Mojo pork chops with Mango salsa

I've been into making a lot of Latin American inspired dishes lately and I was looking for a more authentic Cuban flavor to add to meat so I asked a friend who was born in Cuba and grew up in Miami for a recommendation. She told me to get Mojo marinade,the name rang a bell and when I found it at the store I actually remembered having used it years ago. It has a great garlic-citrus flavor that is good with chicken, pork or beef. I've been hooked on the Goya brand Mojo Criollo (which is gluten-free, and can be found at most grocery stores) and have been using it almost every other day for the past few weeks.
Tonight I marinated some boneless pork chops in the Mojo and then pan fried them. It was the first time I used the Mojo with pork and it was awesome. The pork came out tender, juicy and bursting with citrisy flavor. My first choice would have been to grill the chops, but with no grill available I chose the stove.
I served the pork chops with a mango salsa. This salsa is a great blend of sweet, spicy and sour. It added a bright summery look and taste to the dish and was a great compliment to the pork. Just add a little rice and and this makes an excellent Cuban inspired dinner for a warm summer night.

Mojo Marinated Pork chops

Pork chops
Mojo Criollo Marinate
2 Tbsp olive oil
Fresh Cracked pepper

• To marinate: place the pork chops in a bowl, Shake the Mojo well, and pour over enough to just cover the pork, cover and let it marinade for at least 45 minutes, (preferably several hours)

• Heat a frying pan to medium high with the olive oil, add the the marinated pork chops, sprinkle with pepper
• cook on one side for about 7-10 minutes.
• Flip the pork chops over and add a splash of the Mojo to the pan, and continue cooking the pork chops until cooked through, about another 5-8 minutes
• Serve and enjoy!

Mango Salsa

1 ripe mango- chopped into 1/4" pieces- skin and pit removed
1/2 medium sweet onion (or red onion) - chopped
one poblano chili pepper- (or 2 jalepeno peppers) chopped and seeds removed
@ 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro - chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
sea salt to taste
• Mix all ingredients together in a bowl
• cover and let the flavors mingle for about 30 minutes, serve, enjoy!


Roasted Garlic Salsa

The season for salsa is here! We got together with our neighbors for a Cinco de Mayo dinner last week. The following salsa along with an avocado salad, my black bean salsa, and roasted chicken over arroz amarillo (yellow rice), washed down by Jose Cuervo Margaritas was a great way to welcome the warm weather. Although our cuisine was more Cuban that Mexican, our little get together, which we held outside, inspired me to want to make this an annual event.
I've tried making salsa with raw garlic before, and it tastes great while it's fresh, but once it sits for about thirty minutes, the garlic slowly starts dominating the flavors. I wouldn't recommend any close conversations with anyone after eating raw garlic, it gives you just about the worst breath possible. Not to worry though, you can have a deliciously fresh salsa with garlic, without the dominating flavor by roasting it. There are a few different methods to roasting garlic, but the way that has been easiest for me is to simply put it in the broiler of my toaster oven, turning it over once. The result is a sweeter and milder garlic.

When I made this salsa the other day I knew that I couldn't make it as spicy as I normally would. I knew that my daughters, ages 3 and 18 months would be eating it, as well as my neighbors, who have stated several times that they can't eat spicy food. So instead of using a jalapeño pepper I choose to use a hungarian wax pepper. It was just a little hot, but after I removed the seeds and roasted the peppers (using the same method as the garlic) they were perfectly harmless. In the past I have made similar salsa recipes and blended them in the food processor, which works great, but since I had more time and wanted this salsa to present well I took the time to chop everything by hand using my chef's knife.

Roasted Garlic Salsa
4 cloves of roasted garlic- minced
2 hungarian wax peppers (or jalapeño) - roasted, skin and seeds removed and chopped

4 Roma tomatoes- chopped

2 small tomatillos- peeled and chopped

1/2 sweet Vidalia or red onion- chopped

1 tsp sugar

Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro- chopped
Juice of one lime


Peel the garlic cloves and cut the peppers on half length-wise removing the stem and seeds

Turn on the broiler of your oven or toaster oven, place the garlic and peppers (skin side up) on a pan and place under the broiler
Flip the garlic over after about a minute, careful not to let it burn, let it cook another minute or so on the other side, ideally it will be golden brown on both sides when done
Broil the peppers until the skin starts to turn brown and bubbly, let the peppers cool a minute and remove the skin
You can either chop all of the ingredients by hand, or simply cut them small enough to put them in the food processor. The resulting textures will be different, but the taste will be about the same. If chopping the ingredients everything should be between 1/8 and 1/4 inch in size, except for the garlic which should be minced
Squeeze the lime juice over the ingredients, careful not to get the seeds in the salsa (I like to squeeze it over a fork or sieve)
Stir (or mix in the processor for about 15 seconds) everything together, place in a covered bowl and set aside for about 20 minutes to let the flavors mingle
Serve with corn tortillas. ¡Comerse y disfrutar! (eat and enjoy!)


Baked Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Sugar

When my children were babies they both used to love sweet potatoes. I would cook huge batches, puree them and freeze in ice cube trays (perfect one ounce portions) to feed them over a few weeks. But lately neither of them will eat, or even try sweet potatoes. Knowing how good sweet potatoes can taste, and especially how good they are for you, I was determined to give it another shot tonight. I remembered how well they were complimented by cinnamon. I baked some sweet potatoes, then chopped them into cubes, tossed them with a bit of butter and cinnamon sugar and they kids loved them. My 3 year old even surprised me by saying "thank you for making this best dinner ever daddy" and then ran into the kitchen to give me a hug! Now that' a good review if I ever heard one. Of course you could get kids to eat just about anything by pouring sugar on it, but the sugar in this was minimum, there is enough natural sweetness in the potatoes that is brought out by the cinnamon and sugar. And lately I'm thrilled to see them eat anything besides cheese, cereal and pasta.

The cinnamon thing was good for the kids, but when it came to dinner for me and my wife we don't need cinnamon sugar to make our potatoes taste good, do we? You bet we did! I just couldn't look at the kids eating it that way and have some, and it really was delicious! I served our sweet potatoes with chicken breast with Jamaican spices, and sauteed spinach and onions (with a splash of sherry) and all of the flavors meshed extremely well.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Sugar

sweet potatoes
1 pat of butter per potato
aluminum foil
cinnamon sugar (mix 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon)

• Pre-heat the oven to 350º
• Wash sweet potatoes, wrap each potato individually in allunimum foil
• Bake for 45 minutes, or until potato becomes soft
• Remove potatoes from the oven, remove foil and cut in half to let cool for a few minutes
• For kids, cut into bite-sized cubes by making cuts horizontally and vertically (see picture to the right), or cut potato in half, lightly butter the halves and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, or any other toppings you may like.
• If making cubes toss with a bit of butter (to taste) and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, enjoy!


Where I've been lately...

The last few weeks have been hectic for me so I haven't been able to cook much or update this blog. My family and I just arrived back from a 11 day excursion up to my home town of Buffalo, NY. Besides visiting friends and relatives the main purpose of our trip was to help my parents get their house (which they've lived in for 37 years) in good enough condition to sell it this summer, no small task to be sure.

(photos:left: Me taking a break from breaking up concrete!, right, the yard before, yikes!)

My main project was to landscape the backyard. Once the small yard was mostly covered by a basketball court a large garage and carport. A few years back both were torn down leaving the yard a mess of broken and crumbled concrete. I decided on using a combination of river rocks and grass to create and define different areas. I had to break up a lot of the concrete by hand with a pick-axe and sledge hammer in order to make the ground suitable to grow grass. After 7 days of hitting, pounding, shoveling, raking, hoeing, and planting the yard finally took shape. It's hard for me to believe, but it actually turned out just like I planned it!

(photos: the finished yard!)

I know this post doesn't have anything to do with food, but I thought I'd account for my recent absence on this blog! I did get to eat some great Buffalo wings at the Anchor Bar,, the home of the original buffalo wing. We were able to eat wings there since they have a dedicated wing fryer, untainted by breaded foods like most restaurants. My mother and I (she's also gluten-free) split a bucket of 50 wings, and only left 13, not too bad...
If you want to try and make authentic Buffalo Wings at home, see my Buffalo Wings recipe posting here.

In addition to this trip I have been busy looking for career opportunities in Marketing, Advertising and Graphic Design in the Raleigh, NC area, My Marketing job at a real estate company was recently eliminated due to market conditions. But, don't worry I'm sure I'll find something soon, and I'll be back to post some more great gluten-free recipes in the next few days...