
1 - 12 oz can of Spam
1 fresh pineapple
1/2 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 heaping Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
16 bamboo skewers

The Process:
Soak the bamboo skewers as you prep the other ingredients.

Remove the spam from the container, keeping the loaf intact.  Slice in half crosswise.  Cut each half in half again, this time diagonally.  Repeat, creating eight long triangles.  Lay each triangle on its side and slice into four wedges of equal thickness, yielding 32 pieces.

Remove the crown and bottom of the pineapple.  Remove the skin.  Cut the pineapple lengthwise into 8 equal wedges.  Slice the core away from each wedge, and slice the flesh into segments approximately 1-inch thick.  Reserve 48 pieces.

Preheat the broiler.

In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar and ginger until the sugar has dissolved.

Thread 3 pieces of pineapple and 2 pieces of spam onto each skewer, alternating between the two.  Brush each skewer generously with the soy glaze.  Broil 2-3 inches from the heat for five minutes on each side or until the pineapple and spam have begun to caramelize.  Remove the skewers to a serving platter and brush with any remaining glaze.

Serve warm or room temperature.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Clams in a Coconut Green Curry Broth

Ross and I have decided to make a conscious effort to eat more seafood.  One frustration with living in the midwest is the lack of fresh, coastal seafood.  In Hawaii we were quite spoiled. This effort probably won't be cheap.

But if we try to spoil ourselves on a seafood dinner at home, we are less likely to splurge on a fancy dinner out were that farm raised Atlantic salmon fillet is likely to cost 3 to 4 times more than a much more beautiful, healthful and sustainable fillet of wild caught coho or sockeye salmon. 

So this past Valentines Day, we ate in.  And we ate well.  There was not nearly enough bread or rice to sop up this amazing curry broth.  I suspect mussels would be equally as divine.

In an ideal world, I would have crafted the curry paste myself, but due to growing pains down south, the produce within our snow covered state has been limp, lackluster and outright sparse.  Surprisingly no fresh cilantro or basil was to be found right before our planned dinner.  Rather than run around with fingers crossed, we hedged our bets and picked up a jar of Thai Kitchen green curry paste.  My previous experience with this particular brand and the quality of their curry paste has been lukewarm at best.  This time, I had absolutely no complaints.  

adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon

serves 3

The Ingredients:
3 Tbs olive oil
4-5 Tbsp green curry paste
2 small shallots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp lemongrass, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp sugar
1 cup clam juice
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 1/2 lbs manilla or little neck clams

1 lime, cut into wedges
lime zest
1 serrano pepper, sliced into thin coins

The Process
Place the clams in a large bowl and fill with cool water until the clams are fully submerged.  Allow them to rest for 30 minutes to an hour to encourage them to filter out any sand and grit.  Gently remove each clam one at a time and scrub away any grit on the outside of the shell.  Set aside until the broth is ready.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium high heat.  Add the curry paste, shallots, garlic, ginger and lemongrass and saute until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.   

Add the tomatoes, lime juice and sugar to the skillet and stir until well combined, about another 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk and clam juice, whisking to break up and lumps in the cocnut milk.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Add the clams, cover and reduce heat.  Simmer the calms for 5-7 minutes or until most of the shells have opened.  Discard any unopened clams. 

Garnish with lime wedges, zest and Serrano peppers.  Serve with plenty of bread to sop up the broth.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Smoked Salmon Chowder

A dear friend and roommate brought us back a wonderful Christmas present from her trip out to see family in Washington and Vancouver.  Smoked salmon.  I was elated!  And had to refrain from ripping open the package and devouring every morsel on spot.

After my initial thrill,  my mind jumped to a rich soup: creamy and tinged with that smokey essence, tender lumps of potato simmered with flaky bits of salmon.  Oh how I wish that gorgeous piece of smoked fish had lasted a tad longer!

adapted from Epicurious

serves 4 generously

The Ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 medium leeks, thoroughly rinsed and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed
1 large stalk celery, chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
2 cups vegetable broth
1 Tbsp dried pulverized tomato skin
2 cups milk
8 ounces smoked salmon, flaked
1/2 cup heavy cream

The Process:
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over low heat.  Add the  leeks and garlic; sautee until tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Add the potato and celery, and stir until coated with oil.  Add the salt, pepper, and thyme.  Pour in the broth and simmer the mixture until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Stir in the tomato skin and milk, add the salmon.  Simmer the soup until the salmon and milk is heated through.  Do not let the mixture come to boil, lest the milk separate.  Whisk in the heavy cream.

Sprinkle with additional thyme and cracked pepper.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Quinoa Banana Pudding for Two

Most days, I cook as though I'm expecting company.  But in reality only two of us regularly take advantage of the bounty of our kitchen.  Usually not a problem.  The leftovers are always welcome for lunch or a rushed evening dinner later in the week.  However, when it comes to sweets, less is probably more.  We really don't need four dozen cookies lying around.  And a full pan of brownies is really far too tempting...rarely will they last more than two days.  As a result, I've been looking in to small portion desserts.  Cupcakes for two are all the rage on Pinterest at the are those single serving desserts in a cup.  Pardon my lack of enthusiasm over the latter.  Microwaves and I usually do not cross paths unless it involves popping popcorn or reheating coffee...

This recipe for some reason stood out to be scaled back.  I loved how Corrina tweaked a well loved tapioca recipe to incorporate quinoa. To date, my quinoa experiences have largely involved salads and sides that would have otherwise used rice.  The quinoa doesn't have the same gummy, slimy texture that tapioca is often associated with...a huge plus in my book.  I hate tapioca.  But I do adore rice pudding.   The quinoa had a firmer texture and a nuttiness much more akin to some of my favorite rice pudding experiences.  An overly ripe banana that had been stashed in our freezer offered an amazing banana flavor; no hint of the cloying artificial banana essence in this pudding!  The pudding itself was a tad sweet in the end.  But the perfect consistency.

I certainly had no shame liking this dish clean. 

adapted from Corrina at Veg Mother

serves 2

The Ingredients:
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup milk 
1/3 cup quinoa
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp cornstarch
pinch of salt
2/3 cup milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 over ripe banana, mashed

The Process:
Whisk the coconut milk and milk together in a small saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the quinoa and bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is tender.  Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a separate saucepan whisk together the egg, sugar, cornstarch, salt, milk and vanilla. Place over medium high heat and stir constantly, bring the mixture to a gentle boil.  Continue to stir as the mixture thickens, about 5-7 minutes.  It will start to thicken very rapidly once it comes to a boil, be prepared!  Remove from heat.  Stir in the mashed banana and quinoa, mixing until well combined. 

Ladle the pudding into individual serving dishes.  Cover and chill in the fridge until firm...about two hours.   Serve with a dollop of cream and sliced banana, if you can hold off for such presentations.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Slow Cooker Juniper Chicken

Snowy, snowy days call for hot and hearty meals.  A day like today last Sunday necessitates making the most out of what is already in the pantry, because there would be no "quick" drive to the grocery store for any last minute items.  Thankfully, we had all of these items on hand.  Including the juniper berries.

Remind me to pick up more before the first of March...I'll need them to brine our corned beef..

adapted from The Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes

serves 4

The Ingredients:
2-3 slices of bacon
3-4 carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 small onion, cut into quarters
4 large chicken thighs, skinned
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp instant tapioca 
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 tsp juniper berries
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen peas
2 Tbsp currant jelly

The Process:
Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp.  Drain, crumble and set aside.

Layer the carrots, celery and onions along the bottom of a 3 1/2 to 5 qt crock pot.  Place the chicken pieces on top.  Sprinkle bacon, rosemary, thyme, juniper berries, salt and pepper over the chicken.  In a small bowl, whisk together the wine, broth and tapioca.  Pour over the chicken.  Cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken and veggies to a serving platter and keep warm.  Add the peas to the crock pot and cook for 5 minutes, or until heated through.  Whisk the jelly into the juices until smooth.  Spoon the resulting sauce over the chicken. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pale Ale Corn Muffins

In the middle of February, when the days are cold and the work is slow, how better to heat things up then with a chili cook-off.  This past Friday the ladies and gentlemen of the costume shop put together a killer feast with four types of chili, a plethora of toppings, deviled eggs, fruit salad, and of course, corn bread.

In retrospect, I should have tracked down a recipe without any flour, or modified this one to accommodate our two co-workers with gluten intolerance.  Such substitutions would have been fairly easy.  Keep in mind, if you do convert this recipe, be sure to find a gluten free beer as well.  The wheat content is usually nominal, but better safe than sorry.

Those that were able to grab a muffin thoroughly enjoyed them.  These are dense.  And moist.  More akin to a quick bread than the crumbly Jiffy mix I'm more accustomed to.  Sweet, too.  Bursting with corn flavor from both the grain and the whole kernel corn.  The course ground corn meal adds a lovely grainy texture as well. 

The beer acts as a leavening agent as well as imparting a bit of flavor of its own.  The market is saturated with so many wonderful craft beers right now.  If you want to keep the flavor light, stick with a pilsner or other lager.  A pale ale is lovely, if you find one with the right type of peppery hops.  If you're vigilant, you may even stumble upon one with chili or smoked pepper out there.  Trust me.  They exist. 

I opted for Furthermore's Knot Stock, which is a pale ale with an intense cracked pepper flavor.  The pepper is barely discernible in the final product, but there is no mistaking the effervescent quality that the beer lends. 

Adapted from Jackie at the Beeroness

yields about 15 muffins

The Ingredients:
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1-2 Tbsp fresh, minced jalapeno
3/4 cup course ground corn meal
3/4 cup milk
3/4 all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp honey
2 eggs
3/4 cup pale ale
1 cup corn kernels (thawed if frozen)

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 400

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the jalapenos and saute until tender and  fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add the cornmeal and milk.  Whisk until well combined and bring to a gentle boil.  Cover and remove from heat.  Let stand for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and brown sugar.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and honey.  Stir the wet into the dry.  Add the cooked cornmeal and fold until just combined.  Add the beer and corn, again mixing until just combined.

Generously grease or butter 15 muffin cups.  Spoon approximately 1/4 cup of batter into each cup.  Bake in the preheated oven for 12-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the muffin comes out clean.

Allow to cool slightly in the muffin tins.  Transfer muffins from the tins to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Quick and Dirty Spinach Lentil Curry

Indian food and I, we've come to an understanding.  We have a method.  The dishes almost always turn out. 

There is occasionally an exception though. 

Ross and I have been going back and forth on the proper food pairings for an India Pale Ale.  Traditionally a very hop forward beer.  Bitter.  Think sucking on grapefruit pith.  Well, depending on the hops.  I enjoy them, to an extent.  Ross usually avoids them at all costs.

The debate stems around spicy or not spicy.  The bitterness in hops actually intensives the heat level of most foods.  And the higher alcohol content opens up the receptors on the tongue...also heightening the heat experience.  Usually not a pleasant dining experience.  Unless, of course, you like the sensation of your face burning off.

For some reason Ross felt Indian cuisine and IPAs would pair well.  With my high heat preference in Indian food, I objected.  (I am right by the way, he just won't admit it, but seeing as he doesn't like insanely spicy food, or IPA, I do not hold his opinion of either in very high regard.  But I digress...and I still love him)

So as an experiment I tried a variation of this recipe, substituting some of the cooking liquid for an IPA.  Odell's Hopslam.  Excellent beer.  Such a waste to cook with it.  Again, I digress...

The cooking process released a bitterness in the hops, a musky, dirt-like bitterness, that made the dish near unpalatable.  Lesson learned.  Drink it with dinner, but do not cook with least not this type of recipe.  IPAs do make unbelievable marinades, though...

Back to dinner...

This vegan friendly dish is quick and lovely.  So so simple.  It follows the same method I use for nearly almost any curry: saute onions, add ginger and garlic, add spice, stir til fragrant, add protein and cooking liquid (if needed), add veggies, serve.  So simple. 


Inspired by Elissa's recipe at Kitchen Demure

serves 4

The Ingredients:
2 Tbsp ghee or peanut oil
1 large onion, diced
2 fat cloves of garlic, minced
1 - inch piece of ginger, minced
1 serrano pepper, minced (optional)
1 1/2 Tbsp garam masala
1 1/3 cup red lentils
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
2/3 cups dry white wine
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 bunch spinach, chopped (about 5 cups)

The Process:
In a large skillet heat the oil over medium high heat, and add the onion, ginger, garlic, and pepper.  Saute until just tender, 2-3 minutes.  Add the garam masala and stir until fragrant, about one minute. 
 Add the lentils, water, salt, and wine.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.  Stir in the tomato paste.  Add the spinach.  Cook an additional 5 minutes, or until he spinach has wilted.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Classic Lemon Bars

Apparently there was a fairly large sporting event last Sunday.  I must have missed it.  Ross and I spent most of the day in the car driving back to Minneapolis from Milwaukee.  And then for some reason I was hit with the incredible need to bake dessert, but nothing too sweet.  The smooth slightly tart flavor of these lemon bars hit the spot perfectly.

I love the light buttery crust...practically melt in your mouth.  Layered with a custard of the perfect balance of tart and sweet.  These bars really should be my go to dessert on a bad day.  I always have the ingredients on hand and they take so little to whip up.

You don't really mess with a classic.

Recipe of courtesy of Taste of Home

yields 9 bars

The Ingredients:
for the crust:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup salted butter, softened

for the filling
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest

additional powdered sugar for dusting

The Process:
In a medium bowl, cut the butter into the flour and powdered sugar until the mixture resembles course crumbs.  Press into an un-greased 8 x 8 inch baking dish.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar together until smooth.  Add the flour, baking powder, juice and zest.  Stir until just combined.  Pour the filling over the baked crust.  Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes, or until the filling is set and beginning to brown.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool.  Cut into bars and dust with powdered sugar just prior to serving.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Cheddar and Green Chili Corn Cakes with Mango Avocado Salsa

Is it an appetizer?  Or a side?  After eating a few I may suspect they may even fit into the breakfast category.  Regardless, these little corn cakes are incredibly tasty.  You'd think fifteen would go a long way, but between three folk, we barely had any left for the next day.

Thankfully these cakes are a breeze to whip up...only a hair more complicated than pancakes.  And likely as not you already have most of the ingredients in your pantry.

The salsa is a slightly sweeter spin on my usual guacamole, only the traditional tomato is substituted with mango.


inspired by Alida's recipe at Simply Delicious

yields approximately 15 corn cakes

The Ingredients:
for the corn cakes
2 cups whole kernel corn
1-15 oz can creamed corn
2 eggs
1-4oz can green chilies
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

for the salsa
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
juice of 1/2 a lime
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 - 1/2 tsp chili powder

The Process:
For the cakes:
In a medium bowl whisk together the corn, creamed corn, eggs, chilies and milk.  In a another bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined.  Fold in the cheese.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Spoon about 3 Tbsp of the batter into the pan.  Fry for 4-5 on each side or until golden brown and crisp.  Transfer to a plate and keep warm

For the salsa
In a medium bowl, toss all of the ingredients until well combined. 

Spoon the salsa over the cakes, serve warm