A virtual tour of the world

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).

Supper for a chilly evening….

If it were not that my outdoor thermometer is reading 46ºF I’d be calling it a snow day–grey, chilly, misty, damp, dreary. It seems like a day for “oven food”. While the oven is on, the heat won’t be coming on as much. Food and warmth in one.

I’ve hit the time when cleaning out the refrigerator becomes a necessity–not that I had anything about to grow legs and crawl out, just things that should be used, and it’s also time to rotate stuff from the freezer, too. So a browse through the fridge, the freezer and from the counters is making a meal–a one-pot meal. I did have go to the grocery store because this kind of weather calls for potatoes–and I had only a baking potato in the house–and those just don’t do for braises. So, leaving the Romertopf to soak while I   went to do cat care for a friend and got some potatoes and then started to see what would b_shank_crop_20161204_153707happen for supper–it’s a no-recipe event this evening.

I scrabbled around in the freezer and came up with a very large beef shank (with marrow in the bone), the refrigerator gave up some under-cooked collard greens ( I attempted to cook them in the slow-cooker–not recommended if they are older greens). The counter yielded some cherry tomatoes that were getting wrinkly, and there were some sliced shiitake mushrooms loitering in the fridge.

Even though it’s the weekend, it’s a working day for me so I’m doing lazy cooking. All of b-shank-covered_20161204_153715the above-mentioned items went into the soaked Romertopf–with bite-size Yukon gold potatoes added. I did my lazy herb seasoning (herbs de Provence), lots of garlic cloves, and then those cherry tomatoes that had wrinkles. Add a couple bay leaves, salt and water, and put it into a cold oven set for 350ºF–a kitchen happening. Had I soaked the larger Romertopf, I would have added some rutabaga and carrots too–but those looked as if they could linger for just a bit longer in the fridge. Now–to work!


Today has been one of those frustrating days when I’ve had difficulty really concentrating–even though I didn’t have to attend to cooking supper. For all the true productivity I might as well have been in the kitchen cooking. Even without any attention, about three hours later, I’ve a really tasty meal–quite suitable for the weather tonight.

20161204_200628It may not be styled and truly photogenic, but the beef shank was very tender–but very beefy–it’s one of the things that is great about some of the less popular cuts of the cow.  The smoky, earthiness of the shiitake mushrooms, the mellow flavor of the roasted garlic made a great contrast to the bitterness of the collard greens (these took a lot of cooking to get them really tender). The healthy dose of bay and herbs de Provence really added a lot of flavor. I did finish my plate with a drizzle of herbs de Provence infused olive oil (Bull City Olive Oil). To accompany this casual meal I had a glass of 1999 Domaine Cros Minervois wine. Just the ticket to go with the very “beefy” beef and the collard greens!


A great supper for a rainy, damp, chilly evening. A successful kitchen happening without the vestige of a recipe in sight.

A son gôut!





A new take on a Southern tradition…

Produce display of bunched collard greens

collard greens

I’m not a native to the “real” South, so I was intrigued to learn about the custom of having collard greens and black-eyed peas as a mandatory part of New Year’s day dinner.  I like greens–so not big thing about the collard greens.  I like pulses, legumes, and all those things too.  Again, no big deal.  Unfortunately, I may be a less finicky eater than some of my friends and acquaintances.

On several occasions I’ve been the delegated to prepare those dishes for New Year’s day meals.  So–dinner for eight or so, I prepare collard greens and black-eyed peas in a traditional Southern style–well, talk about leftovers–everyone had the mandatory dishes–about a teaspoon of each!   Next year, I lucked out again–make collards and black-eyed peas. I made a much smaller quantity of each, but still had mega-leftovers.  Enough of that!

Next time I was delegated to bring collard greens and black-eyed peas to a New Year’s Day gathering, I decided that something had to be done to make those palatable to the kind of guests at the meal–true we’re all foodies, but some of us more than others.  I decided that the problem was not collards and black-eyed peas per se, but rather that they just did not fit with lovely roast duck with a nice fruit sauce.  I decided that I needed to present them differently.

Personally, I’d happily make a one-dish casserole of the collard greens, some sausages, and the black-eyed peas–a variation on one of my favorite recipes from Jacques Pepin’s The Short-cut Cook That still did not fit with New Year’s Day festivities.

My next though was that all these people (in fact, most people  I know) really like risotto.  After perusing a number of recipes, it seemed that as long as you could add most anything to basic risotto, as long as you did the appropriate pre-cooking.

I decided that it was time for collard greens and black-eyed peas to make a début as risotto ingredients.  Thankfully, the frozen vegetable case at my local supermarket came to the rescue: frozen collard greens (chopped), and frozen black-eye peas!  Happiness.

I started the basic risotto recipe with onions, white wine, olive oil, and sautéed  the rice.  I used home-made chicken stock for the liquid.  Frozen collard greens are already blanched, chopped, so all I did was to thaw them,  give them a bit more in the way of a rough chop, and since they are rather “tough” greens, steam-sautéed  them (without adding any more liquid) until close to being done.

The black-eyed peas seemed a bit more problematic since I knew that those can turn to mush easily as they’re fragile; I cooked those separately until almost done (according to the directions on the package).

When the risotto was close to being done, I added the collard greens and the black -eyed peas, and then finished the risotto with the Parmigano-Reggiano as usual.

Taking into account my earlier “luck” with collards and black-eyed peas, I made less than I though eight or so people would eat.  Wrong again–needed more–these foodies wanted seconds!

A son goût!