About sa.fifer

Lover of good, wholesome food and wine. Cooks for one and the cat. Likes to paint-- a frustrated botanical illustrator and amateur (photographer) and fledgling birdwatcher, beekeeper, and Kindle addict. Works as a freelance indexer.

Your own fresh herbs.

Yes, I digress from actual in-the-kitchen cooking, but it’s the time of the year when the seed catalogs have started to appear in my mailbox, and the birds are beginning to suggest springtime, too.  It’s time for wishful thinking–and ordering seeds and/or plants.  There are so many herbs available that you won’t necessarily find in your local garden center–they will have the basics, and probably lemon thyme, and other flavored thymes.  Fresh herbs are one of the easiest ways to keep your cooking (even if it’s for more than one) exciting and healthy.  I’m not going to suggest that you replace salt with herbs (more on salt a bit later)–just use it judiciously with the fresh herbs.

Even though I purchase fresh herbs from the market during the winter and use some dried herbs, there’s nothing like being able to walk into the garden our even just out onto the deck and snip what herbs you want right now.  You are not in the frustrating position of not having the herbs that you need whenever you want them.  Having them readily available frees you to experiment depending on your mood, or whims as you cook.  Sometimes I don’t know what I want to use until I’m actually smelling the herbs as I brush against the plants.

Herbs are easy and fun to grow.  If you don’t have garden space, you can grow them in containers.  One fairly large pot can be used to grow several herbs, and has the advantage that you need to water less often than if you put your herbs in smaller containers.   I like larger containers with several herbs grouped together for several reasons:  I need to water less often, and I don’t have to be so concerned about them blowing over.  When you plant herbs together, you  do need to consider the moisture and light requirements of the herbs planted together.  Basil and oregano are not likely to be happy pot-mates as they require different moisture levels to be happy.  Most herbs like lots of sun, but there are a few that you may need to have in partial shade or shade so you’ll need to consider that as well.

When I say a “fairly large” container I am think about a three- to five-gallon container.   Pot sizes are usually given as the diameter at the top–so a 4-inch pot would be that wide at the top, possibly tapering to smaller diameter at the bottom.  The larger the diameter of the pot, usually the deeper the pot, so by the time you have a wide surface, say 14 to 16 inches, at the top, you may have a pot that is deeper than you really need for herbs, so don’t waste the extra potting soil!  Use some inert filler in the bottom of that huge pot so that you are using only the amount of soil needed.  Many herbs really need only about  8 inches of depth.   The old Styrofoam peanuts, for example, can be used (newer ones are biodegradable and will not last in the pot).  In order to avoid having to collect them when I need to change soil, I put them into old panty-hose (which take years to break down).  You could also use soft-drink cans, turned on-end, and upside down in the bottom of the pot–just be sure not to interfere with the drainage of your pot.  Because my deck is elevated and I don’t want to have to worry about pots blowing around, I will sometimes use bricks or rock to fill the bottom–just making sure that I can move it if needed.

A good place to start your herb gardening (container or otherwise) is with the basics that you use most often.  For me that is rosemary,  marjoram, Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare hirtum), Syrian oregano (Origanum maru), sage (Salvia officinalis, ‘Extrakta’ or ‘Berggarten‘), French or summer thyme (Thymus vulgaris ‘narrow-leaf French”, summer savory, and French tarragon (Artemisa dracunculus sativa), Thai basil, globe basil, bay (Laurus nobilis), chives, flat-leaf parsley, mint, and cutting celery.   Since you want only one plant of each, it’s probably best to buy plants rather than start from seed.  You can find herb plants at your farmers’ market in the spring, or at the garden center.

I will admit to being a bit of a snob about my herbs–I do want to know exactly what I’m getting, as you can see from the botanical names included with the list above–at least for some herbs, really as many as possible, but especially for bay and for French tarragon.  I don’t plant lemon thyme, et cetera, because I feel that the “citrus” part of the thyme cooks off quickly, so I prefer to add the citrus by using juice or zest of the citrus.   I don’t want Russian tarragon because, to me, the flavor is harsh–just not what I want from tarragon.  The same principle holds with bay–the California bay (Umbellularia californica) is strongly flavored, but  lacks the complexity of the Lauris nobilis or true bay.

Tarragon is another herb were it pays to be particular–it must be from cuttings, as true French tarragon does not produce viable seeds.  The seed packets of “tarragon” are a relative, but lack the finesse of French tarragon.   Other herbs that I’ve listed I like because of particularly high essential oil content, so more flavor.   Once you’ve got the basics, you’ll probably find others that you want to try:  I’ve added shiso, epazote, Spanish tarragon (Tagetes lucida), and given a catalog, I’m sure I can find many others I would love to try.

I generally do NOT combine annuals and perennials–I don’t want to disturb well-established roots of the perennials to remove or add an annual.  one of my containers is likely to contain sage for a nice tall plant with lovely grey-green foliage, oregano, thyme, and perhaps some chives in a 12- to 14-inch pot.   Rosemary can become quite bushy and makes a good tall plant for another container.  My bay gets its own pot, as I want it to be large and tree-like.

Cutting celery is an herb of which I’ve grown particularly fond–it does not head, and yet can give me fresh celery flavor for salads, soups, and the stems even add a bit of crispness.  It can grow with dill, chives, Vietnamese coriander, or stevia, for example.  Parsley usually get a pot to itself.  Cilantro, which bolts easily, gets a 6-inch pot or an area in a planter which gets sequential plantings all summer.   Most dill is not suited to containers as it tends to get huge, and develop a tap root; however, there are a few “dwarf” varieties (Fernleaf being one of those) which can be grown in a container.

Mint must have more moisture than these other herbs, so it gets its own separate pot, perhaps sharing with lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) usually placed out of the blazing summer sun.  My wish list for this summer’s herbs is not complete yet…there are more seed catalogs to go through yet.

It does take a bit of effort to grow herbs: you’ll need to water them, and do some mid-season fertilizing, but it is well worth the effort.  The other thing that you need to do is to keep herbs pinched and trimmed in order to have them bushy and productive.  You’ll not want them to bloom as the flavor is not as good after blooming, so pinch and trim.  To a large extent that happens as you harvest for use.  There are times when I just go out and give them a “butch”.  That’s when you make an herb vinaigrette, share with friends or purée to use under the skin of a roast chicken!  You can also include the leaves in a salad of mesclun or your favorite greens.

Having your own herb garden keeps you supplied without the expense and (even as manyas I used) waste with the packaged supermarket herbs. It also provides a sensual pleasure just to smell them as you walk by, or to deliberately brush through them, just for the heavenly aromas they give off.  Nothing is much more exciting than seeing those first leaves as they come back in the spring, announcing a whole season of wonderful tastes and smells–time to have things just a son goût even if it is single-serving cooking for one.

Chicken braised in milk.

Always on the lookout for a new taste experience, while checking out favorite blogs and  websites, I found a recipe that I just had to try:  chicken braised in milk from Jamie Oliver’s website.  I’ve made pork braised in milk (a recipe from one of Marcella Hazan’s cookbooks) and it was scrumptious!  Reading the recipe for “Chicken in Milk” I was intrigued by the seasoning–sage, garlic, cinnamon, and lemon.  Not a combination that I had thought, but considering the source I thought it worth a try.  Not wanting a whole chicken, I decided to try it with my favorite chicken parts–thighs.  It seemed like another great dish to test out the petit brasier.  I even found a friend willing to test the results with me.

Since I had about half the weight in thighs of the chicken called for in the recipe, I went halves on the seasonings as well.  What I learned was that chicken parts were okay, but maybe not the way to go with this recipe, and that halves on the seasoning was too big a cut.  The flavor combination was a success–it was somewhat earthy, and “round” and balanced, but I think I need to try it again with more than half the amounts of seasoning. We both felt that it could have been more highly seasoned, but it was a recipe that definitely goes into my “keepers” file.  Work on modifying it as a one-person meal is going to continue.

This was one of the times that I broke a rule that I usually follow:  make the recipe just “as is” before you try modifying it; so it’s back to the kitchen with this one–probably going to have to invite friends and do a whole chicken before I try cutting it down again;  I need  to know  what it would be like as intended so that I know how to modify the seasoning.  It’s not always easy to modify a recipe for single-serving cooking, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

Now that the holidays are past and things are settling down a bit, I think I’ll give it another try–my friends are used to me having a “food crisis”–and usually willing to participate.  I think it would be a good time to check out a bottle of good white Burgundy wine as well.    Since I’ve been considering this, I nabbed a couple of Cornish game hens on one of my trips through the grocery store, thinking that this might work as a single serving adaptation.  You can expect updates on this to follow–the full recipe and adaptations for one or two servings. If you need (or want) to serve four, it’s a recipe worth making!

House cleaning–a digression.

My apologies for the rather large hiatus between posts.  End of the year got a little hectic and some things just kind of got put off–among them cleaning and writing.

While taking a break from working on my ASI indexing examination, tax preparation, and course-preparation for the up-coming term,  and contemplating the need to get out the vacuum cleaner, it occurred to me that if you’re cooking for one, you are most likely cleaning for one, too.  Now house-cleaning is not one of my preferred activities–I’d rather be watching birds (Project Feeder Watch count), or cooking, or reading one of my favorite British or Alaska mysteries, or just having quality time with the cat.

I think that solo dwellers who need to do single-serving cooking, probably also have some issues with cleaning.  I’m a renter, which means that I don’t have lots of space, so my wine collection shares my living-room with me and with the cat.  Now dusty wine bottles may be perfectly suited to the wine cellar in a fine old family manor  in the latest British mystery, but they don’t do a lot for decor in my living room.

Predictably, I have to dust them–and   that is certainly a house-cleaning activity.  As much as I love wine, I don’t love keeping the bottles somewhat dust-free.  To add to the issue, I’m allergic to house dust so stirring the stuff up makes my eyes itch, and my face break out–a sure sign that serious cleaning must happen.  Needless to say, I’m looking for an “easy” way to address this problem, as well as the blades of the ceiling fans and other high places that are generally out of my reach without a ladder.

The vacuum cleaner was not the solution.  As you can see, each bottle has its own little cubby-hole, and in order to use the vacuum cleaner, I’d have to lift each bottle out individually, or remove all from one row so that I could vacuum the next row….et cetera.  Not a viable solution to someone who does not have the support staff of  Martha Stewart, and who does not have a frank OCD. I’ve used torn-up T-shirts for dust clothes–maybe rags is a more suitable term–but again, each bottle had to come out individually, and I’d rough up the corners of the labels.

I’ve pondered the cleaning products in the supermarket aisle  often, and not given in to the lure of the latest product because I have to wonder what chemicals are added to get all this super-duper dust attraction or magnetism.  My better sense tells me that I’d likely be helping the environment and my budget if I did not use some of these products, but  stuck with  things like white vinegar and the like that my grandmother used.  Then a little voice says “but your grandmother was not dusting wine bottles, was not working outside the home….well, you can work through that rationalization for yourself.

I succumbed to trying a Swiffer Duster.  It took seeing the one with the handle that extends, meaning that I could reach all the window tops, the ceiling fan blades and not have to tote out the stepladder.  I discovered that this nice fluffy thing did a great job at getting down the cobwebs, and dusting the ceiling fans, lamp shades, picture frames, and even the fake sunflowers in that huge vase sitting on the floor.  Here was a product that made my cleaning easier (not that I’m always “swiffering” around the house–don’t get me wrong).

The dusters did not turn me into someone who would rather clean than do all the other things mentioned above.  It did make cleaning easier.  I might not have kept buying the dusters, but I discovered that the duster was just the right width to slip into each little wine-bottle cubbyhole and at least remove a lot of dust without having to do a bottle-by-bottle dusting, and the fluffy duster did not catch on the wine labels!  Now  I don’t procrastinate so long between dustings.   I still wonder about what chemicals are used, and consider that while I’m using  the dusters, but I’m in love with the fluffy little blue thingy that fits onto that extend-able handle.  So the barrier was broken–a new cleaning product entered my house.  I find I’m much more likely to pick up that duster and use it than I was to even contemplate dusting each bottle the other way.

Well, sharing my domicile with a cat is another “problem”–the beast (an affectionately used term) sheds.  So there is cat hair in the corners.  Yes–you say that the vacuum cleaner takes care of that.  Very true–but I have to get it out and use it.  I’m willing to do that about every ten days, but what about in between those times? The cat does not shed on my schedule.

Well, I discovered the Swiffer Sweeper (while contemplating the price of a new traditional dust mop).  Does a great job on cat hair, dust bunnies and other household things on the floor.  It also goes under the bottom row of wine bottles without jostling them around!  So, despite my thoughts about the chemicals, et cetera, I have “dust mop” and  dusters in the house.  It is much easier to toss that little square of stuff with all the dust attached, rather than having to wash the  traditional dust mop every once in a while. It’s one of the “perks” of an allergy to house dust that you have to clean the cleaning equipment every so often.

So, I’ve given in to the lure of easy cleaning and chemical assistance with something as mundane as dusting–what next? Enough with the cleaning–time to get back to cooking for myself and the cat!

Pot roast with brown gravy

You’ll notice that I said “gravy”–this is too much of a comfort food to use “sauce” because what you’re getting is plain, down-home gravy that needs bread or potatoes to complement it.

After I got my Christmas present (See The Petit Brasier) I had to give it an immediate test run.  What better to test than a favorite braised dish:  pot roast.  This was nothing fancy at all.  You’ll note that I’m not even saying it had a sauce–I really did mean good, old-fashioned, down-home, satisfying brown gravy, lots of onions, and good tender beef.

Even though I say I dislike leftovers, there are some exceptions and pot roast is one of the exceptions.  Sometimes I get the great big chuck roast and make a lot of it and put it in the freezer in single-serving packages, right with the chili, the stock, and some soups so that I can have an “instant” meal–the microwave is great for defrosting and individual portion.  I don’t always want to have to pack and freeze leftovers, so with the small braiser, and a cooperative butcher or meat department at the supermarket, I can make a small pot roast that’s good for two, or maybe three meals since there are some very easy ways to kind of spiff it up for the reruns.

This is really not a recipe–it’s a happening–quantities are approximate as the amount of oil you need will vary with the size of you pan, the amount of mushrooms and onions you are going to sauté–just use what you need.  (Improvise! Wing it!  Just do it–it will work.)

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 pound piece of chuck roast
  • 4 or 5 small onions (or 3 medium to large ones) sliced moderately thinly
  • 2 teaspoons flour, plus flour for dredging the beef
  • about 3 tablespoons olive oil (divided as needed for  sautéing mushrooms and onions.
  • 8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced (more if you really like mushrooms)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups of water or stock
  • salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
  • about 8-10 medium garlic cloves.

Preparation

  1. Pat the pot roast dry with paper towels and dredge in a flour seasoned with salt and pepper.  Let it stand while you cook the onions and mushrooms.
  2. Slice the mushrooms and sauté in a little of the olive oil until they release their liquid and brown.  When brown and liquid has evaporated, remove to a bowl.
  3. Add a bit more olive oil, and sauté the sliced onions until they start to brown and caramelize.  When partly browned, remove to a bowl with the mushrooms.
  4. Add the additional olive oil, as needed, and brown the beef well on both sides. Put it to the side for final assembly.
  5. Take the rest of the olive oil, and the 2 teaspoons of flour, and brown the flour in the oil until it turns a nice golden brown and smells toasty.  Turn the heat down, add the stock or water to the browned flour.
  6. Add the sautéd onions and mushrooms, and return the browned roast to the pan, with the onion/mushroom mixture around the sides, sprinkle the garlic cloves over the top.
  7. Bring to a simmer on the stove top, cover and place in a 295-300 ° F oven and cook until fork tender–about 2-3 hours (unattended).  Check periodically to see if you need to add more liquid.  You need just enough to make nice thick gravy, and the onions are going to cook down to help thicken the gravy.

For that first meal, all you really need is a salad, maybe a baked potato….or some noodles.For the second serving, stir a tiny dollop of sour cream into the portion of brown gravy for this serving to add some tang and be a bit “stroganoff-ish”, add some steam-sautéd (See Cooking Vegetables Quickly) carrots, or spinach as a side.   What about the third?  As you reheat, add some tomato paste, or some tomato sauce to the last bit for a different taste.

It’s pure unadulterated comfort food.  Even if it’s not a single serving, it’s an appropriate quantity for small-time cooking, but it sure has big-time taste.  It’s great what having the right size pan does for cooking for one.

A son goût!

Where do I find recipes?

While one of the secrets of cooking for one easily is learning to improvise, I can understand some hesitancy to throw thing into the pot without some guidance–it is a learned skill.  If you are not one of us who avidly reads cookbooks, and owns a few dozen or more, and you are not up to just improvising, where do you find recipes to start with?  I’ve mentioned a few cookbooks that I think are good to get you started on improvising dishes and meals, but I can understand that you might not want to go out and buy cookbooks, so I’m going to suggest some places where you can find recipes.

First, check some of  the blogs that I have listed on my blog roll: Former Chef and Closet Cooking both have some delightful recipes.  Another source that I recommend is Mark Bittman’s column The Minimalist in the New York Times.  The author stresses a few good ingredients for great flavor rather than complicated dishes, so that makes it particularly good if you are trying to work into improvisations of your own.

A neighbor and friend just introduced me to another website that might well be worth exploring:  All Recipes.com.  A neighbor (who also cooks for one) has shared some of the dishes that she has made following recipes from this site, and they have been excellent:  a braised cabbage with keilbasa, and a chicken soup using adzuki beans and kale. This website does require registration, but it is free.  A feature of this website that might be most useful to you if you are just starting with improvisations and changing recipe sizes is a calculator that will do this for you–you do not even have to do the math.  This should help you get a feel for doing this with other recipes.  There are lots of recipes here, ranging from some that use canned ingredients (for example, condensed soup and mixed vegetables) to those using fresh ingredients–you get to choose.

Since I’m a soup lover, and soup usually keeps well, and lends itself to “re-seasoning” and adding additional ingredients to change it, I have found the Swanson Broth website to be useful.  Obviously, I prefer homemade stocks and broths, but there are times when it just isn’t possible; you need some “convenience” ingredients like canned broth in the pantry.  I’ve found Swanson broth to be acceptable.  They have some great, quick recipes which, while they tout Swanson broth and stocks, are very usually use no other processed/prepared ingredients, and can be flexible in quantity.  One of my favorites is the corn and red pepper chowder.  This is quick, easy, and very easy to “refresh” for a different taste from the leftovers.  You might want to change the seasoning:  add one of those chipotle peppers that you froze after you opened the last can.  I particularly like to drop in a few shrimp to poach while I gently reheat the left over soup.  A really quick make-over can be done with a favorite seasoning such as Penzeys Southwest Seasoning.

Other places to look for recipes are purveyors of specialty foods (doesn’t mean you have to buy anything) or cookware.  Cooking.com, Williams-Sonoma, and Penzeys Spices all have recipes on their websites.  Sure, they are touting their wares, but the recipes are good and reliable.

Other sources of recipes are from websites of cooking magazines (and the magazines, too) like Cook’s Illustrated, Cook’s Country, Fine Cooking, and America’s Test Kitchen. Another worthwhile site for those of use looking for single-serving meals is Judith Jones’ Meals for One (at Ophra.com). Her cookbook, The Joys of Cooking for One, is one that’s great for promoting improvisation while cooking for one and eating well.  You’ll find recipes for one on that website.

As you cook more, you’ll find that there are particular chefs whose recipes just seem to click with your style and flavors that you like.  Always check for blogs by these chefs.  One of the latest that I’ve added is Jamie Oliver’s website.  His recipes just “click” for me.  Many websites and/or blogs allow you to register (free) for newsletters or e-mail updates.  If you really like the style of that particular chef, that is a good thing to do.    If there are several, you might consider Google Alerts, or other tools like that.

There are lots of recipes out there–they may not be single-serving recipes, but they will give you ideas for things to try as you learn to improvise.

The Petit Brasier

I do get excited about kitchen things.  One that you’ve already heard me rave about is the All-Clad saucier pan. While I was browsing the Cooking.com website shortly before Christmas, I found what was listed as a 2-quart “petit brasier” by All-Clad.  Since one of the cooking methods that I employ frequently is braising, I thought that sounded like something very useful for small-time cooking.

I have had a Calphalon “everyday pan” for some time, that gets frequent use; it a similar shape–but it’s really too big when I’m doing single-serving cooking.  This had all the advantages of that bigger pan: two short handles that make getting it in and out of the oven easy; sloped sides that make it useful as a skillet, and it goes easily from stove-top to oven since the handles are metal, plus one more:  it’s size–small!

the petit brasier

I just could not resist, so by way of rationalization, it was considered a gift from my housemate, Keiko the cat. It arrived and looked just as fine as it had on the Cooking.com website.   Here it is–fresh out of the box, just waiting for me to cook something.  It had a good heft when I picked it up–just like all my other All-Clad cookware.  It has had a thorough inspection by Keiko, so it’s now ready to used.

Needless to say, I’m like a kid with a new toy.  I spent a good deal of time mulling over what would be the most appropriate “test drive” for this new pan.  I thought of the most traditional braised dish–pot roast, and not a fancy dish either.  This will be just plain, down-home, country-style pot roast, with brown gravy.  The recipe will be posted next week.   I’m sure there will be something else braised on the menu soon.  I’m sure this will be the usual All-Clad quality; it may turn out to be one of the most used pans in my kitchen, given how often I used the “every day” pan, even thought it was not the right size for solo cooking.  You’ll get a further report in a short time, as well as recipes for braising for one.

This is Keiko, the “fur person” to whom this gift is attributed; that was necessary as I had already decided what I was giving myself for Christmas–and it was not food-related.  I’m sure she will be happy to check out what gets cooked in “her” pan. 

She’s only been with me since April, but she is turning into a very attentive kitchen cat–she comes and miaows at me immediately when a timer goes off  and I’m slow to attend to it.  So, thanks, Keiko, for a petit brasier for some small-time cooking while enjoying big-time taste!

Making stock quickly.

Despite occasionally using the microwave to make stock or broth quickly or in hot weather, I’m a fan of the long, slow, stove-top or oven method so that I can luxuriate in the wonderful smells when it’s cold and/or rainy outside.  It’s such a comforting activity and, though it takes time, it does not require a lot of close attention.  However, there are times when I need stock or broth and I need it quickly.  I gave the basic recipe for chicken broth in an earlier post (See The Microwave in my Kitchen), but I want to show you it can be used for other stock, not chicken.

Cooking some chicken give enough good strong broth for a bowl or two of soup.  There are times when I need more than that because I’ve run out of what I had stashed in the freezer.  That’s likely to happen in the winter when I’m a real soup-hound.

I was happy to find a quick method that does produce good stock–using the microwave.  This might also be a reasonable solution for those of you who don’t have the chest freezer on the back porch or a good-size freezer with the fridge.

I own only one microwave cookbook:  Barbara Kafka’s Microwave Gourmet. She was a reluctant convert to the microwave–as well as a traditionally trained chef.  I read her introduction to the book while standing in the Regulator Bookshop; her initial reluctance to hop on the microwave bandwagon made me thing that this might be a different kind of microwave cookbook; I was right.  I still do not cook a lot of things in the microwave, but I have found some very useful things in this book.  I like the fact that she gives single-serving amounts for some of the recipes–as well as doubling some.

Getting bones for making stock is getting harder, with so much meat coming into the store already cut and boned,  but if you can find a butcher shop, it’s well worth exploring the possibility of having them save bones for you.  You should check your farmers’ market as you might be able to get “stewing” hens there, or if there is a vendor selling beef, they might have soup bones (necks, tails, etc.) and that is a real delight.  I’ve found “marrow bones” in the freezer case at the supermarket, but they were so clean that they really did not make good stock (the marrow was excellent spread on toast, though).  For chicken broth, you can always buy a whole bird, and take off the breast and leg/thigh meat and use the rest of the carcass for making broth.

I want to give you an adaptation of her stock/broth recipe (p.314):

Meat Broths

  • 2 pounds meat (chicken, duck, veal, beef marrow, or other beef or lamb bones cut into small pieces–maybe by the butcher)
  • 4 cups water
  1. Place the bones and water in a 2-quart microwave-safe container.  (Personally, I have a large 2-quart Pyrex measuring “cup” that I use for this; it has pouring spout and a handle which I like when working with this much liquid.)  Cook at 100% for 30 minutes, or 40 minutes for a broth that will jell.
  2. Remove from the microwave oven and let stand until it stops bubbling. Strain the broth through a fine sieve.  If you want it clear, you need to do the clarifying procedure, which I’m not including here.  You can find that in her book (p.314).
  3. Cool and refrigerate, tightly covered (See Storage Containers) if not using immediately. (Usually don’t store it–my reason for making it in the microwave was either that it was sweltering summer weather, or I needed it NOW!)

If you have “soup bones” that include lots of meat, as do the ones that I get at the Durham Farmers’ market, then you have a hearty meal that’s beyond just soup. The beef can taken off the bones and added to some of the broth with vegetables for a really hearty meal of serious comfort food.  That’s a bonus.

That’s it!  As is mentioned in another post, I have not  done a side-by-side taste test of the broth make the traditional (long, slow way) with that made this quick way,  I am pleased with the results of  this method.  I will freely admit to keeping canned broth and stock on my pantry shelf, but these are usually a last resort, or to be used when the broth will be a background flavor as in chili con carne–not when it up front really good soup like a winter favorite, beef-barley-mushroom soup.

If you want a “brown” broth, you can always roast the bones in the oven before putting them into the microwave to cook.  The recipe in the book gives lots of variations that are useful, including adjustments for more meat, adding vegetables, clarifying, and making fish broth as well.  If you’re a microwave user, you might find this a great book to have on your shelf, or you might want to check it out of the library and see what else is in it.  There is a large “dictionary” in which she lists lots of different ingredients and gives cooking times, or sometimes recommends not cooking that in the microwave.  I do refer to the dictionary frequently.  If you are a novice with the microwave (think it’s for popping popcorn, or heating water) she does a good review of the types and the shapes of containers that work best for cooking in the microwave and the information on cooking times is useful.