Best Bites – tacos, beef ribs, rice pudding and the demise of Kimchi Fried Rice

As usual, I’ve been chronicling my favorite dishes of the last month, aside from the special meals I’ve already posted about. It’s hard to resist when the camera is right on the table at home, or my cell phone handy elsewhere.  Although, truth be told, these days I use my cellphone, a Samsung Galaxy S4, at home for many photos, since it’s so much easier to share from the phone (I do love my Twitter!).

One of my favorites below is the Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers with Peanut Sauce, from Melissa Clark in the New York Times. I cheated by using purchased peanut sauce, so it took maybe all of 5 minutes to get it in the oven/broiler, and then I put it on a bed of Kimchi Fried Rice – a Trader Joe’s frozen item that I’ve just found out has been discontinued. I’m upset, as it was a staple in my freezer, and there really is no substitute. It’s almost the only Korean item TJ’s has, a category I’d think they’d be adding to rather than subtracting from, given the growing popularity of Korean food!

As a byproduct of my casting about for an alternative to the Kimchi Fried Rice, on I discovered many, many kinds of pre-cooked rice, white, brown, jasmine, sticky, organic, blends, you name it! And no salt or anything added. They come in little plastic tubs (often bpa free) and you microwave them. Wow. This seems nicer than the TJ’s cooked rice in pouches (limited kinds), or their frozen cooked rice which takes up too much space in my freezer. And, if you’re wondering, I do have a lot of raw rice at home, but my desire to have rice with a meal is often a rather last-minute thought, or I have already dirtied several pots and pans preparing other parts of the meal, and now I just need it to be quick and easy! A lot of the raw rice I have should probably be tossed, as it’s old – except for my Italian risotto rice. And even though I did just make rice pudding (see below), I really don’t crave it that often.

On the other hand, I was recently thrilled to find Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, from Ohio, at Whole Foods – I’ve been dying to try it, their flavors sound so good, and it did not disappoint. Very expensive, however, at $9.99 per pint. Yes, you read that right, per pint. I am loving both the Whiskey & Pecan and the Brown Butter Almond Brittle.

Note also the photo of ravioli with shaved cheese on top. In the background you’ll see my fancy schmancy new Peugeot  Annency Cheese Mill, which I read about in the New York Times, and promptly ordered from Amazon. Once it’s assembled (kind of a pain), it’s efficient. And you can remove the little tube that holds the cheese, put the included caps on top and bottom, and store it in the fridge. But when you go to use it again, and have to reassemble the whole mechanism…well, the jury is still out on whether I’m in love with this. But I was getting so lazy about constantly un-and re-wrapping and grating my own cheese, just buying whatever pre-grated or pre-shaved was on the market shelf. My old Mouli rotary grater bit the dust years ago; like the Peugeot, the Mouli had three discs for grating, shredding, and shaving, but it was kind of a pain, too. At least the Peugeot looks – I hate to say it – good on the counter and table.

The beef back ribs, those are something I tend to forget about, what with so much emphasis on pork ribs (heck, pork everything). But the beef ribs are delicious in their own way, especially napped with FunniBonz spicy BBQ Sauce, which I finally found at McCaffrey’s Market. (Remember their new FunniBonz BBQ Smokehouse in Robbinsville is open now.)

The pork tacos were a stand-in for the really good ones at La Costeñita up in Hillsborough. My review will be in the Packet on March 28. Mine were a quick thing, made with pork tenderloin rubbed with ancho chili powder and oil, then cooked in my stovetop grill pan. I think it’s hard to make pork tenderloin interesting, one of those too-lean cuts I have trouble with in the absence of plenty of spice or a nice jammy sauce. But, sure, it was good, although I’d rather have La Costeñita’s Mayan pork or pineapple pork any day.

Rice pudding happened because I had almost a quart of milk that needed to be used. So, even though I’m not real big on rice pudding, I figured why not. I used up some Goya Spanish rice, the milk (2%), and a box of coconut milk, plus a vanilla bean and cardamom pods. It was delicious when it was warm, not as great once chilled, although I could reheat it of course.

That’s most of it, except for a salmon dinner I enjoyed, buttermilk baked chicken (okay, but not as crispy as I’d have liked), a lemon parfait made of lemon curd and ersatz lemon mousse (i.e. a mix!).  I’m still working on the stash of lovely chicken soup from my freezer, each time I use some, I add the pasta or rice of my choice. And I was just desperately starving for a “real” lunch while doing errands the other day, so allowed myself to indulge in a crispy codfish sandwich from Wendy’s. And it wasn’t bad. Aside from a couple of visits to Five Guys in the last year or more, this is the only other fast food place I’ve been to, so am not feeling (too) guilty.

And that last photo – that’s a sneak peek of my upcoming April 4 In the Kitchen Column for the Packet on slow-roasted lamb (shoulder in this case). (Click on any photo to get the full-sized version, and then you can scroll through the rest.)

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