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All things meat

My review of Smithfield 2016 Chef’s Table: bringing together flavors from all corners of the world to highlight the beauty of pork

Slaughtering a pig can be a rather gruesome event – and I remember it well. When the days were getting colder and holidays were approaching, families all across my home country would gather together and slaughter pigs to have food to put on the table during the harsh winter ahead. Ambushed by people who would get on top of them and leave them unable to breathe, with screaming noises and terrified eyes, the pigs would give their last breaths under the knife, their blood leaving a trail on the velvety snow, their guts exhaling steam in the icy cold morning. This was way before “humane” slaughter practices gained momentum, before “sustainability” became a buzzword and “social responsibility” turned into a big commitment for companies. Back then, there were no private hog producer companies to speak of, and we didn’t much care about how the animals had died. On an empty stomach, one is only concerned with the meat.

Time has passed and practices have evolved, and these days companies are under intense public scrutiny to ensure that they deliver on their promises of good care for the animals and for the environment, in addition to delivering flavorful products. Such is the case with Smithfield, the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer. Smithfield has its own DURoC breed of pig, and the company has held a series of Chef’s Table events throughout the country to highlight the flavorful versatility of the DURoC pork products and to emphasize its corporate sustainability policies. I was invited to attend the event which was held in Chicago earlier this week – and that was an offer I couldn’t refuse 🙂 Keep Reading

My 4th of July bell pepper & black bean burger topping: fast to make and easy on the eye – and wallet!

I came up with this burger topping idea almost by accident. We used to love eating chutneys when we lived in the UK, and so I was looking for a burger topping similar to a chutney yet faster and easier to make. I also wanted the topping to have a good consistency and to be able to hold up beautifully when served on a burger. Last but not least, I wanted a relatively inexpensive burger topping, with ingredients that were easy to find and affordable.

Since we love peppers, bell peppers were a “must” from the start. I knew I needed a starchy element for my dish, and initially I didn’t know what that element would be. However, I did have a lot of canned beans in my pantry, so on a whim I decided to experiment with them – hence the “almost by accident” part. 🙂 After several rounds of “bean testing,” my conclusion was that canned black beans worked the best, especially in terms of texture.

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A meat bonanza which holds up beautifully: my three meat panino – with plenty of cheese and veggies to boot!

Some time ago I asked a “panino pro” for tips on creating the perfect panino, and here’s what he said: 1. Use quality bread; 2. Don’t put too many ingredients in the panino because it will fall apart. I fully agree with tip #1. Inspired by the artisan bread I tried at the recent National Restaurant Association Show (you can read my review here), I have been exploring local bakeries in search for tasty and nutritious bread to use in my panini and sandwiches, and some of the culinary discoveries I have made have been nothing short of amazing. When it comes to tip #2 however, I don’t think that’s true in all situations. As long as you handle the panino carefully and choose a good foundation (aka a sturdy quality bread), the panino will hold up beautifully even if made up of more than a couple of ingredients. To support my case, I’m bringing you this delicious three meat panino 🙂

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Let’s wrap things up after Christmas! My turkey and three cheese wrap

It’s that time of the year again – the time to ask the question: what should I make with the leftover turkey meat? As a small family, we always buy turkeys that are on the small side. Even so, there is always extra meat left, which lingers in the fridge for days on end. I use shredded turkey in the omelette I make for my husband in the morning, and in the occasional post-Christmas turkey sandwich. Moreover, I have recently started to use leftover roast turkey to make wraps.

My husband is not a big fan of wraps. He gets to eat a lot of them at work, and the ones that are delivered by the catering company are always on the heavy, greasy side (or so he says) and have a lot of mayonnaise in them. Thankfully, I have persuaded him to give wraps another try, with promising results.

As you know by now, I hardly ever use mayo in our home-cooked meals, and wraps make no exception. Instead, I use cheese – a lot of it! In this wrap I used no less than three cheese varieties, all to my and husband’s liking: cottage cheese, feta cheese and mozzarella. The fluid wholesomeness of the cottage cheese works well with the constant assertiveness of the feta and the gooey seductiveness of the mozzarella. In my opinion, this combo can really do no wrong.

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Getting back is hard – so can a pork roulade make a difference? :-)

These past few weeks have been really hectic for me. First, school is back and I’ve been fretting over classes, syllabi, and meeting new colleagues and students. I have been stressed and out of shape intellectually, and going back to a full work schedule has proved nothing short of exhausting. Second, my mom’s recent flight back to Europe was delayed for several hours, causing her to miss a connecting plane in London and to arrive at her destination well after midnight. My mom is a senior citizen who doesn’t speak English, and the whole experience was a nightmare for her, as it was for us. Such stressful events are definitely not conducive to creativity in the kitchen. 🙁

Getting back to cooking and blogging was hard. In the end, I found inspiration in an email exchange I had with my cousin, who is a passionate gardener. This summer he has grown tomatoes, zucchinis and cucumbers galore, and he was writing me that he had just finished sun-drying some of the tomatoes. My mind instantly went back in time, to the years we spent in England and to a recipe we used to like a lot: pork roulade stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese and herbs. Keep Reading

Egg on toast, and much more: Why mayo is out – and dandelion greens are in!

It occurred to me the other day that I had never told you why I don’t use mayo in my sandwiches. Indeed, if you look through my sandwich and panini recipes you’ll find none with mayo, and plenty with sour cream, cottage cheese or mustard. I know mayo is a very popular sandwich ingredient, and for good reason: you need a good creamy component to “bind” everything together and to turn the sandwich into a coherent whole. Still, we find mayo way too heavy and not particularly flavorful, and this is why I’ve been using other ingredients in its place. We’ve always been big fans of sour cream and cottage cheese (both of them lighter than mayo, in our opinion), so why not use these in panini or sandwiches? Moreover, on some occasions, I turn to other less used ingredients and I take advantage of their luscious creaminess to create a satisfying light lunch. Such is the case with the sandwich I am going to write about today, whose creamy component is a fried egg.

This sandwich is special to me because it incorporates a lesser known green element: dandelion greens. Keep Reading

Vive la France! My “almost” French lunch, featuring croissant, Camembert and tomatoes (again!)

I woke up this morning and remembered something: today is the National Day of France, which is also called Bastille Day.  This day is always celebrated in my home country. Our culture is closely related to the French culture – so close that we are members of the International Organization of the Francophonie. I am really glad I remembered about Bastille Day. Better mark the occasion later in the day than not mark it at all!

In honor of Bastille Day, I decided to make a French-inspired lunch: a stuffed croissant. Keep Reading