What’s in a name and spicy barbacoa beef tacos with cabbage and jalapeno-cilantro aioli

I think I can safely say that most people know their drugs by the most common brand or generic names (i.e., Tylenol, Motrin, Sudafed, Vicodin, levothyroxine, etc).  But did you know that medications actually have not two, but three names?  Yes.  That’s right.  THREE.

If it isn’t already hard enough to remember the names of the brand and generic names, let alone pronouncing the generic names (i.e., acridinyl anisidide… try saying that 5 times).  But there is actually a third name just to confuse you even more. Each drug has a brand name (or proprietary name), generic name (or non-proprietary name), and lastly, the chemical name.

The chemical names are derived from rules established by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).  The rules allow chemists and scientists to name it so that any other chemists/scientists can identify the structure based on the chemical name.  To simplify the chemical name is where the generic name comes into the picture.  So when a drug manufacturer develops a new drug, they start with the chemical name, give it a generic name, and then a brand name.

Check this:

Chemical name: 1-[4-ethoxy-3-(6,7-dihydro-1-methyl-
7-oxo-3-propyl-1H-pyrazolo[4,3-d]pyrimidin-5-yl)
phenylsulfonyl]-4-methylpiperazine
Generic name: Sildenafil citrate
Brand name: Viagra

Such a long and hard chemical name, right?  No pun intended.  Okay, maybe just a little bit.  Heehee :)

This is an interesting lesson, right?  Or maybe not?  I can geek out on this stuff all day, which is probably a good thing being a pharmacist and all.

Alright, enough of the boring stuff.  Let’s get to the good stuff!…

Barbacoa Beef Tacos with Cabbage and Jalapeno-Cilantro Aioli (adapted from Food.People.Want)

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons lime juice
4 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt or 2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil oil
4 pounds boneless chuck roast, excess fat removed
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
4 bay leaves
Jalapeno-Cilantro Aioli
Cabbage
Warm tortillas

Preheat the oven to 275°.

Combine the apple cider vinegar, lime juice, chipotle chiles WITH adobo sauce, garlic cloves, cumin, oregano, clove, black pepper and salt in the bowl of a food processor or blender and puree until completely smooth. Set aside.

Dry the roast all over with paper towels, cut away any excess fat and slice the meat into 4 evenly sized pieces. Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a very large, oven-proof pot set over high heat. Working in batches, sear the beef on all sides until deeply browned, about 10 minutes. [You don't want to sear all the meat at one time or else it will steam rather than sear.  You want the sear.]

Add the chicken stock first to “deglaze” the caramelized bits at the bottom of the pot, and stir for one minute.  Then add the chile puree and bay leaves to the pot and stir until the beef is well-coated, and bring to a boil.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, about 5 minutes, and then cover the lid with tin foil and add the lid to create a very tight seal. [This is to ensure that the moisture doesn't escape too quickly during the long braising process.]  Place the pot in the oven and braise the meat for 5-6 hours, removing the lid during the last hour or so to allow the simmering liquid to reduce slightly.

Allow the beef to cool slightly, spoon off any easily removable fat from the braising liquid and then use two forks to pull/shred the beef into bite size pieces.

Serve spooned onto warm corn tortillas with cabbage and drizzled with some jalapeno-cilantro aioli, or your favorite taco toppings.

Makes about 20 tacos.

Rice-less Spicy Tuna “Handrolls”

Homemade spicy tuna handrolls are our go-to meals when we feel like having sushi.  We have a great fishmonger, Stan, that sets aside fresh ahi tuna for us.  He’s so convincing, too, because when we’re not there for fish, he’ll tell what he has in fresh that day, and we immediately order a pound or two.  Like last weekend when we were there specifically for ribs, and walked out with five pounds of ribs and one pound of ahi tuna.  We even told ourselves in the car on our way to the market that we were only there for ribs, and nothing more.  If only we weren’t so easily convinced…

It had been some time since we had spicy tuna sushi, and we were craving sushi that day, too.  So it really worked out in our favor.  The only problem was that I was too lazy to make rice.  I know.  What in the hell kind of Asian am I?!  I’m questioning myself, too, as I type this sentence.  I know it’s not hard, but I was too lazy to pick myself off the couch to make rice, and by the time I looked up at the clock, it was already nearing 1 p.m.  And I didn’t want to eat too late because we had plans to eat yummy things for dinner.  So, I had to forego the rice :(

However, on the flip side of this, I got to eat more of the spicy tuna “handrolls” because it was guilt-free eating without all the carbs! :)

Rice-less Spicy Tuna “Handrolls”

1 pound sushi grade fresh ahi tuna, cut into 1/2 inch dices
1/4 cup flying fish roe
2 stalks of green onion, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce, plus more to adjust level of spiciness
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Salt, to taste

Nori seaweed sheets, cut into 4″x 3″ strips

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the salt and mix well. Add more Sriracha sauce if you prefer it to be more spicy, or add less to begin with if you like it less spicy. Mix well again. Adjust seasoning with salt to your liking.

Spoon spicy tuna mixture into the middle of each Nori strip, and enjoy! :)

Super Duper Vegan Chili

We’ve been having mad cravings for vegan chili as the weather is still cool for this time of the year.  The weather has actually been really wacky… lots of rain, and cold days.  The weather is usually in the 80s this time of year, but today it’s only reached a high of 65.  I’m not complaining.  At all.  Trust me.  The month of May just means the summer is around the corner, which means hot summer months.  Ugh.  Such a drag.  So as much as I would like some days in the high 70s/low 80s, I’m going to enjoy this weather now because it’s gonna get hot in herrre.  Okay, now I’m complaining.

We decided to take advantage of today’s weather to make some spicy vegan chili to satiate our cravings.  And satiate it did!  I would love to eat this chili all year around, but the thought of cooking and eating it during the summer when the temperatures can range anywhere from 100-110 degrees F seems torturous. In fact, anything involving the burners or the oven inside the house during the summer heat sounds unpleasant.

Interestingly, I enjoy this chili more than I do a hearty and meaty chili! Don’t get me wrong, I’m a total carnivore. In fact, my initial thought before I tried this chili for the first time was how vegan chili could taste better than a meaty chili? Well, let me tell you, I was completely blown away after my first bowl. The texture of the “ground meat” fooled me, and the beans, vegetables, and spices were so flavorful that I didn’t need or miss the meat.  This chili even fooled my dad who says no one can trick him with vegan meat products.  Hah!  Take that, dad!

This chili is truly the best prescription for the soul.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onions, diced
1 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
4 large garlic clovies, minced
2 large jalapeno peppers, minced
1 large serrano pepper, minced
12 ounces textured vegetable protein (aka, original Smart Ground)
1 cups water
1 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes
1 cans (15 ounces each) red kidney beans, drained
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, drained
3 medium sized fresh tomatoes, chopped
1.5 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large dutch oven, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and onions, and saute for five minutes or until the onions are translucent.

Add the textured vegetable protein and water, cook for 5 minutes, while stirring occasionally. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for another five minutes. Reduce the heat to a medium to medium-low (depending on your burners), and let it “stew”, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes (or until the bell peppers are tender).

Remove from heat and serve with your favorite toppings!

Roasted Sweet Potato Cube Skewers with a Cilantro-Jalapeno Aioli Dip

roasted sweet potato, sweet potato, cubed sweet potato, roasted sweet potato skewers, sweet potato skewers

My first introduction to fine dining (which I wouldn’t call fine dining anymore nowadays) was when my parents took us to Max’s Bistro when I was in high school.  It was for no special occasion, but to try this restaurant that had just opened up, which was trying to introduce this town to “California cuisine.”  It was one of the only “upscale” restaurants that I could recall at that time when I was younger.  So we were all very excited.  We even got all dressed up for this non-special, special occasion.  We salivated as we looked over the menu.  I saw sweet potato fries with a cilantro-jalapeno aioli and begged my parents to order it.  They were a little reluctant partially because they aren’t too keen on appetizers, but also because the price tag on the dishes were a little high at that point in time for the city we live in.  But hellooooo?!  Fried sweet potatoes?!… Yes, please!  Anything with the word fries was magic to my ears (and it still is!).

Mmmmm.  Sweet potato french fries.  I can still recall how amazing it was the first time I tried a sweet potato fry… crispy panko coating on the outside, and just the right about of tenderness on the inside.  It was perfect.  But then dip it into that aioli, and oooooooh weeeeeee!  It was 100 times even more amazing.  The aioli was tangy, cilantro-y, and had just the right amount of heat from the cilantro.  Yum.  Unfortunately, the only thing that impressed us that night was the sweet potato fries, and dessert.

Coming from a family history of the restaurant business, I grew up with the mantra of “the customer is always right.”  Service.  It’s a really important part of any business dealing with customer relations.  In my humble opinion, if the service sucks, then the food sucks.  I know the logic may seem oversimplified to some, but it can really ruin the mood of a great meal.  If the entree costs more than $25, I expect to be wined and dined by the wait staff.  And of course, the service that night was snooty and unattenative, which completely turned my parents off.  My dad actually vowed never to go back to the restaurant because of the poor service, and he still hasn’t to this day.

I have found myself at the restaurant a few times here and there over the years for business and pleasure, and find the food a bit of a hit or miss.  But it’s those sweet potato fries and the aioli that I crave.  So I did what any other foodie would do, and that was to recreate one of my favorite appetizers.  But in a more healthy matter.  I still haven’t been able to bring myself to fry anything in the house.  I’m afraid of the smell of fried oil lingering around the house for days.  So I’d rather not.  But trust me, I really want to fry foods like fries and chicken.  I’ve tried the oven-“fried” sweet potato fries, but we weren’t a big fan of them.

My solution… roasted sweet potato cubes.

Roasted Sweet Potato Cube Skewers with a Cilantro-Jalapeno Aioli Dip

3 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled
Extra virgin olive oil
Paprika
Salt and pepper
Skewers

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Dice the potatoes into 1 inch cubes.   Place the cubes in a medium sized bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and season with paprika, salt and pepper.   Toss with hands to coat evenly.  Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.   Roast for about 30 minutes, or until tender, but slightly crispy in the outside.   Stir the sweet potatoes once or twice during roasting.   Remove from oven, and allow to cool just enough to be easily handled.  Skewer the cubes, and enjoy with your favorite dip!

Cilantro-Jalapeno Aioli

1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise (we really like the Trader’s Joe brand)
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 jalapeno chiles, seeded (if you like it less spicy) and chopped
Juice of one lime, plus more to taste
Salt, to taste

In a food processor, combine the mayonnaise, cilantro, and jalapeno; pulse until smooth. Remove the mayonnaise and pour into a bowl. Add half of lime juice and salt, to taste. If you like it more citrusy, add more lime juice, which is how we like it. Cover and refrigerate for one hour before serving to allow all the flavors to develop. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.

This is the perfect prescription for sweet potato fries, or with fish or shrimp tacos.

Makes about 1 cup of aioli.

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