"Things won are done,
Joy's Soul lies in the Doing."
- William Shakespeare

Friday, September 30, 2011

It Makes Them Sing

There's a time and a place for posh, elaborate, impress-your-guests food.  Today's recipe is most definitely not that kind of recipe.  Today's recipe is more of a straight-up classic, down-home, soul-food kinda thing.   And the Mister and Kiddos love it.  They love it so much, that it makes them sing.

Now, having done my high-schooling, and college years, in the '90's, I wouldn't feel right not mentioning this:  Do you happen to recall Adam Sandler's Lunch Lady Land song, back from his turn on SNL?  And the ever-so-catchy line from the chorus:  "Sloppy Joe, Slop-Sloppy Joe, yeah...?"  Yeah?  Me too.  In fact, that's what we sing around here, when Sloppy Joes come on the scene.  Good times always being had around the King household, I tell you.

Sloppy Joes were a serious treat in childhood, do you remember?  The red stained faces and fingers (and often shirtfronts)...going back for seconds (or thirds) when you were almost, but not quite, full enough to burst...Oh, yes.  And the seasoning packet.  Oh, no.  This is a from-scratch take on my childhood, and now my Kiddos' childhood, favorite.  And it is dang tasty.  A little bit sweet, a background hint of smokiness from the cumin, a bit of heat for those that like it.  And it's messy, just like old times.

I think ground beef is best for this, but you can use ground turkey or chicken, if you're so inclined.  Beef tends not to dry out quite as much, though.  If you really want to posh-up your Joes, you could use ground sirloin, I suppose.  But it's not necessary.  This is anything but fancy food.

I hope it makes you sing too.

 Sloppy Joes - feeds 4 to 6

1 Tbs olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1/2 large onion (or 1 medium), chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano

2 large tomatoes, chopped
3 Tbs tomato paste
3 Tbs ketchup
1 Tbs dark brown sugar
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs worcestershire sauce
2 to 3 Tbs sweet chili sauce
pinch cayenne &/or dried chili flakes (or more if you like some spice in your Joes)

In a deep cast iron pan, or dutch oven, (or whatever you've got going on in your kitchen), heat the olive oil over medium high heat, and brown the beef, breaking it up as it browns.  When it's nearly all browned, but there are still a few pink bits, add in the chopped onion and green pepper, and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.  Add in all the spices, and stir for 1 minute, to bring out their flavors.

Now add in all the ingredients from the second list, starting with your chopped tomatoes, so the spices don't burn.  Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat to medium low, and cook until the sauce thickens, about 12 to 15 minutes.  Check for seasoning, and add salt and pepper, if necessary.

Looks pretty sloppy, right?  Perfect.

I like to serve up our Sloppy Joes on a nice, crusty roll, but you can go with the classic hamburger bun, if you prefer.  We like to go all out and throw some grated sharp cheddar in there too, but you can skip it, if it feels too gluttonous.  Or go for it, and have a walk after dinner.  It's kind of worth the extra calories.

This goes splendidly with my coleslaw recipe...just so you know.

Enjoy your sloppy dinner!

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Those of you who have met the Mister are probably aware of his Renaissance Man tendencies.  The guy does it all.  Seriously.  He's got the manly-man stuff nailed down.  He can fix anything.  If it can't be fixed, he'll build a new one.  And matching his mucho-manliness, he's got the creative artist thing going on.  He surfs.  Which is quite possibly one of the sexiest things a man can do.  Especially in boardies.  And get this:  he can cook.  In fact, he taught me a lot about cooking, back in the early days.  Be still my heart.

But I'm just going to come out and say it:  there is one thing that I can do better than the Mister.  My coleslaw is better.  The Mister perhaps doesn't agree.  The debate is ongoing.

Here's our thing with coleslaw.  Despite being fairly free and loose in the kitchen, with recipes (recipes, people!), I like my slaw to be pretty traditional.  Aside from one or two tiny additions to the standard mayo, vinegar, sugar that is the backbone of (to me) good coleslaw, I stick fairly faithfully to the spirit of coleslaw.  My interpretation of the spirit, anyway.  Now, to the Mister, coleslaw pretty much just requires some shredded stuff, and a dressing.  And the dressing is where we differ.  I've seen that guy in there, throwing in all sorts, with wild abandon, I tell you.  Worcestershire and cumin have been spotted going into his dressing.

Okay, before you get the wrong idea, and start thinking I'm slaw-ist or something, I will confess.  His coleslaw is delicious.  Always.  But when I'm the one making the slaw, I prefer to make it my way.

I'm pretty sure this debate has been ongoing for about eleven years now.  The first time I remember making coleslaw was in a wee studio apartment, off the Mirage Bar, in Praia da Luz.  (Yup, we lived off a bar for a bit.  Those were the days.)  I mixed that slaw up in a plastic ice cream box, because we had no mixing bowls.  And it was simply cabbage, carrots, mayo, vinegar, and sugar.  Just like my Grandma B used to make.  Which may be why I'm so attached to this sort of standard recipe.  Plus Grandma B really didn't make much else.  At least not so very well, bless her.  Anyway, ever since that day, we've been trying to show each other up, on the coleslaw front.

A year or two ago, I discovered a tasty (and non-threatening) addition to my stand-by slaw, in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.  She adds dijon mustard to her dressing, and celery salt.  So I decided, hey, let's live a little, I'll throw in some grainy dijon, and my homemade celery salt & pepper.  And it's pretty nice, if I do say so...

Here you go:

(Obviously, I'm not fit to serve food in the real world.  Didn't even wipe the rim of my bowl.  Damn.)

My Coleslaw - inpired by Grandma B, and Barefoot Contessa
- makes oh, rather a lot

1/2 small, or 1/4 large, head green cabbage, or savoy cabbage
1/2 small, or 1/4 large, head red cabbage
4 medium carrots, grated
2 green onions, thinly sliced
small bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
1 - 2 Tbs fresh dill, chopped

3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbs grainy dijon
3 Tbs sugar
3 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp homemade celery salt & pepper, or store bought celery salt
1 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Core the cabbages, and slice into thin shreds.  Combine in a very large bowl, with the other vegetables, and herbs.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients, and pour over the veg.  It may look like you don't have enough dressing at first.  Don't worry, after sitting for a bit, it'll be just right.  Stir well to coat everything, cover, and leave in fridge for at least 2 to 4 hours before serving.

I think coleslaw is best once it's had a good several hours, or even half a day, to sit and hang out.  The flavors are well dispersed, the mayo thins out nicely from the liquid that's released from the cabbage, and the texture of the slaw goes just slightly less crunchy.  After about 2 days in the fridge, it goes a little too watery though, so eat it up before then!

An awesome coleslaw trick I learned from the Mister, is to serve it atop baked potatoes, with a little grated cheese.  This is the thing in England.  At least with baked potatoes.  I thought it sounded quite odd at first, but it's absolutely lovely.  Oh, another thing he does with leftover slaw is to make sandwiches, with sharp grated cheese, on a good, crusty bread.  Tasty.

See?  I am open to suggestions from the Mister.  Just not on my coleslaw recipe.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bad Hair Day

No, not really.  But check out what's going down around here this morning:

It's Crazy Hair and Sock Day at school today!   I did have a recipe to share with you this morning, but what with all the wigs and wiring of little bird nests, I've run out of time. 

The Boy's sporting the Mister's wig from a costume a while back, and some sweet tie-dye socks...

(I have no idea what that face means.  Very odd.)

And the Girl has a wee bird nesting on her noggin. 

As you do.

Hope you have a good laugh today, too!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sign of the Times

It comes on so suddenly, doesn't it?  The changing of the seasons.  One minute we're enjoying some very late, very anticipated, and very appreciated Summer weather, and the next...on to the Autumn thing. 

In roll the nasty colds, the heavy rain...

On comes the heat, the fire of an evening...

Into the cupboards and freezer go all 40 pounds of tomatoes, in the form of sauce, salsas, and relish...

Out of closets come the rain coats and gumboots...

Away into storage go the shorts...and out come the longs...

And best of all, out come the knitting needles, the project plans, the yarn (over)purchasing...

Oh, and hey, what have we here?  A little package arrived, for me, you say?

Oooo, the package is from Quince & Co?  (Picture me rubbing my hands together, fiendishly.)  What could it be?  (As if I don't know!)

 Seven skeins of Chickadee, in lichen?  Oh, baby!

Got a wee project going for myself, which came in nice and handy with the cold that put me somewhat out of commission for the last four days.  The genevieve pullover is one I've been eying for quite some time, but was unsure of my abilities.  Turns out, I'm doing just fine so far.  And I love, love, love Quince & Co's yarn, it's gorgeous.

With all this productivity going down, round these parts, I'm starting to get an itch to make sweaters for the whole gang for Christmas...(The gang refers to my immediate peeps, just so you know!)  Crazy?  Yes?  I do so love a good mission though...

What's your mission today?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Out of the Box, Take 7

I'm on a preserving mission over here, people.  It appears that something has taken hold of me, some ancestral spirit, driving me on..."Feed Your Family!" shouts my inner Laura Ingalls.  And I must say, once I began to get the hang of things, I've found that I'm really enjoying myself.  While it's undeniably easier to simply purchase tinned tomatoes, or sauce, or salsa, from the store, there's a huge burst of satisfaction that comes from knowing I made this.  For my people.  And it's kind of fun.  Plus, I get the best of both worlds:  Grounding myself in some solid traditions from the past (while wearing a pretty apron)...and rocking the modern conveniences we're so fortunate to have (dishwasher humming away, while I sing along to my current favorite Pandora station).  Good times, my fine friends.

So, today, it's not a tomato recipe I have for you (readers sigh in relief), but a tomatillo recipe.  A Roasted Tomatillo Salsa recipe, to be precise.  We've had an abundance of lovely, small tomatillos from our CSA box, these past several weeks, and heaps of cilantro, and I must say, I was having a struggle keeping up.  (In a good, no-suffering-involved-sort of way.)  Then, when I read that you can freeze salsa, the proverbial light bulb shone brightly, and away I went.

I loosely followed a Bon Appetit recipe that I found on Epicurious, adjusting the amounts to suit what I had going on.  You can do the same, salsa is something that is very easy to get right.  Especially when you roast it.  Ah...absolutely heavenly.  The tomatillos, once blended in the food processor, attain a nearly creamy consistency.  This salsa is perfect on shrimp or fish tacos, grilled veggies, and may I suggest going for it on your enchiladas?  Oh, yes.  It's pretty much a food to sigh over.  (I find I do that sighing-over-food thing rather often.)

Here you go:

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa - adapted from the Bon Appetit recipe, on Epicurious
- makes about 2 1/2 pints

2 to 2 1/2 lbs tomatillos
1 medium onion, halved, then cut into thirds
1 - 2 jalapenos, depending on your heat tolerance
6 cloves garlic, skins left on, but lightly bashed with knife, just enough to break the paper
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
olive oil
kosher salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 deg F.

In a large baking dish, place tomatillos (left whole), onion, garlic cloves, and jalapenos (also left whole).  Drizzle with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. 

Roast until very soft.  The recipe I had recommended a 375 deg oven for large tomatillos, roasting for an hour.  I had small tomatillos, so I banged the heat up to 400, and they were lovely and soft in about 35 minutes.  Just check them from time to time.  Short of forgetting them completely, you really cannot mess this up.

Once roasting has finished, slice the stem end off the jalapeno(s), and slice in half, and throw into the food processor.  Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves from their skins into the food processor bowl, and add the tomatillos and onions.  (You may need to do this in 2 batches, depending on the size of your processor/batch of salsa.)  Pulse for a bit, until roughly chopped, then add the cilantro, and pulse until the salsa is nearly, but not quite, puréed.  A little texture is a good thing.  Check, and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

I wouldn't recommend canning this recipe, because of the risks of botulism.  You can read a bit about that here, on Food in Jars.  Since I read that salsa freezes well (cross fingers), I'm giving it a go, and froze 1 1/2 pints.  I also learned that mason jars can be stuck in the freezer...did you know this?!  I had no idea.  So much nicer than using plastic, right?  But I was still a little scared, so I froze one plastic container, and one pint jar.  And I left quite a bit of room for expansion.  I'll let you know what happens.

So, that's today's Adventure in Preserving.  Stay tuned.  By the way, I bought another 20 pound box of tomatoes yesterday.

Sheepish Grin.

That's my Inner Laura for you.  Getting up to all sorts of crazy business.

Monday, September 19, 2011

While the Getting's Good

I don't mean to lambaste you with tomato recipes...but the way I figure it, it just wouldn't be fair not to share these goodies with you.  We've got to get them, while the getting's good.  And it is oh so good.

Today, I'm coming at you with a Kiwi recipe for Tomato Relish.  That's not kiwi, as in fruit, but rather Kiwi as in the wicked cool folks of New Zealand.  And specifically, my uber-cool mate, and former neighbor, Mim.  Also known as the Goddess of the Garden.  This gal has a way with veggies...and kids...and a serious way with words.  Every time I read one of her verbose and hilarious emails, I catch myself thinking, wistfully..."Oh, to be so witty!"  Check out her awesomeness on her blog, BabyGeek.

Back to the point...after enjoying a little frittata with some of her famous Tomato Relish, I timidly asked for Mim's recipe. Timidly, because it was so delicious I assumed it must be a top-secret family heirloom recipe.  Mim laughed, and said, "'Course, mate!  It's from Edmond's!"

Edmonds Family Cookbook is, to the best of my knowledge, as crucial to Kiwiana as Buzzy Bee, Pavlova, and the AllBlacks.  Or L&P.

I think it's actually required, by law, for every household to own or support all of the above.  (Kidding.  Mostly.)

So, I was generously handed that which, while not exactly a secret family recipe, may still be considered an age-old tradition in NZed:  The recipe to beat all recipes for Tomato Relish.  And it is good.  Made with robust, end of summer tomatoes, bursting with tartness and a bit of heat.  My favorite way to enjoy is simply served up with a chunk of good bread and some dry, sharp cheese.  (Did you know that there is a type of cheese made in NZ, called Tasty?  Not the brand, mind you.  The style.  We'd call it extra sharp cheddar, they call it Tasty.  Amazing, those guys.)  Also brilliant served up alongside a frittata, or with an antipasto plate.  On grilled cheese.  The Mister likes to dip his pizza in it.  (I think that's just wrong.)  Point being, it's damn versatile.  And damn tasty. (ha)

Mim's World Famous Tomato Relish - adapted from (Mim's) Edmonds Family Cookbook
- makes roughly 4 pints

1.5 kg/about 3 1/2 lbs tomatoes, blanched and peeled, then halved

4 medium onions, halved then cut into thirds

2 tablespoons salt
2 cups brown sugar
2 1/4 cups malt vinegar *
1 - 3 chillies (Mim calls for 3, I like about 2...take your pick)
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon curry powder (mild or hot, up to you)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup malt vinegar *

*Since malt vinegar can be hard to find in the US, I have managed to successfully substitute apple cider vinegar.  But if you can find it, it's well worth it.  True Kiwi flavor, you see.*

Place tomatoes and onions in non-reactive bowl, and sprinkle with salt.  Cover with a lid and leave for 12 hours.  This works best overnight, so you don't have that strong onion smell knocking you over the head while you go about your day.  The next morning, drain off the liquid.

Put veggies, sugar, first measure of vinegar, and chillies, into a large pot, or preserving pan.  This is going to be bubbling away for an hour and a half, and smelling very vinegar-y, so I like to start the boil on the stove, then move it out to the burner on the barbecue.  Or you can use a camping stove.  Or tough it up, and do it inside, but you may find yourself opening a few windows.

Boil gently (bit under a rolling bowl, definitely over a simmer, since you're reducing) for an hour and a half, stirring frequently, to avoid sticking.  While this is boiling, get your canning equipment set up and ready to go.

Once the hour and a half has passed, your relish ought to have reduced by 1/3 or more.  Mix together the mustard, flour, curry powder and second measure of vinegar, then add to the relish.  Boil for 5 minutes, then pack into sterilized jars, and follow your regular canning process.

It's well worth the effort to make this a double batch, so you get 8 pints, rather than 4 from a single batch.  We go through the tomato relish fairly quickly around here...so more is undeniably better!


Sunday, September 18, 2011


Do you recall that giant box of tomatoes I was lamenting yesterday?

Well, turns out, I've changed my tune.  Redemption comes in many forms, dear friends, and soup is one of them.

After the passata fiasco, I took a wee tomato time out, got my head back on, and then jumped back in the game.  Visited a few blogs and sites on canning.  Toned down the cursing.  Generally sorted myself out.  You know how it goes.

And I learned a few things.  Namely, that I don't have to can all of these tomatoes.  I read here on SouleMama, that she freezes her tomato sauce!  Freezes the sauce!  I have a freezer!  And I don't need to worry about acid levels and botulism, or even buying more lids and jars!  (Although I still may, because mason jars are so cool.)

So there was that bit of inspiration, thanks to SouleMama.  She's just so lovely, and homey, and serene, isn't she?  I suppose that kind of serenity really stands out to me, considering it is often something I am distinctly lacking.  Life's a learning curve, though, and I'm not finished learning yet.

Right.  So then, there was the soup.  I again drew inspiration from Amanda Soule's Carrot Tomato Soup recipe.  (I truly was all over the place, seeking tomato ideas...SouleMama's just where it's at, I guess.)  The main features that I kept was using carrots, and to roast the tomatoes.  Which really deepens and sweetens the flavor.  I did change it up quite a bit though, to suit what we have going on in the King pantry.  I had a bunch of fennel, so I used that, along with onion and carrot.  Oh yum.  And some fennel seeds to further bring out that gorgeous anise hit to the soup.  Fennel and tomatoes complement each other perfectly.  I also threw in a tablespoon of sugar, which perhaps may sound redundant with fresh, seasonal, local tomatoes...but hear me out.  Tomato soup often has a strong acid level, which the sugar mellows, smoothing and rounding out the soup.  Amanda's recipe also called for cream, and believe you me, I love some cream, but I was fresh out.  Remembering a trick from Moosewood Daily Special, I threw two tablespoons of cream cheese in there, when I pureed the soup.  Lovely.

I could eat this soup every day, I tell you.

Roasted Tomato Fennel Soup - serves 6 to 8, as a main

3 pounds tomatoes, blanched & skins removed
few Tbs olive oil
several small stalks of thyme
2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 small heads fennel, stalks and fronds removed, and chopped*
1 medium onion, chopped
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
5 medium carrots, chopped
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
4 cups vegetable stock (you can also use chicken)
2 Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs soft cream cheese, or neufchatel (the kind that comes in the box, not the plastic container)
celery salt
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

*Save some fronds for garnish.  I also save the stalks for making veg stock, or use them in other dishes.*

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.  If using large tomatoes, slice in half, then slice each half into thirds or quarters.  If using Roma's or another smallish tomato, halve or quarter them.  Spread the thyme over the tomatoes, season with celery salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil, and roast for 35 to 45 minutes.

Near the end of roasting time, melt the butter over medium low heat in a large stock pot, and add the onion, cooking until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the fennel seeds, chopped fennel, garlic, and carrot, and season with salt and pepper.  Turn the heat up to near medium, and continue cooking until all the vegetables are nicely softened but not browned, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Add in the roasted tomatoes, tomato paste, and stock, and bring just to a boil.  Lightly season again with salt and pepper, and lower to a gentle simmer, for 25 to 30 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, or regular blender in batches, puree the soup.  (If you're rather refined about the whole soup thing, you can sieve it.  I'm not.)  Near the end of blending, add in the soft cream cheese, and puree until well incorporated.  Gently reheat, if you used a blender.  Check for, and adjust seasoning.

Serve garnished with fennel fronds, with some fresh bread alongside.  (Try my rustic loaf, baguettes, or even gougeres.)

Just so you know, this soup makes you happy.  I plan on making a lot of it, to get us through the cold weather.  (You can also use tinned tomatoes instead of fresh, and treat them the same, roasting and all.)

By the way, last night I mentioned to the Mister that I was considering buying another twenty pound box of tomatoes...

You can never have too many tomatoes, you know.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It isn't over yet

This week has been a real kick up the backside, as far as reality checks are concerned.  Those long awaited high temperatures have now dropped by at least twenty degrees.  The heat has been begrudgingly turned on.  The fire is lit in the evening.  But only if we see shivers and goosebumps.  (Put a sweater on, kiddo!  You think heat is free?)  Knitting has begun in earnest, because, after all, Christmas is only three months away.  (Oh, dirty words.)  I've been reluctantly packing up the summer clothes and sandals (sigh), and replacing them with sweaters and shoes.  And I so despise wearing shoes.  I realize this is rather unnatural in one of the oh, um, fairer sex (ha!), but I'd rather be barefoot any day. 

Even as we see all these shifts in our day to day, though, we're still enjoying the fruits of summer.  Because it isn't over yet, people.  Six more days of summer to go, and a whole bloody lot of tomatoes.

Twenty pounds of tomatoes, to be exact.

I do believe my Laura Ingalls complex has gotten entirely out of hand.  You know that thing I do...where I see that my 7 lbs of tomatoes I'm buying for tomato relish, costs nearly as much as a twenty pound box.  So, of course, being ever so economical,  I go for the big box.  

Then, on the drive home, several things hit me.  And I'm talking a serious walloping over the head, cartoon lady with the cast iron frying pan-style.  

Thing #1:  Twenty pounds of tomatoes is really quite a lot of freaking tomatoes.  Especially when I've never canned anything but tomato relish.  Oh balls.

Thing #2:  I've never canned anything but tomato relish.  Oh bollocks.

Thing #3:  I definitely do not have enough lids to can twenty pounds of tomatoes.  Oh crap.

Thing #4:  Not enough jars either.  Oh shit.

So, I said to myself:  Hey, lady, get your Laura on.  If the pioneers could do it with no electricity, or fancy gadgets, you can surely work this out.  And my Laura felt up to the challenge.  Mostly.  Inspired by this SouleMama post on tomatoes, I figured I'd knock out some passata and tomato soup, and use up all those gorgeous (cursed) tomatoes.  Easy-bloody-peasy, right?


It started out so well, too.

Looks promising, doesn't it?

Turns out, trying to make passata without a food mill, is probably the stupidest move that can be made.  Pressing out all those roasted tomatoes through a fine sieve, let's face it, sucks.  It's the suckiest suck that ever sucked, really.  And it made exactly this much:

Three freaking cups.

Three cups of deliciousness.  But still.  When the Mister looked at the results of my heaving, groaning effort, he said:  "Well, that's a lot of work for not very much return."  No.  Freaking.  Kidding.

It looks like my Laura...that feisty, hard-working gem of a pioneer...well, my Laura...before tackling her daily chores, and canning, just so happened to down a crazy pill with a jug of Mr. Edwards' moonshine.  That's why she's acting all crazy...and making me all crazy, in turn.  Not my fault, you see.

So, because today's passata was a giant Cluster-****-Extraordinaire, I will not be punishing you with that recipe.  I will, however, throw an easy one your way, for celery salt.  I used it on my roasting tomatoes, but you can put it on anything.

Like a Bloody Mary.  Which is what I'm really wishing these tomatoes would turn into, right about now.

Celery Salt & Pepper

1 tsp celery seeds
3 tsp sea salt, large crystals
3/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

Put everything into a mortar and bash it about with the pestle until it's all a fine, even consistency.

Well, at least we didn't screw that up.  I do believe Ma and Pa are ashamed of my Laura.  May never forgive her, in fact.

Unless...tomorrow's tomato relish may just change their minds about me.  Barring any unforeseen moonshine, that is.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dave's the Man

First of all...I don't know Dave.  But I do know that the recipe I'm about to share with you makes him The Man.

This is one of those grapevine recipes, you know the sort.  A good friend named, let's say, Jane, with serious skills in the kitchen makes it for, let's say, a camping trip.  (Yes, we're rather gourmet on our camping trips.  At least when Monica and Jane are there.)  Anyway, once I tasted the delight that was this recipe, I managed to get another friend, let's call her, Monica, to send me the recipe.  Now, here's where Dave comes in.

Dave is some guy, whom I've never met, but he found this recipe, and decided to start a recipe club at work.  Which is how Jane got hold of it.  Et cetera, et cetera...And it turns out, the originator of the recipe is also called Dave.  Or rather, David Chang.  Of a little place called Momofuku.  You may have heard of it.  So some-guy-Dave, got David Chang's recipe, via Lucky Peach.

And, here I sit, with just about the tastiest damn recipe, that's traveled a wee way to land in my sticky clutches (isn't that how it always goes with recipes?), and you may be wondering:  "Just what the hell is this recipe?!"  Ah, all good things come to those who wait.  And here it is:

Slow Roasted Pulled Pork.  Oh.  My.  Word.  Aside from the fact that this is the easiest dang thing to prepare...Aside from the fact that it takes very few ingredients to knock your socks off...Aside from the fact that you can make this ahead of time, and it travels well (even camping)...The taste is incredible.  After marinating overnight in salt and sugar, and after a looooong, slooooow roast at a lowwww temperature, you get to sit down to a tender, succulent, salty bit of pork.  I'm talking salty, too, people.  A smack you over the head with its intensely concentrated, but oh-so-perfect amount of salt.  Indeed.

Let's offer up a little thanks to the Daves, for being The Man (Men?)...and get on with making it:

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder
- Adapted from Some-Guy-Dave's version of David Chang's Lucky Peach recipe

3 or more pounds boneless pork shoulder
1 Tbs + 1 tsp kosher salt, per pound of pork
1 Tbs + 1 tsp sugar, per pound of pork
freshly ground black pepper

Season the pork with the salt and sugar, and a decent amount of freshly ground pepper.  Allow to marinate overnight, in the fridge.

Discard the juices from the marinated pork, and place in an oven-proof dish.  If your pork has a fat pad, have this on top.  Allow to roast for 6 hours, in a 250 deg F oven.

After 3 hours have passed, begin basting with the juices and rendered fat, every half hour or so.  At the end of the 6 hour roasting time, allow the pork to rest on the counter, covered, for 30 minutes.

Here's the good part.  And I quote:  "Then savage it with two forks, turning it into pulled pork."  Dave's got a way with words, hasn't he?  If we're eating meat, we may as well be a little barbaric about it, right?  Awesome.

Now that is one savaged bit of pork.

Serve immediately, atop rolls, with sriracha hot sauce, mayonnaise, and cilantro, and some coleslaw.  I also can't wait to try this on some Chinese steam buns, with an asian style slaw.  Or pop it in the fridge, to use within a couple of days.  To reheat, give it a go around in a hot pan, so that it doesn't lose all that gorgeous juiciness.

If ever I meet Dave, or David, I'll probably have to give them a giant hug.  

I do hope they don't mind.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Getting Rid of the Grizzlies

I never used to think of myself as a breakfast person...or a morning person, for that matter.  Kids change things, though, don't they?  Nowadays, I wake up, grizzly mama bear style, stumbling sleepy-eyed to the kitchen, following my growling stomach to food.  (And coffee.)

With the kiddos in school, breakfast generally needs to be a quick affair, squeezed in before the rush-rush-rush that is the morning routine.  And who wants to eat a boxed cereal every morning?  Not this mama bear, that's for sure.

So, without further ado, here's my recipe for granola.  I found inspiration in several recipes along the way, and tweaked it and tried a new this or that, until I came up with this version.  Which is mighty tasty, if I do say so myself.  It takes only 5 minutes to prep, then a slow bake in the oven, and once it's cooled, there you go.  (Bob's your uncle.)

Hope you enjoy!

Mama Nécole's Granola (to fight off the grizzlies)

3 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups whole, raw, unsalted nuts (I usually use cashews, almonds, and sunflower seeds, but experiment with what suits your fancy)
pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/3 tsp ground allspice (or ground cardamom is tasty too)

1/3 cup juice (whatever you have in the fridge is fine: cranberry, orange, apple...)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 deg F.

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the dry ingredients together.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients, then pour over the dry, and stir well to combine.

Spread in an even layer on a rimmed cookie sheet.  I like to have big chunks of granola at the end, so I pack mine down gently with the back of the spoon.  Bake for 25 minutes, then gently stir the granola around the pan, bringing the crisper edges to the middle, so it cooks evenly.  If you prefer to keep the nice, big clumps, don't overmix at this point.  Bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until golden, then allow to cool completely.  (The granola crisps up as it cools.)  Once cool, store in an airtight container. Will keep for several weeks.

Serve it up over yogurt, and add in whatever fresh or dried fruit you have around, depending on the season. Peaches are the happening choice right now.  Dates are also scrumptious.

Happy Breakfasting!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Recipe for the Perfect Friday

All you need for the perfect Friday afternoon:


Two Kiddos, or a number that suits your fancy
A lake, somewhat chilled
A picnic, quick and easy - bread, cheese, olives, & blueberries, in this case
The Mister, or suitable other, to come in and take over at just the right time (and help carry stuff back)
A bottle of well-chilled wine

To Prepare:

Begin by picking the kiddos up from school.  Toss their swim gear at them, and have them change in the car on the way to the lake.  (Remind the boy, that A.  Nobody can see him change.  And B.  It's easier to quickly slip into boardies if you undo the velcro fastening before you put them on.)  Let the excitement simmer on the short drive to the lake, then deflate slightly, by telling them that everyone must carry something...

Send the boy on ahead to search out the perfect, secluded spot, and set up camp.  Baste everyone in sunscreen, and allow to marinate for several hours...

Whilst marinating, take a ridiculous number of photos of the kiddos doing their thing...


 Marvel at their greatness for a bit...

Then change your mind when they start bickering.  Cue snacks...


When you're pretty sure everyone is well and truly cooked, break out the picnic...

...which will cue the Mister's arrival...and the wine (for which you forgot the wine key, never mind, the Mister's got it.)

Toast the good life.
With a few blueberries in there for good measure.

And back to enjoying the remains of the day...

(I shall call him Mini-Me...)

Soak up the last rays of sunshine...

Then pack it all up, and head for home...


The Perfect Recipe.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Out of the Box, Take 6

The evenings, once a week, when our CSA box arrives, are kind of thrilling for me.  Simple pleasures are where it's at, people.  And good, fresh food...well, that's my bag.  Despite the lovely, and helpful, fact that the farm sends out an email early in the day, telling us what's in the box, I usually wait, all aglow as if it's Christmas morning, until the Mister brings it up the steps.  Veggie-Santa.  Peek inside at all the gorgeous, vibrant colors, and the wheels start to turn:  "What's for dinner tonight?"

And it's not difficult, especially as we are in the peak of summer's bounty right now.  How much fun is it to prepare food in the summer?!  I can't even stand it, seriously, kids.  Each meal is a veritable rainbow, each bite almost too beautiful to pop in my mouth.

But I do.  Of course.

Last night's meal was so simple, so fresh and delicious, and so very quick to make.  I did a little twist on succotash, with what I had from the box, and a few bits in my fridge.  Generally, succotash is a dish of corn and sweet bell peppers, or corn and fresh shelling beans.  It must, must, must be cooked in butter.  And that's wholly justifiable, seeing as the rest of the dish is so very good for you.

I do hope you enjoy!

Green Bean and Sweet Corn Succotash
-serves 4 as a main, or 6 - 8 as a side

1 pound green beans, trimmed and blanched (for 1 or 2 minutes only)
2 - 3 ears sweet corn, kernels sliced off
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium or 1/2 a large red bell pepper, chopped*
2 small sweet yellow peppers, chopped*
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp minced fresh sage
fresh parsley, for garnish
3 - 4 Tbs unsalted butter
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

*Note*  You can use any variety of sweet peppers, this is just what I had available.

Add 2 Tbs butter to a large saute pan, or cast iron pan, and let it melt over medium low heat.  Add the onions, and gently cook them until translucent, about 6 - 8 minutes.  Turn the heat to medium, add the garlic, sage, corn kernels, and peppers, season generously with salt and pepper, and saute another five minutes.  Add the green beans, and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.  If your pan begins to look dry, add a few Tbs of water.  (You can use the blanching water from the green beans for this.)  You are not browning any vegetables, just mingling their flavors, releasing the starch from the corn, and brightening everything up.  If your pan gets too hot and starts to brown the veg, turn it down a bit.

Add the remaining butter to the vegetables in the pan, then turn the veg out into a large bowl.  Add the halved tomatoes, and the parsley, and check for seasoning.

That's it!  How simply delicious could dinner get?

The Mister and I ate this as a main course, with some bread alongside.  And it was, to bastardize the immortal words of Sylvester the Cat:  most definitely not "thufferin' thuccotash."

Ah, well.  Couldn't really offer up a succotash recipe without referring to him, could I?  Apologies.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cheap & Cheerful

A feature where I share a good deal I happen upon...be it wine, food, or just something fun...If you have something Cheap & Cheerful you'd like to share, leave a link or suggestion in the Comments section at the end of this post!  Enjoy!

Since we're nearly into Autumn, but September's behaving itself like the August we always hoped for...we'd better make the most of things!  Grab a picnic table, a few friends, and a bottle of Casal Garcia.  A rosé vinho verde this time...ever-so-subtly effervescent...crisp, clean, and pink...what more could you ask for on a hot day?

This is the wine we consumed copious quantities of, back in our Portugal days, although I did not hear of a pink vinho verde, until a few years ago.  There is something extra festive about a rosé, isn't there?  Particularly a rosé that is under $10.  

Oh, happy day!  Enjoy your week.  And your wine.