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Monday, February 27, 2012

Raspberry Honey Pulled Pork - a Crock Pot Experiment

I have long resisted the cooking appliance of modern convenience known as the Crock Pot.

Although I could go into a long philosophical rant on whether or not Crock Pot cooking is actually cooking, I also realize that many of my own creations deal with chopping things up into smaller pieces and throwing it together in a pan.

I mean - I just posted a caponata recipe last week. So I don't think my argument would carry much weight.

Instead, let me simply say that my mouth doesn't water much for dishes that are already watery.

By this, I mean that I do not care much for au jus, broths or dishes that involve considerable splashing while eating them. I prefer thicker, creamier, heart-arresting sauces or gravies.

Therefore, I've only used the Crock Pot once in the past 10-20 (or 38) years or so, and it only was only to cook a beef tongue, which I sliced up for tacos (really good if you can overcome the idea of tongue).

But a strange thing happened when blogger friend Amie Kanengeiser found herself on "New Day Cleveland" with a BBQ Pulled Chicken Recipe...

...and I thought the recipe looked good!

I suddenly had a change of heart and my mind declared, Maybe I should give the Crock Pot a second chance. Perhaps I can even put my own twist to a dish.

Later that same day, while working out with my trainer, an idea struck me....

Instead of using water or broth, maybe I can use fruit and honey for a less watery result!

So here are the ingredients I used for this Crock Pot Experiment:

  • 2 pounds pork shoulder
  • 1 onion
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries
  • honey

This is a rather simple set of ingredients...

...and it all looked easy enough...

...but, after a layer of chopped onion, I realized that the pork bone didn't fit... I had to cut it up in pieces.

And do you notice that potato slice at the bottom right corner of the pic?

I originally was going to include red skin potatoes to soak up the extra juice, but there was no room for them either.

But don't worry - if the dish got too water, I had a Plan B!

I crushed some raspberries with my hand and mixed them a bit with the pork, putting more onion on top...

...and then poured some local honey over it all.

Once that was completed, I set the Crock Pot to low...

...and let it cook...

...and cook.

After 4 hours, I checked it and it had cooked pretty well...

...but the pork still wasn't very tender... I decided to pull it apart and toss it back in for another hour...

...which actually made a huge difference.

But I still had to deal with all the raspberry-honey-au jus... I made a ton of Japanese sushi rice to pour it over...

...and it made me a happy guy at lunchtime.


Friday, February 24, 2012

I eatta lotta caponata - a recipe

Something you may or may not know about me is that I like to cook. And every so often, when the moment is right, I like to either concoct things or play off of old recipes and see how they turn out.

Granted, not all dishes come out spectacular but most of them are pretty down-right delicious.

And, after the caponata I just made, it was my father who suggested that I post my recipes to my blog, being that he loved the dish so.

Therefore, I'm going to do my best to be consistent with this, starting with this week's caponata.

Caponata is a sweet and sour eggplant dish that's served cold. There are many variations to it and I didn't have a particular version when I decided to make this dish. Instead, I knew the basics and went from there.

So, in this recipe, I do list a lot of ingredients, but you can add, alter or take out some. Just have fun with it!

Kristian's Caponata

2 large eggplants
olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic (could be more/less)
2 chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery
1 bell pepper (not green)
1 cup sliced black olives (canned or olive bar to taste)
1 cup sliced green olives (jarred or olive bar to taste)
capers (to taste)
1 can anchovies
1/4 cup chopped unsweetened dark chocolate (or cocoa powder)
2 chopped tomatoes
1 can grilled tomato (drained)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberry
1 cup pine nuts
rice vinegar
balsamic vinegar
nectar (or honey or sugar)

Helpful hint: Dice up the veggies to have them ready to cook up in stages, perhaps by putting the prepared veggies in bowls, etc.

Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour

Directions for the eggplant: Peel and cube both eggplants and toss them in a deep pan set a little higher than medium heat. Pour enough olive oil to lightly coat the eggplant and stir the eggplant every so often until the pieces are soft enough to pierce easily with a fork.
Transfer the eggplant to a large bowl and set aside

Directions for the rest of it: At medium heat, put the garlic and onions in the same deep pan, followed by the can of anchovies (the anchovies will eventually dissolve completely in the heat, but they'll give the onions flavor).
Stir around so that the onions and garlic are coated and set it saute' while covered.
After two minutes or so, you can add the chopped celery and chopped pepper - always stirring a bit and covering.
Let it saute' a few minutes and then begin adding the chopped tomatoes, the canned tomatoes, the chocolate, the raisins and cranberries. Cover and let saute' a few more minutes.
When it appears that the tomatoes have cooked some, you can add all the other ingredients: capers, black and green olives, and pine nuts.
Add back in the eggplant.
Stir a bit and add about 1/4 cup of rice vinegar, a splash of balsamic and a little sugar or nectar (or honey) to taste.

Once it begins simmering again, you can lower the heat and leave uncovered to burn off the excess liquid.

Once cooled, package away and let chill in the fridge for at least a few hours (it will taste better yet after a day or two). You can even add grated cheese, if desired.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

11 Things About Me (aka "Do you really want to know this stuff?")

Crystal of the blog Eat*Drink*Cleveland has tagged me in a blogger's challenge where each tagged person (such as myself) is supposed to write 11 facts about him(or her)self and then also answer some questions proposed by the tagger.

Being that this sounds fun to me, I am happily accepting this challenge to present you with information about myself that will probably not benefit you in any shape or form.

With this in mind, I will do my best to make each of these 11 things somewhat interesting.

Here goes...

1.) I can be rebellious/mischievous. By this, I mean that there is something deep, deep, deeeeep inside of me that occasionally enjoys breaking the mold or shaking the ant farm or just disturbing the peace.

Honestly, these thoughts/drives are basically harmless, like unleashing a herd of Yorkshire Terriers in a nursing home to watch the chaos unfold. I actually haven't done this because I've been responsible enough to think this through and realize that a near-sighted senior citizen could easily mistaken a Yorkie for an oversized rat and bash it with a cane.

So this is on hold...for now.

2.) I speak Italian. Thanks to a letter I sent out in English and broken Italian to every Italian household with the same surname (in the towns my family came from), I've managed to reconnect with dozens of cousins throughout Italy who speak very little English.

As a result, I've learned the Italian language and eventually moved to Italy (2002-2003) to teach English and better understand the Italian culture.

This entire experience was obviously life-changing and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

3.) I love the New Age stuff!

I'm intrigued by just about everything paranormal: ghosts, UFO's, all types of divination (astrology, numerology, palmistry, etc.).

I would stay a night in a haunted house. I would go to a psychic fair (and I have). I also have a general understanding of astrological charts... my own.

And, in case you are wondering, I'm Capricorn Sun, Moon and Rising...which is probably why I haven't released those Yorkies mentioned in #1.

Also, in case you're still's Uranus' placement in my 9th house (with an opposition to Mars in the 3rd and a square to my Ascendent) that is probably giving me the crazy Yorkie idea (and many others that I live with on a daily basis).

4.) My biggest fear is that I'll do more bad than good in this lifetime (notice the implication of reincarnation...please re-read #3).

Now, I honestly don't think I'm a bad person, but there's this drive to be a benefit to humanity in one form or another.

Another way to say this is that I want to feel that the world is a better place because I am here.

5.) I love to explore!

The idea of traveling, interacting with people, trying new dishes, learning traditions/customs, and seeing new sites energizes me!

If I had a career that involved traveling (and exploring and eating and writing!!), it would be a personal heaven of mine.

For the time being, I am able to do this via Ohio Festival blogging.

6.) I've written and illustrated a children's book. This might seem to you like a self-promotional point where I shamelessly try to get you to buy my children's book at ...

...and it is.

But you should click on the link and consider the purchase because it's a great, great book and it would help me feel better about point #4.

7.) My favorite topics to discuss are food, travel, sex and religion.

In fact, the title of my thesis, which is a collection of short stories for my Creative Writing MFA, is "Food, Sex and the Afterlife: Stories from the Things We Think About."

8.) While traveling, I often stop at gas stations or grocery stores and look for interesting potato chip flavors.

It's true!

9.) I am certain that I've been to the more festivals in one year (103) than anyone...ever!

I've contacted Guinness about this already and they've denied me the record. Not that there is a record. But they just don't have room in the book.

10.) I believe that your life is what you make of it.

11.) I want to be on TV this year (and I'm going to re-read point #10 and help make it so)!

Of course, this wish is on the basis that it's due to an accomplishment and not involved with any police blotter.


1. What is the most adventurous thing you have ever eaten?

Hmm...I've eaten a lot of weird stuff like chicken feet, cow tongue/heart...

...and insect stuff.

But for this question, I'll answer jellyfish (both in pickled versions and in broth).

2. What would your last meal be if you had a say in it?

Sushi, raw oysters, seared scallops, coconut shrimp and caramel pie. Oh heaven!

If I have to pic only one thing, then I'll do sushi.

3. What is your all time guilty pleasure food?

Chips. Love chips. Especially BBQ.

4. What are you currently listening to?

I've downloaded a bunch of free mps off of Amazon and, so it's a blend of music (typically indie - Wye Oak, Midlake, Arcade Fire). But I listen to a lot of post-rock music like Explosions in the Sky and This Will Destroy You. It's music that allows me to think while on the road and it mellows me out.

5. What is your favorite sport (to play, watch, or both)?

I did enjoy watching the Demolition Derby at the Medina County Fair. Usually, if there are explosions or food (wrestling varieties, perhaps?), I could possibly enjoy it.

Oh - I would like to start up some racquetball!

6. One thing you are dying to try (this could be anything)

I would like to para sail. I would also LOVE to be in one of those gravity-free chambers that the astronauts get to float around inside.

7. Fill in the blank: Food makes me _____


8. If you could have dinner with just one person, dead or alive, who would it be?

Nice question. Hmm. I guess I would pick one of my grandfathers. If I had to pick at this very moment, it would be my paternal grandfather. But it's very close, so I'm sure that decision would waver from time to time.

9. What is your "go to" restaurant for taking out of towners?

Pacific East. I just love it so.

10. What quote sums up your life right now?

I like this quote...

"In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."

-Albert Camus

11. What is your favorite holiday?

Halloween. Just fun fun fun fun FUN! And I love the spooky, scary stuff.


Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it.

I would like to thank Crystal for the tag so that I could take part in this challenge.

Furthermore, I would like to act out a visual tag.

By this, I mean that, if you are reading this and you haven't yet done this on your blog, you are now tagged.

Ha! Take that, Mr. or Ms. Curious Cat! :-)

Peace, Love and Chicken Grease!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Regrettable Tour Through My Photo Files (aka "a post you shouldn't read or write while hungry")

Lord knows why I even bother going through photos on my computer when I'm hungry, especially since I know the albums are rigged with images of various food items that I've consumed.

Some of these photos were initially taken for documentation...

...such as the lasagna experiment where I used bechamel sauce, meat, and zucchini slices instead of noodles...

...or the grilled cheese experiment with honey inside, three cheeses (double cream brie, Gouda, Gorgonzola) and three fruits (fresh fig, strawberry, pear)...

...that cooked to perfection (I need to do this again!).

Of course, many photos were taken during trips to show people back home... these three types of smørrebrød (herring, liver/beets, pickles/cabbage?) in Denmark...

...a real Danish danish (also in Denmark)...

...a Sicilian cremestick in Cefalu'...

...and a Sicilian cassatella (like a mini-cassata).

Then there are the bragging photos.

These are the photos that I took with my phone and sent to friends and/or family, knowing full well that they couldn't enjoy the tasty delights before me (of course, now they only remain on my computer to torment me as well...karma's a bitch, I guess).

Included in this category of pics...

...are the delicious scallop tacos (with avocado, pineapple and cream sauce) at the place in Albuquerque, NM...

...the overly stacked BLT at Sunday's Plus in Amherst, Ohio...

...the delicious pimiento cheese cheeseburger at Hurst Discount Drug in Bardstown, KY...

...and the incredible creme-filled donut at Hadorn's (also in Bardstown).

And let's not forget the multitudes of photos I have of sushi...

...which show that I have an obvious problem.

And, finally, there are those pictures of foods you remember from your childhood that you wish were still around and then your uncle finds the tools necessary (in an antique store) for you to bring those memories back again... this Easter lamb cake with zombie bunny jellies!

Thanks again, Uncle Dave!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fresh Street Japanese Carnival at Noodlecat

About a week or two ago, Columbus Food Adventure's Bethia Woolf was kind enough to let me know of a special Cleveland/Columbus merging event where the chefs of the Columbus food truck Fresh Street were coming up to Jonathon Sawyer's Noodlecat (Cleveland) to put on a Brick & Mortar pop-up Japanese Carnival.

With the promise of takoyaki and okonomiyaki crepes, we didn't have to think long before deciding to go. We purchased our tickets, drove off to Cleveland...

...and were happy to see Chef Sawyer and blogger Rachel grilling out front in proper carnival attire.

And, fortunately for us, he wasn't the only one with accessory options... there were free props on the bar, which were available to all.

So we grabbed a mask...

...found a seat with the other diners...

...and found food at various stations around the restaurant.

I think the main attraction for us was the crepe table...

...where various crepes were made with skill and care.

Julia and I shared both a salmon/cream cheese crepe and a bacon okonomiyaki crepe...

...which came complete with Japanese mayo and BBQ sauce.

Being that I ordered a second one of the okonomiyaki crepe...

...I would say it was my personal favorite.

I mean - look at that yumminess!

But there were plenty of other foods to eat, such as...


...chicken and green onion...



...(fabulous!) pork cheeks...

...okra (which coincidentally matches Julia's top)...

...and takoyaki (octopus dipped in batter and fried)....

...plenty of takoyaki!

As we continued to gorge, we danced in our seats to the interesting music selection (which included the Rocky Horror Picture Show's "Time Warp") and took in the pleasant experience.

Both of us felt that everyone involved with the event was warm, helpful and friendly. Also, it was great that Columbus Food Adventures brought up some people from Columbus to attend the event as well.

That Cleveland/Columbus comradery made me dance (and eat) even more.

After nearly two hours of eating, we knew there were other dishes still not prepared, such as the pork tongue, beef tongue, pork belly and short rib, but we had eaten too much and too quickly with only enough space...

...for a fruit cup with tapioca, gelatin, red bean paste and whipping cream...

...and a cotton candy finish.

We eventually lifted from our seats and left the Noodlecat... a fat, happy cats.