Monthly Archives

February 2017

book review, recipe

The Boston Girl + Fried Rice

Anita Diamant’s novel The Boston Girl had been on my to-read list for a while and when it finally got selected for one of my book clubs, I was excited. I didn’t know much about it beyond the description; it was about a young Jewish woman growing up in Boston with her immigrant family.

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Though this had quite a different story to tell, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the lovely Lillian Boxfish (which I had just finished a few weeks before). Both stories follow strong females making their own way in big cities during a time when most women were supposed to be making families instead. This one is also narrated by an 85-year-old woman, this time Addie, as she tells her granddaughter how she got to be the woman she is today.

Our book club’s consensus was that the story was “so light” but as we dove in, we realized it actually wasn’t. Perhaps it was the narration style or the benefit of knowing it all turned out okay (after all, Addie was here telling us what happened so long ago), but Diamant tackles quite a few tough issues and Addie certainly has her share of hardships throughout the novel.

Despite the fact that she ate “pie for breakfast every day [one] summer,” food isn’t a key player in the story. It does make an appearance in the few dinner dates that Addie shares with us, and on one such evening she is introduced to Chinese food for the first time. In the retelling, she asks her granddaughter, “Did you know there was a time before all Jews loved Chinese food?” I had recently read an article around Christmas that tackled this very question, which I had found quite interesting. Chinese food has since become so interwoven with Jewish culture and there is such joy in the experience that Addie describes, I knew what I had to make.

I found an unintimidating recipe for fried rice and got to work. (After actually making it, however, I don’t know why I was ever intimidated – it’s quite easy.) I began by prepping all of my vegetables. I finely diced my onions and carrots and chopped my chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. I was using leftover white rice, so thankfully that was already set to go. I put my egg into a small bowl, added 3 drops each of soy sauce and sesame oil and beat it until well-combined.

I let one tablespoon of oil heat up in my wok, then added the chopped onion. Once they were cooked through and starting to turn light brown, I removed them and set aside.

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With another small amount of oil heated in the wok, I added the mixture of egg, soy sauce and sesame oil. Once it was cooked, I transferred it to a cutting board and chopped it up.

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Again, I heated another tablespoon of oil and added the chicken, carrots, peas and cooked onion. (I would recommend adding the carrots in a few minutes earlier – perhaps even up to 5 minutes before the rest of the ingredients – to ensure that it gets cooked well enough to be a bit soft. My carrots ended up slightly crunchy, on the underdone side; my only complaint about the dish.)

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Once the chicken was mostly cooked, about 3 or 4 minutes, I added the rice and green onions (I didn’t use bean sprouts this time) and cooked for another 2 to 3 minutes. I was a little wary of undercooked chicken, which is why I cooked each stage a little longer than recommended in the recipe. Cook as long as feels/looks right to you, making sure to note that it will keep cooking throughout the process.

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For the last step, I added 2 tablespoons of soy sauce (plus a little extra) and the chopped egg, allowing the entire mixture to cook through for another minute and a half. The finished dish was quite tasty, one I would definitely make – and not be intimidated by! – again.

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Chinese Fried Rice

  • Servings: 4, 1 cup each
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From: Sue Lau on Food.com

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2½ tablespoons oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (or more eggs if you like)
  • 3 drops soy sauce
  • 3 drops sesame oil
  • 8 ounces cooked lean boneless pork or 8 ounces chicken, chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped carrot (very small)
  • ½ cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 4 cups cold cooked rice, grains separated (preferably medium grain)
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce (add more if you like)

Directions

  1. Heat 1 TBS oil in wok; add chopped onions and stir-fry until onions turn a nice brown color, about 8-10 minutes; remove from wok.
  2. Allow wok to cool slightly.
  3. Mix egg with 3 drops of soy and 3 drops of sesame oil; set aside.
  4. Add 1/2 TBS oil to wok, swirling to coat surfaces; add egg mixture; working quickly, swirl egg until egg sets against wok; when egg puffs, flip egg and cook other side briefly; remove from wok, and chop into small pieces.
  5. Heat 1 TBS oil in wok; add selected meat to wok, along with carrots, peas, and cooked onion; stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  6. Add rice, green onions, and bean sprouts, tossing to mix well; stir-fry for 3 minutes.
  7. Add 2 TBS of light soy sauce and chopped egg to rice mixture and fold in; stir-fry for 1 minute more; serve.
  8. Set out additional soy sauce on the table, if desired.

of interest

List: Ice Cream + Books

Lots of things go well with books – everything from coffee and tea to blankets and arm chairs to beaches and lazy afternoons in the park. Ice cream and books is probably not a common pairing, but it’s a genius one. This list from Book Riot suggests a book for every flavor of Ben & Jerry’s and I, for one, can’t wait to dig in!

book review, recipe

The Trespasser + Corned Beef and Cabbage Pizza

I read Tana French’s first Dublin Murder Squad novel, In the Woods, about a year and a half ago. It reminded me of all the hours I had spent as a young girl reading Nancy Drew books and then, when I was little bit older, devouring Mary Higgins Clark mysteries. I read the second book about a month later, but until The Trespasser, I hadn’t picked up one of the series since then.

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This time, the detectives are trying to hunt down the person responsible for killing a woman in her apartment. With a boyfriend who insists he’s innocent, the spotless crime scene doesn’t help, but Antoinette and her partner are seemingly being pushed into charging him. They have to follow their guts without raising any flags.

Unless it pertains to the crime, this genre of novels aren’t usually rich with descriptions of food. In this case, the victim’s table was all set and ready for a romantic dinner when she was murdered, but the dinner itself hadn’t yet made it to the table and it was ruined by the time anyone found it.

That wasn’t exactly appetizing, but with all of the late nights on the case, there was ample opportunity to make something for an after-hours snack. I seized the opportunity and made pizza. Having once made an unexpectedly delicious strawberry balsamic bacon pizza, I was interested in trying out one that similarly unique. In honor of Ireland, where the novel takes place, I scouted out a recipe using classic St. Patrick’s Day fare – corned beef and cabbage (and potatoes).

I used store-bought dough, but otherwise I followed this recipe from the Food Network.

First, I sliced my potato, covered the slices with olive oil, salt and pepper and placed them in the pre-heated oven on a sheet pan.

While those baked, I chopped up the cabbage, so it could begin to cook down on the stove with the pickling spices (below, before I wrapped them in the cheesecloth).

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Once the potatoes were done, I put the pizza dough into the oven to pre-bake for 8 minutes, as directed on the package. I also roughly chopped my corned beef and shredded my parmesan and combined the cheeses.

With the dough and toppings all ready, it was time to assemble the pizza. I sprinkled the dough with olive oil and covered it with the cheese. I then layered on the remaining toppings – the cabbage, the corned beef, and last, the potatoes. A sprinkle of salt and pepper and it was all set for the oven. After about 12 minutes, it came out all gooey and smelled amazing. We couldn’t wait to dive in!

Corned Beef and Cabbage Pizza

  • Servings: 4 with 2 slices each
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Adapted from: Food Network

Ingredients

  • Store-bought pizza dough, enough for 2 pizzas
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • 3 cups sliced green cabbage
  • 1 teaspoon pickling spices, tied securely in cheesecloth
  • 1 large potato, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¾ cup shredded monterey jack cheese
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 6 ounces sliced corned beef
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

[/recipe-directions]
1. Prep/prepare your dough according to directions or your own recipe.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, season with salt and cook until just soft, about 5 minutes. Add the pickling spices and just enough water to cover. Simmer over low heat, covered, until the cabbage is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the cabbage and set aside (discard spices).
3. Place a pizza stone in the oven, if you have one, and preheat to 500 degrees. Toss the potato with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a single layer on a baking sheet until golden, about 15 minutes.
4. Place one round on a floured pizza peel (if baking on a stone) or a large oiled pizza pan (if using two regular pans, you can prep both pizzas together].
5. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Scatter half of each of the cheeses, corned beef, cabbage and potatoes on top. Season with salt and pepper. Carefully slip the pizza onto the hot stone, if using, or place the pan(s) in the oven. Cook until golden and crispy, 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough and toppings, if needed.
[/recipe-directions]

book review, recipe

The Underground Railroad + Carolina-Style Pulled Pork

One of my book clubs unanimously selected The Underground Railroad for our latest meeting, and I was really excited. I began reading with high expectations – Colson Whitehead’s novel was not only recommended by Oprah (a book club selection) and Obama, it had won the National Book Award for Fiction as well.

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A piece of historical fiction, it re-imagines the Underground Railroad as an actual railroad that exists underground traveling from the south through various branches as it makes its way north. It was the idea that drew me in initially, even though on the surface it does seem like a real train would be a lot more difficult to run and much easier to find. In the end, the Underground Railroad wasn’t as much of a “character” in the story as I had expected; instead, our story revolved around Cora, a runaway slave from Georgia.

The structure jumps around quite a bit, and though I got used to it about a quarter of the way into the book, I found it difficult to follow in the beginning. Jumping back and forth also took away from my ability to connect with the characters, particularly Cora with whom we spent the most time. The lack of emotion combined with the mismatched historical events left me feeling a bit confused and mostly just glad it was over.

In a novel that mostly depicted the terror and hardship of American slavery, it still had some victories. And making it to the safety and splendor of Valentine Farm is a victory for Cora. There, on Saturday evenings, they all got together for a family-style meal – with “hogs [as] the first order of business” alongside “smoky collards, turnips, sweet potato pie, and the rest of the kitchen’s concoctions.”

Since the hogs made up the center of their meal, I decided to make Carolina-style pulled porkCora spends a great deal of time in both Carolinas, and her time there changes both her course of action and her outlook on the future.

Pulled pork needs to be cooked slowly over low heat so that it truly tenderizes. It can be made at low temperatures in the oven, in a smoker or in the slow cooker, which is how I chose to make mine.

First, I combined 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika, and 1 teaspoon each of salt, pepper and garlic powder. I rubbed the spice mixture onto my roughly 3-pound pork shoulder.

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While that soaked in, I sliced a large onion. (I used Spanish, but a sweeter onion would probably work just as well.) Mine probably ended up being a bit on the thicker side, but knowing that these are going to cook down all day as the bed of the pork shoulder, you wouldn’t want to slice them too thinly either. We didn’t mind the more prominent onions in our sandwiches, but use your best judgement.

I covered the bottom of the slow cooker with sliced onions and set the spice-covered pork on top.

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Next, I mixed together the wet ingredients – apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, ground mustard and brown mustard – with cayenne pepper, crushed chili flakes and the remaining tablespoon of brown sugar. I poured that into the bottom of the slow cooker. I didn’t think I had quite enough liquid so I added some water as the recipe suggested.

I set my slow cooker to low and let the pork and onions cook for about 8 hours. Once it was tender, I used two forks to “pull” it into small flakes and stirred the pork and onions together with the cooking liquid.

We ate the pulled pork on sandwiches, but it can also be used to make sliders, pulled pork tacos or even quesadillas. This recipe makes plenty for two, so it helps to get creative!

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Carolina-Style Slow-Cooked Pulled Pork

  • Servings: 8-12 sandwiches
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Ingredients

  • 2–3 pounds pork shoulder butt roast
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar, separated
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard

Directions

  1. If pork roast is frozen, defrost in fridge. Trim off any large sections of fat.
  2. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of brown sugar along with all of the smoked paprika, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Rub spice mixture all over the roast until it’s soaked in.
  3. Place the sliced onions in a layer on the bottom of slow cooker with the roast on top.
  4. In small bowl, mix together remaining list of ingredients from apple cider vinegar to ground mustard, plus the leftover tablespoon of brown sugar. Gently pour liquid over roast. You should have about 2 inches of liquid on bottom; if not add a bit of water.
  5. Cook covered on low for 7–8 hours, until pulled pork is tender. Shred pork in slow cooker with a fork until flaked. Stir into liquid to incorporate flavor. Let sit for about 30 minutes, drain liquid and serve.