Take time to smell the garlic

Sometimes, good meals evolve from the simplest of things.  A tiny spark of imagination, or an unexpected moment of discovery can result in a meal that looks like it was carefully planned and fully conceived. 

This morning, while I was rummaging through the garden, searching for the last few tomatoes to pluck before the upcoming frost, I found several garlic plants that had recently sprouted.  The garlic plants were a carryover from the garlic that I had planted earlier in the spring.  I’ve never been able to get garlic plants to produce large bulbs but the plants shoot out of the ground, like they are on a mission!  So, I decided to pull some of the garlic plants and use them for cooking. 

The green leaves and white stems of garlic plants, called scapes, are edible and, as you might expect, they taste like garlic.  I sometimes like to use them in stir-frys, to flavor the cooking oil.  This time, I decided to add them some butter, to make a compound butter.

After I decided to make the compound butter, I thought that the butter would pair well with pasta and the rest of the dish fell together easily.  I wanted shrimp with the pasta but, I knew that some people might prefer chicken over shrimp, so I prepared both.

This will serve 3 to 4 people.

Ingredients:

6 Tbs butter

4 fresh garlic scapes (green garlic leaves)

1 tsp dried thyme leaves

1 tsp lemon juice

2 green onions, chopped.  Reserve white stems.

3 cups dry pasta (I used Farfalle – butterfly pasta)

1 lb chicken breast, pounded into ¼ inch slices

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 egg, mixed with 2 Tbs water

8 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

About 1/4 cup olive oil

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 head of Romaine lettuce

3 small tomatoes

Vinegar and oil salad dressing

Directions:

Chop the garlic scapes into small pieces.  Reserve the white stems. 

Add garlic scapes, thyme and lemon juice to the butter.  Allow the butter to rest at room temperature for a few hours.  When the butter has softened, mix to combine.

Prepare the pasta, according to the directions on the package.  Remove from heat just before the pasta reaches ‘al dente’.  Set aside.

Slice chicken breast into flat pieces.  Pound down to ¼ inch thick slices.  Set aside.

Wash, peel and devein the shrimp and set aside.

Arrange a dredging station.  Mix the egg with water, in a bowl.  Scatter a thin layer of breadcrumbs onto a plate.

Add just enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet.  Add 1 tablespoon of the compound butter mixture.  Set heat to medium. Add a few garlic scapes and green onion stems to the pan. 

Once the garlic and onion soften and begin to char, dredge chicken pieces in egg and lightly coat with breadcrumbs.  Add chicken to the pan and avoid overcrowding.

Brown the chicken and turn it over to brown on the other side.  Total cooking time for the chicken is about three minutes.

Remove chicken to a paper towel lined plate.  Sprinkle with a little salt.  Once all of the chicken has been cooked, wipe the skillet to remove charred bits and oil.  Add one tablespoon of the compound butter mixture and turn the heat off.  This will allow the butter to melt, without burning.  Add a few garlic scapes and green onion stems.  

Finish heating the pasta before returning to the skillet to prepare the shrimp.

Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of the compound butter mixture to the pot, containing the cooked pasta.  Turn the heat to low and stir, to coat the pasta with butter.  A Parmesan cheese and turn the heat off.  Keep the pot on the stovetop, to keep warm.

Return your attention to the skillet.  The butter should be melted.  Turn the heat to medium high and add the shrimp.  Cook on one side for one minute.  Turn the shrimp and cook for one more minute.  Remove the shrimp to a serving platter.

Add the cooked chicken to the serving platter.

Gently stir the pasta to blend in the Parmesan cheese.

Transfer the pasta to a serving dish.

Scatter chopped green onions over the pasta, shrimp and chicken.

Serve with a simple garden salad of lettuce and tomato.  Toss with vinaigrette dressing.

Smoked Pork Enchiladas

There’s a reason why I turn to Mexican food so often.  Mexican cuisine has a rich and long history of embracing other cultural cuisines while maintaining its own identity.  Some cultures have a tendency to cling to strict tradition, when it comes to their cuisine, while other cultures are more willing to change and adapt. 

When it comes to cooking at home, versatility and adaptability is the name of the game!  So, when it’s time to plan a meal, I want to use items that I am familiar with but I want to combine them in new and interesting ways. 

I can stuff anything I want into a tortilla and call it a taco.  I can wrap anything I want in a tortilla and cover it with sauce and it becomes an enchilada.  My imagination is only restricted by considering the taste, texture and nutritional quality of the final outcome.  Once I consider those aspects, the rest of the process is a simple matter of deciding what cooking methods I want to use to achieve my goal.

I pulled some fresh chilis from the garden and I cooked down some fresh tomatoes to make a sauce.  I had leftover smoked pork roast in the refrigerator and Monterrey Jack cheese and corn tortillas.  The rest of the ingredients were spices that I always keep on hand.

 And that is why I’m making Smoked Pork Enchiladas!

Ingredients:

1 red jalapeño, seeded and sliced

3 small poblano chilies, seeded and chopped

1 Tbs cooking oil

2 cloves garlic, smashed

½ cup diced onion

1 ½ cups tomato sauce

2 Tbs red chili powder

1 ½ Tbs cumin powder

1 Tbs Mexican oregano, crushed

2 tsp garlic powder

1 lb. smoked pork roast, sliced and chopped

12 oz Monterrey Jack cheese

10 corn tortillas, softened by dredging in hot oil.

Directions:

Prepare the chilies.  Remove the stems and seeds.  Slice the jalapeño into thin rings.

Remove the stems and seeds from the poblano chiles. Slice and dice the chilies.

Add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil to a large, oven-proof skillet.  Set the heat to low/medium heat.  After the oil is hot, add the chopped poblanos and garlic. Simmer and stir for five minutes, or until the chiles and garlic sweat and soften. Add the onions and saute for another 5 minutes.

Remove the chiles and garlic and place on a cutting board.  Chop the chiles and garlic into smaller pieces.

Add the tomato sauce to the pan and cook at medium heat.   Add the cooked garlic, chilies and onion.  Add the red chili powder, cumin, oregano and garlic powder.  Simmer and stir for ten minutes.  Remove the sauce and place in a bowl.

Slice and chop the smoked pork and place in a mixing bowl.  Shred 12 ounces of Monterrey Jack Cheese.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped pork and 8 ounces of the shredded cheese. Reserve the other 4 ounces of cheese for the topping.

Spread the tomato sauce mixture across the bottom of an oven-proof pan.  A thin layer is all you will need.

Prepare the enchiladas by placing a few tablespoons of pork and cheese mixture in a tortilla.  Wrap the enchilada and place into the pan.  Repeat, until all of the enchiladas fill the pan. 

Cover the enchiladas with the remaining sauce.

Bake in a 350° oven for 30 minutes. Top the enchiladas with the remaining 4 ounces of cheese and sliced jalapeño. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the enchiladas to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with crisp lettuce, a splotch of sour cream and a whole, pickled jalapeño. 

¡Más sabroso para Tex-Mex! (give it a tasty Tex-Mex finish)