Tacos al Pastor

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It all started when I was watching Wes Avila on The Chef Show, making tacos al pastor. If you haven’t heard of my fascination with this show, I highly recommend it. I’ve mentioned in it my spicy pork post – a Roy Choi recipe. He and Jon Favreau host The Chef Show, and in each episode they visit with a chef or someone who loves food and cooking. There’s really no rhyme or reason to the show, which is maybe why I like it. You’re basically a fly on the wall!

Wes Avila, author of Guerilla Tacos, from which I made Chile Colorado, discusses in his episode when the hosts visit him at his restaurant of the same name, how tacos al pastor developed from the influx of Lebanese into Mexico. If you’ve ever had donor kebab, you’ll know that the process of stacking the meat on vertical spits, grilling, and then slicing it off and laying in flatbread or tortillas is the same. The name of the conical shape of the meat is called a trompo.

Below left is a trompo that rotates and cooks vertically in a commercial grill. Notice the pineapple on top! Sometimes the meat is only seasoned with paprika; I’ve figured out that trompo refers to the cone shape rather than a specific recipe. Below right is a vertical skewer I found on Amazon, also known as a Brazilian Gojo barbecue skewer.

When commercially grilled, donor kabob meat is thinly sliced in a vertical direction, but the spit continues to rotate so the meat continues to crisp up on the outside. This is an important aspect to tacos al pastor as well.

Since I’m making the meat in our outdoor charcoal grill, I’m not able to do this as with a commercial rotating grill. However, the meat can be sliced off, and then crisped up later in a little lard on a griddle or plancha before serving. We also made sure to rotate the vertical grill. The following photo is from the Serious Eats recipe page.

Oddly enough, even though Chef Avila makes tacos al pastor in the show, and his cookbook is all taco recipes, there is no recipe for tacos al pastor in his book, so I found one online at Serious Eats by J. Kenji López-Alt. There seem to be many options possible, but I stuck to this recipe because it seemed to contain the most common ingredients.

Tacos al pastor are really a process. Ideally you need 2-3 days to make them. First there is a marination step, then the cooking, then an important chilling step. In his recipe which follows, J. Kenji López-Alt uses a loaf pan to create the compressed and cohesive pork mixture, instead of a vertical grill. This is certainly a reasonable back-up plan, but I just had to try out my spit!

In my photos, you can see the slices of layered pork, solidified together, yet still tender. It’s critical that the pork doesn’t become pulled pork; that’s a very different texture. I could have pulled apart the pork layers, but as an ex-geologist, I like seeing layers!!!

Tacos  Al  Pastor
by J. Kenji López-Alt, updated Jul. 11, 2021
for Serious Eats

For the Pork:
2 whole ancho chiles, seeds and stems removed
2 whole pasilla or guajillo chiles, seeds and stems removed
1/2 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon dried ground cumin seed
1 tablespoon achiote powder or paste
1 chipotle chile packed in adobo sauce, plus 2 teaspoons sauce
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
3 whole cloves garlic
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 pounds boneless blade-end loin or sirloin pork roast (I used 3 pounds pork shoulder, thinly sliced)
8 ounces (1/2 pound) sliced bacon (I used 1 1/2 pounds pork belly, sliced)

To Finish and Serve:
1 small pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into quarters lengthwise
32 to 48 corn tortillas, heated and kept warm
1 medium white onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup finely minced fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 cup basic salsa verde or your favorite salsa (I served a tomato salsa)
3 to 4 limes, cut into 8 wedges each for serving

Place chiles in a large saucepan over medium high heat and cook, turning chiles occasionally, until puffed, pliable, lightly browned in spots, and very aromatic, about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock (it should boil immediately), then pour contents of pan into a small bowl. Cover loosely and set aside.

Wipe out saucepan, add oil, and return to medium-high heat until oil is shimmering. Add cumin, oregano, and achiote and cook, stirring frequently, until aromatic but not browned, about 30 seconds. Add chipotle chiles and sauce and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds longer. Add vinegar, salt, and sugar and remove from heat.

Scrape contents of saucepan into a blender along with garlic and chiles with their soaking liquid. Blend on high speed until completely smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down sides as necessary. Set sauce aside to cool slightly.

Add marinade to bowl of pork and pork belly slices, and toss with hands until every piece of meat is evenly coated in marinade.

If you’re making the loaf: Line the bottom of a disposable aluminum loaf pan with bacon. Add a layer of thin-sliced marinated meat. Continue layering in bacon and meat until all the meat is used up. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 36.

I used the vertical Gojo, so I began laying slices of pork on the base and working upwards. Top with a pineapple chunk or slice.

To cook outdoors: Light half a chimney of charcoal and allow to preheat until coals are mostly covered in gray ash. Spread out under one half of coal grate, and place cooking grate on top. Alternatively, set one set of burners on a gas grill to low and leave the remaining burners off. Unwrap aluminum loaf pan and place directly over cooler side of grill, placing a drip pan underneath if desired. Cover grill and cook until loaf registers 180 to 190°F in the center, about 4 hours, adding more coals to grill or adjusting burners as necessary to maintain an air temperature of around 275°F for the duration of cooking. Remove from grill, allow to cool slightly, cover with aluminum foil, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

What I have learned from this recipe, is that the marinated pork slices cook low and slow for the perfect texture, with an ending temperature of 180 – 190 degrees. That is why a digital meat thermometer is necessary for this type of cooking.

For tacos al pastor, the meat has to cook beyond an internal temperature of 170 degrees, because that is when the connective tissue of the pork breaks down and the meat coagulates, basically forming a cone-shaped loaf. Also important is that the ambient temperature in the grill doesn’t go over 300 degrees, and in fact, when cooked in an oven, the oven setting is 275 degrees.

For the 4 1/2 pounds of meat, it took exactly 5 hours of cooking, using a whole 25-pound bag of charcoal briquettes. My pork browned a lot on the outside, even though we followed the cooking directions, but it was still tasty, tender, and not burnt.

I roasted chunks of fresh pineapple tossed in a little olive oil with cumin and salt until there was some caramelization.

For my crema, I blended 16 ounces sour cream with one ripe avocado, 2 tablespoons pineapple juice, 1 tablespoon of lime juice, a little oregano and a little salt.

I also toasted the tortillas directly on my stove for more flavor and color.

These taco and all of the accompanying goodies are perfect for company!

My only regret is that I didn’t make more marinade, which is dumb because I used 2 more pounds of meat than directed in this recipe.

There is so much to making tacos al pastor, I’ve discovered, that I encourage you to check out the Serious Eats recipe by J. Kenji López-Alt. There are so many important details regarding slicing the pork, cooking it, and more, that I couldn’t add to this post.

Herbed Ranch Dressing

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Years ago, while eating lunch at a restaurant with my older daughter and her husband, my son-in-law nearly fainted when I ordered ranch dressing for my salad. Knowing my snobbiness towards what I would call “American” foods, like Velveeta, he “threatened” kiddingly that he was going to “tell people!”

Yes, I ordered ranch dressing for a basic side salad; I knew what I was getting because we’d been to this restaurant. The other options were bottled dressings much worse than ranch.

However, if ranch is home-made, just like other dressings and vinaigrettes, it can be pretty wonderful.

This herbed ranch recipe comes from Emily and Matt Hyland, who own a pizzeria, called Emily, in Brooklyn, New York, with a new location in West Village; both restaurants feature wood-burning ovens. These are the young owners:

Emily, the pizzeria, was one of the first to serve ranch dressing… with their pizzas. Their ranch, called Ranch Dressing With Fresh Herbs, is in their cookbook, Emily, published in 2018.

The original Emily ranch recipe was adapted by Julia Moskin, and published online at The New York Times. Julia states that “Ranch dressing and pizza are still a controversial combination, but chef Matt Hyland’s dressing is uncontroversially delicious.”

A good ranch dressing like this one is especially wonderful on a classic wedge salad so that’s what I made.

Herbed Ranch Dressing
Yield: About 1 1/3 cups

¼ cup chilled buttermilk, more as needed
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 cup store-bought mayonnaise
Salt, to taste

In a blender, process the buttermilk, garlic, pepper, chives and parsley together until the herbs are minced and the mixture turns pale green. Add the mayonnaise and process just until smooth. If desired, thin with additional buttermilk to get the consistency you want.

I used a product I’ve fallen in love with – garlic in chili oil. I don’t have to peel garlic, and I like the zing the chili oil offers.

Taste and add salt if needed. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, up to 3 days.

For the wedge salad, cut an iceberg lettuce into four quarters, after doing any necessary leaf trimming. Place the quarters upright on a plate. Add some dressing, and leave it on the platter for those who want more. Then add sliced tomatoes, chopped purple onion, and bacon bits.

I added Italian dried sofrito, for fun. You could always add coarsely ground black pepper and cayenne pepper flakes.

I personally don’t think wedge salads need cheese. At American restaurants, however, bleu cheese is common, as well as bleu cheese dressing instead of ranch. Each to her own.

To me, if the ingredients are high quality, even if it’s just a salad dressing., chances are that the recipe will turn out well. What I don’t like are ingredients like powdered garlic and onion, and fake dried herbs. Use real ingredients, people!

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

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Back in May when my strawberry plants were thriving, I thought about what to do with the berries, besides gorge on them! (And share.) There’s nothing quite like that just-ripened strawberry, picked from its plant.

Then I remembered a milk shake my mother made, maybe in 1968 or 1969. We lived on Long Island, New York, at the time, and where we lived wasn’t populated. We had the Long Island Sound in the front, hills behind us, a lovely creek, and lots of green space.

My mother’s idol was Euell Gibbons back then, and she foraged everything. At the time I wasn’t fond of a lot that she foraged, like mushrooms and watercress, but I loved when the local strawberries were in full force. She picked these little strawberries and blended them with good vanilla ice cream.

These particular strawberries are what I’d tasted before in France, thanks to my mother. They have a strong perfume as well as a strawberry goodness and they’re called fraises des bois, or strawberries of the woods. Below is a photo I found online of these strawberries, on the left. I had some in my garden in the early days, but the larger, more common variety of strawberry has taken over, sadly. They spread easily.

After thinking about a strawberry shake, it was a given that I’d make strawberry ice cream with my berries. I pulled out my book The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz, published in 2007; there’s an updated version published in 2018. Sure enough, I found a perfect recipe using fresh strawberries. It’s even a little boozy!

I ended up not having enough from my garden, thanks to some pests and too much rain, so most of the strawberries I used for this recipe are store-bought. But they were good ones.

Here’s the author’s description of the ice cream recipe: Brilliant pink fresh strawberry ice cream is a classic flavor and, along with chocolate and vanilla, is an American favorite. I’m a big fan of any kind of berries served with tangy sour cream, but I think strawberries are the most delicious, especially when frozen into a soft, rosy red scoop of ice cream. Macerating the strawberries beforehand magically transforms even so-so berries into fruits that are brilliantly red. Try to eat this ice cream soon after it’s been churned.

Strawberry-Sour Cream Ice Cream
Makes about 1 1/4 quarts
printable recipe below

1 pound fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vodka or kirsch (I used kirsch)*
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Slice the strawberries and toss them in a bowl with the sugar and vodka or kirsch, stirring until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring every so often.

Pulse the strawberries and their liquid with the sour cream, heavy cream, and lemon juice in a blender or food processor until almost smooth but still slightly chunky.

Refrigerate for 1 hour then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

My Cuisinart ice cream maker has two bowls, which is handy. Especially if you’ve ever poured too much into one!

The ice cream is good. You can taste a little zing from the sour cream. But I think I prefer a full fat ice cream; all heavy cream.

The other thing is…. I think I’d prefer a fresh strawberry shake. What I didn’t like in the ice cream was the frozen strawberry bits. They were icy and cold to eat.

And I don’t freeze my ice cream hard. I like it on the softer side and creamy.

So I learned a lesson here. Overall it’s a great recipe, but one I won’t repeat. My mother had the right idea using the fraises des bois in a milk shake!

*If you don’t want alcohol in your ice cream, a tablespoon of grenadine would be nice, and pretty!

 

 

 

Birria

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Birria de Res – Recipe from Chef Josef Centeno, Adapted by Tejal Rao, from NYT Cooking email, dated February 10, 2021
Yep, this photo got my attention!

Birria, the regional stew from Mexico saw a meteoric rise in popularity recently, as a soupy style made with beef, popularized by birria vendors in Tijuana, took off in the United States. Chef Josef Centeno, who grew up eating beef and goat birria in Texas, makes a delicious, thickly sauced version based on his grandma Alice’s recipe, mixing up the proteins by using oxtail, lamb on the bone and even tofu. Preparing the adobo takes time, as does browning the meat, but it’s worth it for the deep flavors in the final dish. The best way to serve birria is immediately and simply, in a bowl, with some warm corn tortillas.. —Tejal Rao

Birria de Res

2 poblano chiles
5 guajillo chiles, seeded, stemmed and halved lengthwise
5 pounds bone-in beef shoulder, cut into large pieces
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
¼ cup neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds
½ teaspoon ground cumin
4 cloves
Fresh black pepper
1 cinnamon stick
2 dried bay leaves
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, quartered
Corn tortillas, warmed

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Use tongs to place the poblano chiles directly over the open flame of a gas burner set to high. Cook the poblanos until totally charred all over, turning as needed, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap so the poblanos can steam. After 10 minutes, use your fingers to pull the blackened skins away from the poblanos, then remove the stems and seeds. Roughly chop the poblanos and set aside.

If you want this process shown in photos, click on poblano roast.

While the poblano chiles steam, place a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches to cook the guajillo chiles evenly in one layer, flatten the chile halves on the hot skillet and toast them for about 15 seconds, turning once. Put the chiles in a bowl and add 2 cups hot water to help soften them. Set aside.

Season the meat all over with the salt. Heat the oil in a large, oven-proof pot over medium-high. Working in batches, sear the meat on all sides until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side, transferring the browned meat to a large bowl as you work.

After you’ve seared all the meat, add the onion to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes. Return all the meat to the pot.

Use a seed toaster to toast the jumpy sesame seeds.

To peel the roasted poblanos after they’ve steamed and cooled, simply use a paper towels or your fingers to remove the charred surface, then with a knife remove the stem and any membrane and seeds on the inside.

Meanwhile, add the tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, ginger, oregano, sesame seeds, cumin, cloves and a few grinds of black pepper to a blender, along with the chopped poblanos, toasted guajillos and the chile soaking liquid. Purée until smooth, scraping down the edges of the blender as needed. I bought a case of “Joysey Tuhmatuhs” to try them out. Fabulous ingredient!

Pour the blended mixture into the pot with the meat. Add the cinnamon stick and bay leaves, along with about 4 to 6 cups of water, enough to amply cover the meat.

I didn’t add water because I used less meat and I wanted the stew more stewy and less soupy. Cover and cook in the oven until the meat is fork-tender, about 2 hours.

Divide among bowls and sprinkle with cilantro.

Serve with lime wedges for squeezing on top, and a side of warm tortillas.

This stew is so good. Great depth of flavor; you can really taste the cumin and cinnamon.

Guiso de Carne

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At our favorite Mexican restaurant in town, I typically order one of two favorite items. One is shrimp Saltado, and the other is guiso de carne This is what is looks like at the restaurant.

It’s tender beef in a rich red sauce – not spicy, but very flavorful, served with rice, beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream.

Recently I decided to make guiso de carne at home, and I immediately had challenges. The first was that this didn’t exist in any of my Mexican cookbooks, and then online, the name guiso de carne was most often changed to carne guisado. I tried to figure out the difference, but hit a dead end.

Carne Guisado is beef braised in a seasoned red sauce, and at this point I’m thinking its a Tex-Mex creation.

So I created my own recipe, and is it exactly like what I love at the restaurant? I’d have to do a side-by-side taste test. But it’s really good.

Guiso de Carne

2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Grapeseed or canola oil, divided
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 guajillo chile peppers, stemmed, seeded
8 ounces hot chicken broth
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper
8 ounces tomato sauce

Place the cut up beef in a large bowl. Add the salt, pepper, cumin and coriander and toss so that all the beef is seasoned.

Starting with 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven, brown the meat in batches over high heat, without crowding, then place in another bowl. Continue with remaining beef.

Reduce the heat and add a little more oil if necessary, and sauté the onion; don’t caramelized much.

Meanwhile, place the hot chicken broth in a small blender jar with the guajillo peppers, broken up slightly, the chipotle peppers, the oregano, and ground ancho chile. Let sit for about 5 minutes before blending until smooth.

Add the tomato sauce and blend again; set aside.

Once the onions are sautéed, stir in the minced garlic for barely a minute, then pour in the tomato sauce mixture.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the beef and its juices to the sauce, give everything a stir, and simmer on low for 1 hour.

Check halfway through cooking – add some more broth if necessary. Make sure to give the meat a stir to make sure there is no sticking.

Serve the guiso de carne on a plate with your desired side dishes and toppings.

Rice and beans are great accompaniments, as are flour tortillas.

If you prefer eating guiso de carne in tortillas, like tacos, it’s best to make sure the pieces of chuck aren’t bigger than 1/2″.

Crunchy Pea Salad

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I am American. Born here, bred here. But I’ve never been a big fan of American food. I just wasn’t raised on it. In fact, I can vividly remember the times I was subjected to traditional American dishes after I left home, like beanie weenies, jello salad, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and poppy seed dressing. The list is actually very long, I just don’t want to make anyone feel like they have to defend the kind of food on which he/she was raised. I was just fed differently.

My mother was raised in France, and knew no other way to create meals for my sister and I than the local farm-to-table approach. She shopped often, harvested from the ocean, the forest, and her own garden, made everything from scratch, and nothing went to waste.

When I was growing up, my mother made croissants and éclairs. I never had a donut. She also began learning about various global cuisines when I was a tween, so dinners were everything from Chinese hot pot, to Russian coulibiac, to Ethiopian wats. I had no idea what mac and cheese was. Frozen food, fast food and coke? Never. 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 in 1982. Although only 10 years my senior, she had a young family that I adored, and I was often invited for dinner. Spaghetti was an 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 wonderful. I loved being at her house with her family, which I learned quickly was way more important than the food on the table.

Jeanne actually inspired me a lot, although I didn’t really realize it back then. I was quite young, and had no immediate plans on marrying and having children, but she was a wonderful mother and unconsciously I learned from her.

One day, 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 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.

You can’t beat the ingredients: peas, bacon, cashews, celery, green onions, and sour cream, which all go together beautifully. It’s great to serve at a picnic, or garden buffet, or even a brunch.

So thank you Jeanne for this recipe and your lovely family of which I got to be a part for a short time.

Crunchy Pea Salad

1 – 16 ounce package petite peas, thawed
8 ounces diced bacon
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 cup salted and roasted cashews
1 cup sour cream, divided
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.

Since I didn’t have roasted and salted cashews, I actually roasted mine in the leftover bacon grease. I must say, they almost disappeared before I could put the salad together.

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.

Separately, I blended 1/2 cup of sour cream along with only 1/3 cup vinaigrette for the salad. Shake it well in a jar and set aside.

To assemble the salad, remove the damp paper towels from the bowl with the peas. Add the celery and green onions.

Add the remainder 1/2 cup sour cream, and the dressing and stir gently to combine.

I placed the mixture in a serving bowl.

Normally, the bacon and the cashews would be included in the salad, but for the sake of photography, I sprinkled them both on top.

I also sprinkled some salt and coarsely ground pepper.

I served extra dressing, but even as a lover of dressings and vinaigrettes, no more is needed for this salad.

Make sure to add the cashews only at the last minute. The cashews are part of the crunch in the crunchy pea 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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Potato Beet Salad

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In 1992, we took our young children to Grand Cayman island in the Caribbean. As all tourists do there, one day we took a boat out to swim with stingrays at Stingray City, followed by picnic on a beach of a local island.

So, what do I remember from this adventure? The creamy potato and beet salad. As well as fresh conch.

I have no Caribbean cuisine resources, so I decided to just make up the recipe. And it’s good.

What I enjoyed on that tropical beach was a tangy, earthy, creamy mixture of potatoes and beets. And now I can have that again, without the beach.

Potato and Beet Salad

6 medium-sized white potatoes, peeled or not
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup good mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 cans whole beets, lightly rinsed and well drained
2 shallots, minced
Chives, for serving
Hard-boiled egg halves, optional

Cut the potatoes into fairly uniform 1/2 – 3/4” size cubes. Bring a pot of water to a boil on the stove. Toss in the potato cubes and salt. Cook until just tender, about 6 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let cool in the colander.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon, lemon juice, salt, and white pepper. Whisk until smooth and set aside.

Place the somewhat cooled potato cubes in the bowl with the mayo mixture and stir gently to combine. This allows the potatoes to absorb some of the creamy mixture.

Cube the beets into similar sized cubes as much as is possible, and toss into potato salad. I also let them sit on paper towels until I used them.

then add the shallots and fold in. Pinkness is okay, and will happen, but don’t overstir.

I actually used a ring to make the salad look less than it is – a creamy mess of a salad!

To serve, sprinkle the salad with chives.

Encircle the salad with egg halves, if desired.

I always think potato=based salads need more salt, so serve it as well.

Think of this salad with grilled shrimp, or chicken or sausage… just about anything.

Even beet haters, or people who think they dislike beets would love this salad. There’s nothing not to love!

I know it was almost 30 years ago when we took this vacation, but why do I look alien to myself?!! Who is that??!!!

Split Pea Soup

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Split pea soup. Easy. Cheap. Satisfying. Healthy. Well, depending how much sour cream you dollop on top…

My husband reminded me that he could eat split pea soup every day. The foods I could eat every day are in a very different category, but this soup is what he loves, so I make it for him, although obviously not often enough… and why not? For 99 cents and a little time, a hearty soup is hardly an effort. Plus some ham hocks.

Even though the weather is getting warmer, split pea soup with ham is still a springtime soup in my mind, but certainly satisfying during cold months as well. Here is a recipe I used to make my husband happy.(Trust me, he’s never unhappy with the many meals I continue to prepare for him. But I do like cooking for an appreciative soul.)

Split Pea Soup with Ham

16 ounces dried split peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 ham hocks
8 ounces diced ham
Sour cream, optional

Soak the split peas in warm water for about 4 hours, then drain before starting the recipe.

Add the olive oil and butter to a Dutch oven and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and give it a stir, then immediately add the soaked split peas and chicken stock. The broth or stock should cover the peas by at least 1/2 inch.

Add the seasoning, and bring the stock to a boil. Place the 2 ham hocks in with the peas, cover the pot, then simmer the peas for about 45 minutes; you can’t overcook the split peas.

Let the soup cool, either overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Remove the hocks and try to remove all of the ham bits from the bones. Set aside to use as garnish. If you choose, use an immersion blender to blend the soup smoother. It’s just prettier that way, but optional.

Add the diced ham to the soup, and heat. Then taste for seasoning.

Serve the hot soup with sour cream and the chopped smoked ham.

This soup could also be made with chopped carrots and/or potatoes.

When my daughters left home, they knew how to cook a pot of legumes, lentils, beans, and split peas. I think I taught them that cooking doesn’t have to cost a fortune, as well as the fact that home cooking isn’t difficult.

Green Goddess Chicken Salad

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I discovered this recipe at the Food and Wine website. It’s a recipe for a salad with green goddess dressing, by Melissa Rubel Jacobson.

Green goddess is a really wonderful dressing that uses lots of fresh herbs, which accounts for the green color. Sometimes an avocado is included as well. According to Food and Wine, the dressing was created at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in the 1920’s, as a tribute to an actor starring in a play called The Green Goddess. Never heard of it, but it’s slightly before my time.

Today I’m following Ms. Jacobson’s recipe for green goddess dressing, but not so much her salad.

Create any kind of salad you want with your favorite ingredients, and drizzle on the beautiful green goddess dressing, which I made exactly as printed. It’s good!

Green Goddess Chicken Garden Salad
Moderately Adapted

Dressing:
2 oil-packed anchovies, drained
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup packed basil leaves
1 tablespoon oregano leaves
Few sprigs of fresh thyme
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons snipped chives
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad:
2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced or chopped
1 head romaine or butter lettuce, chopped
1/2 small cabbage, chopped
Approximately 1/2 garbanzo beans, well drained
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Peas or asparagus, optional
Hard-boiled eggs, optional

In a blender, purée mayonnaise with the herbs, lemon juice, and chives until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

This makes approximately 1 cup of dressing.

For the salad, there are so many options for preparing and serving. I chose to create a composed salad, just because they’re pretty.

Alternatively, you could combine chopped chicken, garbanzo beans, and tomatoes with some of the dressing, and serve on top of the lettuce and cabbage.

But that’s not as pretty, especially if you have company.

Just about any salad ingredient that goes well with an herby dressing will work perfectly.

Lentil Pheasant Soup

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Years ago, this soup recipe was my first exposure to lentils, and I’ve been in love with them ever since. The pheasant I used was some that my husband brought home after a hunting trip. I can’t give any credit for this recipe, it’s that old. But I’ve been making it for a long time, and it’s still a keeper.

Pheasant isn’t terribly popular as a protein, mostly because it can easily be overcooked. But in this soup it stays nice and tender. You can substitute chicken if necessary.

If you’re in the mood for a laugh, I wrote a post about discovering my husband was a hunter after we were married.

To make this soup recipe for the blog, I purchased whole pheasants from D’Artagnan. I guess the local Oklahoma birds have been hiding in the fields these days.

Make sure you don’t use “grocery store” lentils when you make this, because they will become overcooked and mushy. If that’s all you can find, omit the last 15 minutes of cooking.

Lentil Pheasant Soup

1 pheasant, 1 1/2 – 2 pounds, quartered, backbone removed and reserved
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 carrots, cut into 1/2” dice
2 medium onions, cut into 1/2” dice
3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2” dice
1 medium parsnip, peeled, cut into 1/4” dice
3 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
4 cups pheasant or chicken broth
3 cups drained and crushed canned plum tomatoes
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed
6 tablespoons Italian parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground white pepper
Sour cream, optional

Place the backbone and wings in a large pot with water, and make a quick broth, which only takes about 20 minutes. Include some onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, and celery leaves. Or, substitute chicken broth.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a soup pot. Add the carrots, onions, celery, parsnip and garlic. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 15 minutes to wilt vegetables.

Season the pheasant legs and breasts with salt and pepper.

To the soup pot, when the vegetables have wilted, add the tomatoes, lentils, and pheasant legs. To add the pheasant stock, I measured from the pot in which I made the broth, and poured it through a strainer.

Stir well, and simmer the soup, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Add pheasant breasts and simmer another 15 minutes.

Remove legs and breasts; reserve and let cool. Also let the backbone and wings cool so the meat can be removed from the bones for the soup.

Cook the soup, completely covered, for another 15 minutes, over the lowest heat. Give the soup a stir and make sure you like the consistency. Adjust with more broth if necessary. Season with parsley, thyme, salt, and white pepper.

During the final simmer, remove skin from the pheasant parts and chop or slice the meat. Add to the soup and stir to combine.

Serve immediately.

I love serving this soup with sour cream.

It’s just nice with the tomato-rich lentils, and the pheasant.

This soup freezes well, so don’t hesitate to make a double batch! If you were paying attention, I used two birds for this recipe, and doubled the ingredients.