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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2022, I’m still doing 99% of the blogging and holding out hope that these two lovely and excellent cooks will participate. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

Have only begun Geraldine Brooks’ brand new book, Horse. Oh my, is it a page turner. Loving it so far. It’s a fictional creation but based on a real racehorse owned by a black man, back in the 1850s. Technically, the story is about a painting of the horse but there are many twists and turns. If you’ve ever enjoyed Brooks’ books in the past, this one won’t disappoint.

The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel (no, not Hannah). Certainly a little-known chunk of history about a woman who becomes a master forger during WWII to help get Jewish children out of France. Not easy to read, meaning the difficulty of anyone finding the means and place to DO the forgery and right under the noses of the Nazis. Really good read.

Liane Moriarty’s first novel, Three Wishes, follows the travails of adult triplets, so different, yet similar in many ways. Two are identical, the third is not. So alike, and so not. It takes you through a series of heart-wrenching events, seemingly unrelated, but ones that could bring a family to its breaking point and test the bonds of love and strength.

Recently I’ve read both of Erin French’s books, her cookbook, The Lost Kitchen, and since then her memoir, Finding Freedom. About her life growing up (difficult) about her coming of age mostly working in the family diner, flipper burgers and fries (and learning how much she liked to cook). Now she’s a very successful restaurant entrepreneur (The Lost Kitchen is also the name of her restaurant) in the miniscule town of Freedom, Maine. She’s not a classically trained chef, but she’s terrifically creative. See her TV series on Discover+ if you subscribe.

Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy. To say that this book stretched my comfort zone is the least of it . . .think about a time in the not very distant future, when global warming has done it’s worst and nearly all animals are extinct. No bird song in the air or fish in the sea. There’s this woman, Franny, who is on a quest to follow the very small, but last migration of arctic terns, who fly from pole to pole each year. She somehow sees this migration as a paean to her own life (of many travails). Is this book a foretelling of what our world will be like?  There’s a lot of angst going on here in this book, with her marriage, with her career, with her perpetual need for travel . . . always needing to go somewhere else other than staying at home and finding peace and happiness there. Then this final, gritty, illegal at-sea voyage trying to find the terns. Very much worth reading if you can stomach the sadness in it. Soul-searching is a common denominator here, but then aren’t a lot of books?

Jo Jo Moyes has a bunch of books to her credit. And she writes well, with riveting stories. Everything I’ve read of hers has been good. This book, The Girl You Left Behind, is so different, so intriguing, so controversial and a fascinating historical story. There are two timelines here, one during WWI, in France, when a relatively unknown painter (in the style of Matisse) paints a picture of his wife. The war intervenes for both the husband and the wife. A German Kommandant enters the picture in this tiny berg in France. Knowing her husband is in a camp, most likely a death camp, she compromises her morals to save the picture and possibly save her husband’s life. Jump to somewhat current day and the painting, which has survived all these years, and is in the hands of a young widow who has an extraordinary connection with the painting. A lawsuit ensues having to do with art stolen by the Nazis and a convoluted trail of how the painting traveled in the intervening years. Even though this was WWI, not WWII, but the law encompasses the past. It’s a heart-wrenching story. There’s a love interest too. Well worth reading. Would make a good book club read.

Memoirs are such fun, especially if you really enjoy/love the author. This was the case as I read Rachael Ray 50, an ode to  her age. So I read online, Rachael discloses more about her personal life in this book than she has done in her many other cookbooks. I really enjoyed reading the book, as she told stories about her growing up, including some of her mother’s recipes and from other family members. She and her family eat tons of pasta, so lots of the recipes I probably won’t prepare, but okay, I still enjoyed reading all the stories.

Eli Shafak’s Island of Missing Trees. This book was just a page turner. If you’ve never read anything about the conflict in Cyprus (the island) between the Turks and the Greeks, you’re in for a big history lesson here. But, the entire story centers around a fig tree. You get into the head/brain/feelings of this big fig tree which plays a very central part of the story. You’ll learn a lot about animals, insects (ants, mosquitos, butterflies) and other flora and fauna of Cyprus. I’m not a gardener at all, but I found the story just fascinating. It chronicles the love story between a young couple, human ones, not trees, one a Greek, one a Turk and their relationship (verboten back in the 70s). It goes back and forth between the 70s (when the real conflict was going on) and current day (2010ish). Loved this book from page one to the last.

If you’re a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, you’ll find his newest book a league apart. Klara and the Sun. It takes place in the near future when we humans can go to a store and buy an AF (artificial friend). These robotic humanoid “things” have knowledge and personalities. The book follows along as a family buys Klara, an AF with perhaps a better personality than some. She has feelings, but not very many needs. The reader never really “sees” Klara except for a few descriptions of her human-type shape. You get into Klara’s brain (her PC chip) and know how she feels about her family. Her main job is to be a friend to the daughter, Josie, who has some kind of unnamed illness. The AF must spend a part of every day in the sunshine (some kind of hidden solar unit must be within Klara). There are any number of other characters in the story (mostly human, not AFs) which add dimension. I was quite mesmerized by the story and am in awe at the creativity of this author. Loved the book. May not be for everyone. I’m not a science fiction fan at all, but this was believable. And you’ll fall in love with Klara who wants so much to be wanted and loved.

Also read Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. Ohhh my, such a good book. I couldn’t put it down. Whatever you do, do not read the ending before you start the book. I’ve never understood people who do this. The book chronicles the day a mom just ups and disappears. The grown children come back home, in panic. The dad isn’t much help, and he becomes the prime suspect of foul play. There is no body, however. The husband and wife own a tennis school (this takes place in Australia) and the children grow up surrounded by tennis everything. The children don’t necessarily get along. The parents haven’t always gotten along, either, although through many years the parents were quite besotted with each other, to the detriment of the parenting. Much travail from all the family members. But oh what a story. It had me riveted and wondering, until the last 5 pages of so when the resolution occurs. Big surprise.

Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally it’s a page turner. I think it’s still on the best seller list. A young man, Emmett, is released from a youth work camp (back in the day) and is returned home (by the camp warden) following the death of his father, to find that the home they’d lived in was in foreclosure. His mother abandoned them years before. His intent is to pick up his 8-year old brother and they will head off for Texas, but then he discovers two of his work-camp-mates had hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Oh my goodness, such a tangled web. Fascinating, and Amor Towles has such a way with words. His sentences are like blooming flower vines, with metaphors in nearly every sentence. Such a gifted writer.

If you’d like a mystery read, try Dete Meserve’s The Space Between. It’s just the kind of page-turner I enjoy – a wife returns to her home after being away on business for a few days, to find her husband missing and what he’s left for her is an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean. Oh there are plenty of twists and turns. Couldn’t put it down.

Read Alyson Richman’s historical novel called The Velvet Hours. Most of the book takes place in Paris, with a young woman and her grandmother, a very wealthy (but aging) woman who led a life of a semi-courtesan. Or at least a kept woman. But this grandmother was very astute and found ways to invest her money, to grow her money, and to buy very expensive goods. Then WWII intervenes, and the granddaughter has to close up her grandmother’s apartment, leaving it much the way it had been throughout her grandmother’s life, to escape the Nazis. Years go by, and finally answers are sought and found. An intriguing book, based on the author’s experience with an apartment that had been locked up similarly for decades, also in Paris.

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite authors. This book, The Nature of Fragile Things tells a very unusual story. About a young Irish immigrant, desperate to find a way out of poverty, answers an ad for a mail order bride. She moves to San Francisco and becomes the bride, and mother to the man’s young child. But all is not right with the world. Sophie senses an undercurrent about her husband’s life. He’s elusive, leaves her alone for days on end, doesn’t share her bed, and she begins to feel the only reason he wanted a wife was to care for the child. Then the world turns upside down with the 1906 earthquake. And then there’s more. . . and more. . . very gripping read.

Also read Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk. You could call this a romance. A young professional, a writer of one successful book, has writer’s block. Then she’s asked to go to Florida to help her mother (from whom she’s mostly estranged) through chemo. She goes, hoping she can find new inspiration. Oh the various twists this book can give you. There’s a guy she meets, but she’s keeping her boyfriend at home on the string, sort of. Then there’s the desk itself, that has history. Oh my, does it have history. Really interesting story, light reading.

One of my book clubs has us reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: A Novel. What a premise for a book. About a library you can whiz to in the middle of the night and discover other lives you could have lived. And experience them. To find out the answers to those questions we ask ourselves sometimes, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d . . . .” taken that other job, gone out with that guy, taken that trip. That kind of thing. You’ll find out what happened to one particular woman who thought she had nothing left to live for. Good read. Very different. A bit space-agey. Sort of time travel, but not really. But yes, maybe.

James Shipman has written an intriguing book, It Is Well: A Novel, about a man who has lost his wife. And about a woman who has lost her husband. But their relationship stalls, big time, because the guy made a promise to his wife, and he feels duty-bound to honor it. There is much angst about it all. Much wringing of hands, some tears on her part. Nice book; good read.

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers. The story is mostly about a young woman, educated, a Jew, who is the scribe (in secret) to an aging religious leader (in a time when women would have been verboten to hold such a position). And about her own curiosity about her religion and how she eventually begins writing letters (using a male pseudonym) to various Jewish leaders abroad, questioning their religious beliefs. The book is extraordinarily long – not that that kept me from turning a single page! – and complex with the cast of characters from the 1600s and the cast in today’s world of highly competitive experts analyzing the ancient papers. Altogether riveting book. Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid. Then to current time as a young woman tries to ferret her family history and particularly about some old-old jewelry that they can’t quite figure out – how the grandmother came to have them. Fascinating tale.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then becomes something else. There is graphic detail here.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name. She meets a guy and they share a bond of reading and some romance. Years go by and she’s now owner of a failing independent bookstore (and married, or separated) and suddenly begins receiving a used book (that she recognizes) every day from a different place in the country. A message for sure, but where will it lead? Yes, it’s a romance. Lots of introspection going on. Enjoyed it.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Appetizers, Pork, on June 19th, 2022.

Another recipe from the wine tasting event last month. So good.

A post from Carolyn. So there’s a little story to go along with this recipe. If you’ll recall, the wine tasting event (a fundraiser for my PEO chapter) at my house was kind of a Spanish wine and tapas affair. Not strictly, but mostly. First we had a Spanish sangria made with a cava rose wine. I have yet to post that recipe . . . and Lois made these wonderful appetizer meatballs, among other Spanish tidbits we served.

Just so you know, there’s a difference between Mexican chorizo and Spanish chorizo. The Spanish variety is more like cured sausage – it IS a cured, dry sausage. I’d found the recipe online and gave the recipe to Lois. I’d cautioned her to make sure she bought Spanish chorizo which would require cutting the sausage into tiny little (dry) cubes and incorporating them into the meatball mixture. I recommended Lois go to Whole Foods, as I knew they (usually) have Spanish chorizo. She went to the specialty meat counter and pointed to the chorizo in the case and asked the butcher if it was Spanish chorizo. My guess is the butcher was Hispanic, and thought she was asking if it was “Mexican” chorizo, although she said “Spanish.” Semantics. Perhaps he didn’t know there was a difference. So she bought Mexican chorizo (which is a raw meat product) and made these wonderful meatballs.

Meaning that these meatballs weren’t authentically Spanish, but a Mexican version. I didn’t know how they’d turn out . . . but I can categorically say they were fantastic. Everyone loved them. So did I! It’s not as if the recipe was wrong, or bad, just that we didn’t cleave to the original. We all laughed about it. The blog where the recipe originated is written by a young couple who live in Spain and all their recipes are authentic (and in English).

There are two parts to the recipe – the meatballs (ground pork and chorizo) and a tomato based sauce (with smoked paprika) that is spooned over the top of the hot, cooked meatballs. If these were served in a tapas bar in Spain, they’d probably be warm, not piping hot. They might even be at room temp (not a good thing bacteria-wise). We served them hot (picture at top) with toothpicks.

If you wanted to make these into a meal, serve with a side veg, and some Spanish rice version of some kind. And maybe a green salad.

What’s GOOD: these were really delicious. Not authentically Spanish, but very tasty. Very much worth making.

What’s NOT: only that you should seek out good quality chorizo. NOT the kind from your local grocery store as it’s usually very fatty and you don’t really know what’s in it.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Spanish Meatballs

Recipe By: adapted from Spanish Sabores blog
Serving Size: 12

MEATBALLS:
3 tablespoons EVOO
2/3 pound Mexican chorizo
2/3 pound ground pork
1 medium onion — finely chopped
2 cloves garlic — finely chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 sprig thyme
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 large egg
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper
SAUCE:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion — finely chopped
2 cloves garlic — finely chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 whole bay leaves
1/2 cup white wine — or dry sherry
1/2 cup chicken broth — or vegetable stock
14 ounces crushed tomatoes — or diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves — chopped, a few larger pieces for decoration

1. MEATBALLS: Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of the EVOO. When it’s hot, add the chorizo and sauté to release the fat, for 5 minutes or until the meat turns a darker, golden color. Add the diced onion and sauté for 3 minutes or until translucent.
2. Add the garlic and sauté together until aromatic (about 1 or 2 minutes). Take off the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
3. Meanwhile, combine the ground pork, breadcrumbs, paprika, thyme leaves, egg, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add the onions, garlic, and chorizo and mix until well-combined.
4. Wet your fingers lightly with water, then roll the mixture into 1-inch balls. Makes about 30.
5. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place meatballs on two parchment-lined large sheetpans, leaving space in between each one. Bake for 15 minutes.
6. SAUCE: place a separate saucepan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Sauté the diced onion until translucent, then add the garlic and paprika. Continue to sauté for a further two minutes, until the aromas are strong.
7. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and cook for 4-5 minutes until the wine is reduced. Add the chicken broth, as well as the tomatoes and bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes or until it reaches a sauce-like consistency. Season with salt and pepper as desired.
8. To serve, garnish the meatballs with tomato sauce and fresh parsley. Both meatballs and sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated. Reheat meatballs and sauce separately and proceed as above.
Per Serving: 196 Calories; 13g Fat (59.4% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 46mg Cholesterol; 368mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 37mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 305mg Potassium; 120mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, Pork, Veggies/sides, on May 20th, 2022.

An easy, easy dinner for two. Sheetpan suppers are just the best!

A post from Carolyn.  I’d bought some fresh chicken sausages (with jalapeno in them) and was contemplating what I’d do with them, and since I also had asparagus, zucchini and sweet potatoes, a recipe was born. Many years ago I started buying a seasoning packet from Urban Accents. They had (and still do have) several varieties, but my favorite is the one for vegetables. You can buy their packets on amazon. See photo at right. The one I used was the middle one with Parmesan in it. Each bag or box of these has several smaller packets inside – I used one packet for the sheet pan’s worth of food. You could use pork sausages in this rendition too – Italian would be perfect. I was trying to go a more healthy route with the chicken.

I have a chart I downloaded from the ‘net about how long it takes to roast just about every kind of vegetable. The sweet potatoes would take the longest. And the sausages too. I tossed them with some EVOO and they went into a 425°F oven. After 20 minutes, I took out the pan and added the zucchini, also oiled with EVOO and sprinkled with seasoning. It went back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes, then I added the oiled asparagus and the rest of the seasoning and baked again for another 10 minutes – I checked the veggies and they needed another 5 minutes and everything was done. It might depend on how thick the asparagus was, and how thickly you cut the zucchini.

If you wanted something to serve with the sausages – try a variety of mustards (hot, sweet, stone ground) or some salsa, or marinara sauce, or mix up a little bit of sour cream with a little speck of horseradish in it. What can I tell you? This was so easy to make and it was SO delicious.

What’s GOOD: how easy it was to put together on the sheetpan and it cooked in less than an hour. All the veggies were perfectly cooked – crisp tender veggies- and the sausage just right. Love the Urban Accents seasoning to put on it all. Do buy some if you don’t already have it in your pantry (amazon link above).

What’s NOT: only that you need to have some of that seasoning on hand. I always do have it.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sheetpan Chicken Sausages with Veggies

Recipe By: My own recipe
Serving Size: 3

1 pound fresh chicken sausage — links, fresh, not pre-cooked type, or substitute pork sausages if desired
2 medium sweet potatoes
3 medium zucchini
1/2 pound fresh asparagus
3 tablespoons EVOO
1 packet Urban Accents Veggie Roaster seasonings

NOTE: many butchers now make various chicken sausages with flavors like jalapeno, Italian, Thai, spinach/feta, garlic, spicy Mexican, or with cheese and flavoring. You do not want pre-cooked sausage for this sheetpan dinner as they would be overcooked.
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a sheet pan with a baking mat or with foil.
2. Prepare the vegetables by peeling and chopping the sweet potatoes in chunky half rounds. Cut the ends off the zucchini and cut into chunky rounds or half rounds, depending on how big around they are. Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus.
3. Place the sausages and sweet potatoes on the sheet pan. Drizzle with EVOO and toss around to cover them in oil. Bake for about 20 minutes.
4. Remove pan, add the zucchini to the pan, drizzle with olive oil and toss lightly and sprinkle the entire sheet pan with most of the seasoning packet. Bake for about 12-15 minutes. Remove pan and add the asparagus, tossed lightly with EVOO and sprinkled with the last of the seasoning. Return to the oven and roast for another 10 minutes, making sure you don’t overcook the asparagus. Test the zucchini and asparagus – you want them to be just barely tender.
5. Remove veggies and sausages and serve on a big platter. Serve with hot or spicy mustard on the side (for the sausages) or marinara sauce, salsa, or a mixture of sour cream and horseradish.
QUICK ROASTING INSTRUCTIONS at 425°:
Sausages and sweet potatoes – 20 minutes
Add Zucchini – 12-15 minutes
Add Asparagus – 10 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus
Check for just barely tender zucchini and asparagus
Per Serving: 296 Calories; 17g Fat (50.4% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 27g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 25mg Cholesterol; 295mg Sodium; 10g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 76mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 957mg Potassium; 155mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pork, on May 5th, 2022.

Can I just say . . . baking crispy tacos is genius! You get to be judicious in how much oil you use, making them so much more healthy.

A post from Carolyn. My friend Linda used this method of making tacos recently and raved about them to me. They were so good she made them two or three times in a week or two. With that kind of praise, I decided I needed to try them. Rarely do I make Mexican food because we have so many excellent Mexican restaurants within 1-3 miles of my house. It was the method of making them – the oven frying – I was the most interested in here.

Linda made chicken tacos, but I decided to make carnitas tacos – actually I thought I had some carnitas in the freezer. Yes, I did, but they’d suffered from freezer burn, so granddaughter Taylor bought some ready-made carnitas (just the meat) at a local restaurant and we were ready to make tacos.

You need to heat the tortillas (corn) a little bit, to make them pliable. Then you brush one side of each tortilla with vegetable oil. Be generous with the oil, because it’s what crisps up the outside of the tacos. Then you lay in the meat and cheese and fold the tortilla over. Be careful as  you do it, so the tortilla doesn’t crack. Hopefully the tortilla will stick in the closed position – sometimes that takes a bit of doing. Gently, though.

Into a very hot oven they go for 6-7 minutes, then you remove them, turn them over and they go back into the oven for another 4-5 minutes to crisp the other side. Meanwhile, make the toppings you want to use: more shredded cheese if you want it (we didn’t), chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and for sure some guacamole, or in this case it was avocado cream (crema). It doesn’t have any dairy in it – it’s just a creamy texture. That part is whizzed up in the blender with lots of lime juice (I used lemon because I didn’t have any limes) and cilantro, plus salt and pepper. Oh, and some pickled jalapeno peppers. They add a wonderful piquant flavor to the avocado.

Chow down. Crispy deliciousness. Now that I have this technique down pat, there may be more oven-fried, oven-baked crispy tacos in my future.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was delicious. It was easy, nice enough for a company meal, even. Definitely I’ll be having more of these, maybe using different meat – chicken, beef? Who knows.

What’s NOT: only that you need to have carnitas on hand and fresh tortillas.

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Oven Baked Carnitas Tacos with Avocado Cream

Recipe By: Adapted from Half Baked Harvest
Serving Size: 6

3/4 pound pork carnitas — buy ready made, or make your own, shredded
1/2 cup enchilada sauce — red sauce, not green
12 corn tortillas — warmed (12 to 16)
vegetable oil or olive oil for brushing tortillas
1/2 cup Monterey jack cheese — shredded
1/2 cup cheddar cheese — shredded shredded lettuce, tomatoes, chopped cilantro and pickled onions, for garnish
AVOCADO CREAM:
2 large avocados — halved
1/4 cup pickled jalapeños
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic — grated
1/4 cup lime juice — or lemon juice salt to taste
PICKLED ONIONS:
1/2 red onion — thinly sliced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3/4 cup water

1. PICKLED ONIONS: cut half of a red onion into slices. In a bowl combine about 2 T vinegar and 2/3 cup of water. Add onions and set aside (make sure all onions are below the surface) for about 10 minutes. Drain and serve with the tacos.
2. Shred the meat and toss with the sauce and warm in the microwave until just hot throughout.
3. Preheat the oven to 435° F.
4. Wrap 3-4 tortillas in a towel and warm them in the microwave for about 30 seconds to 1 minute until soft. Repeat for additional tortillas. Keep them wrapped to remain warm.
5. On a sheetpan, brush the tortillas ON ONE SIDE liberally with olive oil. Lay each tortilla flat (oiled side down) and add meat and cheese. While the tortilla is still warm, fold the other half of the tortilla over the filling, gently pressing to adhere. Transfer to the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes, then flip the tacos over and bake another 5-6 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the tortillas are crisp and golden brown.
6. Meanwhile, make the Avocado Cream. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Season with salt.
7. Very gently pry apart the tacos and top each one with avocado cream, lettuce, tomatoes, lime juice, and any other desired toppings.
Per Serving: 482 Calories; 27g Fat (48.0% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 43g Carbohydrate; 8g Dietary Fiber; 57mg Cholesterol; 923mg Sodium; 12g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 348mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 541mg Potassium; 377mg Phosphorus.

Posted in easy, Pork, on March 10th, 2022.

This recipe comes from my friend, Linda. 

A post from Carolyn. First off, I have to apologize to my readers . . . I’ve not been very “present” with my blog lately as I’ve been so crazy-busy – I’ve felt like I hardly have time to think. After four years, I’m finally going to be turning over my presidential gavel in my P.E.O. chapter to someone else. I’m hoping that’s going to free up a lot of my time. That happens exactly two weeks from today. I’ve hardly done recipe testing of late. My granddaughter, Taylor, the one who is in nursing school and is living with me, went home to Northern California on a 2-week break. Cooking a nice meal for her sometimes motivated me to try a new recipe or two. It’s not that I am eating out all that much, or buying ready-made food. I don’t really. Writing up a blog post about my usual evening green salad with everything in it but the kitchen sink wouldn’t be very noteworthy for you, my readers.

Anyway, my friend Linda offered to take a picture of a pork chop dish she made recently, these deviled pork chops. She said they were the best – the moistest – pork chops she’d ever had. Ever! That’s high praise, for sure.

As I was thinking about this recipe, the name for sure, how did anything get to be called “deviled” I wondered. Well, the web is certainly helpful: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in 1786 to “devil” a food meant to cook it with a spicy seasoning or over very high heat. For hard boiled eggs, it meant to garnish it with red (meaning from the devil), and that would mean using  paprika. Who knew?

So this recipe came from America’s Test Kitchen. Linda and I are faithful watchers of that PBS program. Linda’s comments: Made this tonight after seeing it on ATK. SUPER EASY! Takes about 15 minutes.  Brown panko crumbs in butter, make a paste of good stuff. Smear on chops, pat crumbs on & bake on a rack at 275 for 40-50 minutes. Sounds very straight forward! Easy. Do use THICKER pork chops – you probably can’t do this with the thin ones at all.

What’s GOOD: I’m paraphrasing from what Linda told me via email and phone that this recipe was just so very easy. The chops were extremely moist (often a problem with today’s lower-fat pork chops).

What’s NOT: only that you need to allow for 40-50 minutes of baking time. And be sure to buy thicker pork chops.

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Deviled Pork Chops

Recipe By: America’s Test Kitchen
Serving Size: 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup panko break crumbs
Kosher salt and pepper
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic — minced to paste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
24 ounces boneless pork chops — ¾ to 1 inch thick

Notes: For the best results, be sure to buy chops of similar size. This recipe was developed using natural pork; if using enhanced pork (injected with a salt solution), do not add salt to the mustard paste in step 2. Serve the pork chops with mashed potatoes, rice, or buttered egg noodles.
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 275°F.
2. Melt butter in 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add panko and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir Dijon, sugar, dry mustard, garlic, cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in second bowl until smooth.
3. Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet and spray with vegetable oil spray. Pat chops dry with paper towels. Transfer chops to prepared wire rack, spacing them 1 inch apart. Brush 1 tablespoon mustard mixture over top and sides of each chop (leave bottoms uncoated). Spoon 2 tablespoons toasted panko evenly over top of each chop and press lightly to adhere.
4. Roast until meat registers 140°F, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest on rack for 10 minutes before serving.
Per Serving: 390 Calories; 19g Fat (44.9% calories from fat); 39g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 129mg Cholesterol; 348mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 52mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 698mg Potassium; 432mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Lamb, Pork, Uncategorized, on October 25th, 2021.

A tasty way to use up that summer zucchini!

A post from Karen.  Among the things I loved about this creation is it is one of the few ways I can get my son to eat zucchini.  He not only ate it…he went back for seconds!  And that was my motivation for coming up with this.  My fruit truck guy, Roberto, visits every Thursday morning in our neighborhood with his picks of the freshest and most tasty produce.  On this day he had gorgeous-looking zucchini.  I couldn’t resist, even though I knew it would be tough going to convince my son to enjoy it with us.  So I started thinking about what I could pair with the veggie to make it more palatable to him.  Sausage was a good starting point.  I looked online for existing recipes for zucchini casseroles, but on this particular day, nothing looked like something that would tempt my son.  So, it was time to get creative.

I’m all for making your own sauce, but if you need to save time, we really liked the Vero Gusto Calabrian Marinara.

In addition to the sausage, I had some stale ciabatta bread that I didn’t want going to waste.  I also had cottage cheese and started thinking about layering ingredients like lasagna.  So that was the impetus for cutting the zucchini lengthwise instead of in rounds.  Among the recipes I had read on casseroles, more than one mentioned taking the time after slicing to salt the zucchini to draw out the extra moisture so you would avoid an overly mushy casserole.  sounded sensible to me, so I incorporated that step.

I hadn’t made a lot of casseroles using bread cubes but knew I wanted to make sure they absorbed enough flavors and moisture, so I decided I would try folding them in with the cheese, egg, and cream mixture.  This ended up working really well.  I have made this recipe more than once experimenting with different types of bread.  We have decided the ciabatta has both a nice chew texture and savory flavor profile that we prefer.  The Savory Spice “Limnos Lamb Rub” was a wonderful blend of herbs to add to both the white sauce and for topping off the casserole.  If you need to select a different rub or make your own, this particular rub is a blend of coarse sea salt, garlic, lemon peel, onion, black pepper, fennel, rosemary, Mediterranean thyme, sage, basil, parsley, Greek oregano, spearmint, marjoram.  As for the different sausage choices, we enjoyed both the Hot Italian Sausage and the Lamb Merguez, so I’m content to let my mood or freezer dictate which one I use.  Speaking of the freezer, I have tested freezing the leftovers into individual portions and it worked really well!

What’s Good:  My son will willingly eat this dish.  Paired well with a lite salad for a complete meal.  It’s a great way to use up some bread that is past its prime.

What’s Not:  Only that I have to be organized enough to make sure I have the ingredients on hand.

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Zucchini and Sausage Casserole

Recipe By: Original by Karen
Serving Size: 12

28 ounces zucchini slices — about 1/4 inch slice, length wise vs. rounds
1 pound hot Italian sausage — no casing, or a lamb merquez sausage
1 large onion — chopped
20 ounces tomato sauce — Vera Gusto (Medium Heat)
8 ounces cottage cheese
2 eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 cups bread cubes — dried thick cut,1 inch cubes, I prefer Ciabatta, crust removed
1 tablespoon herb rub — I use Limnos Lamb rub from Savory Spice or similar
1 pound mozzarella cheese — low moisture, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese — grated
kosher salt — for sprinkling

1. Place sliced zucchini on clean kitchen towels and sprinkle with kosher salt. Let sit at least 30 minutes to draw out moisture. Then wipe dry with a clean towel.
2. Preheat oven to 350*
3. Saute loose and broken up sausage – let brown on one side then add onions and continue to saute until onions are soft, 5-10 minutes.
4. Mix egg into cottage cheese (or can substitute Ricotta) with 1 TBS. Limnos Lamb Rub and heavy cream. Pour mixture over dried bread cubes and mix well.
5. Grease a 9×13 casserole pan and pour in 1/2 the red sauce. Place 1/2 the zucchini slices in an overlapping layer over the sauce. Pour bread mixture on next and spread evenly. Sprinkle sausage and onion mixture and then 1/2 of the shredded Mozzarella cheese. Create another overlapping layer with the remaining zucchini. Spread remaining red sauce over zucchini, followed by remaining Mozzarella. Top with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with more Limnos Lamb rub if desired.
6. Bake for 1 hr or until bubbling and nicely browned on top.
Per Serving: 377 Calories; 26g Fat (62.0% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 109mg Cholesterol; 597mg Sodium; 6g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 326mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 503mg Potassium; 321mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pork, on February 28th, 2021.

 

risotto_ital_saus_leeks_corn

Yes, I am giving you a recipe, but this post is also about today, mid-to-late Covid time.

On Wednesday last week I finally had my 2nd Covid-19 vaccine. Until I received the confirmation of my appointment, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen because California (and other states) experienced a shortage of serum because of the awful weather. Understandable. I won’t bore you with the details of the vaccine appointment (long, tedious lines, parking issues, awful) but the side effects hit me like a brick about 7 hours afterwards. I had a very hard night, little sleep, with body aches and pains like I’ve never experienced in my life. Headache too, and chills/shivering. Crazy. The next morning I took Tylenol and that helped, but I was not feeling good all day. Even the following day was not normal, either. Still had aching in my back and neck and general malaise. But about 4pm (this is 2 days post-vaccine) my world brightened. I could see the sun shine. I was back to the land of the living. I was rejuvenated, ALIVE! What a transformation!

Starting about a week ago I couldn’t stand it anymore, not going grocery shopping, so I’ve been visiting my local markets when needed. And yes, of course, I’m masking, even double masking sometimes. What a joy it has been to realize that if I need to go buy a leek, I can go buy a leek, and not wait until I do my once a week online shopping (that needed to reach $50 in order to be free of an extra fee). What I feel is liberated – from this long year of quarantining, from living indoors nearly every day of the week, week after week, after week. I’ve still been doing my walking (around my house for 30 minutes every other day) so I do get outdoors. But still, 2020 will be a year that will live long in our memories. And for many people 2021 isn’t immune from those bad memories, either.

What I am is grateful, too. That I fit in the age range so I could GET the Covid vaccine (I got the Moderna one). This might be the only time in my life I’m grateful for being OLD! Grateful that I’ve survived this year and not caught Covid. I’ve been careful – very careful. Rarely out in a public setting, not frequenting any stores, really. Rarely eaten out. Just being home. Alone. But grateful. Because I’m a believer, I thank God that I survived this year, have now had my 2 vaccines, and I can return to more normal life.

Earlier last week my friend Linda visited me (yes, we kept socially distant), and she and I visited Claro’s, a specialty Italian market not too far from my house. I hadn’t been in Claro’s for over a year. Yippee! I bought some fennel salami and thinly sliced provolone, plus some sweet Italian sausage. Hence I had this sausage in my frig and it needed to be frozen or used.

Maybe because I was in a state of euphoria (about being post-vaccine and about life in general) I decided to make one of my favorite dishes. And it’s full of carbs, which I try to avoid. For me, eating carbs is kind of like pigging out; like hitting a home run; like celebrating. Certainly like over-indulging!

This recipe is already on my blog, but it was years and years ago that I posted it. It’s a Phillis Carey recipe, and in 2011 when she taught this in a class, she said it was one of her home mainstays, that it’s comfort food for her on any given weeknight. It’s on my list of favorites, and rightly so. It’s a one-dish meal. Except for a few small things, it’s the same recipe as before . . . but this time instead of turkey Italian sausage, I used real pork Italian sausage. I made it for more servings that I needed – but remember, I needed to cook that Italian sausage! I’d purchased some leeks at Trader Joe’s (theirs are just the best – not only inexpensive, but they’re all cleaned and trimmed), I had the specialty rice for risotto, I had frozen corn, cherry tomatoes. I didn’t have spinach, but I did have baby arugula. I was in business!

Why do you need hot broth to add to risotto:

Pouring cold broth onto the hot rice shocks it, and the whole pot of food has to warm up again – making the cooking time much longer.

Ideally, have all the ingredients out and ready when you begin, including a pot of hot chicken broth to add to the risotto. Some people wonder why you have to have the broth hot – simple reason – if you add cold broth to the rice, it not only sort-of shocks the rice and it has to get warm again before it begins absorbing more fluid. The cooking process slows down. It takes a lot longer if you add cold or room temp broth. So I did everything as the recipe indicated and I had a big pan of risotto in about 40 minutes or so.

I ate with delight – that nice bowl of risotto with Italian sausage, corn, leeks and tomatoes. I hadn’t planned ahead about this, so at 6:45 I phoned my neighbor, Josee, (the neighbor who has been so kind to do Costco and other shopping for me over this last year) to see if she wanted dinner for her family. Long story – she was SO thrilled I had called. So, I used all the Italian sausage, feasted on it myself, then did something nice for my neighbor. That made me feel good.

What’s GOOD: such a wide variety of flavors – the sausage, the leeks, the corn, and the lovely creaminess of risotto, made right so it’s like thick soup. So good.

What’s NOT: only that you have to stand near the stovetop for 20-25 minutes stirring frequently while you’re making the risotto rice part.

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Risotto with Italian Sausage, Corn, Leeks, Spinach and Tomatoes

Recipe By: Phillis Carey
Serving Size: 5

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil — divided use
1/2 pound Italian sausage — or use turkey sausage
3 cloves garlic — minced
3/4 cup dry white wine — like Sauvignon Blanc (not vermouth), divided use
1 1/2 cups leeks — cleaned, chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup frozen corn — fire roasted, preferably
6 ounces baby arugula — or baby spinach
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated, using more to sprinkle on top
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes — halved
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil — sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan over high heat. Lower heat and keep the broth hot.
2. Heat 1 T. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and garlic. Cook, breaking up the sausage into small pieces. Add 1/4 cup wine to the sausage and simmer until the wine evaporates.
3. Heat remaining 2 T. oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven (Phillis suggests Le Creuset is the best pot for making risotto). Add the cleaned and dried leeks and cook for 6-8 minutes until they are softened. Add rice and cook, stirring often, until it turns white, but not brown, aout 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup wine and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated.
4. Add a cup of broth to the rice and cook, stirring constantly, lowering heat to just a simmer, until rice absorbs all the broth. Stir in another cup of broth and stir until absorbed. Continue adding broth and stirring until rice is just tender, about 20 more minutes.
5. Stir in the corn and sausage and then add the arugula or spinach by handfuls, cooking until wilted; season to taste with salt and pepper. Do not let the rice cook until it’s dry – add small amounts of broth (or water if you run out) even up until the end. Stir in the butter and Parmesan and stir until melted. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in tomatoes, parsley and basil and serve immediately with additional Parmesan to sprinkle on top, if desired.
Per Serving: 455 Calories; 28g Fat (57.5% calories from fat); 16g Protein; 31g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 50mg Cholesterol; 366mg Sodium; 4g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 105mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 680mg Potassium; 220mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pasta, Pork, on November 18th, 2020.

pasta_alla_gricia_plated

Ever had this one? The Italians haven’t quite determined which definition they agree on for the word “gricia,” other than it’s for this pasta dish.

Curious as to what gricia meant in Italian, I found out it was a dish created waaaay back in Roman times, 400AD, they think. The other day I was watching a Rachel Ray show and she prepared this. It just spoke to me – since I had radicchio; I had ample mushrooms, although not the type Rachel used. She used hen-of-the-woods – I had just ordinary white mushrooms. I had shallots. I had pancetta too. mushrooms_for_griciaShe talked about guanciale, the fatty sister to pancetta, but she prefers pancetta – mostly, she said, because her husband wants chunks of meaty bits in any pasta she makes. The original of this dish is just shallot – maybe garlic too – and the pork, either pancetta or the guanaciale – pepper, plus pasta, of course. That was it, but Rachel described several riffs she makes on this dish. I took the original recipe and added the radicchio and the lemon zest that she mentioned. I didn’t have any Pecorino, so had to use Parm. I also had leftover Capello’s almond flour pasta (linguine) and certainly wanted to use it, as it’s quite dear. My house smelled so wonderful – the shallot, the garlic, the pancetta plus EVOO.

First up was to roast the mushrooms. See photo above left. They took about 20 minutes in a very hot oven. They were dried out mostly, but still had some moisture inside. And what they did have was concentrated flavor.

gricia_cookingThen I started cooking the sauce. Well, not really much of the sauce part as the only liquid is a little bit of cooking water (from the pasta) added to this. The pancetta was added to a large skillet along with a bit of EVOO, and the pork was rendered down, but leaving the fat that came from it in the pan (for flavor). Then I added shallot and continued to cook that (I forgot to add it to the mushroom pan).

pasta_alla_gricia_pan_mixedThen the sliced radicchio and lemon strips were added and stirred often as it cooked. That really takes but a few minutes. I ladled out some of the pasta water and added that to the pan too. Some cheese is added in the pan when you add the pasta and that’s stirred well (which is why you want to undercook the pasta a little bit). Serve and add more lemon zest and grated cheese on top. I will mention that this dish is very rich. Probably from the pancetta – meaning it has a bit of fat, but that’s what gives it so much flavor. And, I think if you made the full recipe, it would serve more than 4 people.

What’s GOOD: Oh my. SO very delicious. I loved this dish. It’s big on flavor – mostly, I suppose, from the mushrooms, shallots and pancetta. Did I mention how fragrant my house smelled? I had to go out to run an errand immediately after I ate my dinner (leaving my kitchen still in a mess) and when I returned and walked through the door, oh golly did it smell good. This recipe is a keeper. It’s beautiful to look at too, with the dark purple from the radicchio, and the pasta, contrasted with the mushrooms and the bright yellow from lemon strips.

What’s NOT: I can’t think of anything. As I said, this one’s a keeper.

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Pasta Alla Gricia

Recipe By: Rachel Ray, on her TV show, 9/20
Serving Size: 4 (maybe 5-6)

12 ounces mushrooms — hen-of-the-woods (maitake) pulled into thin strips, or any other type of mushrooms
2 large shallots — halved lengthwise, then peeled and very thinly sliced
Olive oil cooking spray
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 pound pancetta — or meaty guanciale
1 tbsp. EVOO
3 cups radicchio — sliced
3 tablespoons lemon rind — minutely sliced
1 pound spaghetti — or linguine
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese — grated, or Parm

1. Arrange a rack in the upper third of the oven; preheat to 475°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Arrange the mushrooms and shallots on the baking sheet in a single layer. Spray evenly and liberally with the cooking spray and season generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the vegetables with the thyme. Roast, stirring halfway through cooking, until the mushrooms are crispy and fragrant, about 20 minutes.
2. Place the pancetta or guanciale in the freezer for 10 minutes. Once it’s firm, slice it into thin 1/2-inch-long pieces.
3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.
4. Heat a large skillet over medium low heat. Add the EVOO, one turn of the pan, then add the pancetta. Cook until the fat renders, about 10 minutes. Then add the radicchio and lemon zest and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, or until the radicchio is barely tender. Season with pepper and remove from the heat.
5. Salt the boiling water, add the pasta, and cook for a minute or two less than the package instructions. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
6. Add the pasta, half the cheese, and 3/4 cup pasta water to the skillet. Toss the pasta for a minute to coat, adding more pasta water if needed to thin the sauce. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and top with the remaining cheese, a pile of crispy mushrooms and shallots, and a little lemon zest.
Per Serving (yikes): 972 Calories; 42g Fat (38.8% calories from fat); 49g Protein; 99g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 78mg Cholesterol; 1172mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 777mg Calcium; 6mg Iron; 1259mg Potassium; 868mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pork, on October 24th, 2020.

pork_chop_mustard_cream_capers

Want an easy-easy weeknight dinner that seems like something extra special?

About once a week, or perhaps twice, I make myself a more sumptuous dinner – usually it’s a protein and a vegetable. Since I eat salads most nights, this kind of dinner is special. The website where I found this recipe is no longer available, so I can only tell you that this is a Diana Henry recipe. She’s a U.K. food writer and cookbook author, I do believe. And this recipe you’ll find at various websites here and there. Most likely this is originally French. Made there, you’d add some apple brandy instead of vermouth, or maybe some of both. Since I made this for just one person, there were only 2 ounces of cream in it, and I’ll just tell you, at least half of that was left on the plate – I couldn’t quite mop it all up as I cut the meat.

The chops are browned in a neutral oil (I used EVOO, even though it’s not considered flavor neutral). I used an iron skillet for this. Then the pan with the chop went into a 400°F oven for a short bake. Since my chop was relatively thin, I didn’t bake it as long as the recipe indicated – probably about 7 minutes. Use an instant read thermometer if you have one. Be sure to REMEMBER to use heavy-duty oven mitts when you take that pan out of the oven. AND put a towel or something over the handle as you continue to cook the sauce on the stovetop. I nearly grabbed that hot-hot handle – saved in the nick of time from burning myself. The oil in the pan is poured off, then you make the very quick pan sauce. First vermouth and a tetch of lemon juice (my addition), and that’s bubbled down some, then you add the cream and continue cooking until it thickens slightly. Then you slide in the Dijon mustard and capers. Serve.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was wonderful. First and foremost, it was so simple. I did put out all the ingredients, measured and ready before I started. That helps. Once you start making the pan sauce, you want everything else about your dinner to be ready, as it takes about a minute to make the sauce. Maybe two. I wanted to lick the plate of that sauce – but I didn’t. I only ate half of the chop, so I have a dinner left over – yea! And yes, there is some of the sauce left also.

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever. Easy, easy dinner entrée. I’ll definitely make this again. I always have capers, vermouth and cream on hand, so this could go on about any entrée, including chicken, beef or lamb. Even a deep-flavored fish would work too.

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Pork Chops with Mustard, Capers and Cream

Recipe By: adapted from Diana Henry, U.K. food writer
Serving Size: 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
24 ounces pork chops — about 8-9 ounces each
9 1/2 ounces vermouth
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
9 ounces heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons capers — well rinsed of salt or brine
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Assemble ingredients ahead, mis en place.
2. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof frying pan (or two smaller pans) over high heat. Season the chops all over with salt and pepper, then cook them for two minutes on each side; you want them good and golden. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 12 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer registers 150°F. If using thinner chops, it will take much less time.
3. Wearing heavy duty oven gloves and being careful of the hot pan handle, remove from the oven; put the chops on a warm plate and cover to keep warm. Pour the fat out of the pan. Add the Vermouth and lemon juice to the pan. Bring to the boil and reduce by half, stirring to pick up all the browned bits, then pour in the cream. Boil until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Take it off the heat, whisk in the mustard and add the capers.Taste for seasoning.
4. Serve the chops with the sauce spooned over the top. Garnish with some minced parsley if available.
Per Serving: 572 Calories; 40g Fat (68.0% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 172mg Cholesterol; 251mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; 2mcg Vitamin D; 61mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 748mg Potassium; 448mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pork, on March 8th, 2020.

pork_tender_apples_potato_gr_beans

Another winner of a sheetpan dinner.

For me, there’s nothing NOT to like about an easy sheetpan dinner. I love vegetables, and they can vary based on the season or what’s in your refrigerator. This one uses small potatoes and green beans to serve alongside a pork tenderloin. And the surprise? Apple chunks roasted along with the potatoes.

This recipe has one little tricky thing – you start off the oven at 500°F, and you preheat the sheet pan as the oven heats up to temperature. You remove it carefully – oh you do not want to burn your hand on a 500°F sheetpan! The first round of food is added and when you put the pan back in the oven, you reduce the temp to 450°F. And in this one, you do not use parchment paper – you want the pork will get some nice crusty caramelization which won’t happen if it’s put on parchment. The potatoes and apples are tossed with oil, thyme and rosemary and those are added to the sheetpan. At this point you need to watch the temp of the pork – it needs to come out of the oven at 140°F which takes about 11-13 minutes, depending on the size of the tenderloin. You take the tenderloin off the pan to rest, then add the green beans to the sheetpan and the whole pan goes back into the oven to roast and finish. Test the green beans to see if they’re done to your liking (it might need another minute or two past the recommended 10 minutes). If you don’t like crisp green beans, they’ll definitely need more time in the oven.

While the vegetables are finishing up, the pork tenderloin rests, covered loosely with foil. When everything is ready, remove the vegetables, then slice up the pork. Then you quickly add some chicken broth, butter and apple cider vinegar to the sheetpan and stir it around to dig up any tasty, crusty bits and pour that over everything.

What’s GOOD: the combo of flavors. Loved the thyme and rosemary (two of my favorite herbs). The apple addition is just genius! Like the crunchy green beans and the perfectly tender, medium-rare pork. And the bit of au jus you mix up at the end adds lovely flavor too.

What’s NOT: only that you do need to be in the kitchen, in and around that oven over the various baking times. The pan does go in and out a few times, but still, it’s all cooked on ONE pan!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sheetpan Pork Tenderloin with Apples, Potatoes and Green Beans

Recipe By: From cooking class with Susan V, Feb. 2020
Serving Size: 4

1 pound pork tenderloin — trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil — divided
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme — divided
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary — divided
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt — divided
3/4 teaspoon black pepper — divided
12 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes — cut into 1-1/2″ chunks
2 apples — Gala, or other sweet apple, peeled, 1″ cubes
6 ounces haricots verts — trimmed (if using regular green beans, baking time will be longer)
AU JUS:
3 tablespoons low sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 500°F. Place a rimmed baking sheet in oven (do not remove pan while oven preheats).
2. Rub pork with 1 tablespoon oil, 2 1/2 teaspoons thyme, 2 1/2 teaspoons rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove pan from oven; add pork, and return to oven. Immediately reduce oven temperature to 450°F. Bake pork 5 minutes.
3. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, remaining 2 teaspoons thyme, remaining 2 teaspoons rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, potatoes, and apple in a bowl; toss to coat.
4. Remove pan from oven; add potato/apple mixture to pan with pork. Bake at 450°F until a thermometer inserted in pork registers 140°F, 11 to 13 minutes. Remove pork from pan; place on a cutting board. Add green beans to pan with potato mixture. Bake at 450°F until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Taste green beans to see if they’re to your liking.
5. Place vegetable mixture on a heated platter. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, stock, butter, and vinegar to hot pan. Scrape browned bits loose with a wooden spoon, and stir until butter is melted. Cut pork into 12 slices; arrange over vegetables. Drizzle stock mixture over pork.
Per Serving: 369 Calories; 15g Fat (37.5% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 74mg Cholesterol; 685mg Sodium.

Posted in IP, Pork, on November 19th, 2019.

herb_garlic_pork_tenderloin_IP

Tender, juicy, and oh-so easy in the Instant Pot

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you have probably figured out I’m a pretty experienced cook. Not a chef – just a regular home cook. And you’d think I’d know how to make just about anything. But I have had to learn the ins and outs of the instant pot. I love the thing, use it once or twice a week to hard boil eggs (which are just the best way). And make soups and stews in it. As a family of one, though, I generally don’t cook a pork tenderloin anymore (except for guests), just because it leaves me with a lot of leftover meat that may or may not be all that juicy when reheated.

Yet, I’m a sucker for learning something new. My local Bloomingdale’s has a very small demonstration kitchen right in the middle of the cookware department. I was walking nearby after I’d been into the store to buy a couple hundred dollars worth of Nespresso pods for my beloved machine. My Nespresso machine needs to be buried with me – I want it in heaven. Oh, I’m going to be cremated . . .well, that presents a problem, doesn’t it? Not much good to have a cremated Nespresso. Oh I’m getting way off topic, here! Anyway, I noticed there was a cooking class going on, I paused, and grabbed a flyer. And now I’m on the mailing list. The classes are ridiculously cheap/free. All I had to do was buy myself a $10 gift card which I could use as a gift or for myself – which I did – I bought the OXO Good Grips Silicone Egg Rack, plus a flat rack that’s not metal for the IP too. I’ve used the egg rack already – my hard boiled eggs are now much more yolk-centered, which I like. Haven’t yet used the rack.

Back to business – so I signed up to take the pork tenderloin class for the IP. The chef, Sandra Hauser, gives classes a couple times a week. Many aren’t interesting to me, but this one was, and we were served the pork, mashed potatoes and an Oreo cheesecake (made in IP – will share that recipe soon).

First she made a fresh herb rub with a lot of garlic in it. After the tenderloin was oiled well with EVOO, she rolled the meat around in the herb rub, then sautéed it in the IP – just a couple of minutes on each side. Then she added some big sprigs of herbs, some chicken broth and set the IP to cook for ONE MINUTE. Yes, one minute. Once the IP had finished that part of the cycle, she began watching the timer on the IP itself, which starts counting up once it’s finished. She waited 10 minutes, quick released the pressure and removed the pork to a heated platter, then tented the meat with foil. She turned the IP to sauté again and boiled down the pan juices. Meanwhile she’d made a monstrous mound of mashed potatoes (no I didn’t eat even one bite) and served both with the pan juices.

You can’t really tell from the picture that the pork is perfectly cooked. She gave advice about that – if the tenderloin is about a pound, the meat needs 10 minutes of resting time after the one minute under pressure. If it’s more like 1 1/2 pounds per tenderloin, then it needs about 13 or 14 minutes rest time. So be sure to weigh the tenderloin before cooking this. The meat was perfection. Just the right kind of pink in the middle and very tender and juicy.

What’s GOOD: the meat was ever so tender and juicy. Perfectly cooked. Who knew? The IP is quite a magical piece of equipment. Just have everything else ready and finish up during that 10-14 minutes of resting time. The meat does like to sit after it’s out of the IP for a few minutes, however. That’s when you boil down the pan juices. So very tasty. Yes, I’ll be making this next time I have house guests.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. Easy dish.

printer-friendly PDF and Mastercook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

IP Garlicky Fresh Herb Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

Recipe By: Cooking class at Bloomingdale’s, South Coast Plaza, 11/19 (Sandra Hauser)
Serving Size: 3

1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon EVOO — for pork
2 tablespoons EVOO — for searing
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 sprigs fresh thyme
HERB RUB:
1 large garlic clove — finely chopped (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Italian parsley — fresh, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary — minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme — minced
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
GARNISH:
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — minced

NOTE: You may use dried herbs in this – use a teaspoon dried in place of a tablespoon fresh.
1. DRY RUB: Combine all ingredients and set aside.
2. Remove any silverskin from the pork tenderloin. Rub the small amount of EVOO on the pork, then gently pat the dry rub on all surfaces.
3. Heat IP on saute function and add the remaining EVOO, then add the pork and brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. No more than that, or the pork will begin to cook through.
4. Add the chicken broth to the pot along with the sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Close and lock lid and set IP to manual cook for ONE MINUTE. Yes, one minute. As soon as the one minute sound occurs, start a timer for 10 minutes or watch the screen on the IP. If the pork tenderloin is about a pound, you’ll want to let the IP sit for 10 minutes (meanwhile, the pork will continue to cook at pressure, but in off position). If the tenderloin is closer to 1-1/2 pounds, set timer for 12 minutes. Quick-release pressure at appropriate time, use instant read thermometer inserted into the middle of the thickest part of the meat, looking for 140°F. You can replace lid and bring back to pressure for another 2-3 minutes and read temperature again. Don’t overcook the meat or it will dry out.
5. Remove pork to a heated platter and tent with foil for 5 minutes.
6. Turn IP to saute and reduce the pan juices by about half, about 3-4 minutes.
7. Slice tenderloin on the diagonal and pour pan juices over the top. Garnish with Italian parsley.
Per Serving: 417 Calories; 23g Fat (47.4% calories from fat); 53g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 148mg Cholesterol; 760mg Sodium.

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