Pork Chile Verde

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Pork chile verde just means pork with green chile peppers, which I’m sure everyone knows. But there’s one other green component that’s typically in a chile verde, and that’s tomatillos. If you’ve never worked with them before, I really think you should at least make this recipe to experience the deliciousness that is a tomatillo.

Tomatillos have papery husks, and once they’re removed, they look like green tomatoes although they’re not related to tomatoes at all.
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When you buy tomatillos make sure they’re firm, not wrinkled up or rotten. They can be cooked or used raw. For me, raw tomatillo salsas are a bit on the tart side, so I use them in cooked sauces like in this chile verde.

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Here’s what I did to make this hearty pork stew with green chiles and tomatillos:

Pork Chile Verde

1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed, quartered
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled
Olive oil
4 pound trimmed pork butt, cut into bite-sized pieces
Black pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery plus leaves, finely chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
3 – 4 ounce cans chopped green chiles
2 bunches cilantro, rinsed, divided
3 cups broth, divided
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Sour cream, optional
Chopped cilantro, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, or 375 degrees on a roast setting.
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Place the cut up tomatillos, onion, and garlic cloves on a jelly-roll pan and sprinkle with some olive oil.
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Roast them for about 30 minutes.

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Meanwhile, heat up some olive oil in a large dutch oven on the stove over high heat. In batches, brown the pork.
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Continue with the remaining pork, adding a little more olive oil as necessary, and placing the browned pork in a large bowl; season generously with black pepper.
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When you are done with the pork, turn down the heat to medium, add the onion, celery, and green onions and sauté for about 5 minutes.


Then add the green chiles, 1 bunch of chopped cilantro, and 2 cups of broth. (I’ve even used a good Mexican beer to braise the pork, and it’s good!)

Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pot, and season with oregano and cumin. Bring the mixture to a boil, then gently simmer for about 30 minutes.


Keep the pot covered with a lid if you feel there’s not enough liquid to braise the pork. Or, if you feel there’s too much liquid, leave the pot uncovered and let the liquid evaporate gently.

Place the roasted vegetables in a blender jar. Add the second bunch of cilantro, and the remaining 1 cup of broth. Blend until almost smooth.


Pour the green sauce into the pot with the meat.

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Stir well, and simmer for about 1 hour.

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Pork chile verde is a stew. It should be thick, not some cubes of pork floating in a green soup. If you need to reduce the liquid a bit, don’t hesitate to do so. It will not adversely affect the overall dish.

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I like my chile verde with a dollop of sour cream!

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I also sprinkled on a little ground pink peppercorns. You could also use some cayenne flakes.
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Chopped cilantro also adds to the freshness of the chile verde; chopped green onions can also be included.
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note: I usually make pork chile verde the day before I first serve it. Somehow, it’s just better that way.

Fresh Salsa

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We love salsa in our family. All kinds. I guess we’re all Mexican food addicts as well. I found this on Facebook, and it could have been written by anyone of us!

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On this blog, I’ve posted on home-made salsa, which I can every year, and also an exquisite peach salsa. Both are cooked salsas.

But this post is on a fresh salsa, or salsa fresca, sometimes also called pico de gallo. I’ve been making it for over 30 years, and I never change what I do, which is odd for me.

It must be made during the summer months when tomatoes are at their peak of ripeness. Other than tomatoes, you only need a few other ingredients.

So the following salsa I serve with tortilla chips, often along with guacamole for an appetizer, but it’s also good on tacos and fajitas. Heck, it’s good on eggs, fish, you name it.

I never make a large batch because I don’t feel that it keeps well. It’s something about the tomatoes.

As I sometimes do, I’m not giving an exact recipe. You’ll be able to tell from the photos what my ratios of ingredients are, and I can assure you that it will be a completely satisfying salsa! Adjust ingredients as you wish to suit your own taste!

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Fresh Summer Salsa

Fresh tomatoes, finely chopped, I use Romas
Purple onions, finely diced
Green onions, rinsed, drip-dried, thinly sliced
Cilantro, rinsed, drip-dried, chopped
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Tabasco sauce, or your favorite hot sauce

First de-seed the tomatoes by cutting each Roma into 4-5 lengthwise pieces, then removing the seeds. I even place the tomatoes on paper towels first so that they’re not watery.


Then dice them and place in a medium bowl.

Dice the purple onions and place them with the tomatoes.

Slice the green onions, and place them with the tomatoes and purple onions.

Then add the cilantro and mix everything together gently. The salsa should look like this.


Here’s the fun part. Add as much Tabasco sauce as you’d like. I added quite a few glugs, but the hotness of the salsa is up to you.
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Stir gently but thoroughly and let the salsa sit for at least 30 minutes.
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Serve at room temperature!


And of course it’s best with Mexican beer!

Enjoy!
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A Zucchini Pancake Challenge

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For a significant part of my life I can honestly say that I worked tirelessly to get people into the kitchen to make home-cooked meals. It makes so much sense from an economic standpoint, as well as for health and wellness reasons. Home cooking is generally less expensive and healthier than meals eaten out or worse than that – purchased as fast food.

But novice cooks are often overwhelmed with the idea of cooking without having a specific recipe in front of them. Especially women, in my experience. As a result, often food goes to waste, which defeats the purpose of home cooking.

Cooking at home is work, let’s face it. You need to keep your pantry stocked. And if you believe in fresh food, you need to make grocery lists and shop often.

But the most important thing in my mind, is to be creative in the kitchen without having recipes. A scary sounding proposition if you think that cooking is difficult.

Home cooking is not difficult. In fact, it’s way more fun than being a chef in a restaurant kitchen, in my mind, because you can make whatever you want on a daily basis, to suit your tastes.

Certainly prepping skills are good to know, as well as cooking techniques. But what I’m talking about is creating your own dishes based on what you have on hand. That way there is no waste.

Take zucchini. It’s September right now in the US, and zucchini, a summer squash, is still growing in my garden and readily available at grocery stores.

Sure, you can bake zucchini bread and muffins, but that’s not something that’s nourishing. I’m talking savory zucchini pancakes – a lovely vegetarian option, or a fabulous side dish to protein.

If you want an exact recipe, check out my squash and corn pancakes from last summer. It’s a little more involved, but there is a recipe.

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So the following is a guide to make your own zucchini pancakes. Put your personality into your own recipe. Season as you like. You’ll know when the texture is perfect when the batter is similar to breakfast pancakes – although breakfast pancakes with lots of grated zucchini! Take the challenge and see what you come up with. No recipe allowed!
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Zucchini Pancakes

Eggs, whisked
Zucchini, grated
Liquid of choice
Onion, diced
Chile peppers, diced (optional)
Parsley, chopped
Salt
Garlic pepper
Thyme (optional)
Flour
Butter

First, whisk your eggs in a large bowl. I used 2 extra-large eggs. Grate your zucchini and add it to the eggs. I used a medium-sized zucchini.

Prep your aromatics. I chose onion, red chile peppers, and parsley. Here’s how I chopped the chile peppers.

Then add the liquid to the batter, only about 1/3 cup, and the seasonings. You can use any herbs, spices, or even pesto!
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Give everything a stir. The mixture should look similar to this.
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Begin adding flour, about 1/3 cup at a time. Don’t stir the flour in completely, just fold it in well enough to see if more flour is needed. These savory pancakes are not going to be as tender as breakfast pancakes, but we don’t want them tough and rubbery, either.

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Just add enough flour to bind all of the ingredients. Then stop. I didn’t use more than 1 cup of flour.
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These are not supposed to be big doughy pancakes with a little bit of zucchini. These are zucchini pancakes.

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat.

Add a generous amount of butter to the skillet, and then, when it’s almost browned, add spoonfuls of batter. Take the spoon and flatten the pancakes gently. If they’re too thick, there’s a risk of them not being cooked through.

After a couple of minutes, turn them over and cook for another couple of minutes.

If you’re unsure of the total amount of time required to cook these through, break open the first pancake and look at it. If the middle is still doughy, as this one is, then the pancakes need to be cook longer.
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Ideally, the outsides of the pancakes should be crispy and golden brown and the insides soft, but not raw.

Serve the pancakes warm. They’re delicious with a little dab of butter or even a little sour cream. Or simply, on their own.

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I served these spicy zucchini pancakes with a tomato salad, but my husband enjoyed the pancakes as a side dish. They also reheat very well.

Ideas for other options:

Shallots/garlic instead of onions
Green onions/chives instead of onions
Bell peppers/roasted red bell peppers instead of chile peppers
Other vegetables included like corn
Cilantro instead of parsley
Grated potato/summer squash along with the zucchini
Chopped walnuts/pecans
Whole wheat flour instead of white
Olive oil instead of butter

If you haven’t attempted savory pancakes like these before, and follow through on them without a recipe, please tell me about it. I love to see how you did. Because trust me, it will work!

Crunchy Pea Salad

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I am an American. Born and raised. But I’ve never been a big fan of American food. I just wasn’t raised on it. In fact, I can remember the times that I was subjected to traditional American dishes after I left home, like beanie weenies, jello salad, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and poppy seed dressing. Vividly. The list is actually very long, I just don’t want to make anyone feel defensive about the kind of food on which he/she was possibly raised. I was just raised differently. That’s why I wrote the post entitled On Being a Food Snob.

For meals we enjoyed fish in fermented black bean sauce, coulibiac, duck a l’orange, and soufflés. For years my birthday meal request was brains in a cream sauce, served in puff pastry cups. When I had chicken pox, my mother made me Chinese chicken lollipops and crème caramel. She was raised in France, knew no other way to manage meals. She shopped often, chose what was in season, and made everything from scratch. And as you can tell, she really embraced global cuisines as well.

It was years before I realized mayonnaise came in a jar. Frozen food, fast food and cokes? Never. I had my first fast food burger at the age of 24. Another great memory! (not)

So I truly come by my food snobbiness naturally.

Years ago I left behind a friend in California when I moved to the Midwest after getting married. I’ve only visited her once in 32 years, which is quite sad.

Way back then she had a young family that I adored, and I was often invited for dinner. Spaghetti was a big involved meal for her, even though she bought the sauce in a jar, the Parmesan in the green carton, and the garlic bread in a foil wrapper. But it was fine. I loved being at her beautiful house with her family, which was way more important than the food on the table. And besides, she always served drinks.

Jeanne actually inspired me a lot, although I didn’t really realize it back then. I was quite young, ten years younger than her, and had no immediate plans on marrying and having children. Plus I was quite happy being a professional. But she was a wonderful mother and unconsciously I learned from her. Just not from her cooking. Oh, and she was the one who bought me my first fast food burger!

One day, however, she served a salad called crunchy pea salad. She had gotten the recipe out of one of her Junior League cookbooks*. I am not going to say anything about those cookbooks, with plastic bindings and recipes like Aunt Susan’s Favorite Cake and Velveeta Rotel Dip. I’ve probably already lost followers from my anti-American food comments.

But this salad was great! And really unique!!! And to this day I’ve kept the recipe, and have actually made it a few times. I’ve never heard of it elsewhere, or seen it on a blog, but I suspect it’s fairly well known considering the source.

The ingredients are wonderful. Peas, bacon, cashews, and sour cream, which all go together beautifully. It’s a great room temperature salad to serve at a picnic, or garden buffet, or even a brunch.

So thank you Jeanne for this recipe. And it’s a good reminder to stay in touch with old friends, and those who have moved away.

Crunchy Pea Salad

1 – 16 ounce package petite peas, thawed
8 ounces diced bacon
1 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 cup salted and roasted cashews
1 cup sour cream
Approximately 1/3 cup vinaigrette, see below

Place the thawed peas over paper towels in a bowl and set aside.


Crisply fry the bacon bits and drain well on paper towels; set aside to cool.

Have your celery and green onions prepared and ready. I’d honor the 1/4 cup of green onions. This salad is mild, and you don’t want it too oniony, especially if you have strong-flavored green onions.

Since I didn’t have roasted and salted cashews, I actually roasted mine with some salt in the leftover bacon grease. I must say, they almost disappeared before I could put the salad together.
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For the vinaigrette, I used a basic recipe as follows:

1/2 cup sherry vinegar, but apple cider will work just as well
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 small cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt

Blend everything together well. This recipe makes more than you need for the salad, so keep the leftover vinaigrette in a jar and refrigerate.

I blended about half of the sour cream along with the 1/3 cup vinaigrette for the salad, just to make it incorporate better. The vinaigrette and all of the sour cream could be whisked all together in the bowl before adding the other ingredients, as well.


To assemble the salad, remove the paper towels from the bowl with the peas. Add the celery and green onions.
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Add the remainder of the sour cream, if you haven’t already.
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Gently stir to mix well. Taste for seasoning; I added at least one teaspoon of salt.
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Normally, the bacon and the cashews would be included in the salad, but for the sake of photography, I sprinkled them both on top.

This is what the salad is supposed to look like. Not really as pretty, although equally delicious!
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Don’t be shy about the amount of sour cream in this recipe. It adds creaminess, of course, but also a wonderful tang.

note: If you can, add the cashews at the last minute. If you have leftover crunchy pea salad that contains cashews, they will soften, and nothing will really be crunchy in the salad.

* Before you even think about writing a comment defending Junior League cookbooks of America, please know that I’ve actually been featured in one, and I’m very proud of that fact. Over the years, the cookbooks have really evolved, and now have normal bindings, gorgeous photos, and creative recipes. Below is a blurb from a write-up about me, in Cooking by the Boot Straps, published in the town where I live.

xx

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Frittata

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Not too many people hear these words from one their little kids…

“Mom, can you please not make any more frittatas?”

Seriously. I guess I got a little carried away for a while making them. I was very creative with frittatas, but still, I guess at least one of my daughters wasn’t fooled. I also remember thinking how funny her request was at the same time. I mean, it’s like a kid asking the mom to quit serving foie gras or oysters on the half shell. Which is exactly why I remember her question to me so vividly.

And yet, I must have overdone it. And I think I know why.

I’d always made omelets and the like for my kiddos because I was passionate about preparing breakfast for them, even though it involved getting up earlier than most other moms. It was worth it to me.

But then I was introduced to this cookbook – The Villa Table, by Lorenza de Medici – and I was smitten.

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Blog-wise, I’ve made stuffed zucchini based on Ms. Medici’s recipe, but it’s so full of wonderful recipes, that if you didn’t love Tuscan food already, this book will put you over the top.

In any case, in the book Ms. Medici has a recipe for a frittata, to which she adds leftover spaghetti. Seriously! And I mean, why not? You can really put just about anything in an omelet or a frittata, so why not leftovers like a pasta dish! I had so much respect for her for including such a mundane, yet perfectly practical recipe, or idea, if you will, that I think I got a little crazy then, throwing just about everything left over from the previous night’s dinner into the next morning frittatas for my girls. That is, until I was asked to stop.

When I wrote up my omelet post a while back, I realized I hadn’t made a frittata in years, thanks to that daughter. And I was really kicking myself. When I have some folks visiting, it’s the perfect thing to make in the morning, but I had completely blocked it out!

You see, an omelet is best made one at a time as a single omelet for one person. But the best thing about a frittata? A large one can be easily made and it can be sliced up to serve many!

There’s nothing mysterious to a frittata. It contains the same ingredients as an omelet, primarily beaten eggs, of course, cheese, and often accessory ingredients as well. These can include something as simple as asparagus, or as involved as leftover pasta bolognese, like I mentioned above.

A frittata is essentially an open-faced omelet – made in the same way as an omelet, except the last step is to place the cheese-topped omelet in the oven for some browning. You do have to take some care with the frittata, however, just like an omelet, to not overcook it. Otherwise, it would be a big rubbery awful mess.

So I’m going to offer up my version of a basic cheese frittata. What else you do to yours is completely up to you. Trust me, once you start adding your leftover pastas or stews or vegetables to yours, you’re going to be making them quite often, just like I used to!

Basic Frittata

6 eggs
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 red bell pepper, diced
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 purple onion, diced
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan, or to taste

Place the eggs in a medium bowl and whisk them well with the cream and salt. My eggs were close to room temperature, but this isn’t necessary. Set aside.
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In the skillet in which you will be making your frittata, which much be able to withstand broiler temperatures, heat up the butter over medium heat. Add the red bell pepper, green onion, and purple onion.
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Sauté the vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until soft.

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At this point, turn on your broiler, and have your shelf on the top of your oven, directly underneath the broiler.

Pour the whisked eggs into the skillet over the vegetables.
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Make sure the hear is at its lowest point. Just like with making an omelet, this process will take some time. Place a lid on the skillet.

After about 4-5 minutes, you’ll see that the eggs are starting to cook.
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I added some leftover goat cheese that I happened to discover. Now, this isn’t in the recipe, but I wanted to show how many different things you can do with a frittata. Before you add the cheese, make sure that the frittata is about 75% cooked; there will still be liquid in the skillet at this point.
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Then I covered the goat cheese with the generous amount of Parmesan. I was in a cheesy mood that day.
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Place the skillet under the broiler. After a minute or two it will look like this, and there will be no liquid left in the skillet.
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I cut this frittata into four wedges, which seems like quite generous servings, but there are only 6 eggs in the whole frittata. You can remove the frittata easily from the skillet if you wish, but I just served them from the skillet.
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Frittatas are fabulous for both breakfast and brunch.
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I’ve also seen in another Lorenza de Medici cookbook that sometimes a wedge of frittata is served between two slices of bread for lunch!
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Personally I will take my frittata without bread.

But now you get an idea of how many different things can be used in a frittata. I could have sautéed any vegetables and aromatics. Spinach and mushrooms can be used as well, but I would prepare both of them much earlier, and drain them of excess liquid. No one wants a watery frittata.

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And I could have used 8-10 eggs in the same skillet for a much thicker frittata, which of course would take a little more cooking time. It’s just what you want in the end. But the key is to cook the eggs slowly, then let them finish off in the oven while the broiler is taking care of melting and browning the cheese. It’s a lovely egg dish!