Spanish Lentil and Chorizo Soup

There are few spices that hit my sweet spot more than Spanish paprika (also known as pimentón).  This smokey and spicy cousin of the more common Hungarian paprika is one of the secret weapons of Spanish cuisine and is a key ingredient in Spanish chorizo.  Unlike its Latin American counterpart with the same name, Spanish chorizo is hard and oily like a salami and packed with pimentón.  A little of this stuff goes a long way…this entire pot of soup is flavored by a mere 1/4 lb of the stuff.

This soup is about as easy as it gets and when the cold weather starts to hit, there are few things better.

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Spanish Lentil and Chorizo Soup

  • 1 cup dry lentils
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Spanish chorizo (about 4-5oz), peeled and diced
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 small green bell pepper
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 12 baby potatoes, quartered
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cups spinach
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, bell pepper, and chorizo, sautéing until the vegetables are softened.  Pour in enough water so everything is covered by at least an inch (about 6 cups).  Add in the lentils, potatoes, and whole garlic cloves.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.  Let this simmer until the lentils and potatoes are tender (about 30 minutes).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the cloves of garlic, squeeze garlic from its skin and mash. Return to the pot. Stir in the spinach.  Once the spinach has wilted, add salt and pepper to get the taste where you want it.

Vinegar Mustard Slaw

There are a million slaw recipes out there and I have tried way too many of them.  I used the measurements listed below this past weekend and it was damn near perfect for my taste.

Mainly posting this here so I do not lose what I did.

  • 1/2 thinly sliced head of green cabbage
  • 1/2 thinly sliced head of red cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin
  • 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon of grainy mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon celery seed
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

In a small bowl whisk together vinegar, mustard, honey and olive oil and set aside. In a separate bowl mix together cabbages, carrots, green onions and celery seed. Next, pour a small amount of the dressing on the cabbage mixture and mix together until combined and until desired amount of dressing is achieved. Season with salt and pepper, and chill before serving.

Chicken Stew With Roasted Cauliflower and Olives

The following stew recipe is in contention for one of my favorite things I have made this year.  I do not use cinnamon in my cooking very often but the way it melds with the tomatoes and the olives here is pretty awesome.  The result is a very hearty stew with a very unique flavor.  This recipe was directly inspired by this recipe from the New York Times.  The major changes I made include roasting the cauliflower before adding to the stew, increasing the garlic (shocking), and adding oregano.

I forgot to take a picture of the stew for this post so until I make it again, here is what I looked like after eating way more than I should have last night:

Chicken Stew With Roasted Cauliflower and Olives

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 to 6 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 15oz cans fire roasted and chopped tomatoes, with juice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 small or 1/2 large cauliflower, cored, broken into florets, and sliced about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 450 and roast the cauliflower for 20-25 minutes, until slight browned.  When done, set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in your dutch oven or a large heavy skillet that has a lid.  Brown the chicken, about five minutes per side.  Set the chicken aside on a plate.  Add the onions to the pot with a pinch of salt and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add the vinegar and scrape up the remaining chicken bits from the bottom of the pan.   Turn the heat to low, cover and let the onions cook for another 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until they are lightly browned and soft.  Add in the garlic and cook for another minute or two until the garlic is fragrant, then add the tomatoes, cinnamon, thyme, and oregano.  Bring this to a simmer and add salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer for about 10 minutes, then return the chicken and any juice from the plate to the pot.  If the chicken is not fully covered by the tomatoes, add in a cup of water and stir to incorporate. Bring back to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes.  Add the roasted cauliflower and kalamata olives and cook for another 20 minutes, or until the chicken falling off the bone.

Pull the chicken out, remove the bones, shred with two forks, and return to the pot.  Stir in the parsley, taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve with french bread or rice.

Creamy Jalapeño Sauce

This sauce is one of my new favorite things to keep on hand at all times.  I had this a few times when eating at the taquerias around Atlanta and just assumed the creaminess came from avocado when in fact, there is no avocado at all.  The bulk of the sauce is just peppers, onions, and oil.  This is about as cheap and easy as it gets.

This sauce is great as a simple dip with tortilla chips and it is also killer on tacos, turkey sandwiches, and hamburgers.

Note that the recipe calls for 7-8 average size jalapeño peppers and you do not remove the seeds.  The boiling portion of this tones the peppers down a good but but this is still a very spicy sauce.  If you want it less spicy you can take the time to remove the seeds after boiling or you can use half jalapeños and half poblanos.

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Creamy Jalapeño Sauce

  • 7-8 average size jalapeño peppers (or if you want it less spicy, use 4 jalapeños and 2-3 poblanos)
  • 1 small/medium yellow onion, halved
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil (I like grapeseed)
  • juice of one lime

Place whole peppers (stems and all) and onion halves into a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.  Boil the peppers and onion for about 15 minutes.  Reserve ~1/2 cup of this cooking liquid, then dump the pot into a colander to drain.  Let the peppers and onions cool for about 15 minutes.

Trim the very top of the peppers to remove the stems and then place the peppers, onion, garlic, salt, oil, and lime into a blender and blend until smooth.  If the texture is too thick, slowly add in some of the reserved cooking water.

Keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, shaking before using.

Gochujang Pork Belly and Green Onion Skewers

Pork belly is one of my favorite things (shocking) but it is something I do not treat myself to very often.  When cooked over a high heat fire, the alternating layers of fat and meat get super crispy on the outside and silky tender on the inside.

Like the meatballs I posted awhile back, this recipe uses the spicy Korean chili paste known as gochujang. It is used as the backbone of a spicy and sweet glaze for the skewers that gets super caramelized over the high heat of the grill.

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Gochujang Pork Belly and Green Onion Skewers

  • 3 lbs uncured pork belly without the skin
  • 1-2 bunches, thick green onions
  • 1/3 cup gochujang
  • 1/4 cup hoisin
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon garlic, minced

Slice pork belly into 1″ x 1″ chunks.  If the pork belly has the skin or an excessive amount of pure fat, trim it down to whatever amount you want.  You want enough to get a crispy fat layer but not so much that it is overwhelming (maybe 1/4″ or so).

Mix the gochujang, hoisin, soy sauce, molasses, rice wine vinegar, and garlic until smooth.  Put the pork belly chunks into a zip lock bag and pour 1/2 of the sauce over and toss to coat.  Seal it up and let it marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Cut the top half of the green onions (the all green part) off and set them aside.  Cut the bottom half of the green onions into chunks that are a little over 1″.

Slide the pork belly chunks and green onions onto the skewers, alternating the whole way down.

Get your grill going to medium hot.  Add the skewers and be sure to flip them every few minutes or so.  Cook until you have developed a nice crispy exterior and the interior is done (probably 15 minutes).  Brush with the remaining sauce halfway through.

Thinly slice the tops from the green onions and garnish the skewers when they come off the grill.

Vietnamese Bún with Shrimp

Vietnamese food is without a doubt one of my favorite cuisines.  In fact, I would say that Sichuan Chinese is the only thing that regularly tops it in my book.  Vietnamese food is a flavor explosion that hits all over the taste spectrum.  The salty umami blast of fish sauce, smoky charcoal grilled meats, the liberal use of fragrant herbs, and broths that simmer for days all culminate in a food tradition that is hard to top.

One of my favorite dishes, especially in the warmer months, is Bún (pronounced boon).  Bún is basically a bowl of cold rice noodles that can then be topped with infinite variations.  Grilled beef, grilled pork, shredded pork, shrimp, chicken, and even chopped egg rolls are all common toppings.  These proteins are combined with all kinds of fresh vegetables, pickled vegetables, herbs and peanuts, then they are dressed with a mixed fish sauce (nước mắm pha).

For the recipe below, the only thing you really need to follow is the dressing and the preparation of the noodles.  What you add in can be changed up to suit your taste or what looks fresh at the market.  I really like mine with roasted or grilled pork but today, I decided to go with shrimp.

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Vietnamese Bún with Shrimp

 

  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons water, to taste
  • 2 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 1 fresh Thai (also sold as “bird’s eye”) chile, minced

Combine the six ingredients above into a small bowl and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.  If you are not familiar with nước mắm, this will taste incredibly salty and pungent but remember, this is going to flavor a ton of unsalted veggies and noodles.  Cover the sauce and set aside (or place in the fridge if you like).

  • 1 tablespooon oil (coconut, grapeseed, or olive)
  • 1/2 lb large shrimp
  • 4 oz thin rice noodles, cooked according to package directions, drained, and rinsed with cold water
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded on a box grater or cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 large cucumber, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 handful chopped basil (can also substitute or combine with cilantro and mint)
  • 1/2 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Heat your oil in a pan over medium heat.  Season your shrimp with pepper and cook until just done.  Place the shrimp on a plate and set aside.

Place a half of the cooked and cooled noodles in the bottom of a bowl.  Top with shrimp, carrots, onions, cucumbers, herbs, and peanuts.  Spoon dressing over the top and toss to coat.  EAT.

 

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken with Lemon Caper Sauce

Just about everything is improved when it is wrapped in pork…that is just a fact.  Here prosciutto and a simple sauce is used to turn boring chicken breasts into a meal full of flavor.  This entire meal takes around 30-35 minutes and is super simple to put together.

Because this dish used both prosciutto and capers, you need to go light with your use of salt.

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Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken with Lemon Caper Sauce

 

  • 1 lb. chicken breast tenderloins (or chicken breasts cut in half)
  • 1/4 lb prosciutto sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or other high heat oil)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2-3 tablespoon capers, drained
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, minced
  • Salt/pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly salt and pepper your raw chicken, then wrap the chicken in a single layer of prosciutto.  Heat your oil in a pan over medium high heat and add the chicken.  Brown the prosciutto wrapped chicken for 2 minutes then flip to the other side, cooking for another 2 minutes.  Once browned, place the chicken into an oven safe dish and bake until it is cooked through (to 165 degrees).

While the chicken is in the oven, melt the butter in the pan.  Once the foam subsides, add the flour and whisk until it is incorporated smoothly.  Slowly add in your broth while continuing to whisk.  Add in the capers and lemon juice.  Keep whisking the sauce until it thickens to your desired consistency.   When thickened, add in the parsley.  Add salt and pepper if necessary.

When the chicken is cooked through, plate and spoon sauce on top.

 

Simple French Lentils

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/4 cup french lentils
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Heat oil in a small pot over medium heat.  Saute onions and garlic until soft, 2-3 minutes.  Add in the thyme, bay leaves, lentils, salt, pepper, and broth.  Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer.  Cook for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are soft and cooked through.   Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Hot & Numbing Sichuan Cold Noodles

Without a doubt, my favorite food is Sichuan Chinese.  It shares similarities with other forms of Chinese cooking but it has elements that make it one of the most unique regional cuisines I have ever had.  One of the hallmarks of Sichuan cooking is the combination of “hot” and “numbing”.  The hot generally comes from chili oil or dried chilis and the numbing comes from the Sichuan peppercorn.  The peppercorn has a bright citrusy flavor and leaves your mouth with a slight numbing feel.

I looked up a handful of recipes but none of them fit the flavor profile I was used to having so I wove the recipe below together from some of those along with what felt right to me.  The result was a cross between the traditional Chengdu cold noodles I was shooting for and another noodle dish called dan dan.  I think it turned out great so no complaints here!

Some of the ingredients for Sichuan cooking can be hard to come across.  If you are able, you should definitely go to an Asian grocery if you are going to attempt this dish.  If you can’t,  I have included substitutes for some of the hard to find ingredients.  Note that most store-bought chili oil is weak and relatively flavorless.   I have included a picture of the brand I use beneath the recipe.  That particular brand is no joke…it is hot and full of flavor.

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Hot & Numbing Sichuan Cold Noodles

  • 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 12 oz pack of Chinese egg noodles (linguine can work as substitute)
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • tablespoons dark soy sauce, divided (regular soy sauce can work as substitute)
  • 3 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, minced
  • tablespoon sesame oil
  • tablespoons Sichuan chili oil with garlic
  • tablespoon brown sugar
  • tablespoon Chinese sesame paste (tahini or peanut butter can work as substitute)
  • 4 green onions, rough chopped

Bring a pot of water to boil and set aside a large bowl of ice water.  Cook your noodles until done, drain, then immediately put the noodles in the bowl of ice water to cool.

Place the peppercorns in a dry pan and toast over medium heat, stirring frequently.  Once they are fragrant and just starting to smoke a little, remove them from the heat and pour them into a bowl.  Grind the peppercorns using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder (or try to chop them with a knife).

In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of salt with your ground pork.  Next, in a pan over medium high heat, cook your ground pork until it is about half done.  Add in the garlic and ginger and continue stirring until everything is cooked through and incorporated.  Turn off the heat on the pork and set it aside.

Mix the remaining soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil, brown sugar, and sesame paste in a bowl until the sugar is dissolved.

Drain the noodles again and toss with the sauce.  Lastly, toss in the pork mixture, the green onions, and peppercorns, mixing well to evenly distribute everything.

Serve cold or at room temperature.

 

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Buttermilk Dressing

As with the other dressing posts I have made, I am mainly posting this so I do not forget the proportions I use.  Most often I do dressings on the fly without a recipe but when one works just right I want to make sure I remember it.

 

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Buttermilk Dressing

  • 2 scallions, white and green parts minced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic clove, minced fine
  • 3 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream (if needed)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Combine everything but the buttermilk and mix well. Whisk in the buttermilk until the dressing is smooth. If it is to thin, add in the sour cream.  Season to taste.

Homemade Sloppy Joes

This recipe is about as standard and non-original as it gets…more than anything I just wanted to document the amounts I used when throwing this together.

There is nothing revolutionary about a sloppy joe and that is one of the main reasons it is so great.  A good sloppy joe sandwich is one of my favorite things in the world but yet I have always made them using a can of Manwich sauce.  Now, to be clear, Manwich is some good stuff…I am not gonna hate on it here.  But, why would I use Manwich with the preservatives and additives if I can make it from scratch?  I looked at dozens of recipes and hammered a few together to get the one listed below.

By the way, the picture below is totally stolen from the internet.  I devoured my sandwich before even thinking of taking a stupid picture.

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Homemade Sloppy Joes

  • 1 pound lean beef or bison
  • 1/2 cup onion, minced
  • 1/3 cup green pepper, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 dash worcestershire
  • 1 level tablespoon brown sugar
  • water (if needed)
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • Hamburger buns
  • Pickle slices (optional)

Heat a large pan oven medium high heat.  Brown the meat and drain off any excess fat.  Add in the garlic, onion, and green pepper and cook until they are softened (about 5 minutes).

Stir in the mustard, ketchup, chili powder, worcestershire, and brown sugar.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
Serve on soft buns with or without pickles.