Friday, April 10, 2015

Spiced Tahini Roasted Rainbow Carrot Salad with Whipped Roasted Garlic Goat Cheese, Baby Arugula, Shaved Shallots, Toasted Walnuts, Fresh Cilantro, + a Spicy Blood Orange Gastrique

Spring has sprung, y'all! Let's all join in for a collective rejoice because that officially mean Farmer's Market season is back in full swing, and with that, it means fresh produce is at its' peak! My Mountain Man and I recently went to one of our favorite restaurants and we ordered a roasted carrot salad with goat cheese, arugula, + a citrus vinaigrette. We loved the combination of flavors, so I took the idea and ran with it. It just so happens that I spotted some baby heirloom rainbow carrots (try and say that whole spiel five times fast) and I instantly connected them with the inspiration burning in my belly to recreate this salad. It happens to still be citrus season down south, so I knew that I wanted to make a blood orange gastrique to drizzle over the top. Not only does this add a beautiful, deep scarlet color, but a beautiful acidic note to the entire dish. Oh, and it's got a nice spicy kick that will leave your mouth with slight tingling. After looking through my go-to cookbook, The Flavor Bible, and it suggests to pair carrots with cumin, other earthy spices, nuts, and citrus. I first made a "marinade" of tahini, olive oil, maple syrup, cumin, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, + turmeric. The baby carrots are tossed + coated in this marinade mixture before being roasted in the over until they are golden brown and just slightly charred. And make sure to allow them to cool to room temperature before you begin assembling the salad, so the whipped goat cheese doesn't melt + the baby arugula doesn't wilt due to the heat. Now I want to make sure that you guys use baby arugula because the peppery note from these greens is so perfect, it doesn't miss a beat. I also added in some shaved shallots for a bit of a bite and some toasted walnuts for some texture. Obviously, I am a complete lush when it comes to goat cheese, especially when it is whipped and flavored with roasted garlic + honey, but you could easily make whipped feta as the base of your salad if you prefer that instead. After the salad is tediously layered and beautified, I sprinkle some fresh minced cilantro to round out all of the flavors. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and in this case, it is completely and utterly true. I cannot think of another dish that would be more enjoyable on a gorgeous springtime afternoon than this salad. So that only means that... you just gotta make it!! Enjoy :)

For the Spicy Blood Orange Gastrique:
1C Freshly Squeezed Blood Orange Juice
1 Blood Orange, Zested
3T Sugar
3T Red Wine Vinegar
2 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
1T Light Corn Syrup
1t Dried Red Pepper Flakes
Pinch of Salt

For the Whipped Roasted Garlic Goat Cheese:
A Head of Roasted Garlic Cloves, Cooled
4oz Softened Cream Cheese
½C Heavy Cream
10z Honey Goat Cheese
Salt & Pepper, To Taste

For the Spiced Tahini Roasted Rainbow Carrots:
1 ½-2lbs Baby Rainbow Carrots (keep the stems on, but trimmed short)
4T Roasted Tahini
2T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3T Maple Syrup
2t Cumin
½t Cardamom, Coriander, Cinnamon, + Turmeric
Kosher Salt + Fresh Cracked Pepper (we used a good pinch of salt to balance the sweetness)

For the Roasted Rainbow Carrot Salad:
Prepared Whipped Roasted Garlic Goat Cheese, Chilled
Baby Arugula (do not substitute any other greens, you need the peppery notes)
Spiced Tahini Roasted Rainbow Carrots, Room Temperature
1 Small Shallot, Thinly Shaved
1 Big Handful of Walnuts, Toasted + Roughly Chopped
Prepared Spicy Blood Orange Gastrique, Chilled
Fresh Cilantro, Minced (for garnishing)
Fleur de Sel + Fresh Cracked Pepper, For Sprinkling

1. For the Spicy Blood Orange Gastrique: In a small pot, pour in the blood orange juice and add in the blood orange zest, sugar, red wine vinegar, a generous pinch of salt, and sprigs of fresh thyme. Bring this liquid to a hard boil, and then reduce it to a simmer. Allow this mixture to reduce in half, about 5-10 minutes. Once it has reduced down, remove the sprigs of thyme and whisk in the light corn syrup. Bring to a boil once more and allow it to thicken to a nice, smooth syrup. We reduced ours to about a little more than ¼C. Whisk in the dried red pepper flakes and chill the gastrique in the refrigerator until it has completely cooled.
2. For the Whipped Roasted Garlic Goat Cheese: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the softened cream cheese, roasted garlic cloves, and salt until thoroughly mixed. Scrape down the sides and turn the mixer to medium-high speed and add in ¼C heavy cream. Continue whipping, while continuously adding a little bit of crumbled honey goat cheese at a time, until the goat cheese is combined throughout. Add in the remaining ¼C heavy cream and beat on high until it is light & fluffy. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Place in the refrigerator to chill slightly.
3. For the Spiced Tahini Roasted Rainbow Carrots: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with some Pam. Set it aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the roasted tahini, olive oil, maple syrup, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, Turmeric, kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper. The mixture will be pretty thick, but that’s okay, it will help to thickly coat the baby carrots. Toss the carrots in the tahini using your hands until they are completely covered. Lay them out in a single layer on the prepared pan and roast for 25 minutes. Boost your oven up to broil and allow them to reach a gorgeous golden brown color with a slight char (just keep an eye on them, you don’t want them to burn). Remove the roasted carrots from the oven and allow them to cool to room temperature before assembling the salad.
4. For the Roasted Carrot Salad: On a pretty dinner plate, spoon a blanket of the whipped roasted garlic goat cheese on the bottom, and then mound a handful of baby arugula on top of the cheese. Now stack the spiced tahini roasted carrots on top of the greens (almost log cabin style), followed by some of the shaved shallots, and a scattering of the toasted walnuts. Drizzle the entire dish with some of the spicy blood orange gastrique, as well as a sprinkle of minced cilantro, fleur de sel and fresh cracked pepper. Serve immediately! 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Spicy Barbecue Bucatini with Caramelized Red Onions, Pulled Pork, + Smoked Cheddar Cheese

I realize that the recipe I am posting today sounds a little bit off and a little bit crazy, but doesn't some things that are called crazy, some of the best stuff? A lot of you pasta fanatics/lovers of food will turn your nose up or scoff at me for mixing Southern BBQ or Italian, but y'all, it totally works. Better yet, it is easy-peasy and the perfect meal to use leftover pork or any kind of BBQ meat (smoked chicken, brisket, etc). I started off by using some Bucatini Pasta, it's like spaghetti, but like on steroids. It is a little bit thicker, but the glorious part, by far, is that it has a hole through the middle. This is beneficial for many, many reasons, but mainly it rocks because the pasta sauce goes into the center and with every bite, you get the perfect ratio of pasta to sauce. Um, yum. But it's not just like you are going to throw in a pound of pasta, a shit ton of pork, and a bottle of BBQ sauce, it's more complex than that. I started off by caramelizing sliced red onions, which gives the pasta a nice, unctuous bite to the entire dish. The flavor is then boosted with other aromatics like fresh garlic and green onions before it is mellowed out with some crushed San Marzano tomatoes + tomato paste. After that mixture cooks down, it is then when you stir in your favorite BBQ sauce and some seasonings, to finish it off. I wouldn't recommend using any vinegar based sauces (like a North Carolina style) because the flavor might be slightly astringent and sinus-burning, so go with a sauce that is on the sweeter side because with the addition of the tomatoes, it will be much yummier. Now my Mountain Man + I obviously like to bring the heat when it comes to any recipe we make, so I added in one of my favorite condiments, Candied Jalapenos. These are literally the best little morsels you will ever put in your mouth... I know I've said that time + time again, but it is oh-so-true. Not only is this an easy leftover meal, but you can really make it all in just ONE pot, which doesn't happen around this joint often. SO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT :) Once you've finished the Barbecue Bucatini, place it into a serving bowl, drizzle it with some extra BBQ sauce, top it with a blanket of smoked cheddar cheese, fresh cilantro, and a few extra candied jalapeno rounds... and dinner is served!! I hope y'all enjoy it as much as our whole family did :)
For the Barbecue Bucatini:
1lb Bucatini Noodles (or spaghetti noodles if you can’t find those)
4T Unsalted Butter
2 Red Onions, Thinly Sliced
1lb Pulled Pork
6 Cloves of Garlic, Finely Diced
1 Bunch of Green Onions, Sliced
8oz Whole, Peeled San Marzano Tomatoes (crushed into smaller pieces by hand or diced)
3T Tomato Paste
¼C Candied Jalapenos, Finely Diced in a Food Processor (almost to a puree)
2-3C Homemade BBQ Sauce (or you can substitute in your favorite store-bought sauce)
½t Red Pepper Flakes
¼C Minced Fresh Cilantro, Divided (half will be put into the pasta, half will be used to garnished)
Smoked Cheddar Cheese, For Garnishing
Whole Candied Jalapenos, For Garnishing
BBQ Sauce, For Drizzling
Kosher Salt + Fresh Cracked Pepper, To Taste

1. For the Pasta: In a large stockpot, bring water to a boil, making sure to add a good bit of salt to the water and a touch of olive oil. Cook the noodles according the package until they reach al dente. Strain the pasta and let them sit while you make the remainder of the dish.
2. Beginning the Dish: In the same stockpot that used to cook the pasta, add the 4T of butter and melt over medium heat. Add in the sliced red onions and a heavy sprinkling of kosher salt, and caramelize them for about 15-20 minutes, stirring constantly, so that they do not burn. Once they have caramelized, add in the garlic and cook for just a minute or two, and then toss in the pulled pork and green onions. Sautee these ingredients for about 5 minutes before adding in the crushed San Marzano tomatoes, tomato paste, candied jalapenos, BBQ sauce, and red pepper flakes. Let these flavors meld by simmering them on low-medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.
3. Finishing the Dish: After everything has cooked down, it’s time to add in the cooked Bucatini noodles into the pork + onions mixture, and toss to combine everything together. Add in the fresh cilantro and any salt & pepper to taste if it is needed.
4. Serving the Dish: Place the finished pasta dish into a bowl and garnish with a drizzle of a extra BBQ sauce, a mound of shredded smoked cheddar cheese, and a sprinkling of cilantro. If you want to make it extra spicy, you can top it with extra candied jalapenos. Eat it while it’s still hot!