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Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis

Pork Tenderloin & Portabella Mushrooms with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis.

My dad showed up at my house with this recipe in hand a couple of months ago. We made it for a family dinner and it was so fresh and good, I’d been thinking about making it again it ever since.

There are 3 distinct parts to the recipe – (#1) Grilled Pork Tenderloin, (#2) Grilled Portabella Mushrooms, and (#3) Roasted Red Pepper Coulis…which is just a fancy word for sauce.

One of the things I love about this dish is that while you can taste each element distinctly on its own, they all work well together to make an incredibly flavorful meal.

Sort of one of those “the sum is greater than the parts” situations.

This meal feels like fancy restaurant food to me but when you break it down, it is really quite simple and easy to prepare: grill the pork & mushrooms and make a tasty sauce.

Here’s what you need:

Pork & Portabella Ingredients

Pork Tenderloin, Portabella Mushroom Caps, Onion, Garlic, Red Wine, Roasted Red Peppers, Beef Broth, Olive Oil, Tomato Paste, Corn Starch, Sugar, Salt & Pepper. Arugula or other greens optional but highly recommended.

Click here for a Pork & Portabellas with Red Pepper Coulis Shopping List

Start with a  bit of chopping. Finely chop 1/2 of a large onion, about 1 cup and 5-6 big cloves of garlic. That’s a lot of garlic but it is going to serve double duty on the pork and in the sauce.

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Michael Yeshion Photography

Would you believe me if I told you that I haven’t cooked a thing (other than oatmeal) since June 28? Even though I’ve been able to post a few recipes I had in reserve, I’ve been away from the kitchen for almost a month!

I’ve been traveling “up north” and in Minneapolis playing with the Mill City Summer Opera. It’s so fun, I barely miss cooking. (Which for someone who cooks everyday, is saying a lot.)

mill city opera orchestra

So I thought I’d share some images with you of my summer opera adventures…

The REALLY good photos here come from the camera of Michael Yeshion who comes from New York each summer to work with the opera company. He very graciously allowed me to share some of his photos (otherwise you’d be getting lots of dog photos and views from my orchestra chair…both of which are still coming your way) so please visit his website and facebook page and show him a little blog loving.

As you can see in these photos, we play in a very unusual setting outdoors in the ruins of an old, historic flour mill on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Mill City Museum
The Mill City Museum seen here at street level (by my iPhone) is located in the old warehouse district in downtown Minneapolis. In its heyday, this was the world’s largest flour mill and it processed the flour for 1/3 of the world’s population.

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Shrimp Mexicana

Shrimp Mexicana

Shrimp Mexicana or Camarones a la Mexicana is the recipe that I made to go with the Plantains I featured last week.

I like to make theme dinners every now and then and this recipe seemed easy and adaptable.

It’s adaptable in that you can easily expand it for any number of servings, adapt the side dishes (yellow saffron rice would be especially good), adapt the veggies to your liking, and most importantly, adapt the spiciness so that everyone can enjoy it.

This is extremely fresh tasting – a sort of pico de gallo meets shrimp. Perfect for summer when fresh veggies are plentiful and ripe.

Here’s what you need:

Shrimp Mexicana Ingredients

Shrimp, Tomatoes, Onion, Jalapeno Pepper, Lime, Garlic, Red Wine Vinegar, Olive Oil, Smoked Paprika, Other Dried Peppery Spice (Cayenne, Chipotle, or Chili Powder), Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Shrimp Mexicana Shopping List

Buy the nice large or extra large shrimp for this dish. I buy my shrimp with the peels on and use this handy dandy tool for quick shelling. (And I save the shells in the freezer for making shrimp stock for the world’s best Gumbo!)

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Be sure that when you’re removing the shells and little swimmy feet of the shrimp, you also remove the “vein” or dark line running down the back of the shrimp. The handy dandy shrimp tool does that for you for the most part but you can also just use a small, sharp knife.

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Plantains
I’ve had several people ask me about Plantains lately so I thought they deserved their own post.

Plantains or Platanos (yes, that first “a” will get the proper accent when I get home to my better computer) are obviously relatives of the banana but must be cooked to be eaten. 

Firmer and less sweet than bananas, plantains need to be almost black to be fully ripe. Every time I buy these at my regular grocery store someone asks me why I’m buying the “rotten bananas.”

Buy the plantains that look pretty gnarly or let them ripen on the counter. Lots of black splotches or even almost all black plantains will get you a subtle, sweet, and delicious side dish.

Most restaurants that serve plantains deep fry them but they are even better when cooked very simply with butter.

Butter makes everything better. I’m pretty sure I could make money selling that on t-shirts.

Here’s what you need:

Plantains Ingredients
Plantains, Butter, Salt & Pepper (optional)

This is so simple that it’s not really even a recipe.

Unlike bananas, plantains are difficult to peel by hand, like a monkey. It’s much easier to cut off both ends and use a sharp knife to slice lengthwise through the skin. Then you can simply peel it away in strips.

Cut the plantains into thick slices. I usually like to cut mine on an angle so you get more oblong shaped slices than round. This gives more surface to caramelize in the butter.

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Two big plantains is probably enough to serve 3 normal people but we are plantain hogs so I always buy one apiece.

Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a big skillet. I have non-stick to make clean up easier but any skillet will do.

When the butter is foamy, add the plantain slices in a single layer.

Plantains!

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Strawberry Mango Salsa

I was going to wait to publish this recipe because we just had Pineapple Salsa a week or so ago.

But when I posted that recipe, I mentioned that I was on a kick of putting together funky salsas for fresh summer dinners. Since all the ingredients for Strawberry Mango Salsa are in season RIGHT NOW, I figured the time was ripe. (Ah ha ha, ho ho ho…um…sorry about that.)

Strawberry Mango Salsa is quick and easy and like our other funky salsas, it’s great on just about everything. I put it on fish, but you could also add it to some grilled shrimp or chicken, have it as a side salad, or just bust out the chips!

Here’s what you need:

Strawberry Mango Salsa Ingredients

Strawberries, Mangoes, Jalapeno Pepper, Red Onion, Lime, and Cilantro.

Click here for a Strawberry Mango Salsa Shopping List

If you can find the small yellow Honey Mangoes, grab them while they’re in season. They’re SO good…smaller and sweeter than the regular mangoes.

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Slice 1 pint of fresh strawberries and add them to a bowl.

Cut discs off the sides of the mango so you cut the fruit away from the oblong pit. Score each slice on the fruit side into squares, turn it inside out, and cut off the squares.

If you need good mango cutting instructions and step by step photos, CLICK HERE.

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Crockpot Mexican Chicken

Crockpot Mexican Chicken might be the only reason we had any food to eat at our house this past week.

As a musician, I have times (fall & spring in particular) when I’m ridiculously busy and times (summer!) when I have plenty of time off.

One would think that time off would be a good and relaxing thing. Well, not if you’re a crazy person who feels the need to rip out the carpeting and install new floors. My week of nothing to do quickly turned into chaos. We were working dawn to dusk plus 2 trips to the always scenic dump. The thought of cooking dinner was just not happening.

Enter the good old crockpot to save the day!

I certainly didn’t invent this recipe. I’m not sure who did…probably the crockpot people. You can find various versions all over the internet, but I do think that using the green salsa rather than red makes a nice difference and gives little bit lighter flavor. Sometimes the red salsa tends to overwhelm all the other flavors and you wind up with chicken that just tastes like…well, red salsa.

Here’s what you need:

Crockpot Mexican Chicken Ingredients

Chicken, Salsa Verde, Chili Powder, Cayenne or Chipotle Pepper Powder, Cumin, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Crockpot Mexican Chicken Shopping List

Place 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves in a crockpot or slow cooker. Season with chili powder, cumin, and cayenne or chipotle  to taste – probably about 1 teaspoon each.

You could use a packet of taco seasoning, but I never have that and I always have cumin, chili powder, and some other sort of smoky/spicy powder like chipotle, cayenne, or smoked paprika.

Add some salt & pepper to taste.

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Chocolate Pots de Creme

Chocolate Pots de Créme is one of my favorite fancy desserts.

It doesn’t take very advanced French skills to recognize the goodness that would come in a little pot of cream. Add chocolate to that pot and you are speaking my language!

I always order pots de créme at restaurants but had never made it at home before. My neighbor Jody offered to bring it for dessert for Easter dinner and I felt sheepish about accepting her offer because all of the recipes I’d ever seen for Pots de Créme are complex. Make a custard, try not to let it curdle, cook in a water bath, chill several hours. Too many fussy steps – even for chocolate.

So imagine my delight when she said that not only did she have an easy recipe but it was also practically fool proof! No fuss, no muss, no worry. All of the ingredients go into the blender then right into the refrigerator.

Here’s what you need:

Chocolate Pot de Creme Ingredients

Chocolate Chips*, 1 egg, Sugar, Vanilla, Frangelico (or other flavored liqueur – optional but good), and milk. Whipped Cream and berries for topping.

Click here for a Chocolate Pots de Crème Shopping List

Note:  These need at least 2 hours to chill in the refrigerator to set up so plan ahead!

Crack 1 egg into the bottom of your blender.

It’s VERY important that the egg go into the bottom of the blender so it doesn’t get scrambled when you pour in the hot milk.

*The original recipe calls for 12 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips. By now you know me well enough to know that where semi-sweet is good, bittersweet is better. It’s dark chocolate all the way for me so I substituted my favorite Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips. Sadly, they come in a 10 ounce bag so you’ll either need to buy 2 bags to get 12 ounces, or you can toss in some extra chips that you might have lying around. That’s why you’ll see a few semis and a few white chocolate chips in there.

Next time I’ll go all bittersweet. The darker the better! Add 12 oz. of chocolate chips on top of the egg.

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Salmon with Pineapple Salsa

This started off just as a recipe for Pineapple Salsa but Copper River Salmon is in season so I thought we’d combine the two.

Pineapple Salsa with Grilled Salmon is just about as good, vibrant, and summery as it gets.

Copper River Salmon is one of the seasonal varieties of wild caught salmon that is only in stores for a very short time each summer. It’s bright, bright red, not at all fishy smelling, and has a very sweet flavor.

If you can’t find this specific variety, I encourage you to try other wild caught salmon like sockeye or coho over the farm raised, color enhanced stuff. Yes, it costs more. Yes, it’s worth it.

Of course, the Pineapple Salsa is plenty good on its own with something as easy as chips or even on grilled chicken.

Here’s what you need:

Salmon with Pineapple Salsa Ingredients

Fresh Pineapple, Red Bell Pepper, Jalapeño Pepper, Red Onion, Limes, Cilantro, Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Pineapple Salsa Shopping List

If you’re pairing it with salmon or other fish (most varieties would be great with this salsa), plan on about 6 ounces of fish per person. If you want to make it exactly like I have here, you will also need a Cedar Grilling Plank. I got mine at Costco but you can find them at most grocery stores, Williams Sonoma, Amazon, etc.

Fresh pineapple is best for this salsa. Finely chop about 3/4 of a peeled, cored pineapple – about 3 cups.

Since this is salsa, it’s not so important that the amounts be super specific. If you have a little more or less of something, go for it. I knew I would use the leftover pineapple in a green smoothie but if you’re worried about it languishing in your fridge, throw it all in there.

One other note – this salsa is best eaten fresh or within 1 day. It doesn’t store all that well – unlike tomato salsa, this gets a little mushy as it ages. So you might want to grab a bag of blue corn chips (my favorite) for the extra.

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Honey Chipotle Baby Back Ribs

I have your weekend all planned out for you.

Honey Chipotle Baby Back Ribs.

Anything else you do or accomplish this weekend (I’m installing new flooring) will be secondary once you’ve had these ribs.

Actually, you’ll have plenty of time to spare this weekend because these ribs are a snap to make. They cook in the oven and are fairly fuss free. If you have a grill and want to finish the ribs outside, great. If not, slide them under the broiler like I did and you’ll still get plenty of crispy edges.

Yes there is a counter full of ingredients, but they’re all pretty simple things…most of which you probably already have in your pantry or refrigerator.

Here’s what you need:

Honey Chipotle Baby Back Ribs Ingredients

Baby Back Ribs, Ketchup, Honey, Soy Sauce/Tamari, Olive Oil, Worcestershire Sauce, Dijon Mustard, Apple Cider Vinegar, Chipotles in Adobo Sauce, Garlic, Dried Oregano, and Pepper.

Click here for a Honey Chipotle Baby Back Ribs Shopping List

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

First we make the sauce. Grab about 8-10 cloves of garlic, remove the skins, and finely chop or press with a garlic press.

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NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida

I’ve been having an ongoing conversation with my friend Cody about how much non-cooking stuff should be featured here at Idiot’s Kitchen. This is, after all, a cooking website/blog.

I’ve tried to keep most of the posts (with the exception of a few cats) cooking related but this was JUST TOO COOL not to share.

My family came to visit and we went to NASA!

We all know about the beaches and the theme parks and the sunshine and the good winter weather and all the other reasons people come to visit Florida but I am here to tell you, the one thing you might not think about doing is the one thing you really should do. Go to NASA!

The Kennedy Space Center at Merritt Island, Florida is on the east coast of Florida. It’s about an hour from Orlando and an easy drive from Tampa where I live.

When you go – notice I didn’t say if – plan to spend plenty of time there. We were there from about 10:30 am to 6 pm and didn’t come close to seeing everything.

First stop, Space Shuttle Atlantis!

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Yes, those are the actual fuel tanks for firing the shuttle into space. HUGE!

Space Shuttle Fuel Tanks

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