Smokey Pimento Cheese with Fresh Basil Topped with Oven Dried Tomatoes, Field Greens and Crispy Bacon

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Summer is finally almost here. With the promise of warm sunny days, many folks are planning summer road trips, camping and picnics.

As a child, anytime we would take a road trip, there was always a picnic basket packed with Pimento Cheese Sandwiches, a jar of sweet pickles or olives and some kind of fruit.

We would load the car up early in the morning and head out towards our destination. There always seemed to be a park on the way with a picnic area right at about lunch time.

Mom would always lay out a tablecloth on the picnic table and then unload the basket of sandwiches, pickles, fruit, iced tea or kool-aid and some cookies or other sweet treat.

To this day, Pimento Cheese always reminds me of summertime road trips and picnics.

On a recent trip to Trader Joe’s, I found some interesting cheeses that I thought would create a fun and unique twist on the traditional Pimento Cheese.

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For the Pimento Cheese:

  • 1 cup grated smoked mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated rosemary asiago cheese
  • 1 2-ounce jar of diced pimentos
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • 4 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise

Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir until well combined.

For the Oven Dried Tomatoes:

  • 10 ounce package of san marzano tomatoes or other plum tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, Minced
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

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Wash and slice tomatoes in half lengthwise. Place tomatoes in a bowl and toss with oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper to coat. Place tomatoes in a single layer, skin side down on a sheet pan.

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Roast in a 325 degree oven for about 1 hour 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

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For The Sandwiches:

  • Good crusty rustic Italian bread
  • Smokey Pimento Cheese
  • Oven Dried Tomatoes
  • Crisp cooked bacon
  • Mixed field greens

Spread a good amount of Pimento Cheese onto bread

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Top with oven dried tomatoes

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Then some of the field greens and bacon

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Top with another slice of bread that has been spread with a bit of mayonnaise.IMG_20170615_225926848

Enjoy!

Taco Tuesday (Hawaiian Fusion): Kalua Pork with Roasted Pineapple Salsa

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Hawaiian Taco’s? Heck yeah!

Mom used to make some delicious Kalua Pork growing up.  She would smother the pork in rock salt and add some liquid smoke and cook on low all day. The smell coming from the oven was divine!

When it was done, falling off the bone, she would shred it and drizzle with soy sauce. I would steal bites while she was doing this. Kalua Pork is one of those things that you could just stand in the kitchen and pick with your fingers. I’m sure she had to slap my little hands away to get it to the table.

Once it got to the table she would serve it with plain steamed rice and salad or coleslaw. Yum!

In this recipe, I used Hawaiian pink salt along with the liquid smoke and wrapped the pork in Ti leaves before sealing it into a tight foil package.

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The Ti leaves add a nice floral note to the pork. If you can’t find Ti leaves, banana leaves can be used. You can find them at your local Asian grocery.

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I decided that I would go non-traditional and make taco’s with my Kalua Pork. And to keep with the Hawaiian theme I made a roasted pineapple salsa to go with it.

The warm succulent pork doused with a bit of soy sauce, topped with the roasted pineapple salsa and then wrapped in a warm corn tortilla was a delicious alternative to the traditional  pork carnitas tacos. Add a bit of cheese and shredded cabbage for extra yumminess!

To make the Kalua Pork:

  • Pork shoulder blade roast bone-in about 4 lbs
  • Hawaiian Alaea salt 2-3 tablespoons
  • liquid smoke 1/2 teaspoon
  • Ti leaves about 3
  • 2 cups water
  • foil
  • Soy sauce

Lay out foil on counter. wash Ti leaves and pat dry. Cut out the hard stem and and discard then lay leaves out on top of foil.IMG_20170612_151736836

Rinse pork and pat dry. cut little slits in pork with knife. Rub pork with the salt all over and into the slits. Rub liquid smoke into pork. Place on top of Ti leaves fat side up. Wrap Ti leaves around pork. Hold leaves into place and wrap tightly with the foil.

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Place in a roasting pan with the 2 cups water. Place in a 300 degree oven and cook for about 8 hours. Remove from over and let stand for about 15 minutes. Open package and remove pork to a large platter. Shred pork with 2 forks. Pour juices from inside foil over pork for extra flavor and juiciness. Then drizzle with a bit of soy sauce. Yum!

Serve pork in warm tortillas with roasted pineapple salsa, cheese and finely shredded cabbage.

For the Roasted Pineapple Salsa:

  • 1 cup fresh pineapple, chopped
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 1 fresno chili pepper,  stem and seeds removed, chopped ( or red jalapeno)
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Place all ingredients except oil salt and pepper on a sheet pan. toss with a bit of olive oil to coat and then season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Place in 425 degree over 20-25 minutes. Stirring halfway through. Cool. Place in food processor and pulse just until pureed.

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Place in a bowl and add:

  • 1 small tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/8 red onion, finely mined
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice

Stir to combine, adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on tacos and with warm crispy tortilla chips. Yum!

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Char Sui (Chinese BBQ Pork)


One of my favorite “go to” dishes, when ordering Chinese take out, is the BBQ Pork. I love to mix the red sauce together with the hot mustard and dip the pork in it as it were a bowl of chips and salsa. Just enough hot mustard to clear the sinuses but not to the point of tears forming. Yum!

It was at my first job, out of culinary school, that I learned how to make Char Sui (BBQ Pork). I was working at a boutique hotel preparing food for private events(Banquets and Catering). Char Sui (BBQ Pork) was one of the more popular hors d’oeuvres on the menu and one of my favorites to make (and eat!). I love the charred end pieces the best. Since they were not display worthy, they were all mine! One of the many perks of working in a kitchen, you get to taste everything.

You might think that something so delicious would be difficult to make but it is actually quite simple. The main “tricks” to making a flavorful and juicy Char Sui is to marinate the pork for at least 24 hours, do not overcook it and be sure to let the meat rest after cooking.

Char Sui can be cooked in the oven or on the BBQ Grill using indirect heat. I typically cook it in the oven but on a hot summer day will take it to the grill.

Over the years I have seen many different versions of making Char Sui. Most use the same ingredients in varying amounts. Some add ketchup or five spice. Some use red food color and some don’t. I have left the food color as optional. Sometimes I use it and sometimes I don’t. It really just depends if I want that bright red look or not, since the flavor is not affected by using it. I think that this recipe achieves that perfect balance of salty and sweet that is Char Sui. I hope this will become one of your “go to” favorite dishes as well.

Enjoy!

Char Sui (Chinese BBQ Pork)

  • 2 pounds pork loin
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • red food color, a few drops (optional)

To Marinate:

Cut pork loin lengthwise into long thick strips and place into a gallon sized ziploc bag. In a bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients to make a marinade. Pour marinade in bag with the pork and swish around to coat. Seal bag and place in the refrigerator to marinate for 24 to 48 hours.

To Cook:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Remove meat from marinade and place on a roasting rack with drip pan underneath. Place in preheated oven and roast until meat reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Aprox. 40-60 minutes, depending on thickness of the meat. To check internal temperature, insert food thermometer into thickest part of meat. be sure to check temperature of each piece of pork. Once proper temperature is reached, remove pork from the oven and lightly cover with foil. Let meat rest covered for 10-15 minutes before slicing. This allows juices to redistribute. After meat has rested, slice and serve.

Suggestions:

Serve with steamed rice and stir fried veggies or Asian slaw

Serve as an appetizer with Hot mustard sauce

Serve over a steaming bowl of ramen

Use any leftovers to make fried rice