Made-up Dinner


I went to the Pike Place Market today to get stuff for dinner. It’s one of those things that despite the fact that I live in Seattle, and often think I should, I rarely do. When I actually take the time to go, it’s kind of exciting. Especially when I also pop into Sur La Table and browse at all the cool gadgets. Today I got this very cool silicone madeleine cookie sheet… so I guess I’ll be baking again tomorrow.

Le Creuset 9-c. Cook 'n Bake Flexible Madeleine Mold, Flame

But, I digress. I was supposed to be talking about dinner. But, see, the problem with today was that every time I started thinking about what I wanted to make for dinner, I’d get side-tracked. So, by the time I made it downtown, I still had no clue what I wanted to cook tonight. I figured maybe something would inspire me as I wandered around.

So, I browsed and perused, and almost bought a few things but didn’t. Then I got some pork chops. It was a start. I was leaning at that point toward making my own perogies, so I stopped in and bought some yummy looking Yukon Golds. And the baby tomatoes looked good, so I got some of those too. And some lemons, just in case (you can never have too many lemons). Oh, and the tulips were nice, so I picked up some of those as well. And then I went home and realized that pork chops, 2 lemons, tomatoes and potatoes weren’t really going to be a good dinner.

I started looking through some of my cookbooks, I surfed around some to see if something would inspire, but two hours later, I still didn’t have a plan. Time was running out. I needed to do something. So, I popped into the kitchen to see what I could come up with. I had bought some annatto several weeks ago just because of it’s gorgeous brick-red color.

That seemed like a good start. Then, before you know it, I had a whole plan. I’d toast up some cumin with the annatto and make a nice rub for the chops. That set me on a slightly Oaxacan theme. I’d make a salsa from the tomatoes, using up the remaining chilies I had in the fridge. And the potatoes could become Papas Fritas. For a side, I had some frozen Salsa Verde which would be delicious mixed in with the can of pinto beans that I had in the pantry. Plus, I had happened to buy some cojita over the weekend, which would top it all beautifully. Or, so I hoped. I really had no idea because I’d never cooked with annatto before, I wasn’t going off of any recipes and I rarely cook meat. However, fingers crossed, I started whipping it up. And wow! It was delicious. I probably should have run out to get some cilantro… but all in all, it was a fantastic dinner.

Annatto-Rubbed Pork Chops with Salsa
2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoon annatto
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
2 pork chops

Dry roast the cumin seeds in a small skillet over high heat. They will start to pop and brown. Remove from heat. Grind with a mortar and pestle. Reserve some for the salsa. Leave the rest of the cumin in the mortar, and add the annatto seeds, and pound until they are ground. This may take a little while.

In a shallow dish, add the annatto/cumin mixture and the salt and mix. Add the lime juice and mix. If the pork chops are particularly lean, add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the mixture. Drench the pork chops in the mixture on both sides. Shake a bit more salt on for good measure. Wrap them up, and let them sit for about an hour. This is a good time to make the salsa.

Heat a heavy skillet over high heat for about 2 minutes. Once hot, toss in the chops and cook on one side for 1 minute. Flip and repeat on the other side. Reduce heat to medium, flip back over and cook another 5 minutes, or until the center is no longer pink. Don’t over cook them or they will be dry and tough! Top with salsa, grate a little cojita on the top and serve.

A Quick Salsa
A splash of olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (from above)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 small Thai peppers (or other hot pepper), chopped and seeded
5 small red and yellow sweet peppers, chopped & seeded
5 small tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

In a small skillet, add the olive oil, garlic, shallot, onion, rosemary, cumin and Thai chilies and saute just until the onions start to get a little translucent, about a minute or two. Remove from heat, and transfer to a small bowl. Add the sweet peppers, tomatoes and lime juice (and cilantro, which I didn’t have!). Season to taste. Allow it to sit at least 15 minutes before serving.

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0 thoughts on “Made-up Dinner

  1. In fact, I didn’t know what annatto was and did a search. It’s usually used in food colouring, but how does it taste? Does it have a distinctive flavour? Curious to know 🙂

  2. It’s kind of one of those flavors that’s hard to describe. The flavor is pretty subtle, and probably most similar to saffron. Annatto is quite fragrent, kind of like earthy-lemon, although it looses some of that in the cooking. A touch on the bitter side, and even a tiny bit like anisette.

    I didn’t try soaking it in oil, which is supposed to release more of the flavors. I think I’ll give that a shot next time.

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