Sweat Stain Season

Holy heck, June has whizzed through my life quicker than you can say chumbawamba. And while we initially thought we’d have a pretty lo-key summer this year, a quick glance at the calendar has proven otherwise. It seems to always be the case, and while it makes for busy times ahead, they’re always good busy times generally loaded with friends, food, beverages, music, road trips, and even a boat or two. [Okay, just one boat, but two sounded fancier.]

It all coincides with the true start of summer, and unlike living in the South whereby summer feels as if it started back in April, the summer season really does seem to start in June around these (Midwestern) parts and therefore we’ve quickly gotten through part of the first month of it, even though it only “officially” started yesterday.

We kicked off our first true weekend of summer with a visit from the in-laws, and since they’ve been here multiple times and knocked out all the “touristy stuff”, we had loads of flexibility. After Friday’s crazy storm, which left me soaked to the bone thanks to a regretful trip to Starbucks when I should have instead gotten on the train, we chilled at home, tossed back some wine and al pastor tacos (wait for it…), and I crashed relatively early thanks to my morning speaking obligation.

As it was, Saturday was the best start to summer I could imagine: my aforementioned good deed, a 10-mile casual biking excursion up and down the lake (thus solidifying my desire to buy a bike once and for all instead of renting one), and another amazing dinner at Bonsoiree. Exactly perfect. Sunday wasn’t much worse, really, and consisted of a trip to Berrien County, Michigan for cherry-pickin’, a surprisingly-awesome lunch, and this perfect-for-summer dinner you see here. Let’s not forget getting to spend it with the World’s Best Father-in-Law on his special day, a treat in and of itself.

With that, let’s enjoy all the things that make summer in the midwest (and probably other parts of the country) so fascinating:

  • Spray tan season is over, which means the “orange” population will begin to decrease
  • “Beach” time on the lake, which means the beer bellies are out in full force, along with beach volleyballers and for me, hopefully lots more bike riding on my bike
  • Economy-boosting road construction (yay!) which means it’s going to take me 40 minutes instead of 20 to drive 3 miles down the street to the grocery store; said new bike needs to have a basket, come to think of it
  • Seeing lots of sweat-stained t-shirts, including my own, and realizing that sleeveless shirts are the way to go
  • CSA season starts today for us, and so you’ll probably start seeing a lot more random recipes as I try to use all our new meat and produce
  • Berries, cherries, and pies, oh my! I gots to get to makin’ a cherry pie, friends
  • Last but certainly not least – tourist season – Michigan Avenue is packed tight, which makes the walk to the train oh so enjoyable. Reason number 531 why I need to get that bike.

And so, summer is certainly off to a rolling start in these parts, and we’ll be keeping busy for sure. This weekend we’ll road trip up to Minnesota for some more boat action (trip 1 of 2!) with Cheryl & Luke, next month we’ll visit Rachel & Andy in Milwaukee, and then August is vacation time, and that’s a road trip I am most excited to begin, but more on that later. Interspersed among the road trips are concerts, a wedding or two, and foodie events and before we know it it’ll be apple pie season ;). Yikes.

 

Tamarind-Glazed Black Cod w/ Orange-Habanero Salsa
Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2010; serves 4

I could probably get behind just about anything that uses tamarind. it’s tart and sweet, commonly used in lots of Thai dishes, including pad thai. as Hubs perfectly described, “the cool salsa is perfect with the warm fish, and the flavors go well together. are there leftovers?”. clearly, this dish is a winner, and perfect for the sweat-stained summer ahead :).

printable version

ingredients
salsa
4 large oranges
1/3 c coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 c very thinly sliced red onion
2 T evoo
2 t red wine vinegar
1 habanero chile, seeded, finely minced
salt and pepper

3 dried ancho chiles
1/2 c hot water
1/2 c fresh orange juice
1/4 c honey
2 garlic cloves
4 T tamarind concentrate*
2 T red wine vinegar
4 T evoo, divided
2 t dry mustard
4 6-ounce black cod fillets, with skin
salt and pepper

instructions
salsa: make supremes with oranges (remember our lesson? peel and trim the ends and peel from each orange. Using a paring knife, cut along the membrane on both sides of each segment. Free the segments and add them to a medium bowl. squeeze remainder of orange juice into bowl.). combine all ingredients in small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use (can be made in advance).

heat chiles over gas flame until softened, turning often with tongs to avoid burning, 1 to 2 minutes. Cool. Remove stems and seeds. Tear chiles into 2-3 pieces; place in small bowl. Add hot water. Let stand until softened, about 20 minutes. Place chiles with soaking liquid, orange juice, and next 6 ingredients (2T olive oil, save other 2) in blender. Puree until smooth. Strain into small saucepan; discard solids in strainer. Simmer uncovered over medium-low heat until slightly thickened and glaze measures 1 1/3 c, about 10 minutes. Season glaze with salt and pepper (this can also be made in advance; refrigerate and warm up in saucepan before using).

heat 1 or 2 medium to large sized skillets over med-hi heat; add 1-2 T olive oil. Sprinkle fillets with salt and pepper. when skillets are hot, add fillets, skin side down. sear on skin side 3-4 minutes to create crisp skin, brush with warmed glaze and flip to other side to finish cooking, brushing with glaze until all is used. total cooking time – ~5-6 minutes. serve with orange-habanero salsa.

*tamarind concentrate is available online, from Asian grocers, and even the Chopping Block.

Stewy Indian Giver

ancho pork stew

I’m sorry. I couldn’t do it. I might be what some would call an “Indian giver” (Simps – don’t tell Jon I’m talking about his people). I know, amidst my excitement about the oozing with tastiness triple ginger cookies, that I offered to give you guys control of the next post. As things go, that would have ‘technically’ been this post. You all aren’t all that nitpicky though, are you? Will you forgive me? Forego the little details, pretty please?

pork spice mix

You see, I wholeheartedly intended to write 4 straight posts about all those cookies I made. I really did. But two things happened that caused me to veer a wee bit off track.

  1. I worried that maybe I was just a tad too excited about those cookies, and maybe you are not as excited? I was sorta hoping for a close voting battle, a little competition, for the next cookie post. I mean, I did give you a choice, right – the chance to pick the next cookie? I thought that was cool. I thought ya’ll liked cookies as much as me. But I think I must have been delusional as the voting wasn’t quite the fierceness I was anticipating.
  2. Probably more importantly, I worried about ya’ll being all chilly, teeth chattering in your abodes as you nibbled on little morsels of ginger and sugar cookies and chocolate bark. Morsels that surely fill the cookie tins for the work crowd or your home-snacking desires but definitely do not satisfy the soul. Morsels that don’t stop the shivering and nullify the goosebumps caused by (in these parts, at least) the single digit windchills.

jalapeno corn muffins

You know what will take your temp up a notch or two? Stew – it warms the heart and makes that weather seem like a non-issue. Stew makes you want to wrap your sweatered arms around someone you love and stay indoors all weekend without a care in the world.

Specifically pork stew infused with ancho chile powder – the smells emanating from the kitchen, wafting into all nooks and crannies are enough to make you forget about all those sweet treats and instead focus on those Mexican spices, peppers, fire-roasted tomatoes, and hominy – if only for a little while. (And I do mean a little while – this is a straight-up under 1 hour recipe from start to finish. Cook it on Monday – I dare you).

stew and muffin

Not to mention a little palm-sized nugget of corn meal, cheddar cheese, and jalapeno. I love cookies, but I can’t (or shouldn’t, rather) dunk cookies into a glowing bowl of ancho-spiced broth and come out with anything close to what happens when you douse these babies with soup broth. I mean, you can eat them without the stew juices, no doubt, but in some households it’s better to sop up juice with muffins rather than lick the bowl clean with your tongue. Just sayin’. Although, you could do both…

stew and muffin

So yeah, I reneged on the cookie offer. But only temporarily – I promise. I hope you forgive me :). In the meantime, whip yourself up some of this yummy stew and some sauce-soppin’ muffins. I’ll be back next week to share another cookie recipe – and from the looks of the comments so far, I’m guessing it’s gonna be those cardamom-clementine sugar cookies. Ya might wanna bake those up for Santa!

Ancho Pork & Hominy Stew
Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2009; makes 6 servings
300 kcal, 2.1 g sat fat, 28.9 g protein, 6.1 g fiber

printable recipe

ingredients
2 T ancho chile powder
2 t dried oregano
1 1/2 t smoked paprika
1 t g cumin
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 lbs pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 T olive oil, divided
2 c chopped onion (1 lg yellow onion)
1 1/2 c chopped green bell pepper (1 lg pepper)
1 T minced garlic
1 28-oz can hominy, drained
2 1/2 c low sodium chicken broth
1 14.5-0z can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained

instructions
combine first 5 ingredients in large bowl (set aside 1.5 t spice mixture) and add in pork, tossing well to coat.

heat 2 t oil in Dutch oven over med-hi heat. add pork and cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. remove pork and set aside. add remaining 1 t oil to pan and add onion, pepper, garlic. saute 5 minutes or until tender. return pork to pan. add spice mixture, broth, hominy, tomatoes; bring to a boil. partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes.

Cheddar-Jalapeno Corn Muffins*
Adapted from Gourmet, November 2009; makes 12 muffins

printable recipe

ingredients
5 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 c yellow cornmeal
1 t salt
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 c corn (fresh or thawed)
1 1/4 c buttermilk
1 egg
1 3/4 c grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and small-diced

instructions
spray or butter muffin pans and preheat oven to 425 F with rack in middle.

whisk together cornmeal, salt, baking powder and soda in large bowl.

whisk together corn, buttermilk, egg, melted butter in another bowl and then stir it into the flour mixture until just combined. stir in 1 1/2 c cheese and jalapeno.

divide among muffin tins and top muffins with remaining cheese. bake until puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. cool on rack and serve warm or room temp.

If desired, muffins can be frozen individually on a sheet and put into ziploc freezer bag for individual use 🙂

*Muffins gluten-free, not dairy-free