Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fresh Market Haul No. 01 & Photog Practice

Well, since yesterday I actually set up my new lighting equipment to shoot for a blog entry (and btw, I snort @ myself when I say “shoot” like I’m some DLC ovah here, haha), I thought I’d practice by capturing some of my other Fresh Market haul that day.. I am always a happy little bug after a solid hour in TFM.

I got these “Little Hands” organic gala apples for the kid’s lunchboxes, since it takes Drake a whole lunch period to eat a regular one. These aren’t really all that much smaller but they aren’t as large as conventional apples.
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I also got a Granny Pounder – This mammoth Granny Smith weighs a pound in and of itself and it dwarfs a Little Hands apple
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This guy is destined for some caramel dip..

I also got for Drake, some behemoth Navel Oranges
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Then something else caught my eye, while in the citrus section.. The ugliest citrus I had ever seen. Indeed, it was called “Ugli Fruit”. As I was tossing it around, analyzing it’s weight, some old bitties walked past me with their noses crinkled up and asked me “What’s that?!”. “It’s Ugli Fruit”, I replied. “I’d say so..”, they returned. Then they scampered off to the salad counter.
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Apparently, this Ugli fruit originates in Jamaica, where it was found growing in the wild. It is described as a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine and is reported easy to peel.
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Indeed, it is quite easy to peel. And the flavor of it is spot on. I say, I could and would eat it in a box with a fox. My only complaint is that the membrane on the thing is sooo thick. I simply peeled off as much as it as I could. The pulp is quite large as well..
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Lastly, I picked up some of this..
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It’s called Vivaloe and it’s peach flavored aloe juice. It’s clear for the most part, aside from the transparent pulp. Much more appetizing looking than the green funky stuff I found in the local tienda. Aloe juice is purported to assist with digestive issues and help skin look more radiant and hydrated. Had some apprehension about tasting it but I was pleasantly surprised. It tastes like peach propel water with chunks of watery refreshing pulp. I give a thumbs up.

And this is the lighting set I got for Christmas. Not sure I’m using it correctly. Sorta just winging it but I’m slowly figuring things out. Tanks Mawm!
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blackberry Ale Glazed Pork Loin & Scallion Spoonbread

Tried an experiment today.. Turn out was fairly lucrative, I’d say. Further rifts can be made off of this one. Pork plays extraordinarily well with many fruits, especially red and tropical fruits. If you don’t fancy the idea of using beer, you can always use juice and jams/marmalades instead. Figure those ones out by internet searching and trial and error. This is my satisfying reward born of curiosity..

Blackberry Ale Glazed Pork Loin

2-3 # Pork Loin
Olive Oil
1 Bag Frozen Blackberries
1 Bottle Ale (I used Sam Ad’s Blackberry Witbier (whitebeer) here)
1 c. Brown Sugar
** And after talking with one of the souschefs @ work, a tablespoon or two of light vinegar would be the extra oomph I think this dish was lacking - although it was good enough as is. Needs a little acid to stretch the flavors out

1. Preheat oven to 350*F.
2. In a large saucepan, combine blackberries, ale and brown sugar over high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a rigorous simmer. Reduce this down for about 20 minutes.
3. Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and set over high heat. Season pork loin with salt and pepper on all sides. Sear all 6 sides of pork loin in the sauté pan, approx 2 minutes each side.
4. Place seared pork loin in a roasting pan and pour the blackberry ale reduction over the loin. **Bake in the oven for approx. 18 minutes per pound. Baste the loin with the reduction liquid about every 20 minutes.
5. When loin is cooked to desired doneness, remove from pan and let rest on a cutting board for 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, pour liquid from the pan into a saucepan and heat to a boil. Reduce this mixture further as your loin rests.
6. Slice loin, pour reduced glaze over top and serve immediately.

**Some people prefer a loin that is more well done that it needs to be. A pork loin is safely done when it reaches an internal temp of around 150. You may choose to cook the meat a bit longer until it hits 160 but I don’t suggest going any higher than this. Pork loin is a lean meat, that dries out easily if you aren’t careful with it.

(There is a double batch here because I feed a crowd..)
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Btw, I just love how this picture came out ☺
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We’re goin’ in..
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I served this with Scallion Spoonbread and a side salad of Spinach, Shredded Carrots and Heirloom Tomatoes
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See mah tomatoes? Aren’t they booootiful?!?
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And the super easy spoonbread I made tonight.. It was a little dry because I fear I overcooked it. It also needs the addition of maybe 2/3 c. half and half or light cream. And to anyone about to be horrified by my masterful use of jiffy cornbread mix..

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In-A-Jiffy Spoonbread

2 pkgs Jiffy Cornbread Mix
2 c. Sour Cream
4 Eggs
1 C. Butter – Melted
2/3 c. ½ & ½

1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease a 9x13 casserole dish
2. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients til most of the lumps are gone. Add in shredded cheese or chopped scallions if you so wish. Pour into greased casserole dish. Bake for 30-40 minutes until firm (not jiggly anymore). Serve hot with butter.

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‘Tis All ☺

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ropas Viejas Mio

Spanish for “Old Clothes” – what this robust tomato beef stew is meant to resemble, the braised strips of meat and vegetables turn out looking like a mound of colorful rags.
Ropa Viejas is known as a classic Cuban dish, and very popular throughout the Caribbean. This is a dish I first learned of through my MIL. She does a darn good version but this is my own according to my tastes and the things I like best about the stew. For instance, she prefers to use green bell peppers, which I can’t stand in the least. She doesn’t use annatto either, to my knowledge. I feel it lends a nice mellow peppery-ness to the dish versus using chilies, which I’ve found detracts from the dish. Of course, should one find they prefer a little more kick in their stew, by all means, hot sauce it up.
My version also uses beer. Not really particular about the kind of beer. I mean, keep it light. Here I used some Red Stripe, a Jamaican Lager (trying to keep things Caribbean).
I’ve seen a good many bastardized versions of this recipe. Hopefully actual Cubans won’t scorn me for my own..

Ropa Viejas Mio

¼ c. Olive Oil
¼ t. Annatto Seeds
2 Yellow Onions – sliced thin
2 Bell Peppers – sliced thin (color of your preference. I favor orange ones)
Several Garlic Cloves – crushed
2-3# Flank Steak (preferably – I often use milanesa, as I have here)
2 cans Fire Roasted Tomatoes
1 small tin tomato paste (I prefer sundried tomato paste)
3 c. Beer
1 Lime – Juiced & zested
1 Bay Leaf
1 t. Cumin
Salt & White Pepper TT

Sour Cream
Sliced Scallions
Sliced Avocado
Shredded/Crumbled Cheese

1. In a (preferably heavy cast) dutch oven, over med-high heat, pour in olive oil and annatto seeds and stir for 1-2 minutes to let the seeds infuse the oil with their color and flavor. Add sliced onions and bell peppers – sauté 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, if using milanesa steak, cut the meat into strips
3. Add crushed garlic, canned tomato, meat, tomato paste, bayleaf, cumin, lime and beer to the pot. Stir just to mix, bring to a simmer then cover and let everything braise for about 1.5 – 2 hrs.
4. Adjust seasonings. (If you used flank steak – transfer the meat to a cutting board and shred with two knives, then return to the pot). Serve with yellow rice, beans and fried plantains

This stew is at it’s most magical if made a day ahead and left to consummate overnight.
Perhaps the most unfamiliar ingredient in this whole thing is the annatto seeds. You should be able to find these in the spice section of the latino aisle in your grocery store. If you can’t find it there I suggest either heading to a tienda in your area or hitting up’s grocery section.

Annatto (also known as achiote) is the edible seed of the achiote/lipstick tree. These seeds are used to produce “annatto coloring”, which is used in many food items such as cheeses (cheddar, for instance), soups and rices. Depending on how much is used, it can tinge things in ranges from pale yellow to deep orange.
The plant flourishes in the south Americas, where natives have long used it in cooking, painting, treatment of heartburn and stomach pains, as a sunscreen and insect repellent and for make up.
I kind of view it as the poor man’s Saffron. It has it’s own flavor – as mellow yet pronounced as Saffron does – and it colors food the same way. It’s just hella cheaper, and that, me likey.

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Pretty Pepper
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After it’s all said and done
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With Ropas Viejas, I like to serve it with a garlicky rice pilaf and blackbeans and smother it in crema. I used annatto seeds to flavor the rice as well.
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To see more pictures of the achiote plant, there is a great set of photos here