Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sauce that would make shoe leather taste good

But we had it with pork chops.  We picked up two of those at the farmers' market on Sunday, too, along with some asparagus (that stuff just makes me happy) and those were dinner tonight.  I wasn't sure what to do with the chops tonight, but I wanted to do more than just grill them.  I surfed through some of the Rachael Ray cookbooks I have (she does yummy things with pork chops) and found this sauce.  I goofed, and didn't read the recipe all the way through, so I added butter to the sauce.  The butter was for the other part of the recipe, but, um...yeah. I'd make this sauce the exact same way next time.

Orange-Rosemary Sauce
from Rachael Ray's 365: No Repeats

zest and juice of a naval orange
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 rosemary sprigs, stripped and chopped; about 1 tablespoon (I went a little lighter)
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (I used 1/4)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp butter  (You could leave this out.  But I wouldn't.)

1.  Add all ingredients except butter to a medium saucepan; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is reduced by half.
2.  Stir in butter, and reduce for another 2-3 minutes.  Use to baste pork chops or chicken (or shoe leather).

Monday, May 23, 2011

It could definitely be worse.

Before we talk food, let's talk weather.  More exactly, let's talk what we can do when we feel helpless in the face of tornadoes and floods and earthquakes and tsunamis and...well, you get it. 
  • Donate to a disaster relief charity.  JustGive.org makes this easy, and you can donate                          anonymously.
  • Host a fund-raising activity: a walk or run, a field day, a "pay what you'd donate" dinner at                      someone's home, a bake sale.  Then see #1.
  • Donate time at a food bank or animal shelter.  It may not directly affect the disaster areas, but it         still helps people in need.
  •  If you can, fly to the area in need and pitch in.  I'm guessing you could contact the American Red Cross and ask about volunteer options.
  •  Find out about the soup kitchens, food banks, and animal shelters in the affected areas, and send a shipment of food, blankets, chew toys, etc.
Get creative.  Any little thing can help in big ways.

As you might imagine, after this morning's news about Joplin, MO, I don't really have the heart to whine about how it's grey and cool here for the fourth week in a row.  It does stink, but really, I'd have to be rating high on the suckitude meter to go there right now.  So instead, I cook. 

The chopping, the smells, the sizzles all help with the blues.  We had friends over for dinner this weekend, and I spatchcocked a chicken (which, I'm serious, is maybe the coolest cooking term EVER) for the first time, rubbed it up with garlic and lemon a la Nigel Slater (am currently addicted to his cookbooks and writing), and grilled the bird until the skin was crispy and the meat was tender.  I did not, of course, eat all of the skin myself.  Ahem.  Or at least not every little bit of it.

I served it up with a Jerusalem Artichoke and Farro Risotto from Janet Fletcher's book Eating Local, and we were very happy indeed.  The bottle of Pinot Grigio helped with that, of course...

Tonight, I'm back to playing with lentils.  I love legumes (wouldn't that make a great t-shirt?) and use them often, but get stuck in the black bean-cannellini rotation.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, per se, but there are so many other options out there that it seems a shame not to explore every so often.  Also this weekend, we went to one of our local farmers' markets and picked up a package of stew lamb; my head went straight to a lamb and lentil stew.  At first I was thinking Italian overtones (because that's pretty much what I always think of first) and then I decided to do some searching and see what else was out there.  I read quite a few Indian-inspired recipes, and from those cobbled together this one.  The pound of stew lamb will feed six, but you can also up the veggies and lentils and leave the lamb out entirely without the dish suffering.

Indian-Spiced Lamb and Lentil Stew
serves 6
1 lb lamb stew meat, cut into small chunks (can omit, just up the lentils and veg)
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced (I used 2 small leeks, since we had some in the fridge)
2 med. to large carrots, peeled and diced
2 sticks celery, diced
2 in. knob of ginger, peeled and minced or grated
1 tbsp curry powder (or more to taste)
1/2 tbsp garam masala (or more to taste)
1- 3" cinnamon stick
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4-1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
15 oz. can diced, no salt tomatoes (if yours aren't no salt, just wait to add all of the salt you think you might want)
1 cup of lentils
6 cups of liquid (I used a mix of water and chicken broth)
10 oz frozen, chopped spinach (no need to thaw)
1/4 cup golden raisins
basmati rice to serve, optional

1.  In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-high heat.  When shimmering, add lamb.  Cook until browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove lamb from pot.

2.  Add 2 tbsp oil, and minced garlic through cayenne pepper (remember to go easy on the salt at this point).  Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5-7 minutes.  Return lamb to pan, and stir in lentils and tomatoes.  Add 6 cups of liquid and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan with your spoon to get up the bits that have stuck.  Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until lamb and lentils are tender, about 35 minutes. 

3.  Stir in spinach and raisins; cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 more minutes.  Serve hot over rice, if desired.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Friendly ideas

I was talking books with a fellow foodie from work today, and she inserted a sidebar about what she made for dinner last night. Imagine how excited I was when 1. It sounded delicious, and 2. I realized I had everything I needed to make it. As soon as I got home I pulled the ingredients out of their respective homes and got to work. The kitchen smelled amazing immediately, and dinner was ready in less than an hour. Thanks, Amy!

I did take pictures. I will post them (I'm on the iPAD and don't have a compatible USB) but I should warn you that they absolutely don't do the meal justice. Just trust me and go out and make this.

I'll include vegetarian options, too.

Lentils with Italian Sausages and Potatoes
Serves 5

1/4 c olive oil
5 Italian sausages (pork, chicken, or turkey are fine, or omit)
1/2 to whole yellow onion*, quartered, peeled, and sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1 lb. Potatoes, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced (optional-I didn't use b/c I wanted dinner quickly)
2 stalks celery, diced (optional-see carrots)
3/4 - 1 1/2 c lentils (I used the smaller French green, but it doesn't really matter)
15 oz can diced no-salt tomatoes (or whatever size the can has shrunk to these days)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1/4 - 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 c dry red wine (optional, could add a shot of balsamic at the end instead)
3 c chicken or vegetable broth, or water (up this to 4 - 5 if using more lentils)
3-5 c shredded greens (I used raddichio, but kale, mustard,chard, broccoli Rabe, etc would be good here)
Grated pecorino romano cheese

1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. If using, brown sausages on all sides, about
5 minutes. Add in onion through celery and cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Add lentils through liquid and stir. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until the lentils are tender, about 20-25 minutes. (I let ours go for about 35 minutes because we walked the dogs. The sauce reduced nicely, but your call.)
3. Stir in the greens and let cook through. The more tender greens like raddichio and chard will take less than five minutes; the others probably closer to ten.
4. Spoon into bowls, sprinkle with cheese, and serve hot. You might want bread to mop up the juices...
* The larger veggie portions are for if you're making this vegetarian (or if you need to serve more than five people; you can cut the sausages up)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Eating from the Garden: Spring

Remember that chard that was going to need its own zip code soon?  We ate it.  It made me kind of sad to pull it up since the colors were so vibrant, but it was living where the tomatoes have been rotated this year and it was time to plant the tomatoes.  I chopped it up with about a 1/4 cup of chives from the garden, sauteed it in olive oil with garlic, salt, and pepper, and once it was wilted, added about 1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth to "braise" it in until the accompanying polenta was ready.  After a productive-but-exhausting day in the garden, it was a warm bowl of goodness.

I've been doing all kinds of cooking lately, but for some reason have photographed none of it.  Of course, when I look at the photographs on the blogs I enjoy I realize that my missing photos are no great loss.  Still working on that light-and-positioning thing for food...  I hope that since the food tastes good, though, it doesn't really matter if the photos are magazine-worthy or not; as long as the combo of ingredients is enough to make people want to experiment, that's (mostly) good enough for me.

We've been on a rhubarb kick around here lately, since the garden is being generous on that front.  I first planted rhubarb because I thought it was pretty, and had ideas of making strawberry-rhubarb pies with it.  Strangely, I've made nary a one...but I have made Oatmeal-Rhubarb Breakfast Porridge and Peach-Rhubarb Crisp.  I've also made a garden salad with roasted rhubarb, and today made Rhubarb Snacking Cake with Walnut Streusel.  The first three recipes are from this month's Eating Well magazine, and they were big hits.  The snack cake is from Cooking Light, and is a pan-full of moist, sweet goodness...but it has almost two cups of sugar, so I wouldn't boast that it's "light" even if it did come from that magazine.  (I'll post links to the recipes below.)
You can just barely see it, but the bits of rhubarb add a spring-green color to the cake (the rhubarb I'm currently growing is primarily green; I've got a red plant on order, though, because let's be honest--it's gorgeous).  Not ordinarily a color I'd want with my cake...but a long, gray winter makes me more flexible about uses of color.
The above egg picture is from a recipe I made weeks ago, and never posted.  I also have sorrel in my garden, and it is one of the earliest things to start rearing its lovely, verdant head in spring.  As the first green I can eat out of my own garden, I have to say I'm pretty fond of it.  I grew it on a lark; read about it in a catalog and thought, "Why not?  If it's good enough for the French, it's good enough for me!"  Then it came up, and I thought, "Okay, what the hell do I do with this?"  A search led me to this baked egg dish.
It's easy and delicious, and it makes a great presentation if you're having company.  You might have to grow your own sorrel, though, because I've never seen it in markets anywhere.  I'm thinking you could substitute spinach.

Baked Eggs with Sorrel
serves 2 (but is easily multiplied)

1 tbsp butter, for ramekins
2 cups chopped sorrel
2 large eggs
2 tsp heavy cream (but I've also used skim milk, and even cream cheese, in a pinch)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp chopped chives

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Rub the insides of two ramekins with the butter, and divide the sorrel between them.  Bake in the oven until the sorrel is completely wilted, about 5-8 minutes.  (It will be a camouflage green and almost look like something has gone horribly awry.  Not to worry.)
2.  Crack an egg into each ramekin, and add a teaspoon of cream to each.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until the eggs are set to your taste; for firm whites but still moderately runny yolks (how I like them) bake about 10 minutes (start checking at 8, though, because it's a different dish once the yolks set--not bad, but different).
3.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with chives, and enjoy.

Rhubarb-Sour Cream Cake with Walnut Streusel

Eating Well rhubarb recipes

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Where have you been all my life?

May 1 was all I could have possibly hoped it would be.  Sunny, but not too hot, with time for gardening, cooking, and ice cream.  The cooking included some of my own greens, which is always exciting.  The seedlings I planted back in February are doing great under their row cover, I've got potatoes and shallots coming up, and the chard that over-wintered will need its own zip code soon. 

                                         Photo from about a week ago; they're double now!

I love summer, but I think this might be my favorite time of year.  After waiting through the long winter (and they're always long, even when the weather isn't brutal) there are flowers everywhere.  Getting back into the garden is still a novelty (as opposed to August, when it's disgustingly hot and less of a novelty...except for the tomatoes, of course) and I gladly spend the entire day kneeling in the dirt, even if it's just for mundane clean-up tasks. 

Today, I planted four new (to my garden) kinds of lilies: Sorbonne, Royal Sunset, Richmond, and Cherbourg.  Lilies are a new obsession of mine; during the winter I was ogling the multitude of gardening catalogs I get each year and the lilies just kept catching my eye.  We have eight different kinds here at the house now; I hope they'll put on a lovely display! 

Those who know me well know that the Cherbourg lilies were a given once I knew they existed.  Cherbourg was one of the stops of the Titanic, and I'm a bit of a Titanic nerd.  (Titanic, gardening, cooking, and reading: could my husband have a nerdier nerd for a wife?  Oh well, his yard looks good and he eats well!) 

In the midst of all that digging, I occasionally ran into the house, scrubbed my hands, and made breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Lunch was grilled hot dogs, but not just any grilled hot dogs.  I signed us up for Pine Street Market's Meat of the Month Club, and this month we received plain hot dogs, poblano hot dogs, and Italian sausage.  The plain hot dogs were incredible (we haven't opened the others yet)!  Even if you don't do the M.O.M. club, do yourself a favor and order some of these dogs for a special cook-out this summer.

For dinner, we had Jamie Oliver's slow roasted bone-in pork shoulder, with carrots and potatoes.  (You can find it here: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pork-recipes/bone-in-shoulder-roast .)  The recipe calls for the skin to be left on, so that you can make crackling.  Oh. My. God.  Where has crackling been all my life?  I don't think I've ever had it before, and heaven knows I shouldn't have it again anytime soon, but I'm in love.  I served it up with a mix of swiss chard and sorrel from my garden, and spinach from our CSA.  (I skipped the gravy for the meat, and I threw the potatoes in to roast when I added the other veg.)

And now, I'm going to sleep. 

Mixed Greens with Warm Bacon* and Onions
Serves 4

10 cups chopped mixed greens with water still clinging to them, such as swiss chard, spinach, sorrel, or     others that cook quickly  (this is probably about 1 1/2 pounds of greens)
1 tbsp olive oil
3 strips of bacon, chopped
1 onion, sliced in half lengthwise and then sliced into 1/4 inch pieces lengthwise (or whatever, really)
         --I used the onion that was in the pan with the pork roast, sliced it up, and added it once the bacon was
1-2 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat; add olive oil, onion and bacon.  Cook until bacon is almost crispy.  Spoon off all but 1-2 tbsp fat, and add the vinegar to the pan.  Stir to kind of emulsify the oil and vinegar, and add the greens and salt and pepper to taste. 
2.  Cook, tossing the greens with the "dressing" until the greens are just wilted.  Serve immediately.

*As always, you could omit the bacon, up the olive oil, and use mushrooms instead.  It would be equally good, and I'm thinking it would be divine with trumpet mushrooms.