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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Food fraud?

I’ve been reading about “fake” food or fraud.  What’s in the package may not be what’s claimed on that catchy label.  Olive oil?  Yes, so I have a favorite specialty shop where I buy my olive oil (Bull City Olive Oil that I’m sure I’ve mentioned before).  But tomatoes?  Hadn’t crossed my mind until my email from Taste appeared in my inbox with an article on that:  The Fake Rolex of Canned Foods.  It’s definitely worth reading since I’d guess that we all have canned tomatoes living in our kitchen cabinets.

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Chicken thighs

I cook a lot of chicken for myself–especially since I can buy chicken parts in quantities suitable for single-serving cooking. Don’t get me wrong, I love roasting a whole chicken–20161119_165833in fact to me that’s preferable to turkey (though I do use some turkey). I occasionally get leg quarters or breasts but my go-to is thighs (usually bone-in).

Obviously, I’m always looking for inspiration and this Bon Appetite article popped into my inbox some time ago, and I have finally gotten around to looking at it.  I view recipes as sources of inspiration so a collection of 39 different recipes is a great thing to find.

I’ll admit that I was never a real fan of Bon Appetite magazine (in hard copy form) until I discovered the online special sections like Healthish and Basics as sources of techniques and other information–even though I’m really past the “basics” stage of cooking. This collection of recipes for chicken thighs (my favorite part of the chicken) has some very interesting flavor combinations and additions for that basic chicken thigh–like cucumber-rhubarb salsa.

If you cook for one the skillet and/or sheet pan recipes are especially easy to adapt to single-serving (or maybe two) cooking. Sure, chicken parts are more expensive initially, than just getting a whole bird but not in the long run–when you consider the waste you’re likely to have with a whole bird for one person (especially if you’re one of those truly weird people who really doesn’t care for breasts.

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Super-foods & supplements

Okay–this is a rant (rather like my one on “baby” vegetables  so you might want to quit reading right here. Not a problem–you can have my share of the superfoods, too.)

mustard & kale IMG_6023

mustard greens, curly kale, and dandelion greens

I’m really tired of hearing about “superfoods”! I don’t care if it’s açaí berries, green tea, kale, turmeric–I don’t really think there is such a thing–It’s media hyperbole. I don’t mean that I don’t like some of the things that are called superfoods. Kale and acai berries are good, nutritious, and even tasty.

The term superfood somehow suggests that many of the fruits and vegetables we eat are not adequate nutrition. If a superfood is one which is supposed be rich in compounds good for health, it seems more of our fruits and vegetables should be on that list, for example, dandelion greens. (It’s not a new word–according to Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary (online) it was first used in 1915. It’s true that fruits and vegetables do vary in nutritional value–iceberg lettuce and cucumbers are not exactly powerhouses of nutrition but they do have things like fiber that are good for us.

Kale is undoubtedly more nutritious than iceberg lettuce. I like kale, but the other day I wanted a takeaway from the grocery store–a vegetable salad (something other than mesclun, romaine, or other “lettuce”. I was really frustrated because almost everything had raw kale in it. Frankly, I don’t like raw kale even if it’s been massaged, and I’m sure none of this had been.  Raw kale of the kind that is so frequently used (the curly stuff) puts me into the existential world of a ruminant–and I’m lacking the extra stomach that they have for digesting completely uncooked greenery. So, I want my kale cooked and I want different varieties–e.g. Toscano or Russian which are more suited how I want to eat kale.  (I feel the same about completely raw broccoli; give it to me as a cruditè but lightly blanched, please,  and I love it.)

While skulking about the internet to learn more about the legislative process in the EU, I found the European Food Information Council and an article on The science behind superfoods: are they really super? that suggested we need to look carefully at the science behind these claims–with the bottom line being that we do need to eat more fruits and vegetables–and a variety of them. Just a variety of real foods and not look for “superfoods”.

Thinking about all the hype of super-foods lead me to think about all the supplements marketed and consumed in this country and the idea that “more is better” is applied to so many things. On my own recognizance and the recommendation of my physician I take a single multivitamin (age appropriate), and because of age, calcium and vitamin D supplements. That’s all! (As much dairy as I consume I sometimes wonder if the calcium supplement is really even necessary.) Then I think of some acquaintances who take supplements as if life depended on it–rather than focusing on good daily nutrition.

All this rumination leads me to thoughts about our more-is-better attitudes which gets me on my soapbox just about as much as superfood and baby vegetables. It seems bigger-is-better is the theme in the produce department. I don’t want huge apples; I want a serving-size apple so I don’t have “leftovers” when I eat apples. My produce does not need to be picture-perfect to taste good, either.

Give me variety, give me lots of veggies and fruits, give me “real” (unprocessed) food, but spare me the superfoods!

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