Pulled Pork & Tropical Slaw with Plantain Salsa

It’s raining. It’s pouring. The old man is snoring. Do you remember that little jingle from your childhood? It was the inspiration for this dinner. It was raining. It was pouring. There was no old man snoring. Otherwise, I would have woken him up and sent him to the market!

Instead, I ferreted through the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. I mixed. I matched. I re-purposed. And each step (noted below) brought me closer to the ‘kitchen magic’ that we foodies love so much.
  • I pulled out the container of pulled pork from the carnitas my son made for our tortilla food challenge last week. 
  • My mind immediately went to a pulled pork sandwich and simultaneously to a fresh tasting salad to go with it. 
  • First came the idea of a red cabbage slaw (because that’s what I had).
  • Since I already was on a Latin path, I thought to make it tropical with toasted coconut and a citrus dressing.
  • Then, I remembered I had squirreled away a couple pieces of plantain (maduros – the sweet ones) that were leftover from a prior meal. 
  • Aha, I had it!

I would make a tropical slaw dressed with a plantain vinaigrette. It would add crunch, freshness, acidity from the citrus and a little sweetness from the plaintain — in fact, it was a perfect complement to the savory pork. It truly was kitchen magic!

Tropical Slaw
Shredded red cabbage, shredded carrot, fresh cilantro, toasted coconut and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Plantain Salsa
Pulsed 3 small slices of baked plantain with juice of 2 limes, 1/2 large lemon and olive oil. It was more the consistency of a salsa than a vinaigrette so I mixed a little through the slaw and then topped it with a dollop.

The Moral of this Tale
NEVER throw leftovers away, especially if they’re 3 measly pieces of plantain. This was unplanned but flavor-popping delicious…so much so, that the dishes are the table, the pans are in the sink, and I rushed off to the computer to tell you all about it. 

I’m very happy it rained today.

The ”Our Family Food Fight” Team Takes on “What’s Cooking?” Challenge: Home-made Tortillas

Ben of What’s Cooking? issued a challenge to food bloggers to make tortillas. And, I issued a challenge to my team…let’s collectively make the tortillas and individually make a filling and topping. [I’m not a fan of dough-related recipes. I like to eat them, but I just don’t have the temperament to make them. So, “collectively” means I issue ideas (I had a few), Jim does the actual work, and Cassie plays games on his I-phone.]

Ay, caramba! Qué pasó? Every recipe I saw said “masa harina” so I bought masa harina. While harina is the literal Spanish translation for flour, ‘masa harina’ as sold in our supermarkets is corn meal and not the right product. Did I know? When it became obvious things were going badly, I rushed out to pick up ready-made tortillas so we could at least have dinner and not waste all the delicious fillings and toppings. And, there, on a lower shelf all by itself, I saw Maseca corn FLOUR so I bought it figuring we’d (Jim) would give it another shot and if it failed again, we’d be ready to eat anyway with the store-bought tortillas.

1. obviously not working; 2. in the garbage; 3. the back-up plan

Blast Off. We didn’t have to abort and were able to successfully complete the mission and add our culinary points-of-view to the actual tortillas, the fillings and the toppings.

We used the standard tortilla recipe (easy with the right product) and made them ‘ours’ by pressing cilantro leaves into the dough (left); mixing in Sazon seasoning with achiote (center); and blending the dough with squid ink (right).

Jim made carnitas with a slow-cooked pork butt and pickled onions which we paired with the achiote tortilla; Cassie wanted to make a “salad” filling and chopped lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, olives etc. and served it with a citrus vinaigrette and we paired that with the cilantro tortilla; and I made a shrimp ceviche which I had planned to serve with the squid-ink infused tortilla. 
(Note: While none of the tortillas really took on the flavor of the infusions, they did make for a nice visual.)

Toppings. I made a salsa of black beans and crumbled Mexican cheese with cilantro, red onions, and a sherry vinaigrette. Jim shaved a few ears of corn and dressed the niblets in a bright and delicious citrus vinaigrette. He also made pickled onions. Cassie made a fresh guacamole to go along with her salad but we were so hungry, we just started eating it with blue corn chips and it never made it to the photography table.

After a disastrous start, we got our stride and created the meal I envisioned – and it was muy delicioso – so I’d like to thank Ben for coming up with the idea. I would have never thought to make my own tortillas! Visit Jim’s Our Family Food Fight for his take on the challenge, the pork recipe and more photos.

Recipe for ceviche: 
16 jumbo shrimp
3 limes
1 lemon
1/2 cup Naranja Agria (sour orange juice) or use fresh squeezed orange
salt to taste
splash of hot sauce
red onion sliced very thinly
handful of cilantro

Marinate well in refrigerator for several hours (at least) until shrimp take on color.

Fa-va Va-voom Pasta

Fava beans are a seasonal ingredient that I don’t have any experience with.  I’ve seen a few bloggers writing about them recently so when I spotted them in my local Whole Foods, I decided to experiment. 

My kitchen credo is…when in doubt, make pasta and so I did. Fa-va-Va-voom! (That means it was delicious.) I never follow a recipe, most particularly with pasta, and just use what is available. For this one, with the exception of the fava beans, everything else was waiting for me at home.

small-shaped pasta
fava beans
grape tomatoes
crushed red pepper
chicken broth
olive oil
crumbled gorgonzola cheese
parmigiano reggiano

• cook shelled fava beans in chicken broth for about 10 minutes; add grape tomatoes, fresh garlic and crushed red pepper. Let simmer till beans are tender and tomatoes have started to break down. Add additional chicken broth if needed.
• Drizzle a little olive oil and add a small amount of crumbled bacon (about 1 teaspoon per serving).

To Plate
Spoon gorgonzola cheese on bottom, add pasta and top with sauce. Toss.

Finishing Touch
Grated parmigiano reggiano and a quick sprinkle of Sicilian sea salt with orange essence (optional).

Final Note
I must tell you that this is my favorite type of cooking…spontaneously adding layer after layer of flavor. Simple, bold, and pop-in-your mouth tasty.

Mussels & Clams in a Basil Broth

Simple…and simply delicious.

1 lb. mussels
1/2 dozen clams
fresh basil (2 cups pulsed + a few leaves reserved for garnish)
2 cloves of garlic
1 tomato chopped
olive oil (approx. 1/4 cup)
white wine (1/2 cup)
juice of 1 lemon
red pepper flakes
crusty bread (I used ciabatta) toasted, drizzled with olive oil and salted

• Pulse 2 cups of fresh basil with olive oil, garlic and S&P. Set aside.
• Chop 1 tomato and reserved basil leaves. Dress with olive oil and lemon and set aside.
• Rinse shell fish and place in pot with white wine and steam for a few minutes. Add basil mixture, a heavy dash of red pepper flakes, and cover till shells open.
• Toast bread till crunchy and brown. Drizzle with olive oil and salt.

To serve
Spoon mussels, clams and broth into bowl and serve with toasted bread to sop up all the good juice.

Finishing Touch
Top with fresh tomato salad for a fresh counterpoint to the heat (temperature and seasoning) of the broth.

Now you see it…now you don’t.