another 2 veggie dinner

Farmer’s market season leads to a fridge full of veggies. As I have mentioned before I love the two veggie meal. I love the two veggie meal.

Turnips and pork chops were good. Brining is a wonderful thing for pork chops but the sauces were a little sweet for my taste. Turnips are another vegetable that I feel is rather under appreciated, especially these little white ones.

The Asparagus – My first recipe from Thomas Keller. First I had to make the “parsley water” to cook the asparagus coins in….mine weren’t really coins. I just cut them up because I couldn’t do the “coins” with the mandolin they way he suggests. Parsley water sounds easy until you find yourself straining boiled parsley puree through a fine mesh strainer. Straining, one of of the few cooking activities that I dislike. And the asparagus was tasty… just not tasty enough for me to be making more parsley water.  I didn’t have any chives that day so I didn’t make the chive oil. I think I added a few dried chives to the pan.

turnipasparagus

easter bread 2013

easter-bread

This was not my favorite Easter bread to date. Of course it wasn’t only bread but also candied oranges….and then Rob accidentally stuck his finger in the risen loaf before I baked it.

To be fair the kitchen was a disaster because of course I was also trying to simultaneously compile a southern feast, complete with, from scratch, sweet potato pie.   Yes, marathon cooking on Easter Sunday. Rob did make some excellent pie dough and it was his first attempt ever: gold star.

…and we ate well, we ate very well.

easterdinner

goulash vit saurkraut

goulashPreconception:  I should make “ghoul”-lash for Halloween. lol
Reality: Damn! Martha Stewart thought of it first.

Preconception: I didn’t realized that goulash had sauerkraut in it.
Reality: I looked it up and most don’t, just this szegediner kind, also called Gulyás à la Székely. This is from my Viennese cookbook but the Szekely are apparently a group of people from Hungary.  There seems to be some question as to where they came from originally and/or why they are a culturally different group…Interesting…Google it. I just like cooking and here I am learning all these interesting things about the cultural subgroups of Hungary and Transylvania (that’s Romania y’all).  Awesomeness!

Preconception: Goulash is made with pork. The pork shoulder I purchased was really fatty and I should have trimmed just a bit more of it off.  Also it took much longer than the time suggested to get the meat even close to tender. It said 1 hour and I cooked mine for almost 2.
Reality: Just about any red meat can be used for dishes called goulash (various spellings) It just means a meat stew originally made by Hungarian cattle herdsmen.

Preconception: It really should have Hungarian paprika in it. I ran out of Hungarian sweet paprika way short of what I needed (2 tablespoons) and substituted with cheap-o grocery store smoked paprika. I guess mine was Spanish-Austrian-Hungarian-Szekely goulash.
Reality: Paprika is not required in order to be called goulash although it seems to be very common.

Preconception:  You eat goulash with spaetzle. I was going to make the spaetzle from scratch too and then I got lazy and just bought some.
Reality: Often eaten with mashed potatoes, egg noodles, rice, etc.

Moroccan Carrots

This meal was weeks ago, when I was obsessing about carrots, but I just found the picture and I love meals with two vegetables!

And… I am reading the Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence And… then on public radio they are interviewing Omar Sharif about the movie version “Lawrence of Arabia”! …Of course Morocco and the Arabian peninsula are quite far away from each other and have quite different culinary traditions but…Mr. Sharif is originally from Egypt which is geographically between the two.. Regardless it all felt serendipitous to me this morning. And even if, obviously, this “train of thought” paragraph is total crap, I remember that the food was delicious.

Notes on the recipe: I have to say that the carrots have a little too much garlic and I suggest cooking them less than the suggested 10 minutes as mine got a little too mushy.  I had homemade harrisa but I didn’t have any preserved lemons so I had to buy them this time.

zydeco soup

I, of course, did not share this soup with anyone, but I suspect it would be a crowd favorite. A little ham, some green pepper and just enough spice to be interesting but not ‘spicy.’  It also has hominy and I really like hominy. If you have not had soup with hominy in it then I suggest you try this. Look in the ‘Mexican’ section of the “World” aisle at your grocery store. The rest of the ingredients should also be easy to come by regardless of where you live….okay I have never attempted to buy a can of black-eyed peas in WI… so don’t quote me on that one.

The recipe is called Zydeco Soup which I assume suggests a Louisiana connection… I don’t see it…but whatever. It is easy and tasty. The recipe seems very American to me actually. I mean hominy is used in Mexican cuisine but also in southern cooking, and green pepper…for some reason green pepper just seems so American to me. Do they use green pepper in other countries? It seems like they prefer their peppers to be ripe… Anyway, the linked recipe is basically identical to the one I used. I have never found golden hominy in a 14 oz can; I got 28 oz of white hominy and put it all in, so mine was perhaps a little more hominy-y. Also the green pepper I bought was the size of a squash. Kind of freaky really.

I do not like the smell of boiling pork

bowl of salted pork and lentils…and it comes out gray.  And then you add lentils which are greenish-gray. Mushy gray food. You’re hungry now, aren’t you?  The thing is that it is really quite delicious which is why you should call it petit sale aux lentilles rather than boiled pork with green-gray mush. Actually maybe that is the British version :) The parsley really helps to make it look more attractive luckily.

So, don’t judge a meal before you taste it. Which is actually odd because appearance and definitely aroma are decent indicators of flavor. Okay…not always, lots of pretty food in restaurants barely tastes like anything. Baked goods can smell delicious and taste nasty and fish sauce, ahhh… that most noxious of condiments that makes everything taste better…okay maybe not baked goods or petit sale aux lentilles, but you know what I mean.

Okay this recipe requires brining the pork shoulder for a couple days and them simmering it for an hour and a half. So one of those where the work itself is minimal but a multi-day commitment is required. There is no instant gratification here. You have to plan and once you start you have to finish. You really can’t put 2lbs of raw pork shoulder in a brine in your fridge and then change you mind about cooking it.

Other Notes:

  • I was not able to find curing salt which I read helps with the gray meat thing; makes it pink, I think.
  • I find that I love “studding” whole onions with whole cloves, making bouquet garni in little muslin bags and any recipe that calls for juniper berries.
  • I bought some actual green lentils from France. I think this does make a difference. They are smaller and firmer than your standard grocery store lentils. And although I really love lentils, I have a bad habit of overcooking them that I am working to overcome.

John Ash’s Grandmother’s White Bean Soup

white bean soupThis was a bit of a disappointment. I made my own chicken stock. I got a big beautiful smoked ham-hock from Gene’s Sausage Shop. I soaked the beans! and it still ended up as an “ehhh” recipe.

I made chicken stock on Sunday evening with some chicken backs that I had in the freezer and a couple of wings. (simmered for 1.5 hours with celery, sweet onions, carrots, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, peppercorns)

The next morning I put 2 cups of navy beans in water and soaked them all day while I was at work.

After yoga class I sauted 2 cups of sliced onions, 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic, 1 cup each of diced carrots and celery.  I added 8 cups of the stock, 2 cups of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, a 1.4 lb ham-hock, 2 teaspoons of dried thyme, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 2 large bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

After that simmered for 1 hour, I gave up on having really good beans and added the 2 15oz cans of diced tomatoes and 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley. I think the navy beans were old because they just didn’t ever get tender and the skins stayed chewy.

At this point it was almost 11pm and I was tired but it was really too hot to put in the refrigerator. It takes a long time for 10 cups of soup and a giant ham-hock to cool down, so I actually set my alarm to get up in a couple hours to put it in the fridge.

It was a little cooler when I staggered into the kitchen and groggily put it in the fridge at 1 am.

The next evening I put most of it in the freezer and heated some up for my dinner with shredded cabbage and some parm.

My suggestions for improvement: your chicken stock should include garlic and perhaps some salt, the Virginia Willis version, make sure your dried beans aren’t antique. I.e. buy the bagged Goya ones at your little local grocery which have a good turn around time. Not the bulk bin ones at Whole Foods, because apparently all anyone really gets from the bulk bins at Whole Foods is pre-made trail mix/granola.