Beets, more beets, and vegetable confit

Yes I love beets, and I think they are underappreciated, so I’m always looking for more things to do with beets. From Cook’s Illustrated the article on “Turn the Beet Around” has some suggestions: Charred beet salad among some others. If you search Kitchn for beets you get lots of recipes. Some look good, others, maybe not so good. I have found beet hummus in the grocery store (a reputable brand that does do good humus) and, explorer and beet lover than I am, I did try it. It’s good, and should I find it again (it’s since disappeared) I would buy it again, but make it? I don’t think so. Just as I’m unlikely to make pickled beets. However, chocolate beet bundt cake, might just be a possibility. I mean we do eat carrot cake, so why not?

I do have a beet liqueur that I love, too.

However, cold beet soup is still a summer favorite, and easier now that it is possible to buy already cooked beets or frozen sliced beets. I’ve griddled beet slices and the caramelization that takes is a whole new level of flavor from them

Stahlbush Island Farms

My latest discovery of beets is poached beets. Yes, no kidding. I was reading my email from Mark Bittman’s eponymous website just a day or two ago and found an article titled “Charred Olive-Oil-Poached Beets. I don’t know why that struck me as so startling. I didn’t fire up the grill, but I did pitch some of these on my cast-iron griddle and they were really good!

While it may be controversial, I’m familiar with making vegetable confit and even vegan rillettes. After some thought this really didn’t seems so strange–maybe just that beets are underappreciated vegetables. So, beet confit! The recipes I’ve reviewed on vegetable confit suggest that if covered with oil they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three–yes, 3 months.

This seems like a great way to handle extra veggies when you’re doing single-serving cooking. So, controversial or not, I’ll likely be trying some more vegetable confit when the summer bounty is in the farmers’ market.

A son gôut!

†

From Mark Bittman, Charred Olive-Oil-Poached Beets

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Pork rillettes

from David Libovitz website

Summer weather is here. Hot, humid weather is here; that means that I’m terribly picky about what I eat. I don’t want hot food but I want more to eat than salads and cottage cheese, or even bean and/or pasta salads. As I’m sure you know from previous posts, I am easily bored with the same foods too many times in a week, and I don’t deal well with leftovers.

I’m a facultative, rather than obligate, carnivore but even in hot weather I do want something meaty (and not necessarily steak or ‘burgers). Ubiquitous chicken doesn’t fill the bill either; I wanted something special.

Finding myself with a surplus of pork spare ribs that were so incredibly tender, and having some excellent broth as well as the fat (yes, the fat) I thought that rillettes might be the answer to my finickey summer appetite for meaty stuff that could be enjoyed cold–and since I’m still trying to do the low carb thing, I thought rillettes might be quite palatable with crunchy green stuff (belgian endive leaves, or the heart leaves from romain (cos) lettuce.

My search for recipes lead me to some interesting web sites: The New York Times, Bon Appetite, Food & Wine, David Lebovitz, and serious eats, to mention some of them. There are lots of variations in the seasonings but the basic ingredients are simple: pork and pork fat. Most recipes called for shoulder or boston butt, but that’s not practical when cooking for one. All very interesting, but I do have a reasonable library of charcuterie books (both hard-copy and on my Kindle) so I thought I should also check closer to home before I made a decision. Plugging “rillettes” into the search function on my Kindle I found lots of other recipes as well. I was amazed at how many references I found.

I finally settled on a recipe was from Essential Pepin): simple and and it’s easy to pick up from where I left my pork spare ribs from the instant pot.

Recipe adapted from Essential Pepin (Kindle location 13172-13197). The instructions are extensive and I’ve merely abstracted the main points. If you’re going to do this, I’d recommend checking the source–even via a trip to the library.

Rillettes

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds boneless pork chuck or neck (you should have about 75% lean and 25% fat, cut into 2- to 3-inch cubes.
  • 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Preparation

  1. In a large heavy saucepan, add salt, pepper, and enough water to cover by 1 inch.
  2. Simmer very slowly over low heat for about 5 hours, adding more water as necessary.
  3. After poaching, when the water is almost all evaporated and the liquid has started to sizzle, let it sizzle for about 30 minutes to give a roasted taste to the meat.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and cool. Refrigerate overnight.
  5. Crush the pieces of meat (with your hands, between thumbs and fingers recommended by Pepin) or use a flat beater on a stand mixer.
  6. Put mean and fat in a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat; taste for seasoning. Overseason slightly since seasonings are muted when cold.
  7. After the mixture is set, pack into small crocks and refrigerate.
  8. Well sealed these will keep for a couple weeks in the refrigerator or can be frozen.

I had about 2-1/4 pounds of pork left from my spare ribs. Since my pork was cooked in the Instant Pot using the pot-in-pot method, I started at step 3 by pouring off the broth and fat, then reducing those over medium-high heat until the sizzling started, when the broth was evaporate (as well as the splash of sherry that I decided to add).

I returned the meat to the pan and allowed a bit more evaporation, and did the 30 minutes of sizzling, and then followed the rest of the instructions. The sizzling part is really important for the best flavor. The pork flavor is good before this, but afterwards it’s really great. (Be sure to use a really heavy pan or you’ll have pork stuck to the bottom where the heat from the burner was. (This Calphalon pan wasn’t quite heavy enough so I had to do a little scraping to get all the browned pork to mix in.)

I did some extra fresh-ground black pepper (my favorite extra bold from Penzeys) since I wanted a bit more spice.

evaporating liquid and sizzling the pork

(While the sizzling was going on I use my Instant Pot to sterilize some mason jars to pack the rillettes in, even though it will be refrigerated. I did do a little crushing while this process was going on–easy with a wooden spoon since the meat was so tender.

sterilizing containers

After cooling it again, I used the hands-on method to crush the meat since I had seen comments on the texture you would bet if using the flat-flat beater method–OK, messy but texture is important here. I didn’t have quite the ratio of lean to fat recommended so I did a bit more of my own home-rendered lard. After a final check on the seasoning, the rillettes were packed into the jars, and stashed in the refrigerator.

Now I have something meaty for hot weather meals. Yes, it takes time, but it’s really not a lot of effort and the reward is so good. All you need now is some good bread, or if you’re trying the low carb thing some crispy green stuff like belgian endive or romaine leaves.

Cabbage rolls deconstructed

Despite the Always Hungry? diet now being a memory of things past this one recipe (and the blue cheese dressing) has stayed around the kitchen. Somehow with the rather chilly, grey days that seem to be endless, this seemed appropriate now, so I thought I’d share the recipe. Sometimes good things come from strange places. I never have thought I’d be keeping recipes from a diet book!

The recipe calls for using a food processor, and for blanching the cabbage. Since I cook for one, I really consider using a food processor a lot more work than simply getting out my knife, even if the recipe calls for “finely diced”. It’s so simple to clean a knife and a cutting board.

Here is the recipe (adapted from pp.236-237) from Always Hungry?

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 (or more) cloves of garlic
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
  • 1-1/4 pounds ground beef (the recipe calls for lean, but not in this cook’s kitchen)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3-1/2 cups diced tomatoes (about two 14.5 ounce cans
  • 2-4 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 apple, finely diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 5-6 cups shredded cabbage (about 1/2 small head)

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a food processor (if you’re using it, otherwise chop and use an immersion blender, or finely dice) the onion, bell pepper and garlic. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Stir the beef into the beef, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper (personally, I like more), into the onion mixture.
  4. Combine the tomatoes, vinegar, apple, cinnamon, remaining salt and pepper. If you have an immersion blender, use it here to complete the sauce–otherwise you can go rustic and have chunky sauce; it still tastes good.
  5. Blanch the cabbage for about 30 seconds and drain. (Not this lazy cook; it goes in the microwave briefly).
  6. Cover the bottom of a 9 x 12-inch baking dish with 1 cup of the tomato mixture. Layer with half the cabbage, then half the beef mixture; alternate tomato mixture, cabbage, and beef mixture, ending with beef and then tomato mixture.
  7. Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes; remove the foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes (or a bit longer if it’s still too juicy).

This is another of my cabbage “things” that gets better the day after, or even after that. It freezes well, so I don’t try to alter the recipe to cut it from 4 servings to one or two.

A son gôut!

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Cabbage and pork

Ready for the oven

I guess it’s the cold weather, but seem to be craving simple, warm meat and vegetable dishes. Not very long ago I was making fårikål–lamb and cabbage stew because I found lovely shoulder chops in the meat case.

This week on my stroll around the meat case looking for bargains I found a lovely package of pork butt steaks–perfect for making another of my favorite winter dishes: braised pork and cabbage with an unusual twist to the seasoning, thanks to Jacques Pepin (and his wife).

A whole pork butt is just not in the picture when you are cooking for one! Even when you freeze part of what you make–and this does freeze well, and I do want some in the freezer for quick meals, I still really prefer making most things in quantities NOT for eight people. This recipe is one that is SO easy to adapt for cooking for one. Chops or steaks are a good alternative to a whole pork butt.

I almost made this recipe just as it was posted in the original–except I browned only one side of the pork since it was going to finish in the oven. My other modification, was to add just a touch of coriander seed to the spice mixture. For chops or steaks like this, about 30 to 45 minutes with the rub is enough.

This is a great mix of a little spicy, a little sweet, a little sour–not what you usually expect when you hear pork and cabbage!

Not photogenic, but very tasty


In cold weather–or even just chilly, grey, rainy weather–I love making braises in the oven. I’m heating the house, so the added heat is fine. The aromas of a good oven-braised dish warm the soul too.

A son gôut!

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Black pepper is underappreciated!

Black pepper is about as ubiquitous as any spice can possibly be.  It would probably be hard to find a kitchen without it.  Sometimes is preground (yuck) and doesn’t really have much except enough heat to make you sneeze.  It’s something many probably pick up in the grocery store without thinking about it.  But, black pepper is black pepper is black pepper is not true.  It is often added as kind of an afterthought amongst other spices and herbs.

Whole Special Extra Bold Indian Black PeppercornsI’ve always been picky about my black pepper–my favorite is from Penzeys.  I’ve been mail-ordering it from there for ages–and have kept on even with the local store since I’ve got my established list of herbs and spices there.

If you peruse the list of black peppers from Penzeys, you’ll find quite a selection:  India Tellicherry, India Malabar (both excellent) and then there’s the Special Extra Bold Indian Black Peppercorns.  True more expensive than either of the others, but worth every penny more.

However, as much as I liked black pepper (over eggs, in mashed potatoes, with strawberries, balsamic, and black pepper), I didn’t really appreciate black pepper as the main seasoning until I made fårikål.  The seasoning is black pepper!  Lots of whole black peppercorns that cook right with the cabbage and the lamb. And should get eaten rather than picked out; after the long cooking they still have some tooth but are soft enough to eat easily and the flavor is just amazing.

Black pepper is worth exploring as something other than an add-on to other herbs and spices.  It should always be bought whole rather than ground or cracked.  While you can spend a small fortune of a pepper mill, you can also get a reasonably inexpensive one.  It will open a whole new world of flavor.  The highly recommended mill from America’s Test Kitchen was from Cole and Mason, and surprisingly, very reasonably priced.

Another tasty dish featuring lots of black pepper that you should make once you have some really good black whole peppercorns to go with you pepper mill is cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta).  But do try it with good ripe strawberries, too.  Or on a lusciously ripe muskmelon or watermelon.

A son gôut!

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Holiday gift shopping

book

for the wine lover

Do you have someone for whom you can’t decide on a gift for this holiday season?   With exception of the last item on the list, these are all products that I use and admittedly, they reflect my personal preferences.  I have no affiliate connection with any of these; I receive no consideration or remuneration for promotion.

With that said, here are a few suggestions:

  • For the wine lover you know who would like to get off the beaten track and find uncommon grapes and explore obscure wines Godforsaked Grapes by Jason Wilson is a delightful, slightly irreverent when it comes to the mainstream wines that we hear so much about. It’s a delightful, easy to read book.  Available in Kindle, hardcover, paperback, or audio.
  • For the working person who would like hands-off cooking or rapid meals after work, you could go for an Instant Pot.  The different functions can replace lots of other small appliances that might be already in the kitchen.   It’s not going to replace the dutch oven, but it does a lot of things.  Here’s information on what is available.  You can find them at a number of specialty stores like Williams-Sonoma
  • of if there is already an Instant Pot in that kitchen, how about some cookbooks to help really getting into using it.?
  • If you know someone who loves good olive oils, Bull City Olive Oil has a great selection of fused, infused, and ultra premium extra virgin oils, as well as flavored balsamic vinegars.  For some heat and green chili flavor, the Baklouti green chili fused oil is fantastic.  Or blackberry-ginger dark balsamic is wonderful with seared duck breasts.  Salad lover?  Well, to make a salad special the herbs de Provence infused olive oil with lavender balsamic vinegar can make an outstanding vinaigrette dressing.  There is also sherry vinegar and roasted sesame oil that nothing like what you’ll find on the grocery store shelves. Then, there is truffle oil too.
  • For some kitchen basics, consider some traditional cast iron.  Lodge is a brand that you can probably even find at your local hardware store.  Once cured or seasoned, it can be used on the stovetop or in the oven.  For a perfectly seared steak, cast iron is a must; it allows stovetop searing and then finishing in the oven for perfectly cooked steak.  A 6.5-inch skillet is great for roasting spices, and for cooking one or two eggs in the flavorful olive oil without using a lot of oil.
  • The adventurous cook will always love trying new herbs and spices.  Penzys has a great selection and you can get small jars (1/4 cup) which are wonderful if you’re cooking for one.  Pick one of the selections of gift boxes, or make up your own.
  • Give some relaxation with a selection of tea or tisanes from Harney and Sons.  You’ll find a wide selection of black and green teas, as well as fruit and herbals infusions.  Wu Li Quing green is lovely. Peach and the mango fruit tea are warm and cozy, or great iced in hot weather.  Ginger licorice herbal is a favorite of mine.
  • How about some chocolate?  Chuao Chocolate is my go-to for me and for gifts.  There are bars (Honeycomb and Spicy Maya are favorites).  Or check out the organic lavender blueberry,  hibiscus rose combinations.
  • To give a vicarious trip around the world, a subscription to Milk Street magazine (digital or print) will provide you with recipes with a definite 0mandarin-mninternational flair but adapted for the American kitchen.  I still love Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country, but Milk Street has become my new favorite because of the variety.
  • For someone who loves citrus fruit, Mixon Fruit Farms provides the best grapefruit (either red or white), mandarin oranges, tangerines, and a variety of oranges from Florida.  Absolutely luscious!
  • Last but not least, if you’ve been hearing about sous vide cooking consider one of the immersion heaters from Joule or Anova.  (Sorry, no recommendations from personal experience (yet) but here’s a review from Epicurious).  I noticed that Instant Pot also has a sous vide circulator that I think I would consider after reading the review.  I’ve not finished research on these but I’m hoping that the cat will give me one for my holiday gift.  I’ve tried some jury-rigged sous vide cooking including the beer cooler method and I really do like the results.

 

A son gôut!

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Eating alone is OK

9780451493606As a single person who cooks, I often find myself eating alone–and I don’t find that to be a problem.  Eating alone doesn’t mean that you are lonely.  It simply means you can please yourself as to what you cook and eat.  Many seem to think that it’s a barren occasion and one that does not deserve much attention to the food.  I disagree.  It’s when there can be the most attention to food.

What Do You Cook When No One Is Watching? from Taste magazine sums it up nicely.  True it’s promoting a cookbook (SOLO by Anita Lo) which I suspect I will buy after I’ve seen the sample on my Kindle.  There are not many cookbooks addressed to cooking for one so it’s delightful to think there is another to peruse.

A son gôut!

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