Almost right after she graduated from Indiana University, Allison took off for Spain to teach English and explore the world. She got a week off at Easter time, and we joined her in Madrid. We rented a car and drove into Portugal. Back in the 1400s, it was a world power and its only rival was Spain. In fact, the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas divided the world in half between the two countries. Nothing last forever - right? However, while Ronald Reagan was president, Argentina claimed that the treaty gave them the right to the British owned Falkland/Malvinas Islands. Of course England didn't agree and forcefully let it be known the treaty was obsolete!
We stayed in the city of beautiful Porto for a couple days and were charmed by the tiles, the architecture, all the colors but especially by the food. On Easter Sunday we ate at a fabulous restaurant right on the water where Roy ordered a Francesinha, a sort of sandwich made of several pork meats which were swimming in the most delicious sauce any of us had ever tasted. It was definitely something cooked low and slow and had a dash of what Porto is famous for - port wine.
When we got home, I was dreaming of those flavors but didn't have the time or patience to watch over something for hours. I don't drink alcohol, but I like to cook with it for the complexity it gives to a dish and I figured a bit of port might give me the essence of what I was looking for in a hurry. The inspiration for this dish posted here came from a recipe in the 2009 cookbook, The Family Chef by Jewels and Jill Elmore. I tweaked it a bit and the result turned out to be a favorite of Roy's. Of course, it is still totally delicious without the port and over the years I have often left it out.
4 pork chops, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick
2 medium sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, put through a press
2 teaspoons dried sage
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup tawny port (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Peel each sweet potato and pierce with a fork. Microwave on high for six minutes. When cool enough, cut into cubes. Set aside.
Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, sage, thyme, salt, lemon juice and pepper to make a paste. Reserve 1 teaspoon of mixture. Rub the rest into both sides on each pork chop. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a oven proof pan such as an iron skillet or Dutch oven and place over medium high heat until very hot. Brown each pork chop about 3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add the sweet potato cubes, diced red onion, 1/4 cup parsley and the reserved 1 teaspoon of spice mixture to the same hot skillet that the pork chops were browned in. Gently stir to combine and loosen the crispy bits. Sear the sweet potatoes, turning over once after 2 minutes. Continue to cook for 2 additional minutes.
Return the pork chops to the pan, nestling them among the sweet potato cubes. Pour the port over the pork chops and sweet potatoes and cook for 2 minutes.
Place skillet into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon chopped parsley.
1. It's considered to be a traditional Peruvian dish but it has a strong Chinese influence.
2. It's served, not with french fries but poured over them!
3. It's got french fries in it but is still fairly healthy if the fries are baked.
4. It's decadent, but it doesn't make me feel guilty!
In the late 1800's and early 1900's, Peru experienced a wave of immigration from the area around the city of Guangzhou, China. These people brought soy sauce and woks; then they incorporated their cooking practices with ingredients native to their new home. This way of cooking came to be known as "chifa" and today is a common type of Peru cuisine.
Roy and I had this yummy "stir fry" several times this winter when we were in southwest Florida where Peruvian food is very popular. I was surprised to find out that it had soy sauce in it because it had such spicy Latin flavors. Authentic Lomo Saltado gets its kick from the yellow aji amarillo pepper, which I found as a bottled paste on Amazon. A good substitute is jalapeno or Thai chilies. "Lomo" translates to loin and this recipe can be made from beef tenderloin or, as I used, sirloin steak. Another cheat is using frozen french fries instead of making your own. So one more contradiction - it's festive enough for a weekend but easy enough for a week day meal.
Ingredients and Directions for Lomo Saltado - Serves Four
About 1 1/2 pounds sirloin steak (or beef tenderloin) 2 tablespoons soy sauce 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 1 garlic clove, minced or put through a press 2 tablespoons olive oil divided 1 1/2 bell pepper - any combination of colors, sliced 1 onion, sliced 1 jalapeno pepper or 2 to 3 smaller Thai peppers, sliced w/seeds & membranes removed 3 small tomatoes, sliced in lengthwise strips 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro for garnishing
1 small bag of frozen french fries or 2 medium russet potatoes 1 tablespoon olive oil 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Trim all the fat from the steak, and slice it into thin strips.
Combine the soy sauce, red wine vinegar, garlic, and 1 tablespoon of oil in a bowl. Whisk well, add the meat and gently combine. Set aside.
Start making the french fries. Either follow the package directions for baking the frozen french fries or follow the steps below.
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/4 inch wide strips by slicing them lengthwise every 1/4 inch and then cutting those pieces into 1/4 inch wide strips.
Rinse the strips and drain them. Then put them in a bowl and cover them with hot water. Let them sit for 10 minutes.
Drain them, rinse them again, then pat them dry with paper towels.
Spread the potato strips out on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper (best option!) or foil. Toss them with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread them out again so they are in a single layer.
Bake for 30 minutes, gently flipping over every 10 minutes, until nicely browned.
(These are extra yummy tossed with Parmesan cheese, minced parsley, and a smidgen of truffle oil - especially when dipped in mayo mixed with lemon juice and garlic.)
But wait - we are using these fries for Lomo Saltado!
To continue with Lomo Saltado:
While the french fries are cooking, place the sliced bell peppers, hot peppers, onions, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet. Saute over medium low heat, about 10 minutes or until tender.
Add the tomato slices and saute until softened about 3 to 4 more minutes.
Remove the cooked vegetables from pan and set aside, covered.
Place the meat mixture into the same pan.
Saute until the beef is brown on both sides.
Add the vegetables and gently toss.
To serve, divide french fries among 4 plates. Ladle the Lomo Saltado on top. To garnish sprinkle a bit of chopped cilantro on top of each serving.
We are back home from spending the winter in sunny southern Florida. It was getting so, so hot down there and I was complaining that I wished the temperatures were cooler. What was I thinking?! I woke up this morning to snow showers and 31 F degrees. I know that when it does get to be spring here, it will probably roar right into summer. Meanwhile, this salmon dish reminds me of the South American restaurants I loved to go to in Florida. Lots of eateries were blends of the best of different countries like Argentina and Peru. The green Chimichurri Sauce is usually served with an Argentine steak but I found out it goes great with salmon. I left out the diced red bell peppers, so feel free to include them to be totally authentic. Likewise, I riffed on the traditional red onion relish Criolla Salsa by adding spiralized cucumbers. The cucumbers could be cut very thinly as well instead of being "zoodled". Enjoy and think warm thoughts!
Salmon with South America Salsas - Serves Four
1 medium sized cucumber 1 medium red onion - divided Juice of 1 lime - about 2 tablespoons 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt - divided 1 bunch fresh cilantro - divided 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes - divided 1 bunch fresh flat leaved parsley 2 garlic cloves 1/4 cup olive oil 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 4 salmon fillets 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
Make the Cucumber "Criolla Salsa" by spiralizing the red onion or thinly slicing it. Place the onion slices in a bowl of ice water for at least five minutes so they won't taste bitter. Meanwhile, spiralize or julienne cut the cucumber and place it in a bowl with lime juice , 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. After their "soak", drain the red onions, pat them dry with a paper towel. Hold back enough red onions to make 2 tablespoons diced (for chimichurri sauce) and add the remainder of them to the bowl. Gently toss and set aside.
Make the chimichurri sauce by placing in a blender or food processor: 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, 1/2 cup parsley leaves, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 2 finely minced garlic cloves, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and the 2 tablespoons diced red onion that was set aside. Pulse of process until the mixture is combined but still retains a somewhat coarse look. Set aside until serving time.
Pan fry the salmon by placing 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet. Heat to medium high and place the fillets skin side down in the pan. Sprinkle the seasoning salt evenly over the 4 fillets. Cook for 5 minutes. Juices should be oozing up to the top surface of the fillets. Flip over to finish them off, cooking them another 4 minutes. To serve, divide the Cucumber "Criolla" between four serving plates. Place a salmon fillet, skin side down, on each plate and spoon the Chimichurri Sauce over each one.
This winter, Roy and I have been staying in one of the nicest RV "resorts" we have ever been in. The grounds are gorgeous and the sites are paved, spacious, and landscaped. It like going going to camp - there are so many activities that it's impossible to do everything that is offered. One pastime that everyone seems to partake in is eating! There are lots of pitch ins and opportunities for group dinners. This recipe was born out of the need to bring a dish to contribute to a gathering, and wanting to offer something different. It's a great side to serve with grilled meat and for someone who avoids legumes, it is a good substitute for baked beans.
Ingredients and Directions for Smoky Sweet Potato Salad - Yields 8 Generous Servings
4 medium sized sweet potatoes 4 red radishes 3 green onions, sliced 2 tablespoons diced red onion 1 tablespoon diced jalapeno pepper 1 cup mayonnaise 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar 1 teaspoon smoked paprika 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Wash, peel, and cube the potatoes. Fill a large soup pan about half way up with water and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and let the water return to a boil. Cook for about 5 more minutes or until the cubes can be easily pierced with a fork but still feel fairly firm. Don't let them get mushy. Drain and allow to cool. I actually put them in the refrigerator for about a half hour.
While the potatoes are cooking, wash the radishes. Slice a couple and dice the other two. Set some of the sliced radishes aside for garnishing.
If you haven't already done so, slice the green onion, and dice the red onion and jalapeno pepper.
When the potatoes have cooled, whisk together the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, smoked paprika, cumin, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and chili powder.
Place the cooled sweet potatoes, radishes, red onion, green onions and jalapeno pepper in a large bowl. Gently mix in the dressing.
Any version of shrimp whether it's frozen, fresh, cooked or raw can be used in this recipe. Fresh shrimp is great, but for me, having a bag of those little guys - already cooked or not - in my freezer has enabled me to put together a yummy dinner when time is short. I also like to buy bell peppers when they are on sale and freeze them sliced or diced, in Ziplock freezer bags. And these days bags of already diced onion, peppers, and celery are available. A meal can be ready in the time it takes to set the table and put together a salad while the veggies saute. Here I served this dish over riced cauliflower, but mashed cauliflower, rice or grits would also be nice.
Orleans Style Shrimp - Serves Four
2 or 3 strips of bacon (optional)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup of any or a combination of red, yellow, or green bell pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, put through a press
1 (15 oz.) can of chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (like Frank's)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 pound peeled shrimp, frozen or fresh, cooked or raw
If using, cook the bacon until crispy and set aside.
While bacon is cooking, if using frozen shrimp, put them large bowl of cool water so they can defrost.
Drain the bacon grease from the skillet and add vegetable oil, onion and diced pepper. Saute over medium low heat until tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and saute another 30 seconds. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, salt, pepper and thyme. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.
Rinse and drain shrimp. Add the shrimp and continue to cook another 5 minutes. If using raw shrimp, make sure the shrimp turns opaque to ensure it is done.
Serve over rice, grits, mashed or riced cauliflower and crumble bacon (if using) on top.
Years ago, Aunt Gayla brought a salad to a family holiday gathering. We all loved it so much that I tried to duplicate it and my attempts morphed into the spinach salad posted here. For a time, we ate it quite a lot; then we seemed to forget about it. Every now and then one of the girls will say, "Can you make that salad with the oranges and avocados in it when I come home?", and I wonder why I don't serve it more often. The dressing, which has Dijon mustard and a bit orange juice, seems to get in cahoots with the avocado slices and ends up coating the spinach in - family joke here - a "luxurious" way. Don't skip the step where the lemon is squeezed on the avocado because it just lends to the spectacular end result when everything is tossed together. This is truly a salad where the sum is greater than the parts! :)
Ingredients for Four Servings
1 large bag baby spinach leaves ( 8 cups) 2 or 3 clementines or tangerines, depending on size 2 ripe avocados 1 small lemon 1 small red onion 1/2 chopped pecans 1/2 cup olive oil 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar 2 tablespoons orange juice 1 1/2 teaspoon country Dijon mustard 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 1/4 teaspoon pepper
If they are not already washed, then rinse, drain and blot the spinach leaves dry with paper towels.
Peel clementines or tangerines and separate into sections.
Peel and pit avocado. Slice and squeeze the juice of the lemon over the avocado.
Peel and thinly slice the red onion.
Place the spinach leaves, clementine or tangerine sections, avocado slices, red onion slices, and chopped pecans in a large bowl.
In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, rice wine vinegar, orange juice, Dijon mustard, salt, garlic powder, and pepper.
Pour dressing over spinach and other ingredients and toss until the mixture is coated.
Divide between four serving plates. This is great served with salmon or chicken!
I love to listen to pod casts while I am doing something mindless like cleaning or walking. As a long time subscriber of Bon Appetit magazine, their weekly podcast is one of my favorites. A few weeks ago, their former senior news editor was the featured guest to talk and promote her cookbook. I was so intrigued with the conversation, that - even though I have tons of cookbooks - I had to buy it. Dining In by Alison Roman has lots of recipes that are really do-able and most include ingredients I already have on hand. The photographs look like they were lifted right off of Instagram and the words sound like Roman is there just chatting up the reader. She's big on seeds, nuts, toasted bread crumbs and citrus which makes for some very yummy creations. In the introduction she promises, "These recipes are meant to inspire you to adapt, encourage you to riff, and empower you to maybe not follow the recipe." I took her at her word and, as you can see from the photos above, I had a great time making: Fried Eggplant with Harissa and Dill; Blood Oranges with Crunchy Red Onion and Avocado (I used regular oranges); and Avocado with Everything (I added garlic salt and left out dehydrated onion). I have to say the eggplant dish has the best sauce ever! However, I just could not get past the amount of olive oil the eggplant soaked up when I fried it, so the second time I made it, I grilled the eggplant. It turned out just as delicious and I used it to build a lunch bowl with chicken. I wish I could give you the recipe, but I understand it is very bad form to do in a cookbook review - if you could call this post that! So instead I can only say it involves garlic, harissa, tomato paste, cumin, and vinegar. By the way, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org - if anyone wants to converse on the subject a bit further. So - here is another grilled eggplant recipe that is really, really good which I originally posted in 2013. Below are photos from making Roman's recipe when I grilled the eggplant, as well as a photo of Grilled Eggplant Caprese and the recipe.
If roasting the eggplant in the oven is preferred, follow the directions except instead of putting the slices on a grill, place them on a foil covered sheet pan and bake at 400 degrees. Turn over after 7 minutes and continue baking for 7 more minutes.
Eggplant Caprese Salad
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup dried tomatoes (not oil packed)
1 medium eggplant
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Scant teaspoon salt
Scant 1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 to 4 fresh medium sized tomatoes, sliced
1 to 2 large balls (16 oz,) of fresh mozzarella cheese
A few fresh basil leaves for garnishing
Place the dried tomatoes in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Set them aside and let them sit for at least 20 minutes.
Cut the eggplant into half inch slices. Brush each side with olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
Place the eggplant slices on a grill over medium heat. Cook about 5 minutes on each side until the eggplant has nice grill marks and is brown but not burnt.
After the 20 minute soak, drain the dried tomatoes, dice them up, and place them in a food processor along with the basil, 1/4 cup olive oil, and vinegar. Blend until finely chopped.
Slice the mozzarella into slices. On a platter, alternate and arrange the mozzarella, tomato, and eggplant slices. Spoon the dried tomato mixture on top and garnish with the fresh basil leaves.