If you can’t stand the heat…

Pork Blanquette with Spring Vegetables

Pork Blanquette with Spring Vegetables

If someone had told me two weeks ago that I’d be braising pork on a sunny 75-degree day, I’d tell them they were crazy. I don’t stick to strictly seasonal meals but heating up my kitchen to slow cook something doesn’t make any sense when it’s already hot enough out there.

Nonetheless, I was so captivated by a recent recipe from Gourmandistan that I couldn’t help myself from doing just that. The recipe in question was a blanquette of pork, or braised pork shoulder in a happy broth of stock, cream and lemon. While the pork and the cooking liquid sounded lovely on their own, it was the pretty and colorful spring vegetables that called out to me. Just look at Michelle and Steve’s version of this Pork & Sons recipe and tell me it doesn’t look mouth-wateringly delicious.

And so, eager and excited, I thawed out a little two-pound pork butt that was nestled in my freezer and got to work. While I was clearly easy to convince, here are a few words of encouragement in case you need some enticement  to turn on your stove and make this:

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Nothing says spring like lemons & asparagus

Creamy spring pasta with lemon, parsley and asparagus

Creamy spring pasta with lemon, parsley and asparagus

I love lemon pasta — in fact, it’s even made it onto this blog before in the way of a baked lemon pasta. And while it was delicious, it hasn’t stopped me from exploring other renditions of lemony carb-filled goodness.

Which is why I felt the overwhelming need to try out a recipe for Spaghettini with Creamy Lemon Sauce from Liz of My Favourite Pastime. Liz makes all sorts of fabulous looking food but I just couldn’t get this particular pasta dish out of my mind. Maybe it was because she mentioned making it once with coconut milk instead of cream, which really piqued my interest.

Ad while I am still very curious about using coconut milk in this, I thought for my initial attempt I should go straight for the cream. After all, cream plus cheese plus butter must equal delicious. That combination has never steered me wrong before!

I did, however, stray just enough to add in some blanched asparagus. I splurged on a gorgeous organic bunch from the market and their flavor, pumped up by the lemon in the pasta, was divine. This meal, eaten on a surprisingly sunny spring day, was the perfect dinner to make my Monday less painful.

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Salted limes make vodka happy…

Salted Lime Vodka Collins

Salted Lime Vodka Collins

I’ve been on a real Pok Pok tear lately — I’ve been cooking out of the book for the past few weeks and my daydreams have begun to feature fish sauce wings (a recipe I haven’t made yet). But even more than Ike’s famous wings, I have been craving a certain cocktail from Pok Pok — the salted plum vodka collins. Besides the odd beer here and there, this is the only thing I drink while dining there.

It is sweet, tart, tangy and intriguingly different from any other cocktail I’ve had. Once I discovered it, it was all I ever needed.

In fact I used to sit at the bar in the early days of Pok Pok (when it was less busy and you could actually just walk in and sit there) and stare down the bartender as he made it. I was determined to figure the recipe out — and after a few drinks one evening, I had it on mental lock down.

But alas, the day I was craving it the strongest, I didn’t have any salted plums on hand to get my fix. However I did have salted limes, which one of Pok Pok’s sister restaurants, The Whiskey Soda Lounge, uses in their salted lime vodka collins. Unsurprisingly, that is my go-to cocktail when I eat there.

Clearly there is a theme in my life — I like vodka drinks, I love salted things and put an Amarena cherry in there and I’m sold!

The ingredients for both cocktails are the same, except for the limes and plums, of course.

The basics...not pictured is the soda water.

The basics…not pictured is the soda water.

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Mr. Wonderful has arrived…and he’s a keeper!

White Cake with Strawberry Freezer Jam

Mr. Wonderful White Cake with Strawberry Freezer Jam

I made this cake a month ago, but summer is flying by so quickly, it feels like it was just last weekend! Yesterday I was actually surprised to see all the “back to school” stuff at the stores and then it hit me that it’s nearly mid-August. Summer, where did you go?

Luckily in times of crisis (and yes, summer ending is a crisis!), I find it’s best just to enjoy the moment and eat some cake…especially if it’s this cake. I made this berry-licious treat for my family reunion and let me tell you, it was gone so fast I barely got a piece. I think that’s the ultimate compliment, right?

Not only is this cake perfect for a summer get-together, but it’s also crazy easy to make. Seriously. I took the train to Tacoma, not arriving until 9pm and the reunion started the next day at noon. I had an idea of what I wanted to make, something sweet involving the jar of homemade strawberry freezer jam that I had brought along, but I didn’t really have a game plan.

On the trip up, I kept telling myself, just make it easy. Go to the store and buy a cake mix. No one will ever know and, as long as it has sugar in it, no one will care. But I remembered that I had seen a simple white cake recipe (hilariously named Mr. Wonderful White Cake) on one of my favorite blogs, food for fun, so I figured I’d give it a try.

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A Story of Redemption: Magazine Chicken Done Right

Roasted Chicken Thighs w/ Lemon and Oregano

Roasted Chicken Thighs w/ Lemon and Oregano

Last week I wrote a post about my frustration at having a recipe from Food & Wine look nothing like the picture in the magazine. While I am well-aware of food styling and Photoshop skills, that experience still got under my skin. And here’s why — usually when I cook from a recipe, I am successful! See above: a beautiful chicken dinner crafted last weekend from this recipe in Bon Appetite.

This dish turned out exactly like I expected it to — crispy chicken skin, golden lemons and succulent sauce. It also made me a believer in a new cooking technique that I had been hesitant about trying. Bon Appetite recommends starting the chicken skin down in a room temperature pan which, as a former line cook, goes against everything I’ve ever learned. On the line, the mantra is always “hot pan, hot pan, hot pan.” It gets drilled into you. But this worked like a dream — the skin renders so perfectly that it’s practically paper thin by the time the meat is cooked.

Here’s how things went down.

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Was it Worth it? Citrus Muffins with Poppyseed Streusel

Lemon Poppyseed Muffin

  • The Source: Cooking Light November 2005
  • The Menu: Sour Cream Muffins with Poppyseed Streusel *only adaptation was a lemon instead of an orange for the zest.
  • The Background: I wanted to bake something tasty to bring in to my co-workers. I was debating between a few coffee cake recipes but then I saw this one in my binder and thought it sounded delicious. It was also from Cooking Light so at least it would keep to my “trying to eat healthy” pledge. This pledge is constantly being broken by copious amounts of foie gras, pork belly and beer. I was also very intrigued by the idea of a poppyseed streusel instead of just having the seeds in the muffin.
  • How It Looked Pre-Baked:


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