Friday, January 10, 2014

Two Go-To Pork recipes

I promised a LONG time ago, for my pork customers that I would provide my favorite way to cook pork roast, so here it is.

I don't know why pulled pork has a bit of a reputation as fatty comfort food.  I think it's probably one of the leanest ways to eat the meat in terms of fat, although I do add some extra treats to the sauce that do make it a comfort food for sure.  But because of all the slow cooking, the fat is rendered out and I usually am able to skim off most of it, and any larger pieces still left on the meat just fall right off.  My favorite part of pulled pork is that we use every single little piece of the meat so there is nothing left but the fat and bones.  When I think about trying to respect the animal on the plate as much as I respected it here on the farm, I try really hard to use as much of it as possible. (Our dog honours the fat and bones. :)

So this is the basis for my recipe, but it changes a bit every time, depending on how I'm feeling and what I have on hand.

2 onions diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground coriander
sautee together, about 5 minutes

1/4 cup tomato paste
1 can (14oz) tomato sauce
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. worchestershire

So that's the original version, but mine is a rough estimate of that.  I seem to never have coriander on hand, so sometimes I pretend that cumin will suffice.  And rather than having 1/2 tiny can of tomato paste in my fridge, I often either use the whole thing and just dilute it with water and don't add the tomato sauce.  Or, more commonly,  I'll open a jar of organic tomato sauce and use a couple big glugs of that instead, instead of both the tomato paste and sauce mentioned above.  I don't worry about the flavour of the sauce. It won't matter when everything simmers together for hours.

I've also gotten less picky about dicing and mincing.  It cooks for HOURS, so it doesn't really matter if it's minced, diced, etc. By the time the pork is falling apart, so is the garlic.
Now, for the extra treats: I always add a good glug of molasses.  Sometimes I do it instead of the brown sugar, or mostly, on top of.  And if I'm feeling particularly naughty and ignoring my anti-GMO manifesto, I'll pour in a splash of black pop (either root beer or cola).  Not a lot, but it does add another dimension of awesome to an already pretty great dish.
Anyway, the recipe calls for a browning of the roast, which has been rubbed with salt and pepper, but ain't nobody got time for dat around here, so I just toss the roast into the slow cooker, sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and splash the sauce in on top of it. 
My chef friend Roy once expounded about the evils of calling slow cooker pork, proper pulled pork and explained the added flavour dimensions and texture of real pulled pork, cooked over coals for a day and a night or some such insanity, but again, ain't nobody got time fo dat around here, so the slow cooker it is.  And to be honest, I don't notice much difference in flavour between 8 hours on low vs. 4 on high.  The pork still falls apart either way.
Oh, right, the final steps of the recipe.  Bring out the pork onto a work surface of choice (I use our cutting board).  You may have to or want to bring it out in pieces to work with while you pull it.  I prefer using two forks and just sort of getting it into manageable pieces.  I pour the sauce into a pot, skim off the fat, get it bubbling and put the pulled pork in the sauce. It's ready to serve now, or it can sit there and simmer until you're ready.  It also freezes pretty decently and can sit in the fridge for a good few days of re-heating.
And there you have it!

Second recipe, and it's a quick one, is for those ham steaks that are basically a giant circle of lean looking meat, with a cute little round bone right in the middle.  They ARE lean and they are tender, so don't make the mistake of slow cooking for hours like a roast.  These can take a nice quick fry, but my favorite method is to make up this quick sauce and cook for about 45 mins in a 350-400 oven, or 400-450 if you're behind and only have 1/2 hour.

This is a picture of what you get in a pork box from us (give or take) and the steaks I'm talking about in this next recipe are the ones in the upper right hand corner and top center.

My Go-To Pork Sauce adapted from a recipe my friend Bev brought to me in a dish on my first day home post baby #3. :)

2tbsp. vinegar
1 tbsp. worchestershire
3/4 cup ketchup
3 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. salt
enough water to make it a consistency you like and enough to cover the meat.

I usually cut the steak up into enough pieces for the people I'm serving and pour the sauce over and cook at 350 until I think it's done.  It's tempting to over-cook, but you can keep it moist if you don't. 
That cute round bone in the middle is full of marrow, which is a special treat for some people.  And you can trust that the marrow in these bones is GMO, antibiotic, hormone and steroid free.  :)

Bon Appetit!


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cabbage two (delicious) ways!!!

What a CSA season this has been! I cannot believe the abundance and quality of the food I have been fortunate enough to receive from my favorite veggie farmer.  I may never grow a garden again (although I may coach the kids from the sidelines as they grow things).  What a seriously awesome blessing to be a part of this amazing experience.  And having been on both ends of a CSA this summer, I can truly appreciate the serious amount of time and effort that goes into not only the food production part, but all the other, behind the scenes work.  Jen Campbell, you are my food hero.

But let's talk about cabbage.  Less than a hero to many.  I feel bad for the cabbage, especially the cabbages that I carefully stored in my crispers for the past few weeks, until I had time to find recipes that I thought would make them enticing to my eaters.  Any chance you still have a cabbage or two, kicking around, waiting for inspiration?
Well, I hope you do, because I've got two awesome recipes that I think would work with nearly all kinds of cabbage (although the purple ones might not look so good when cooked).
They were both good, but Mark and I both preferred one over the other.
Here's Mark's favorite:

Sauteed Cabbage & Bacon*  (<--------see? Bacon makes everything good!)

4 or 5 slices of real, thick cut bacon, diced
1/2 green cabbage, sliced thin
1 onion, sliced thin
salt & pepper
1 tbsp mustard
1 tbsp horseradish
little splash of water

fry the bacon, remove from the pan, leaving the fat in the pan. 
add the cabbage to the fat in the hot pan, along with onion and cook covered, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes (not too long!).
Add salt and pepper, mustard, horseradish and water, cooking for 1 more minute. (Don't let it get mushy, but the cabbage should be softened a bit). 
Stir in the bacon

(note: I followed this recipe, but next time I make it, I don't know if I'll bother to remove the bacon and then stir it back in. I hate an extra, unnecessary dirty plate.)

Now for my fav. (and since the first one had my 1st favorite ingredient (bacon), you can guess that that second one will have my second favorite ingredient (curry).  Sorry to be so predictable!

Curried Cabbage

2 tbsp butter
1 small onion sliced
1 cabbage, shredded or thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp curry powder (or to taste)
splash of water

melt butter over med. high heat
add onion and cook until softened
add cabbage, curry powder, salt and the water.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the cabbage is tender (but not mushy!).

This tasted like a nice curried chow mien to me, with the perfect amount of crunch, but with a little more flavour than a typical Canadian Chinese food chow mien. I think it's much better hot, but I tried a bit cold and it was ok too. 

Happy to have shared these weeks with you!  Although my posting will undoubtedly drop off a bit, I hope you'll check back throughout the winter as I delve a bit deeper into the GMO alternatives to some of our favorite (hidden) GMO laden foods.

Here's to a cozy fall, filled with farmers and good food!

*Get the good bacon, from the real farmer.  On a related note: we'll have fresh GMO-free pork available soon! Try finding THAT anywhere else on the Island!  Let me know if you're interested.)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Simple Sides

I have a vague memory of brussels sprouts being my all-time favorite vegetable, yet I only remember eating them once, as a kid.  They weren't something we grew in our garden and I think Mom ever bought them, so I don't know why I have this memory of them being something fantastic, but I was eager to give them a try when they came on that big crazy stalk in the bin this week.
I used my tried and true old faithful cookbook, Joy of Cooking, looking for a very basic recipe and it suggested I start out by soaking them in salted water for 10 minutes.  I don't know exactly what that did, but I did it anyway.  Then I cut cross gashes in the stem ends (presumably to help them cook more evenly-which they did).
So I added a stalk's worth to boiling water and let them simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes.  The uncovered part is important, as they can put off a great stink if they're left to their own devices.
Once they were tender crisp (not overcooked!) I drained them, added butter and minced shallot to the pan and let that fry up for a bit before adding the sprouts back in and tossing them about.  Finally, I added some bread crumbs for crunch and texture and tossed it all together before serving.
{That greenish pile of slime was a failed attempt at "Buttered Spinach".  NOT a crowd pleaser (even I had a hard time choking it down), so I won't waste space with posting what NOT to make. }
The bread crumbs were nice, but it was the butter and onion flavour that made this a pretty good side dish.  My usual veggie monsters weren't super keen on them, but Mark and I thought they were pretty good.  I think my only change would be that next time I would half or quarter the bigger sprouts so they would cook more evenly with the smaller ones.  

The next simple side is a new favy recipe of mine, although in all fairness, you can't really go wrong with cheese and heavy cream.  But it's Thanksgiving!  Give thanks for living in a place where we can enjoy a little indulgence now and then and cook up this savory treat

Baked Creamy Leeks
1 3/4 lbs of leeks (about four would be perfect), trimmed, quartered lengthwise and chopped.  You may have to rinse them in a colander under the tap to clean them off.
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced.
A bit of thyme (if you have it on hand)
1 cup cheddar cheese (give or take- I used less)
3/4 cup heavy cream (again, give or take)

So basically just toss the garlic in a hot pan with some butter, just until it's starting to take on a little colour.  Add the leeks and the thyme (if you have it) and give it all a stir.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until the leeks start to soften (I rushed this step and it was still fine).
Remove from the heat, add some salt and pepper if you want, and the cream and half of the cheese.  Stir and transfer to a shallow casserole dish fit for the oven.  Sprinkle over the rest of the cheese and bake at 400 for about 20 minutes (I rushed this step as well and it was fine, if not a bit runnier than intended).  
The photo does NOT capture how bubbly and cozy this dish is or how tasty it is.  It will be a welcome addition to many Thanksgiving tables with it's fresh, light oniony flavour, but warm creamy cheese to please the pickier palates

Don't forget to give thanks for your farmers this weekend! 


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tis the Season of Soup

I love this time of year.  I probably say this at the beginning of every season, but fall is truly my favorite time of year.  I sleep best when my windows are open, the air is chill, my nose is cold and I'm smothered in heavy blankets.  And there is something about that chill in the air that makes food taste that much better and I think maybe a bit more fun to cook.
So tonight, I'm getting the soups out of my system and leaving you with two simple but amazing soups that are a hit in this house (well, except Thayne who doesn't like any soup or stew...grrr) and that feel like will cure whatever ails ya.  They're classics that I'm sure many of you already have a handle on, but if you're new to these soups and want a no-fail go-to, here are two I love:
Leek & Potato Soup and Parsnip & Ginger Soup 
They start out the same, with the mirepoix I mentioned in the Cauliflower soup recipe a couple weeks ago, along with some garlic.
2 carrots  (any colour will do, but note that the purple carrots can add some 'off' colour to the final product, if you care about aesthetics.)
2 celery stalks
2 medium onions
2 cloves garlic
Chop those things up and get em sizzling lightly in a large saucepan with some olive oil. 

For Leek & Potato soup chop up a pound(ish) of leeks and add to the pot and cook together, stirring once in a while until the carrots are starting to soften. Add 7 cups broth or water along with 1 pound-ish of peeled and diced potatoes.  Give everything a good stir, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, or until everything is soft-ish.
I like my autumn soups purreed, so once it's ready I run my immersion blender through it, but you can always eat it as is.

For the Parsnip & Ginger soup, add a thumb-sized piece of ginger (I keep mine in the freezer and shave it with a rasp whenever I need some, but powdered ginger works ok here too), 1.5- 2 lbs of peeled and diced parsnips (I used two weeks of my shares worth) along with the veggies and cook together, stirring once in a while until the carrots are starting to soften.   Add 7 cups broth or water and give everything a good stir, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, or until everything is soft-ish.
I like my autumn soups purreed, so once it's ready I run my immersion blender through it, but you can always eat it as is. 

Both soups need seasoned with salt and pepper to taste and I like to serve mine with greek yogurt or sour cream and croutons.  A little bit of fresh parsley chopped in, brightens it up a bit too.

So few ingredients, but so delicious!

Warm and cozy and perfect with a toasted tomato sandwich a la Jen.  :)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Squash season!

Before I get started with my recipe this week, if you're feeling like you're not making the most of your herbs, don't forget about my herbed rice recipe.  I made home-made GMO free falafels the other night and stuffed them in pitas with rice that was cooked with cilantro, parsley and a splash of lime juice.  It's as simple as just chopping it up, tossing it in and letting it sit for a minute and serving.  Brightens up rice so quick and easy!
Butternut squash are one of my favorite foods.  It's such a toned-down version of squash, but with that smooth, creamy texture that makes soups and roasted squash so good, and autumn one of my favorite times of year to cook.
The other thing I like about this recipe is that it showcases apples, which at this time year are so fresh and so good.  And although I don't usually stress too much about the price of food at the grocery store I can't be the only one who has noticed the price of apples has jumped significantly over the last few months.  That's why I love September and making our annual trip to Beamish's Orchards- the only organic orchard on PEI!  We stock up and the apples last so long and are so crisp and like summer-in-fall good.

One butternut squash, peeled and diced
2-3 crisp apples, diced.
1/2 cup nuts (almonds, walnuts or whatever you like)
a small handful of chopped parsley

Toss diced squash with: 1/4 cup oil
                                        2 tsp. honey
                                       salt and pepper
Spread squash on baking sheet, roast at 300 degrees until tender, but not too soft (30 mins-ish).
Allow to cool.
Combine with other ingredients.
Whisk together:
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. balsalmic vinegar
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper if needed, to taste.

Toss is all together.
The one fault of this salad is that there's a fine line between letting it sit to soak up the flavours of the dressing and having things turn slightly less bright.  Although I've had it sitting in the fridge overnight now and the flavour has gotten better and the apples are still crisp and the nuts still crunch, so I have no complaints.

I think next time I will add some finely chopped onions, or maybe try some different herbs.  It was really too heavy to be a 'salad' in my view, but was a delicious savory dish I will keep in my recipe box for a side to a chicken soup or something warm and cozy.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Red Cabbage, Lentil and Walnut Salad

 So I made this post almost a week ago and then forgot that I hadn't actually posted it.  So, sorry Jen and anyone waiting for a new recipe.  And now since I've discovered that it didn't make it, I've since made more batches of roasted tomates and cauliflower soup, so I caught a couple pictures to go with last week's post (or two weeks ago now).
 Gorgeous tomatoes, drizzled in oil, nestled with garlic and ready for action!
 With my subsequent batches I discovered that more than 5 hours is actually better because all that liquid that seeps out of the tomatoes concentrates and makes things thicker.  There was no need for a slotted spoon with my other batches because the liquid had become more of a paste and was soooo flavourful!  I now have a few batches frozen in ziploc bags in the freezer, ready for tasty sauce this winter.
This is just a picture from when we were making the Cauliflower Soup I posted last time and I thought this shot of my carrot cutting fairy was too cute not to share. Everyone should have one of these kitchen helpers that flutters in to lend a hand! :)
So onto the recipe!
I realize that red (or purple) cabbage may not have been in your share this week, but I doubt if I'm the only one who had a cabbage in their crisper from previous weeks that would look at them each day and say, "are you going to eat me today or what?"  This recipe is for you and it couldn't be easier.

Dressing: 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
                1 tbsp. dijon mustard
                2 tbsp. olive oil
                salt and pepper
         1/2 red cabbage, chopped fine(ish)
          1 15oz. can lentils
         1/2 shallot, chopped extra fine
         1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted if you have time.
         a handful of raisins (this is very optional and not in the original recipe, but if you'll notice, raisins are the bacon of salads around here and usually mean that everyone will at least give something new a try).
The recipe also called for 2 cups arugula, but I left that out.  It would certainly add some pretty green, but my kids have adapted my arugula aversion (yes, I know it's my fault), so we left it out.
This salad is crisp and the dressing is bright.  It was better after some of it sat in the fridge overnight and cabbage is great for maintaining its crispiness so would be a good potluck recipe.  You could of course cook raw lentils, but Eden Organic has really good canned lentils in the health food section and they're a pantry staple for us around here.

Now, since I've finally posted this one and it's already time for another one, I've got a great new butternut squash recipe coming up for this week.  Stay tuned shortly!


Friday, September 13, 2013

Roasting and Soup, autumn is here!

This has been Lucy's first week of kindergarten and although she's striving in the environment, she brought home the inevitable first cold to everyone in the house so my meals have been slightly lacklustre in the creative department and more focused on the warm soups and comfort food.  I also failed to take any worthwhile pictures so you'll have to use your creative mind and just imagine my two offerings this week.
   Didn't get a picture of the food because I was too busy getting a picture of my little kindergartener!

Again, with a Jamie Oliver recipe, adapted slightly for the sake of fewer dishes and simple ingredients.  The proper Oliver title is "Cauliflower Cheese Soup" but for the sake of my cauliflower-resistant kids, I just called it Cheese Soup.  They like cauliflower, but only raw, so this soup is a great way to stretch it a bit farther and get it onto their menus.

Like most good soups it starts with a simple mirepoix of carrots, onions and celery, cooked down until the carrots are starting to soften and the onions are golden.  Along with the mirepoix, add 2 cloves garlic and a large head of cauliflower, separated into rough florets and cook all together for about 10 minutes.  Add enough broth to cover the vegetables and bring to a boil. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Here's the important part: Add a good big handful of cheddar cheese and a good squeeze of mustard.  Now puree the whole thing (immersion blender is perfect tool for this.)
Serve with some nutmeg. 

I think the mustard is the kicker in this one, and making sure it's pureed well.  I really love this simple soup and with some crunchy croutons or some bacon bits, this is the perfect lunch on these cooler, wet days of September.

Picture-less recipe #2 is a new one for me, but so far, I LOVE IT!

I've been stock piling some tomatoes for this Slow Roasted Tomato recipe.  It's so simple, but the roasting adds such a richness to the tomatoes I'm having a hard time deciding how to use them to make the most of them.  I think I'll keep it simple and combine with some of Jen's amazing basil and some good quality parmesan over home-made pasta.
Anyway, it's as easy as preheating the oven to 250 degrees.  Half or quarter tomatoes according to size and place cut side down on a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil.  Distribute the cloves from one head of garlic around the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt.  Roast for 5 hours or until tomato skins start to get too dark for your liking, although keep in mind that you will pluck the skins off anyway (and they literally pluck right off leaving the perfectly roasted tomatoes).

You can do this recipe and take them out after only 45 minutes- 1 hour, but the extra roasting adds so much flavour.  I got nervous about burning at the 4 hour mark so I took mine out then, but once they cooled and I picked the skins off I realized that I probably could have left them in longer.  Then I just used a slotted spoon to scoop half of them into a dish for the fridge and half into a freezer container so I could have a taste of summer during those dark days of winter.

Back in living colour next time!