Easy-to-make meals are my favorite way to cook during the week. I like to check my monthly copy of Real Simple magazine for their five easy dinner recipes. This time I tried the gingery pork and cucumber pitas from the September 2009 issue. Seth and I both liked the Chinese-Japanese flavor fusion (hoisin sauce and ginger), and the cucumbers give the dish a tiny kick (jalapenos) and just the right amount of tang (mirin, rice vinegar). For my Hawaii people and/or Japanese food friends, the "cucumber salad" is essentially tsukemono with a touch of spice.
Gingery Pork and Cucumber Pitas
Serves 4; takes about 15 minutes (if you chop quicker than I do)
1/4 C mirin (rice vinegar)
2 t sugar
1/4 t salt
2 Kirby cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground pork (ground chicken or turkey can be substituted)
1/4 C hoisin sauce
1 T grated fresh ginger
4 pitas, halved
Combine the vinegar, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the cucumbers and jalaneno and let sit, tossing occasionally for at least 5 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the pork, breaking up, until no longer pink 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the hoisin, ginger and 2 tablespoons water.
Fill the pita halves with the pork and "cucumber salad."
Notes: I substituted ground turkey for the ground pork. Also, I had no idea what Kirby cucumbers were, so I just used a regular garden cucumber. Since the cucumber was pretty large I ended up doubling the mirin, sugar, salt mixture. Then I had too much of the liquid, so I chopped a second cucumber into thicker pieces and let that pickle as well. This made a lot of [what I like to call] karai tsukemono; so if you do this, let the cucumbers pickle for two hours, after which you need to keep removing excess water in order to keep the tsukemono crisper. For a traditional tsukemono recipe, visit the Kumiko's Kitchen blog. Finally, if you cannot handle any kind of spice, do not use the jalapeno.