Tag Archives: herbs

Braised Pork Stew

27 Jan

Because I just can’t stop buying cookbooks, Michael Smith’s latest, Family Meals, has appeared on my shelf. I’ve always liked Smith: he was my gateway into cooking fish for the first time and his recipes (while sometimes a bit short on the salt for my taste) never fail me. I like his philosophy that a recipe is simply somewhere to start, a thing to be played with, an idea upon which to expound. I feel the same way: when I come across a new recipe, I’ll generally leave the fundamentals alone but will alter things like seasoning and heat levels to suit my taste.

This particular book has some fantastic slow cooker recipes and quite a few vegetarian recipes that look enticing. I tried out the slow-cooked pork shoulder stew this weekend it’s a keeper. We added a few dashes of hot sauce to our bowls but kept it out of the main pot to avoid burning foodNURDling’s little tongue. It’s a simple recipe that doesn’t have a ton of ingredients. It’s hearty, filling and healthy. This recipe also makes a TON so you will definitely have leftovers. Cook once, eat many times. Works for me.

Serves 4

Ingredients

3lb pork shoulder, halved
salt & pepper
2 tb vegetable oil
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 potatoes, chopped
2 carrots, peeled & chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 ts dried thyme and/or rosemary
2 ts salt
7c water
1c white wine (or, if you don’t want to use alcohol, skip it and add 8 cups of water instead of splitting it)

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 300F.
2. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pan (a Dutch oven is perfect) to medium-high heat. Add the oil and watch for it become shimmery. Season the pork generously with salt & pepper and the two pieces of pork to the pan, searing on all sides until nicely browned.
3. Add in the celery, potatoes, carrots, onions, herbs, salt and liquid. Bring to a simmer. Cover with  a tightly-fitting lid and place in the oven for 3-4 hours.
4. Remove the pot from the oven. The pork will now be fork-tender; shred or cube the meat. Serve and enjoy!

How I Learned to Love the Garden

27 Aug

I have always appreciated food though, admittedly, I have learned to appreciate it on new levels in the last ten years. I’ve certainly always enjoyed eating and reaping the rewards of others’ hard work; now, I understand just how much work goes into getting that food to my hungry mouth.  It’s not like I wasn’t exposed to food production as a child: my dad maintained a wonderful garden in our backyard that had carrots, beets, tomatoes, peas, beans, chives, rhubarb, cucumber and whatever else he felt like planting (like the year he tried corn. I kept hoping for ghost baseball players to appear. Sadly, neither the corn nor the ghosts deigned to show). We also had cherry, pear and apricot trees along with a raspberry bush and grapevines. Homegrown fruits and veggies we did not lack. We also had a walnut tree but in the 20+ years we lived in our house, no one ate a single, solitary walnut. We’d find them on the ground with six tiny, squirrel bites taken out of them. Tree rats are the worst. What I lacked was the interest in cultivating them. My parents would send me into the yard to pick whatever was ripe at the time and I’d inevitably come back with about 50% of what needed to be picked. What can I say? I was more interested in something SUPER IMPORTANT like whether or not Zack and Kelly‘s eternal love would be torn asunder by the evil Jeff.

Fast forward to 2007. I am now living in an apartment with J and ruing the lack of outdoor space to grow my own food. We would buy basil plants that would, inevitably, wither and die in record time. We did see some success planting mint in my dad’s garden. So much success, in fact, that the mint spread over the next few months and by the following summer, was rather intrusively making its way into the rest of the garden. That was bolstering, though. “I can actually grow things,” I remarked as my dad looked on, happy I’d taken an interest in gardening but dismayed by the herb that was now embedded in the chives and beans and peas and…

Jump to 2012. J and I are house hunting. We come across a house with a slightly wild but charming front yard and an absolutely lovely backyard with lush, red cherry tomatoes. “This has potential,” I think to myself excitedly. The sight of those gorgeous tomatoes has stirred something inside me and I can imagine spending quiet afternoons planting and weeding and watering and enjoying the fruits of my labour. The day we took possession of the house, I went straight to the yard and plucked one of the tomatoes from the vine and popped it in my mouth. “That’s it. I’m growing everything I can back here.”

Next spring, my dad arrived at the house with tomato seed packets and a container with soil pods to get them started. I took a surprising amount of delight planting the little seeds and watching them grow into full blown…seedlings. My dad planted them in one of the gardens and I tended to those things like I tended to foodNURDling. By August we had fresh, plump cherry, Early Girl and beefsteak tomatoes.

Wee tomatoes.

Wee tomatoes.

 

Emboldened by my success, I started to hatch plans for summer 2014. I planted beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, green, red and jalapeno peppers, basil, lemon thyme, rosemary and mint. When each ripened, I happily picked ALL of the fruits and vegetables and gave each to the foodNURDling. As he happily gobbled down cucumber and tomato slices, I called my mom:

“Mom! A thing I grew is eating a thing I grew!” I almost wanted to cry.

It was A Moment for me. Growing food for me and my family. This is how I learned to love my garden.

Warm Cauliflower & Herbed Barley Salad

21 Feb

I am always looking for new ways to incorporate grains and veggies into our diets.  This recipe appeared in an issue of Bon Appetit magazine and I thought it had excellent potential. Yes, the dressing has mayo but it’s only one tablespoon for an entire head of cauliflower and a pile of barley.

A lot of people don’t seem to care for cauliflower that much (“It smells like feet!” a friend once exclaimed), but I’ve always liked it. It’s especially nice here with little caramelized spots lending some sweetness to each floret. You can most definitely do this salad ahead of time and it’s even better the next day. I made mine without the beans as none of those goes over particularly well in our house, but I have no doubt they could work in the salad. Instead, I doubled the amount of barley.

Serves 4 with lots of leftovers.

Ingredients

1/2 c pearled barley
1 tb lemon zest
3 tb lemon juice
1 tb mayo
1 ts Dijon mustard
6 tb extra virgin olive oil
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 15-oz can of corona, gigante or butter beans
1/2 c fresh parsley, chopped
2 tb fresh tarragon, chopped
salt & pepper

Directions

1. Place barley and 1.5 cups of water (or broth) in a large saucepan with a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 25-30 minutes. Set ‘er aside.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the lemon juice, mayo, Dijon mustard and 5tb of olive oil until the mixture emulsifies.
3. Heat a large pan to medium and add the remaining oil. Toss in the cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Turn the florets over occasionally and cook roughly 10 minutes, until you start to see brown spots appearing. Add in 2tb of water, cover and steam for two more minutes.
4.  Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl. Add half of the parsley and tarragon, barley and dressing. (If you’re using the beans, this is when you would add them.) Stir to coat everything thoroughly.  Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
5. Divide the salad among 4 bowls. Garnish with lemon zest and the rest of the herbs.

photo

Three Ways to Make an Audience Hungry

17 Apr

To find oneself sitting in a studio on a nearly-empty stomach with Michael Bonacini, Massimo Capra and Jason Parsons is a bit torturous. The smells wafting forth from the stove over the course of 30 minutes are pretty intoxicating. J and I sat through the taping of a Cityline show featuring the three chefs using a variety of fresh herbs, wishing we could sneak up and steal bites off the plates. Chef Bonancini featured rosemary in a beautiful branzino dish; chef Capra made a creative BBQ pork and chive pancake; and chef Parsons used chervil in a light lamb loin dish.

Chef Capra and me

Chef Capra and me

Chef Bonacini and I...just hangin'  with some herbs.

Chef Bonacini and me…just hangin’ with some herbs.

In addition to the plates the chefs put up, the show discussed planting various herbs for use at home. We have sage, thyme and lemon thyme ready to go and a basil plant that has miraculously lived for months on our windowsill (apparently I left my black thumb of death back at our old apartment!). This show got me motivated to get out into my garden – now that I have one – and plant some rosemary, mint and maybe some chives, too!

herbs

The beautiful array of greenery on display.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some planting and cooking to get to..

Crispy-Skinned, Juicy Roast Chicken

15 Apr

I took a friend on her inaugural visit to the St. Lawrence Market the other day and, while there, figured I ought to pick up something for dinner. I didn’t want to do anything too complicated as J and I had plans later that night so I stopped by De Liso’s and grabbed a whole chicken. I had already picked up some herbs and cippolini onions so, after picking up the bird, I was good to go.

I so love roasting chickens and am always on the look out for tricks to make this simple dish even better. I saw someone make one up, carve it in the pan in which it was cooked with carrots, potatoes, onions and celery and then he mixed it all together in the same roasting pan. I thought that was kind of genius as the elements in the pan soak up all the delicious juices released by the bird. Though I didn’t use most of those aromatics, I did have the onions and I also tossed in some garlic. It came out fabulously and I’ll likely be making my chickens this way from now on.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

1 4lb chicken
2 tb extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt & fresh black pepper
3-4 sprigs each of thyme and rosemary
8-12 cippolini onions
6 garlic cloves

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 500F. Rinse with cold water and thoroughly pat the chicken dry, placing it on top of the onions and four of the garlic cloves in a roasting pan.
2. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and rub over the skin, coating it completely but not heavily. Liberally salt and pepper, including inside the cavity.
3. Place the herbs and the remaining garlic cloves into the cavity.
4. Wrap a little bit of tinfoil around the wing tips so they don’t burn.
5. Place the chicken in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 350F. Cook for roughly 70 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165F. You can also tell if it’s done if the juices run clear.
6. Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes once it’s cooked. Carefully carve the chicken in the roasting pan and mix the pieces in with the onions, garlic and juices that have accumulated. (You can also cut the bird on a cutting board and then return the meat to the pan if you’re not comfortable doing it in the pan itself.)
 *Note – the skin should be nice and crispy and you don’t want to lose that by soaking it in the pan juices. Reserve the skin off the breast and leg meat, adding it back when you’ve plated.

NYT Project: Malaysian-Inspired Pork Stew

13 Feb

Winter has finally hit our fair city. We’ve lucked out this winter, being spoiled with double-digit temperatures and little snow. The last few days, however, have brought with them a cold front and even some actual snow! Since winter decided to show up, I decided to combat the chills with some Malaysian-inspired pork stew from the NYT Cookbook.

The aromas from this lovely dish permeated the house as they simmered away on the stove for an hour or so. The spicy rub for the pork was balanced out nicely with the coconut milk and the herb and lime juice garnish. Lots of great texture and taste in this one. An instant classic at our place.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

Spice Rub

3 tb minced garlic
3 tb curry powder
2 tb ground cumin
1 tb paprika
1 tb cayenne pepper (less if you don’t want a lot of heat)

2 pounds boneless Boston butt or picnic shoulders, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Stew

5 tb olive oil
2 red onions, thinly sliced
3 tb minced fresh ginger
3 plum tomatoes, cored & diced
¼ c soy sauce
1-1/2 c unsweetened coconut milk
1 c dry white wine

Garnish

¼ c roughly chopped basil¼ cup roughly chopped mint
¼ c roughly chopped cilantro
½ c roughly chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
1 lime, juiced
5 dashes hot sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Directions

1. In a large bowl, mix together the spice rub ingredients.
2. Pat the cubed pork dry with a paper towel, season with salt & pepper and then put in the bowl with the rub. Toss to coat.

Pork's been all rubbed up....

3. Heat 3tb oil in a heavy-bottomed pan til the oil shimmers but does not smoke. Add in the meat in an even layer and brown on all sides, roughly 10 minutes. (You may need to do the meat in batches in order to avoid overcrowding your pan.)   Remove the meat from pan and place on a platter.
4.  Heat the remaining 2tb of oil to medium heat. Toss in the onions and sauté for 13-15 minutes.
5. Add in the ginger & tomatoes. Stir and cook 2 minutes.

Onions, tomatoes & ginger into the pan...

6. Add the pork back into the pan along with the soy sauce, wine & coconut milk.  Bring to a simmer and skim off any fat that comes to the surface.

Everyone into the pool!

7. Cover and lower heat. Simmer for 1 – 1 1/2 hours.
9. When the pork is tender, serve on a bed of rice and top with the garnish as listed above.

Garnish of fresh herbs, peanuts, hot sauce & brown sugar.

Faceplant-inducing.

Making Couscous a Little More Interesting…

3 Feb

I quite like couscous for a number of reasons, but I especially love how versatile it can be and how quick it is to make. I got into a discussion with a coworker the other day about this and started coming up with different ways to cook it aside from the standard water with some salt. Here are a few options we talked about…

Cooking liquid:

  • Orange Juice
  • Apple Juice
  • Vegetable/Chicken broth

Extra goodies:

  • Chopped almonds
  • Raisins
  • Dried cranberries
  • Currants
  • Chopped apricots
  • Fresh herbs – cilantro, parsley, thyme, mint
  • Veggies – frozen/fresh peas or corn (use a little more cooking liquid and add these in with the couscous)
  • Spices – cumin, paprika, chili powder, curry powder
  • Feta cheese

Really, you can try just about anything with couscous. Like quinoa and rice, you can adapt it to fit whatever flavor profile you’d like. What do you, fine readers, do with your couscous?

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