Saturday, March 17, 2012

What's for dinner

I will sometimes take a picture of my dinner, especially if I'm thinking of this blog and want to document what we're eating. I like the idea of doing this often enough to get a seasonal portrait of our food. I can come back around next year in late winter, before the fresh spring food appears, and see what I came up with to eat. Last year around this time, I discovered crunchy, spicy salads. In the past year, we've learned to eat gluten-free, and have been eating even more whole animals.

Turkey legs from Thanksgiving, out of the freezer and stewed with tomatoes, cumin, and jalapeƱo, served with roasted root vegetables
Roasted vegetables are one of those dishes I like to make a lot of, and from whatever's in season. Through the winter, I like to make pans of roasted root vegetables and big pots of steamed kale, then eat them til they're almost gone and then do it again. I learned long ago there's no shame in warming up something left over, and even less if you make something else fresh to serve alongside.
Chicken curry sausage from the co-op, roasted root vegetables, and steamed kale

Pan-fried pork loin chop, roasted root vegetables, and steamed kale
This pork chop came from the half pig in our freezer. Usually I rub it with salt, pepper, and coriander, then pan fry it to medium doneness.
Locally grown and frozen green beans from the co-op (sweeter than any other kind you can get this time of year), salt-roasted sweet and white potatoes, and roast leg of lamb
Salt-roasted potatoes are a delicious alternative to roasting them with oil. After washing your potatoes, throw them into a casserole dish or roasting pan, salt them generously, and roast them in a medium-hot oven, 350-400 degrees F, for about an hour for small potatoes, shaking them every 20 minutes or so until they're done. The insides get fluffy, and the skins get chewy.
Fresh ham steak marinated with marjoram, broccoli roasted with garlic, and summer roasted vegetables from the freezer
Broccoli is also surprisingly tasty, roasted. Kevin doesn't usually like broccoli, but we're both crazy about roasted Brussels sprouts. Roasted broccoli comes close in flavor and bite.

I do most of the cooking, but Kevin's gotten into the kitchen more often, especially on weekends and to do a bit of gluten-free baking. A friend turned us on to Pamela's baking mix, and it's everything I could ask for in a gluten-free mix. The blend of rice and almond flours is perfect for biscuits, pancakes, and cornbread, and her baking mix has leavening in it, so it's ready for use in any kind of quick bread. These drop biscuits with currants Kevin made for St. Patrick's Day in lieu of Irish soda bread were buttery and flaky. I haven't been eating gluten-free---most days, I still eat a grilled egg and cheese sandwich---but I don't miss wheat flour at all when I eat these biscuits.
St. Patrick's Day dinner of beef bangers, gluten-free Irish soda bread biscuits, and cabbage braised with onion and apple
Chicken roasted with aloo gobi and its spices, and plain steamed kale
When I made my usual aloo gobi recipe recently, I made a double batch of the spices, rubbed a chicken under its skin with one batch, and seasoned some cauliflower and potatoes with the other. Instead of making the aloo gobi on the stove top, I oven roasted everything together.
Red snapper fillet baked with butter, mushroom risotto, and roasted broccoli with garlic
I haven't posted my usual risotto recipe, which uses mushrooms and a sharp grating cheese, but there's this one for fiddlehead and asparagus risotto that I am really looking forward to making again. Spring is so close.
Collards omelet and aloo gobi
This isn't dinner, but it was pretty and I was sitting down to eat this for brunch with Kevin on a weekend not long ago, so I took a picture. The aloo gobi is equally good for breakfast as it is for dinner.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Kale and Pork

Cassoulet over steamed kale
Two fine foods that go great together, especially in winter.

I treat kale and collards as interchangeable, being sturdy, leafy green vegetables with relatively unassertive flavors. They take less time to cook, but longer to wash and chop than cabbage, another brassica I will sometimes substitute for either kale or collards. They can all be steamed, rolled, and stuffed, as in galumpkes (what the locals call cabbage rolls). They’re all good in braises, soups, and stews. I eat greens at breakfast. They’re great under a stew. 

Pork belly, cornbread, collards with garlic, fresh ham steak with marjoram, and roasted root vegetables
And while all year round, I try to eat something either leafy green or some other vegetable that is botanically vegetable and not fruit (think broccoli, not tomato), in the summer that is often salad, and in the winter it is far more often kale or collards. I picked this idea up from reading Laurel’s Kitchen, where she suggests eating a “super vegetable” every day: a pod or leafy green.
Roast pork, roasted mixed root vegetables, and steamed collards
Greens go with everything. These are dishes I ate in the past couple weeks. Can you see how rare that pork is? No, we're not worried about it. Getting to eat pork as rare as we would eat beef is extraordinary. It's more like lamb. We eat it like this sometimes, when I manage not to overcook it. It's one of the culinary advantages of really knowing where your pork comes from.

The other thing about pastured pork, though, is that it is porky. You know that smell you get off of pig's feet? It's like that, only more so. In fact, the more I eat local, pastured meat, the more I am convinced I can taste their feed, and that industrially raised meat tastes more like corn than it does like chicken, beef, or pork. 

Kielbasa, braised cabbage, and homemade baked beans
Switching to pastured meat could mean finding out you don't like meat as much as you thought you did. I like strong meat (my personal blog is called Strong Meat) but I still cast around for some solutions for mitigating the extremely porky smell. Even the sausages we got from the slaughterhouse, as highly spiced as they were, smelled like this. The taste is a little less noticeable, but still there: a barnyard essence that reminds you this was an animal, a particular one that lived in a place and ate what it liked to forage. Eggy eggs are tremendously rich. Chicken-y chickens are the ur-chicken of chicken-ness. Lamb can be more or less sheep-y. Grass-fed beef is distinctly beefy. Pork was our most recent transition, and not only took a little time to get to appreciate, but to learn to cook with. 

Eggs over medium, potato latkes, a pork sausage, and braised cabbage
I learned that pastured pork goes well with vinegar, or smoke. Some traditional preparations have you soak the pork in vinegar before cooking it, while others use it as a flavoring in stew. Other acids, like tomato, also pair well with strong pork. My Sicilian family has always put pig's feet in tomato sauce. Last night, you could find me exclaiming over a pork and tofu stew at our local Korean restaurant. The stew, which included lots of kimchi, suggested another traditional pairing for pork that's popular around here: sauerkraut.