Cheese Panela

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There is a restaurant in Dallas, Texas, called Javier’s, that specializes in gourmet Mexicano cuisine. No nachos at this restaurant.

I discovered Javier’s in 1979, after moving to Dallas for my first job. Since marrying 36 years ago, we go Javier’s whenever we’re in Dallas, which can be quite often. It’s that good. I just checked the website for Javier’s, and learned the restaurant opened in 1977. And, it’s still open.

Not only is the food exceptional, but also the ambiance and service. The key to its continued success, in my mind, is the fact that the owner, Javier, is always at the restaurant. Saturday, Tuesday, whenever, he’s there.

One entree we’ve always enjoyed is steak Cantinflas, which is a filet stuffed with cheese, topped with an Adobo-style sauce, and served with fresh avocado. There’s also roasted chicken mole, shrimp Guaymas, great margaritas, and coffee drinks made and flambed at the table. Spectacular.

When you’re seated at Javier’s, you are given warm chips served with two warm salsas – a thin tomato salsa that almost tastes like tomato soup, and a thicker green salsa. We’ve never been able to decide which is better. Oh, and there’s fresh butter in case you want to first dip your chip into the butter, then the warm salsa…

As an appetizer, my husband and I have often shared the Cheese Panela, which is prepared at the table. It’s melted cheese with chorizo and green chiles served in warm tortillas. It doesn’t sound extraordinary, but it is.

I never thought about why the appetizer’s name is cheese panela, until I came across the same word in a blog I discovered, Nancy’s blog called Mexican Made Meatless. Her blog is “dedicated to transforming classic Mexican dishes into modern vegan, vegetarian, and pescetarian delight.”

To quote from Nancy’s blog: I was born and raised in a traditional small town Mexican environment, in which my education in Mexican food preparation began early by watching the passion that my mother, grandmother, and aunts all put into their cooking sessions. Though the culinary bug took time to fully infect my soul, when it finally did it instilled in me a fiery passion that has lead me to devour everything about the culinary arts and helped me get to where I am today.

So while perusing her blog, I saw the word panela, and learned that it’s the actual name of a cheese. Because of my memories of cheese panela at Javier’s, I knew I’d be making this recipe, interestingly also reminiscent of the Argentinian baked provolone I made called Provoleta, topped with chimichurri.

Who can go wrong with spicy melted cheese?!!

Cheese Panela
or, Baked Panela Cheese that will Knock Your Socks Off!
printable recipe below

7oz panela cheese
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
1 teaspoon red chile flakes
2 teaspoon parsley (I used fresh)
1 teaspoon thyme (I used dried)
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano (I used dried)
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
2 tablespoon olive or avocado oil

Drain the cheese and set aside.

In a bowl combine the oil and all of the herbs and spices. Poke little holes all around the cheese to help the seasoning absorb better. Place the cheese in with the oil and spices mixture and coat the cheese, cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight if desired.

Because I purchased a 3-pound wheel of Panela, I trimmed it to fit the gratin pan.

Preheat the oven to 190℃ or 375°F for 10 minutes. Place the cheese in the oven-safe dish and bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes.

The cheese will become soft and gooey but not melt completely. Allow to cool slightly.

Serve with either corn chips or country bread or any rustic bread. I baked some tortilla triangles.

As the cheese cools it will firm up again, so try to keep warm when enjoying.

The cheese is definitely reminiscent of what we used to order at Javier’s, although not as melty.

However, this cheese panela recipe is absolutely incredible. I love the aromatics, the spiciness, and the parsley.

The next time I made this recipe I used half panela and half Monterey Jack to make it more melty, which worked, but it’s best served over some kind of warmer.

 

 

 

Käsfladen

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I discovered Käsfladen recently, on Karin’s food blog, The Austrian Dish. According to Karin, it’s a specialty from the mountainous western part of Austria.

In my mind, it’s like a cross between flamiche and focaccia, since the topping is a mixture of cheese, onions, and egg, but the dough is yeasted.

The cheese is the most important aspect to making Käsfladen; actually not less than three different cheeses. Recommended are Emmentaler, a mature mountain aged cheese, and one called Räßkäße – a spicy cheese from Vorarlberg in Switzerland.

This recipe was so intriguing to me, and I was a little bummed out not having discovered this specialty food while in Austria, but Karin said that it’s mostly sold at bakeries.

Well, then I knew I’d have to make it myself, although there was little chance of duplicating the cheeses, sadly.

Käsfladen, serves 2

150 grams flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
Approximately 2 fluid ounces warm water
Pinch of salt
1 large onion
150 grams 3 different cheeses
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
White pepper

Knead the flour, salt, yeast and warm water together to make a smooth dough. (I added a tablespoon of olive oil and a little more flour.) Let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.


In the meantime, chop the onion; set aside.

Grate the cheeses. I used Emmentaler, Gruyere, and Sternenberger Bergkase, from left to right.

Mix the onion with the grated cheese, the egg, milk, and pepper.


Spread the dough in a shallow greased baking dish like a gratin pan.

Cover with the onion and cheese mixture.

Place the dish in a cold oven, and bake at 180 degrees C for about 35 minutes. The top should be lightly golden.

Serve with a salad.

Obviously, I made a tomato salad, and it was a lovely pairing.

The Käsfladen is spectacular. I love the onions in it, as well as the white pepper, but the cheeses are wonderful. You can taste each one of them.

 

 

Pickled Shrimp

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Would you ever think to name a restaurant based on your childhood nickname? Well Gabrielle “Prune” Hamilton did exactly that. She is chef-owner of Prune, the restaurant, which has been successful since its opening in 1999. The cookbook, Prune, was published in 2014.

I enjoyed reading the recipes in Prune; they all seem unique in some way. But one recipe that grabbed my attention, was pickled shrimp. This was definitely a new one for me.

When I serve a shrimp appetizer, I typically serve it marinated in a garlic-infused olive oil, an oil blended with herbs, or both!

Ms. Hamilton’s recipe has you cooking the raw shrimp in a spice and herb boil, followed by a 24-hour pickling. I just had to make it.

Pickled shrimp
Printable recipe below

2 pounds shrimp in shell

Boil
10 bay leaves
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon cardamom pods
1 piece cinnamon stick
1 cup kosher salt
6 branches fresh thyme
1 unpeeled head of garlic
8 cups cold water

Pickle
1 cup paper-thin sliced lemons
1 cup paper-thin sliced red onion
1 cup thin-slivered garlic
1 cup inner celery leaves
3 tablespoons celery seeds
3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
12 fresh bay leaves
3 cups extra virgin olive oil
3 cups rice wine vinegar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt, Pepper

Peel the shrimp, devein, and leave the tails on. Oops, I forgot to leave the tails on.

Combine the boil ingredients in a large stockpot with cold water and bring to a boil.

Add the shrimp and cook for just a minute or two until the flesh turns pink. You can pull one out and test if it’s finished before you pull out the whole batch.

Remove the shrimp with a spider. Ice down the shrimp to get them to stop cooking, but don’t let them soak in the melted ice after they are cooled or you will waterlog them and undo all that nice seasoning.

Combine all the pickle ingredients, rub the fresh bay leaves between your hands to open them up a bit, toss with the cooled shrimp, and marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator. (I only had dried bay leaves.)

Let recover to almost room temperature before serving. To plate, place 4-5 shrimp and a little of all of the goodies, in a neat jumble, in a small, shallow bowl.

Note: The shrimp will continue to “cook” in the pickle marinade, so take care in the initial blanch to keep them rare; we don’t want to end up with mealy, over cooked shrimp after the pickling.



These shrimp were so good that you can almost see the number of shrimp dwindling as I photographed them!

These shrimp require some time and also a lot of good ingredients, so I recommend making 6-8 pounds of pickled shrimp. Then it’s definitely worth the effort and expense.

Gabrielle’s first book, Blood, Bones, and Butter, was published before her cookbook, in 2012.

It’s an award-winning memoir – the story of Gabrielle’s upbringing, her entrée into the culinary profession, and her reluctance to embrace her hard-earned skills and success in the kitchen. I could not put the book down once I started reading.

 

 

Lamb Burger

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Recently I re-read the cookbook, “How to Roast a Lamb, by Michael Psilakis. I read it originally when I first bought it, in 2009 according to Amazon.

My modus operandi is to read a new cookbook, then put on the shelf. When I have more time, I re-read it, with my little sticky notes on hand to mark recipes, even if 8 years have passed. I might own too many cookbooks when I can “lose” a cookbook that easily.

What I hadn’t remembered about “How to Roast a Lamb,” is that it is one of the best written cookbooks ever, in my humble opinion. Not the recipes; they’re kind of a mess.

Michael Psilakis is Greek-American, who although born in the United States, didn’t speak English until entering first grade. Just like the family in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” his was large and sometimes loud, but there was love, and there was food.

In the introduction, Michael tells the fascinating story of how his rise to chef and restaurant owner began, with fateful events allowing major opportunities in his life.

In spite of some rebellious years during his teens, Michael always made it home for dinner.

“It was clear to me that missing one night of family dinner would not make my mother angry, but, far worse, it would wound her in a way that would cause her pain in the depths of her soul. To miss one of those dinners would signify to her that whoever else I was doing was more important than she was, more important than my family, and more important than her singular wish to keep us together.”

Michael Psilakis’s stories that precede each chapter beautifully describe the love and respect he had for his family growing up, and his mother’s passion for food and cooking that he inherited.

Lamb Burger
Bifteki Arniou
Makes 2 burgers (I doubled the recipe)

2 – 1/4″ thick slices sweet onion
Olive oil
Salt, pepper
7 ounces ground lamb
3 ounces ground pork
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped dill (I omitted dill)
1 scallion, green part only, finely chopped (I used chives)
1 tablespoon garlic purée (I used 1/2 roasted head of garlic)
About 2 ounces pork caul fat
2 slices onion, grilled, to top the burgers
2 kaiser rolls

Brush the onion slices with a little oil and season with salt and pepper. On a hot grill pan, grill until tender. Separate the onion into rings and chop fine.

In a bowl, combine the chopped grilled onion, lamb, pork, mustard, coriander, parsley, dill, scallion, and garlic purée.

Season liberally with salt and pepper. With clean hands, combine the mixture evenly and divide in half. (I made four burgers.)

Place a 4-5″ ring mold on a clean work surface. Lay a piece of caul fat over the top with a few inches overhanging all around. Place half the lamb mixture in the center and press down to form a thick, flattened disk.

I simply did the same thing without using a ring mold.

Wrap the overhanging caul fat up and over the top, overlapping a bit but trimming off extra bits and pieces. Smooth the caul fat so that it is flat to the surface. Repeat to make the second burger, and place them on a piece of parchment. (Remember I made four burgers!)

Preheat a cast-iron skillet until hot. Brush the burgers lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the side with the caul fat down first, grill, and turn over untl firm and char-marked on both sides, to your desired doneness.

My burgers were cooked to medium-rare, although you can’t tell from this photo, but of course they can be cooked longer.

And being an American, I had ketchup on hand.

Don’t roll your eyes, I actually ate the burger with only a little Dijon mustard. It was way too good to smother with ketchup of course!

These lamb burgers were really incredible. I can’t imagine them tasting any more delicious. The roasted garlic addition was probably not too far off of the chef’s garlic purée, which is a purée of garlic confit.

There was one mistake, where cumin and fennel are supposed to be included in the lamb mixture, I’m assuming, because they were listed in the ingredient list, but omitted in the directions.

If you’re wondering how I got my hands on pork fat caul, it is because of a website I’d recently discovered, called Heritage Foods USA. It’s also where I got my ground lamb; my local store’s situation with lamb is hit-and-miss, but mostly miss.

It is a unique experience working with the lacy caul. It looks so delicate but don’t let its dainty looks fool you!

Butternut Squash Soup with Gorgonzola Crema

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Many years ago I was gifted a little book authored by American cheese maven Paula Lambert, who owns the Mozzarella Company in Dallas, Texas.

The book is called “Cheese, Glorious Cheese.” I couldn’t think of a better title for a cheese book myself!

I remember I was almost scared to open the book. I don’t need any help eating and enjoying cheese.

But then, I did. And the recipes are really fun.

Being that I’m dreaming of fall and, my butternut squashes have successfully matured in my garden, I thought what better recipe to make from this book but a butternut squash soup with a dollop of Gorgonzola crema.

It just takes soup to a new level, right? Oh, and there’s also some peppered bacon bits on top as well. Perfect for an almost-fall, wishing-for-fall lunch.

Butternut Squash Bisque with Gorgonzola Crema
Extremely Adapted from, “Cheese, Glorious Cheese”

1 large butternut squash, about 2 pounds
Chicken broth, about 4 cups
8 ounces peppered bacon, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 shallots, chopped
8 ounces marscapone
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup crema, or Mexican sour cream
3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola

Begin the soup by peeling the butternut squash, and removing the seeds. Cut up the squash into fairly uniform-sized pieces and place them in a large pot.

Pour the broth over the top – just enough to cover – and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover the pot, and let the squash cook for about 30 minutes, or until tender. Remove the lid and let the squash cool.

In a skillet, place the bacon and butter. Cook the bacon until to your taste. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, but keep the skillet with the butter and bacon fat.

Over medium heat, cook the onion and shallots for about 5-6 minutes, or until soft.

When the squash has cooled, remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon and place in a large blender jar. I only begin adding the broth when blending begins, so that I can control the consistency.

Add the onion-shallots, the marscapone, and salt. Blend, adding a little broth as necessary, to make the soup to your desired thickness. I prefer my cream-based soups quite thick.

Stir together the crema and gorgonzola, and have the bacon dice on hand.

Ladle the hot soup into soup bowls.

Place a dollop of the gorgonzola cream in the center, and then sprinkle on the bacon.

The flavor combination is incredible. I could actually do without the bacon.

Personally, I forced myself to follow through on the gorgonzola; I much prefer feta. But it’s wonderful.

It’s good to stir the gorgonzola cream into the soup, but not too much. You want to taste those different flavors.

If you didn’t notice, I like thick, rich, creamy soups. If you didn’t want to make a rich soup, you can use evaporated milk instead of marscapone. But don’t omit the butter! Butter belongs in soups!

Or, you could simply use chicken broth. But that’s no fun. Happy Fall!

Peach Salsa

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I don’t buy into too many food trends, as you know. I don’t put lavender into ice cream, I don’t like rosemary in cocktails, I like lemongrass only in Thai food, and I don’t stick bacon into everything possible. It will probably be 20 more years before I ever make kale chips. No, I’ll probably never make them.

So years ago when I spotted peach salsa at a gourmet food store, I really surprised myself when I purchased it. I mean, peaches in tomato salsa? I don’t remember the brand, but it really was pretty tasty.

Being me, I knew I could make it even better. Not to say I’m that great of a cook, it’s just that anything home-made will beat anything jarred commercially.

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Anymore, peach salsa doesn’t really even sound very trendy. It’s become as commonplace as boysenberry barbecue sauce and the like.

The salsa works well with good canned tomatoes as well as fresh ones right out of the garden, but that peach needs to be ripe, so I only make it in the summer.

I serve this salsa slightly warmed. Oh, it’s good.

Peach Salsa

2 pounds of fresh ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 peach, peeled, finely chopped
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Have all of your tomatoes seeded and chopped before you start with this recipe. It doesn’t take long to make.

In a medium enameled pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir it in for about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes.

After cooking for a minute, stir in the peach, cilantro, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

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Give everything a stir, and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes. There should be little or no liquid in the salsa.

Add the apple cider vinegar, stir, and cook for about 1 minute.

Then add the lemon juice. Stir to distribute evenly.

Remove the pot from the stove and let cool slightly before serving.

This warm, slightly fruit-sweetened salsa is really good with tortilla chips. But it’s also good on a basic cheese quesadilla.

Try out this salsa if you’re skeptical like I once was. You’ll taste the peach and the touch of cinnamon, but also the ripe tomatoes with Mexican seasonings.

And think about how much less expensive this salsa is to make at home!

Chicken Biryani

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It’s funny how you can forget about certain recipes, even when they’re fabulous. But I had forgotten about an Indian recipe called biryani until I came across egg biryani on a blog, which sadly I can’t locate to share.

So I dug out an old standby Indian cookbook to check out my recipe from way back when. Although I have newer, more well-known Indian cookbooks, this is one cookbook I still refer to on occasion because these tried-and-true recipes can’t be beat.

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Chicken biryani is a lovely combination of spiced rice and chicken. The wonderful thing about a biryani is that you can use leftover chicken. Heck, you can use leftover rice also. Here is a photo from the recipe page from that cookbook.
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According to the author, Khalid Aziz, “When the great Mogul emperors wanted to put on a really lavish feast, great plates of Biryani, sometimes requiring two people to carry them, would be the centerpiece of the feast.”

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So even though this Indian dish utilizes leftovers, it’s still a dish of emperors!

Chicken Biryani
Murgh Biryani

1 pound chicken leftovers*
8 ounces Basmati rice (I used brown Basmati)
1 pint chicken stock
1 small onion
2 ounces ghee
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon salt
2 ounces sultanas
2 ounces blanched almonds
Orange food coloring, optional
2 hard-boiled eggs, optional
2 tomatoes, optional
1 green pepper, optional

Here is what the author says about the chicken: Separate the chicken meat from any bones and remove any fat or skin. Break the chicken up into fairly large chunks; I say break rather than cut – the idea is that the pieces should be large enough to still be recognizable as chicken by the time the cooking process is over.
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I don’t think I’ve ever read such a detailed description before, but I get it!

Wash the rice well and drain. Put it in a saucepan and pour over the chicken stock, leaving to one side 2 tablespoons of stock for use later.
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Boil the rice for about 20 minutes until it is al dente. (This will really depend on what kind of rice you use, so make sure it’s cooked before you follow through with this dish.)

Meanwhile, peel and slice the onion thinly. Fry it gently in the ghee in a large frying pan. Peel and slice the garlic and add that to the onion and cook for a further 2 minutes or so.
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Now add the spices – the chilli powder, cumin, garam masala and salt – and stir in well.


Add the chicken to the curry sauce and stir well so that it is well coated. Now pour in the remaining chicken stock and bring the mixture to a simmer.

The next stage involves combining the rice with the chicken and the sultanas and almonds. Once the two are combined, add a little orange food coloring to turn the whole mixture a bright orange. (I did not do this.)

Place the Biryani on a large dish.

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Garnish with slices of hard boiled egg, tomato and green pepper.

Serve immediately.

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As you can well imagine, biryani reheats well in the microwave or on the stove with a little bit of broth.
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* Alternatively, you could always buy a rotisserie chicken if you don’t have leftovers.

Chicken and Sausage

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When I read cookbooks, I am not turned off by long lists of ingredients. Nor do I look for the words “quick” or “easy” in the recipe names. I never have, even though I probably should have taken quick and easy more seriously when I was cooking for our growing family and busy as the dickens. I just prefer real recipes with real ingredients, whether simple or more involved.

I own all of Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks and love all of them. I love a lot of things about her. She’s hysterically funny, an impressie writer, she embraces her love of food and eating, and she doesn’t bother with super fiddly recipes (translation from British – fussy/sophisticated).

Even her cakes are often rustic, mis-shapen layers of chocolate goodness. You don’t make them for fair judging, you make them because they’re fabulous.

So once I came across a Nigella recipe for chicken and sausages that were roasted simply with Dijon mustard and oil. In the old days I might have turned up my nose at such a recipe, especially if it was called “Quick and Easy Chicken and Sausage.” But fortunately I didn’t. It is just a good recipe that happens to take little time, and the results are wonderful. And I’ve made this dish more than once, which is a rarity in my kitchen.

It came from the cookbook, “Feast” which might be my favorite of Ms. Lawson’s – aside from “Nigella Christmas.” Doesn’t she just look like she could be my best friend?!! I mean, that’s what I look like in the kitchen when I’m kneading bread!
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Nigella’s original recipe For chicken and sausage has a few more ingredients, but this is how I’ve adapted her recipe.
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Dijon-Roasted Chicken and Sausage

1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 chicken breasts
5-6 Italian sausages
Small red potatoes, scrubbed
1 large purple onion, cut into wedges
Coarsely ground black pepper
Chopped rosemary

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, or 375 degrees if you have a roast setting.

Combine the olive oil and mustard in a decent-sized roasting pan. Whisk until smooth.


Slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally, creating uniform pieces. Place the breasts in the pan, coating them with the mustardy oil. Then add the sausages to the pan, rolling them around to get coated.
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Sprinkle the potatoes around the meat; halve them if they’re too large. Then add the wedges of onion around the meat.

Season well with coarse black pepper, if desired. Then add some sprigs of rosemary, or chopped rosemary.


I am in love with my Mauviel roasting pan, which has endured a lot of oven use over the years.

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Roast for approximately 30-35 minutes, turning the chicken pieces and sausages half way through.
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Serve immediately.

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This dish is wonderful with steamed green beans.
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As you can see, this dish is definitely quick and easy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good!
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Thank you Nigella!

Black Bean Salad

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Last week on the blog I cooked a pound of dried beans to show how easy and inexpensive it is to prepare beans. But I also wanted to show what you can do with a pot of beans, such as use the beans in other dishes.

It’s easy to use the beans in soups and stews and even pastas. I love the idea of stretching dishes, especially those heavy with protein, in order to make them healthier. But there are also so many other ways to use cooked beans.

Today I’m going to make a bean salad. This is not an exceptional or “gourmet” recipe; in fact, you can really change it up to make it your own. But it’s a hearty, healthy, satisfying salad. I must say that whenever I’ve taken a bean salad to parties, people go nuts over them. And they’re so simple!

So hopefully this is a dish that you’ve never thought of making before, and are willing to try it out! It’s definitely wonderful to take to a pot luck, and it can be made ahead of time.
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Plus, you can use many different kinds of vinaigrettes or citrus-based dressing with bean salads. I even posted a bean salad on the blog a while back using a home-made green goddess dressing. So the options are endless!

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Black Bean Salad

Black beans, no liquid included
Raw zucchini, chopped
Fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
Onion, finely chopped
Chile peppers, finely chopped
Fresh cilantro leaves
Dressing (see below)

Begin by placing cooked beans in a medium-sized bowl. Then begin adding what you want to the beans. I’ve listed what I used, but the fun thing about these bean salads, is that you can use what you like.
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Continue to add the ingredients, then pour in the dressing and give everything a toss.


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I served my salad with some pickled jalapenos on the side, but you can offer anything you’d like.
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And that’s it! Think about how you can make this salad your own with your favorite ingredients, like including avocado, corn, and bell peppers, for example. It all works, and it’s all wonderful!

Lemon Garlic Dressing

Juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil, about 1/3 cup
1 clove fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon oregano
Salt, to taste

Place everything in a blender jar and puree until smooth. If you don’t want a Southwestern-flavored dressing, omit the cumin and oregano.

Spicy Pork with Sweet Potato Hash

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One often reads about dry rubs when looking at barbeque recipes, because it’s quite common to dry rub a pork loin or a brisket before being placed in a smoker. But a rub, which is typically a mixture of spices and herbs, doesn’t have to be rubbed onto meat days before serving, or only used when smoking. In fact, in a way, coating a whole chicken with lots of herbs, spices, salt and pepper is essentially a rub. The reason it’s traditionally called a dry rub is that it’s not a paste or a more liquid marinade. Just dry seasoning.

A rub is a wonderful way to add flavor to meat, even meat that takes very little time to prepare. Today I’m cooking two pork tenderloins, and using chili powder for the rub. Yes – just chili powder – the mix used in chile con carne.

The brand of chili powder I like is from Penzey’s. But of course, all you have to do is mix together paprika, cumin, coriander, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, salt, and black pepper, and you’d end up with the same mixture, essentially. Plus, you can adapt it to suit your taste, like add chile pepper powders, for example, like ancho and chipotle.

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The pork I’m using is Berkshire pork purchased from D’Artagnan.

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I first let the pork tenderloins come to nearly room temperature. Meanwhile, set your oven to a good roasting temperature. I have a “roast” setting on my oven, but roasting usually involved about 400 degrees, at least for about 15 minutes, and then the temperature of the oven can be reduced. The important thing with pork tenderloin, as with all meat, is to cook it properly.

I never let pork tenderloin’s internal temperature go beyond 155 degrees Farenheit. Some people don’t like the hint of pink, and go with 165 degrees. That is just personal preference.

Place a little olive oil in a roasting pan large enough to accommodate the tenderloins.
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Generously sprinkle on the chili powder, rotate the tenderloins in the oil, and sprinkle on more chili powder.
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Make sure the tenderloins are coated with oil and the seasoning mixture. I always tuck under the smaller ends of the tenderloins.
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If you were to be picky, this really isn’t a dry rub since since the tenderloins are coated in oil, but because this meat is very lean, I wanted the oil. Plus, it just helps the seasoning stick.

Place the pan in the oven and roast until done.

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Immediately place the tenderloins on a cutting board and let them sit for about 15 minutes before slicing.

Meanwhile, make the sweet potato hash by adding a little oil to a large skillet and adding some diced bacon.

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Cook only part way, then add some finely diced onion to the bacon.

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After sauteing the mixture for just a couple of minutes, add grated sweet potato. Season with salt and white pepper.
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Use a medium setting, but adjust the heat accordingly. Toss the sweet potato with the bacon and onions, and then let the sweet potato cook, undisturbed, for a couple of minutes. Turn the mixture over; there will be minimal browning, but the sweet potato is cooking. You know if you’re at too high of heat if the bacon and sweet potato burn.

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Add a little butter and let it melt. After a couple of undisturbed minutes, flip over the sweet potato hash again.
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It should be nicely browned. If you feel more cooking is required, continue at a medium-to-low setting, or place a lid over the skillet. However, if you want any crispness to the hash, give it a little browning right before serving.

Slice the pork tenderloin.
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Serve with the sweet potato hash, and a green vegetable like Brussels sprouts.

I used some of the “jus” from the roasting pan and drizzled it over the pork for extra flavor. It was not oily at all.
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For people who need recipes for simple, quick meals, this one fits the bill. As soon as the oven is preheated, in goes the pork tenderloin with a spicy coating. During the short time in the oven, no more than 30 minutes, the sweet potato hash is done. Easy, flavorful, and fabulous for fall!