Weekly Winner: Haters Gonna Hate – until they try it!

IMG_0529OK, some people might think I’ll need to give up my “personal chef card” (as if there is such a thing), after reading this post, and others are going to say to themselves “oh, wait a minute, I can see how that might work”.  That second group of people are who I’m talking to here.

So, first of all a bit of a back-story to this.  For quite some time now I’ve been seeing commercials for this product (not that it’s new, but obviously is going through a “rebranding”). I’ve also noticed it prominently displayed in grocery stores recently.  In a specific commercial they actually show said product in this exact dish with the tagline “Don’t knock it until you FRY it”.  Yes, that’s right I’m talking about Spam.  In particular Spam-fried Rice.  Something about the commercial immediately clicked with me.  I thought to myself, “Oh heck yeah, I’m gonna try that”!  And I did.  And it was fabulous.  And I’ll be making it again — possibly often.  Ah, the power of advertising!

I probably haven’t had Spam for over 30 years.  I’ve never had anything against it, and I definitely enjoyed it on the rare occasion my mom made it for us as kids.  I have never turned up my nose at it — to me, it’s far better than Canadian Bacon.  Oh wait!! Spam Eggs Benedict!  OK, add that to the list!  Maybe I should offer my services to the Spam recipe development people.  But I digress.

Without further ado — here is my personal recipe for Spam-Fried Rice.  As with all fried rice dishes it is open to all kinds of riffs and modifications.  This was simply the veggies I had on hand.

Spam-Fried Rice

Ingredients:

3/4 of a 12oz can of Spam Classic, cut into cubes

2 Tbsp peanut oil

1 tsp Sesame oil

3 cups cooked white rice, chilled

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp ginger, minced

2 large eggs, beaten

2 small carrots, diced

1 cup frozen peas

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/2 cup soy sauce

3 scallions, thinly sliced, whites and green parts separated

Procedure:

  1. In non-stick frying pan or wok, heat 1 Tbsp peanut oil.  Add eggs and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring gently until just set.  Remove eggs to plate and break up into small pieces.
  2. Add remaining peanut oil and sesame oil to pan or wok.  Add scallion whites, carrot and Spam.  Cook, stirring often until Spam is crisped on edges and carrots are beginning to soften, about 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic and ginger and continue to cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add rice and cook, stirring about 3-4 minutes more until rice is heated through.
  4. Add egg, peas, and soy sauce.  Season with salt and pepper and toss until thoroughly mixed.  Serve immediately topped with scallion greens
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Weekly Winner: Punched Up Pork Chops

IMG_0521It’s no secret that when the carnivore in me comes rearing her hungry head, it’s very rarely steak that she’s looking for…. its a bone-in pork chop!  And while I’m incredibly happy with a simply-seasoned, perfectly-cooked, juicy chop — every once in awhile I go looking for ways to up my pork chop game (or at least provide some interesting variations).

I found just the right inspiration in the latest issue of Bon Appetit.  Grilled Pork Chops with Pineapple-Turmeric Glaze.  These were awesome!  Just the right mix of spice and sweet but not so much flavor that it covered up the taste of the pork.  Everything came together in a super flavorful, super easy dinner.  This glaze would also be great on, well, anything!  I can see it on shrimp, chicken, beef…. more pork!  This just might replace my barbecue sauce this summer.

Grilled Pork Chops with Pineapple-Turmeric Glaze

serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable oil (for the grill)
  • ½ cup pineapple juice
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • ½ tsp. ground turmeric
  • 4 1″-thick bone-in pork chops
  • Kosher salt

Procedure:

  1. Prepare a grill for high indirect heat (for a gas grill, leave one or two burners off; for a charcoal grill, bank coals on one side); oil grate. Bring pineapple juice, honey, vinegar, mustard, red pepper flakes, sesame oil, and turmeric to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook, swirling occasionally, until reduced to ¾ cup, 10–15 minutes. Let cool. Transfer half of sauce to a small bowl and set aside for serving.

  2. Season pork with salt. Grill over direct heat until browned all over, about 3 minutes per side. Continue to grill, turning several times and basting with remaining sauce, until charred and coated with a thick layer of glaze, about 4 minutes. Move to cooler part of grill and take internal temperature of pork. If needed, continue grilling over indirect heat until an instant-read thermometer inserted into chops near bone registers 130°, 1–4 minutes more. Transfer pork chops to a wire rack and let rest 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with reserved sauce alongside.

Weekly Winner: Salvation found in a Fabulously Fortifying and Stunning Salmon Salad

SalmonKaleSaladSalmon is my go-to salvation dish.  When I need to reset and rebalance, I inevitably turn to my favorite fish.  It is so versatile and incredibly easy to cook.  Since the temperatures are (finally) starting to rise here in Chicago and its beginning to feel like summer, an entrée salad is definitely the way to go.  I got this winner of a dish from Cooking Light Magazine.

Roasted Pistachio-Crusted Salmon and Kale Salad hits all the right notes.  It’s healthy and hearty all at the same time.  The nuts on the salmon add fabulous crunch and even more omega-3 fatty acids, the baby kale and red onion provide  crisp freshness, and the beets ground the dish in wonderful earthiness.  This salad will set you right with only about a half-hour’s worth of work. I streamlined this a bit further by getting pre-cooked beets.  Ain’t nobody got time to roast and peel beets for a mid-week dinner!

Roasted Pistachio-Crusted Salmon and Kale Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium-size pre-cooked beets
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped unsalted pistachios, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 (1 1/2-lb.) skin-on salmon fillet (about 1 1/2 inches thick)
  • 7/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups baby kale and spinach mix
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Stir together pistachios, mustard, and lemon zest in a small bowl.  Place salmon on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Spoon pistachio mixture on top of salmon; pat into an even layer.
  2. Bake at 425 until a thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 130F, 15-16 minutes.
  3. Whisk together oil, lemon juice, remaining 1/2 tsp salt and remaining 1/4 tsp pepper in a large bowl; reserve 3 tbsp. of the dressing.  Add beets, kale-spinach mix, and onion to bowl with dressing, and toss to coat. Place salmon fillet on salad.  Drizzle with reserved dressing.

Weekly Winner: All Aboard the Buffalo Zucchini Boat Bandwagon!

zucchiniI’m not even sure where to begin with this recipe.  I thought my last entry was odd.  It honestly was nothing compared to this one.  I remember thinking when I saw the recipe for Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats “Wait, what? This doesn’t make any sense!  Who thinks up these things??” But something about it intrigued me and I could actually envision it working out.  I’m not sure why, but the thought the zucchini being stuffed with a buffalo-spiced chicken mixture was weird enough, that it just might… maybe… work out.

And it really did!  This is a super tasty, satisfying, amazingly easy dinner.  It feels indulgent and almost like a cheat meal since you’ve got buffalo sauce and cheese but actually it’s quite healthy.  The recipe for Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats comes from The Wholesome Dish blog which I discovered in a listing of 20 recipes using ground chicken (yeah, this is the kind of stuff I stay up nights looking at!).  Anyway, its crazy-easy — four ingredients! OK, full disclosure mine had 5 since I thought some chopped celery would be a nice addition as celery and buffalo wings go hand-in-hand.  It worked great but would be fine without it too.

Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 small to medium zucchini (about 1-1/4 pounds)

1 lb ground chicken

1/2 cup Buffalo Wing Sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees.  Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and break it apart with a wooden spoon.  Cook for 7-9 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through.
  3. Remove the skillet from the heat.  Stir in the buffalo wing sauce
  4. As the chicken cooks, cut the zucchini in half, lengthwise.  Use a spoon to scoop the seeds and center out of each zucchini half, leaving a 1/4-inch thick zucchini boat.  Place the zucchini in the baking dish cut-side up.
  5. Spoon the chicken mixture into the zucchini boats.  Sprinkle the zucchini evenly with the cheese.
  6. Cover the baking dish with foil.  Bake for 35 minutes.

Weekly Winner: Mystified by Miso-Mozzarella Mashup

pastaThere are combinations I honestly have never envisioned – miso and cheese is one of them.  I love both, but would never think of putting them together in the same dish.  Until now, that is.

Pasta with Miso Cream Sauce intrigued me from the word go.  I’ve added miso to my repertoire with meat and veggies, but never with pasta.  And certainly, never combined with cheese.  But why not?  This dish is super easy and in a word, luscious.  Very subtle but very addictive.   The recipe comes from Cooking Light Magazine and has me thinking what other strange combinations I will discover next.

Pasta with Miso Cream Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces uncooked casarecce, fusilli or penne pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk, divided
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 tsp. white miso
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups multicolored grape tomatoes (about 10 oz.)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 (6-oz.) pkg. baby spinach
  • 2 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, diced (about 1/2 cup) and divided

Procedure:

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.
Place 1/2 cup milk in a bowl; whisk in flour and miso until smooth. In a saucepan, bring stock and remaining 1 cup milk to a boil over high. Whisk in flour mixture, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add pepper.

Heat oil in a skillet over high. Add tomatoes, and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly blistered and beginning to pop, 2 to 3 minutes. Add thyme and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add spinach; cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cooked pasta, sauce, and half of cheese to skillet; toss to combine. Serve in shallow bowls, and top evenly with remaining cheese.

 

Weekly Winner: Sensational, Subtle, Salmon Salad

IMG_0468Sometimes food doesn’t have to smack you in the face.  As much as I like big, bold flavors, spice-encrusted meats, tangy sauces and a big ‘ol punch of garlic; occasionally I find beauty and comfort in subtlety.  Salmon, Radish, and Bibb Salad is that dish.

I found this winner in Real Simple Magazine.  Honestly, I was just looking for a different, simple salad to throw together for a midweek lunch.  Salmon had been on sale and, as we discussed in an earlier post I do love me a creamy dressing.  As I continued to eat this salad, picking along and marveling at how tasty it was with such few actual ingredients, the word “elegant” kept coming to mind.  This was definitely an elegant salad.  But that isn’t alliterative and you all know how much I love alliteration.   So serve up this salmon salad and savor the subtle simplicity of such a super selection. (Sorry, I’ll stop now… here’s the recipe)

Salmon, Radish, and Bibb Salad with herby buttermilk dressing

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 16-oz. skin-on salmon fillet (about 1 in. thick)
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil, plus leaves for serving
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint, plus leaves for serving
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated
  • 1 4-oz. head Bibb lettuce, leaves torn in half
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)

Procedure:

Season salmon with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Cook salmon, skin side down, until opaque and cooked most of the way through, about 7 minutes. Flip and cook to desired doneness, about 3 minutes for medium-well. Transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes. Break into large pieces and discard the skin.

Whisk buttermilk, mayonnaise, chopped basil, chopped mint, garlic, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Toss together lettuce, radishes, basil leaves, mint leaves, and remaining teaspoon pepper in a large salad bowl. Top with salmon and drizzle with dressing.

Weekly Winner: Down & Dirty, and Ugly-Tasty.

IMG_0461I’m not one to mess around with things I dearly love.  A good steak doesn’t need steak sauce or really sauce of any kind.  Salt & Pepper.  Done.  The same can be said (usually) for pork chops.  I love the taste of them as is, no need to muck them up.  Then I learned there is a thing called “Tomato-Bacon Gravy”… wha-what??  OK, maybe a little mucking wouldn’t hurt.  After all you’re adding pig to, well, pig!!  What can be wrong with that?  And, by adding tomatoes aren’t you actually making it healthier? (work with me here!)

Pork Chops with Tomato-Bacon Gravy is not pretty.  It’s not healthy and not something you’ll necessarily want to serve to company.  But man, on a random chilly night when you just want to change into your pajamas and tuck into something truly scrumptious, this is your meal.  I tried to assuage my guilt by roasting up a big batch of broccoli to go with it, but truth be told I wound up dragging the healthy broccoli through the extra gravy.  This decadent, dirty dinner comes from Southern Living Magazine.  Had I to do it all over again, there would definitely be mashed potatoes with this dinner.  Guilt be damned!

Pork Chops with Tomato-Bacon Gravy

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 thick-cut bacon slices

4 (1″ thick) bone-in center-cut pork chops (about 10 oz each)

1 tsp kosher salt, divided

1 tsp black pepper, divided

1 pint cherry tomatoes

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 cup beef stock

2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Procedure:

  • Preheat oven to 400F.  Cook bacon in a skillet over medium until crisp, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes.  Remove bacon to paper towels to drain, set aside. Reserve drippings in skillet off heat.
  • Sprinkle pork chops with 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper. Place skillet over medium-high, add pork chops, and cook in hot drippings until well browned, 3 minutes per side.  Transfer pork chops to an aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet
  • Place in the preheated oven; cook until a thermometer inserted into thickest portion of pork chop registers 145F, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, place skillet with remaining drippings over medium-high. Add tomatoes and remaining salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until blistered and beginning to burst, about 3 minute.  Sprinkle with flour, and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Add stock; stir until smooth.  Reduce hat to medium, and simmer until thickened, 5 minutes.
  • Chop bacon; stir into tomato gravy and serve over pork chops. Sprinkle with parsley.

 

 

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