March is the time of year we are starting to get a little stir crazy; the days are getting longer, the weather is looking up, seed catalogs are arriving in the mail and the stores are filling with gardening supplies. We are all longing for the warmer days of spring and summer, with the desire to play outside. We thought we would channel a bit of that pent up ‘Take Me Away’ and transfer it into the kitchen. This month, we have created a global recipe selection to tantalize your taste buds and transport your mind to another place.

Caribbean Style Pork Mojo
with Garlicky Cilantro Lime Sauce

As one could expect, we are avid participants in the food industry. An occupational hazard perhaps, but it is always good to stay up to date on food trends and new concepts via informative publications and entertaining food-based shows, such as Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. We were recently watching an older episode, when he was in the Caribbean, and I was reminded of this pork mojo recipe. This dish is not only easy to make, it bursts with a myriad of flavors. The combination of citrus juices, cumin, and oregano instantly transport you to an island oasis. Paired with the garlicky cilantro lime sauce, you can close your eyes and taste paradise.

1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup fresh orange juice
2 tbs. distilled white vinegar
2 tbs. garlic powder
2 tbs. onion powder
2 tbs. freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tbs. ground cumin
1 tbs. dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tbs. Kosher Salt
One 5-7 lbs. bone-in Boston butt (pork shoulder, butt end)

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until onions are softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add lemon and orange juices and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook another minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Transfer half of the mojo to a blender and refrigerate the remaining (the mojo dip for the cooked pork).

In a jar, add garlic, onion powder, ground pepper, cumin, and oregano and shake until well blended. Add 2 tablespoons of the dry rub to the mojo mixture in the blender. Add the Worcestershire and salt and puree the marinade.

Put the pork in a re-sealable gallon plastic bag and add the marinade. Seal the bag, pressing out the air, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours, turning occasionally. (I strongly recommend you try to marinate at least over night. It really does infuse the meat with better flavor) Remove pork shoulder from the refrigerator and bring the pork to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Set a rack into a roasting pan and set aside. While the oven is heating, remove the pork from the marinade and pat dry, discard marinade. Rub the meat all over with the remaining dry rub. Place rubbed pork roast into rack and roast for 3 hours or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 150 degrees F. Reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees F and continue to roast the meat for about 3 hours longer, until very tender and an instant-read thermometer registers 180 degrees F. Remove the roast from the oven and cover with foil; let rest for 30 minutes.

Shred meat, discarding the bone and extra fat. Serve pork with extra mojo and the garlicky cilantro lime sauce (recipe below).

This pork is great for a crowd, served with corn tortillas, beans, rice, and guacamole.

This dish can be made in advance. After roasting, allow pork to drop to room temperature, wrap whole and refrigerate for up to two days. To reheat, remove from refrigerator, skim extra fat, and bring to room temp. Shred pork and add a splash of mojo if needed. Reheat in a 300-degree oven until heated through.

Garlicky Cilantro Lime Sauce
Makes about 1 3/4 cup

2 large jalapeños, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
2 tbs. minced fresh ginger
2 tbs. minced white onion
1 tbs. fresh lime juice
1/4 cup water
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Kosher Salt

In a blender, puree the jalapeños, garlic, ginger, onion, lime juice and water until smooth. Add the mayonnaise and cilantro and pulse a few times. Season the sauce with salt and serve. Serves eight to ten.

Disfruta tu comida!

Ahi Tuna Poke Rice Bowl
(adapted from Bon Appetite)

Poke bowls are everywhere and, in our opinion, this is a fabulous new trend. In a three-week span we have read five different articles on the rage of poke bowls. So let’s poke.

Poke is a raw fish salad typically served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine. It can be served on a bed of rice, Napa cabbage, rice noodles, or lettuce wraps. Poke can be made from sushi grade tuna, salmon, or Hamachi. It can also be done with spicy tofu or pickled mushroom. That description alone offers so many possibilities that the poke bowl is really a personal piece of food art. There are some basic ingredients within the dish, but the sky is the limit on what you choose and how you all place it together. We will share the recipe for ahi tuna poke bowls and offer a list of options to get your poke on! Do not be overwhelmed by the list of ingredients, because this is how I poke. You get to march to the beat of your own ‘pokestick.’ You make poke your way. The simplicity of this dish allows interpretation. This guilt-free food never lacks flavor. Poke will make you want to master the chopstick.

Pickled Cucumbers
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. finely grated ginger
1tbs. unseasoned rice vinegar, divided
2 Persian (or miniature) cucumbers (usually available at Aldi), thinly sliced
Healthy pinch of Kosher salt

Whisk sugar, ginger, and 1 tablespoon rice vinegar in a small bowl. Toss cucumbers and a pinch of salt in a colander, then gently massage cucumbers to release water. Add cucumbers to sugar mixture and cover and chill until cold, at least 30 minutes. Taste cucumbers and season with more salt if needed.

Pickled Red Onion
1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup plus 1/2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup water

To pickle the red onion, place the sliced onion in a medium sized heat proof bowl. In a sauce pan, heat vinegar, 1/3 cup sugar, and 2 teaspoons salt with 1/2 cup water. Heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until all sugar melts. Immediately pour over onions, stir and cover, and allow to cool. Cover and chill for at least an hour.

2 scallions
3 tbs. Tamari (Soy sauce will work too)
1 1/2 tbs. mirin (available at Hy-Vee in the Asian section)
1 1/2 tbs. grapefruit juice
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tbs. unseasoned rice vinegar
2 cups white rice cooked
12 ounces sushi grade ahi tuna, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (can be substituted with salmon)
1 ripe avocado, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 wasabi peas, crushed
Fresh sliced radishes
White sesame seeds
Nori sheet, julienned
Pickled ginger (available at Hy Vee)

Thinly slice pale green and white parts of scallions. Place in medium bowl with Tamari sauce, mirin, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, and remaining 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar and whisk to combine. Transfer 3 tablespoons of ponzu to a second medium bowl. Add ahi tuna and toss to coat. Add avocado and gently toss to cover. Add sesame seeds and toss again.

If using greens in your poke bowl, add them now, toss to coat, and season as needed with salt.

To assemble poke bowl, place a 1/2 cup scoop of rice in the base of the bowl. Top rice with the tuna poke, pickled onion, pickled cucumber, fresh sliced radishes, pickled ginger, julienned nori (seaweed) strips.

Making poke your own is part of the fun. Here are the basic concepts of assembling a poke bowl. Go Hawaiian.

Choose a base such as white rice, Jasmine rice, soda noodles, rice noodles, greens.

Choose a protein. Poke is traditionally raw fish, but this is your kitchen. If you choose to not use tuna, salmon, or hamachi, you can use shrimp, tofu, mushrooms, and even chicken (cooked, of course).

Choose the right base for the protein. Something light, like ponzu, is perfect for delicate fish, but a more assertive sauce might be better for tofu, or a garlic sauce for shrimp.

This is where you have fun with the extras, but a few basics are needed.

A fruit or vegetable can be added – something to add contrast, like sliced avocado, shelled edamame or thin sliced radish.

We have sliced scallion in this recipe, and it adds a wonderful assertiveness to the dish that is rather pleasant. You can also add fried shallots. We have pickled cucumbers and pickled red onions in this poke, in addition to pickled ginger. You can add pickled shiitake mushrooms if you please. We have sesame seeds, julienned nori sheets (seaweed sheets, available at HyVee). You can also add peanuts, macadamia nuts, cashews, togarshi (toh-guh-RAH-schee, a peppery Japanese condiment), and gochugaru (Go-chew-gah-roo, a Korean condiment). Both of these spices are available online. If you prefer heat in you poke, add crushed wasabi peas, sliced jalapeños, or thinly sliced Fresno peppers.

Poke is a dish that allows you to be the master of your poke domain! Challenge yourself to the next food level. Serves four.

Loaa ia oukou ka ai!

Pork Ramen

We shall continue to travel further across the Pacific Ocean to Japan for a bowl of ramen. Ramen (Rah-men) is a Japanese dish. Some would call is a soup, but it is so much more that just a soup. Most of us know ramen as the college staple food, thanks to instant ramen packets from Maruchan. (I have fond memories of heating ramen packs on dorm room hot plates.) Ramen has sustained many a poor, young, twenty-something, due to the cheapness and ease of the three-minute meal. However, top chefs across the globe are reclaiming this dish and shining a well deserved bright light on this simple yet comforting and filling dish. One article said it best, “Good ramen hugs you from the inside out.” And as with the poke, ramen is a dish that can be individualized, as it is all about the condiments. In this recipe, we are giving you the base of pork ramen. You will discover the possibilities are endless and that making ramen at home is easy. You may even begin to feel nostalgic for your dorm room days… Okay, no, you won’t, but at least you can relish in just how far you have come. In this ramen, we use a combination of sautéed pork belly to add flavor and crunch, and thin sliced pork loin chop, seasoned with McCormick’s Japanese 7 Spice, which adds a bit of kick.

6 oz. diced pork belly or pancetta
1 pork loin chop
1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
6 cups chicken stock
2 tbs. miso paste (available at HyVee)
4 scallions, divided and sliced thin
1 can bamboo shoots
2 tbs. Tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp. sriracha
4 oz. mushroom (crimini, shiitake, or button will do)
10 oz. ramen noodles

Optional Toppings
Soft boiled eggs (usually 1 per bowl)
Sliced radishes
Sliced fresh jalapeño
Shredded carrots
Sliced fresh mushrooms
Baby spinach leaves

Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Using a Dutch oven, place diced pork belly or pancetta into pan and cook over medium heat until pork is crispy, but center is still tender. Remove pan from heat and using a slotted spoon, remove pork belly and set aside. Return pan to the heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Heat until shimmering. Season pork loin chop with salt and pepper or seasoning of your liking (we used McCormick’s Japanese 7 Spice) and place chop in hot pan and sear both sides until nicely browned, approximately 2 minutes per side. Remove pan from heat and remove the chop and place it in a shallow pan. Add a splash of chicken stock to the dish and wrap with foil. Place in oven and continue to cook until it has an internal temperature of 150 degrees, approximately 25 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to rest.

Meanwhile, return the pot to the heat and add the diced onion, stirring to coat, and cook until starting to soften. Add diced ginger and cook another minute. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, then stir in miso paste, 2 thinly sliced scallions, bamboo shoots, soy, sriracha, and stir to coat. Slowly add broth, scraping the bottoms to release any goodness stuck to the bottom, and stir until all the broth is added. Bring to a simmer and add the mushrooms. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft. Taste and adjust seasonings, as needed. Bring broth up to a fast simmer and add the ramen noodles. Return to simmer and cook until noodles are done. The package says 3 minutes, but our ramen took closer to 6 minutes.

While noodles are cooking, remove pork from pan and slice into thin strips.

As soon as the ramen noodles are done, use tongs to distribute noodles evenly into four bowls. Ladle broth over the noodles. Now you assemble the rest of your goodies. Place the sliced pork at one end of the bowl. Slice your egg open and place it next to the pork. Add sliced radishes, carrots, jalapeño, spinach, etc. and finish with the crispy pork belly on top.

Grab a spoon, a set of chopsticks, and definitely a napkin, because you won’t be able to stop slurping! Serves four.

Home Cured Corned Beef
(courtesy of Michael Ruhlman)

Now, back to America and a little Irish-American tradition of corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day. We thought we would try to “corn” our own beef. Yes, it is a long process, but for those of us kitchen adventurers, we thought we would challenge you to up your Irish game by making your corned beef from scratch. So clear out a space in the refrigerator and place your order for beef brisket and, get your “Cluiche Ar” (Gaelic for Game On).

1-1/2 cups kosher salt*
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp. pink salt (sodium nitrite), optional, also known as #1 Prague Powder
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbs. pickling spice (available in bulk at HyVee or you can make your own)
1 5-lb. beef brisket
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in two
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped

In a pot large enough to hold brisket, combine 1 gallon of water with kosher salt, sugar, sodium nitrite (if using), garlic, and 2 tablespoons pickling spice. I do not use the sodium nitrate, because of an allergy, but it does help give you that pink center known in corned beef. Bring to a simmer, stirring until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled.

Place brisket in brine, weighted with a plate to keep it submerged; cover. Refrigerate for 5-10 days.

Remove brisket from brine and rinse thoroughly. Place in a pot just large enough to hold it. Cover with water and add remaining pickling spice, carrot, onion, and celery. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer gently until brisket is fork-tender, about 3 hours, adding water if needed to cover brisket.

Keep warm until ready to serve. Meat can be refrigerated for several days in cooking liquid. Reheat in the liquid or serve chilled. Slice thinly, against the grain, and serve on a sandwich or with additional vegetables simmered until tender in the cooking liquid.

Pickling Spice
2 tbs. black peppercorns
2 tbs. mustard seeds
2 tbs. coriander seeds
2 tbs. hot red pepper flakes
2 tbs. allspice berries
1 tbs. ground mace
2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces
2 to 4 bay leaves, crumbled
2 tbs. whole cloves
1 tbs. ground ginger

Combine peppercorns, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds in a small dry pan. Place over medium heat and stir until fragrant, being careful not to burn them; keep the lid handy in case seeds pop. Crack peppercorns and seeds in mortar and pestle or with the side of a knife on cutting board. Combine with other spices, mix. Store in tightly sealed plastic or glass container. Serves eight to ten.

Hope you enjoy this month’s culinary treats. We are back in the kitchen to work on next month’s recipes, where we will be playing with eggs. It is going to be Easter after all. We will color eggs with things other than vinegar and colored Paz tabs, and put a creative twist on deviled eggs. With that combination, you will be a hit with both the kids and the adults. We will see you next month. Bring Your Appetite!

Angela and Carolyn Linton-Canfield
After 18 years working in the food and beverage industries of Chicago and San Francisco, Angela and Carolyn started a private chef and catering company, Life’s a Feast, in the tri-state area. They embrace their passion of cooking, entertaining, and creating one-of-a-kind experiences for their clients. Carolyn and Angela now share their passion with viewers on their cable show Life’s a Feast, available on Mediacom and their YouTube channel, Life’s a Feast LLC. Both share their expertise on food and wine on our website, their website, as well as their Facebook page. Recipes and photos are the copyrighted and intellectual property of Life’s a Feast, LLC.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here