Thursday, November 12, 2009

An Anniversary and a Poem

One year ago today my mother-in-law died of breast cancer.  

There are so many things that come to mind when I type that sentence:  Saying that out loud feels strange, and typing it feels even stranger.  Cancer sucks. Loosing a parent completely shakes your foundation.  Bad things happen to good people.  I am so thankful that she got to see us get married and continue our lives together.  I loved her so much.  I can't believe how much she's missed.  

It's very strange to me to think about my life and how it's changed, or not changed, over the past year.  Just as I mentioned in this post where I wrote about the meals I cooked to soothe myself, I'm still thinking about food being a part of my professional life, but I now feel closer than ever.

It's hard to comment on how things have changed without resorting to meaningless tautologies like, "so much has changed, yet so much stays the same".  That said, things have most certainly changed.

This baby who comforted me a year ago

has grown into a beautiful little lady

and this doggie, who was brand new to me at the time

has been brightening up my life ever since.  He makes me laugh daily.

And today, I'm trying to take it all in and look forward.  There are great things coming, and I'm ready.  I'd like to leave you with one of my all time favorite poems which seems appropriate for this post.  I highly recommend listening to a moving reading in an interview about poetry with the author here, late in his long and full life.  

The Layers
Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned campsites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Baked Eggs! and First Fall Chili, with Roasted Hot Pepper Cornbread


I have to begin this post by giving thanks to my two fabulous guessers, Maggie and Linda, who both suspected that these ramekins hold something sweet.  :)

I enjoy baking nearly as much as I do cooking, but these little guys hold something that can be eaten at breakfast, lunch, dinner, or sized down as a snack.  It can taste Asian, Italian, or Indian, depending on the spices you choose.
This beautiful and simple dish is....

Baked Eggs

Begin with one ramekin per each egg you'd like to cook.  I used these.
Grease each ramekin with butter, then drop in

1 tsp. of butter
1 tbsp. milk

Put these directly under the broiler for around 1 minute, until the butter melts and the liquid gets bubbly and thickens.

Meanwhile, crack an egg into a small bowl.  I also chopped up some parsley.  This is where you can get creative.  You could add fresh chili, ginger, and garlic, or oregano and fresh basil.  You could also skip the milk step and replace that liquid with stock, or soy sauce, coconut milk, or even tomato sauce.

That's why baked eggs are a great anytime food, because they can take what you have on hand and turn it into something simple, filling, healthy, and delicious.  I'm always looking for recipes that are simple and versatile.

I fried up diced bacon and used a little Tony's.

Pour one egg into each ramekin.  Add some parsley, bacon, goat cheese, and salt and pepper as you like.

Broil these 1-2 minutes, rotate, broil for another 1-2, and then check doneness.  How long you cook them will depend on how well you like your eggs done, but for me the whites should still be a little underdone when you pull them out from under the broiler, as they will continue cooking for a minute or so outside the oven.

Two of these are very simple and delicious breakfast, and a piece of toast nicely gets at the remaining runny bits, should there still be any.  I like my yolks very runny, so crunchy bread is a must.

If you didn't know, life in the midwest these last few days has been  Like, highs in the 70s.  Sunny and gorgeous.  We've been spending lots of time playing outside with the doggie, and walking around the 'hood.  This Sunday, we spent a few hours raking up the majority of our leaves, though the pin oak is still holding on to a few.

Last week marked the last normal market of the season, so I celebrated by buying some forced bulbs, which I believe are paperwhites, but who knows.

They have sprung up another four inches in the couple days since I took this photo.  They will bring a welcome green to an increasingly brown homestead.

Since the weather's been trending toward the cool, we're getting ready by making a huge batch of chili.  I usually make a chili with tons of beans and a little lean ground meat, like this post from more than two years ago, but this time I wanted to use a ton of fresh vegetables to stretch the meat and beans.  It's become very clear to me how much I love vegetables and how they belong in every meal.  Eating them simply makes my body feel better.

First Fall Chili

Here's the veggie spread:  five carrots, six stalks of celery, one red and one green bell pepper, two onions, and at around 10 cloves of garlic.  I used a small can of organic tomato paste. You can see my dry black and pinto beans.  I've become a little freaked out by BPA, which resides in plastics and can leach into our food.  Unfortunately, the lining of some canned goods is plastic and can contain BPA.  (See this article.)  I've been trying to choose dried beans instead of canned whenever possible.   Yet another reason why I need to can even more next year.

I added tons of hot chili powder, cayenne, and cumin.

This included a lot of chopping.

I started by cooking the veggies in a little butter and oil until they softened, then added some lean ground beef until it was nearly cooked through, and then added all the beans I cared to.  Speaking of canned things, I added two of these, too.

We have only eight jars left.  :(  Not NEARLY enough!

Cooked these all together and let them get happy.

To garnish, I use yogurt.  The food blogosphere is in love with "Greek style" yogurt, which is thick and tart compared to normal plain American yogurt.  I find that yogurt that comes from ethnic grocery stores tends to be much more tart and thick as a rule, while significantly cheaper than these "Greek" yogurts.  If you don't have access to an Indian or Middle Eastern market, just buy a normal plain yogurt and strain it.  Like this.  Use cheesecloth, or a paper towel, and put a sieve over a bowl.  You'll be amazed at how much liquid drains off in minutes.  Drain in the fridge overnight and you'll have a thick tart cream, prefect to use on chili instead of sour cream.

You should grate some cheddar on it too, and add some sliced green onions, and blue tortilla chips.

And I wouldn't dream of telling you to make chili without making cornbread.  You do have the special pan, right?

Roasted Pepper Cornbread

1 c. cornmeal
1. c. unbleached ap flour
4 tsp. baking soda
4 tsp. sugar
1 egg
1 c. buttermilk
4 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp salt
4 small chilies, roasted, seeded, peeled, and minced.
fresh grated pepper

Combine all the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet in another, then fold together just until most of the flour has gotten wet. There will still be big lumps, like this, but don't overmix.

Preheat that pan to 425 with a little oil in each well.

Bake 30-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  They were just slightly brown on top.  You're probably supposed to wait and let them cool to room temperature, but you know I ate two hot of the oven, with a little local raw honey and butter. :)


Finally, I have to give a shout-out to Linda over at One Scoop at a Time!  I was at Goodwill on Saturday (for, uh, the second time that week.  I have a small problem...) and as soon as I saw this beeeautiful Pyrex, thought of her, and I knew it had to come home with me :)

Enjoy what's left of this glorious fall!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Braised Pork Shoulder with Horseradish and Sage

It's been too long!  I have been insanely busy, and the weather has been just gorgeous lately.  The leaves are clinging to the trees, but most have made their way onto the ground, (especially into my yard)  though my pin oaks have held on to a lot.

I have been cooking like crazy, trying to squeeze the most out of the last month of farmer's market around here.  Let's get right to business with the haul!

We got shallots, garlic, a pear, two apples (Cortland and Johnathon), a squash (only ONE! I held back) some fresh horseradish root, a leek, and a little pork.

I *love* my pork lady.  She's fan-freakin'-tastic.  I've bragged about her on here before.  She treats her animals so well, and it shows in the meat she produces.  When I asked her where I could find her meat after the market season ended, she said, "Well, here's the schedule for a winter market we'll be at once a month, but, you know, you can come out to the farm anytime."  Now THAT is what I want to hear from somebody who is producing my food!

When I was looking into inspectors in the process of buying the house, someone said, "Tell them that you want to be present for the inspection, and if they say no, walk away.  Anybody that doesn't want you to watch them do the job you're paying them for has something to hide."

I'd been wanting to try some shoulder, so that's what I got.

As you can see, it's around 3 1/3 pounds for $13.  (She always rounds down.  See why I love her?)

Braised Pork Shoulder

I decided to sear the roast and then slow cook it in the dutch oven.  I did a little research on dry rubs and discovered that there are many different styles of dry rubs, which vary in the ratio of spices, sugar, and salt.

Who doesn't love carnitasthe Mexican pork shoulder rubbed with chile, cinnamon, garlic, and cumin?

Here's an Asian-inspired style, using ginger, garlic, five spice, and green tea.

This simple but perfect Italian rub is made with fennel, oregano, cayenne, and sea salt.

We're all familiar with a basic grilled pork rub that uses jalapeno, thyme, onion powder, and black pepper.

As you can see, I looked at all of these and decided to make something that took ideas from each, using what I had on hand. So, I started by making my own rub.  This recipe would also be great on chicken or other cuts of pork.

The Rub

  • two inches horseradish root, peeled and finely minced (it's very fiberous) 
  • 1 tbsp. Italian Seasoning 
  • 15-20 leaves dried sage and oregano from my herb garden
  • 3-4 tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1tbsp. dried mustard
  • 3/4 to 1 c. brown sugar, depending on your taste.  I used a scant 3/4, just enough to bring it together
  • 1/8-1/4 c. salt, again depending on taste. most recipes use around 1/3 as much salt as sugar
  • fresh black pepper
  • 1-3 cloves of garlic, minced
Spread this all over your meat.  I could have trimmed a lot of fat off this roast before I put it in the oven, but I didn't.  I wanted the fat to flavor the sauce.  We removed all fat and connective tissue after cooking, when the meat readily fell apart.  I think the sauce was rich and we were still able to remove most of the fat.  The meat was quite lean.

You can see that the sugar and salt are starting to pull moisture out of the meat, so the rub doesn't really stay dry.  Let this sit for 15 minutes.

Get your pan hot over medium high heat.  Use something that has a thick bottom to hold enough heat to sear the meat (which you should bring to room temperature before putting on the rub) but it must also have high enough sides to hold liquid to come around 1-2 inches from the top of the meat.  A Dutch oven is a great choice.  I read about this pan in Cook's Illustrated and haven't used it yet, but it gets very good reviews and is quite reasonable at $45, though it does come from Walmart.  (There are some used on eBay.) Lodge is an American company and makes a beautiful oven at $97.

I used my little LeCreuset, which may have been a hair too small.  It gave me a good sear and produced enough liquid.  I wouldn't have wanted to use anything much bigger. I'm sorry this is blurry, but here's the meat in the pan.

The sugar gets hot very quickly, so have your liquid on hand.  I used a splash of beer, and then added our homemade chicken stock.

I also added some celery, onions, carrots, and garlic.

Covered, and baked for three hours at 275.  I pulled the lid off for the last 30 minutes until the sauce was perfect.  You could also finish this on the stovetop.

I'm sorry, but I did *not* stage this final product.  at all.  I took a photo late at night when I finished it, expecting to retake a better one in the daylight.  This stuff got scarfed pretty fast, so here's what you get.  It was fabulous.

Served over mashed potatoes, rice, or just with crusty bread, this dish is so soothing.  It's just what I want this time of year, without being heavy.  Just flavorful and filling.

Hey, look how cute my dog has been being.

He's wearing my favorite shirt, and dammit if he doesn't look more adorable in it.

Did you have a good Saturday Halloween?  We had a lot of very polite trick-or-treaters!

We munched on chips and dip while they came.  There may have been some candy eaten as well...

I will have an audio update for you soon, and until then, can you guess what I have going on here?  I'll give you a hint: it's delicious.

Until then, take care, and happy fall!
LinkWithin Related Stories Widget for Blogs