Thai Pork and Cabbage Salad

 
Sriracha, known to me as rooster sauce, has scared me for years.  When placed on our family dinner table, it was always situated as far away from me as possible. I knew that rooster sauce was spicy, and I knew that I was not ready to handle it.
 
Well, imagine my own surprise when I was shopping in the grocery store many years later and felt the sudden urge to buy sriracha sauce.  The big bottle that was cheaper per ounce than the smaller bottle even.  I began by slowly adding a few drops to dishes like Pad Thai, but I was not fully utilizing that spice.  Then suddenly I got the urge to put some hot sauce in my scrambled eggs (is it normal for someone to be surprised by themselves so often?).  It was delicious.  I kept adding more, and I think I may now officially be a fan of spice.
 
This dish is perfect for anyone on the spice spectrum: a spice newbie, a spice hater, or a spice lover.  Adjust your rooster sauce to taste.  The crunchy cabbage, the browned pork, and the cool cucumber all come together in a quick meal that is sure to satisfy all.  I highly suggest surprising yourself and trying a lot of sriracha sauce.
 
THAI PORK AND CABBAGE SALAD
Adapted from The Sweets Life
 
INGREDIENTS
 
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
Salt and pepper
1 small head cabbage, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
Sriracha sauce, to taste
1 cucumber, quartered and sliced
Honey roasted peanuts, for topping
Fresh torn mint, for topping
 
DIRECTIONS
 
Heat a large wok over medium-high heat.  Brown pork, seasoned with salt and pepper, until cooked through.  Drain and set aside.  Keep some of the grease in the pan still.
 
Put wok back over medium-high heat.  Cook cabbage, seasoned with salt, until slightly cooked but still crunchy, 4-5 minutes.  Return ground pork to pan.  Add fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, and sriracha.  Cook until liquid has mostly evaporated, 3-5 minutes.  
 
Season cucumber slices with salt.  Mix cucumber into salad.  Transfer to a serving bowl or plates and top with peanuts and mint.
 
Serves 3-4 as a man course.

Roasted Pear and Cabbage Salad

Let’s talk about the best time of the year.  Sure, summer is great because you can get vacation from school (if you’re lucky), and you hit the beaches.   But then you sweat when you go outside- no thank you.  Spring brings pretty flours and fresh produce.  And spring break.  Flowers are overrated.  My favorite time of year is the beginning of fall and the early transition into winter.
I love this time of year.  Starting about mid-October, I begin to get that feeling.  I can’t describe it exactly, but it’s that feeling that comes with the holidays coming up.   I love all the holiday cheer and preparation.  When I walk into Walmart and see Halloween treats in September and Christmas cheer in October, I don’t complain.  Sometimes when I am driving or walking outside, and I see decorations and multicolored leaves, I just feel happy.  I soak it all up, cherishing it while it lasts.  And then the rest of the year I whine about how I wish it was fall or winter.
This salad is a simple way to utilize the produce of the season.  Sweet pear, heart cabbage, creamy cheese, and crunchy nuts.  So simple but so good and much more interesting that your typical salad with lettuce and veggies.  Healthy for you but still has great flavor.  This is a super winter salad right here.  Enjoy this time of year with me and put this on the schedule for lunch or dinner.
ROASTED PEAR AND CABBAGE SALAD
Slightly Adapted from The Sweets Life
INGREDIENTS

1 small head cabbage, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt
2 brown pears, chopped
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1/3-1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
2 ounces cashews

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Toss cabbage with olive oil.  Spread cabbage and pears on a rimmed baking sheet and season with a pinch of salt.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning at least once.  Stir in white balsamic vinegar (transfer to bowl or skillet if baking sheet won’t hold liquid).  Sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles and cashews.

Serves 2-3

Mou Shu Pork

 

Chinese take out is a great, quick option for dinner if you know a place that has great Chinese food.  Unfortunately, my local go-to place back home was bought by new managers several years ago, and the food has never been quite as good since. Then, I went to college, and I hit the jackpot: a local Chinese restaurant within walking distance from my dorm.  It was cheap and served great food.  And once I moved off campus, I found out that they delivered for free.  Basically, this place is too good to be true.  As graduation date approached, I began to panic for several reasons, one being: where am I going to get good Chinese food?!
I decided to allay my anxiety by learning how to cook take out food at home.  I have already made Chicken and Broccoli, a takeout favorite from my childhood, so I decided to make a dish I began to love recently: mou shu pork.  Basically, it’s a Chinese version of a taco for those who have never heard of it before.  It has crispy, juicy pork with cabbage, egg, and mushrooms.  As with many Asian recipes, have everything chopped, marinated, and ready to go when you start cooking on the stove.  Cooking moves pretty fast- if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
And I don’t care that that Ferris Bueller reference only half made sense.  Go make this mou shu.  And then watch Ferris Bueller.

MOU SHU PORK
INGREDIENTS

For the Pork:
1 pound boneless pork loin
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil

For the Mou Shu:
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cloves garlic, minced
16 medium mushrooms, sliced
1 medium head cabbage, coarsely chopped*
1 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1-2 teaspoons water
1/4 cup chicken stock
3 green onions, chopped

For Serving:
12-15 Mandarin pancakes (can substitute corn tortillas)

DIRECTIONS

For the Pork:
Cut the pork loin into thin strips.  In a large bowl, combine pork, cornstarch, soy sauce, salt, pepper, sugar, and sesame oil.  Toss to combine.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the Mou Shu:
Meanwhile, heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Season egg with salt and pepper.  Pour egg into pan.  Rotate pan to ensure egg coats the entire surface.  Fry until firm, turning once.  Remove egg from pan and cut into strips.

Remove pork from the fridge.  Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat.  Add 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil.  Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.  Add pork and cook until no longer pink.  Add cabbage and mushrooms.  Add remaining tablespoon of sesame oil and toss to coat.  Cook for an additional 8-12 minutes, until cabbage and mushrooms are cooked.  Add chicken stock to de-glaze pan and let cook for 1 minute.   In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, soy sauce, and water.  Stir mixture into pan.  Add green onions and egg.  Toss and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Serve mou shu pork over Mandarin pancakes.  Serves 4-5.

*You can also substitute 3-4 cups chopped Brussels sprouts (I actually prefer this).

Chlopski Posilek

This is a Polish dish that translates to “peasant’s meal”, the poor man’s meal in Poland back in the day. All you need for this authentic Polish cuisine is a few ingredients: sausage (or some form of cured meat), cabbage, and onion.  Done.  You have a delicious, filling meal at a low cost.  Perfect for the working farmer a hundred years ago and perfect for a office worker in 2012.

The perfect accompaniment to this dish is some piergoi like I did for our New Year’s Day dinner (recipe forthcoming, so look out for it!)
CHLOPSKI POSILEK
From Cinnamon Freud
INGREDIENTS
5-6 links kielbasa
1 head cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 onion, chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
DIRECTIONS
In a large skillet place kielbasa in a single layer.  Fill skillet with water until the sausages are halfway covered.  Cook over medium-high heat for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.  Remove sausage and let cool.  Chop coarsely.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add sausage and cook for 5-10 minutes, until sausage is cooked through.  Add onion, cabbage, salt, and pepper.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is cooked through.
Serves 5-6.