Miso Ginger Soba Noodle Soup

The winter sick season is real this year. Right after the New Year, both Amanda and I got hit with maladies and were both craving something that would bring some kind of comfort. As we each huddled under a blanket of tissues in our pjs on our respective couches, we both craved a dish that would warm our bellies and bring a bunch off flavor. You must know by now how we both feel about curry and Amanda made herself a wonderful curry meal. I wish I could have gone the same route, but since my nose was hopelessly stuffed up, I couldn’t taste a thing. I knew that the nuances of a delicious curry would be lost on me and better saved for a healthier day. The one thing I both craved and knew I could taste was a nice, brothy soup.

This Miso-Ginger noodle soup hits all the criteria I was looking for in a sicky meal. The saltiness and punch of the miso, I knew could fight past my currently restricted senses. Broth and fluids are always a good choice when sick, and ginger helps to settle the stomach. Plus, I just wanted to slurp something–enter soba noodles. This soup made me feel all warm and fuzzy, an impressive feat while sick, but is also good enough to enjoy when you’re feeling 100% as well.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 6 cups broth (I used homemade chicken broth Amanda’s recipe but vegetable broth could easily be used to make this dish vegan. I would definitely recommend low-sodium though)
  • 1/4 cup miso paste (I used half and half red and white, but any combo would work)
  • 3/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 carrot, sliced into half moons, about 1/4-1/2 in wide
  • 3 green onions, sliced with greens and whites separated
  • 1 inch knob of ginger, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • Cooked Soba noodles, amount of your preference.
  • Soy Sauce to taste
  • Sriracha to taste

Instructions:

  1. In at least a 2 quart pot, drizzle the oil into the pot over medium heat. Add the whites of the onions and saute for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
  2. Add the broth, miso, mushrooms, carrot, ginger and garlic. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Once the carrots are fork tender, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the spinach and cabbage. Once they are wilted to your liking, taste the soup and add soy sauce and sriracha to your preferred taste.
  4. Add some cooked soba noodles to the bottom of your soup bowl (however much you want) and pour the miso soup over the noodles. You are ready to serve and enjoy!

Wine Pairing: Well, if you’re up for a glass with this soup and not currently getting over an illness (or if you still are, you do you), a full-bodied Chardonnay would probably be able to stand up with the heavy flavors of the miso. Plus, a nice chilled glass of wine with a hot bowl of soup might be a nice mix. Enjoy!

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Shakshuka Breakfast Pizza

For this week, Amanda and I were in the mood for some brunch. Since with the holiday and the new year, it’s definitely brunch hosting season. We wanted to share some interesting, low maintenance, and somewhat nutritious brunch ideas that would definitely please a crowd, just in case you still had a few people around to share a meal and you were sick of something too heavy. This breakfast pizza, a twist on the classic Shakshuka, might be something that is a little different, has a little bit of a kick to wake everyone up and is easy as can be. In addition, if you have a big day of eating ahead of you, as I often do when family is around, this will both be likely a different flavor profile than your future meals and has at least some nutrition. Overall, it’s a nice meal to add to your breakfast rotation, even if it’s not a special occasion and just a random Saturday, and its convenience is big selling point.

If you’re hosting a New Years Day get-together, sometimes being alone in the kitchen preparing a feast can be a much needed social pause (introverts ftw!). Often, though, at breakfast I just want to enjoy my tea and not dirty too many dishes. Since this pizza’s sauce and crust can be made in advance, it’s fairly low maintenance (which, I mean, I don’t know how you celebrate New Year’s Eve, but it you might not be in the mood to do too much). However, the results are pretty impressive so if you still need to get away, feel free to relax and sip your tea while hiding in the kitchen and pretending you’re slogging away.

Pizza Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp Hungarian Half-Sharp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp vegetable or grapeseed oil
  • Pinch of salt

Sauce Instructions:

Heat a small saucepot over medium heat and add the oil. Add your diced onions and salt to the pot and sweat them for 2-3 minutes until translucent in color. Add the minced garlic and stir in with onions, cooking for an additional minute.

Add your remaining sauce ingredients and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before adding to your pizza or make ahead of time and store in the fridge for up to 3 days in a sealed container.

Other Pizza Ingredients:

  • Pizza Crust (I used premade Naan but any flatbread would do, or you can make your own)
  • Feta Cheese crumbles
  • Eggs
  • Spinach Leaves

Pizza Assembly:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F (if using a pizza stone or baking steel, preheat the oven for 45 minutes at least).
  2. Spread a nice dollop of sauce onto your pizza crust (up to you how much you want although I went a little thicker than I normally would since Shakshuka is all about the sauce).
  3. Top with a few spinach leaves and feta cheese evenly distributed.
  4. If you’re planning on using a pizza stone, I would recommend transferring your crust and ingredients at this point in time. If using a baking sheet, no worries. Create a divot in the pizza sauce if possible and crack an egg or two into the divots or wherever you think the egg will not run off the sides. Try to make your egg placement so that the pizza will have good egg coverage. 2E77123B-C890-4740-B6FC-B17B999211F6
  5. If using that pizza stone/steel, quickly and carefully crack the egg directly onto the pizza on the stone.
  6. Bake for 12-18 minutes, monitoring how the eggs are set. Ideally you want set whites and fairly runny yolks. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly and serve. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: I mean, I know a Mimosa is my go-to breakfast drink, but that’s what I’d probably have. If you’re going the breakfast for dinner route or if you wanted to just go full on glass of wine (I’m not above it) I think I’d still pick a light wine like Pinot Grigio but a Beaujolais would go well also.

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Curried Potato Dumplings

This was the second course of our “one ingredient: 3 courses” dinner and I knew I wanted something a little different than the first course, the Potato and Mushroom Galette, but also that still had potatoes as the star of the dish. Since potatoes can be a little heavy and we had three courses to get through, I also wanted something that wouldn’t leave me needing to change to elastic pants halfway through the meal so these pierogies-meet-Indian flavors were the perfect choice–albeit labor intensive.

I opted to use pre-made wonton wrappers rather than make my own dough, since I had a big day ahead of me and don’t always have luck with making my own wrappers. If you have your own recipe, feel free to use it. I know I usually like to make everything from scratch when I do these posts, but as our dinner date approached and my back started to ache from stuffing these dumplings, I had no regrets. This will make quite a few dumplings and if you use full fat yogurt they should freeze nicely.

So, if you aren’t sick of potatoes yet, here is course #2:

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups roughly chopped spinach
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 cup plain, full fat yogurt
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Potsticker or wonton wrappers

Yogurt Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup plain, full fat yogurt
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp lime juice

Instructions:

  1. Peel and cut the potato into quarters. In a medium size pot, add your potato pieces, enough water to cover them and a heavy pinch of salt.
  2. On the stovetop, bring the pot to a boil and cook the potatoes until fork tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Drain the potatoes and mash. with a masher, ricer or food mill.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat, add 1 tbsp of oil, onion and the minced garlic.
  5. Stir the garlic and onion, careful not to burn it, until fragrant: about 1-2 minutes. Add the garam masala, curry powder, cumin and turmeric and stir for an additional minute.
  6. Add the spinach and cook until fully wilted and turn the heat to low. Add the potato mash, yogurt, butter, and salt and pepper (to taste) and ensure that everything is fully incorporated in the potato mash. Remove from heat and allow to cool so that you can safely spoon it in the wonton wrappers.
  7. Once ready to start your dumplings, lay out your potsticker wrappers and a small cup of water to dip your fingers for sealing.
  8. Spoon 1 tsp of the potato mixture into the center of the wrapper and using a finger dipped in the water, wet one half of the outer 1/4″ of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half being sure to push out any air and making sure the filling does not come out. Press the two sides of the wrapper together firmly to make sure the dumpling is sealed.
  9. Repeat until you have no more filling. At this point, you could freeze these for later by lining the dumplings up on a cookie sheet and freezing flat for 30 minutes. Then, transfer the frozen dumplings to a plastic bag for freezer storage.
  10. When ready to cook the dumplings, first, whisk together the yogurt, curry powder and lime juice in a small bowl and set aside.
  11. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large pan and cook the dumplings on each side for about 3 minutes, until the skins look crispy and brown.
  12. Transfer the cooked dumplings to a plate and drizzle with the yogurt sauce and some fresh cilantro or green onion slices. Enjoy!

Frog Legs in Tomato Sauce

Merideth and I decided to do spooky recipes for Halloween time, and well…I’m not a fan of frogs. This recipe was a personal challenge not only because of the unfamiliar protein, but also because of my irrational fears  (Merideth: “you look like a Fear Factor contestant!”) Nevertheless, it was pretty tasty! Snails next! …maybe.

Ingredients

  • 4 pairs frog legs (I found them frozen at a seafood market)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk (optional)
  • Oil for frying
  • 2tbs olive oil or butter
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tbs Herbs de Provence (can substitute equal parts thyme and rosemary)

Instructions

  1. Whisk eggs and milk, if using, in a medium bowl. Fill another bowl with the bread crumbs.
  2. Dip frog legs into flour, then the egg mixture, and then coat in bread crumbs.
  3. If using a deep fryer, heat oil to 350 degrees and fry frog legs for approximately 5 minutes. If using a stove top, heat a layer of oil in saute pan and fry frog legs on each side 2-3 minutes or until the bread crumbs have browned. Set aside.
  4. In a cast iron pan or other deep skillet, heat a small amount of olive oil (or butter) and cook garlic and shallot until golden and fragrant, approximately 3-4 minutes. Add the white wine to deglaze. Add herbs and tomato sauce and simmer for an additional 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add frog legs and simmer until sauce slightly thickens, about 7-10 minutes. Serve with rice!

Filet Mignon with Mushroom Shallot Butter

Amanda and I have made no effort to hide our love of Masterchef, and when the contestants were taught to break down a large piece of meat, we were inspired. Amanda and I wanted to try our hand at breaking down a large cut into smaller, more presentable portions. In my case, I had done this before with a whole beef tenderloin (also called a PiSMO) and so I thought I would share.

Whole Tenderloin, because they require less processing, are usually a pretty economical choice considering that this one of the most prized parts of the cow. They are generally vacuum packed and sold at a much lower rate per pound than their individually packaged counterparts. Since there is a lot of meat in one of those packages, the overall cost might still be high. However, considering I have usually managed to get 8-10 dinners out of one piece, it still works out to be a great deal.

After breaking everything down, obviously the best reward would be to cook one of these newly trimmed filets up for yourself. Combined with the mushroom shallot butter recipe below and a glass of wine, I think you’re in for a good night after hauling that hunk of beef home from the store.

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Breaking down a whole (or half in my case) Beef Tenderloin: 

  1. Pull the initial layer of fat off the tenderloin. You may need a knife to get an initial tear in the fat started, but once you get your fingers under this layer, you should be largely able to remove with your hands.
  2. With the fat removed, you should be able to make out three parts of the meat. The actual tenderloin is the long, circular portion in the middle. On one side will the “Chain”which is the smaller, longer piece. On the other side, is a wide, thick portion much shorter than the tenderloin. Remove the pieces on either side of the tenderloin and reserve for recipes of your choice. The chain makes excellent stir fry meat and the other portion is also great as a roast!
  3. Now that the tenderloin is trimmed, you should be able to see a layer of “silverskin” on some of the meat. This must be removed as it does not render like other fat. To remove, stick the tip of your knife under a small piece. Once you can get your finger under the silverskin, lift the skin with one hand and peel it off the meat, using your knife when needed. This part can be a bit tricky, but continue to peel off the silverskin in strips this way until all is removed. IMG_3028
  4. Now the tenderloin is ready to be portioned. You can keep it whole if you’d like, but I usually like to cut some of it into filets. Slice into 2″ portions. The end with the taper can be butterflied into a filet if you would like or you can save that end as a roast if you want to leave that portion a little thicker.
  5. I like to freeze the extra meat in freezer bags individually so I can pull them out whenever I’m craving some steak for dinner. Portions can stay in the freezer for up to 4 months.

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Filet with Mushroom Butter: 

Mushroom butter Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1 lb baby Portobello mushrooms or mushrooms of your choice, minced.
  • 1 small shallot, minced.
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp oil

 

Instructions: 

  1. In a small pan over medium heat, add the oil and saute the shallots until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt.
  2. Cook the mushrooms and shallots until the mushrooms have released their moisture and reduced size, about 5-7 minutes. Taste and add more salt if desired during cooking.  When finished, remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Once cooled, add the stick of butter to a stand mixer and add your mushroom/shallot mixture and mix on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until everything is distributed.
  4. Spoon the butter mixture onto the middle of a sheet of parchment paper. Fold the paper in half over the butter, gently. Using a sheet pan and starting at the end where the paper corners meet, slowly slide the pan down and toward the butter so that elongates into a tube. Once this is completed, you can roll the leftover parchment around the butter and twist the ends. Chill the butter for at least 2 hours. This can be made up to 5 days in advance, or you can freeze it for up to 6 months.

  1. When you are ready to make your steaks, remove them from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature (about 30 minutes). Preheat the oven to 450°F and stick in a cast iron pan.
  2. Once the oven and pan are preheated, (carefully) move the cast iron pan to the stove top and heat over medium-high. Liberally salt and pepper your steaks and sear in the hot pan for 2 minutes on each side.
  3. Add a pat of the mushroom butter to the tops of the steaks and transfer the pan to the oven and cook until internal temperature reaches 140°F for medium rare. This should be about 3-5 minutes depending on thickness.
  4. Remove from the oven and allow steaks to rest on a cooling rack loosely draped with foil for 10 minutes. Top with an additional pat of butter and serve. Enjoy!

 

Wine Pairing: A Burgundy or a really bold Pinot Noir would be a great match with both the mushroomy undertones that the butter brings as well as the beef. Happy cooking!

Sushi Two Ways–Fish free

Well, it’s the middle of summer and it…is…HOT! As if the outside temperature weren’t enough, my giant kitchen windows face west. While having the setting sun’s rays streaming across my prep areas is aesthetically pleasing, it certainly raises the temperature of the kitchen noticeably. This, combined with the fact that the oven loves to radiate heat in any way it can makes for a sweaty dinner preparation. After a long day, any recipe that allows me to keep my cool is welcome in my house in the peak of summer for sure.

While my spring rolls are also a great choice, I do like to look towards sushi in times of serious heat. While it does involve cooking the rice, those of us lucky enough to automatic rice cookers (you’ll have to pry that appliance from my fingers–I’m never living without one) means that we can push the button and run away.

Since my palette has not quite graduated to raw fish, and living in a landlocked state hardly places confidence in any fish available, I love to make this fruit sushi as inspired from DK Sushi in Austin. About once every few months I get a craving for these flavors that can only be quenched by bringing out the sushi mat. For a more savory version, I have also made a cucumber and turkey roll that showcases the regional favorite, provel cheese.

If this post has ignited a need for sushi but you’re still craving that fish, I’d suggest checking out Amanda’s too-hot-to-cook post, the Poke Bowl with Avocado Rice, for some fish marinade suggestions that can easily be incorporated into a roll of your choice. For now though, enjoy these alternative options!

Yogurt Drizzle Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of strawberry yogurt
  • 2 tbsp pineapple juice
  • 1 tsp sugar

Instructions:

  1. Stir together the yogurt, pineapple juice and sugar until you have a smooth consistency and sugar is dissolved. Chill until ready to serve.

Sushi Rice Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of uncooked, short grain white rice
  • Water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp salt

Instructions:

  1. Rinse the uncooked rice in cold water until the water is clear (this is very important!). I usually like to add rice and water to the pot in which I’ll be cooking and then use my hand as a claw to agitate the starches. Then drain the starchy water and repeat until the water is clear.
  2. Add 2 cups of fresh water to the rice pot and either cook using a rice cooker or the traditional method (bring to boil over stove, cover and cook on low heat for 15 minutes and fluff).
  3. Add the sugar, rice wine vinegar and salt to the rice and stir until well incorporated. Traditionally these are heated together to form a syrup but we’re trying to use heat as little as possible here and I find the residual rice heat can help dissolve the granules.
  4. Allow rice to cool for 15-20 minutes. It can still be slightly warm when you are ready to assemble.

Sushi Assembly Ingredients:

  • Fresh Pineapple, thinly sliced
  • Apple, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
  • Avocado, sliced
  • Fresh Mango
  • Strawberries, sliced
  • Nori Sheets
  • Black sesame seeds

Instructions:

  1. Sprinkle the black sesame seeds over your sushi mat and then spread 1/3 of your rice evenly onto the mat it in a square, about 1/4″ shorter than the nori height. Then add the nori, shiny side down.
  2. Place the slices of avocado, apple and pineapple about 2/3 of the way down the nori sheet trying to fill in as many gaps as possible. However, try not to overfill.
  3. Roll your mat over the filling ingredients and continue to roll. s you complete a rotation, press to make sure the roll is coming together. Pull the mat away from the roll as you keep going.
  4. Slice the roll into 8 equal portions.
  5. Using a vegetable peeler, peel slices of mango so you have a small 1 inch sheet of mango.
  6. With a pastry brush or your finger, brush a little bit of your yogurt drizzle onto the mango sheet and lay it over the top of one of your sushi pieces. Place a slice of strawberry on top.
  7. Once all pieces are assembled, drizzle the yogurt over top and enjoy!IMG_2880IMG_2882

Quick Cucumber and Turkey Sushi

  • Sushi Rice
  • Nori Sheets
  • Cucumber, seeded and sliced into matchsticks
  • Provel cheese (can also use cream cheese)
  • Sliced turkey, deli meat.

Instructions:

  1. Place the nori sheet, shiny side down on your sushi mat. Spread a thin, even layer of your sushi rice over the nori sheet and leave about 1/4″ of the nori visible at the top.
  2. Place the cucumber, turkey and cheese about 2/3 down the nori sheet avoiding gaps.
  3. Roll your sushi; when you get to the top, brush some water onto the nori to help it seal itself.
  4. Slice into 8 equal portions and enjoy.

Wine Pairing: Obviously, we’re going for refreshing here so a chilled white or rose wine sounds fitting. Something like a riesling is an excellent choice!

Greek Chicken Burger

It was burger week for Amanda and me with our latest Distance Dishes date. While I don’t crave them often, something about that warm, summer air that has been moving in made me want to bite into a nice, juicy burger. While classic beef burgers are all well and good, we wanted to experiment with some alternatives for when red meat just won’t do.

Amanda got creative with a vegetarian version soon to come, but Mediterranean flavors were calling my name. With a heavily seasoned patty topped with a refreshing tzatziki, this burger packs an amazing flavor punch while still feeling refreshing. Biting into this delicious sandwich topped with fresh vegetables is quite the reward for standing over a hot grill (or pan).

One tip I will say Amanda and I both learned is not make your patties too thick or you’ll be waiting forever for that middle to cook. I had to delay our skype date because I was waiting for a safe internal temperature forever. The picture above is an eight ounce patty, but I’ve adjusted the recipe below. Learn from my mistakes 😉

Greek Chicken Burger Patty:

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 mini bell pepper, minced
  • 1/4 cup cooked spinach, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Instructions: 

  1. In a large bowl, hand mix together all ingredients so that everything is well incorporated into the meat.
  2. Form into 4 patties and cook in a pan or grill over medium heat until internal temperature reaches 165°F. Then, they are ready for assembly.

Tzatziki

  • 1/4 cucumber, shredded
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped dill

Instructions: 

  1. Whisk together all ingredients and chill until ready to use.

Assembly/Toppings:

  • Ciabatta Rolls
  • Tomato
  • Red onion slices
  • Lettuce
  • Tzatziki

Assemble as desired and top burger with Tzatziki. If you’d like, serve with the Grilled Balsamic Zucchini and enjoy!

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Wine Pairing: For this meal, I wanted to try out a new pitcher and actually made a Summery Wine Punch (below) to add to the summery vibes. However, for a true pairing, actually a Pinot Noir might stand up to the tartness of the Tzatziki  while also balancing out the flavor profile. 

Summer Wine Punch: 

  • 1 bottle of dry white wine
  • 1 qt pink lemonade
  • 4 oz pineapple juice
  • Fresh, sliced strawberries for garnish

Add all ingredients into a pitcher, stir and serve with ice.

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Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Mango Cilantro Sauce

Wanting to live vicariously through Amanda’s recent vacation to the sparkling shores of Miami, we decided to cook up our best tropical inspired meals to keep the vacation magic alive. I, being nowhere near a beach now or in the near future, was a big fan of this idea. While munching on something with these tropical flavors is undoubtedly more enjoyable while breathing in the fresh sea air and listening to waves crash in the background, I’ll take what I can get.

Since I’m currently and tragically landlocked, and any attempt at obtaining fresh, Caribbean fish seemed futile, I opted for pork. Recently, I’ve been on a bit of a cilantro kick and I knew I wanted those fresh, albeit divisive, flavors to be included. Fortunately, cilantro pairs wonderfully with mango and nothing screams tropical to me more than the bold and tart flavors of the mango. This slow roasted pork tenderloin topped with the coconut sauce was enough to give me the taste of the vacation I didn’t have, even if I couldn’t quite smell the ocean air.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin:

  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Mango Cilantro Sauce

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups diced mango (I used frozen)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped into fine pieces.
  • salt
  • lime juice
  • 2 Serrano peppers, minced.
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil (or canola/vegetable oil)

Instructions:

  1. For the pork tenderloin, pre-heat the oven to 375°F. Combine the garlic powder, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and spread onto the pork tenderloin until all surfaces are covered.
  2. Place tenderloin in a roasting pan and roast in the pre-heated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the internal temperature is at least 145°F. Allow to rest outside the oven for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
  3. While the pork is roasting (probably about 20 minutes before done), prepare the sauce. In a small pot over medium heat, add the onion, garlic, salt and grapeseed oil. Stir until the onions are fragrant and semi-translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the coconut milk, mango, and the Serrano peppers. Allow this to simmer until reduced by at least 1/3 and thickened, about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat and add the cilantro and lime juice. Wait for the cilantro to wilt and then transfer mixture to a blender (once cooled slightly). Pulse until the mango chunks are smooth and the cilantro is well incorporated–about 30 seconds to 1 minute. You can also use an immersion blender for this step if preferred.
  6. Transfer back to the stove to warm until the tenderloin is ready. Slice the rested pork tenderloin, and top with sauce. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: While I’ll admit, I actually decided to make rum runners instead for this dish to get the full beach bar experience from my couch, I would say that an aromatic white wine, such as a chenin blanc would work nicely.

 

Farmers Market Challenge: Asparagus & Sausage Pasta Bowl

Feeling inspired by our favorite cooking challenge shows, Amanda and I decided this week to give ourselves a bit of a challenge. Since I needed to get out and discover more of the area in which I live, and the warmer weather was in full swing, we decided on a farmers market challenge. The rules: try and get as many ingredients to create a dish from your local farmers’ market as you can. Everything in the dish must be made with something from the market with a few exceptions. The protein, salt & pepper, and three other ingredients to be personally determined could be used in addition to the fresh market items. It seemed simple…until I went to the market.

Let’s just say, the turnout was a bit underwhelming. There was one vendor of vegetables, and not much variety at that. However, the real treat of the day was a local farm selling their own meat. We picked up some locally produced pork sausages from this vendor, and then traipsed over to the vegetable cart to acquire some asparagus and garlic. This was my not so impressive haul from the market, although I suspect with the recent flooding in the area that it might not be typical. Needless to say, I looked at my purchases like a stressed-out contestant on Chopped, wondering what to do next. There was also a chocolate covered pretzel purchased, but that was promptly eaten on the ride home.

In the end, I used my three TBD ingredients (lemon, pasta and saffron) to put together this surprisingly quick and easy pasta dish and I will definitely be keeping it in mind for future weeknight dinners. The sausage added so much flavor that no other seasonings we needed, although the saffron did add a nice flavor if desired. I gobbled up this meal more enthusiastically and more quickly than many others I had made for this, and cleanup was a breeze.

Ingredients: 

  • 4 oz small pasta, I used rotini, but orzo or shells would work too.
  • Water for boiling.
  • 15 threads of saffron (optional)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 chicken or pork sausages of your choice, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
  • 10-15 stalks of asparagus, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • Freshly squeezed juice of half of a lemon
  • Pepper to Taste

Instructions:

  1. In a large pot, add enough cold water to handle the amount of pasta you have, probably no less than 1 quart, but more if needed. Add the saffron threads if using and the salt, and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 6-10 minutes depending on your pasta. Once finished, strain the pasta, but do  not rinse.
  3. While the pasta is boiling, add the sausage slices to a skillet over medium heat and allow to brown for about 3-4 minutes. Add the asparagus and the garlic, which should be able to cook in the rendered fat from the sausages.
  4. Cook over medium heat for another 4-5 minutes until the asparagus is bright green and everything is cooked through.
  5. Add the drained pasta and stir to incorporate and re-warm the pasta.
  6. Remove from heat, add lemon juice, stir and serve! Top with pepper to taste.

Wine Pairing: This dish just seems so spring-like to me, maybe because of the journey to the market and eating on a warm spring evening before the sun sets. Because of this, a chilled glass of pinot gris just feels right. 

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A Trio of Tea Sandwiches

While reality television has never quite captured my attention, Amanda has recently gotten me hooked on a little show about the elite of Charleston called Southern Charm. The fourth season recently premiered and the Amanda household was kind enough to include me via Skype for their premier-watching party. Naturally, I wanted to make a meal that allowed me to feel the elegance and flavors of the south and to celebrate with the Florida crew in spirit.

I wanted to make something light, summery, and fancy-feeling that both touched on a southern classic (pimento cheese! yum!) but also represented the class of our favorite character on the show. Therefore, this trio of tea sandwiches–two savory and one sweet–was the perfect option for a viewing party (even if it was a party of one) and let me pretend I was one of the Southern Charm gang at one of their fancy garden parties (but without any drama or drinks thrown in faces).

Spicy Cilantro Cucumber Sandwich:

  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 4 oz can green chiles
  • 1 cup spinach leaves
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, freshly shredded
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly

Instructions:

  1. Combine cilantro, spinach, chiles, jalapeno and lime juice in a food processor and pulse until you have a fine puree. Add this mixture to a small bowl with the cream cheese and stir until combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Spread the cream cheese mixture onto 3 of the white bread slices and top with cucumber slices. Top with the other 3 slices of bread to form 3 separate sandwiches.
  3. Trim edges and slice into triangles, and they are now ready to serve!

Pimento & Pulled Chicken Tea Sandwich:

  • 4 oz of cream cheese
  • 2 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • 4 oz jar of pimento peppers, drained and rinsed
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 6 slices of white bread

Instructions:

  1. Mix together the all ingredients (it does make it a bit easier if the chicken is still warm).
  2. Spread onto 3 slices of the white bread as thick and even as you can manage.
  3. Top with the other 3 slices of white bread to form 3 sandwiches.
  4. Trim edges and slice into triangles. Ready to serve!

Sweet Strawberry Mascarpone Tea Sandwich

  • 3/4 cup of strawberries, trimmed of greens and roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese
  • Loaf of angel food cake or pound cake
  • 3-4 large strawberries, trimmed of greens and sliced longways-thinly

Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the strawberries, sugar and salt and cook for about 5 minutes until the sugar is liquified and the strawberries are mushy
  2. Pass this mixture through a fine sieve to filter out the seeds and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Once cooled, mix together the strawberry puree and the mascarpone cheese until fully incorporated and there are no white specs in the cheese.
  4. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the cheese to cool.
  5. Slice the angel food cake/pound cake into 1/4″ thick slices.
  6. Spread the strawberry mascarpone onto one slice of bread and then top with sliced strawberries. Add another slice of the cake to the top. Trim edges and slice into triangles. Ready to Serve!

Drink Pairing: With these yummy sandwiches, I decided to forego wine this time in favor of a more Charleston representative cocktail: 2 parts firefly sweet tea vodka, 2 parts pink lemonade and 1 part firefly peach tea moonshine. Be warned though, these little numbers are tasty and dangerous. 

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