Dandelion greens for supper

soon to be supper

soon to be supper

Yesterday, it was sunny, a bit breezy, but warm enough to have the doors and windows open (in spite of the pollen).  Today, that warmth and sun is somewhere else, so I needed some sort of cool weather, one-pot meal.  (One-pot particularly since I’m right in the midst of a big indexing project, too.)  My rapid trip through the local Harris Teeter left me with a lovely big bunch of dandelion greens, and a pair of Sicilian sausages to play with.  Add onions, red bell peppers, and a little garlic and it will be supper.

Although the  dandelions are blooming (and that’s good–my bees will be here soon) I didn’t go out and forage for the greens.  I took the wimpy way out and bought them.  But they still taste good.

The dandelion greens from the supermarket are going to be older, tougher leaves than I’d pick were I out foraging.  The really young  leaves can be used as salad greens, uncooked.  These need cooking. Whether cooked or raw, dandelion greens are bitter–in a good way that makes them pair particularly well with the “sweetness” of Sicilian or Italian sausages.

Sicilian sausages

Sicilian sausages

The Sicilian sausage is similar to Italian, but has orange added so  it is “brighter” and not quite as “sweet” as Italian, nor as spicy as hot Italian, but the contrast between the sweet spices of the sausage and the bitterness of the greens is lively–certainly not bland.  Since these sausages are not hot, I added some hot red pepper flakes when I was seasoning the greens.

The sausages were browned (as described by Nigel Slater in his Real Food:

all in the pot

all in the pot

Very, very slowly and gently in a bit of olive oil.  (If you’re cooking for one, at least get some of his books from the library–they’re fun, easy reading, and have some good advice about food, and cooking in general, and one particularly.)

I added two medium onions thinly sliced, a red bell pepper cut into strips, and three large cloves of garlic (chopped), to sweat with the sausages for a bit, and finally, the chopped dandelion greens (with the very bottoms where there was only stem and no leaf removed with a hefty  pinch of kosher salt.  No extra liquid is required as the onions and peppers will give off some liquid, and the moisture left on the greens after washing is enough for cooking in the covered brasier. The domed lid will accommodate that pile of greens until they wilt down to not much volume like most greens.

Other than a pinch of kosher salt, garlic, and the red pepper flakes, I didn’t add other herbs or spices as I thought the seasoning of the sausages was enough contrast to the bitterness of the greens.

sausages and greens

ready to serve

I would really have liked to add some cannellini beans, or other white beans, but since I’m trying low-carbohydrate eating to lose some weight, I just couldn’t do it–though it was tempting, and I love beans. (A small display of will power, here.)

As you can see, there’s no recipe for this–you just use peppers, onions, and greens so that it looks right, keeping in mind that greens do really cook down to less than you expect when you look at them raw. I would have used a smaller amount of vegetables had I been adding the cannellini (or garbanzo) beans to this–or added another sausage.

That second sausage and the rest of the veggies have been popped into a heavy-duty freezer bag, with as much air removed as possible, to await another chilly, rainy day when I need something warming to eat–my version of the TV dinner.

ÒΔÓ

Wine?  But of course! Nothing really fancy. Just part of a bottle–my last one unfortunately–one of my favorite “everyday” Chateau d'Oupia Les Heretiques, IGP Pays de l'Herault, France labelwines: Chateau d’Oupia Les Heretiques.   It’s a blend of old-vine Carignan (90%) and Syrah (10%) that has some bright clean, cherry, plum, and spice that goes nicely with a lot of my casual cooking–even just a burger, or just sipping without food.  It’s also in the price range to make it “everyday”. It’s time to go to the Wine Cellar at Sutton Station and get some more of this.

plate of sausage, veggies

A son goût!

 

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More pork and cabbage

prok butt country ribs IMG_6075

country-style ribs

Yes, more pork and cabbage.

I think pork is a really versatile meat, and cabbage an under-utilized vegetable.  So, more!

My local Harris Teeter had a special on pork country-style ribs recently–about half the usual price. (Not the price in that picture–less.)  Needless to say,  a big package of country-style ribs came home with me.  The weather has still been cool enough to have braises and stews–cool-weather dishes, so I though I would make braised pork and cabbage since that reheats well, and freezes well.

I was planning to do the Caribbean spiced one from Jacques Pepin’s book, but my plans were altered by the arrival of a manuscript for indexing. After looking at the manuscript, I decided that I needed to get started on that right away to be sure I could meet the deadlines–it’s very dense and intense, and brings out my OCD tendencies–so I opted for a braised pork that I could put together really quickly–in other words, improvisation.

one-pot meal in the making

potatoes and cabbage

I wanted to turn this into a one-pot, one-plate meal, so I put potatoes right in with the pork and cabbage.  I looked at the amount of pork and decided that it needed a whole large head of cabbage. I eye-balled what I thought would be a serving of potatoes with each serving of pork and cabbage, and popped those right in with the cabbage–scrubbed, unpeeled, and cut only if they were large. In this case I used “regular” green cabbage, instead of savoy. I sprinkled some salt over the layers of cabbage and potatoes.

I could have used a Dutch oven, but using a clay cooker let me take a few shortcuts to speed this up–including cooking a bit faster in the oven than had I used the Dutch oven and making it unnecessary to brown the ribs as a separate process before putting them into the pot. The meat will brown on the exposes surfaces while it cooks in the Römertopf since this is more roasting than braising, at least of the meat.

pork added to cabbage and potatoes

ready for seasoning

The Römertopf that I used (pre-soaked) for this was sized for 14 pounds (not that I had THAT much pork), but the quart sizing on these is misleading since it’s the capacity of the bottom (rather shallow).  I had a lot of pork, so I needed the head room here for all that meat. I put the pork over the cabbage and potatoes and seasoned it.

I used by “stand-by, go-to” when lazy seasoning–herbes de Provence because it’s such a great blend of flavors. (I really should have put some caraway seeds in with the Herbes De Provencecabbage, under the pork–that would have blended nicely with the herbes de Provence on the pork). I sprinkled the meat with kosher salt, herbes de Provence, and added some red pepper flakes (hot) for a little extra spice; my supper was now oven-ready.

So there’s not really a recipe here, but to summarize:

Ingredients

  • country-style pork ribs (each strip makes one very good serving)–this was about 6 servings based on the amount of meat
  • one large head of cabbage, depending on what you want the ratio of meat to vegetables (this was about 1:2 meat to cabbage since I wanted large serving of cabbage with the meat).

    IMG_7990

    oven ready Römertopf

  • Yukon Gold potatoes (4 small per serving) but adjust as desired
  • salt (about 1 tablespoon for the entire dish) \*
  • herbes de Provence  or other herbs, about 2 generous teaspoons
  • red pepper flakes, about 1 generous teaspoon, adjust as desired

Preparation

If you’re using a clay baker like the Römertopf or Schlemmertopf, you will need to soak in water for 15 to 30 before putting into the oven. DO NOT preheat oven–clay pots must go into a cold oven.

ready to eat!

ready to eat!

  • Chop cabbage into about 1/2 inch (3.5-4cm) pieces
  • Layer potatoes and cabbage into three layers; sprinkle salt over each layer)
  • Place country-style ribs on top of the cabbage and potatoes and sprinkle with salt and herbes de Provence
  • Cover with the pre-soaked top
  • Do not add liquid–there will be enough released during cooking
  • Place in cold oven, and set to 400°F (200°C)
  • Check after two hours–it’s likely ready to eat.

ÒνÓ

If you don’t have Römertopf or Schlemmertopf, you can do this in a Dutch oven. The recipe for braised pork and cabbage should give you the cooking times, liquid, and oven settings.  Just adjust the size of the pot to be appropriate for the amount of meat and cabbage. (It would have been just as tasty but more colorful had I used Red Bliss potatoes–but Yukon Golds where what was present in the kitchen!

IMG_8002

* A note on salting: I keep kosher salt in a salt pig by the stove so that I can just pinch-and-sprinkle. I estimate that I used about 1 tablespoon for this entire preparation. Just sprinkle salt evenly and lightly and you’ll be fine.

Sausages, greens, and beans this evening

Today has been a particularly bone-chilling, dreary, damp, windy, rainy day with temperature steadily dropping this afternoon; looking out the windows you see puddles of water everywhere and you can’t really walk anywhere without getting wet feet;  this calls for  something filling, flavorful, and warm for supper.  (I also need to “tidy up” the freezer to get rid of some of the partial packages of this and that which have accumulated from single-serving cooking.) Since I’m really fond of charcuterie, that seemed like a good starting point for comfort food tonight.

plate of greens, edamame, and a sausage

sausage, beans, and greens for supper

I found Sicilian sausages (house-made) at Harris Teeter when I went shopping yesterday (in 70°F weather, but knowing the forecast) so I got some sausages for a one-pot meal.  Part of tidying up the freezer involves using the bits and pieces living in there, so I thought I’d improvise on one of my favorite meals: braised green, sausages, and beans. The Sicilian sausages are similar to spicy (not  raging hot) Italian with orange zest added so it does well with any rather mellow greens, like turnip, or kale.

I was pretty confident that I had greens of some ilk in the freezer, beans, onions and the like as well; all I needed for my supper was the sausages.  What I found in the freezer to go with my sausages were turnip greens and edamame (soybeans).

I browned the sausages in olive oil, added onions, some garlic, the turnip greens, and edamame and a bit of water.  After reaching a simmer on the stove-top I popped the covered pot into the oven at 425°F oven and went back to the computer to keep working.  After about half an hour in the oven, I uncovered the pot for about 15 minutes to let a little more liquid cook off and supper was ready!

I usually use two sausages to make this–one is quite adequate for a single serving.  I like to put the “leftover” in the freezer for a quick meal later as this freezes and reheats well.  There are lots of easy variations on this dish–use other types of beans like cannelinni, borletti, or pinto–or potatoes to fill this out.  Vary the greens–if you have a sweeter sausage, then mustard greens make a great contrast with their sharp, slightly hot flavor. This can be turned into soup really easily too: slice the sausage, add some broth, add some pasta, and a whole new meal.

There are so many delicious sausages out there and an almost infinite variety of greens to pair them with. You don’t need exact measurements here at all so it does well for single-serving meals.  Just cruise through the produce department and eyeball the greens: frisée, dandelion, kale, mustard…  Bitter greens pair well with sweeter sausages like lamb or sweet Italian–have fun, improvise and a son goût!

Wine? of course!  This just needs a good “everyday” red–even something out of a box, like the Portuguese Alandra box red.  We are, after all, talking peasant comfort food here.

—Ô¿Ô—

A pork and kale braise

It’s been chilly, cloudy, and grey–just the kind of weather for soups, stews, and braises. It’s also time to get the freezer stocked with some quick, easy food as I’ve got indexing projects coming in–some while I’m still teaching this Fall term.  With lots of grading to do as well, I wanted something that would take care of itself while I worked–so out comes the all-purpose “rice” cooker for some slow-cooked food.

I’m a great fan of pork almost any way you fix it so when I found a package of boneless pork ribs–just the ticket for the slow-cooker–while I was doing my grocery shopping on Thursday it obviously went into the cart. Big package, but on special, so it came home with me to make a lazy meal, and some to go into the freezer for quick meals when I’m really busy, or when I need comforting, peasant-style food. Can’t pass up inexpensive on something I really like.

Braised pork and kale from the slow-cooker

Ingredients

  • boneless pork spare ribs, about 2 pounds
  • 1 packaged of frozen, chopped onions
  • chopped kale, one frozen “family” pack
  • 6 large garlic cloves
  • 1 14.5-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of Hatch chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, adjust to taste as needed when cooking is finished

Preparation and cooking

  • cut pork into about 2-inch pieces
  • add half package of kale and onions, mixing
  • layer in pork, sprinkle with salt, chili powder
  • add remaining kale and onions
  • add fire-roasted tomatoes with juice
  • close the lid and set for 8 hours
  • shred pork using two forks (if desired)
  • check seasoning and adjust as necessary.

No, no pictures as  this is NOT a photogenic dish, but it sure is tasty! And there’s certainly nothing like complicated technique involved here.

Great served with a side of spicy black beans, or garbanzo beans, or just a big bowl on its own. This particular time I had a roasted winter squash as a side with it. (Now, to turn the rest of the winter squash into another meal–maybe stuffed with some Sicilian sausage that also went into the grocery cart.)

There was more liquid than I had anticipated when this was finished cooking, so after packing some in zipper-lock bags to go into the freezer (with SOME juice), the extra juice with some kale and some shredded pork is going to turn into soup–details will evolve when it’s used–but that’s an additional meal out of that pack of spare ribs!

Celebrating the autumnal equinox.

I woke up to a lovely fall morning–sunny, breezy, cool–absolutely lovely day, some leisurely time over coffee in the sunny kitchen, and realized that I’ve gradually been shifting into autumn cooking mode–cooking urges that are very different from the hot, humid weather of summer.

I’ve been making meals in the multitasking rice cooker lately: whipped up a great spicy lamb and garbanzo bean stew and another of braised pork and collard greens.  Some of immediate use today, and some of each of those to stash in the freezer for quick meals on a cold winter day when I need serious comfort food.

The lamb and garbanzo “stew” was one that I literally threw together in about 15 minutes while I was finishing an index to send to a client. A good friend who knows how much I like to use chili peppers gave me a wonderful chile powder from Made in New Mexico.  I used lamb shoulder chops, a healthy batch of chile powder, some Mexican oregano,  Goya garbanzo beans, and a can of diced tomatoes. The lamb chops came out of the slow-cooking melt-in-your-mouth tender, with just enough spice to accumulate a bit of burn by the time you’ve eaten a bowl of it, but not enough to rip you taste buds out by the roots.  This chili powder is the best I’ve ever used–I’ll be ordering more of that one.

Another job that just could not be put off any longer was cleaning the gas stove. It is one of my very least favorite things to do so I do tend to procrastinate about it; that does not make the task any easier and I know that but I still procrastinate about it. (I think that a house elf would be a wonderful thing to have around!)

Now the stove has at least had a  lick and a promise as my grandmother would have said. Well, at least the lick, but still needs the promise though that is going to happen today. (Definitely no pictures here!)  So happy that the oven is self-cleaning since it gets lots of use in cool weather for carefree braising while I’m working at home.

Now I’m ready for a plate of braised pork and collard greens!

Get Cooked…

ISBN 9781594204210Obviously I’m a fan of food science and curious about the history of food and cooking in any culture. Michael Pollen’s Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation is a good read; a fascinating review of cooking origins, history, and consequences of both cooking and not cooking.

As usual, Pollen’s style makes this book easy reading, but raises interesting questions about the role of cooking in the development of Homo sapiens.

The book follows Pollen as he attempts to master four cooking techniques: fire, air, water, and earth and describes the place of the cook in relation to nature and culture.

He raises questions about what cooking is, what cooking does for us, and the place we have let processed food assume in our modern culture. It’s an interesting synthesis of history, food science, and archeological discoveries. The implications of NOT cooking, allowing the food processing industry to assume the role of the cook, are something we all need to consider.

This is not a recipe book but it certainly increases understanding of food preparation—cooking—using heat (barbecue), air (baking), water (braising), and earth (fermentation).

The links will take you to an independent book shop were you can order it in various editions—but I get nothing—it’s not affiliate marketing of anything like that.

Chilli con carne redux update

I’ve finished the “fast” version of the chilli con carne that I posted about in Chilli Con Carne Redux!  I’ll concede that it’s only sort of faster in terms of the active prep time–it still needs to cook long and slowly, but it is a success.  I don’t think that I can tell the difference (tasted side-by-side with the more laborious version from the freezer) and friends have given it the nod of approval.  So here are the changes and additions to the original chilli con carne that I posted.

  • After the bacon browned, 3 tablespoons of tomato paste was added while the onions were sautéed, and this was browned–again to enhance the umami, not to add tomato flavor.
  •  None of the meat (pork or beef) was browned before adding liquids.
  •  Added bay leaves to increase the earthiness (used five large for this 6 pounds of meat).
  •  Added Mexican oregano–about 2 rounded teaspoons. (You really do want Mexican oregano for this–much different flavor than Turkish or Greek (Mediterranean) oregano–after all it is an unrelated plant, but worth having in the kitchen if you like chili.)
  •  Sun-dried tomatoes (about 1/2 cup chopped) were added for more umami even though this was NOT made in a slow cooker, I was not aiming for tomato-flavored chili.
  • During the cooking time I tasted some in a bowl with a little fish sauce added (yep, I did get up the nerve to try this) and it tasted wonderful; so I added about 4 or 5 tablespoons of fish sauce.  (I suspect that if you don’t have fish sauce a couple of anchovy filets thrown in would have the same effect.)
  • The final thickening was one with a brown roux made with masa harina.  For the fat in this roux I reserved about 1/4 cup of the fat from the de-fatting step.  I heated this and made sure that all liquid was evaporate, then added about 6 tablespoons of masa harina and cooked it until it was a medium brown and toasty smelling.
  • Because of my work schedule, this was cooked in a lower oven (about 195° F) for about 10 hours.

After another run on this I’ll have to post a revised recipe for the “fast” and easier version, but if you feel so inclined you can work with these changes–after all chili con carne is one of those things that really doesn’t need a recipe to be followed strictly.