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Archive | June, 2013

Chipotle Spanish Rice

29 Jun

Chipotle Spanish Rice Top

Chipotle peppers have made quite a name for themselves over the last few decades or so. The eponymous restaurant chain has obviously spread the name a bit, but even before it, these little smokey chiles began popping up all over the place in recipes. Have you ever had Subway’s chipotle mayo? Do so. It kicks ass.

Over ten years ago, I remember reading recipes in Bon Appetit that called for “canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.” So I bought a can and looked/ marveled at it for some time, wondering what to do with it. Until then, I thought that the “chipotle” was the area that everyone else calls the “taint” on the human body. I guess I was out of the loop on this. Personally, I like chipotle better, you know: it imparts more of a spicy flavor profile, if you catch my drift. The taint, well, ’tain’t much soul there.

In any case, the first time I used these in a recipe, it was for enchiladas or something of the like, back in the early days of my learning to cook.  I remember the distinct smoky aroma as I chopped them up and I did notice a lot of seeds. “Bah,” said I, “seeds will give it more flavor. These can’t possibly be spicy.” Wrong. I can handle spice, but my wife, then my girlfriend/ roommate, looked as though her alabaster skin had been assaulted by scrub pads. Between trying to take bites and wiping her brow, she indicated that she could go on no further. While the enchiladas were great (lie), the chipotle spice had done her in, she said. I noted mentally to remove seeds from chiles and peppers thenceforward.

I posted a Spanish rice recipe a while back (https://dinnerwithjonny.com/2013/01/18/idiot-proof-spanish-rice/), and I make this regularly. But as often happens, I started thinking. I wanted some variation on it. I looked in the pantry, saw that can o’ chipotle peppers, and my mental gears started cranking noisily, like a rickety North Korean space shuttle. The recipe below is what emerged, and it blew our socks off. Like my other rice recipe, this is simple to make and quite healthful, too.

Remember, remove the seeds from the peppers as you mince them. It’s a messy job, but the appearance of the peppers isn’t important because they blend in with everything else.

Chipotle Spanish Rice

Makes about 8 servings

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp. oil

1 tsp. chili powder

2 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes, undrained

1 cup water

1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, seeds removed and peppers minced, reserving some the sauce

3/4 cup uncooked, washed rice

1 cup frozen green peas, somewhat defrosted or not (not that important), or fresh, if you have them.

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/2 cup black olives, sliced

Makin’ It:

In a large skillet, heat the oil  over medium- high heat and cook the onion until tender, about 6 minutes. Add in the minced garlic during the last minute so as not to burn it. Add the chili powder and cook another minute.

Next, stir in the undrained tomatoes, rice, water, chipotle peppers, peas, salt, and pepper. Add in a tablespoon or so of the reserved adobo sauce, too. This is key to the overall flavor. Get this boiling. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer it 20 to 25 minutes, or until the rice is cooked through and the liquid it absorbed.

(Note: A good trick for checking if the liquid is absorbed is to run a wooden spoon along the bottom of the pan. If the spoon leaves a path without juice filtering onto it, you’ve nailed it.)

Add in most of the black olive slices and stir. Check for salt and pepper and adjust, if needs be. Transfer it to a serving dish and top with the remaining black olives. You’ll get this:

Chipotle Spanish Rice

‘Tis easy to make and ’tain’t bad for you or your chipotle. 3/4 cup of this is a Weight Watchers 3 on the old system (Points Plus and 360° can fuck off to an alarming depth). Top with some grilled chicken, and you have a meal unto itself.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

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BBQ Pork Balls

26 Jun

BBQ Pork Balls 2

Look at these guys. It almost makes me tear up just reminiscing about making them, let alone eating them.  I have posted a few recipes for meatballs on this blog, two of which are based on recipes from a book called The Meatball Shop Cookbook, which is a compilation of recipes from the guys who own The Meatball Shop in Manhattan, assuredly a destination on my next trip to NYC. These BBQ Pork Balls are based on their recipe too.

I’ve only been to New York twice: once when I was in my twenties to visit my friend Rich who was getting his Masters in art, and last April with my father-in-law, Bill. Bill is originally from Moonachie, New Jersey, which is across the Hudson a few miles.

On my first trip there about 15 years ago, I was wide-eyed and punch drunk. New York City is way too much to comprehend in a few days. I must have walked 20 miles through Manhattan and dodged 3 taxis for each mile; those fucking guys mean business when you’re crossing the street, as I learned quite quickly. I did get a taste of NYC, but I knew I had to come back at some point.

When I first met Bill (before my wife and I were married, of course), I knew I wanted to go to New York with this guy. I had to. Being a California Italian, I often have pined to have the New York Italian accent, the Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci “What the fuck are you lookin’ at?” edge. Bill owns this. For example, while helping us restore our old house, he once came back from Home Depot and said, “Hey Jonny, I did that thing you needed. No problem,” and I wondered if our room was tapped and if all of my enemies were still around.  It was fucking beautiful.  In any case, while I envy those brought up in New York and New Jersey for the accent, I will settle for having Bill around and, after a few glasses of wine, adopting his accent. I figure, at least it’s in the family and I am Italian, when all is said and done.

So after 11 years, we made it to New York with Bill. I mean, the guy had The Sopranos theme song on the radio as we crossed the bridge like Tony does in the opening of the show. Are you kidding me? It was all bitchin’ from then on out. We saw all of the sites, my 3 year old was speechless (which is a good thing, sometimes), we ate at diners and at Italian family restaurants, and I even got told to “get the fuck outta here” when declaring, with alacrity, that the Angels would beat the Yankees that season. Yankee fans have been busting my balls at the Big A my whole life, so I felt a need to recompense.  In essence, it was the trip of a lifetime.

I mention this story because I can feel New York in this cookbook. The authors are a “couple of fuckin’ guys,” to use my family’s complimentary epithet, and their recipes exhibit this. Moreover, these aren’t classic Italian meatballs; they’re pork balls, perfect if you want BBQ and you don’t have the time or the resources to spark it up in the back (the BBQ, that is).

I served these on sandwich rolls with a liberal amount of BBQ sauce and homemade KFC coleslaw. Nothing more needs to be said.

BBQ Pork Balls

Makes about 12 cueball-size meatballs

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 lb. ground pork

1/2 cup BBQ sauce (I’m a KC Masterpiece guy, myself)

1 egg

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Makin’ ‘Em:

Preheat the oven to 450°. Get a, 8″ x 8″ or similar size baking dish and coat the bottom of it with 1 tbsp. of the olive oil.

Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and cook them until they are soft and browned, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Transfer this to a bowl and put it in the fridge to cool (hot onions would make scrambled eggs when you add them to the mixture, so that’s why you chill them, kid).

When the onions are cooled, put them in a mixing bowl with the pork, BBQ sauce, eggs, bread crumbs, and salt. Mix this all together with your hands until everything is thoroughly combined.

Have a cup of water next to you as you roll out the meatballs. A key to making good meatballs is keeping your hands moist as you roll them.  It makes the balls smooth and it’s easier to make sure there are no cracks in them.

Roll the mixture into cueball-size meatballs and make sure the meat is packed firmly. Place the balls in rows and columns in the oiled baking dish. The meatballs should be touching one another.

Bake these guys for 20 minutes, or until cooked through. The meat thermometer should read 165° when poked into the center of a meatball. Remove them from the oven and let them cool for about 5 minutes before you dig in.

Serve them with more BBQ sauce, buns, coleslaw, and whatever your little heart desires. You’ll maybe get this:

BBQ Pork Balls 7

Fuhgeddaboutit.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Pesto Pizza

19 Jun

Pesto Pizza 9

The other day, I bought a pre-made sourdough pizza crust with the intention of having an easy meal option during my hectic summer break. Puttering between playing Candy Crush Saga, harvesting my crops on Farmville 2, and reading the entire list of Santa Maria news items (3 minutes, tops) can be daunting, to be sure, but I somehow manage to make it to cocktail hour every day. Continue reading

Bitchin’ Chicken Salad

15 Jun

Weight Watchers Chicken Salad

We all have our secret food indulgences that we are reticent to divulge. Now these guilty pleasures could be weird combinations, bastions o’ fat and calories, fast food, or items that are simply “wrong.” For example, there’s a reason why 7-11 sells rolled meat things filled with all sorts o’ stuff: people eat them!

One of my oldest friend’s weird indulgence is to have rocky road ice cream topped with halved green grapes. She then eats this using yogurt-covered pretzels. WTF? “It’s a texture thing,” I was told, and after having watched my wife go through a rough pregnancy, I totally understand this now.

My brothers and I swear by the 1970’s bologna sandwich, which is white bread (the Gemco brand, Lady Lee, no less) with generous mayo on it and two layers of American cheese and bologna. Heaven. How about a peanut butter and marshmallow cream sandwich? How about Kentucky Fried Chicken? Watch Louis CK talking about Cinnabon (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-N1MoKF31mg) and you will identify with him on some level. Lastly, if you follow this link, http://thisiswhyyourefat.com/, you will see some beautiful creations by people who have thrown off the yoke of decorum and set forth their food exhibitionism with grandeur. I am thinking that most people reading this post won’t get past these links, but oh well.

I have a food indulgence about which I am embarrassed, I admit. I have told very few people about it, and I know it’s wrong, but I still do it whenever I’m on a road trip. I love, and I mean love, the pre-made chicken salad sandwiches at gas stations or liquor stores. And I love to eat them whilst driving with an open bag of puffy Cheetos by the stick shift. If you ever happen to see me on the 101 south around the Las Virgenes exit, you will espy me doing this while maintaining beautiful SoCal driving control; with my knees I can almost pull off a 3-point turn in between bites of sandwich and puffy Cheeto.

Funnily enough, this whole diatribe leads to a chicken salad recipe that’s probably the best I’ve ever had, and it does NOT taste like the gas station sandwiches. In fact, this is based on a Weight Watchers recipe, and while I sometimes wonder if WW can pull off certain dishes, I admit that this one tastes as good or better than any non-WW chicken salad recipe I’ve had. The cider vinegar in it gives it a good kick in the pants, which is why I like it.  Moreover, one cup is a 4 on the old Weight Watchers system (PointsPlus and 360° can both fuck off egregiously), and with 2 slices of wheat bread, you’re looking at a 6 for lunch.  Not bad at all.

Bitchin’ Chicken Salad

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

1/4 cup light sour cream

1/4 light mayonnaise

1 tbsp. cider vinegar

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

2 cups cooked, shredded or chopped chicken (Tip: Roast a whole chicken (450° for an hour) or some cut up chicken (400° for 35-45 minutes) coated with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Let it cool, discard the skin, remove the meat from the bones, and you’ll have the juiciest, most beautiful chicken ever. Or buy a rotisserie chicken from the market, take off the skin and bones, and you’re solid.)

2 stalks celery, diced

2 tbsp. finely minced onion

Makin’ It:

For the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together the sour cream, mayo, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper.

In a bigger bowl, combine the chicken, celery, and onion. Add the dressing and mix it all up well. Cover it with plastic and chill it for at least an hour. Serve it as a sandwich or alone. Avocado works well with it, too, but adds on a few points.

‘Tis a piece o’ cake, good for you, and perfect for summer lunch.

Weight Watchers Chicken Salad 2

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Curried Chicken Salad

7 Jun

Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich 2

I write this post with only one graduation ceremony in front of me before a few months o’ summer break. In truth, one of the reasons that I know that I love my job is that I will miss the classes that I had this last semester (the previous semester is another story). Specifically, the only British literature class I taught this year was one of the best I have ever had; we could engage in discussions about literature or culture or sundry cerebral topics with depth and curiosity.  Moreover, now they have the tools to understand some pretty complex reading, so it’s satisfying on multiple levels. It’s like they’re almost people, I dare say.

So a few weeks ago, I decided to plan an English tea party with them. Granted, this was my first period class, so it was quite an early tea in terms of English norms, but whatever. I fell short of making them dress up in suits and bonnets or having them raise their pinkies when drinking the tea for fear that they would tell me to piss off, but I did balk at it, of course.

I tripped out that, even with the ubiquitous Starbucks enterprise, most of them had no knowledge of a scone. Crumpets? They were bewildered. What the hell are tea sandwiches? Curry? No concept. But that’s why I’m there. So I told them where to go to buy what, and they had adventures.

When I introduced the idea, I explained that an English tea is another meal time across the pond…”very British,” I said. Their response? “You say ‘very British’ about everything in this class,” to which I responded in my best English accent, “Sorry,” which is very British as well. We generated a list of items to be purchased, set the date, and we were on our way. This event went smashingly well aside from a few hiccups, like kids eating un-toasted, cold crumpets, Flaming Hot Cheetos making the rounds, and my principal showing up towards the end of class as Eddie Izzard’s Glorious played on my Smartboard, but it all made it our own. No matter what career you’re in, throw a tea party in the states and people get titillated.

I have no idea where I got this recipe for Curried Chicken Salad, but I have refined it over the years and now it’s all mine. This works well with leftover chicken, too. It just kicks ass. I never order it anywhere now because mine’s better. This is probably not too bad on Weight Watchers, either.

Curried Chicken Salad

Makes enough for 10 sandwiches, I’m guessing

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked, shredded or chopped chicken (Tip: Roast a whole chicken (450° for an hour) or some cut up chicken (400° for 35-45 minutes) coated with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Let it cool, discard the skin, remove the meat from the bones, and you’ll have the juiciest, most beautiful chicken ever. Or put a few boneless breasts in a pot and cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer covered for 30 minutes.)

1/2 medium onion, chopped (whatever kind you have works)

2 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup light mayonnaise

1/2 light sour cream

2 heaping tsp. curry powder

1/2 to 1 tsp. salt (to taste)

1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans or almonds (optional)

freshly ground black pepper to taste

paprika for a garnish

Makin’ It:

In a bowl, combine the chicken, onions, garlic and nuts (if using). In another bowl, whisk together the mayo, sour cream, curry powder, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the chicken and mix it well, kid. Chill it for at least an hour.

Scoop it on a bed of lettuce and garnish with the paprika, or spread it on soft wheat bread to make a sandwich. For the tea party, I cut the crusts off and then cut the sandwiches into four triangles. Easy as a hippie who needs a ride to a tree sit-in.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013