Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tacos Al Pastor with Pineapple Salsa

A very sad thing happened this weekend. My refrigerator stopped working. It started with the ice-maker not quite working as it should and before I knew it, all the food in my freezer (including a stockpile of pork tenderloin) had thawed. My parents were in town this weekend and I had planned to use some of the pork for this recipe, but I then found myself sending them home with a pound of loin for themselves since one can only eat so much pork in one week (and believe me, I test that theory on a regular basis). So fortunately I was able to fix this dish before things went downhill in my kitchen. I served the tacos with an avocado salad.

Tacos Al Pastor with Pineapple Salsa (makes 8-10 tacos)


  • 1 chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, trimmed
  • 1 TB chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tsp ancho chile powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray

  • 4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices fresh pineapple
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 3 TB thinly sliced red onion
  • 3 TB fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 jalapeño, thinly sliced
Remaining ingredients:
  • 10  (6-inch) corn tortillas


To prepare pork, preheat the grill to high heat.

Mince chipotle chile. Combine chipotle and oil in a small bowl; rub evenly over pork. Combine oregano and the next 4 ingredients (through black pepper). Sprinkle spice mixture evenly over pork, and let stand for 30 minutes. Place the pork on grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill for 6 minutes on each side or until a thermometer registers 145°. This may take longer depending on the thickness of your meat (that's what she said). Remove pork from grill; let stand 5 minutes. Coarsely chop pork; keep warm.

To prepare salsa, place pineapple on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill for 5 minutes on each side. Coarsely chop pineapple, and place in a medium bowl. Add cilantro and next 4 ingredients (through jalapeño); toss to combine.

Warm the tortillas according to package directions. Place 2 tortillas on each of 4 plates, and divide pork evenly among tortillas. Top each taco with about 3 tablespoons salsa.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Farmers' Markets

One of my favorite pasttimes during the summertime is visiting the farmers' markets for fresh produce. I'm fortunate to live within a 10-minute walk to two markets, both offering a variety of fruits, vegetables, fresh meats and other goods. There is also a weekly market outside my office building downtown so needless to say, local producers will benefit greatly from my propensity for cooking and inability to pass up free cheese samples.

This past weekend I picked up a bunch of strawberries that practically melted in my mouth and a jar of Sweet Dill pickles from a vendor I frequented a lot last year. They also make an awesome sweet and spicy pickle...perhaps I'll get those next month. Since I had leftover lunchmeat and cheese from the chicken cordon bleu I made earlier this week, I've been enjoying these on sandwiches for lunch this week.

I want to close this blog with an exciting announcement...this blog has hit over 2,000 pageviews. While in the scheme of things, that is pretty small, I'm still pretty impressed considering I only have 10 followers (seriously, why aren't more of you following me?) and only crosspost on Facebook. Yet I have people visiting the site from all over the world. So far the most popular post has been the buffalo cheesey bread, but a close second was the Sticky Rice Food Porn post but I'm pretty sure that is only because of the words that come up on that search. :)

Have a great Memorial Day weekend everybody!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chicken Cordon Bleu and Dijon Red Potatoes

If the Katie of 15 years ago could have predicted that I would eat such a variety of cuisines, much less cook them for the masses, she would have been shocked. Back when I first started cooking, my meals were, to put it plainly, plain and boring. I ate very much like the traditional Pittsburgher that I was-a lot of meat and potatoes, and very few vegetables. Granted this may have not had anything to do with where I grew up, but I can say that I didn't have nearly as complex as an appetite as I do now.

Having said that, sometimes you just want to eat something that takes you back in time. This week I cooked just that. This plate is lacking in color, and probably nutritional content, but the familiarity was right on point.

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Dijon Red Potatoes (serves 6)



  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1 TB dijon mustard
  • 3 slices (1 oz each) deli ham, cut into halves
  • 3 slices (1 oz each) Swiss cheese, cut into halves
  • 1/4 dry bread crumbs

  • 1/3 cup dijon mustard
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 6 medium red skin potatoes (about 2 pounds) cut into chunks



Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix all potato ingredients (sans potatoes) in a bowl. Then toss potatoes in mixture, coating evenly. Place potatoes in a lightly greased baking pan. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the potatoes are cooking, place chicken between 2 pieces of waxed paper and pound to 1/4 inch thickness using flat side of meat mallet. One way to cut time is to buy the thin, scalloplini style chicken breasts they sell in the store. Either method works.

Brush 1 TB dijon mustard on each chicken breast and then layer 1 slice each of ham and cheese over mustard. Roll up each chicken breast from short end, secure with a toothpick. Spray tops of chicken rolls with cooking spray and sprinkle with bread crumbs.

Once potatoes have cooked for 45 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Arrange chicken rolls in baking pan, cover with foil and bake 10 minutes. Then uncover and bake for another 20 minutes until cooked fully.

As a side note, I tend to like my potatoes very tender and almost brown/crispy around the corners so I end up cooking the potatoes for the full time by themselves (45 minutes) and then for the 30 minutes the chicken is cooking. If you were making them by themselves, I think about an hour at 425 degrees would be sufficient.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Brown Butter Oatmeal Cookies

I've never had that much of a sweet tooth, but one thing I do have a soft spot for is the combination of sweet and salty. These cookies, which I've made once before, fulfill that craving. I'd love to say they are good for you, because they have fruit in them, and oatmeal lowers your blood pressure...but I'm thinking the large amount of butter counteracts all of that. But they are so worth it.

Brown Butter Oatmeal Cookies (makes 3 dozen)


  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, browned
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 3 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips


Add butter to a small saucepan over medium heat. Melt butter, stirring slowly. After butter melts, continue to cook for a few minutes until the butter solids start to brown. You'll know it's ready when you see it turn a caramel color and starts to smell nutty.

Pour off browned butter carefully and let it cool.

Mix together sugars with brown butter until they are smooth using a hand mixer. Beat in eggs one at a time and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients except chocolate chips and cherries.

Slowly mix in dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Mix until just combined.

Stir in chocolate chips and cherries.

Spoon large tablespoons of cookie dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes until they are lightly browned around the edges.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Spicy Basil Chicken Stir-fry with Sauteed Snow Peas and Peppers

With the amount of Asian cooking I do on a regular basis, it's usually a pretty safe bet that I could look up a stir-fry recipe and have everything I need. Granted, stir-fries are some of the simpler dishes to make, you could basically throw a bunch of meat and vegetables in a skillet, add some soy sauce and call it a day. But this recipe was one of the first I've seen that included chili paste and the end result was slightly spicy, but very flavorful. I paired this with brown rice and a simple sauteed snow pea and pepper side.

Spicy Basil Chicken Stir-fry with Sauteed Snow Peas and Peppers (serves 4)


  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/4 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 TB fish sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/4 tsp chile paste
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup sliced basil leaves
  • 1 cup sliced red pepper
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 cups trimmed snow peas
  • salt
  • pepper


Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots and garlic to pan; cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add chicken to pan; cook 13 minutes or until chicken is done.

Once you've cut the red peppers and snow peas, place in skillet with 1 tsp of sesame oil, cooking for 4-5 minutes, or until crisp. Once done, toss in remainder of sesame oil and salt and pepper, to taste.

Combine fish sauce, sugar, soy sauce, chile paste, water, cornstarch and salt in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add fish sauce mixture to pan, and cook for 1 minute or until mixture thickens, stirring to coat chicken. Remove from heat. Stir in basil.

I served with brown rice mixed with 2 TB of lime juice and 1 TB of sesame seeds. This added a nice bit of bite to the rice.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cumin-Spiced Fish Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa

Good lord I love good Tex-Mex food. I ate so many different types of meat in tortillas over the Cinco de Mayo weekend, you'd think I was ready to feed on something different. But oh no...when I saw this recipe a few weeks ago, I added it to my queue of things to cook. And given my food has been a bit meat and carb heavy over the past few weeks, I wanted to try something a bit lighter. These tacos fit the bill. They were flavorful, healthy and quick to make after work.

Cumin-Spiced Fish Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa (serves 4, makes 8 tacos)


  • 1 TB cumin
  • 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound tilapia fillets
  • 1 TB canola oil
  • 1 cup sliced peeled avocado
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped peeled ripe mango
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 TB finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 TB fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

  • Directions:

    Place cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, paprika, and black pepper in a spice grinder; process until finely ground. Combine cumin mixture and garlic; rub over fish. Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add fish; cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from heat; keep warm.

    Combine the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, avocado, and next 6 ingredients (through 1/4 teaspoon red pepper). Stir in jalapeño.

    Heat tortillas according to package instructions. Break fish into pieces; divide evenly among tortillas. Top each tortilla with 2 tablespoons salsa. Fold tortillas in half; serve immediately.

    Monday, May 7, 2012

    Vietnamese Pork Noodle Salad

    I am fortunate to live near a number of Vietnamese restaurants serving up heaping bowls of pho and other dishes from that region of the world. I'm a big fan of a dish called "Bun" (my apologies if I'm not spelling that right) and have been holding on this recipe from my friend Nick's blog (www.macheesmo.com) for a time when I was hankering for some Vietnamese food but not wanting to leave the house to get it. This Sunday was one of those days and I'm so grateful my friend Jeanine came over to help me eat this. I'll be eating it for lunch the rest of the week-for the record, it is really good cold.

    While it seems like there are a lot of steps involved, it really is a pretty easy dish to make. The one bit of advice I would give is to be sure to use fresh herbs as indicated below. It really does make the dish and the dried variety just won't cut it.

    Vietnamese Pork Noodle Salad (serves 6-8 people)


    1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and sliced into 1/8 inch medallions. Marinate in the following:
    • 1/4 Cup vegetable oil
    • 1/4 Cup fish sauce
    • 2 TB brown sugar
    Salad Dressing:

    • 1/2 cup fish sauce
    • 1/3 cup warm water
    • 3 limes, juice only
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 3 bird or Serrano chilis (I used 2 jalapenos)
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    Salad stuff:
    • 3 large carrots, grated (or you can be lazy and buy pre-cut carrot slivers)
    • 1 large cucumber, peeled seeds and cut into match sticks
    • 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
    • 1 chili pepper, or a jalapeno
    • 8 oz dried rice noodles, vermicelli style (the smallest kind)
    • 4 cups red and/or green lettuce, sliced thin
    • 1/2 cup fresh basil
    • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
    • 1/2 cup fresh mint


    For dressing, dice peppers and garlic and whisk with other dressing ingredients. Set aside for later.

    To prep pork, freeze pork loin for 15 minutes or so and then slice it 1/8 inch thin. Add medallions to marinade and let sit for at least 30 minutes.

    Peel carrots and cucumbers and remove seeds from cucumbers. Run them both through a box grater. Add peanuts, chili peppers and 1/2 cup of dressing and it marinate.

    Chop lettuce and herbs and set aside.

    Cook rice noodles according to package.

    To cook pork, lay medallions out on a baking sheet lined with foil. Cook under the broiler on high for 6-10 minutes until the pork is caramelized on the edges and cooked through. Be careful not to overcook it.

    Finish salad by layering noodles, then carrot slaw, then lettuce and herbs. Add pork to the top and pour on dressing, leaving some so people can add it on individually.

    Before serving, toss salad together to combine ingredients and dressing well.

    Saturday, May 5, 2012

    Pear and Gruyere Strata

    The final of my housewarming brunch dishes is something I made at the holidays last year. When having several people over for brunch, it was key to have at least one dish that I didn't have to do all the work on in the morning, this was that dish.The prep work is pretty minimal and you basically assemble everything the night before so the following morning you just need to stick it in the oven for a little less than an hour.

    The only modification I made on this recipe was that I didn't use the turbinado sugar since I couldn't find the ingredient, though I think the only reap purpose of it was additional sweetness to carmelize on the top. I felt the dish was pretty sweet as it was, but if you can find that sugar, more power to you!

    Pear and Gruyere Strata (serves 6-8 people)


  • 4 cups sliced peeled Anjou or Concorde pear
  • 2 tsp butter, melted
  • 6 TB granulated sugar, divided
  • 12 (1-ounce) slices cinnamon swirl bread (such as Pepperidge Farm), cut in half diagonally
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 cup egg substitute
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 TB turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

  • Directions:

    Combine pear, butter, and one tablespoon sugar in a large bowl; toss gently.

    Arrange half of bread in an 11 x 7-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spoon pear mixture evenly over bread; top evenly with cheese. Arrange remaining bread over cheese.

    Combine the remaining five tablespoons granulated sugar, milk, egg substitute, and cinnamon, stirring with a whisk. Pour milk mixture over bread, pressing down to submerge. Cover and chill 8 hours or overnight.

    Preheat oven to 350°.

    Uncover dish. Sprinkle turbinado sugar evenly over bread. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut into 6-8 pieces; drizzle with syrup.

    Wednesday, May 2, 2012

    Orzo Pasta Salad

    The other day I was talking with my friend Sam about the awesomeness that is Trader Joe's. Unfortunately, the Trader Joe's closest to me is near the George Washington University campus and it's a real pain to get to and it's by far the worst store layout I've ever seen. Yet somehow those Hawaiian-shirted cashiers get the job done pretty quickly. In any case, it's been a while since I've gone to the store for my quarterly stock up grocery order where I get sucked in to their ethnic microwaveable meals and cheap staple items. I see a trip in my immediate future as I just used up the last of my last Trader Joe's haul as part of this weekend's brunch. I finally used the 1-pound bag of orzo pasta that has been patiently waiting in my cupboard.

    This pasta salad recipe is really easy and makes for a small army. After having 9 people over for brunch on Sunday, I still had several servings left for myself for lunch this week.

    Orzo Pasta Salad (serves a small army, or maybe 10 hungry women)


    • 1 pound orzo
    • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
    • 12 oz. grape tomatoes (quartered)
    • 8 oz. feta cheese
    • 2/3 cup toasted pine nuts
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 1 tsp minced garlic
    • 1 small can of sliced black olives
    • salt and pepper (to taste)
    • balsamic vinegar (to taste)


    Cook orzo as instructed on package.

    Toast pine nuts in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil until lightly browned.

    Once pasta has cooked and cooled, toss all other ingredients together with the olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar (I used maybe 1/4 cup). Another option would be to use an Italian vinaigrette dressing.

    Serve cold.