In My Kitchen – May 2020

In My Kitchen – May 2020

This post is part of a monthly catch up from kitchens around the world. The bloggers are passionate about food and cooking and there are always lots of new things to learn. You may find a new ingredient or technique or tool you can’t live without. The world seems a smaller place right now and it’s inspiring to read how others are coping. You will find the link to In My Kitchen at the end of this post.

We nearing the end of week 6 of stay-at-home orders in California. Both the world and my kitchen look very different. Without the usual busyness of life, I find I am more introspective and thoughtful. And more appreciative of small things.

We have, in this time of social distancing, permission to be comfortable. That word, comfortable, has special meaning right now. It’s actually two words, comfort and table. Both of them are especially important in this moment of time.

We have permission and maybe the requirement to take comfort, and much of that is taking place around the table. My current wardrobe consists of only those things that replace the hugs I am missing from friends and family, clothes are soft and cozy and oversized and baggy and worn. I wear them unselfconsciously since no one will see me. The silk shirts, pencil skirts and skinny jeans in the closet hold no attraction. Maybe the kitchen and table are partly to blame.

Comfort is homemade sourdough with a crackly crust, thickly smeared with rich unsalted European butter.

Sourdough

Sourdough

Comfort is macaroni and cheese, the rich smooth creamy center contrasting with crusty brown burned cheese edges. Comfort is tomato soup (Campbells please) and grilled cheese sandwiches, the extra sharp cheddar oozing out when it is cut in half.

Grilled Cheese

Grilled Cheese with Leftover Chicken and BBQ Sauce

We have permission to be deliciously unselfconscious about what gives us pleasure without worrying about what we will look like to others. Maybe this is something we should keep.

In my kitchen I have flowers, spring is here and I pick exuberant bouquets from the garden.

Spring Flowers

Spring Flowers

Rhododendrons

Rhododendrons and Azaleas

They make me smile.

In my kitchen I have three new cookbooks. The grocery stores are a little short on ingredients, but I am looking forward to preparing and posting some of the delicious new recipes once the supply chains are up and running again. Reading a cookbook feeds my imagination and allows me to be an armchair traveler. That’s about all the traveling any of us will be making in the near future. We had to abandon our planned trip to New Zealand in March.

Two of them, Neighborhood and Week Light, are written by Australians and are vegetable centric. Melissa Clark (Dinner in French) is a frequent contributor to the food section of the NY Times, I enjoy her articles and recipes.

In my kitchen I have the first CSA box from Nye Ranch, just down the road from us. I really appreciate the ability to support small, local agriculture. This is a new venture for them and makes up for the lost income from restaurant customers. The box contained lovely fresh and very local produce.

Nye Ranch CSA

Nye Ranch CSA – Week 1

In my kitchen I have resurrected my sourdough starter from the freezer.

 

My family thinks I am missing the microbiology lab too much. It has been a challenge to bake sourdough bread. Do not in any way think that the beauty of the loaf pictured above is indicative of my success. It was an anomaly. Bread flour is not to be had anywhere, so I am working with whole wheat and sprouted wheat flour and a small amount (I am conserving my 2 lb. bag) of all purpose flour. Most of my efforts are better used as croutons or hockey pucks. But I am still trying. Thankfully the starter is happy and bubbling away (I was a pretty good microbiologist). I have been searching the internet for tips when working with heavier flours. It seems everyone is baking, flour is as scarce at toilet paper. If any of you have some suggestions, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

The “In My Kitchen” is hosted monthly by Sherry, from Sherrys Pickings. Please do come on over, it’s lovely reading with a cup of tea or coffee and may inspire you.

(Note: I do not receive any renumeration from Amazon or any other supplier/source I may mention in a post. Any link is for your interest and information only.)

April 2020 – Down to the Dregs, Pizza Rice

April 2020 – Down to the Dregs, Pizza Rice

Many of us are down to the dregs of our fridges and pantries right now, I haven’t been to the store for a couple of weeks and the cupboard (not to mention any semblance of creativity in the kitchen) is pretty bare. A yen for pizza had hit but not too much in the way of pizza makings were in sight. Does this sound like your house right now? We are all making do with what we have on hand.

This recipe is vegetarian and gluten free.

I found a couple of large tomatoes and a handful of cherry tomatoes (just about to go bad), some stale flour tortillas, rice, and cheese…pizza rice casserole was born. My pantry did have an onion and some garlic plus oregano in the spice drawer.

Make the rice, white or brown, whatever you have on hand. I made about 3 cups finished.

Saute an onion in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for about 5-7 minutes until soft, add the garlic, some red pepper flakes, and a rounded teaspoon of dried oregano. Continue to cook until everything mingles into a soft tomatoey mess.

Heat your broiler and put a rack near the top.

Heat a good glug of olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet on medium heat. Layer the tortillas in the bottom of the pan, tearing them to cover the entire surface. Cook long enough that they start to puff and brown on the bottom. Spread the rice on top, then the tomato mixture, cover with grated cheese.

Put under the broiler to melt the cheese and heat the tomato/rice layers.

Cut into rough wedges to serve with a salad on the side (there was some lettuce in the garden to harvest).

Pizza Rice

Pizza Rice

Pizza rice is born.

 

April – Sous Vide Frozen Turkey Thighs or Legs

April – Sous Vide Frozen Turkey Thighs or Legs

During this crazy time we are all minimizing the number of times we visit the grocery store. I used to shop almost daily and now I am down to twice a month. That’s a big deal for me. It’s a long list by then and takes meal planning to an entirely different level. How are you doing with it?

Shopping that infrequently means I am stocking my freezer and cooking out of it. Tacking a list on the outside door of the freezer helps me keep track of what is in there and the dates they were frozen. To avoid freezer burn, I vacuum pack and label food before freezing. If I have a particular dish or recipe in mind for the food, I will rub with spices or herbs plus salt and pepper before freezing.

(From Wikipedia – “Freezer burn is a condition that occurs when frozen food has been damaged by dehydration and oxidation, due to air reaching the food. It is generally caused by food not being securely wrapped in air-tight packaging. … Freezer burn does not make the food unsafe; it merely causes dry spots in foods.”)

Enter sous vide, you can sous vide food directly out of your freezer. You don’t need to defrost it, just add some additional cooking time. The flavor and quality of the meat will not suffer one tiny bit. You may need to do some browning once it is cooked, but that is a last minute thing.

I scored some organic turkey thighs at the market a couple of weeks ago and wanted to prepare them in the style of duck confit (but without all that fat). I’ve been cooking my Thanksgiving turkey sous vide for several years now and love the way the dark meat comes out tender and juicy, not at all tough and stringy. I generally cook the dark meat for 24 hours (yes, no mistake). This time, because the thighs were going to be cooked while frozen solid, I added another 3 hours to the cooking time. This recipe would also work for whole legs, those were not available at the store on that particular day.

I know that 27 hours sounds like a lot, but almost all of it is unattended. Just add the vacuum packed, frozen, thighs or whole legs to the preheated water and let it go overnight. It as easy to start in the afternoon of the day before, they were ready by dinner the next day. The turkey comes out tender and juicy, almost the texture of pulled pork, and it can be used in similar recipes.

Sous Vide Turkey Thighs

Sous Vide Turkey Thighs – Looks Like Pulled Pork

I used a temperature of 149 degrees F/65 degrees C for 24 hours (not frozen), and added an additional 3 because they were cooked frozen. So a total of 27 hours cooking time.

Sous Vide Turkey Thighs

Sous Vide Turkey Thighs – After Cooking, Before Browning

You can use the turkey meat immediately for chili or tacos or make it into a salad.

Chili with Sous Vide Turkey

Chili with Sous Vide Turkey

You could also brown the turkey before vacuum packing, I usually do that during the holidays. It adds an extra layer of flavor and it is easier to press the meat into the hot pan for uniform browning. You then can crisp them in a hot pan or the broiler after they finish with the sous vide. I didn’t pre brown them this time as I was intent on getting them into the freezer. I find that once cooked they are more solid, it’s difficult to uniformly brown all the skin unless you deep fry them (something I didn’t want to do).

It didn’t matter for me this time. I used 2 thighs for the chili and browned the other two.

Sous Vide Frozen Turkey

Sous Vide Frozen Turkey

They were sliced and served with mashed potatoes and a salad. Thanksgiving in April.

You won’t believe this is turkey, the texture and taste is more similar to duck confit.

April – Pork Shoulder in Red Sauce and Slow Roasted Sweet Potatoes

April – Pork Shoulder in Red Sauce and Slow Roasted Sweet Potatoes

A couple of weeks ago I made ‘Forever Roasted Pork Shoulder’, it was a big success in our house and gave us wonderful leftovers. Then I saw Chef Mimi’s post for ‘Pork All’Arrabbiata’ and knew I needed to try it if I could score another pork shoulder at the store. I loved the idea of slow cooking the pork in a spicy red sauce. This was also the perfect opportunity to clean out the pantry and/or fridge.

I found a jar of “just outdated” (really those dates are very conservative and it was only a few months past expiration…it looked fine) red pepper marinara sauce in the pantry, the end of a jar of bourbon and bacon BBQ sauce (about 1/4 cup), and a small can of spicy V8 juice. There wasn’t any leftover red wine (we drank it all) to add, so I also cleaned out the jars with a little water.

I decided to cook it slowly at a low temperature, covered this time. As in ‘Forever Roasted Pork Shoulder’ that meant 5 hours at 275 degrees F. While the oven was on at the low temperature, I could also roast some sweet potatoes. I ran across this method on the blog Smitten Kitchen for slow-roasted sweet potatoes. 2 1/2 hours at a low temperature, then broiled until charred on top results in a creamy skinned potato quite unlike the usual stringy-ness (although I will eat a sweet potato no matter how it’s cooked).

Slow-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Slow-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

I think they will be delicious with the pork and hey, the oven is already on.

Here are a few pictures of the final result, we had lots of leftovers for pulled pork quesadillas (no pictures) and sandwiches.

Pulled Pork with Red Sauce

Pulled Pork with Red Sauce and Slow Roasted Sweet Potatoes

April – Blistered Broccoli with Fusilli, Sicilian Style

April – Blistered Broccoli with Fusilli, Sicilian Style

This combination of anchovies with golden raisins achieves a rich, complex, and delicious result without a heavy tomato sauce. The flavors are typically Sicilian and pairs beautifully with fusilli. Add in broccoli, blistered to charred perfection in a hot pan, and you have a complete meal.

Fusilli with Broccoli, Sicilian Style

Fusilli with Broccoli, Sicilian Style

If you are a vegetarian or don’t eat anchovies (or simply just don’t like them), you can replace them with a tablespoon of soy sauce or miso or a 1/4 cup of chopped black olives. All those will give you a similar salty, briny, umami filled jolt. I used a gluten free fusilli but use whatever pasta shape you have in your pantry, fresh or dried.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bunch of broccoli (or cauliflower), florets roughly chopped and stalks peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 2 leeks or 1 onion or 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of anchovy paste or equivalent of finely chopped whole anchovies
  • Pinch of saffron threads (leave out if not available)
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes, preferably oil packed, drained and minced
  • 1/2 cup of golden raisins, or regular
  • 1/3 cup of pine nuts, toasted in a small dry skillet until golden brown
  • Pasta of choice (I used a gluten free fusilli)
  • Grated parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese for serving OR soft goat cheese (my choice)

Method:

  1. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heart.
  2. Add the leeks or onion or shallots and saute until soft and slightly browned on the edges.
  3. Add the garlic and saute for an additional minute. Stir in the anchovy, saffron, sun-dried tomatoes, raisins, and pine nuts.
  4. Continue to cook over low heat until the flavors blend, about 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the mix to a small bowl using a slotted spoon. Reserve the skillet for the broccoli.
  6. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for your pasta. Cook according to the directions until just al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  7. While the pasta is cooking, start the broccoli
  8. Heat the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil in the skillet. Add the broccoli and toss to combine with the oil. Shake the skillet so the broccoli settles in an even layer. Cook, undisturbed, for about 2 minutes. Toss to rearrange and cook again, undisturbed, for another 2 to 3 minutes or until cooked to your liking.
  9. Add the drained pasta to the skillet along with the reserved Sicilian sauce. Toss to combine, adding some of the pasta cooking water if it seems dry.
  10. Taste for salt (anchovies are salty).
  11. Serve with grated cheese or crumbled goat cheese.
Fusilli with Broccoli, Sicilian Style

Fusilli with Broccoli, Sicilian Style

Fusilli with Broccoli, Sicilian Style

Fusilli with Broccoli, Sicilian Style

We have been trying to skip the meat a few times a week and this was an extremely successful dish. The combination of flavors and textures…a little sweet, salty, briny, rich, crunchy and smooth…were winners.

Inspiration came from a recent recipe in the NY Times and Cold Weather Cooking by Sarah Leah Chase (co-author of the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook).

I am taking this dish to Fiesta Friday #324 hosted by Angie. This week’s cohosts are Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and myself.

Come join the party or check out the wonderful blog posts of attendees. You will see everything from wedding suggestions, home improvement, crafts, and recipes. If you are a blogger, you can add your own link. 

Before joining, if you’re new to Fiesta Friday, please read the guidelines.

We want to be able to feature you next Friday.