Monday, July 19, 2010

On-the-Fly Pork Lettuce Wraps and Kitchen Scrap Pasta: How NOT to Handle a Kitchen Injury

Yeesh - trying this again, as my computer ate the last entry for a snack...

Anywho! Sorry about the lack of postings. Life has been a flurry of World Cup games (online, not in person), family visits, and debates about the merits of seeing through a short sale. June and July are particularly packed schedules, which starts with the celebration of Tony's birthday, leading into the party for our 3rd anniversary (the "leather" anniversary, apparently), and culminating with the probably over-indulgent recognition of my birthday week.

The concept of the "birthday week" stems from my final days in Clemson, SC. I somehow convinced my friends to combine my birthday and good-bye parties (I was Pittsburgh-bound at the time) into one continuous festival. I hadn't even realized what I'd pulled off until my buddy Ryan brought it to my attention. And thus, the birthday week was born.

Now, my birthday week zeal has mellowed out a bit over the years, but I'm still a big proponent of the idea. I mean - let's face it: The further out you find yourself from your early 20's, the less inclined you are to celebrate.

F*ck that, dude. I say, take the time to create a daily homage to your own personal New Year. Seven days, at a minimum. Celebrate as you see fit: Go to a drive-in movie and sneak 3 friends in inside the trunk of your car. Do shots whose names contain the words "bomb" or "eraser." Overshoot your daily calorie intake by 1,000 at a jazz brunch buffet. Start with dessert.

That said, be sure to exercise caution in the midst of all this excess. Don't, for example, let your glasses fog up while draining just-off-the-oven pasta, leaving you blind for all intents and purposes and unable to see that you're losing your grip on the hot pot and are about to pour scalding water over your left hand. Not the best way to end an evening.

I'd also recommend avoiding my less than mature solution of dealing with the pain of a burn by drinking a lot whiskey. A LOT. While it does dull the pain a good bit, you'll fail to notice that the pain is actually being transferred to other parts of your body. Say, the head that will be pounding against your skull like a prisoner trying to bust out of his cell the next morning. Just sack up and put some ice on it. Or a cold beer.

So, in short: Celebrate. Preferably without any physical injury to yourself or others.

And now onto the recipes...

Today's dishes are improvisations necessitated by growling tummies and a tapped-out grocery budget. They come together fairly quickly and can be tailored to meet your individual flavor preferences. I really recommend thick-cut bacon for the pasta dish - it creates enough fat that you needn't add any oil to cook the garlic and onions.

Kitchen Scrap Pasta

1/2 lb pasta of your choice (we went with thin spaghetti)
1/2 bag (approx 3 - 4 cups) spinach, washed and dried
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion or shallot, diced
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 can cannelloni beans, rinsed
2 strips thick-cut bacon (4 if you're using regular bacon)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
salt & pepper to taste
lemon wedges
* a few tbsp beef or veggie broth (if necessary)
  1. Prepare the pasta, boiling until it's al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Don't burn your hand. Place to the side.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Take the bacon out and let it cool. Leave the rendered grease in the pan.
  3. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until the onion is translucent (about 3 - 4 minutes). Be sure to scrape up the brown bacon bits from the bottom of the skillet.
  4. Add the spinach, in batches, to the pan. Add 1-2 tbsp of beef or veggie broth if the skillet is dry or the spinach is scalding. Cook the spinach down until wilted. Add the beans. Season with oregano, salt and pepper.
  5. Chop up the now-cooled bacon and return it to the pan.
  6. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet (you can also mix this in a nice sized bowl/serving dish, if you prefer). Add the reserved water. Stir in the Parmesan and mix until it's formed a slightly creamy sauce.
  7. Serve the finished pasta with a lemon wedge and possibly some extra cheese.

On-the-Fly Pork Lettuce Wraps

4 boneless thin-cut pork loin chops
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp onion salt or onion powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 head Bibb lettuce
6 carrots, julienned
1 cup snow peas, julienned

Dipping Sauce:
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 clove garlic
1 tsp lime juice
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/4 to 1/3 cup water
cayenne pepper or sriracha sauce (you can play with the amount or
leave it out entirely depending on your preference for heat)

  1. Combine all the sauce ingredients together either in a blender or a large container (big enough to dip an immersion blender into). Mix together until the sauce has reached your desired consistency. Pour into a large bowl (or several smaller ones) and set aside.
  2. Place the pork chops in a freezer bag and and the canola and sesame oils, garlic, red pepper flakes, soy sauce, and onion powder. Seal the bag, mix the ingredients together, and place the bag in a dish on its side. Place the dish inside the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Julienne the carrots and snow peas. Place each in a separate bowl and set aside.
  4. Heat a stove-top grill plate (we used our Forman grill, though you could cook these on a regular grill or in a heavy pan) over med-high heat. Take the chops out of the fridge and cook on the grill until done, about 4 -5 minutes per side. Remove the chops from the heat, cover and cool for 5 - 10 minutes.
  5. Separate lettuce leaves. Wash the leaves and shake off the excess moisture. Place the leaves on a plate.
  6. Finely slice the chops on the diagonal. To serve, place some of the pork, snow peas, and carrots on a lettuce leaf. Either wrap the leaf like a burrito or eat it like a taco. Dip the wrap into the peanut sauce.


Celeste said...

Both of these recipes sound awesome. I will be trying out both...

Suz said...

early 20s? how 'bout early 30s? it should just get better and better, and longer and longer, the older you get, sister!