Carnitas for Taco Night
It was my mother in law who suggested having a regular taco night when I told her how buried I am in dishes and laundry. "Simple," she said, "keep it simple and light." Of course she was right!
I've made delicious tacos many different ways, but my baby sister makes amazing carnitas tacos. I don't know where she learned this, since we both grew up in the same non-Mexican kitchen, but I'm happy to benefit from her expertise. I asked her for the simplest version. It can't get any simpler than this, and I don't think it could taste any better.
I made the meat ahead of time and chopped everything up right before dinner. It didn't take long. I started out by heating the tortillas in a pan, but gave up later and just microwaved them for 30 seconds. My whole family loved being able to assemble their tacos the way they wanted and my children thanked me with tears of joy usually reserved for french fries and donuts. A huge success, and the leftovers can be made into salad the next day.
Well-marbled pork cut into chunks (I used two pounds for a family of four)
salt and pepper
Put the pork in a pot, season it with salt and pepper, and pour in enough water to just cover the meat. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer away until the meat is so tender it falls apart, the water has evaporated and the meat is simmering in its own fat. If there is a lot of scum that forms at the top as it boils then skim it off, but I had none.
My favorite combination is meat, lime juice, diced onion, avocado and cilantro in a corn tortilla. You will not be disappointed.
Cardamom Banana Bread
I'll say it up front. I'm sorry.
In light of the fact that everyone in the continental United States already has their favorite banana bread recipe, I feel like I owe you an apology. When you realize that I dared to post a banana bread recipe that doesn't include chocolate chips, you might agree with me. However, this still manages to be some REALLY good banana bread.
I've tried it with different combinations of flour, and I regret to inform you that while whole wheat pastry flour isn't bad, white is better. Also, although my recipe card has no directions on it, I'm pretty sure I meant to cream the soft butter and sugar together before adding the other liquid ingredients- however, I completely forgot and it was fine, so I will skip that step in the future. This makes one loaf (DOUBLE IT!!!) and of course you can add chocolate chips, and lots of them.
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened or melted
3 mashed bananas
1/3 cup sour cream or yogurt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a big bowl. Mix the sugar, the brown sugar, the butter, the eggs, the bananas, the sour cream and the cardamom in another bowl. Mix it thoroughly and then stir in the dry ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease a loaf pan with butter. Pour the batter in and then bake the banana bread for about an hour. Test for doneness with a toothpick or skewer.
Fresh Fruit Tart
If you were worried that eating all of that light, sweet summer produce was going to result in unwanted weight loss, don't worry. I have the answer to that: the fresh fruit tart. Loaded with fat and sugar, you are guaranteed to keep those fabulous curves.
I started making this when I was pregnant with my first child. Pitting one pound of cherries by hand was the most onerous part, and I asked my husband to help. A few minutes later I found him, cherry juice dripping down his chin, looking like he had participated in some kind of sick vampiric feast. No, it was worse than that. He was pitting them in his mouth, spitting the seeds into the sink and the cherries into the bowl. And this is why we privately refer to this as the Regurgi-Cherry Tart.
A cherry pitter is only about $15 and is more than worth the investment.
The idea is very simple. A graham cracker crust layered with a sweetened whipped cream/cream cheese mixture, and lots of fresh fruit. The best pan for this is a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom, but mine rusted out long ago and so I used a pie dish instead. The original recipe was from Food magazine at least eight years ago.
9 graham crackers
2 tablespoons sugar, and then another 2 tablespoons for the cream mixture
6 tablespoons melted butter
6 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 cup whipping cream
at least one pound of fresh fruit (strawberries, cherries, mangoes, or kiwi), washed and sliced however you like
Directions for the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the graham crackers and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until you have crumbs. Add in the butter and pulse to combine. Pour it into a tart dish or a pie plate and press down to firm the crumbs into a crust. Bake the crust for 10-12 minutes until the crust just starts to brown. Allow the crust to cool.
Directions for the cream:
Using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese. Then add the cream and sugar and beat again until soft peaks form. Spread it over your crust and top with fresh fruit.
There is nothing authentic about this recipe. I am not Chinese. I am not Thai. I didn't get this recipe from a well-researched publication about the way of fried rice. However, this is how I make fried rice, and some day, far into the future, when someone researches how Asia has influenced home cooking in nations far from the homeland, this kind of recipe will become authentic in its own right. Right? Plus, it's a good way to use up bits of meat and vegetables with hard leftover rice.
I've made what feels like a million different versions, but although you can change it up quite a bit, there are a few rules. 1) No cheese- too inauthentic, even for me! 2) There must be enough oil to coat every grain of rice. 3) If there's too much rice to the amount of meat and vegetables this will not only be cheap and filling, but it will really FEEL cheap and filling. Yuck.
2 cups of old, refrigerated rice (fresh rice doesn't fry up well)
2 Chinese sausages (or some ham or leftover meat, but the Chinese sausage is the best)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
leftover bacon grease, coconut oil, or peanut oil
about 2 cups of chopped vegetables such as (zucchini, bell pepper, mushrooms, peas, etc.)
1 cup of pork stock
optional: 10-spice powder, chopped cilantro
Chicken Liver Pate
It's hard to post a recipe where every single picture looks like cat food. This may be a huge downfall, but rest assured, this tastes great. My children love it, and even I have been forced to admit that it's pretty good. This hails, more or less, from a recipe on Saveur.com. It's quick, simple, and turns something potentially icky into a luxury. If you buy whole chickens that come with the liver, save them in the freezer until you have enough to try this.
I used to hate this passionately. Somewhere along the line it moved from disgusting to sick fascination to occasional indulgence to near love affair. Now and then I even crave this, but it's my kids who love it. I guess not everything is genetic.
The original recipe called for chicken stock instead of water, but since it's all drained off except for 1/4 cup, that feels like a horrible waste to me. Also, sometimes I boil the eggs in the same water since I rarely have boiled eggs lying around.
1/2 pound chicken livers, trimmed of any tough or yucky bits
2 hard boiled eggs
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 onion, minced
1-1/2 tablespoons brandy
salt and pepper to taste
some kind of bread for serving
Cook the chicken livers in simmering water just until no longer pink and barely cooked through. (Overcooked liver is tough and disgusting.) Drain it, but RESERVE 1/4 CUP OF THE COOKING WATER. Add the livers and the cooking water to a food processor. Brown the onion in the butter and add that to the processor bowl with the two hard-boiled eggs, the brandy, and salt and pepper. Blend it until it's smooth. Taste and season it for salt and pepper.
I love trying new foods, cooking, and gardening. I hope to share these experiences on this site. Thanks for taking a look!