April – Domestic Harmony in the Time of Covid-19

April – Domestic Harmony in the Time of Covid-19

What does domestic harmony look like in your household? In our house it looks like this:

Domestic Harmony

Equal Split of Margaret Fox’s Buttermilk Coffee Cake

Whatever it takes, eh?

Margaret Fox was the owner and chef at Cafe Beaujolais in Mendocino, one of the early restaurants in the California cuisine trend in the style of Alice Waters. She now runs the deli and bakery at our local independent grocery store, Harvest Market. We are indeed lucky. Her buttermilk coffee cake is delicious. I am not a baker so we try to get one whenever they are available on our currently infrequent jaunts to the store. Sharing equally is a big deal.

What are you doing to maintain a tranquil environment in this time of social distancing and stay-at-home requirements? I know things can get testy. Long walks definitely help, and Zoom exercise classes, and gardening if you are lucky enough to have one.

It’s time to appreciate and notice small things small things. Spring is definitely here. In my yard the song sparrows are singing a chorus. This is the first year the song sparrows have found our clearing, although I’ve been feeding the birds for the last three years (the seed bill is growing). Redwood forests don’t have a lot of birds, there isn’t much food for them under the trees. So it took awhile for them to find us, it’s worth getting up early to hear the morning riot of song. I’m hoping that they nest nearby as the mourning doves have. Their population has gone from 2 to 7. I’m keeping a log of all the birds that visit the feeders, they are increasing in varieties and number. Every once in a while I see a new one to add to the list.

We now have two native Western grey squirrels raiding the feeders as well, until recently there was only one. I am expecting some little ones the summer.

Did you know there is a run on jigsaw puzzles?

Puzzle

Undersea jigsaw puzzle

We found this one in the garage, an old one we had never put together. Puzzles are very relaxing and something the entire family can enjoy. The NY Times had a fascinating article on how jigsaw puzzles are made, it takes weeks. And it seems that puzzle makers are having a hard time keeping up with current demand.

Board games are a good distraction.

Board Games

Board Games

We were introduced to Mexican Train Dominos by some friends a few months ago, it has become a favorite. The instructions that come with the game are terrible, we had to figure them out for ourselves from online research. I’m still not sure we are playing it ‘correctly’ but we are having fun.

There are currently three of us sheltering in place in our household. We each choose an activity for the evening in rotation…games or a movie or a TV series we are watching together or simply sit and talk about something from our day. There aren’t any small children so things are a little easier for us than some of you. All three of us enjoy science fiction so we have been watching the new Star Trek episodes together.

And in case you are wondering what to do with all those leftover hard boiled eggs…

  • deviled eggs, one of my favorites

    Deviled Eggs with Anchovies

    Deviled Eggs with Anchovies

  • Easter egg salad sandwiches

    Easter Egg Salad

    Easter Egg Salad

  • Eggs a la Goldenrod – an old recipe from Betty Crocker

    Eggs a La Goldenrod

    Eggs a La Goldenrod

  • sliced and put on top of avocado toast with a sprinkling of coarse salt

Deviled Eggs for Anchovy Lovers

Ingredients:

  • 1 hardboiled egg per person – see the note below
  • 1/2 anchovy per egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon capers per egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard per egg
  • 1 teaspoon mayo/egg, or more as needed
  • red pepper flakes as desired (optional)
  • Thinly sliced chives or green scallion tops

Method;

  1. Cook hardboiled eggs as noted below
  2. Cool and remove the shell carefully
  3. Slice in half, remove the yolks to a small bowl
  4. Mash with the anchovies, add mayonnaise to thin as necessary
  5. Add the capers and taste for salt (it probably won’t need any with the anchovies)
  6. Add the red pepper flakes if you want some heat
  7. Carefully fill the egg whites with the mixture
  8. Garnish with chives or scallions
Deviled Eggs with Anchovies

Deviled Eggs with Anchovies

Note on cooking hard boiled eggs:

  1. Place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water by at least an inch.
  2. Bring the eggs and water to a rapid boil, then cover the pan and turn off the heat. Leave the pan on the burner. If you have a gas stove, turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting and leave for 1 minute before turning off the heat.
  3. Let the eggs sit in the hot water for 12 minutes.
  4. Drain and run cool water over the eggs.
  5. Peel when cool. Slightly older eggs are often easier to peel.

 

 

 

 

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 – 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.

Also linking this to Full Plate Thursday at Miz Helen’s Country Cottage.

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 – The Ides of March 2020

March – The Ides of March 2020

The 15th of March is supposed to be an unlucky day, the Ides of March. But why?

If you’ve heard of the Ides of March, you might know you’re supposed to beware of it. Why? In ancient Rome, the Ides of March were equivalent to our March 15. In the Roman calendar, this date corresponded to several religious observances. The Romans considered the Ides of March as a deadline for settling debts. But – for our modern world – if you’ve heard of the Ides of March, it’s probably thanks to William Shakespeare and the play Julius Caesar. (Link here.)

This year, 2020, it certainly seems to hold true. Bad news follows bad news. On a personal level, our trip to New Zealand which was supposed to start next week, has been cancelled due to quarantining and closing of their borders. The major local Fort Bragg fundraising event (which I help organize), the Whale Run, scheduled for this weekend has been postponed. My gym has closed its doors. My bookclubs are cancelled. The Master Gardener program, which I help host, has been postponed until further notice. On and on. I am sure this is not that different from what all of you are going through. I am sorry, you have my sympathy. The world is upside down. I wish I could give you a virtual hug or at least bump elbows. I hope you are all well and have enough toilet paper on hand. Can you believe it!!! A run on toilet paper. I suggested to one person that they could use rags and wash them, they have “un-friended” me.

What are you doing to calm yourself? How are you going to make lemonade from the lemons we have been dealt by fate? I would love suggestions and have some of my own…reread the entire Harry Potter series, hug your dogs, watch the Star Wars movies in order, binging on Downton Abbey, listen to Watchers (by Dean Koontz) on Audible while taking long walks, make soup, get an early start on spring cleaning (see the 14 day mini home edit), talk on the phone to all your best friends and family, and (if weather permits) start or nurture your vegetable garden…think of the Victory Gardens of WWI and II. Most importantly, hold your loved ones close. Life is fragile.

Italian tomato, sausage and zucchini soup

Italian tomato, sausage and zucchini soup

 

Notice I didn’t mention tequila. It can also have a temporary calming role, but only if drunk with a very good friend and lots of fresh lime.

It’s time to adapt any recipe to what you have on hand; whatever ingredients you have in your pantry, fridge or freezer. Inspiration came from a recipe by Melissa Clark published in the NY Times for Roasted Chicken Thighs With Winter Squash. The recipe called for bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and delicata or acorn squash. I didn’t have those exact ingredients but a recent trip to Costco meant I had a large container of cubed butternut squash in the fridge and a package of boneless chicken thighs in the freezer. There were lemons on my potted lemon tree. Time to make lemonade.

 The resulting dish was delicious, stir-fried chicken first marinated in lemon and spices, then mixed with roasted butternut squash. Baby kale from the garden was tossed in at the last minute, you could use spinach or leave it out entirely (it wasn’t in the original recipe).

Stay tuned for posts with recipes. Meanwhile, please stay in touch. We all need to stick together, even if it is virtually.