Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Apple & Peach Salsa

While I was making some pork carnitas yesterday for my taco, I realized I forgot all about some kind of salsa to go with taco. Since the pork is kinda rich and heavy, I knew I needed something light to cut down the richness of the pork. Not wanting to make traditional salsa, I opted to incorporate the 2 fruits I had in my fridge; apple and peach into the salsa.

I like the combination; a little crunch, a little sweetness, a little tanginess and a little heat in a bite (especially when you bite in that tiny tiny piece of serrano pepper). Adding it to some taco carnitas, I feel like I'm eating "quite" healthy! A little taste of pork carnitas and fresh salsa in one bite, YUMS! I really like the combination when I take a bite into the taco; I get the savoriness and richness from the carnitas and the freshness and lightness from the apple and peach salsa. I'm sure it will go great with some grilled pork chops or even some grilled fish. Here's the salsa recipe:


**Serves 4-6

  • 1/4 Medium Onion, Finely Chopped
  • 1 Medium Green Apple, Peeled, Cored & Finely Chopped
  • 1 Medium Peach, Peeled, Deseeded & Finely Chopped 
  • 1 Small Serrano Pepper, Deseeded & Very Finely Minced **
  • Handful of Cilantro, Chopped (About 1 Tbsp packed)
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Sugar
  • Juice of 1 Lime

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients above. Taste and if you need more salt, sugar or lime juice, feel free to adjust. Set aside in the fridge for about 30 minutes until ready for use. Serve with your favorite pork carnitas or your choice of meat! 

**Reminder: Do not rub/touch your face or eyes after you cut the chili!

June's comments: Depending on how much heat you like or can take, add a little of the serrano pepper first, mix and taste. Add more if you like more heat to the salsa. You can also sprinkle a dash or two of cayenne pepper for more heat. But I like to keep this salsa a little more refreshing and therefore restrained from adding too much heat to it. 


Simply June 

Pork Carnitas

This dish highly inspired by the neighborhood Mexican market that runs a small Taqueria like stall at the back of the market. I remember the first time we went there to get some food, the food operators that day spoke only Spanish, and English was little to none. The husband and I ended up ordering tacos with a bit of sign language/pointing and the little Spanish we know. And we watched other customers order other delicious items to go.

The language barrier did not stop us from going back, and back, and back for yummy carnitas (braised pork) and chicarron (pork rind) tacos and/or combination plates. The husband and I are usually the odd ones out in line, but we don't care coz we love the food! However, during my last visit to the taquiera, I found that our regular food was not as good. For some reason, even though the pork was just swimming in lucious gravy a few minutes ago, it felt dry. Honestly, I was disappointed!

Since then, I was determined to replicate this dish. I gathered all the ingredients I think I needed and decided to make it for dinner tonight. Since I've planned ahead, I marinated the meat overnight before cooking it the next day. In this recipe, I added a packet of Sazon Goya to enhance the flavors. This seasoning is something like those chicken bouillon used in cooking. I happened to have a box of the seasoning from cooking a Guatemalan dish my friend taught it and decided to use it in today's pork carnitas.

I love the end product of the dish. The husband and I thought it was flavor of the pork carnitas was pretty close to the ones we get from the taquiera. Ok, if there were some chicarron in there, it would have been perfect! I served the carnitas as a taco (corn tortillas - my favorite!) and topped it off with some homemade Apple & Peach Salsa (I will share the salsa recipe tomorrow!). The husband and I enjoyed the different taste and texture from the savory pork carnitas filling and the fresh salsa topping.

Till then, here's the recipe for the Pork Carnitas. Please excuse my pictures, I had some trouble with the tortilla and plating the dish!

**Serves 3-4

  • 1-1/2 lb Boneless Ribs (Pork Shoulders), Cut into large strips 
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/4 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/4 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Oil
  • 1/2 Medium Onion, Chopped
  • 1 Green Pepper, Chopped
  • 2 Clove Garlic, Minced
  • 1 Canned (14.05 Oz) Tomatoes (Wedges or Diced)
  • 2 Cups (Reduced Sodium) Chicken Broth
  • 1 Tsp Worcestershire Sauce 
  • 1 Pkt Sazon Goya (Coriander & Annato)
Mix salt, smoked paprika, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Sprinkle the mixed seasoning over the pork and let it marinate over night. 

In a heavy pot, heat 2 tbsp of oil over medium high heat. Once oil is hot, sear the pork for about 4 minutes on each side. Once the pork is golden brown on both sides, remove from the pot. Stir in onion, green pepper, and garlic and cook until the onions are slightly soft. Then, add canned tomatoes, chicken broth, worcestershire sauce, the sazon goya seasoning and the seared pork. Ensure that the pork is submerged as much as possible in the broth mixture (add slightly more chicken broth if required to achieve this). Reduce heat to medium low, cover and let the pork cook for about 1 hour. Check on the pork, turning it every 20 minutes or so. 

Once the 1hour is up, using a thong, gently twist the pork to check the tenderness. If chunks of pork can be shredded with the thong, then turn off the heat. If not, add a little more broth (about 1/4 cup, if the broth has become too thick) cover and continue cooking about another 15 minutes or so or until the desired tenderness is reached. 

Let the pork rolled a little before serving. Shred the pork in the pot using a fork. Alternately, chop the pork on a chopping board together with some of the gravy mixture. Serve this as a taco or over some warm rice. 

Serve it as a Taco: You can make about 10-12 pieces of tacos with the shredded/chopped carnitas. Serve the carnitas with some warm (dry toast on a pan) tortilla of your choice. Line the tortilla with a bit of shredded lettuce, then the shredded pork carnitas, cilantro and top if off with your favorite salsa.

Serve it over Rice: Serve some of the carnitas with some Spanish rice or your favorite rice dish. Add some refried beans and salsa (or a simple slaw) to complete the meal. This should be enough to feed 3-4 people. 

June's Comments: I do not need to cut the pork; they came pre-cut from the store and was perfect size for braising. Cutting the meat into smaller pieces will just shorten the cooking time. 

Even though I marinated the pork overnight (since I had time), I think you can just season the pork just before cooking. Since it's braising in liquid, the flavors will still be yummy. I braised my pork in a dutch oven (Le Creuset). Any large pot should work well to braise the pork. 

Depending on how much gravy you want at the end, feel free to add as much or as little more broth at the very end of the cooking time. If you're eating this over rice, more gravy would be yummy. If you're eating this over tacos, you don't need as much gravy. 

I found the level of saltiness perfect; if you prefer more salt in the pork carnitas, sprinkle as much or as little about 10-15 minutes before the end of cooking time. 


Simply June 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Cornbread (Muffin)

I'm never a big fan of cornbread as sometimes they tend to be a little on the dry side and too crumbly to eat. I like it when the cornbread is slightly moist and when there's pieces of corn in the cornbread.

I was having some friends come over for coffee and thought that it would be nice if I could serve them something else (I knew I wanted some kind of baked goods) besides coffee. As I was very low on eggs and butter and I had a large can of creamed corn staring at me, I decided to make some cornbread. I've never made cornbread before but I knew I needed a recipe that will give me a somewhat moist cornbread with the minimal ingredients I had.

After a bit of googling around, I found one recipe that appealed to me and decided to use the recipe with some changes. I also made the cornbread in a muffin pan so that I do not need to deal with cutting up the cornbread, and it just look much cuter this way!

I have to admit that I was nervous about the texture of the cornbread especially after being kept overnight.  The cornbread turned out nice and moist when I first ate it minutes after it came out from the oven. I wasn't sure how it would taste like the next day when I plan to serve it to my friends but was pleasantly surprised that it was still moist. Even my friend commented that the cornbread was moist and not as crumbly as other cornbreads she's had in the past and even requested for the recipe. Yay! The original recipe is posted here. Below is my tweaked version.

*Makes about 15 (standard) muffins 

  • 1 Cup Yellow (Fine) Cornmeal
  • 1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
  • 5 Tbsp Sugar
  • 2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 3/4 Tsp Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Butter, Melted & Cooled
  • 1 Large Can (14.75 Oz) Creamed Corn 
  • 1 Large Egg, Lightly Beaten
  • 1/3 Cup Buttermilk 

Preheat oven to 400F. Line muffin pan and set aside. Combine all the the dry ingredients (cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) in a bowl and stir. 

Then, add all the wet ingredients (butter, corn, egg, buttermilk) into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Scoop batter (with a spoon or ice cream scoop) into the muffin tins till about 3/4 cup full. 

Bake for about 15-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. 

June's Notes: If you do not have buttermilk, no sweat. All you need is milk (I used 2%) and vinegar. Pour about 1/3 Cup of milk and about 1 tsp of vinegar into a small bowl and let the milk curdle before you use it.

You can also bake this in a lightly greased regular baking pan (perhaps about 8"). You may need to bake this for about 20 minutes or so, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean. 

Simply June 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chilled Spicy Tofu

For 2 days in a row, I've been craving for something simple, a little bit spicy but yet refreshing for lunch. And I knew exactly what I needed to make; a chilled tofu dish! Again, this was something I've never had before until about 2-3 weeks ago when my friend made this for dinner. I like the simplicity  of the dish and decided to mimic it with my own twist.

In a typical Asian (Chinese) household, no cooking is required when preparing this dish as we always have some fried garlic oil and fried shallots in the pantry. As I just used my last batch of garlic oil yesterday, I had to make some for this dish. Using the microwave to make the garlic oil is probably the easiest way to make it; you don't have to stand over the stove top to stir and prevent the garlic from burning!

Anyway, the chilled tofu dish my friend made was slightly simpler without the use of the black vinegar and chili crisp, but I was in a mood of a little bit of kick in the dish!  If you don't want the dish to be spicy or do not have black vinegar and/or the chili crisp in your pantry, feel free to omit it. However, you'll probably need to increase the amount of the soy sauce and oyster sauce to 1-1/2 Tbsp to make up for the sauce. Here's the recipe:

*Serves 3-4

  • 1 Package Soft Tofu
  • 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp (Chin Kiang) Black Vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp (Lao Gan Ma) Chili Crisp Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 2-3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 Stalk Green Onion, Chopped
  • 1 Handful Cilantro, Chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Fried Shallots (Optional)
Combine minced garlic and oil in a microwavable bowl and ensure that the garlic is submerged in the oil. Microwave this mixture for 1 minute, stir and continue for another 30 second to 1 minute until the garlic are golden brown. Carefully remove the (warm) bowl from the microwave and stir in the soy sauce, oyster sauce, black vinegar and chili crisp sauce. Set the sauce aside.

Drain all the water from the soft tofu, and invert the tofu onto a shallow bowl. Slice the tofu into 10-12 pieces if you prefer. Drizzle the sauce, sprinkle the green onion, cilantro and fried shallots. Serve immediately with some steam rice. Enjoy! 

June's notes: If you do not want it to be too cold, microwave the tofu for about 1 minute after you have inverted it onto a (microwavable) bowl. If you like a little more spiciness, add up to 1 tbsp of the Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp Sauce; but do be very can get too spicy!! 

Simply June 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Cold Spicy Soba Noodles

A few weeks ago, the husband and I invited some of our neighbors over for some BBQ potluck. We bought some delicious pre-marinated ribs from Costco (the ribs were a big hit!!), made some vegetable skewers and provided a variety of drinks for our neighbors. Each neighbor brought different yummy dishes to share. One of my neighbor made some Sichuan "Liang Mian" (Cold Noodles) over and everyone agreed it was delicious. The noodles were simple and very refreshing, with a bit of kick from the chili. I've never had this before and even though I'm not a bit fan of Sichuan food (they tend to be too spicy for me), I liked this one and didn't feel the spiciness as much. I guess my neighbor had probably tone the spice level down a little.

After a weekend of eating out, I crave for a simple lunch. Working with the ingredients in my pantry, I decided to make my version of the Sichuan "Liang Mian". I have a few different types of noodles in my pantry, but decided to use Soba noodles instead. It turned out pretty yummy, and definitely refreshing. I will definitely make this again. Here's the recipe.

*Serves 2-3


  • 2 Bundle Soba Noodles
  • 1 Tbsp (Low Sodium) Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp (Lee Kum Kee) Chili Bean Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp (Chin Kiang) Black Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 2 Tsp Sweet Soy Sauce (Kicap Manis)
  • 1 Stalk Green Onion, Chopped
  • 1 Handful Cilantro, Chopped
  • 1/2  Tbsp Raw Skinless Peanuts
  • 1/2 Tsp Toasted Sesame Seeds

Cook the soba noodles per the instruction on the package. Once noodles are cooked, run cold water through the noodle to stop the cooking and to cool down the noodle. Drain and set cooled noodles aside. 

In a pan, dry roast (no oil needed) the peanuts over medium heat until golden brown. Stir peanuts occasionally so that they so not burn. Once peanuts are toasted, set aside, let cool and give them a rough chop. Mix all the liquid ingredients in a bowl to make the sauce and set aside. 

Divide the noodles into 2-3 bowls. Drizzle the sauce onto the noodles. Sprinkle each bowl with the green onion, cilantro, chopped peanuts and sesame seeds. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

June's notes:  Like me, you can definitely use any noodles of your choice. I think even linguini or ramen noodles will work fine! =) 

Simply June 
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