Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Not your typical Pot Roast

Here I sit in Fargo, North Dakota. We've been all over the news lately for our record flooding. We are winning the battle against the water. The river is coming down. Unfortunately, so is about two feet of new snow. Yes, once again, we are socked in with a blizzard. Sometimes I think I want to just go to sleep and wake up in 2010. But the high water and blizzard just make us work harder up here in Fargo. As much as I yearn for spring (and I saw my tulips coming up a week ago) I am slapped by mother nature again reminding me that she still thinks it's winter.

Since I can't get out and the sandbagging has ceased (for now) I made a slow cooked pot roast. But this isn't your typical pot roast. I loaded this one up with strong Asian flavors and served it with rice. It all started with this grass-fed rump roast from a local farmer.

I love to slow cook meats in my Turkish clay pot. I really appreciate my dear friend who gave this pot to me. It has been used a lot.

I made a sauce from strongly flavored Asian ingredients. Of course I didn't measure anything but let me try to approximate it for you. Into a blender I put in 6 garlic cloves, about an inch of fresh ginger, a tbsp of hoisin sauce, 3 tbsp of red miso paste, 2 tbsp of fermented black bean sauce, 1 tbsp srirach hot sauce, 1 tbsp of nuoc mam fish sauce, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tbsp mirin and 2 tbsp of sugar, give or take.

This was all blended up into a thick marinade.

The meat was drowned in the sauce and it was rubbed into every crack and crevice of the roast.

Into my pot I put a large cut up onion and 6 large carrots, cut into large chunks. I plopped the roast onto the vegetables and poured any remaining sauce on top. This was covered and placed in a 250 F oven for about six hours to slowly cook. After the first three hours I basted the roast with the pot juices every hour or so. As you can see from my first picture I served it with the carrots on rice with a side of asparagus.

At least someone is enjoying the snow.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pizza and high water

Well it has been a tough week of sandbagging in blizzards and watching the mighty Red River of the North rise. But we still have to eat. Saturday we got some good news. The river was starting to go down. We may have reached our crest just under 41 feet which is a foot or two less than they predicted. While many people have already lost so much in the rising waters much of the city of Fargo is holding on by a thread. I had a little time on Saturday to make some pizza. The first is a pesto pizza with summer sausage, olives and asparagus. The second one you see is a pepperoni pizza with asparagus.

This morning I was interviewed by Susan Hendricks from CNN's Headline News about the flooding in Fargo. I posted some of my photos to CNN's iReport and they wanted to talk to me. Here's the video.

I have some new photos of the river and dikes as the river reaches it's crest near 41 feet.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The taste of sand

As the Red River of the North reaches biblical proportions I have not had time to do any cooking. Instead I have been sandbagging for the last week. Even with temperatures as low as 10 degrees and blizzard like conditions, we will win this fight against the rising waters. Please be reassured that I am being well fueled by lots of kind folks bringing food and hot coffee to the front lines. I'll be back in my kitchen as soon as I can.

Cross your fingers and wish us luck. It all comes down to NOW.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

chicken wrapped asparagus with lemon sauce

Dinner tonight turned out much better than I imagined. I was thinking about how to use chicken and asparagus and I came up with this concoction.

I started with two boneless, skinless chicken breasts that I pounded flat. I seasoned the inside of the chicken with salt, pepper, pureed garlic and the zest of a lemon. I added about 6 asparagus spears and rolled the whole thing up.

The chicken rolls were seared in a hot pan to give it some golden brown color.

After searing for about 4 or 5 minutes on each side I added a can of chicken broth to the pan. The chicken was covered and cooked on low heat for about 10 minutes until the chicken was fully cooked through. I then added the juice of one lemon and some corn starch paste (1 tbsp corn starch mixed with cold water). This was cooked until the sauce was thickened. I plated the chicken with white rice and topped everything with the delicious lemony chicken sauce. It was very very good.

Blueberry ovaltine and peanut butter protein smoothie

After a good long Sunday run I usually refuel with my favorite smoothie and after a brisk 8 miles this morning I needed some superfood. Blueberries are absolutely packed with antioxidants and healthy vitamins.

Here's my recipe for my super delicious super power smoothie.

1 cup skim milk
1 cup frozen blueberries softened in the microwave for 1 minute
1.5 scoops of non-flavored whey protein powder
2 tbsp ovaltine chocolate drink mix
1 tbsp natural creamy peanut butter

That's it! Blend until smooth and serve in your favorite Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville glass!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cellophane noodle salad with Thai peanut sauce

This noodle salad was perfect to take to a party this evening. Inspired by Thai cuisine, this dish used Korean mung bean cellophane noodles. These are usually used in the Korean dish called chop chae but instead I made a Thai style salad. I cooked the noodles until tender and cooled them under running cold water. The salad contained grated carrot, cucumber and green onions. The Thai peanut dressing was made from 3 tbsp natural creamy peanut butter, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tbsp fish sauce, 4 cloves garlic, and 1 Thai chili pepper. The sauce was pureed in the blender until good and smooth. This was tossed with the noodles and vegetables. It was quite a hit at the party!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Capitol Eats

Today I spent on Capitol Hill. Yes, I'm in Washington, DC this week. Hence the slowdown in my cooking posts. My wonderful Congressman Pomeroy's office arranged for special tours of the Capitol and the spectacularly beautiful Library of Congress for us. It was a great day. The photo shown below was taken from Pomeroy's office window in the Longforth House Office Building. But I digress. This is a blog about food and cooking. For lunch we made our way underground to the maze of tunnels between the office buildings and the Capitol to the cafeteria where the nation's leaders often take a break to dine. I had a really good (and cheap) Asian Beef Wrap. It was chock full of thinly sliced meat, napa cabbage slaw, mangos, roasted red peppers and a ginger dressing. It really hit the spot. Oh, it's a gorgeous sunny and warm day today in DC!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

More Pizza

What pizza did we have last Friday? A darn good one. The pie shown above has a standard pizza sauce base topped with diced summer sausage, chopped garlic-stuffed green olives, and sliced pepperoncini peppers. On top of the cheese was some pepperoni slices.

How about something completely different? How about a cheeseless Asian-style pizza. I used hoisin sauce as the base along with some sriracha hot sauce. This proved a sweet and spicy underlay for the ingredients on top. A layer of fresh mung bean sprouts, some sliced leftover Asian meatballs, and fresh pineapple finished off this healthy lowfat pizza.

See how nice it cooked up? The only drawback was the amount of moisture in the pizza. I think that comes largely from the bean sprouts and maybe the pineapple. It was a little bit drippy and hard to eat. But it tasted really good.

Meatballs with an Asian influence

No, it's not spaghetti and meatballs with a tomato sauce. It's better! This dish has flavors of Vietname and Thailand. The noodles are Japanese udon noodles. I love their silky texture. The meatballs were made using sirloin roast and pork loin ground together with garlic and green onions. The meat was seasoned with some soy sauce as well and bound together with an egg and bread crumbs. The meatballs were cooked on a sheet pan in a 375 oven just until cooked through. I had plenty leftover that I used for a pizza. I'll post more on that tomorrow.

To create the sauce, I started with garlic and ginger in a hot wok and stir fried some finely julienned carrots. To the pan I added a teaspoon of Vietnamese sour soup paste. This is a blend of spices that gives a tangy kick to the dish. More soy sauce went in along with some milk that had a little bit of corn starch stirred in for thickening. To give it a bit of Thai nuance, I added a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter. Yes, this is a spicy, tangy peanut sauce. I added enough water to keep it liquid as it cooked. I added the cooked meatballs to the sauce and simmered them for a few minutes. Meanwhile my udon was boiling. Once it was cooked to almost done I threw the noodles into the sauce and cooked them for another minute or two and coated everything with the sauce. I finished it off with some lemon juice at the last minute to give it even more tang.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Empanadas Argentinas

I'm heading out to a wine tasting this evening where we will be sampling some torrontés and malbec wines from Argentina. So I threw together this appetizer to take along. Searching the web I found a really nice recipe from the Cooking with Teresita blog for empanadas. I pretty much followed the recipe on her web page so I won't repeat it here.

I started by cooking the onions and meat together. Then cooked the spices in. I allowed that to cool and added chopped green onion, chopped boiled egg and chopped green olives.

I didn't have the time to make a dough so I went to my freezer and pulled out a package of pot sticker wraps. These were perfect for making appetizer sized empanadas.

Here they are all stuffed and sealed. I brushed them liberally with olive oil and baked them in a 350 °F oven for 35 minutes, until the turned golden brown.

Ah, the smell is heavenly. I can't wait to bite into them.

Good old midwestern chili to cure the blizzard blues

Last Tuesday was quite the day for our region. After receiving 5 inches of new snow on Monday, Mother Nature decided to wallop us with a full out, horizontal snow, 30 below zero, batten down the hatches blizzard. Now, I love a good blizzard - in December or January. But it's March! It's time for all of this snow to melt! The whole region was shut down and we had to deal with another almost foot of snow that had been blown up into huge drifts aftermath.

What better on a cold spring winter's day than a big steaming bowl of midwestern hamburger soup chili. Mine is pretty typical but I do like to add a few things that make it a bit more interesting. I started with ground beef and onions, of course. But I added chopped carrots as well. I use more than just kidney beans if I have them on hand. In this chili you might see some garbanzo beans in there as well as some black eyed peas. I like corn in my chili. Frozen corn tastes fresher than canned corn. For spices I don't just reach for chili powder. I make my own mix. I ground my own blend in my trusty coffee spice grinder made from cumin seeds, coriander seeds, red chili flakes, a touch of oregano and, the secret ingredient, a cinnamon stick. This blend of spices went in near the beginning just after the meat was browned. Some canned crushed tomato and tomato sauce were added and the whole thing simmered up until good and cooked. I added a splash of sriracha hot sauce near the end. That's at least one version of my midwestern chili.

Friday, March 13, 2009


This middle eastern garbanzo bean dip goes great with fresh made pita bread. And, it is so easy to make. I start with two cans of drained garbanzo beans. You can certainly cook them yourself but a can is so easy. I add a couple of cloves of garlic, juice of one lemon, 2 tbsp of tahini, salt and pepper. I place everything into the food processor and turn it on. I drizzle in olive oil until it is the right creamy consistency. You can add some water or some of the water from the bean can of you want to cut down on the amount of fat. This is garnished with kalamata olives and a sprinkle of ground sumac.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chicken sausage and beans

I actually made this dish during Mardi Gras week but am only just now getting around to blog about it. It was Cajun inspired and thrown together at the last minute for a quick meal. This has some sliced chicken sausuage, red kidney beans, carrots, onions and garlic. I flavored it with some Old Bay seasoning and red chili powder. Some tomato paste and chicken broth helped create a wonderfully flavorful sauce to cook everything in.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tofu and eggplant stir fry

If I may say so, this stir fry was absolutely fantastic! I love the slender Asian eggplant and it was perfect paired with tofu.

Here you can see my pan cubed tofu. I first threw in chopped garlic and ginger into the pan. That was followed by the tofu which I seasoned with a little soy sauce and some of that wonderful chili flakes in oil. You can see what half a teaspoon of it does to color this dish.

I stir fried the tofu on high heat until it was browned on all sides. This was removed from the pan and set aside.

Into the pan, still with the flavored oil from frying the tofu, I added more chopped garlic and ginger, onions and that delicious Asian eggplant.

The eggplant was fried until it began to get tender. The tofu was added back to the dish and it was seasoned with some sesame oil and soy sauce. One last thing I added was a teaspoon of Szechuan black bean and garlic paste. Oh, what a flavor! I was pleased with how the sauce clung to the food and not the pan! I definitely have to make this again.