Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Lolita Squeeze

One of my bridesmaids got us the cookbook Tacolicious as part of our wedding gift, and this week I tried one of the cocktails.  It was both pink and delicious, which makes it a winner in my book!  It reminded me a lot of the cocktails at Comal, my favorite Mexican restaurant in Berkeley, California.  I love the combination of sweet watermelon with herbal cilantro in this cocktail - they balance each other really well.  Yum!  

Note: If you want a boozier cocktail, the original recipe had half the amount (2 ounces) of watermelon juice -- I doubled it because I tend to like a fruitier drink, and it was perfect for my taste!

Lolita Squeeze (adapted from Tacolicious)
Serves 1

A couple of sprigs of fresh cilantro
Pinch of salt
4 ounces watermelon juice (puree watermelon chunks and strain through a fine-mesh strainer)
2 ounces tequila
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup

Muddle the cilantro and pinch of salt in a cocktail shaker.  Add the watermelon juice, tequila, lime juice, and simple syrup to the shaker, fill with ice, and shake until very cold.  Strain over ice.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Kalua Pork Brown Rice Bowl

This recipe goes firmly in my often-used category of "Cooking Light recipes that I have made completely unhealthy" -- in this case, by replacing pork tenderloin with country-style ribs and by eating multiple servings because it was so good.  Although this bowl has quite a few components, it's actually pretty easy to put together with the help of an Instant Pot.  You can definitely make this recipe without one -- the kalua pork can be made in a slow cooker or in the oven, instructions here -- and of course you can make the rice on the stovetop.  But, the Instant Pot does make things a lot quicker and dirties less pots.

In terms of flavors, you've got super rich pork that's crisped up to perfection in the oven, sweet-and-tart roasted pineapple, tender roasted veggies -- I did zucchini and red onion, but you could easily switch those out for whatever you like -- and nutty brown rice.  A honey-soy sauce pulls everything together -- adjust the chili flakes to make things as spicy or not-spicy as you prefer.  So yummy!

For the Kalua Pork (adapted from Nom Nom Paleo, original recipe here with variations for slow cooker or oven if you don't have a pressure cooker):

2 slices bacon
2 pounds bone-in country-style pork ribs (about 4 large ribs)
3 peeled garlic cloves
1/2 T kosher salt
1 cup water

1. Place the two pieces of bacon in the bottom of the Instant Pot. Press the saute button, and cook until the bacon is crispy, flipping it as needed to get both sides cooked.

2. Cut a couple of slits in each rib.  Cut each garlic clove in half and stuff into the slits in the pork. Rub on the salt.

3. Place the pork on top of the bacon, in a single layer. Pour over the water.

4. Cover and lock the lid.  Hit the "meat/stew" button.  When the timer has finished, allow the pressure to release naturally (about 15 minutes).  Check that the pork is fork-tender, and if not, cook for another 5-10 minutes on manual.  Transfer the pork to a bowl, and carefully remove all bones.  Use two forks to shred any remaining pieces.  Taste, and add a little of the cooking liquid if the pork needs salt.

For the bowls (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 2 or 3, but easily multiplied

1 cup brown rice
Olive oil
Several thick slices of fresh pineapple (from about 1/4 of a fresh pineapple)
1/2 red onion, cut into medium slices
1 small zucchini, cut into thick coins
Kalua pork, from above
2 T lower sodium soy sauce
1 T rice vinegar
2 tsp honey
2 tsp vegetable oil
Generous pinch Aleppo chili flakes

1. Rinse the rice, and add to the Instant Pot with 1-1/4 cup water, a pinch of salt, and a drizzle of olive oil.  There is no need to rinse out the pot between making the rice and the pork.  Cook on high pressure for 22 minutes, and then allow the pressure to release naturally (about 15 minutes).  Note: You can also strain the cooking liquid from the pork and use it to replace some or all of the water.  In this case, omit the olive oil and salt.

2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Toss the pineapple, onion, and zucchini in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.  Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet, along with the kalua pork at one end.  Roast 20-25 minutes, flipping everything halfway through.

3. While the rice and vegetables are cooking, prepare the sauce.  Whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, honey, oil, and chili flakes.  Set aside.

4. Build your bowl!  Start with brown rice on the bottom, then pile on the roasted pineapple, onion, and zucchini.  Top with kalua pork, and then drizzle with the sauce.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Pineapple Margarita

Another delicious tequila drink in keeping with our recent obsession with Mexican food.  Here, a margarita is sweetened up with fresh pineapple -- it's a little less tart than a classic margarita because orange juice replaces the traditional lime juice, but it's equally delicious! And it will definitely make you feel a little tropical without being as sweet as some pineapple drinks (like pina coladas).  We definitely need that with all the cold weather we've had lately -- come on spring, it's time to arrive!

Pineapple Margarita (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 2

2 cups fresh pineapple
1/4 cup orange juice
2-1/2 ounces tequila
1/2 ounce orange liqueur 
1 T simple syrup

Purée the pineapple in a blender or food processor. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to yield about 3/4 cup.  Add to a cocktail shaker, and strain the orange juice into the shaker as well. Add the remaining ingredients and shake until cold. Strain into glasses.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Carnitas Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa

I heart tacos!  And I especially heart carnitas tacos.  I used my usual carnitas recipe (linked to below), but made it in my Instant Pot using about 2 pounds of bone-in country-style pork ribs and scaling down the rest of the ingredients accordingly (this makes enough for about 3-4 people). Just add all the ingredients to the Instant Pot, hit the meat/stew button, and let the pressure come down naturally once the cycle finishes.  It will still make your house smell amazing but in about a third of the usual cooking time.  You'll need to turn on your oven to crisp up the pork at the end, but it's still a major time savings and with delicious results.  Here, the rich pork is paired with a super-tart raw tomatillo salsa, scallions, and sour cream for simple yet super-tasty tacos.  The salsa is medium spicy, so feel free to add more jalapenos or sub in a spicier pepper if you want it super hot.

Carnitas Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa 

Warm tortillas
Carnitas, recipe here (or make in the Instant Pot using the "meat/stew" function to speed things up!)
Tomatillo salsa, recipe below
Sour cream
Minced scallions

Top warm tortillas with carnitas, tomatillo salsa, sour cream, and minced scallions. Fold and enjoy!

Tomatillo Salsa (adapted from Cooking Light)

4 medium tomatillos
1/2 cup coarsely chopped white onion
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 jalapeno chili, coarsely chopped (leave in or remove seeds to adjust heat)
1 cup lightly packed cilantro

Remove the husks from the tomatillos and rinse well under cold water.  Quarter them, and place in a blender or food processor.  Add everything except the cilantro.  Process until well blended.  Add the cilantro and process again until well blended.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cantaloupe Margarita

We have been eating a lot of Mexican food lately, which has meant I've been experimenting with fruity margaritas.  This one from the latest issue of Cooking Light looked especially tasty -- cubes of cantaloupe are pureed and strained, and then combined with the usual suspects for a margarita: lime, tequila, and orange liqueur.  I found a fun blood orange liqueur, but you can use whatever you have on hand (Cooking Light recommends Grand Marnier, which I'm sure is delicious in this recipe, but is too pricey for me).  The result is a really tasty drink -- definitely one of those that does not taste too boozy, so it's good you have to mix it yourself so you know how much you're drinking! Yum!

Cantaloupe Margarita (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 2

2 cups cubed cantaloupe
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2-1/2 ounces tequila
1/2 ounce orange liqueur
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 mint leaves

Purée the cantaloupe in a blender or food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to yield about 6 ounces (3/4 cup).  Combine everything but the mint in a cocktail shaker and shake until cold. Strain into two glasses over ice and garnish with the mint leaf.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Ginger-Sesame Cod with Asparagus

I came up with this recipe when I wanted to try something a little different with fish and rice.  We often make this meal with paprika, lemon, and garlic, which of course is very tasty! But this twist uses Asian pantry ingredients to create great flavor.  I think of fish and rice as comfort food, and this dish definitely fits that bill -- none of the flavors are too intense, and everything feels warm and comforting.  Asparagus cooks in about the same amount of time as fish and adds green to the plate, so it's the perfect pairing.  Bonus: this dish will get dinner on the table quickly.  I start white rice in the Instant Pot first, and by the time it's cooked and the pressure has come down naturally, the fish and asparagus are finished cooking and everything is ready to combine.

Ginger-Sesame Cod with Asparagus

For the sauce:
2 T olive oil
2 T soy sauce
1 T sesame seeds
1/2 T sesame oil
1 tsp grated ginger 
Pinch of salt
Steamed rice, to serve

To finish:
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 small cod fillets

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Whisk together the sauce ingredients. Rub some of the sauce on the fish, and toss the remaining with the asparagus pieces. Arrange everything in a single layer on the baking sheet.
3. Let rest for about 10 minutes for the flavors to combine. Then roast 12 minutes on the top rack of the oven.
4. Serve over steamed rice.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Two tasty main-dish salads

Rotisserie chicken, crispy bacon, spinach, Boston lettuce, pepitas, green grapes, Gorgonzola, and creamy balsamic dressing

Thinly sliced steak, roasted asparagus, escarole, tomatoes, avocado, lime juice, blue cheese, and creamy balsamic dressing