Many of us are in lockdown–or under stay-at-home orders. Same here, but I still have my Kindle and internet access. So I gave in to my weakness for cookbooks–as usual (especially with the lower prices for e-books).
Long a fan of Christopher Kimball through Cook’s magazine, Cook’s Illustrated, Cook’s Country, and America’s Test Kitchen, I’ve followed to Milk Street. I’ve always been successful with recipes from those sources (although sometimes finding things a little under-seasoned for my tastes).
I’m also a lover of my Instant Pot, although I’ve yet to use the slow cooker function on it. Always on the lookout for recipes (at least for inspiration if not the religious following of them), I was happy to discover this book on my “recommended” list. Awesome to see both the pressure function and the slow cooker function covered in one book. (Maybe I’ll get around to trying the slow cooker function sometime–someday.)
What better thing to do when you’re forced to stay at home than cook something. My first venture was determined by foraging in the refrigerator and the freezer, so it’s not exactly like the recipe, but enough to get a feel for the book, and to have a queue of bookmarked recipes to follow for my vicarious travels.
The “Spicy Collard Greens with Tomatoes and Peanuts” (a version of muriwo unedovi) was up for trial with the caveat that I was not going to the grocery store and that I was definitely in need of some green stuff. The freezer yielded frozen collard greens, and there were canned tomatoes in the pantry. The recipe called for chunky peanut butter, but my pantry gave up only a jar of creamy–so I had to do without the crunch. Whole habanero chilies also weren’t lurking in the fridge, so I had to sub in a serrano chile pepper lurking in the crisper. Overall very favorable result for not making a grocery run. Since I’m cooking only for me, I did halve the recipe and everything worked well–not too much in my category of “leftovers”.
In the queue for trying whilst I’m hiding at home is the German-inspired “Braised Red Cabbage with Apples” (one apple lurking in the fridge along with the cabbage), and the “Lentils and Bulgur with Caramelized Onions” which is a riff on my beloved mujaddara (only with bulgur instead of rice).
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?
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
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.
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?
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)
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
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.
Stir the beef into the beef, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper (personally, I like more), into the onion mixture.
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.
Blanch the cabbage for about 30 seconds and drain. (Not this lazy cook; it goes in the microwave briefly).
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.
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.
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!
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.
First, disclosure: I have no connection with NatureSweet tomatoes except that I eat them–all winter, and even in the summer; no remuneration or other consideration–they just taste good, they are good for me, and make great snacks while working. And did I say that they taste good–every variety that I’ve tried. So I’m using the brand name because I’ve not found any other ones comparable. Grape tomatoes are readily available and better than most winter tomatoes, but none have been as good as this particular brand. And non-GMO too. And bumble-bee pollinated!
Until I discovered these, winter meant canned tomatoes or no tomatoes. The Cherubs (grape tomatoes) were the first ones that I discovered at my local Harris Teeter supermarket at least a year ago and I have been noshing on those since that first taste. Over the past year, I’ve discovered other NatureSweet tomatoes: Sunbursts (deep yellow), Constellation (a mix of different kinds)–all with excellent flavor. I’m sure you wondering why I’m posting this now.
I just discovered another kind of NatureSweet tomatoes: Twilights. I don’t know if they are new in the store, or I just had not seen them before. Whenever I can find heirloom tomatoes in the summer I gravitate to the Cherokee Purple, Black Krimm, and the like because I think there is something special about the flavor. It’s just not the same flavor as red, pink or yellow tomatoes; or Green Zebras, or any others that I can think of.
When I saw these I just had to try them. (These are just about actual size.) They have the flavor of the dark heirloom tomatoes–tomato-y, some sweet, some tart–good balance of flavor–very similar to the big heirlooms. I’m amazed to find something so good in the supermarket especially in the winter. Happiness!
That seemed easy to adapt to cooking for one. Since my shoulder chops were nice and thick and it eliminated me having to trim them into chunks–just the thing for a lazy cook.
I have to admit that I didn’t do the apples, although I’m sure that would have been very good with it; I just didn’t want to go back out into the rain to the grocery store to retrieve an apple! ( I did say “lazy cook”.)
My only modification here (other than using chops) was to cook it in my Romertopf instead of a covered baking dish since I was making a smaller quantity for just me (and the cat).
This is another keeper for cooking lamb and cabbage!
It’s really no secret that I don’t like washing dishes–I know some people say that they do, but I simply don’t believe it (I can kind of understand liking ironing, but…). It’s not as though I’ve never mentioned “one-pot meals” here and it’s pretty obvious that I don’t feel a huge need for recipes, but sometimes some guidelines are nice.
In perusing the internet I see lots of recipes that can be done in one pot–or maybe a sheet pan. These are so easily adaptable for single-serving cooking, use things that come in “chunks”, and that it’s possible to buy in appropriate quantities. For winter cooking I’ve got no problems using the oven as it simply contributes to heating the house. I’ve bought a one-quarter (9 x 13 inch) sheet pan to prepare for winter meals.
Summer is another matter–no oven use for this person. I don’t want to add any extra heat, but cooking on a single burner would be within my limits (maybe actually doing it on an induction unit, too.) Today, I found an article in Bon Appetit Basically that provided some guidelines for building a one-skillet meal that seems very amenable to improvisation–in other words a how to approach.
I’d suggest you take a look at the full article, but in summary:
Cook your protein first. For quick-cooking things like shrimp, etc be sure to undercook just a tad.
Add aromatics of your choice.
Deglaze with your choice of liquid.
Add vegetables; quick-cooking ones are best but that leaves a lot of options.
Add pre-cooked grains if you wish.
Return to protein to the skillet, to reheat if necessary.
If you do this in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet the cleanup is going to be really simple. Even better, if the skillet can also go in the oven you’ve even more flexibility in finishing off you one-skillet meal. (Tonight, my skillet will contain some good onion sausage and kohlrabi leaves with a few aromatics–onions and garlic.)