0217 Pan-to-Oven Pork Chops and Amazing Broccoli Rabe

Pan-to-Oven Pork Chops + Broccoli Rabe with Goat Cheese, Onions, and Pine Nuts

I’m fixating on broccoli rabe these days.  I don’t know why – other than that it is delicious and lends itself to nice friendships with garlic, goat cheese, and savory soft onions.  This recipe came from Urban Italian, which has moved to the top of my wishlist after producing two show-stopping dishes.  This rabe was blanched, then sauteed together with garlic, a Vidalia onion, and sun-dried tomatoes, then topped with toasted pine nuts and soft goat cheese right before serving.  Each bite was savory and sweet, with a really lovely mouthfeel.  I can’t wait to make this again, though maybe I won’t sweat making a fancy protein to go along with it since really, we just wanted the rabe.

On the side, then, we had pork chops prepared using a technique from The River Cottage Meat Book – the chops were seared a bit on the stove, then roasted in the oven with a head of garlic.  Our oven runs hot and the chops were on the thin side, so they made it to the table a little dry and tough – which made me doubly glad that we had a savory and amazing bit of veg to compensate.  Better luck next time!

Pan to Oven Baked Pork Chops from The River Cottage Meat Book
Broccoli Rabe with Goat Cheese, Onions & Pine Nuts from Urban Italian


For Lent this year, I’ve decided to not buy any craft supplies. I actually implemented this ban a couple of weeks ago, but it is intended as my Lenten sacrifice. This should serve a couple of purposes:

  1. Saving money
  2. Encouraging stash-down
  3. Knocking out projects I’ve been meaning to get to but somehow don’t because new ideas are more exciting

The only acceptable exceptions to this rule are supplies needed for wedding stuff.  We’re getting married two weeks after Easter, so for my sanity and Shane’s, if we decide to DIY anything for the wedding, those purchases are allowed.  My friend spark has signed on for this challenge as well, and she agreed this is an acceptable cheat.

In the spirit of stash down, my first project was eliminating my Sugar n Cream yarn by making burp cloths for two of my pregnant friendos.  There’s a freaking huge baby boom going on amongst our friends and relations, so there may be many of baby projects coming in the next six months.  These were super easy and went very quickly, and I’m generally quite pleased with the results!

Ravelympics project: 8 burp cloths

Up next?  Either much belated birthday x-stitch projects, a birthday hat or two, or baby sweaters.  Or maybe all of the above.

0216 Pasta Puttanesca

Several years ago, I started marking the pages of my cookbooks so that I could easily find recipes that I wanted to try. This one, from Jamie’s Dinners, wasn’t marked, and I suspect it was because of the high proportion of seriously funky ingredients.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the funk. I love olives, capers, and tuna. I can be persuaded with anchovies. I love tomatoes and lemon zest and pasta. But Shane put it best when he came up from the basement into the kitchen – “Wow, there’s some serious smells in here”.

0216 Pasta Puttanesca

The brilliant thing about this, though, is its simplicity.  The sauce starts by adding anchovies to hot oil right after you’ve started the pasta water. When the anchovies melt away, toss in the olives, capers, garlic, and chilies and saute a bit.  By this time, the water should be boiling, so in goes the pasta (we used Barilla plus spaghetti).  Up next, the tuna and tomatoes are added – I also added a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste to extend and thicken the sauce a bit.  By the time your pasta is al dente, you should also have a skillet full of savory, spicy, funky sauce.  Drain the pasta, toss it with the sauce, and serve with a green salad and a bit of vinaigrette.  So good, even if you don’t normally get down with the funk.

0216 Pasta Puttanesca

Working Girl’s Pasta from Jamie’s Dinners

February Jam: Carrot Jam

Guess what I made?
Guess what I'm gonna make

The February Can Jam ingredient is carrots – a toughie because carrots lack the acidity for safe water-bath canning. Participants were advised to stick to published recipes and not make any changes to the acid to stuff ratios. So that was the first challenge.

Citrus stoplight

The second challenge was coming up with something to make that we would actually eat. I found lots of recipes for things like carrot cake jam, carrot chutney, and pickled carrots – all of which sounded interesting, but either called for other canned foods (why would I buy canned pineapple to make a jam?!) or weren’t things I could really picture us eating.

Shredded carrots and snacks

So I hit on carrot jam. My thought was that if we didn’t like the carrot jam as is, we could thin it with some vinegar to make a carrot slaw – along the lines of the broccoli slaw we had with fish the other week.

Carrot Jam!

And I think it worked! The resulting jam is sweet with a hint of spice – I ate some of it on toast yesterday, and would definitely eat this alongside a savory piece of fish or in a shrimp taco.  There’s no pectin in the recipe, so I didn’t expect the jam to set up like last month’s marmalade, but it is loose enough that I might keep these jars in the fridge just in case – which also means they’ll be handy for quick eating.

Carrot Jam
Based on a recipe found at wisegeek.com

4 cups grated carrots (approx 1.5 pounds whole carrots)
juice and zest of 1 lime, lemon, and orange
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons coriander (maybe more)

Add all ingredients to a large saucepan and simmer together until the carrots are suspended in a thick syrup, ~30-45 minutes.  Pack in sterile jars and process for 10 minutes in an open water bath, or just stick it in a big container in your fridge.  Good times!

0214 Very Easy Polenta with Cherry Tomatoes and Mozzarella

I can think of few things better to lift your mood and warm your tummy in the midst of a long, unending winter than this meal.  Look at this beautiful dish and tell me you’re not hungry:

0214 Very Easy Polenta with Cherry Tomatoes and Mozzarella

We tried a new polenta preparation method thanks to Cooks Illustrated which required very little stirring – just slow and low cooking, with a bit of baking soda added to the mix to help break down the cornmeal.  I was skeptical, but the polenta was amazingly creamy, and the pan required minimal scrubbing after dinner – a bonus.  We topped warm plates of polenta with cherry tomatoes sauteed with olive oil and garlic, a chiffonade of basil and the last of the homemade mozzarella.  The mozzarella melted gently into the polenta as we ate, and the juices from the tomato, rich with oil, pepper, and garlic, were just right.  This dinner was so good.  The only disappointment was that the tomatoes were a bit too, well, tomatoey for Shane’s tastes.

Creamy Parmesan Polenta from Cooks Illustrated (online subscription required)
Sautéed Cherry Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Topping from Cooks Illustrated (online subscription required)

0213 Amazing Pork Roast

So, we were supposed to go to Muskegon today to scout out wedding stuff, but last night we noticed that the rear tire had gone flat again, so we decided to stick closer to home rather than deal with a potential tire emergency on the road.  Since we had an unexpected night at home, I picked up a pork shoulder.  Because that’s what I do sometimes – I spontaneously buy meat with no solid plan for its use.  Seriously.

A few months ago we made a really solid braise using a Mario Batali recipe, but I wanted to try something new before committing to one pork shoulder recipe and so, after poring over my folder of clippings and flipping through more cookbooks than I’d care to admit, we settled on a recipe from Cibola Farms, a DC/VA market vendor whose pork and bison we enjoyed many a time.

0213 Amazing Pork Roast

The pork, slowly braised with careful monitoring by Shane while I went to yoga, was tender and flavorful, with a bit of sweetness.  We both would’ve liked more carrots and onions, but since we’ll absolutely be making this again, that should be no problem

Pork Pot Roast

3-4 pound pork shoulder roast (also called ‘pork butt’)
1 tablespoon rendered pork fat or olive oil
2 medium chopped onions
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 cups chicken broth
a glass of wine, whatever you’ve got handy
12 small red new potatoes or fingerling potatoes
3-4 large carrots, cut into thick coins
12 small boiling onions, peeled
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water

In a large Dutch oven, heat pork fat or olive oil over medium heat.  Brown the roast on all sides, then remove the meat and set aside.  Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat, if necessary, and add the chopped onions, garlic, mustard seed, cinnamon, and nutmeg to the pan.  Cook over low heat until the onions are soft.  Push the onions to the side, and return the roast to the pan.  Add salt, pepper, broth, and wine.  Cover and simmer for approximately 2 hours, or until the meat is tender, basting occasionally with pan juices.  About 30 minutes before the roast is done, add the potatoes, boiling onions, and carrots.

When the meat is tender and has reached an internal temperature of 160, remove the roast and vegetables to a warm serving platter and cover with foil.  Reduce the pan juices over high heat to about 1 cup.  Skim off the fat and stir in the cornstarch solution, heating to thicken.  Serve with fresh bread and a green salad.

0212 Tired of food

Does this ever happen to you?  Every few weeks, I get to a point where I just really don’t want to think about food.  I don’t want to make it.  I don’t really want to eat it.  I certainly don’t want to be responsible for deciding what it is that I don’t particularly want to eat.  That was me tonight.  I was famished, but had no idea what would hit the spot.  After planning the week’s meals and dropping Shane off at another working dinner, I went to Plum Market in hopes that something would jump out…and nothing did.  No delicious beet salad with soft and tart onions.  No dilled turkey salad with slivers of almond.  No wheat berry salad with dried cherries.  No grilled vegetables.  No entrees that looked remotely appealing.

So I ended up at McDonald’s.  And you know, it’s this kind of night when I’m glad that McDonald’s exists.  I got a salad and an ice cream cone, both of which were just right.  It’s easy to understand how this could be a significant lifestyle choice, however – if you have neither the time or inclination to cook, fast food is soooooo easy, and 50 Chicken McNuggets for $10.00 seems like a great deal for you and your family.  There was a time in my life when this was the way that I ate.  It was cheaper and easier to grab a sub or fries or Taco Bell than to make dinner when my ex and I ate totally different things and were on totally different schedules.  I didn’t think about the consequences for my body or for the planet.  I don’t mean to sound sanctimonious, but I’m glad that’s not the case now, despite the occasional indulgence.

0211 Farfalle and Meatballs

Shane had a fancy working dinner at The Earle tonight, so I was on my own for the evening.  We bought some ground turkey the other week for burgers, but, like Tuesday’s halibut, it lingered in the freezer.  I pulled it earlier in the week with the thought of making meatloaf, but seized on the idea of spaghetti and meatballs this morning and just couldn’t shake it.  I settled on this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis, though it is fair to say that I strayed far from the intended cheese-filled result.  Somehow I couldn’t bring myself to pack most of my dinner calories into 3-4 meatballs, you know?

Well, maybe I should have.  The meatballs I made bore little resemblance to those in Giada’s recipe – they were baked rather than fried, and the delicious delicious cheese was omitted.  Tossed together with store-bought sauce, they were just – boring.  So boring.  The kind of boring where I really regretted the effort put into making and then eating the dinner.  I regretted the boring meatballs, and I regretted the boring, watery sauce.  The pasta was acceptable.  If I hadn’t been so hungry, I might’ve tossed the whole thing out and started over.

Mini Turkey Meatballs from Giada DiLaurentiis