Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mama Ozzy's Beer-Braised Carnitas

I don't remember when I came up with this recipe.  I think it was after I had the stellar carnitas at one of Durham NC's stellar watering holes, The Federal.

The Federal has an excellent menu featuring incredible garlic fries, amazing duck confit tacos and, of course carnitas.  Carnitas are a slow-braised spiced pork, and every time I go to The Federal, its what I order.  So of course I wanted to try to make them at home.

These are unbelievably easy to prepare if you have a pressure cooker.  The entire time is reduced from 6 hours in a low heat oven, to an hour and a half on the stove.  They are incredibly fragrant and spicy.  I love to cook the pork, rubbed in spices on a bed of onions and braised with beer.

These carnitas are fantastic with soft flour tortillas and some avacado.  I also really love to use the leftover to make huevos rancheros with eggs and some salsa and sour cream.

Mama Ozzy's Beer-Braised Carnitas
serves 12

5 lb boneless pork shoulder

1 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp achiote powder
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

3 medium onions, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick discs
3 cups beer

In a small bowl combine all the spices and mix well.  Pat spice rub generously all over pork shoulder.

Place a layer of onions in the bottom of a pressure cooker.  Place spice-rubbed pork atop the bed of onions.  Add beer slowly to pot, being careful not to wash the spice rub off the pork.

Place a layer of thick-sliced onions in the bottom of the pressure cooker...

Then place the spice-rubbed pork atop the bed of onions.

Pressure cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours until meat is extremely tender and falls apart with a fork.

Remove pork from pot and allow to cool.  Cook the remaining liquid in the pot over high heat, without a lid, until it is reduced to a thick sauce.  Remove from heat.

With two forks, pull the pork into chunks.  Toss with reduced cooking sauce, adjust to taste with salt.  Serve with warm tortillas, minced cilantro, avacado slices and Cotija cheese.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Grilled Spicy Thai Shrimp with Basil and Thai Peanut Sauce

Since the weather is 80 degrees and sunny today, AND since it's Friday I thought tonight would be a good night to fire up the grill and welcome the warm evening with something spicy and light.

I have a hankering for grilled shrimp.  This is one of my favorite preparations, it is spicy and fragrant and tangy. It's also incredibly easy to throw together if you have a food processor.  Serrano chiles, lemon grass, garlic, ginger and lime are used to marinate the shrimp, then they are skewered and grilled.  Shrimp cook very quickly on the grill so there isn't a lot of waiting time.

I love to serve this with a home made Thai peanut sauce.  Again, this sauce comes together in minutes with a food processor and tastes amazing on everything.

Serve Shrimp with basmati rice (or cooked vermicelli) and blanched brocolli and you will feast like a king!

Grilled Spicy Thai Shrimp with Basil
serves 6-8

2 lbs shrimp, uncooked, peeled, tail on

2 serrano chiles, unseeded
2 walnut-sized chunks fresh ginger
3 large cloves garlic
1 stalk lemon grass, tough outer layer rmoved, cut into 2 -inch lengths
grated zest of one lime
juice of one lime
3 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp Thai fish sauce
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp vegetable oil

bamboo skewers

2-3 scallions chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil chopped
1/4 cup chopped peanuts

combine all ingredients for marinade in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade and process until finely minced.  Place shrimp in a large plastic ziploc bag, add  marinade, seal bag and shake to coat.  Place shrimp in refrigerator for 3-4 hours.

Soak bamboo skewers in water for at least one hour.

Skewer shrimp onto skewers and grill until pink and slightly charred.

Garnish with chopped scallions, basil and peanuts.  Serve with Thai peanut sauce.

Thai Peanut Sauce
Makes 1 cup

1 cup salted roast peanuts
2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp Thai Fish Sauce
1 clove garlic
1 walnut-sized chunk of fresh ginger
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp water

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade, add peanuts and sugar. Process until a smooth thick paste is formed (about 1 minute).  Add fish sauce, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper, process until smooth.  Add water and process until everything is incorporated into a smooth sauce, scraping down sides of work bowl occasionally.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Vegan Nutella Cookies with Sea Salt

Hello from Fall River, MA! I'm your guest blogger and Mama Ozzy's oldest daughter, Emma.

I was going through my pantry the other day when I noticed that I had two unopened jars of Nutella hiding behind the pasta sauce and garbanzo beans. This was obviously a wonderful surprise, because I love Nutella and I couldn't believe that I had not one but two jars stashed away.

Normally I eat Nutella on toast or pancakes or in its purest form - on a spoon - but I wanted to try something special this time around, so I decided to make cookies.

There are hundreds upon hundreds of recipes for cookies with Nutella out there, especially on the World Nutella Day website, but since I had no butter or eggs in my fridge I was at a loss.

After a quick text to Mama Ozzy, I learned that applesauce is a great substitute for eggs and that nut butters are delicious and healthy - well, healthier - substitutes for butter, so I decided to try my hand at vegan cookies.

I know that Nutella isn't vegan since it has skim milk in it, so this recipe is more lacto-vegetarian than anything else, but it is also absolutely delicious. The cookies are delicate and chewy on the inside and light and crispy on the outside, and the hint of sea salt makes them dance and sing. If you want to make these cookies truly vegan, they would be amazing with a vegan chocolate hazelnut spread, or any other nut butter.

(Mostly) Vegan Nutella Cookies with Sea Salt
Makes about 2 dozen 3 inch cookies

1 cup Nutella
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine flour and baking soda in a bowl and whisk lightly until combined. In a separate bowl, combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, applesauce, Nutella, and vanilla extract and mix with an electric mixer at low speed until smooth. Add dry ingredients and mix at low speed until combined. The dough should be sticky and easily removed from the bowl. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour and a half.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roll the dough into tablespoon-sized balls and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle each cookie with a small pinch of sea salt. Bake for about 10 minutes until cookies are puffed and crinkled. Cookies may appear to be underdone; don't worry, this is normal. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and cool on wax paper or a cooling rack for an additional 5 minutes.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Zucchini, Mushroom and Peanut Curry with Spiced Basmati Rice

Welcome Spring!  Yesterday was March 1st and we had an amazingly beautiful day.  Sunny and 80 degrees!  If this is global warming, I like it (for now... wait and see how I feel about it come July!)

Since we have been eating rather heavily this week, Mary (our "adopted" daughter) suggested we have something light for dinner. Since Mary is a vegetarian we decided to not use bacon! Sacrilege I know, but some things are so delicious on their own, they actually don't need bacon (I can't believe I am writing this!).

That's where this simple and quick curry comes in.  Very basic and very light and very, very delicious.  The zucchini retains its crunch and the mushrooms are earthy and meaty, balanced by a very light curry sauce.  Add some peanuts for crunch and you have a party on your plate.

I like to serve this with a simple spiced basmati rice for extra flavor and fragrance.  Don't be intimidated by the spices. Yes they are unusual and can only be found at an Asian market, but they are inexpensive and will keep for a long time in your pantry.  I like to saute green cardamom, black mustard seed and cinnamon stick in butter to infuse the fat with the spice before adding the basmati rice.  The result is an exotically fragrant rice that is delicious on its own and even better with this curry.

This is a very quick dish to prepare.  Emma and Mary shopped at the Asian market while I was at work, and we prepared this meal when I returned home.  I recommend making the spiced basmati rice before starting the curry, that way the entire dish can be prepared in about 25 minutes!

Zucchini, Mushroom and Peanut Curry with Spiced Basmati Rice
Serves 6-8

8 Tbsp butter
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 lb zucchini, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 lb mushrooms sliced (I used oyster mushrooms and white beech mushrooms)
8 scallions, white and green parts chopped
2 cups bean sprouts
4 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Thai fish sauce
1 tsp curry powder
1 1/4 cups salted peanuts.

Melt butter over high heat in large skillet.  Add jalapeno, garlic and ginger and saute 1 minute.  Add zucchini and mushrooms and stir fry over high heat until mushrooms sweat and zucchini turns a bright green color (about 5 minutes).  Add scallions and bean sprouts and continue to stir fry for 2 minutes.

In a small bowl combine soy sauce, Thai fish sauce and curry powder.  Pour sauce into pan and stir fry for 2 more minutes.  Add peanuts, stir and serve hot with spiced basmati rice.

Spiced Basmati Rice:
3 Tbsp butter
6 whole green cardamom seeds
1 cinnamon stick broken in half
1 Tbsp black mustard seed
2 cups basmati rice
4 cups water
1/2 tsp salt

Melt butter in a medium saucepan with a lid.  Add spices and saute over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add rice and toss to coat with butter.  Add water and salt and bring to a boil.  Boil 1 minute uncovered.  Remove from heat and cover with lid and allow to steam for 25 minutes.  Remove cardamom seeds and cinnamon from top of rice, before fluffing with a fork.