In My Kitchen – April 2020

In My Kitchen – April 2020

How are you all doing out there? I know that we are facing some hard times. In California we are in our third week of shelter-in-place and going a little stir crazy. I am spending a lot of time in the kitchen, but it’s not the same. I’m trying to avoid the grocery store and market, shopping only once a week or less (which is not my common practice).

By the end of the week, when fresh produce (and other essential ingredients) are running out, we find ourselves eating a lot of pantry meals. Some of them have been surprisingly delicious. Others, not so much.

Meanwhile I have been struggling with so many emotions, seemingly all at the same time.

  • I am sad and grieving, for all of us. It is heartbreaking to read what is happening in Italy, and NY, and Detroit…all over the world.
  • I am encouraged and hopeful. I know many people and companies are ramping up research and production to meet our needs in this medical emergency.
  • I am afraid for my family, friends, my community, the world and myself.
  • I feel full of appreciation, respect, pride and even love for those that are stepping up. In my book our medical caregivers, our first responders, and many in our local and state government are my new heroes.
  • The day seems to go so slowly but then again, the day is over before I know it.
  • I am accomplishing very little even though I have all day to do it.
  • And I am mesmerized by the news.

For the first time in a long time, the world feels very small. We are all connected. We are all in this together. Things will never be the same. That might be a hopeful thing.

Exercise helps, taking a walk or a Zoom class or getting out in the garden helps, a lot.

So what’s happening in my kitchen? More ambivalence… I want to spend time in the kitchen. But, then again, I’m not interested in spending time in the kitchen.

Emotions are complicated things aren’t they?

So, in my kitchen, I have pickled asparagus. Spring is happening, ignoring the reports of doom. The asparagus is amazing. I purchased 4 big bunches at the market (before the lockdown) and made 4 quarts of pickled asparagus.

Pickled Asparagus

Pickled Asparagus

I couldn’t decide whether to pickle them tip up or tip down, so I did some of each. Does it make a difference, what do you think? Our weekend brunch favorite is pickled asparagus on avocado toast with a poached egg on top. The sharpness of the pickle contrasts delightfully with the crisp toast, creamy avocado, and the rich soft egg.

I made fennel spice rub with a few adaptations for Forever Roasted Pork Shoulder. There was plenty left over for other dishes.

Roast Fennel Spice

Roast Fennel Spice

Forever roasted pork shoulder

Forever roasted pork shoulder. You will find the recipe for the pork shoulder and the spice rub here.

In my kitchen you will find me using my electric pressure cooker more often. It’s not an Instant Pot but it works the same. The market seems to have large packages of chicken and I cooked a big batch of chicken thighs so we would have leftovers for lunch. It was very successful.

Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs in the Instant Pot

Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs in the Instant Pot. You can find the recipe for Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs here.

It’s useful to know you can cook an entire family sized package of thighs quickly. Most of the recipes online call for only four. Now that everyone is home for lunch each day, leftovers are very welcome. Use any kind of rub or spices that are family favorites.

Towards the middle of the week, and thinking about lunches again, I made a pantry soup while there was still a few zucchini and potatoes hanging around. This recipe is endlessly adaptable. I chose to make it more Italian spiced but you could easily change it to Mexican by using beans instead of potatoes, frozen corn, and chili powder. Or Indian if you have ground lamb and some curry powder. Customize it to what you have on hand and the flavor profile you feel like in the moment.

There’s a wonderful book, first published in 1991, called From Pantry to Table by Marlena Spieler. She has some creative cooking ideas and suggestions from a well stocked pantry or kitchen. I know Amazon did not rate it highly but for me it’s a go-to for ideas when my pantry is down to the bottom of the barrel.

Italian Soup - Sausage, Zucchini and Tomato

Italian Soup – Sausage, Zucchini and TomatoThe recipe for Sausage, Zucchini and Tomato soup is here.

In my kitchen I have one new cookbook, recommended by a friend. I haven’t cooked from it yet but am looking forward to it. It may need to wait until I can do some more expansive food shopping.

The Beauty Chef

I do like her emphasis on self care and that your skin reflects what you eat. We all need to be reminded to take care of ourselves right now.

In My Kitchen is a collection of posts from around the world. It’s hosted by Mae from Sherrys Picking’s. Please do check in with us, this month the world is very small. And please, if you are a blogger or writer (or a poet), think about joining us and adding your own thoughts, it will help all of us through these difficult times.

I welcome any comments. What are you doing to stay sane right now?

 

 

 

March 2020 – Garden Failures

March 2020 – Garden Failures

No one likes to admit failure; but I think it is educational to know that ‘*’ happens, especially in the garden. These posts are a record for me, my garden diary. Maybe reading it will give me pause before I purchase my 12th Salvia ‘Blue Note’. I love the look of it and want it to thrive. On its part, it doesn’t like my garden no matter how much I baby it. I am forever optimistic.

Every garden has its unique character and characteristics. This is my 3rd year gardening on our 7 acres in Fort Bragg, CA. I have logged a great many failures during that time. We have a deer fence around a couple of acres surrounding the house, I am lucky I don’t have to worry about grazing deer as they are a big problem here. (As an aside, the deer fence is new and I do have some ideas about plants that did well and were not eaten by deer. Just email me or comment on this post.) Our clearing is surrounded by tall conifers (heavily dominated by redwood trees). It does give us protection from the wind (the ocean is less than a mile away) but it also means we are cooler and shadier than areas more inland.

I thought I would give you a glimpse of my three years of extensive gardening in the cultivated part. I promise to post my successes as well. The property outside the fence is wild and we leave it that way, a stream runs through part of it and we treat it as wildlife refuge.

Visitor to the Wild Part

A midnight marauder – before the fence he was after the bird seed, now the bears come after our garbage on trash pickup day (thankfully outside the fence).

This is a list of plants that failed to thrive or just plain croaked soon after planting. Why? I am not really sure for many of them. The garden does have some unique features which make it difficult; competition by redwood roots, acid and depleted soil although it has been supplemented with enormous amounts of compost (several times a year), bone meal and other amendments. We are supposed to be in climate zone 9b but I am not sure that is completely accurate. We get a lot of winter rain (in most years) and it’s soggy weather. Summers are on the cooler side with summer fog. The soil is basically sandy and drains well, but is low in nutrients, maybe because it does drain well…the nutrients just leach out. And again, there are those redwood roots, it could be that root competition does them in.

Anyway, here is a partial list of my failures:

I admit that when I find a plant I love, I don’t give up on it. The above plants represent multiple failed attempts. Other master gardeners at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens have mentioned bad luck with Salvias, they think that Annie’s Annuals (an amazing nursery where I get many plants) may have wrong zones listed on some of their plants. I also think our gardening geography has some unique features.

What has been your experience? Have any of the plants listed done well in your garden? Any tips, especially on the Salvias?

Look for another post on those plants that have been successes, there are quite a few that have done well.

 

 

March – Forever Roasted Pork Shoulder

March – Forever Roasted Pork Shoulder

I cannot believe I have never posted this recipe! I searched my recipe index but couldn’t find it anywhere, even though it’s a big favorite of both friends and family for years. This dish will give you days of leftovers for pulled pork, carnitas, BBQ pork sandwiches, tacos, etc. And if you are feeling, like I am, sightly depressed…it will make your kitchen smell like a warm hug (something in short supply at the moment). Now is the perfect time to cook something that takes most of the day in the oven, where else are you going to go? Don’t make this in the slow cooker, it will not be the same. You could make it in your instant pot, you would need to crisp it in the oven after. But why? Use the low oven method unless it’s 4 pm and the zombies are at the door (instant pot options at the end), I encourage you to embrace slow oven cooking for this if at all possible.

If you want it have dinner at 6 pm, you need to pop it in the oven right after your Zoom workout or the first conference call of the day at 9. Rub it down with the spices and put it in the roasting pan at 8 am while you are having your second (maybe first these days) cup of coffee. Let it rest at room temperature on the counter until you have finished your workout or your call. At that time preheat the oven, and put the pork in the oven (uncovered) at 10:30. Forget about it all day (you won’t be able to ignore the aroma coming from your oven). It will be ready at 5:30, enough time for it to rest. Resist the urge to steal crispy bits before dinner is officially served, I usually can’t.

You will have the entire day free. Time to deal with home schooling, your toddler, the garden, and/or work.

The original idea for this recipe came from Michael Chiarello’s cookbook Casual Cooking, published in 2002. He was named Chef of the Year by the Culinary Institute of America  and Food & Wine Magazine. Founder of the Tra Vigne Restarurant in St. Helena, CA (in the wine country).

I have dramatically simplified his recipe except for one thing, the amazing mixture of spices that he uses. Toasted Fennel Rub is my absolute favorite spice mixture in the whole world. You don’t need to use it though, use any beloved spice rub of your own. I just happen to have this on hand most times and often give it as a present to friends. I’ve modified it with the addition of some heat. But, use what you have. Any BBQ rub would be excellent, what about taco seasoning, or chili powder with some added salt? Do not fret about it. The trick is the slow roasting which transforms the pork into a meltingly tender piece of meat with a crisp layer of fat on the outside.

Ingredients:

  • One pork shoulder roast (mine was bone-in, about 5 1/2 pounds)
  • Enough rub to coat all sides of the roast (see the recipe for fennel spice at the bottom of this post)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F
  2. Rub your spice mixture of choice (see Fennel Rub below) over all sides of the roast
  3. Place the pork, fat side up, on a rack in a roasting pan or other dish (there may be quite a lot of fat, so a deep one is best). Line it with foil for easier clean up.
  4. Roast, uncovered, for 7 hours.
  5. Let the roast rest for 20 minutes, then slice or shred.

Note: If you don’t have a rack of the correct size for your pan, make one with halved onions or whole carrots or crumbled foil.

Pork Shoulder Roast with Rub

Pork Shoulder Roast with Rub

Pork Shoulder Roast with Rub

Pork Shoulder Roast with Fennel Spice Rub

Here it is after 7 hours, juicy and ready to shred. As usual, I couldn’t stop the fingers from pulling off crispy bits before we were ready to eat dinner.

Forever roasted pork shoulder

Forever roasted pork shoulder

Shredded Pork Shoulder

Shredded Pork Shoulder

It was easy to shred. Served with roasted asparagus, avocado, pickled cabbage, shredded cheese, sour cream, and salsa.

Shredded Pork Tacos

Shredded Pork Tacos

We have some really amazing leftovers for the week. Stay tuned for some ideas.

 

Enhanced Fennel Rub

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fennel seeds
  • 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons white peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • My additions:
    • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 1/4 cup chile powder (use something on the sweet rather than on the hot side, or leave it out)
    • 3 tablespoons cumin seeds

Method:

  1. Place a dry small heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the fennel, coriander, peppercorns and cumin seeds (if using). Continually stirring, roast until light brown and the smell is amazing.
  2. Turn your oven fan (high), add the chile powder and red pepper flakes. Continue to stir (it will smoke) for a few more seconds. Then remove from the heat and immediately turn the spices out onto a large plate to cool.
  3. Once cool, add the salt.
  4. Grind in your blender, mini food processor, or spice blender to a powder. There will still be some whole spices that won’t be completely ground, that’s okay.

If you want to make this in an electric pressure cooker or Instant Pot, here are some suggestions. After you coat the pork with your spice mix of choice, brown it on the saute setting in the pot or in a large skillet. Then add 1 cup of broth (chicken or vegetable), set the machine to high pressure and cook for 60 minutes, then turn the machine off and let the steam naturally release for 30 minutes. You won’t get that amazing crust, or a whole day of comforting aromas, but you will have dinner on the table for hungry mouths much faster.

Stay well everyone, stay safe, and please stay in touch.

I am going to take this dish to Angie’s at Fiesta Friday #321. Please come check out the virtual party on her site. The cohosts this week are Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau and, none other than myself: Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons

And if you would like to join us, link your post to FiestaFriday.net and/or the cohost(s), so you can be featured.

And if you would like a chance to be featured next Friday, please read the guidelines.

March – Recipe Courage

March – Recipe Courage

We are all cooking from our pantries right now, avoiding the grocery store if at all possible. Most of us are in some kind of forced isolation at home, cooking many more meals than before. Some of you may even be cooking for the first time. How are you doing? If you don’t live in a Fresh Foods or equivalent delivery area, you may have difficulty finding a recipe that exactly matches what you have in your cupboard or pantry. Or your pantry doesn’t contain the exact ingredient you may need for a recipe. Do not despair, there are substitutions that can be made. The recipe will still be delicious if you don’t have creme fraiche and substitute yogurt or half and half with a teaspoon of vinegar.

Sam Sifton from the New York Times has a wonderful article on their blog this morning. It admonishes us to be confident. When it comes to cooking, be brave and inventive. If a recipe calls for an acid you can substitute almost any acid…lemon juice, vinegar of almost any kind including unsweetened rice-wine, lime juice, or orange juice. For maple syrup, you could deploy honey or molasses, agave nectar or corn syrup. They all taste different, to be sure. But they act the same. If you need a bitter green such as escarole, any other bitter green will can fill in…arugula, watercress, or any other member of the chicory family. Kale, chard, and baby spinach are all interchangeable and only the cooking times are different.

Do not worry greatly about making the one correct substitution. Instead, think generally and taste as you go. Acids swap for acids. Sweets for sweets. Fire for fire. Texture for texture. The results of substituting ingredients can be magical, and they make the recipe your own.

Who knows, you may come up with a new family favorite.

If you have any substitution questions, email me or comment on this blog and I will come up with some ideas for you. Don’t let the lack of an ingredient keep you from a recipe you want to try.

And if you are wondering what you should stock in a basic pantry, this post might give you some ideas.

Be safe, be well, stay in touch.

Kitchen Closet - herbs and spices

Kitchen Closet – herbs and spices

March – Asian Spiced Chicken Thighs in the Instant Pot

March – Asian Spiced Chicken Thighs in the Instant Pot

Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs in the Instant Pot

Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs in the Instant Pot

The meat section of the store was almost empty, I could tell that the butchers were delving into the very bottom of their freezer or cooler. I bet many of you are experiencing the same situation. I was looking for a family sized package of chicken drumsticks, but there were none to be had. I searched in vain. I wanted to make a recipe from the Frugal Hausfrau for BBQ chicken drumsticks in the Instant Pot. The weather has been mild enough to uncover the BBQ, which I was hoping to do. The recipe made a lot of chicken and leftovers for the week’s lunches would be welcome (it’s always a challenge to figure out lunch and here we are, home all day, every day). As well she has a recipe for making a delicious BBQ chicken chili with the juices left in the pot. It was the winner at our 2020 New Year’s Day chili party.

They did have family sized packages of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. Menu change coming up.

In search of a recipe on Pinterest and the www, the only ones I came across were for 4-6 thighs, not the 10 that were in the package. Time to improvise. I think the result was repeatable.

Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs in the Instant Pot

Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs in the Instant Pot – browned in the oven

I didn’t want to go through the trouble of browning that many thighs before cooking, something that every recipe I came across recommended. Why not do that step at the end, a quick roast in a 425 degree F oven would do it. As well, that means the thighs could be cooked ahead and just finished at the end. I was roasting some thick fries at the same time, the oven would already be on. Served with a big salad it was an easy meal with plenty of leftovers.

Salad

Salad with Sweet Candied Pecans

Ingredients:

  • Family sized package of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. Trimmed of extra fat and skin.
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup of ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil

Method:

  1. Place the chicken thighs on the rack in your Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker. You can stand them up to minimize overlap but don’t worry too much about it.
  2. Mix the sauce ingredients together and pour over the chicken, trying to coat all of the thighs.
  3. Set the pressure cooker to high pressure, cook for 13 minutes once full pressure is reached.
  4. Use quick release (I put a kitchen towel over the valve so the steam doesn’t spray all over the kitchen).
  5. Open the cooker and remove the thighs.
  6. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F when you are ready to eat (or heat up your BBQ)
  7. Line the baking sheet with foil for easiest clean up.
  8. Roast the thighs until the skin is brown and crisp, about 15-20 minutes.

Note: Save the juices left in the pressure cooker. Refrigerate them, any fat will come to the surface making it easy to remove. Look for another post about using those juices in an Asian inspired chicken noodle soup.

Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs in the Instant Pot

Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs in the Instant Pot

The recipe is a keeper.