Monday, July 30, 2007

Braised Pork With Pappardelle Pasta

I know. I can hear the roar of questions: What? Is she crazy? Who in their right mind would braise pork in the middle of summer?

It seems I'm constantly apologizing to those poor northern hemisphere souls who are sweating mightily in a summer heat that only air-conditioning, a swimming pool or winter can mitigate, and who would never consider firing up a stove, let alone doing so for 3-plus hours.

I empathize. I truly do. I spent most of my life in the hot, hot Sacramento Valley where summer temperatures could and did top 100 degrees for days on end.

What can I say? I don't live there anymore, Alice. I live on the cool, foggy-in-summer, 58-degree-average-temperature, far north coast of California. Dishes like this are standard fare for us. Well maybe not standard, but you catch my drift - I use my stove winter, spring, fall and summer.

I received inspiration for this recipe from an evening shared with my sister Alwyn and niece Ann at Della Santina's restaurant in Sonoma. There I had the special, Pappardelle Pasta in a Wild Boar Meat Sauce, which was so good I vowed to try making it at home. Then I saw Jamie Oliver's Pappardelle with Amazing Slow-Cooked Meat on Leite's Culinaria and I was hooked.

Yesterday, the arrival of friends L&D back from an extended vacation was all I needed to get me cooking. Riffing all the way with Jamie and Della Santina's, I came up with this dish. Not having a wild boar at hand and certainly not prepared to hunt one down, I used a tamer version - pork shoulder roast.

Braised Pork with Pappardelle Pasta
Click here to print recipe
Recipe inspired by Della Santina's Trattoria and Jamie Oliver
Serves 6 with leftovers
2-pound boneless pork shoulder, can be tied.
olive oil for the pan
2 tablespoons freshly chopped rosemary
6-8 long sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
2 carrots, pared and chopped
2 ribs celery, strings pared off with a vegetable peeler, chopped
6 cloves really good,
fresh garlic, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 - 28 ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes with juice (such as Muir Glen's Fire-Roasted or Trader Joe's with basil)
14 ounces fresh water
kosher salt and freshly ground
black pepper
16 to 20 ounces dried pappardelle pasta

Use a cast iron Dutch oven if you have one. If not, use a stewing pot or some such thing that will easily hold the roast. Be sure to have a tight-fitting lid.
Season the roast all over with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper.
Heat the pan over medium-high then drizzle with olive oil when hot.
Sear the roast on all sides until the meat is crusty brown and those delicious brown bits (fond) are sticking to the bottom of the pan, at least 5 minutes per side. Lower the heat slightly if necessary to keep the meat and fond from burning.
Remove the roast to a plate and tent to keep warm.

Lower the heat under the pan to medium and, beginning with the onions and carrots, saute the vegetables, adding the celery and garlic after 5 minutes, lowering the heat and stirring occasionally to keep it all from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add the red wine (I used a 2003 Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbieres Red Table Wine from Berkeley wine importer Kermit Lynch), the chopped rosemary and the thyme sprigs (you will fish out the naked stems later) and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom. Allow the liquid to reduce for about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, cutting them into chunks with a knife, then return the roast to the pot and add the water to cover most of the roast. If the liquid doesn't cover the meat entirely, don't worry. You will be turning it over several times during the braising period.

Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to very low, and braise the meat for at least 3 hours or until the meat is fall apart tender, turning it occasionally so all parts come in contact with the liquid.
When the meat is done, the sauce can be reduced if you wish.
Remove the meat to a cutting board.
Using a pair of tongs, retrieve the thyme stems which will now be bereft of their little leaves.
Turn the heat up to medium-low under the pan and allow it to simmer, lid off, until the sauce thickens and is reduced by one-fourth to one-third. I did this because my sauce was pretty liquidy, yours may not need this step.

While the sauce is reducing, if necessary, cut the strings from the roast and shred the meat into small and medium pieces. Add the meat back to the sauce. Taste and add kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper if needed. Turn off the heat, set aside in a warm place and start the pasta water.

Cook the pappardelle until it is just over the al dente stage.
Drain in a colander, put it back into the now empty pasta pot and immediately drizzle with a bit of olive oil, tossing to coat. This will prevent the pasta from sticking to itself. Alternatively, you can toss the pasta with a ladle-full of the sauce.
Place servings of pasta on warm plates, ladle on some sauce and meat and serve to your adoring and deserving husband/significant other/family/dinner guests.

Cook's Notes:

This was good. A blogworthy dish if I've ever made one. And because I used not one but two of my favorite fresh herbs in the recipe, rosemary and thyme, I'm submitting this to Weekend Herb Blogging which comes to us courtesy of my friend Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen. Her round up will be posted Sunday, August 5th. Be sure to check it out for great herby recipes from around the globe.

The Bard waits not for slackers...
Mr CC and I are taking off for a week of great plays, dear friends, tasty food, long walks, tastier microbrews, hot weather (swimming pool provided) and more plays. Ashland calls, as it does every August. This year I'll be doing some cooking for the group in our "kitchenette". We'll see how that turns out...

I'll be back Aug. 6th. See you then.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Monday, July 23, 2007

Oatmeal Cookies With Crystallized Ginger And Dried Cherries

As I've said elsewhere on this blog, several times I'm sure, I'm not the baker in my family. My mother was the baker extraordinaire, passing that gene along to both of my sisters. So I'm always surprised when I bake something and it turns out fairly tasty.

Like this afternoon. I suddenly got a hankering for something sweet to nibble with my tea. Searching around the kitchen, it became clear that if I wanted this sweet something, I was going to have to make it. Plus, it had to be low in sugar and high(er) in fiber than your average sweet something.

So here's what I came up with. It took less than an hour from taking the butter out of the fridge to taking the first bite. A pretty-good tea cookie that earned me Mr CC's Taster Seal of Approval.

You can use all butter and all sugar if you want. Or, these can be made vegan by using all Earth Balance and substituting 1 medium banana for each egg. A smart trick my daughter-in-law, Amy, shared with me. I decided to use the Splenda blends because I wanted a lower carb cookie and because cookies need some sugar in them to bake properly.

Oatmeal Cookies with Crystallized Ginger and Dried Cherries
Click here to print recipe
Christine's original recipe
1 cube Earth Balance Buttery Stick
1 cube unsalted butter
1/2 cup
Splenda/Brown Sugar Blend (or you can use 1 cup brown sugar)
1/2 cup
Splenda/Sugar Blend
(or you can use 1/2 cup sugar)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract

1 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups quick cooking oats
3/4 cup organic dried bing cherries (cranberries or blueberries would work fine)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped crystallized ginger

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and place racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven.
In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed until it's smooth and fluffy.
Add the sugars and continue to mix until incorporated.
Add the eggs, one at a time, plus the teaspoon vanilla, and mix until incorporated.
Lower the speed to medium-low and add the flour mixture. Mix until the dough is smooth and all the flour is incorporated.
Remove the mixing bowl from the stand mixer and stir in the oats, dried fruit and crystallized ginger.
Drop the dough by tablespoonsful on ungreased cookie sheets.
Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, switching the cookie sheets halfway through the baking time.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes before tranferring to a wire rack to cool. Repeat process with the rest of the cookie dough.

This recipe yielded about 40 2 1/2-in cookies. It probably would have yielded more, but I'm a cookie dough nibbler. Just can't help myself.

Dedicated to Di and Cynthia: Bakers extraordinaire.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Garlic In An Olive Oil, Balsamic, Rosemary Reduction ... With Beans

You could've knocked me over with a feather...

... when I saw the Garlic Filling that Tanna, of My Kitchen in Half Cups, had made to put into a garlic bread that she and her friend Sue were making during one veeerrrry long and hilarious bread making process and thank heavens they had wine!
Me, I stopped at the garlic filling. My god. The ingredients. The cooking process. My head was spinning with the possibilities of what to pair with it.
Tanna says she adapted this recipe from one in the bread book, Exceptional Breads by Dan Lepard, which seems to be available through Amazon in Canada and the UK, but not yet in the US. Weird.

As I was drooling all over my keyboard at that garlic filling, we lost power. Thunk. When that happens, we turn everything off, hunker down and try not to use water (community well and all that). At first, PG&E said power would be restored within 2 to 3 hours. That was at 1:00 p.m. yesterday. We got our power back this morning around 10. (Update: The power went off again at 1 p.m. and didn't come back on until 9 that night. Grrr.)

Not being able to be online or anything else that uses electricity, I started peeling garlic and, using our old Wedgewood stove that keeps me cooking through hail, snow, sleet, rain and power outages, made this exceptionally delicious garlic stuff of Tanna's. Then I made Rancho Gordo's Good Mother Stallard beans (sorry folks, our temp highs are in the 60s these days). Then I put the two of them together. What can I say? It was exceptional.

Go here for the garlic recipe. I didn't fully reduce the liquid as I knew I wouldn't be using it in bread and wanted to retain some of that flavorful olive oil.

Go here for how to cook the beans.

Put 'em together. Mash 'em a little if you want and use as a spread on your favorite cracker. Or just grab a spoon and dig in. Or take them sailing, which is what we're about to do. I'll be making this again soon. Like tomorrow. Thank you Tanna!

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Friday, July 20, 2007

Grilled Lamb Kebabs (Kebobs, Kabobs)

Mmmmm. Lamb. I love lamb. Tasty on its own with a sprinkling of salt and pepper, lamb takes to marinade like a duck takes to water. Which is what you will find out for yourself if you prepare the recipe below.

Lamb is a lightly marbled, lean meat with most of the fat blanketing the outside, which is easily dispatched with a sharp knife. Inner fat is mostly along the connective tissues between muscles, also easily removed, leaving luscious, lower fat, healthful meat. Yep, I said healthful. Take a look here to read why that is.

I recently received an 8-pound boned and butterflied leg of lamb courtesy of the American Lamb Board. The lamb came from Superior Farms in Dixon, California, a mere 8 miles from where I grew up in Davis.

"At Superior Farms we pride ourselves on not only the quality product we offer, but the superior care with which we give our animals," Angela, a representative from Superior Farms, told me. "Not only do we follow and exceed the requirements of the
Humane Slaughter Act," she continued, "we are inspected throughout the day, every day by USDA Food Safety Inspection Service personnel. We are audited annually by an outside third party - specifically addressing animal welfare prior to and during harvest. Our management team, as well as the on-line workers have all gone through animal welfare and humane handling training and a refresher course is given annually. We have even had Dr. Temple Grandin, the leading animal behaviorist concerning humane treatment of livestock, visit one of our plants to further improve our handling practices."

That was encouragement enough. My lamb arrived and I quickly divided it into sections that will allow me to share with you at least 4 delicious ways to prepare this tasty and healthful meat.

Grilled Lamb Kebabs
Click here to print recipe
Christine's Original Marinade Recipe
(Marinade - measurements approximate)
1/4 - 1/3 cup cup good olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Turkish oregano (mine is from Penzey's, courtesy of the American Lanb Board)
generous pinch of Kosher salt
generous grindings of good black peppercorns (I only use Tellicherry)
1/2 cup dry red wine

18 to 24 pieces lean lamb, from a boneless leg, cut into 1-inch x 2-inch rectangular chunks
1 large sweet onion cut into 10 or 12 wedges
1 large red bell pepper cut into 1-inch square pieces
2 portobello mushroom caps cut into 10 or 12 wedges
1 basket juicy red grape tomatoes or any tasty cherry tomatoes
olive oil

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a deep glass bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
Add the lamb chunks, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or longer or even overnight if possible. Turn the lamb to make sure it gets fully coated with the marinade.
Prepare all the vegetables.
Have 6 skewers ready.
Remove the lamb from the marinade. Discard the marinade.
Beginning and ending with a piece of onion, thread the lamb and vegetables onto the skewers, making them fit snugly against eachother. I threaded the lamb through its 2-inch dimension and the tomatoes longwise, through the stem end.
Place the kebabs in a roasting pan and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. You can sprinkle them with kosher salt and black pepper if desired.
Grill the kebabs over medium-high heat until the lamb reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees.
Remove the skewers from the heat and allow the kebabs to rest in a warm place for 5 to 10 minutes. The lamb will continue to cook and raise in temperature to at least 145 degrees which is medium-rare. Grill lamb longer if you prefer it to be more done.
Cook's Notes:
Because I started late in the day, I marinated the lamb for just one hour and it was flavorful, juicy and succulent.
I served these kebabs over a bed of crisp salad greens that had been tossed with my golden balsamic viniagrette.
I used a Saint Joseph 2000 Rhone Table Wine for the marinade and for drinking with the meal. I purchased it at Kermit Lynch about 5 years ago and it was delicious.
This makes a great low-glycemic meal for two or three people allowing 2 skewers apiece.
I'd like to extend my appreciation to the American Lamb Board for their Summer Grilling Kit and thank them for this opportunity to showcase lamb, one of my favorite meats.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Friday, July 13, 2007

Marinated, Grilled Pacific Salmon at the...

Ready for HOTM #5? Joanna and Ilva have been building a heart-healthy databank of recipes from food bloggers around the globe. I love this growing collection of recipes for the inspiration it gives me and for the reminder that adapting heart healthy eating habits is, indeed, a diet for life. Now in its fifth month, the theme is Waterlife and it's not just about fish, but anything that swims. Go to their blog, The Heart of the Matter, and read all about it. If you'd like to join in, send your post to them by July 23rd.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of heart-healthy seafood is salmon. Pink-fleshed, moist, firm, delicious wild-caught Pacific salmon. Marinated and grilled in summer or poached in an herb-y white wine stock in winter, it's one of my favorite foods.

Salmon is packed with healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, known to reduce inflamation, reduce blood clots, lower bad cholesterol and strengthen the immune system.

What I offer here today is not just any salmon, but salmon out of our local, cold Pacific waters. Straight from our neighbor's boat and into my freezer this past May, we shared the last of it recently when Mr CC's family came to the wilds of northern California to camp and spend a week visiting with us.

Asian-Style Marinated, Grilled Salmon
Christine's original recipe
Ingredients (approximate, as I don't measure):
1 large shallot, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup lightly seasoned rice wine vinegar
juice from 1 lemon, 1 lime and 1 orange
1/3 cup (packed) cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons organic, wheat-free soy sauce
6 salmon filets (about 2 pounds), skin left on

Combine all the ingredients except the salmon, whisking well. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. I sometimes add a touch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black peppercorns. If the citrus is sour, I might add a pinch of sugar.
Lay the salmon filets in an oblong glass baking dish and pour the marinade over to cover.
Seal with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes, no longer than 45 minutes as you don't want to "cook" the flesh, turning the filets over halfway through the process.
As we use a gas grill, the following instructions are for that beast only.
Remove the fish from the marinade.
Spray a fish holder (I know it has a name, but I'm forgetting it at the moment) with olive oil and lay the marinated salmon filets in side by side, fitting them snugly. We had to use several of these for 6 filets.
With the grill set at about 425 degrees, lay the salmon skin side down and close the grill lid for about 4 minutes. If flareups occur you can lower the heat but not below 375.
Open the lid and check the salmon. You want the flesh to yield a bit when pressed with a finger.
Flip the fish and place sunny-side down on the grill for 3-4 more minutes, depending on the thickness of the filets. You want those great grill marks but you don't want to overcook the fish. The flesh should be very moist and just cooked through.
Remove from the grill and allow to sit for just a few moments, where it will continue to cook until perfect.

Cook's Notes:
My notes from this dinner tell me that we served the salmon with a bulgar pilaf made with sauteed, chopped portobello mushrooms, red bell peppers, zucchini and sweet onion, a green salad with garden-fresh (ok, farmers market-fresh)tomatoes and cucumbers, and corn on the cob. For dessert we had homemade, low fat, sugar-free Tahitian vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberries swimming in raspberry wine, which will be the subject of another post.

People said, "Yum!"

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved