Monday, April 23, 2012

David's Take on Pork & Beans

Pork & Beans

I can't take the credit for all of the dishes that come out of my kitchen these days. While most of the stuff on my blog is definitely my doing, there is a much more experienced and talented palette at my side.

So, I'll post a few of David's creations here and there, sans recipe, for your culinary inspiration and stomach's desire. Why no recipe? Some chefs don't like to freely give away their secrets, especially on their carefully tested (or magically concocted) recipes. I have to respect David's wishes. I ask him *politely* if he minds if I post a recipe that he comes up with, and if he gives me that look... I just post a photo. Another reason is that David usually cooks as he goes (without a recipe in mind), and his recipes tend to have more complicated-than-I-feel-like-typing steps.

Luckily for me, even after a 50+ hour week in the restaurant, he still wants to come home and cook. This was dish #2 to come out of our massive pork shoulder buy. 

David's Pork & Beans

It's David's take on pork and beans. Braised and seared pork shoulder with cranberry beans, watercress (can't get enough of these two) and chimichurri. Being from The South, this was not at all what I envisioned when tossing around ideas about doing a variation on the classic dish. It was light and fresh, packed with flavor, and dare I say it, pretty damn healthy.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Importance of Eating Seasonally

There are plenty of reasons why one should eat seasonally. Without a doubt one of the main reasons is flavor. Take a mango for example, which, a few months ago, would not only cost you twice as much as it does today, but would also not shower you with the amazing sweetness that a perfectly ripe mango can offer. I adore mangoes. Probably due to the fact (ok, mythical fact) that I fell from the mango tree - which is where my mom told me I came from.

A few weeks ago, Ataulfo mangoes started appearing at our international farmer's market. Native to the Philippines and Mexico, they're smaller, bright yellow, luscious, and buttery. Unfortunately, they were all imported from Mexico, but alas, it's difficult to find these type of mangoes in the U.S. (mangoes grown in Florida are usually Tommy Atkins).


This same time last year, I was in the Philippines visiting the other half of my family for the first time since 1995. Sixteen years. My cousins who once were small enough for me to tote around on my hip were now sharing a beer with me at the dinner table.
I forgot a lot of things about the Philippines... the sights, the sounds, the smells... well, I may have purposely dismissed some of that from my memory.


I forgot, or maybe just never realized how good the food really was. Everything seemed new to me, except for my Lola's house... and the taste of a perfectly ripe mango.

Lunch on the Beach

Nothing beats the bang! thump, thump... thomp of a mango falling off of the tree and rolling down your roof... then bribing your little brother to climb up there and get it for you. That's right, they are so ripe that they fall off the tree. None of this picking it 2 weeks before it's ready so that it holds up through shipping and processing crap.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Broccoli, Leek & Red Pepper Quiche

Veggie Quiche

I have a lot of odds and ends in my kitchen today, mostly vegetarian. Basics like carrots, onions, and celery. Some broccoli crowns. A couple of Ruby Red grapefruit and Cara Cara oranges. Potatoes. Coconut milk. Randoms things like Jerusalem artichokes and tomatillos stare me in the face saying "C'mon, eat me already!"

The easy way out would be to run to the grocery store and buy something to go with, say, the potatoes. Steak or chicken perhaps. Toss in some broccoli and I've got a decently balanced meal. That's all well and good... but there's no real effort involved, and it also means I would need to spend more money.

Right, now, I can't really afford to be picky.

I knew returning to the States from living in Europe for a year and a half would be difficult. Especially in this economy. I knew finding a job in my original field -interior design- would be unpredictable. I picked up a few decent contracting jobs with my previous design firm for the first few months back in the States, but now find myself back at the drawing boards. In between sending out resumes and typing up cover letters, I'm focusing on getting back to my blog. The last 8-10 months were a rapidly-changing and at times, emotionally-unstable ride, and the words just weren't flowing as freely as I would have liked.

I got my mojo back... but for now the biggest challenge is creating delicious meals on a veeerrrry *tight* budget. Riding on my savings and "emergency fund", coming up with inspiring dishes takes some real planning and dedication. In my last post, I mentioned that David and I had endured a month-ish long vegan stint. In doing this, we actually opened our eyes to how much money we spend on meat and dairy products. Our weekly grocery bills went from fifty dollars down to about thirty. We bought local produce that was in season, which not only saved even more money, but ultimately tasted better too.

Another amazing benefit? I haven't gotten sick in months. My parents always harp on me to take my vitamins, but with flying between countries, visiting family on holidays, and the onset of pollen season here in Atlanta, by now I would be cuddled-up in my comforter with the sniffles. I don't know if it was a weak immune system or the quality of my diet, but with the change in my eating habits has come a change in my heath... for the better.

Ok, back to the food in my kitchen.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cranberry Beans with Spinach, Red Watercress and Citrus

Cranberry Beans & Purple Watercress

My dad would laugh if he knew how often I eat beans these days. Growing up I loathed the thought of the little legumes. My chili had to be solely meat-based. I didn't care how much bacon was in those baked beans, and don't even get me started on limas. They just weren't my thing. 

My dad is the undisputed "Bean King" of the family. When visiting me in Paris, we shared long conversations on pintos, kidneys, and navies over a few bottles of red. He would lecture my broke ass on how buying beans instead of steak could save me enough money for retirement. He even wants to write a book about them. He harmlessly jokes about David's background... but I think we all know who the true "Beaner" really is here.

At the start of 2012, David and I challenged ourselves to become dietary vegans - meaning no animal products whatsoever, for one month. The goal was not to just mindlessly substitute our meat and dairy products with "veganized" alternatives, but to focus on eating real food. This posed as an all around food challenge. Finding various sources of our daily nutrients meant... crap... eating beans. The 30-day (ok, I lasted as a true vegan for about 3 weeks) vegan kick completely changed the way I saw food. We ate a lot of beans that month. Chickpeas so far have been my favorite, feeling the least "beany" out of them all. Plus, I can't get enough of Yotam Ottolenghi's hummus recipe in his new book, Plenty. I've truly come to appreciate the nuttiness of azduki, and the versatility of the common pinto.

Attempting to eliminate our canned food intake completely, David and I have abstained from using pre-cooked canned beans. One problem. I become easily frustrated with cooking dried beans. A lot of time and planning is involved in the process. First the beans must be soaked (usually the night before), then cooked for what seems like forever (depending on the bean, of course), and if you don't cook them at just the right temperature, you're left with a super mushy bean with a toothy skin.