Smoked Almonds

Beloved and I are leaving at noon today, heading to Wisconsin for his family reunion.  We’re looking forward to it, especially the drive, since we love to road trip and the weather is knock-your-eyes out gorgeous today.  However, I can’t be sure if I’ll have time or internet access while we’re gone, so I may not post again or get around to reading blogs until our return Sunday night.  Also, today is the last day of the month; my NaBloPoMo obligation is over and the thought of a break is rather welcome.

But we’ll see.

We’ll be stopping in Chicago overnight, and I made reservations at Roy Yamaguchi’s restaurant for dinner.  Why Roy’s?  Well, we love the place, for one.  For another, it won’t require us to A) dress as if we’re attending Princess Diana’s wedding and 2) take a second mortgage out on the house.  Seriously – Google “fine dining in Chicago”; the prices you’ll see will make your eyes hemorrhage.   You know me – I love good food and am willing to pay for it, but $200?  Per person? At those kinds of prices, I’ll worship it from afar, thank you very much.

Anyhoo.  Another easy recipe today, especially if you like to grill/smoke/barbecue (or, in Beloved’s case, all three).  The instructions for this require simple, indirect heat on your grill, but we put them in the smoker with the brisket this weekend and they were just fine.  In fact, we’ve had to restrain ourselves from eating them all so we’d have some road trip snack food for today (Chicago is a six hour drive from our house).

Have a lovely day, y’all.

Smoked Almonds

Smoked Almonds

makes..a lot

1 pound natural (raw) almonds

1 1/2 tablespoons of your favorite hot sauce

2 teaspoons of your favorite barbecue rub

Set up the grill for indirect grilling.

Toss together all the ingredients until the nuts are well coated with the hot sauce and rub, then pour into a disposable aluminum pan (at least 9″ square) in an even layer.  Cover and smoke until the nuts are crisp, about 3 hours.

Cool completely.  Store in an airtight container if you have any leftover to store.

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Pan Roasted Asparagus

Well, here it is, Monday again.

Oh, and I’ve lost 11.5 pounds in a little over a month.  Just by changing the diet (I have yet to go down to the basement and confront the treadmill and Bowflex…don’t push me, it’s coming).  Yay, me.

(Beloved has lost 12 pounds in like 3 weeks, but we won’t go there right now.)

Anyhoo.  Monday.  Boooooooooo.  Well, that’s all right – we’re going to take a mini-vacation and leave town Wednesday afternoon to go to Wisconsin for Beloved’s family reunion, returning Sunday.  We’ll be stopping overnight in Chicago on our way there – anyone know of any good restaurants in the downtown area?

Today’s recipe is easy and delicious – Pan Roasted Asparagus.  We love asparagus and you can still find it relatively cheaply at the store and farmer’s markets.  It is particularly good pan roasted in a hot, cast iron skillet, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper, fleur de sel or kosher salt and a little freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Nomilicious stuff.

Pan Roasted Asparagus

Pan Roasted Asparagus

serves 3 to 4

1 pound of fresh asparagus, trimmed, washed and well-dried

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Heat a small, cast iron skillet over high heat until it is almost smoking. Add the asparagus to the dry skillet, stirring it occasionally, until it begins to brown but is still crisp. Remove the skillet from the heat, drizzle the olive oil over the asparagus, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle it with the cheese if desired. Serve immediately.

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Pico de Gallo

I am tired today – even Tech Guy here at the office mentioned how tired I look.  He’s a sweetheart, and as a Type II diabetic who struggles with his diet was quite sympathetic when I told him that although I’d tried very hard to eat right this weekend, we ate out so much that it knocked me all out of whack – Bob Evans and Cheesecake Factory don’t exactly do local and sustainable.  I further botched things up last night; we stopped on a whim at our absolute favorite restaurant in Ohio.  They do serve locally obtained, unprocessed food, but if you throw alcohol and dessert into the mix, well…

Cut me some slack – I’m paying for it this morning.  (It sure was tasty, though.)

At any rate, I’m back on track today and will remain there until I’m seduced once again by the siren song of a four-star restaurant.  Which doesn’t happen with any regularity, thank goodness.

So – pico de gallo.  There’s some debate about the origins of the name, but it’s basically a fresh, uncooked salsa often served with Mexican dishes.  It’s easy and delicious and has the added bonus of being extremely good for you, too.  I don’t care much for cooked tomatoes, but I love them raw and this is one of my two favorite ways to eat them (I’ll get to the other way later in the summer when my own tomatoes ripen).

Note: Seed the jalapeños unless you like it really spicy.

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo

makes 3 – 4 cups

2-3 medium sized fresh tomatoes, finely diced

1/2 red onion, finely diced

2 jalapeño peppers, finely diced

Juice of one lime

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients except the salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl; taste and season.  Let it sit, covered, for an hour or so at room temperature, to allow the flavors to combine.

Can be served as a condiment, side dish or as a dip with good quality tortilla chips.

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Carnitas

I think that I mentioned here recently that I’m a wee bit tired of beef.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it but we’ve been eating quite a bit of it lately in our quest for some grass-fed, 100% pastured beef (which we found, but that’s a subject for another post).  So there’s been a lot of chicken and pork and not enough fish on my table lately.

I think I’ve also mentioned before that Podunk isn’t the best place in the world to get Mexican food (there are “Mexican” restaurants here that give you a hunk of bell pepper wrapped in ground beef and deep fried when you order a chile relleno).  Then there’s the fact that Mexican food isn’t exactly the best thing in the world if you’re reducing refined carbohydrates and grains in your diet.

However, there are Mexican dishes that are lovely and delicious and perfectly acceptable if you’re willing to bypass the rice and tortillas (or even if you’re not; if, unlike me, you can eat rice and tortillas without blowing up like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters, go for it I say).  Carnitas is one of those dishes.

Carnitas literally means “little meats” in Spanish and is traditionally made from the rich, heavily marbled shoulder sections from the animal.  It’s usually braised or simmered, then roasted briefly at high heat until the outside is brown and crisped, then shredded or cut into bite-size chunks.  It’s usually served with lime wedges, cilantro, chopped onion and tomato, salsa, guacamole, refried beans and eaten with tortillas – and is absolutely delicious.

I made the process a little easier by putting a bone-in shoulder roast in the crock pot, then shredding and chopping it before roasting.  Not quite traditional, but still quite good, especially served with homemade guacamole and pico de gallo (recipe to follow this week).  The Young One ate his in tortillas, but Beloved wrapped his in lettuce leaves.  I simply layered mine on the plate and ate it with a fork.

Whichever way you choose to eat it, it is delicious.

Carnitas

Carnitas

serves 6 to 8

3 to 4 pound bone-in pork shoulder roast (it might be labeled “boston butt roast”)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

about 1 cup water

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup spicy salsa (any jarred variety is fine)

Rub the outside of the roast with the salt and pepper, then place in the crock pot.  Pour the water around, but not over, the roast – you want to surround it, not cover it.  Spread the onion and garlic over the top of the roast, then pour the salsa on top.  Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until the pork is very tender.

Preheat the oven to 400º F.  Carefully remove the roast from the crock pot, and shred the meat with two forks or cut into bite sized cubes (or both).  Place the meat on a large, shallow baking pan and pour a little of the cooking liquid over it.  Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges are brown and crispy.

Serve with lime wedges, cilantro, chopped onion and tomato, salsa, guacamole, refried beans and
tortillas, if desired.

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