Saturday, June 24, 2017

Question for Mom

What are chicken tenders? Alexis R.

Chicken tenders are skinny pieces of white meat that are part of a chicken breast but not fully attached.  You used to see them in packages of boneless chicken breasts.   About 15-20 years ago stores starting selling them as separate cuts of white meat, and they were cheaper than regular boneless breasts.  Now they’re priced higher. 

If you’re squeamish about cutting boneless chicken breasts into skinny pieces, by all means buy chicken tenders.  But you can easily cut boneless chicken into pieces yourself.  If you use a fork to hold them steady, you don’t have to touch the raw chicken.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Meat and Salad in One Bowl = Strange Bedfellows

I don’t usually have meat in my salad – or salad on my meat.  In fact, when I was growing up, my mother set out “salad plates” so that her salad wouldn’t mingle with other dinner items.  No gravy ever touched a lettuce leaf in our house.

In college I discovered Chef’s Salad: hard-boiled eggs, strips of ham and/or turkey or roast beef, tomatoes, cucumber and grated cheese, mixed into chopped iceberg lettuce and covered with Thousand Island Dressing.  It made a great dinner on the run.

When I moved to California, I was introduced to Cobb Salad: chicken chunks, pieces of bacon, tomatoes, avocados, hard-boiled eggs and Roquefort cheese, topped with a vinaigrette dressing and served on top of chopped iceberg lettuce.  Another full meal on one plate.

Also new to me was Taco Salad, with its ground beef or shredded chicken mixed with taco chips, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, sour cream and guacamole and served over chopped iceberg lettuce.

I’m seeing a theme here: chopped iceberg lettuce, which must be the blandest salad ingredient ever grown. 

Iceberg lettuce also turns up in Thai Pork Salad.  The novelty here is that the pork is served hot on top of the salad ingredients.  I was skeptical, but it works.  Leftovers turn out to make a great tortilla filling.

Thai Pork Salad – serves 4 
1 pound boneless pork chops
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 –10 ounces iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
4 scallions, trimmed and white and green parts sliced thinly
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small or 1/2 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 ripe mango, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon canola oil 
Remove any fat and cut pork into 1/2-inch by 1-inch strips. 
Combine lime juice, ketchup, brown sugar, soy sauce, chopped garlic, paprika and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl.  Add the pork strips and set aside to marinate for 30 minutes. 
Put the lettuce, scallions, red bell pepper, cucumber, mango and cilantro into a salad bowl.  Refrigerate until needed. 
Begin heating the oil in a frying pan or wok over high heat.  When hot, scoop out the pork pieces from the marinade, saving the marinade, and add the pork to the pan. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes, or until the pork is no longer pink in the middle.  Transfer the cooked pork to the top of the salad.  Then cook the remaining marinade in the pan for about 1 minute, or until it comes to a boil.  Pour it on top of the pork and serve the salad immediately.
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Monday, June 19, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 114

To crisp bacon, pour off the fat into a disposable container—not down the drain—while it’s cooking.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Remember Recipe Cards?

Back when I first started cooking, some grocery stores offered free recipe cards.  They were made of heavy-duty paper, cut into a 3” x 5” shape so they would fit into a wooden or metal recipe box.  On one side would be a detailed recipe and on the other a picture of the end result.  The cards were marketing tools.  If the picture looked attractive and the recipe called for a pound of stewing beef, why not buy some right now?

At the time there was no such thing as the Internet or companies that sold Make-It-Yourself Meals in a home-delivered box. Most people cooked dinner every night, and families sat down together to eat.

People even traded recipes, which they wrote out on 3” x 5” cards.  Apparently I even did this.  I recently came across my mother’s old recipe box, and in it was my recipe for Meatloaf, in my handwriting.

Times have changed, but not totally.  Last week I was shopping at my local Ralphs supermarket, and what did I see near the fish counter?  A rack of recipe cards.  I couldn’t resist grabbing a few because the pictures looked so inviting: Tuna Poke Bowl, Greek-Crusted Catfish and Crab Cake Sliders.  I’m going to try them all. 

But first I wanted to explore my old meatloaf recipe.  These days I seldom eat beef, so I switched out a few ingredients.  Ground beef became turkey and pork, and barbecue sauce and brown sugar became soy sauce and sesame oil.  I quite liked the end result.   Maybe I’ll put it on a 3” x 5”card.

Asian Fusion Meatloaf – serves 6-8 
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound ground pork
2 large eggs
4 cups Chinese (Napa) cabbage or 1 1/2 cups chopped broccoli
6 scallions, white and green parts sliced thinly
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more if you like very spicy food
1 teaspoon canola or other oil for greasing
Hoisin Sauce 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
Combine all the ingredients except the oil and Hoisin Sauce in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. 
Grease a large casserole dish or roasting pan.  Transfer the meatloaf mixture into the dish/pan and shape it into an oval, patting the surface smooth. Bake uncovered for 60-to-70 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the meatloaf reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  Let sit for 10 minutes before slicing.  
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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Fava Beans: What Are They and How Do I Cook Them?

The reputation of fava beans got much darker after Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter confided in The Silence of the Lambs, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

That’s a rather grim image to bring up at the dinner table, but it did give fava beans their 15 minutes of fame.

Some people may know fava beans by another name: broad beans. They look like super-wide green beans with mumps.  Inside the tough pod are 3 - 5 large beans.  To get to the edible part, you’ve got to remove the tough covering on the bean itself.  Some people like to boil these beans for 60 seconds and then slip the skin off.  Others use a knife to cut into the skin and then pull it off.  Once this skin is gone, simply boil the beans for 2-3 minutes, drain and eat.

Preparing fresh fava beans is more work than shelling fresh peas or trimming green beans, but how often do you find a new vegetable to serve? 

On the down side, fresh fava beans are primarily available between March and June, mostly in specialty stores.  I bought some yesterday at Jons Marketplace in Redondo Beach for $1.79 a pound.  I’m going to add them to Shakshuka

Don’t substitute dried fava beans for fresh ones, which can be cooked in just a few minutes.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 113

If you want to ripen a rock-hard avocado, enclose it in a paper bag for a day or two.  It will soften right up.

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

If You Are Drinking Chocolate Syrup…

I don’t necessarily advise drinking chocolate syrup.  But if your chocolate craving is on the rampage and there’s no other chocolate in the house, why not?  My dad liked Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, and he would occasionally imbibe straight from the can of syrup we always had in the fridge. 

Maybe that’s why I developed a taste for it too.  However, as my cooking skills progressed, I tried to make a better version.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup is considerably tastier than what comes pre-packaged.  It’s also incredibly easy to make.  It takes 5 minutes. 

Pour it on ice cream, cake or Mississippi Mud Pie.  Put a few tablespoons into a cup of milk and stir.  Dip cookies, fruit or marshmallows into it.  Or just take a sip or two.

Mom’s Chocolate Syrup – makes 1 cup (adapted from “Chocolate on the Brain”)  
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
Put the cocoa, brown sugar, water and corn syrup in a small pot and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring continuously.  Cook for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and let cool.  Stir in the vanilla extract.  Serve immediately, or when needed. 
Refrigerate leftovers in a glass or plastic jar or a small, self-sealing plastic bag.  To return to room temperature, place the container in a bowl of hot water. 
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