January 2015

spicy soba noodle salad

Despite the name of this fine blog, many of the meals we eat are vegetarian. This recipe also happens to be vegan and gluten-free—do you even recognize us!?  We are indeed pro-vegetable here at The Answer is Always Pork and this salad has become one of our weeknight favorites. You can throw it together in about 25 minutes, which is especially handy when you a) are trying to launch a new product at work, b) remember less than an hour before leaving for an event that it is a potluck, or c) that special combination of lazy and impatient that makes ordering take out impossible. It’s also really easy to scale this up for a group, just double or triple everything and it works out fine.

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What else? We’re gradually making progress planning our wedding, which somehow still feels like the most obvious and the most surprising thing to happen to us. Jordan is back at school for the spring semester, though he is never really *off* anymore these days, masters-shmasters. I’m online shopping for obscure textile art and pottery books from the 70s, purchases include “Far Beyond the Fringe”, undeniably an amazing title for any book. Willow is decapitating toys shaped like Star Wars characters, no wookie left unscathed. There’s a new bakery in the neighborhood that’s pretty mind-blowing. Life is moving right along, and I like that just fine.

Spicy Soba Noodle Salad
For the dressing

1 lemon, zested and juiced
1-1″ piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey (or agave syrup for you super vegans)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
a small pinch of cayenne pepper or a squirt of siracha chili sauce
salt and pepper to taste

For the salad
1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cucumber, sliced
cilantro, mint or green onion, sliced thinly
2 bunches of soba noodles (japanese buckwheat noodles, they come wrapped in single-serving bunches)
4 oz of extra firm tofu (I like the Trader Joe’s sprouted tofu that comes in two 4oz packages)

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In a medium bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Bring a medium pot of water to boil and season it with salt.

While you’re waiting for the water to boil, chop the lettuce, herbs and cucumber. Mix them together in two medium bowls. These will become your dinner bowls. Slice the tofu into 1.5″ x  0.5″ slices. Put a non-stick pan over medium heat. Pat the tofu dry with a paper towel and then brown the tofu, about 4 minutes per side. When your tofu is cooking on it’s last side, cook the soba. You can also serve the tofu raw, but I like

Cook the soba noodles according to the package directions, somewhere between 5 and 8 minutes. Drain the soba noodles and rinse with cold water. Put back into the pot and pour the dressing over the soba.

Top each salad bowl with soba and then sprinkle with tofu. Serve with siracha and sesame seeds.

-Emily

chili verde

I’d always been opposed to the idea of owning a crock pot. Our apartment is so tiny and it doesn’t seem possible to nestle another thing in between our kitchen aid mixer, vitamix, coffee maker, soda stream, food processor … so many gadgets … that I use surprisingly regularly. A crock pot also felt like giving up. Surrendering my culinary creativity to mushy foods that all taste and look the same. Not to mention the myriad of crock pot recipes that call for condensed soups, seasoning packets and all of those industrial food products that I just can’t get behind.

And then, around Thanksgiving, I was visiting my mom. We ran errands all day, hopping in and out of the car, driving from place to place, and got home around six in the evening. And her house, her house smelled amazing. The kind of smell that really makes you feel taken care of and instantly banishes the “what the hell are we having for dinner tonight” worry. Unbeknownst to me, my mom had thrown leeks, potatoes and vegetable stock into her crockpot before we’d left to take on the days errands, and now all that was left to do was to puree the soup and make a salad. This was when I realized that I could indulge the convenience of the crock pot without giving up good food.

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Fast forward to Christmas, and my grandparents gifted us a crock pot. Since then I’ve been experimenting with a few new recipes, including my mom’s leek and potato soup. Most of these recipes could also be braised in a dutch oven or made on the stovetop, but I must again admit it is insanely nice to come home to a meal that is nearly ready to eat.

This chili verde is a mashup of several different recipes from around the Internet. It’s hard to go wrong when you combine tomatillos, chilis and pork. They’re made for each other. This version is not particularly spicy and makes enough for at least eight meals. Not surprisingly, it freezes well and you can easily reheat it in your crock pot and enjoy another round of chili verde at a later date. I’m starting to see why people like these things.

But, I still resist the microwave. It is my last stand.

Chili Verde
1 1/2 lbs tomatillos, taken out of their husks
1 onion, cut into eighths
6 cloves of garlic
4 serrano chilis, stemmed and de-seeded (Keep in mind that the heat of serranos is quite variable, it’s good to taste them to see how spicy they are before you increase the amount of chili you use)
3 lbs pork shoulder, peeled and cut into 1.5″ cubes
4 yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1″ cubes
1 orange, juiced (or 1/4 cup orange juice)
4 cups of chicken stock
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
olive oil/bacon fat/lard
fresh cilantro, sour cream, avocado, cabbage, lime, tortillas and hot sauce/salsa for serving

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Cut your pork into one and half to two inch cubes. Season it with salt. Heat a tablespoon of oil/bacon fat/lard in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. In batches, brown the pork on all sides. Put your first batch aside and brown the next few pieces. Continue until you’ve browned all of your pork. It will probably take somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 minutes to brown this much pork, but it adds a ton of flavor into the final dish.

Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the tomatillos, onion, garlic, and serrano chilis into a single layer. Turn your broiler to high and char the vegetables. You’re looking for a deep dark spots on all of the vegetables and for the tomatillos to look deflated. Pour your charred vegetables and all of their juice into your crock pot vessel, or into a dutch oven.

After you’ve browned all the pork, deglaze with some orange juice, chicken stock or water. Be sure to scrape up all the delicious browned bits and add those into your crock pot, along with all of the pork.

Add the potatoes, chicken stock, cumin, oregano, bay leaf, a little salt and pepper, and cover. (FYI – If this is too much to do before work, you can prep the recipe up until this point and refrigerate the entire dish, and then start the cooking in the morning). Set your crockpot to high and cook for 6 hours, or low and cook for 8 to 10 hours. If you’re cooking in a dutch oven in the oven, preheat your oven to 300° F and cook for about 4 hours. The pork should be super tender by the end of the cooking time, and the vegetables will have become a soupy sauce.

Taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper as needed. It may need salt, especially if your broth was unseasoned. I serve chili verde in a soup bowl with tortillas, cilantro, sour cream, avocado, salsa and cabbage on the side. This way folks can make their own mini tacos with whichever fixings they like best, and you get to drink up that delicious tomatillo broth at the end of the meal.

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-Emily

Ps. Do you have a crock pot or crock pot-adaptable recipe that you love? Please send it my way! We’ll soon tire of the three dishes I’ve added into the meal rotation and I’ll need new ones to try. Gracias!

kiwis, crabs and lots of driving

January is already off to a rather busy start. We’re trying to launch our newest product at work, which means I’m creating a new marketing website and a teacher resource website, two promo videos, app store screenshots and descriptions, reaching out to press, following up with pilot classrooms, and so much testing. This also means that I am sick of staring at a computer screen by the time I get home.

Instead of working on computery things like blogging (me) and analyzing data (Jordan) over the weekend, we took the weekend off. Really off. Two whole days. We spent most of Saturday on the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping off wherever it looked interesting and poking around. On Sunday, my dad came down to the city and we feasted on dungeness crab.

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We harvested kiwi at Swanton Berry Farm in Santa Cruz. 10 days in the fridge. 10 days on the counter. I guess we’ll know in three weeks how good they are.

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You can get dungeness crab fresh and feisty off of the boats in the harbor at Half Moon Bay. Go in the morning, look for a boat with a Live Crab banner, pick a few up and keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to eat later that day. Crab this fresh is heavenly, and a lot of fun to eat with a group. In case you’re not sure how to cook your crab, here’s a post on it from a few years ago, the first time we had a our own crab feed.

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I hope your new year is off to a great start—and maybe a bit more full of weekends that feel like vacation than 1-week-from-launch-brain-exploding-workweeks.

-Emily

new old fashioned

Posted on January 3, 2015

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I’m having trouble collecting my thoughts about the end of 2014 and the start of 2015. It seems healthy to start the year off with a little reflection, but instead of taking a few moments to think about what I’ve learned this past year, my brain is instead obsessing with how I’m going to tetris the generous gifts we received from our families into our tiny apartment. Not to mention, all ten seasons of Friends are now on Netflix, and I got a crock pot for Christmas that begs experimentation, I just had to make these cookies yesterday, go see this striking art exhibit today, and then go buy four pounds of sushi rice. I confuse myself by how I can simultaneously have enough focus to spend eight hours dip-dying two hundred tiny pieces of paper (wedding!), but cannot bring myself to sit down for an hour to write.

So instead of thoughts on life and learning and new years, I’ve got a cocktail for you. We make it often (I use it as an excuse to eat maraschino cherries), and we also made it on New Year’s Eve. It’s delicious. Serve it to your friends.

New Old Fashioned
2 oz of bourbon or rye
1 bar spoonful of muscovado rich syrup (from our favorite food podcast, Spilled Milk)
1 dash angostura bitters
a maraschino cherry and an orange peel for garnish (get Luxardo Cherries, they’re more expensive but so worth it)

Make the rich syrup. Combine 2 parts muscovado sugar with 1 part water in a small saucepan. Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. You could also use brown sugar – they have similar flavors. Store rich syrup in a jar in the fridge.

In a cocktail shaker, combine the bourbon/rye with the rich syrup and a dash of bitters. Stir with ice for 20 to 30 seconds and strain into a cocktail class. Garnish with a cherry and an orange peel. Use your potato peeler to peel of a generous amount of orange zest.

Wishing you love, happiness and good vibes for 2015!

-Emily