Friday, March 30, 2012

Super Fresh

Sunset magazine meets hip-hop culture. Apparently. An article in their April 2011 issue is called "Super Fresh."

As in, "Yo, man, that's fresh!" Which means cool, hip, totally awesome. Not, just picked from the garden.

At least, that's my interpretation.

While I doubt most hip-hop stars would eat Salmon Sesame Salad, and I can't think of any who would eat my version with tofu instead of salmon, I wanted to make the dish anyway. Wearing my old-skool Pumas, of course.

I left out the crispy wontons that were supposed to get sprinkled on top of the salad, but only because I was hungry and didn't feel like taking the time to make them.  They look pretty, though: puffy from frying and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

The salmon in the recipe gets boiled, basically, which probably works flavor-wise because the dressing is poured over it, and salmon has enough flavor to hold its own in the salad. But because I was using tofu, I knew it needed extra flavor before going in the salad. I had some Very Very Teriyaki marinade, and put that in the pan as I sauteed the tofu pieces. I thought this was the perfect flavor addition to the entire dish, and went well with the spicier Lemongrass-Chile Dressing. And yes, I realize teriyaki is Japanese and sambal badjak is Indonesian. But this hip-hop salad is already a total culture clash, so I figured it worked.

Apples, pears, or Asian pears would also work in the salad.

Salmon Or Tofu Sesame Salad
serves 6 as a main course
adapted from Sunset, April 2011

1 1/2 lb salmon filets OR 1 pack extra-firm tofu, drained and sliced into 2-inch pieces
teriyaki marinade (optional)
Kosher salt
3 oranges, sliced (I cut slices in half)
1 medium head napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 lb snow peas, trimmed and halved
8 green onions, sliced
1/4 C coarsely chopped cilantro
2 avocados, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

12 wonton wrappers
1 egg
2 TBSP sesame seeds
vegetable oil for frying

3 TBSP lime or lemon juice
2 TBSP packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp sambal badjak OR sriracha
2 TBSP minced lemongrass
1 TBSP finely grated fresh ginger
6 TBSP canola oil

1. If using salmon, cook it in a large pot of simmering salted water, covered, until just opaque, about 5 minutes. Lift out and let cool. 
If using tofu and marinade, heat 2 TBSP marinade in pan over medium heat. Cook 5 minutes per side, or until browned crust forms on either side. Set aside.
2. If making wontons, pour enough oil into large pot to come up a half-inch on sides. Heat to 360 degrees. Meanwhile, whisk egg with 1 TBSP water. Brush wontons with egg mixture on both sides and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Fry in small batches until golden and puffy. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.
3. Make dressing: Whisk dressing ingredients together in small bowl. 
4. Assemble salad: combine cabbage, snow peas, oranges, green onions, and cilantro in a large bowl. Toss with 2/3 of dressing. Divide among plates. Arrange either salmon or tofu pieces and avocado on top of salad. Garnish with additional cilantro and dressing. Serve with wonton chips.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jalapeños Make Everything Better

I've noticed a pattern in several recent conversations.

Me: "I want to create a new kind of candy for my Etsy shop. I'm thinking about--"
The Texan, interrupting: "What about chocolate-covered jalapeños?"


Me: "What do you think about flavored caramels? You know, like espresso or chocolate."
T:  "I'm thinking jalapeño-flavored caramels."

and then,

Me: "Would you please make a loaf of bread to have with dinner tonight?"
T: "Jalapeño bread all the way, baby!"

Knock yourself out.

But then we decided to make chili, and because we both love cornbread, we knew that Coyote Joe's Jalapeño Bacon Cornbread recipe was the flavor direction we wanted to head in. However, the two cups of buttermilk, two eggs, cup of cheddar, one-third cup of butter, and half-pound of bacon in the recipe wasn't the direction our arteries wanted to head in, so we used the recipe on the back of the box of cornmeal and added a single slice of applewood-smoked bacon and a jalapeño.

It was ridiculous. As in, really good. And perfect with a bowl of chili.

But then, as we made our second batch of cornbread to eat with the leftover chili, I noticed our conversations were heading in a new direction.

The Texan, wide-eyed: "Let's add the entire half-pound of bacon that Coyote Joe's recipe calls for!"
Me: "Let's not."
T: "Why?"
Me: "Because Coyote Joe had gastric bypass surgery in 2006."

Chocolate-covered jalapeños are starting to sound pretty good right now.

Jalapeño-Bacon Cornbread
adapted from On the Chile Trail and Albers
makes 12 servings

1 C yellow corn meal
1 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 TBSP baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 C milk (I used 1/4 C milk + 3/4 C soy milk)
1/3 C vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1-2 jalapeños, diced and seeded

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat an 8" x 8" pan with cooking spray. 
2. Combine corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. 
3. Combine milk, oil, and egg in small bowl. Mix well. 
4. Add milk mixture to flour mixture. Stir until just incorporated.
5. Add bacon and jalapeño. Stir until just combined. Do not overmix! Pour into prepared pan.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Note: This recipe can also be used to make muffins. Fill cups 2/3 full and bake for 15 minutes, using same test for doneness as above.

West Texas, California

A bunch of things happened at once:
-a fellow food blogger left me a comment that while she'd never tried ground buffalo, she could attest to the fact that buffalo steaks were delicious
-I found a book at the library about spicy food, with chapters called Cowboys, Cattlemen, Catholics, Cajuns, and Californians. You see where this is going
-the Texan came across buffalo steaks at Costco

My Irish Catholic mother used to make steaks in the broiler on a fairly regular basis. It wasn't always my favorite meal, though it was certainly one of hers. I can't remember ever making steaks on my own, much less making them for others, and to me steak and potatoes always seemed so, I dunno, expected. But when the steak stars aligned as they did, I felt compelled to see it through.

The Texan and I wanted to give the steaks a little flavor, so we tried West Texas Barbeque Rub from Coyote Joe's On the Chile Trail. With three kinds of pepper, sugar, salt, and cumin, we figured we couldn't go wrong. As it turned out, I liked it more than he did: I thought the heat from the cayenne was perfect on the meat, and was mellowed out just a little by the sugar and the mild peppers. And because I just might cook my own steak after this, I'm sure I'll find a way or three to use up the leftover rub.

Coyote Joe's recipe for Bourbon Sweet Potatoes was a no-brainer. As he puts it in the description above the recipe, "Heavy cream, butter, bourbon, and brown sugar... it's simply heaven." Well, yeah! The Texan said his mom always puts a little bourbon in her sweet potatoes. I'd never even thought of it, so clearly I've missed something all these years. Oblivion aside, I thought boozy sweet potatoes with our buffalo steaks would be just the right spin on the typical meal, so I didn't skimp at all on the cream. Or butter. Or brown sugar. Or bourbon. The texture, blitzed to perfection in my trusty Cuisinart food processor, was indeed heavenly. The sauteed pecans on top were just the right contrast to the smoothness. Plus, Texans love pecans.

I used white-fleshed sweet potatoes, but you can use whichever kind you like.

Of course, if you eat steak and potatoes for dinner, you have to eat a green vegetable with it. Which is a lesson I learned from my mother.

Broccoli, steamed with a little butter, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

West Texas Barbeque Rub
from On the Chile Trail

6 TBSP ancho or mild New Mexico chile powder
1 TBSP granulated sugar
3 TBSP brown sugar
3 TBSP kosher salt
2 TBSP  ground black pepper
1 TBSP cumin (I used about 1/2 tsp)
1 TBSP cayenne powder

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl or container. Rub (really RUB) spice mixture into meat on both sides, if applicable. If possible, let meat absorb spices for 8-12 hours in refrigerator before cooking. If not, let stand for 20-30 minutes before cooking. 

Bourbon Sweet Potatoes
serves 6
from On the Chile Trail

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 C chopped pecans
1 tsp butter
3 TBSP soft butter
4 TBSP firmly packed brown sugar
4 TBSP heavy cream
3 TBSP bourbon
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
salt to taste (I didn't use any)

1. Boil sweet potatoes for 30 minutes, or until tender.
2. As sweet potatoes are cooking, saute pecans in 1 teaspoon of butter for 2 minutes.
3. Drain sweet potatoes and place in food processor while still warm. Add 3 tablespoons of butter and remaining ingredients (and salt, if desired). Puree, adding more cream if needed to achieve soft, creamy consistency. 
4. Top with sauteed pecans.