Cook’s Corner

Cook’s Corner: Beer-simmered pork gives tacos a smoky, spicy kick


Main course

Pork Tinga Tacos with Potatoes, Avocado and Fresh Cheese

1/2 pounds lean, boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil

1/2 cup Mexican lager, such as Bohemia

1 pound (about 5 medium) red-skinned potatoes, quartered

1 large white onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes with their juices (preferably fire-roasted)

1 cup chipotle salsa

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Kosher salt

1/2 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or farmers cheese

1 ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from skin and diced

Warm corn tortillas

Pat pork dry with paper towel. Heat the oil in a large, nonstick skillet until hot. Add the pork in a single, uncrowded layer. Cook, turning, until brown on all sides, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove meat from skillet, then pour in beer and boil gently while scraping up all the browned bits.

Put browned pork and pan juices into a slow cooker. Add the potatoes. Combine the onion, tomatoes, salsa, Worcestershire and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix well. Scrape the mixture into the slow cooker and stir to mix thoroughly. Cook for 6 hours at the highest temperature. After 6 hours, gently stir the tinga. If it seems really thick, add a little water. Taste and season with salt.

Serve the pork tinga in a large bowl, sprinkle with fresh cheese and diced avocado. Pass warm tortillas for making tacos.

To cook in a Dutch oven, prepare as above but instead of placing in slow cooker bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring, then bake about two hours at 350 degrees, adding water occasionally if needed. Makes six servings.

Per serving: 343 calories (29 percent from fat), 11 g fat (2.3 g saturated, 4.8 g monounsaturated), 67 mg cholesterol, 32 g protein, 28.5 g carbohydrate, 5.8 g fiber, 751 mg sodium.

Source: Adapted by Linda Cicero for Cook’s Corner from a recipe by Bohemia beer.

Main course

The Imam Fainted (Turkish Stuffed Eggplant)

4 individual size eggplants

1/2 cup canola oil


1/2 cup pine nuts

1 cup chopped white onion

1 cup chopped green pepper

1/2 tablespoon minced fresh garlic

2 medium tomatoes, divided

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Peel alternating strips of skin lengthwise from each eggplant to give a striped effect; this also helps the eggplant absorb flavors. Leave whole. Sprinkle with salt and let stand in colander about 20 minutes. Rinse with cold water, then dry with paper towels.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and brown the eggplants on all sides until nicely colored. Cut an opening slit in each eggplant and scoop out most of the seeds, being careful not to make the opening so big that the eggplants fall apart. Set eggplants in a Dutch oven or other covered pot. Set aside.

Make the filling: Cut 4 slices from one of the tomatoes, set aside, and crush the remainder. Dice the second tomato. In the same skillet, sauté the diced tomato with the pine nuts, onion, green pepper and garlic over medium heat until all the liquid from the vegetables has evaporated. Stir constantly toward the end.

Fill the eggplants equally with the filling using a teaspoon. Place the sliced tomato on top of each eggplant. Mix the reserved crushed tomato with 1 cup hot water and pour around the sides of the eggplants. Cover the pot and cook on medium low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve Imam Fainted while still warm with Turkish rice. Makes four servings.

Per serving: 457 calories, 6.5 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 40.5 g fat (3.0 g saturated fat, 21.6 g mono), 0 mg cholesterol, 12 g fiber, 12 mg sodium.

Side dish

Spiced Chickpeas on Naan with Cucumber Yogurt

2 medium garlic cloves

Kosher salt

1 medium red onion

1 small red, yellow or orange bell pepper

Leaves from 8 stems cilantro

Two 15-ounce cans no-salt-added chickpeas

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika, divided

4 individual size naan or other flatbread (substitute pita or tortillas in a pinch)

Freshly ground pepper

1/2 seedless cucumber

7 ounces plain low-fat or nonfat Greek-style yogurt

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Have a large baking sheet at hand. Mince the garlic with a pinch of salt; use the flat blade of a chef’s knife to work the garlic so it softens and breaks down. Cut the onion in half, then into very thin half-moons. Stem and de-rib the bell pepper, then cut the flesh into very thin slices. Finely chop the cilantro. Drain and rinse the chickpeas to yield about 4 cups.

Heat the oil in a large skillet (preferably nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron) over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the garlic, coriander and cumin; cook for 3 minutes, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant. Stir in the chickpeas, crushed red pepper flakes and 1/4 teaspoon of the paprika; cook for 8 minutes, stirring, until the chickpeas are coated and heated through. Drizzle lightly with oil (up to 1 tablespoon), then use a potato masher to mash about half of the spiced chickpeas so the mixture is nubby and thickened. Stir in up to 1/4 cup water, to taste, to make the mixture creamy.

Meanwhile, place the naan on the baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with the oil. Warm in the oven while the remaining vegetables cook; they will turn lightly golden. Use a spatula to shove the chickpea mixture to the edges of the skillet.

Add the onion and bell pepper; cook for 3 or 4 minutes, until the onion has softened and the bell pepper is crisp-tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in most of the cilantro and remove from heat.

Peel the cucumber half, if desired, then grate on the large holes of a box grater to yield a scant 1 cup; place in a medium bowl, along with the yogurt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of paprika. Stir to form a thick sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place a warm naan on each plate. Spoon equal amounts of the chickpea mixture on each one, then top with some of the cucumber yogurt. If desired, drizzle each portion with a little oil. Sprinkle with the remaining cilantro. Serve warm. Makes four servings.

Per serving: 750 calories, 24 g protein, 109 g carbohydrates, 26 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 15 mg cholesterol, 940 mg sodium, 18 g dietary fiber, 15 g sugar.

Source: Adapted from “Anna Getty’s Easy Green Organic” (Chronicle, $24.95).

Q: My husband’s family is from Madison, Wis., so we are there quite often to visit. We always dine at one particular restaurant, as the food is fantastic, Oliva Italian & Mediterranean Cuisine. There are two dishes there that even surpass the ones I tasted in Turkey. The red lentil soup and their version of The Imam Fainted are beyond compare. Would it be possible to get a recipe?

Donna Lane

A: Yucenur Dayi tells us that she and husband Mehmet “are trying to bring a taste of our country to the restaurant,” and have found that two iconic Turkish eggplant dishes have become the most popular with customers: karniyarik, stuffed with ground beef, and imam baylidi, which literally translates to the imam fainted, supposedly after tasting the dish for the first time and finding it so delicious. “I hope your readers like it,” Yucenur said.

The dish uses a lot of oil (you can also use olive oil rather than canola), but if you cut back you are not making an authentic version. Some recipes add cumin and ginger or other spices, and some have a topping of plain yogurt, but this is how they make it at Oliva.

Q: A long time ago I made some kind of spiced chickpeas from a recipe I read in the Miami Herald. I loved it, but I can’t find the recipe now. It included cumin and oven roasting.

Neil Pollack

A: The recipe is a delicious meat alternative from cookbook author Anne Getty. While great sandwiched on naan, the chickpeas also can be served as a dip for chips or vegetables.

Cinco de Mayo

I’m amused and intrigued by the Lucky Strike bowling chain’s claim to be “innovators of bowling cuisine.”

You can check it out this month by trying the Burger de Mayo, described as “a juicy half-pound, all-beef burger topped with melted American cheese, lettuce, guacamole and pico de gallo, served in a ‘quesadilla bun’ and filled with a blend of white cheddar and Oaxaca cheeses, garnished with grilled jalapeños.”

Created by chef Patty Tafolla of Lucky Strike in Hollywood, Calif., Burger de Mayo will be sold at all of the chain’s locations, including Miami Beach, from May 1-31. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Conquer Cancer Coalition.

Looking for something for your own Cincocelebration? I love the spicy, smoky flavor of pork tinga tacos. The recipe I included here calls for shredded pork and onions simmered in Bohemia beer.

Short Cuts

• Readers are weighing in with their favorite recipes from 35 years of Cook’s Corner. If you’ve got one, let me know. We’ll be publishing some of the hits in upcoming columns. A clear contender, from early emails, is The Unicorn’s miso dressing.

• The iconic 47th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest is looking for home cooks to compete for the $1 million Grand Prize. This year’s contest is a redesigned version that has four recipe categories with two separate entry periods; the one open now through May 8 is for weekend breakfasts and doable dinners. For information, visit

• I love these Star Wars R2-D2 measuring cups — they’d make a great gift for your favorite geek grad. The detachable arms turn into nested measuring spoons, while the body is built from four measuring cups and the dome can be used for both half-cup and one-tablespoon measurements. Alas, it is not dishwasher safe, but at least The Force will be with you. $19.99 at

Sleuth’s Corner

Q: About 30 years ago my mother made a date nut torte with date nut bars and maybe Dream Whip or whipped cream and/or cream cheese layered between the bars. We have misplaced the recipe and family members are requesting it again. The recipe may have been on the box of the mix. Can anyone help?

Kathy, North Carolina

Send questions and responses to or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172. Replies cannot be guaranteed.

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