eat like an inca

If you know me then you know I’m a restless spirit; I would much rather jump into the unknown then live in the routine. This adventurous streak probably explains my love of travel and my current obsession with the tv show Expedition Unknown. Some episodes make me think things like: “Hmm. Honduras definitely does not look like my cup of tea (or rice and beans as the case may be).” While others actually make me consider enduring the twenty plus hour flight to see the ancient temples of Thailand. I love watching them investigate age old myths and legends in far flung places. A recent episode all about the ancient Inca Trail, with a detour to the ruins of Machu Picchu, really hit home with me. Visiting Machu Picchu has long been on my list of someday adventures. I mean c’mon, have you seen pictures of the amazing stone ruins smack in the middle of the Peruvian mountain forest? How could you NOT want to go and see them for yourself?!? It must be a truly amazing, and perhaps almost life altering experience. (And husband of mine if you’re reading this, don’t be surprised when I say “I’ve been watching flights to Peru and…” Okay so I watched the episode, made notes (not kidding) about airports to fly into and altitudes to adjust to and went to bed. The next morning while standing in the kitchen drinking coffee I spotted a piece of paper sticking out from behind one of my cookbooks. As I went to shuffle it back into the pile the bold letters at the top of the page caught my eye: “Chili-Lime Inca Corn” Seriously? Incas last night. Incas this morning. I think someone is trying to tell me something.

This seemingly mystical connection just happened to take place on the first warm weekend of the year. Since I was looking for any excuse to be outside enjoying the sunshine and hoping “this is finally it for Winter” I decided it was time to break out the cast iron pan, fire up the grill and make a little Inca corn. So how’d it turn out? Well, I have but one thing to say: The demise of the Inca Empire clearly had nothing to do with their choice in food. These little fried corn kernels are pure gold.

Inca gold.

Homemade Chili-Lime Inca Corn
These are totally addictive. Be prepared.

Inca Corn2

15 oz dried giant corn/Maiz Mote
Canola/Olive oil blend
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 1/2 tsp fine pink salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
  1. Place the dried corn in a pan with a lid, cover with water and allow to sit for 7-12 hours.
  2. Drain corn, shaking as much water off as possible and spread out on a clean tea towel. Allow to dry for an hour or so minutes. (It doesn’t need to be bone dry, you just don’t want much water on the surface as you’ll be dropping it into hot oil.)
  3. While the corn is drying make your spice mixture. Mix together the chili powder, lime zest, pink salt and smoked paprika. Transfer the spice mixture to a doubled paper lunch bag and set aside.
  4. Line a rimmed sheet pan with paper towels for draining the fried corn.
  5. In a cast iron pan or high sided skillet heat 1/4 inch of oil to 375º F. Working in batches add the corn to the oil and fry until the it’s a toasted golden brown, stirring frequently. Use spider or slotted spoon to remove the corn from the oil and transfer it to the paper towel lined sheet pan. Continue with the remaining corn.
  6. When all the corn is fried squeeze the juice from your tested lime all over it. Carefully transfer the corn to the lunch bag containing the spices and shake well to coat. The corn will become cruncher as it sits and will keep for several days (if it lasts that long).

*adapted from the kitchn

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“cuban by association” roasted pork

Sunday is my favorite day of the week. It’s the day I usually get to sleep in, it’s a day that’s often commitment free, it’s a day to relax and do what we want at the pace we want to do it. I like to have a proper dinner on Sunday, nothing overly fancy just a little more involved than your ordinary weeknight meal; a little Death Row Chicken, some slow-cooked pulled turkey or as on a recent Sunday a bit of Cuban-Style Roasted Pork. Now before we go any further I feel the need to make a few things clear: I am not Cuban nor am I married to a Cuban (yes I have a girlfriend who is but I’m not sure that counts), I have never been to Cuba and I do not profess to understand all the intricacies of Cuban cuisine. However… I do happen to love this inspired by a million other cuisines style of food (traditional Cuban food takes a page from Spanish, French, African, Arabic, Chinese, and Portuguese cultures) and have eaten it enough to think that I can come up with my own riff on Cuban Roasted Pork. And so I did.

To begin with I made a “traditional” Cuban mojo; a mixture of oil, garlic, onion, oregano, orange and lime. I let the meat marinate in the mojo overnight and then roasted it in the oven like I would our Christmas Prime Rib (start off at a high temp. to sear the outside then reduce the heat and let it cook for a couple of hours). The results were amazing, seriously delicious. So good in fact that I would almost be willing to serve it to my girlfriends mother-in-law. Almost. But wait, the story doesn’t end there.

On the eve of every weekend I say I’m going plan dinners for the week and shop for everything I need ahead of time, and every weekend I don’t. So invariably the same thing always happens; we’re good to go till Wednesday then kaput… mayonnaise sandwiches. It was one of those nothin in the fridge but condiments and Sunday nights leftovers (which happened to be roasted Cuban pork) that actually inspired the most fantastic leftover dinner to date. I decided to break out the panini press and turn the leftover pork, a little Dijon mustard, Virginia ham, dill pickles and swiss cheese into delicious Cuban Sandwiches. Winner, winner… Cuban pork take two dinner. Delish!

Cuban-Style Roasted Pork
You can cut this recipe in half, but then you don’t have much for leftovers.

2 heads garlic, broken apart and skinned
1 large onion
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup lime juice
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. dried oregano
2 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. black pepper
zest of 1 lime
zest of 1 orange
6 lbs. pork loin end roast, trimmed

  1. Place all of the marinade ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Allow to process until fairly smooth. Pour the marinade into a large resealable container, add the pork and allow to marinate (turning once or twice) for 12-18 hrs. Remove the meat from the refrigerator an hour before you want to put it in the oven.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Remove the roast from the marinade and place on a rack in a roasting pan. Add a little water to the bottom of the pan and roast for 30 minutes.
  3. Reduce the oven to 350°F and allow to cook until the internal temperature reaches 160°F, about 2 hrs.
  4. Remove the roast from the oven and allow to sit for 20 minutes before carving into thin slices.

Cuban-Style Roasted Pork Panini
This is one of my favorite leftover meals and it’s so simple it really doesn’t even warrant a recipe.

cuban sandwich2

leftover pork loin end roast, sliced thin and warmed
crusty bread (I used a loaf of ciabatta)
Dijon mustard
baby dill pickles, sliced thin
Virginia ham
provolone or swiss cheese

  1. Preheat your panini press. (You can do this in a pan like you would grilled cheese as well, but you’ll need to weigh down the sandwich while it cooks.) Slice the bread into individual portions and then in half.
  2. Coat one half with mustard then start layering: cheese, then a couple of slices of pickle, then a few pork slices, top that with a slice or two of ham and finish up with another slice of cheese. Top with the remaining half of bread, squish in the panini press until the cheese has melted and the crust is warm and crispy. Repeat with remaining sandwiches.

salsa! (or was it a waltz?)

When life hands you lemons you make Limoncello (well at least I do). And when life hands you a bounty of tomatoes, hot peppers and onions you make… Salsa!

The calendar may read October but my garden is still churning out a summer’s share of the aforementioned vegetables. I’ve made countless batches of tomato sauce, sliced, diced and sautéed peppers and onions for every dish imaginable and made a super spicy simple salsa (say that three times fast), yet I still have plenty more vegetables left to use.

The traditional raw salsa I made was really fresh and delicious, but I wondered what would happen if I took the same ingredients and roasted them. I often slow roast tomatoes and serve them as appetizers along with herbed olives and cheese and I love how roasting broccoli turns the ordinary into extraordinary, so I was intrigued by the idea of a slow roasted salsa. As expected it was delicious with a depth of flavor the raw ingredients alone could never have achieved, although it struck me as more of a caponata and less like a salsa. Regardless of what you call it, I ended up with way more of this spicy little number than I thought we would eat with chips or enjoy in tacos. So, what did I do… Made soup of course!

We consume gallons of soup in our house. Once the weather cools off I often roast a chicken for dinner on Sundays, which means I always have a bit of leftover bird to do something with during the week. Soup is usually my solution and this spicy chicken and black bean soup was a particularly delicious creation.

It would appear that roasting is the never fail dance in 3/4 time method of cooking!

Spicy Chicken & Black Bean Soup
This soup is the perfect busy weeknight dinner.

spicysoup3

2 cups roasted tomato-chile salsa (see recipe below)
4 cups chicken broth (homemade or store-bought)
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
3-4 cups leftover chicken
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 tbsp. lime juice
diced avocado, for garnish
fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
shredded cheddar cheese, for garnish
tortilla chips, for garnish

  1. In a large stockpot add the salsa, broth and the spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a medium simmer. Add the beans and let simmer for 15 minutes covered.
  2. Uncover and add the chicken and frozen corn and allow to cook until everything is heated through, about 8-10 min.
  3. Remove from the heat, stir in the lime juice (don’t skip the lime juice, it really adds a wonderful freshness to the soup), adjust the seasonings and serve garnished with avocado, fresh cilantro and shredded cheddar cheese with a few tortilla chips on the side.

Roasted Tomato-Chile Salsa
Roasting the vegetable and adding a little raw onion at the end makes this the perfect salsa.

2 1/2 lbs. Roma tomatoes
1 lg. onion, quartered
1 head of garlic
1/2 lb. fresh Poblano chilies
3 fresh Habanero chilies
2 tbsp. olive oil
a handful of cilantro
2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 cup finely diced onion

  1. Turn the broiler on to high. Line a jelly roll pan with foil and set aside.
  2. Break the head of garlic into cloves (leaving the skins on) and place in a large bowl. Add to the bowl the tomatoes, the quartered onion and chilies and drizzle with olive oil.
  3. Toss to cover each vegetable in oil and place in a single layer on the prepared pan. Broil until the skins begin to blister and pop (the peppers will be ready before the tomatoes.)
  4. Remove the charred vegetables from the oven and allow to cool. Remove the stems from the Poblano peppers, tear in half and wipe out as many seeds as you can (don’t make yourself crazy trying to get them all.)
  5. Add all the vegetables, fresh cilantro, salt and lime juice to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times until everything is chopped but the salsa is still chunky. Stir in the diced onion and allow to chill before serving. Store in glass jars in the refrigerator.

drinking in the last of summer

Goodbyes are never easy. Even when you know they’re coming they’re often tuff to take. But it seems to me that every time I say goodbye to something, the opportunity to say hello to something else usually follows close behind.

Goodbye carefree youth… Hello modern maturity.
Goodbye cute but destructive puppy… Hello (slightly) better behaved dog.
Goodbye Summer… Hello back-to-school!

Yeah, it doesn’t get much better than that last one does it? I thought I would give you a few recipes to properly celebrate summers end and the beginning of a new school year. Cake? Candy? Cookies? Nope… Cocktails!

Truth be told I’m a wine drinker with the occasional beer thrown in for good measure, but there’s just something about summer that calls for a mixed drink. This summer I was introduced to five cocktails that were so delightful I thought I’d pass the recipes along to you. Perhaps you’re already familiar with some of them and will agree with me that they’re worth trying, or perhaps they’ll be new to you as well— either way, here are my newly discovered favorite cocktails:

Limoncello & Gin with Fresh Thyme; the perfect summer combo with a fresh herbal note. Campari Shandy; a lovely balance of bitter and hoppy. Pisco Sour; the Peruvian National drink. Stormy Coconut; a riff on the classic Dark & Stormy. And Redneck Margarita; deceptively simple and refreshing.

So while it’s once again time to say goodbye to the lazy carefree days of summer and hello to the hustle, bustle and woeful hours of homework; these cocktails are the perfect way to toast the new opportunities September will also undoubtedly bring along with it. Cheers!

Limoncello & Gin with Fresh Thyme
(makes 1 cocktail)

limoncello&gin

3 large sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
1 tbsp. (.5 oz.) key lime juice
3 tbsp. (1.5 oz.) gin
3 tbsp. (1.5 oz.) homemade limoncello (or store bought)

  1. In a cocktail shaker, gently muddle the thyme with the lime juice (if you don’t have a muddler you can use the handle of a wooden spoon). Add the gin, limoncello and several cubes of ice and shake.
  2. Strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice, garnish with another sprig of thyme and serve.

*adapted from fine cooking

Campari Shandy
(makes 1 cocktail)

shandy

3 tbsp. (1.5 oz.) Campari liqueur
1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) pale beer (such as an IPA, Landshark or PBR)
1 lime wedge

  1. Pour the Campari into a tall glass. Add the beer and stir gently to mix.
  2. Squeeze the lime wedge into the glass and enjoy.

*adapted from food 52

Pisco Sour
(makes 1 cocktail)

pisco4

1 egg white
1/2 cup (4 oz.) Pisco
2 tbsp. (1 oz.) simple syrup
2 tbsp. (1 oz.) key lime juice
Angostura Bitters
ground cinnamon, to garnish

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add to it the egg white, Pisco, simple syrup, and lime juice. Shake vigorously for 1 minute.
  2. Strain into a rocks glass, add a dash or two of Angostura bitters to the center of the foam, sprinkle with ground cinnamon and enjoy.

*adapted from oh! calamares restaurant

Stormy Coconut
(makes 1 cocktail)

stormy

3 tbsp. (1.5 oz.) dark spiced rum (I used Kraken)
1 tbsp. (.5 oz.) key lime juice
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp. (.5 oz.) simple syrup
1/2 cup (4 oz.) coconut water (NOT coconut milk)

  1. Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker, top with ice and shake.
  2. Fill a glass with fresh ice, pour in strained cocktail and enjoy.

*adapted from foodista

Redneck Margarita
(makes 1 pitcher)

margarita

1 12 oz. can frozen limeade concentrate
1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) tequilla
1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) Sprite soda
1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) pale beer (such as an IPA, Landshark or PBR)
wedges of lime
salt for glasses, optional

  1. Pour limeade, tequila, soda, and beer into a large pitcher (you can use the can from the limeade as your measurement tool). Stir until well-blended and limeade has melted.
  2. Salt the rim of two large glasses and fill with ice. Add the margarita mixture, garnish with lime wedges and enjoy.

*adapted from jennifer bogart

weirdly wonderful watermelon

“Now watermelon time is here.
And when the day is warm and clear,
Our uncle thumps the green balloon
And says it’s ripe and very soon, A splash of pink comes into view.
We know exactly what to do.
We take a bit. We take a bite. We eat and eat
And taste the summer pink and sweet.”
~Leland B. Jacobs

There are few more perfect symbols of summertime than watermelon. It’s a sweet, refreshing and all-American barbecue favorite, which also just happens to be a nutritional powerhouse. According to The National Watermelon Promotion Board (who knew?!?) “2 cups of watermelon chunks contain 25% of your daily vitamin A and 30% of your daily vitamin C. Watermelon also contains B6 (6%) as well as potassium (8%), phosphorus (4%) and magnesium (8%).” Not bad stats, right?

We go through a lot of watermelon in our house, on average one good-sized melon a week. My kids and most of their friends consider it to be the perfect anytime snack and I often throw a handful of chunks in my morning smoothie. But I recently started thinking about other ways to use this sweet treat, possibly in a more savory fashion. What did we ever do in the days before Google?… I found recipes for pickled watermelon, blw’s (bacon, lettuce and watermelon sandwich), watermelon pad-thai, and even grilled watermelon burgers with cheese; but none of these recipes begged to be tried. No, the recipe I decided to get watermelon crazy with was a grilled shrimp and watermelon salad with feta cheese, onion and avocado and tossed with a honey-lime vinaigrette.

I happen to be a fan of savory/sweet flavor combinations. Jelly and cheese sandwich… sure! Candied bacon… yes please! Carrot sticks and peanut butter… but of course! However I’ve never eaten watermelon as anything but a component of fruit salad, a sweet and refreshing end to a fun barbecue or as an addition to a smoothie, so I was intrigued as to how this seemingly crazy savory/sweet salad would turn out.

It was fantastic!

Grilled Shrimp & Watermelon Salad
This is the craziest, yet most delicious combination of flavors you’ll ever put together. Try it once and it will be your go-to summer salad!

watermelon salad 5

15 medium (21/25 count) raw shrimp, peeled
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4-1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
3 1/2 cups watermelon, diced into small cubes
1/4 medium sweet onion, sliced thin
1/2 ripe avocado, diced
2 tsp. lime juice
1 tsp. honey
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, minced
1/2 cup crumbled feta

  1. In a small bowl combine the 1/2 tsp. of salt, chipotle powder, paprika and garlic powder. Sprinkle it over the raw shrimp, making sure they are completely covered with the spice mixture.
  2. Light the grill. While it warms up slice the watermelon and place in a strainer to allow some of the juice to drain out. Quickly grill the shrimp and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together the lime juice, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper. Combine the shrimp with the onion, watermelon and avocado. Add the feta cheese and cilantro, drizzle with the dressing and gently toss.
  4. Serve immediately and enjoy!

*adapted from real simple

Summer Salad Perfection

“What can I bring?” “I don’t know, what would you like to bring?…” goes the conversation of summer entertaining. We all want to be thoughtful guests and contribute to the party, but crowd worthy cold side dish recipes aren’t so easy to come by. Sure you can always bring a tried-and-true pasta or potato salad, tossed green salad or coleslaw, but those all seem so expected and that’s not really how I roll. I prefer to bring a dish that I’m pretty sure no one else will. I am after all a girl who enjoys a challenge!

A few years ago a girlfriend of mine was slowly cooking her way through the latest Weight Watchers cookbook. As a side dish at one of her barbecues she served the most delicious corn and bean salad. It was full of fresh seasonal veggies, raw onion and black beans and was dressed with a spicy/zesty vinaigrette. I was in salad love! I talked about this corn and bean salad so much that the next time she came over not only did she bring the salad, but also a copy of the cookbook.

As you are aware by now I can not leave a perfectly good recipe alone, and this one was no exception. I swapped ingredients here, tweaked amounts there and created what I consider one of my all time favorite summer salads. It’s simple to prepare, colorful, flavorful, and loaded with lots of wonderful seasonal vegetables. Give it a try and it may become a favorite of yours too! And yes, I do realize that means that I’m upping the chances of someone else showing up at the next barbecue with my “special” side dish, but I guess that’s just one of the pitfalls of writing a food blog…

Spicy Corn & Black Bean Salad
I truly love everything about this salad. The fresh corn, tender black beans, crisp red peppers, cilantro and sweet onion in a spicy lime dressing—yum!

1 tbsp. apple-cider vinegar
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2-1 tbsp. chipotle powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
4 ears fresh corn, shucked
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup red pepper, diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
3/4 cup sweet onion, diced

  1. Whisk together the vinegar, lime juice, olive oil, chipotle powder, salt and pepper, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, stand each ear of corn on end and cut the kernels off the cob. Add the beans, red pepper, cilantro, and onion, stir to combine.
  3. Drizzle with dressing and gentle toss until all the ingredients are coated. Cover and chill for 30 minutes before serving.
*adapted from weight watchers

‘baby daddy’ bbq ribs

Last night I had a dream about pulled pork. Actually it was kind of a nightmare. I was in some sort of cooking competition and when it was time to serve my dish to the judges I couldn’t find two forks to shred the meat and all I had was paper plates to serve it on. Crazy right? I guess that’s what I get for watching Chopped before bed.

Actually I’ve had barbecue on my mind lately. As you’re aware last weekend was Father’s Day. I asked my children’s father what he would like me to make for our Father’s Day dinner, but he said he was busy with his UPS route that day… so I asked my husband instead. (Ba-dum-bum-CHING! My husband loves when I make that joke.) Seriously though, when I asked my dear husband what he would like for dinner he requested barbecued ribs. Okey dokey, then ribs it would be.

I happen to be a true barbecue lover. I can’t think of a more satisfying summertime meal than finger-lickin’ sauce-covered chicken, ribs or pulled pork with a side of corn bread, some salad and sweet watermelon for dessert. But what I don’t like is commercially produced barbecue sauce full of high fructose corn syrup, liquid smoke and caramel coloring. No thanks. I have found bottled sauce that has a more “natural” list of ingredients, but I usually end up doctoring it up a bit to fit my tastes. So… why not just make my own. It’s super easy, just ketchup (the kind without high fructose corn syrup), a bunch of spices and a little cooking. Yum!

Okay, so back to those ribs. There seem to be as many ways to cook ribs as there are people who like to eat them. You can smoke them, slow cook them, grill them, boil them (bletch) and even fry them. They can be marinated, dry rubbed or simply slathered with sauce. The possibilities are endless! The recipe I use calls for marinating, slow roasting and then finishing them with sauce on the grill. Sure this may require a few more steps than some other recipes, but the total lack of conversation at our Father’s Day dinner table told me it was totally worth it.

Barbecued Ribs
I took all the heat out of this recipe because I wanted it appeal to my kids. 
If you prefer spicy feel free to kick it up with some cayenne pepper in both the marinade and the sauce.

4 lbs. pork spare ribs

For the marinade:
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. Spanish paprika
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp. key lime juice
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp. brown sugar

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and give a quick whisk to completely blend. Add the ribs, turning to coat well, cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Place the ribs in a non-stick roasting pan and add enough of the marinade to just cover the bottom. Cover with foil and cook for 3 hours, flipping halfway through.
  3. At this point the ribs should be just about fully cooked and ready for a quick finish on the grill. Baste the ribs with the barbecue sauce and grill until the sauce begins to caramelize, about 5-7 minutes per side. Serve with additional barbecue sauce on the side and some hot sauce for anyone who wants their ribs a bit spicy.

Homemade Barbecue Sauce
This sauce is super simple to throw together and much tastier than store-bought. It can easily be doubled or made spicier and it’s just as delicious on chicken or fish.

For the barbecue sauce:
1 1/2 cups ketchup
4 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. key lime juice
1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
3 tsp. smoked paprika
3/4 cup water

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens, about 25 minutes. Set aside.

*adapted from saveur