Chicken and Egg Miso Ramen: Oiishi!

Chicken and Egg Miso Ramen: Oiishi!

Simple, easy, delicious chicken and miso ramen noodles

Simple, easy, delicious chicken and miso ramen noodles

When I posted a pic of my Chicken and Egg Miso Ramen on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, I was surprised by the response.  So many people wanted to talk about it: the ingredients, how I made it, and naturally, the recipe.  Jen (as in Jen’s Vegetable Lasagna featured in my cookbook) wanted to come over for a ramen filled afternoon.  Kipp and I decided that ramen beats pho any day (what a great hashtag #ramenbeatspho). Even picky eater Korey had to chime in about her thoughts on egg yolks.

So I’m using my website to share my recipe with you (I know, I know, I haven’t updated in FOREVER!  Forgive me, I’ve been busy).

Now, when I say ramen, I’m speaking of a delicious, savory, umami-filled bowl of noodles and protein, the kind of wonderful comfort-food goodness that makes noodle bars a worldwide sensation.  I know many people hear the word ramen and think of things like Top Ramen and Oodles of Noodles, but that’s instant ramen….. and while that’s quite good to a college kid or 20-something hipster, I’m speaking about a traditional Japanese food staple that has taken the world by storm.  If you haven’t been to a ramen noodle bar, you are truly missing out.  My favorites bowls are found at Momofuku in NYC, Slurping Turtle in Chicago and Sakuramen in Washington, D.C.  And if your town doesn’t yet have a noodle bar, I strongly encourage you to make ramen at home. In fact, when you realize how easy it is, you’ll wonder why you don’t do it more often!

To make ramen at home, I use two pots: one for the broth and one for all the other proteins.  A good ladle strainer, often called a “spider” is a great tool to use, but tongs or a slotted spoon will work just fine.  Everything will cook quickly — just give the ingredient a quick “bath” in hot water — then set it aside.  It really is that easy.

Miso, thank goodness, is available in most grocery stores and organic markets.  You just have to know where to look.  Fresh miso paste is refrigerated, so look for it in the dairy section or where organic foods are kept.  Shelved miso is usually in some sort of bottle and can be found in either the international foods section or even where salad dressings are kept.

Finally, a word on noodles.  You can certainly use instant ramen noodles if that’s all you can find (just remember to throw out those seasoning packets).  Chuka-mein, also known as “chinese noodles” are very good, as are fresh egg noodles and even buckwheat soba noodles.  For me, the longer the noodle, the better, because that means I can slurp up all of the savory goodness.

Proteins are easy — it’s whatever you want them to be.  Leftovers from last night, extra veggies in the fridge, hot or cold.  That’s the fun of ramen noodle bowls — you can experiment with ingredients every time.  Happy slurping!!

Chicken and Egg Miso Ramen
Serves 2

Simple, easy, delicious chicken and miso ramen noodles

Simple, easy, delicious chicken and miso ramen noodles

Ingredients:

1/2 lbs. ground chicken
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thin
1 carton good chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes (if desired)
4 tablespoons yellow miso
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 package chuka-mein, “chinese noodles” or 2 packs instant ramen
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Additional protein ideas:
1 egg
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
sliced fresh cabbage or baby bok choy
firm tofu, diced
fresh green onions, chopped
shrimp

  1. With the first pot, heat a few tablespoons of oil (canola, vegetable or olive) over medium high heat.  Add the red chile flakes and cook for 1 minute.  Add all of the ground chicken along with the onion and grated ginger and saute until cooked, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the entire carton of chicken stock with the miso paste and 2 cups of water.  Stir to incorporate all the miso, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and allow to simmer gently, uncovered.  Add the sesame oil and soy sauce and season to taste.
  2. In a separate pot, bring cold water to a boil.  Add the ramen noodles and cook until just before done (do not let noodles go too soft, they should still have a bite, about 2 minutes in boiling water).  Using a spider, tongs, or slotted spoon, remove the noodles from the pot, strain and rinse under cold water (keep the water boiling on the stove).  Set noodles aside.  In the same pot with boiling water, cook the spinach leaves (about 1 minute) and again, use the strainer or a pair of tongs to remove and set aside.  Do this with all of your proteins (except green onions) but do not overcook them.  You may want to keep a large clean platter beside the stove or a bunch of small bowls for your cooked proteins.  Lastly, prepare the eggs.  Soft boil eggs in their shell or poach lightly in the simmering water.  Be sure to keep the yolk soft.  Remove egg from boiling water and set aside.
  3. To bring it all together, place the noodles in the bottom of a deep soup bowl, creating a cone-like mountain.  Using tongs or chopsticks, place small sections of proteins around the noodles (spinach, tofu, shrimp, etc). Using a slotted spoon, scoop the ground chicken meat from the broth, and section it around the noodles.  Place the poached egg or soft boiled egg (shelled and split into two pieces) at the very top of the noodles.  Ladle the hot broth over the entire bowl.  Garnish with a generous amount of chopped green onion.  Serve with a soup spoon and chopsticks. Enjoy immediately.
Spring Training Whole Grain Pasta

Spring Training Whole Grain Pasta

Spring Training Whole Grain Penne

Spring Training Whole Grain Penne

Spring Training is in full swing — and to celebrate the return of summer sports, I thought I would share a great, light and healthy pasta dish that is sure to please.

Spring is a great time to go outside and do long distance exercise, whether it’s long walks, bike riding, running or cycling. Since many of my friends are marathon runners, I’ve become accustomed to their high carbohydrate dinners the night before a race. Carbohydrates have long been a favorite for distance runners because they have a “slow-burn” effect on the body, meaning, runners have more energy to go longer distances.

My friend, Tyler, the goofiest marathon runner!

My friend, Tyler, the goofiest marathon runner!

What we’ve recently discovered is that fortified pastas, such as multi-grain or whole grain pasta, have added fiber, which increases the slow burn and is even better for the body. The only problem is the taste and texture. Not everyone seems to enjoy the extra bite and chewiness that comes with whole grains, and some people refer to the pasta as “eating cardboard” when compared to the mild taste of durum or semolina noodles.

My Spring Training Whole Grain Pasta seeks to change that thought and attitude simply by changing the way we look at pasta dishes. Who says every plate of noodles has to be covered in tomato sauce and cheese? The truth is, if you hold onto that kind of mental block, you’ll surely notice the change in pasta. But if you leave out the acidic tomato sauce, and concentrate on fresher flavors, you may find your mouth longs to bite, while the vegetable sauce complements the texture and nutty flavor of the pasta.

Give it a try and let me know your thoughts. Here’s to the athlete in all of us!

Spring Training Whole Grain Pasta
Serves 6

I use whole grain penne rigate pasta

I use whole grain penne rigate pasta

1 lbs. whole grain pasta (such as penne or rigatoni)
1 lbs. fresh turkey Italian sausage (casings removed)
4 strips center-cut bacon (low-sodium), diced
1 small yellow onion, quartered
3 small carrots, peeled
3 stalks of celery, quartered
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Bring a large stockpot with lightly salted water to boil. Cook the noodles until desired tenderness. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.
  2. At the same time as the noodles, use a food processor or other chopping device, and add the onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Pulse until there is a chunky sauce, but not paste like. You should see tiny cubes of each vegetable. Set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, add the olive oil and diced bacon over medium high heat. Once the bacon begins to crisp, add the sausage and break into small pieces. Cook thoroughly and drain any fat.
  4. Return pan to heat and add the vegetable mixture, along with the seasonings. Mix well to incorporate, and stir until the vegetables soften, about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add the white wine and cook until fully evaporated. Add the chicken stock and do the same as the wine.
  6. Taste the mixture and adjust seasonings as desired. Discard bay leaves.
  7. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce until well incorporated. If the sauce is to dry, incorporate the reserved pasta water. Serve with cheese if desired.
Winter Comfort Foods: Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole

Winter Comfort Foods: Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole

Cheesy tater tot casserole

Cheesy tater tot casserole

When my friend Scott announced he was preparing a tater tot casserole, my ears perked up.  Tater tots? As in the crispy, little potato nuggets that I loved as a kid?  I begged him to tell me more.  A native of Nebraska, Scott says he grew up on tater tot casserole, and prepares the same recipe his mother made, which he happily shared with me.  Scott’s tater tot casserole is a playful rendition of shepherd’s pie — ground beef, diced vegetables, canned soup and plenty of tater tots. It’s something the kid in all of us would enjoy… and here is my interpretation of the dish.

I created this recipe using a popular hash brown casserole as an inspiration, then added flavorful chicken sausages and sweet bell peppers to the mix.  I used sun-dried tomato smoked sausages, but regular hot dogs or shredded chicken breast will substitute nicely.  Serve this casserole with a side of steamed broccoli, lima beans or a fresh salad and you’ll have an easy comfort food favorite.

With my friend Scott

With my friend Scott

Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole
Serves 6

Ingredients

6 cups frozen tater tots
1 red bell pepper, diced
4-5 smoked chicken sausages, sliced
2 10-oz cans of cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.  Spray or grease a 13×9 rectangular baking dish and set aside.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and bell pepper over medium high heat.  Add the sausages and saute until peppers are softened and sausages have toasted, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the condensed soup, sour cream and milk.  Add the garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste.  Once combined, add all the cheese, tater tots, peas and the sausage mixture.  Mix until well combined.
  4. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake, uncovered for 30-40 minutes.  The casserole is done when the tots are slightly browned and the cheese is melted.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Slow Cooker Beef Brisket: Simple and Straightforward

Slow Cooker Beef Brisket: Simple and Straightforward

Slow Cooker Beef Brisket

Slow Cooker Beef Brisket

Everyone needs a special roast recipe. It could be your favorite pot roast, rib roast or tenderloin, but I think every home cook needs a recipe where a massive piece of meat is ceremoniously pulled out of the oven and placed onto a special platter, giving you a reason to carve and serve with flair!

This is why I am sharing my tried and true Slow Cooker Beef Brisket recipe. Just imagine a plate of tender, juicy, savory slices of beef, paired with sweet onions, carrots and a delicious gravy, and you’ll know why this is one of my best and easiest recipes.

Unlike other recipes that call for barbecue or tomato sauce, my recipe is simpler and straightforward, allowing the beef’s natural flavors to shine. I use a flat cut brisket, between three to four pounds, with a nice one-inch layer of fat. A brisket of this size will serve a party easily, and is budget friendly too! If you have leftovers, sliced brisket makes for delicious sandwiches and most people think it tastes better overnight.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can prepare this in a conventional oven, going low and slow (just under 300 F). I would encourage you, however, to consider purchasing a slow cooker. The convenience factor along with the ease of cooking is really irresistible (and yes, we are having a sale on a very special slow cooker at HSN!) And, yes, before I forget, I always use a slow cooker liner. It makes clean-up so easy.

Once the brisket finishes cooking, remove it from the slow cooker and allow it to rest for a few minutes on a cutting board. Giving the meat a rest will ensure easy carving, while allowing the brisket to retain moisture and flavor. Using a sharp knife, cut against the grain (the opposite direction of the meat fibers) creating long, thin slices of delicious, tender meat. Spoon the gravy on top and serve with onions and carrots. Enjoy!

With a slow cooker, this recipe is simple, easy and delicious!

With a slow cooker, this recipe is simple, easy and delicious!

Slow Cooker Beef Brisket
Serves 4

Ingredients:

3-4 lbs. beef brisket, flat cut
2 large yellow onions, julienned
1 1/2 cup carrots, shredded
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup chicken stock (or water)
Ground cumin
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Rinse the brisket with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Season the meat generously on both sides, using the salt, pepper and cumin.
  2. Fill the bottom of the slow cooker with the onions, carrots and garlic. Pour the melted butter and chicken stock over the vegetables, and with tongs, mix well, coating the vegetables.
  3. Place the brisket on top of the vegetables, fat side facing up. Pour the balsamic vinegar evenly over the brisket, coating well.
  4. Cover the slow cooker with the lid and cook on HIGH for six hours.
  5. When the cooking has finished, remove the brisket and allow to rest for 10 minutes on a cutting board.
  6. Stir the chopped parsley into the cooked vegetables. Taste the gravy. If desired, add more chicken stock and adjust seasonings.
  7. Slice the brisket, cutting against the grain. Remove any fat. Ladle the gravy over the meat and serve with the cooked vegetables.
Bedtime Banana and Coconut Rice Pudding

Bedtime Banana and Coconut Rice Pudding

IMAG0644

Banana and Coconut Rice Pudding

Every now and then, I fall victim to insomnia.  My mind starts racing, I toss and turn in my bed, and often, my stomach starts growling.  When things like this happen, I know enough to give in, get up and go do something.  Some nights, I’ll put on an intriguing movie to get lost in, or I’ll pick up a fascinating novel and read it cover to cover. Other nights, I go into the kitchen and start creating.  This is one of those nights.

I love tropical fruits like mangos, bananas, coconuts and pineapple.  There’s something so refreshing about biting into a juicy, sweet, chunky piece of fruit, and rich flavorful coconut milk feels like silky cream on my tongue.  This is probably why fruit is always in my refrigerator, rice can always be found in my pantry, and lately, all types of coconut products can be found in my home.

Haupia, from my Instagram feed

Haupia, from my Instagram feed

When I was a kid, my favorite desserts weren’t cookies and cupcakes, but all the Asian ones: Thai mango and sticky rice, Vietnamese che chuoi (tapioca and banana pudding), Japanese mochi (sticky rice cakes) and Hawaiian haupia (coconut gelatin).  [If you follow me on Instagram or Pinterest, you'll see all my favorite foods and more].   Even in a restless state of mind, I remembered all of my favorite childhood desserts, raided my cupboard and threw together this easy banana and coconut rice pudding.  The result is a thick, custard-like dessert, with flavors of coconut, banana and almond to enjoy.

I used Trader Joe’s coconut milk, the kind that comes in a carton and is kept in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.  It’s less fattening than the canned milk type and cooks the rice well.  Because I love the way almond and coconut mix, I used almond extract, but vanilla will do if that’s what you have on hand.  For the rice, I use Calrose premium rice.  I like it’s chewy, thick texture, and find it similar to tapioca pearls.  The rice cooks quickly, in about 20-25 minutes, and you’ll need to stir it frequently.  Towards the end of cooking time, the pudding will thicken quite a bit, so keep your eye on the pot!

This dessert is enjoyable warm or chilled.  The aroma of cinnamon and coconut is pretty irresistible, and will offer a nice, soothing fragrance to your home.  Sweet, sweet dreams, my friends.

IMAG0640Banana & Coconut Rice Pudding
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rice, uncooked
2 cups coconut milk (beverage type)
3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 banana, peeled and split lengthwise, then quartered

  1. Add the rice, coconut milk, cinnamon and almond extract to a pot over medium high heat.  Taste the milk and adjust sweetness or cinnamon as desired.  Once the mixture comes to a boil, lower the heat and allow to gently simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.
  2. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the bananas.  Continue to stir to prevent from sticking.
  3. Allow to cool, then serve warm or chilled.
Winter Vegetable Minestrone Soup

Winter Vegetable Minestrone Soup

Image

Winter Vegetable Minestrone

When I see bundles of rainbow chard, full heads of green escarole or bushels of curly savoy cabbages, I know it’s time for a savory winter vegetable soup. Warm, hearty and satisfying, winter vegetable soups are great meals that are simple to make and even better the next day.

Although chard, escarole and cabbage are among my favorite ingredients, shaved Brussels sprouts or dark leaves of kale often work as substitutes. I also like to swap dark red onions for sweet yellow ones, as I find they have a heartier flavor.  Sometimes, I’ll even rinse creamy white cannelli beans for additional protein, and other days, I prefer the comforts of chewy ditalini pasta tubes to bite on.

That’s the brilliance of a good soup base — if you have a good recipe, you can interchange the ingredients based on whatever you can find.  Although my soup creations vary, I think the following guidelines yield great results:

Image

A bundle of rainbow chard

Patience — When I make soup, I give myself plenty of time to sweat the vegetables. Sweating vegetables means you cook them without allowing them to caramelize.  When vegetables caramelize, they release their sugars and turn brown, which often leads to a bitter taste.  By sweating the vegetables, they retain their texture, shape and moisture, without sacrificing taste.  To sweat vegetables, simply lower the heat, use a good oil, stir the vegetables often and be very patient!

Leafy Greens — If you’re making soup, one or more of the following leafy greens are needed: escarole, parsley, kale, cabbage or chard. When it comes to chard, take each leaf and lay it flat on a cutting board.  Using a sharp knife, make two long cuts, one on each side of the stem.  Once the stem is removed, you can chop the stem and add it to the soup.  Chard stems are colorful and flavorful, with a texture similar to celery.  Save the leaves for the final cooking phase of the soup.

Cheese Rind — When making a soup with a tomato base, add a piece of cheese rind like  Parmigiano-Reggiano, for a nutty and rich layer of flavor.  Most grocers and cheese markets will sell you just the rind if you ask.  If you happen to buy fresh cheese regularly, save and freeze the rinds for such an occasion.

Finish — All soups need a garnish: a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of herbs, a dollop of cream.  For minestrone, I take the extra step to make a pistou.  Pistou is a simple sauce made from basil leaves, garlic and olive oil.  Very similar to pesto, but there is no cheese or nuts.  Just a few seconds in a mini-chopper and you have the secret to a truly savory and satisfying soup.  You can also refrigerate or freeze pistou for future use.

Winter Vegetable Minestrone Soup
Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

IMG_20121208_182940

Vegetable Soup with Pistou

1/2 lbs. pancetta or bacon, medium dice
2 red onions, medium dice
4 celery stalks, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch rainbow chard, stems removed and chopped
1/2 head escarole, leaves only, chopped
1 piece Parmigiano Reggiano rind
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 cups ditalini noodles (mini-tubes)
Water for the soup
Salt and Pepper to taste

For the Pistou:
3 cloves fresh garlic
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt to taste

  1. Heat a large dutch oven with olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the pancetta, onions, celery and carrots.  Stir frequently, allowing the vegetables to sweat, but not brown, for 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add the chopped chard stems.  Allow stems and vegetables to sweat for an additional 20 minutes.  Lower heat if necessary, to prevent from browning.
  3. Add the potatoes and garlic to the pot and combine well.  Sprinkle with a good pinch of salt.  Move all the vegetables to one side of the pot and add the tomato paste. Allow paste to cook for a minute or two, then fully incorporate into vegetables.
  4. Add the diced tomatoes with all their juice.  Add enough water to cover vegetables and create the soup (water line should be about two inches above vegetables).  Stir and bring to boil.  Once boiling, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
  5. In a separate pot, boil the noodles in salted water.  Strain and drizzle with olive oil.
  6. Prepare the pistou.  Using a food processor or mini-chopper, combine the garlic, basil and olive oil with a generous pinch of salt.  Add more olive oil if needed.  The pistou should be a smooth and thick sauce, not chunky or dry.  Set aside.
  7. When cooking time has passed, taste the soup.  Adjust flavors with salt and pepper.  Continue simmering, if needed, until vegetables are tender.
  8. To serve, ladle bowls of soup then add a spoonful of pasta noodles.  Drizzle with pistou.
Slow Cooker Kalua Pork – Aloha!

Slow Cooker Kalua Pork – Aloha!

Kalua pork with chopped cabbage and chestnut rice

‘Tis the season for slow cookers — while I love stews, soups and all sorts of chili, I can’t help but start Crock-Pot Season with a little bit of the Aloha spirit.  Simply take a tender roast pork with a light hint of sea salt and great smokey flavor and you’ve got the mainstay of a Hawaiian luau: kalua pork.

When I say kalua, people assume I’m talking about the cordial.  Kalua is the Hawaiian word for a roasting technique that involves cooking underground with leaves and hot coals.  Kahlua, on the other hand, is a coffee liquer, and seems to play a role in every 20-something’s life (OMG I remember those B-52 shots).  But do keep your mudslides, White Russians and chocolate martini concoctions close-by, because this recipe is so easy, you’ll need something to pass the time.

Trader Joe’s Himalayan Pink Salt with built-in grinder

Like any slow cooker recipe, careful preparation and timing will yield fantastic results with very little work.  My advice is to simply prep the meat, stick it in the refrigerator, then start it in your crock-pot the night before, typically when you go to sleep.  Use a slow-cooker liner and you’ll have even less to clean-up.  The pork takes about 10 minutes to prepare, 16 hours to cook and plenty of forks to enjoy.

A couple of notes on the ingredients: first, there are only four.  Don’t try to add more or get fancy.  Simple and straightforward will give you the most authentic flavors.  Also, most grocery stores will carry banana leaves in the freezer section.  An Asian or Latin market will also have them.  If you can’t find them, you can omit from the recipe.  Hawaiian Sea Salt is the most authentic way to prepare the pork, but if you don’t have easy access to it, I recommend Himalayan Rock Salt or any coarse Sea Salt.  Use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to turn the crystals into loose powder.  Some salts are bottled with a built in grinder, making it even easier to enjoy.

I use two forks and a deep baking dish to shred the pork

Once it’s ready, you can serve the kalua pork with rice and cabbage (as they do in Hawaii) or do it luau style, with sweet bread rolls and macaroni salad.  If you have a lot of leftovers, you can try your hand at making manapua.  Personally, I happen to love the pork on a sweet roll, with a combination of spicy sriracha and creamy mayonnaise, smashed together with sour dill pickles and a drizzle of teriyaki sauce.  Be as traditional or creative as you like.  I’ve even seen the pork grilled between tortillas and rolled up into quesadillas, or served on top of fried wonton chips and smothered in cheese and green onions for a Pacific twist on nachos.

‘Tis the season for good eating, right?  Enjoy this easy recipe.

Give the pork a generous coating of the salt and work it into the slits

Slow Cooker Kalua Pork
Yields: 8-10 servings
Cook Time: 16 hours

Ingredients:
4 pounds pork shoulder roast, also known as pork butt
4 teaspoons liquid smoke
Coarse Sea Salt or Hawaiian Rock Salt (lightly ground)
Banana Leaves, enough to wrap meat
Butcher’s twine
Water

Optional Serving Ideas: steamed rice, shredded cabbage, sweet rolls and macaroni salad

  1. Using a small knife, cut small slits in the roast.  Coat the roast generously with the salt, rubbing salt into the slits.  Sea salt is not pungent like table salt, so coat the meat well.

    The pork wrapped in banana leaf and secured with twine

  2. Place two banana leaves together so they are overlapping (you may need kitchen scissors to cut the leaves down to size).  Lay the roast in the center of the leaves.  Pour all four teaspoons of the liquid smoke over the meat.  Wrap the meat in the banana leaves and tie with butcher’s twine to secure.  Refrigerate until ready to cook.
  3. When ready to cook, place the meat in a slow cooker set on LOW.  Cook, covered and un-disturbed, for 16 hours.
  4. Remove meat from slow cooker and place in a dish or plate with a rim (I use a 13 x 9 rectangular baking dish).  Carefully unwrap the meat and allow to rest, 15 minutes.
  5. Pour all the juices from the slow cooker into a fat separator or similar shaped tool, such as a liquid measuring cup.  Skim off fat.  Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a pot.  Add the remaining juices and 1 teaspoon liquid smoke.  Taste and season as desired.
  6. With two forks, shred the pork.  Pour the juices from the slow cooker evenly over the pork.  Serve hot or cold.
Orange Almond Olive Oil Cake

Orange Almond Olive Oil Cake

Photo credit: Chef Adriel Zahniser

All good things must be shared — especially when it comes to recipes.  Lucky for me, I have a great group of friends who are talented chefs, and we regularly exchange our best recipes.  Such was the case last week, when my good friend Chef Malin Parker told me about Chef Laurie Crueley’s delicious olive oil cake.

I was so excited to make it (and of course, put my own spin on it) that I haphazardly forgot a crucial ingredient: milk.  As the cakes were baking in the oven and I started to clean-up the kitchen, I realized I forgot to add the milk.  Slightly panicked, I began to think of possible outcomes — I knew that without milk, the cakes would be heavy and dense.  My mind raced to think of ways to alleviate the heaviness and slowly but surely, an improvised topping was created.

With Chefs Adriel Zahniser and Malin Parker

My first inclination was to create a warm almond milk mixture and pour it over the hot cakes (similar to what you see in tres leche cake recipes) but in keeping with the Mediterranean inspired olive oil cake, I decided to do a mixture of fresh orange juice, honey and nuts.  The result was simply fantastic.

I am posting an updated version of Chef Laurie’s recipe below.  It combines her cake recipe (yes, with the milk) and my nutty honey based topping.  I also like an addition of coarsely ground almonds to the cake.  The nuts add a rich, buttery taste to the batter and compliments the flavor of olive oil nicely.  For the cake, I recommend using the best olive oil you can find, as this will greatly enhance the outcome.

With Chefs Mary Beth Rodriguez and Laurie Crueley

Since this is the time of year many people enjoy warm drinks such as tea, hot cider, or coffee, this cake will compliment your mugs very nicely.  And while you’re enjoying your tea and cake, feel free to watch this video of Laurie and I in the kitchen.  Enjoy!

Orange Almond Olive Oil Cake
Inspired by Laurie Crueley, Updated by Chris Kohatsu

Yield: 1 cake (9 inch round)

For the cake:

2 large eggs (room temperature)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Zest of 1 orange (finely grated)
1/3 cup whole milk
3/4 cup good olive oil (extra virgin is fine)
1/3 cup marsala wine
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup almonds (coarsely ground)

For the topping:

1 cup each walnuts, almonds, pine nuts (chopped)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup honey
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 9 inch cake pan or 8 x 8 square and set aside.
  2. Mix the eggs and sugar until incorporated and foamy, then add the zest, milk, marsala, olive oil and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.  Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, while the mixer is running, until all the flour is added and a nice cake batter is formed.  Stir the chopped almonds into the batter.
  4. Transfer batter to prepared cake pan.  Tap pan to release any air bubbles.
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes.  Cake is ready when a toothpick or knife comes out clean.  Set the cake aside to cool slightly, and prepare the topping.
  6. Combine the raisins and orange blossom water in a small bowl.  Add a few tablespoons of hot water (just enough to cover) to allow the raisins to plump.
  7. Heat a large saute pan.  Once hot, add all of the nuts and toast, about 1-2 minutes.
  8. Add the honey, orange juice, cinnamon and raisins to the nuts.  Lower the heat and stir until well combined, about 1 minute.
  9. Turn out the cake onto a large serving dish or baking sheet.  Pour the hot nut mixture over the cake and spread into an even layer.
  10. Slice and serve warm cake immediately.  Drizzle with more honey and sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.
WOBtoberfest Beer & Brats

WOBtoberfest Beer & Brats

On the set of Daytime with host Cyndi Edwards

I just wrapped another great cooking segment for Daytime TV — this time, as a representative of World of Beer’s WOBtoberfest.  World of Beer is one of the coolest bars featuring craft beers (nearly 500 beers available) and to celebrate seasonal beers, October is designated WOBtoberfest.

I created a recipe using bratwurst and German Marzen beer; which I absolutely love to cook with.  Oktoberfest beers are typically light in body, amber in color and have an infusion of dried herbs and spices.  I used Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

Whether you’re at the grill or just want to make this on a stove top, I’ve gotta say, beer soaked brats with onions pair incredibly well with good beer.  So grab some brats and get your onions ready — the flavors of Fall are to be celebrated!

World of Beer WOBtoberfest Beer Brats
Recipe by Chris Kohatsu

Ingredients
8 bratwurst links
4 bottles of German Marzen beer
4 large yellow onions, sliced
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
Stone ground mustard, for serving

Directions

  1. Using a toothpick or small knife, poke a few holes into each sausage. Heat a large dutch oven over medium high heat.  Melt the butter then add the onions, vinegar, brown sugar, thyme and coriander. Coat the onions in the butter, but do not allow them to brown.
  2. Place the sausages in the pot with the onions, and add all of the beer along with the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and allow to simmer at least 30 minutes.  The brats will plump and expand significantly.
  3. Heat a grill or sauté pan. Remove the sausages from the beer, then grill or pan fry. Raise the heat on the onions and boil off the beer.  For faster results, pan fry the onions until dark brown.
  4. Serve sausages and onions together with dollop of mustard.
Celebrating Good Books: International Book Week

Celebrating Good Books: International Book Week

In celebration of International Book Week, I thought I’d share five favorite books on cooking, food and delicious inspiration.  These are the books that I use, read and refer to quite often, which is why they made the list.

Entertaining by Martha Stewart
I always keep my hardcover first edition (found at a vintage book shop) handy and refer to it often.  I think these are her best recipes ever!

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
A must-have for anyone in the kitchen, no?

 

I took this photo of Ming Tsai goofing off in Takashi Yagihashi’s kitchen

French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork and Corkscrew by Peter Mayle
I laughed and delighted my way through France via Mr. Mayle’s humor and good wit.

 

Simply Ming: One Pot Meals by Ming Tsai
I love the simplicity and freshness of a quick stir-fry and breakout my woks whenever I can.

Mexico: One Plate at a Time by Rick Bayless
His recipes and techniques are so good, so detailed and so easy to follow.

Obviously, there are many, many more great food and cooking books out there…. These are just the top five that came to my mind.  Feel free to share your favorites!

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