Grits & Greens

So tasty I almost forgot to take a picture

Grits & Greens

1 onion, halved & sliced thin
1 pint sweet mini peppers, sliced
1 head collards, washed, de-stemmed & sliced
1 tsp. Hungarian hot paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground chipotle
1/4 c. Water
1 c. Good quality tomato sauce
Batons of cooked bacon
1/2 c. Yellow grits
2 c. Mixed water & milk
Splash balsamic vinegar

Sautée onions and peppers over medium until very soft and starting to caramelize. Add 1/2 of the tomato sauce, collards, spices & salt & pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally 2 mins or until well incorporated. Add water and cook, stirring occasionally and adding tomato sauce when the mixture looks too dry, 15 mins. Or until collards are softened and look done. Add remaining sauce and vinegar, taste for seasoning and adjust.

While the greens are cooking, make the grits. Over high heat, combine milk and grits with 1/2 tsp. Salt in a saucepan. Whisk continuously until the mixture comes to a boil. Cover and reduce eat to a simmer. Simmer 5 mins.

Serve immediately.

Quick Berry Jam

Jelly for the sugar wary

This jam is quick, involves no canning, and makes just the kind of jam I like–not too sickly sweet. Since seeing Jamie Oliver make a version of this jam on one of his shows last week, I have made it two ways: with mixed strawberries and blueberries, 1/4 c. sugar and balsamic vinegar; and with straight strawberries, 2 Tbsp. sugar and Jam Jar wine. I like the sugar content of the second batch and the berry mix of the first batch the best. Unfortunately, I was too busy slathering the first batch on everything I came across to take any pictures. The second batch has yet to make it to any serving vehicle but a teaspoon (and a wooden spoon and a serving spoon). This is proving just the thing for the weekly batch of strawberries I get with my CSA. I hate to admit it, but after a year and some change, I’m kinda fresh strawberried-out.

Quick Berry Jam

Adapted from Creamy Rice Pudding with the Quickest Strawberry Jam by Jamie Oliver

1 lb. berries
2 Tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar or fruity red wine

Wash and prep berries; place in a wide pan. Add sugar and skoosh with your hands until the desired consistency is reached–you’re looking for the mixture to look like jam already and the sugar to dissolve.

Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, 20-30 mins. or until the jam is at a consistency you like. Add the wine or vinegar in the last few minutes of cooking.

Serve with waffles, oatmeal, rice pudding, toast or a spoon.

Quick Berry Jam on Punk Domestics

Canadian? Bacon — Charcutepalooza Challenge #4

I’ve always wondered what made Canadian bacon Canadian. Is it that Canadians don’t know how to make real bacon? Does it have something to do with Virginia and hams? was it originally a marketing ploy by McDonalds? How many degrees away is this from Kevin Bacon?

You don’t know either? Let us then take a culinary detour of sorts to discover the real roots of this bacon.

Canadian, aka back bacon or Irish bacon isn’t Canadian at all. Not really. It’s more of a Canadian-English-American hybrid super bacon.

Canadian bacon comes from the lean pork loin, which is located in the middle of the back. It is then brined and smoked.

According to Kitchen Project, this type of savory pork was most likely dubbed “Canadian” by marketers in the United Kingdom who took to importing pork from Canada to deal with a shortage in the mid 1800s.

This imported bacon was prepared Canadian-style (unsmoked and brined) and rolled in ground yellow split peas (or some other form of fine yellow meal) to aid with preservation. In Canada, this type of cured bacon is still common in parts and is called Peameal bacon.

When the English got their porcine packages, they added smoke and didn’t bother to change the name. Emigrating bacon lovers brought the new concoction to the States and Canadian bacon as we know it was born. Isn’t globalization great?

Mmmmm…. pork loin…..

This slab o’ pork wasn’t nearly as hard to find as the pork belly. My friendly neighborhood butcher at Laurenzo’s Italian Market had it on hand and was more than happy to hand me the tastiest looking roughly 3 lb. pork loin in the case.

Since this preparation is all about the smoke, I broke down and purchased a stovetop smoker (Camerons large from Amazon). The smoker is compact, looks easy-to-use and presents as a neat silver self-contained package.

Ok, so I forgot to take a nice beauty shot of the smoker before it got not so nice looking but smoky.

The brine for this preparation was simple; just tons of water, Kosher salt, pink salt, table sugar, garlic, thyme and sage.

Ever feel like a serial meat drowner?

I popped the loin in, waited 2 days, took it out, wiped it off and slapped it on a tray to air cure in the fridge for a few days.

All brined up and nowhere to go
Ok, so it has somewhere to go…

And then my smoker finally came in from Amazon, and we were off!

 

 

 

 

Alder chips/dust for smoking

 

 

 

 

The lid didn’t quite sit perfectly over the hump of meat, so I wrapped the smoker in foil

I smoked my pork centered on one burner over medium with Alder chips for a couple of hours. It smoked the house out a bit, but not unbearably so (keep in mind that smoke is sticky and if you don’t want your kitchen and/or house to smell like someone’s been cooking bacon for a week, make sure to clean anywhere the smoke could have gotten thoroughly).

Deeply smoky pork exterior
Smoky but not quite so baconed interior

The final product was meh. Not terrible, not great. The outer portion on the outside of the fat cap looks and tastes like Canadian Bacon, but the inside looks and tastes like a pork roast. A deeply smoky pork roast at that. I think where I went wrong was the nice thick pork loin. Had I used one of the thinner loins, I think it would have turned out just right. Live and learn.

I’ve been racking my brains trying to think of a new vehicle in which to premiere the Canadian Bacon, but to no avail. I tossed a handful in with some greens and a fried egg, and it was not my favorite. Entirely edible, but I liked the dish sans smoke better.

I’m thinking maybe a soup. Maybe even the split pea soup my DH has been begging for for months will do this “bacon” justice.

Split Pea Soup

A Much Better Use of Canadian Bacon–Split Pea Soup
Adapted from Split Pea Soup with Country Ham from one of my favorite food blogs, Orangette

6 oz. fresh Canadian Bacon, cubed
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 c. dried split peas
8 c. water
Cap full of apple cider vinegar
Salt & white pepper to taste
Olive oil
Crusty bread (optional)

Add1 Tbsp. olive oil to a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. After the oil heats up, add the bacon and cook, stirring, until starting to brown.

Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring to avoid burning, until the vegetables are tender but not browned (roughly 10 minutes).

Add the split peas and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cook 90 minutes to 2 hours or until the peas have broken down.

Taste, add the vinegar if the taste needs punch; salt & pepper to taste.

I covered the pot while cooking and the resulting soup was more watery than I like. So, I grabbed my slotted spoon and got to work separating the bacon from the vegetables and excess liquid.

If you want a more refined-looking soup at this point, let the soup cool a bit and blend the vegetables and desired amount of liquid until smooth, add back to the pot along with the reserved bacon and heat through to serve.

Serve with a nice swirl of olive oil to finish and thick slabs of crusty bread for sopping.

Serves 1 hungry deprived husband for dinner with enough left over for you too, if you don’t get too close.

Canadian? Bacon — Charcutepalooza Challenge # on Punk Domestics

Greens with Eggs

Ignore the pork

When James Oseland names a dish his favorite over the past year, I tend to sit up and take notice. I don’t know about being my favorite, but this dish was a pleaser. Ignore the ham in the photo above. This shot was taken with the leftovers, which I foolishly added home-cured Canadian Bacon to. I shouldn’t have. This dish was absolutely great without it, and the smokiness ruined it the second time around. The original version also didn’t call for heirloom tomatoes, but I had a bunch on hand with no plans so I threw them in. I happen to love tomatoes cooked like this, so I liked them. If you do not, or if you don’t have any on hand, feel free to omit.

Greens with Eggs
Adapted from Wild Greens with Fried Eggs (Horta me Avga Tiganita) from Saveur

Extra virgin olive oil
5 scallions, minced
8 oz. cut n clean seasonal cooking greens
1/2 c. flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 c. mint leaves, chopped
1/4 c. fennel fronds, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs per person
Double handful heirloom cherry tomatoes
Crusty bread, sliced on a bias and toasted (optional)

Heat 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the scallions and cook for 4 minutes, until soft. add the greens, parsley, mint, fennel, garlic, tomatoes and 1/2 c. water; salt & pepper to taste. Cook, stirring as needed, until the greens are tender and tomatoes have softened and split, 10-15 mins.

In a medium pan, heat a turn and a half around the pan of olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Crack your eggs (1 person’s at a time) into the skillet and fry by constantly spooning hot oil over the yolks until the yolks are just set, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel to de-grease and then onto your greens to serve. Serve with crusty bread.

My first batch of eggs I cooked a little longer than the second, and I actually enjoyed that more. The eggs were still a little runny, and the whites were nice and fried. Cook as you like.

Serves 2

Thrown Together Simple Tomato Pasta

After capturing the tomatoes for posterity, I threw together this quick and simple lunch

After stopping to photograph the heirloom tomatoes for posterity, I threw this quick pasta together for lunch in under 10 minutes.

1 Serving rice noodles

Olive Oil

Double handful tomatoes

1 clove garlic

1 handful parsley

Big pinch red pepper flakes

Salt & pepper to taste

Take 1 serving thin angel hair-style rice noodles, place in a medium pot. Add cold water until half full, place on burner on High. Cook according to package directions (approx. 3 mins.) drain.

While you’re waiting for the pasta to cook, slice 1 clove garlic super thin and chop 1 handful parsley. Rinse a double handful tomatoes.

Over medium-high heat, bring 1 Tbsp. olive oil up to just shimmering; add garlic and stir. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently to avoid burning, until tomato skins begin to split and garlic is deeply golden (but not burnt!)

When pasta is done, add it to the pan, salt & pepper to taste and add a shot of olive oil if the mixture looks dry. Add parsley and a pinch red pepper flakes. Toss to combine and serve.

Serves 1 for lunch.

Black Sesame Walnut Noodles

Rabbit poo? Nope. Black sesame seeds, which play a starring role in today’s recipe.

This dish is adapted from Heidi Swanson’s recipe for Black Sesame Otsu from her upcoming book, Super Natural Everyday. If you haven’t visited her food blog (101 Cookbooks) before, go. She is one of my favorite healthy food recipe authors and I can’t wait to get my hands on her new book.

This dish is everything you want in a Spring dinner–nice and light-tasting, not too heavy and packed with green leafy goodness. The only change I would make next time would be adding more cayenne. 2 big pinches just wasn’t enough for us.

Now on to the goodness that is a bowl of Japanese noodles.

Black Sesame Walnut Noodles

1/2 c. walnuts, shelled
1/2 c. black sesame seeds (note: these will end up looking like coffee grounds. If that bothers you, use white sesame seeds)
1 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. shoyu
1 1/2 tsp. mirin
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsp. rice (sushi) vinegar
2 big pinches cayenne pepper
12 oz. soba noodles
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 bunch green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
Handful Chinese chives, chopped (optional)

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

Toast the walnuts in a dry pan over medium-high heat until they begin to release their aroma and are lightly toasted. Don’t forget to shake the pan regularly to avoid burnt spots. Add the sesame seeds and toast for only a minute or so, until they smell toasted. Be careful not to over-toast!

Transfer the nuts to a mortar & pestle or bowl of a food processor. Crush until the mixture looks like black sand. Add the sugar, shoe, miring, sesame oil, vinegar and cayenne. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning.

Wash and slice your chard into thin ribbons.

When the water is boiling, add the soba and cook according to package directions until tender (about 3 minutes). In the last minute or so of cooking, add the chard and stir.

When your noodles are tender and the chard is nicely cooked, drain, reserving about a cup of the cooking liquid. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking.

Reserve some of the sesame paste and the chives for a garnish. Scoop the rest into a large mixing bowl and thin with 1/3 c. of the reserved cooking liquid to form a sauce.

Add everything else to the bowl and toss until combined. Serve topped with the reserved sesame paste and chives.

Serves 2 for dinner, with enough left over for a nice lunch.

Eastern North Carolina Cheese Biscuits

Awwww… look. The shape was totally unplanned, but I do heart these biscuits.

I’ve been a bit nostalgic for one of the places I’ve called home lately. It started with a listing I ran across of Saveur Magazine’s Top 100. Biscuitville made the list! I love Biscuitville! I miss biscuits! We don’t really have Southern-style biscuits in Miami.

This led to a Facebook conversation with an old friend about the biscuits we loved from my college days in Eastern North Carolina. These biscuits were the bomb-diggety and almost ubiquitous on campus, as well as in little local gas stations and breakfast joints (the top examples for me being the The Wright Place on East Carolina University’s main campus and a little ghetto gas station on the outskirts of known town we used to frequent just for the biscuits and cheap cigarettes). This led the Facebook friend and I on an Internet-wide search for the perfect Eastern North Carolina biscuit, which in turn led to stumbling upon a fight that has been raging for ages on the subject on Chowhound. It seems no one can agree on a recipe, or even if the hyper-local biscuits even exist. They *do* exist. And apparently we aren’t the only ex-East Carolinians who remember them with fondness.

These are not Red Lobster-style cheddar biscuits, though (as legend has it) those hail from the Carolinas too. These biscuits are huge (bigger than your hand or cat head sized as some call it), have a nice dense crumb with slightly crispy outside from touching the sides of the pan and come with a thick layer of gooey cheddar-like orange melty cheese in the center. Not, I repeat, Not mixed in with the batter. Those are indeed some great biscuits, but not what I’m talking about here. You might ask, what’s the big freaking deal? They’re biscuits with cheese in the middle. Pop open a can of Pillsbury and be done with it. To which I’d retort, blasphemer! Those aren’t the same thing at. all. These, aside from dipped in nostalgia, are flaky yet toothsome, gooey from the cheese, almost greasy to the touch, and satisfying to the core. These are cheese biscuits that don’t even need a fried egg, country ham or bacon to be good. And that, my friends, is a feat in and of itself.

A note on cheese: Proponents of the biscuit gospel call for something called a “hoop cheese”. According to Wikipedia, hoop cheese is a firm dry cheese made from milk alone and is popular throughout the rural South. I can believe this, though the cheese I remember is more cheddar-like, so I found a nice stout cheddar to slice. What you’re looking for is a good melty cheese that can stand up to a buttermilk biscuit without becoming molten when heated. Something that would taste good wrapped on waxed paper after it has oozed out the side of your biscuit and solidified.

A note on lightness & flakiness: The original author of this recipe likes her biscuits a bit more flaky and light than I was looking for, so I kneaded my dough a bit more than she called for. I wanted a somewhat dense biscuit; if you, like my DH, want lighter biscuits, knead less.

Eastern North Carolina Cheese Biscuits
Adapted from thoroughly researched and vetted recipe for Appalacian Cat Head Biscuits

2 1/4 c. All Purpose flour
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
4 1/2 Tbsp. chilled unsalted butter
1 c. buttermilk
Stout cheddar-like cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Add the butter a piece at a time to the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until you have a mixture the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Although I’m sure the writer of the original recipe would cringe, I very rarely bake, don’t own a pastry cutter, and no one in my life trusts me to dual-wield knives without losing a finger or two like the recipe called for alternately. So, I beat the crap out of the butter with a metal potato masher and hands that I periodically chilled in the freezer until the right consistency was reached. Whatever works.

Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add the buttermilk. Gently scrape the sides of the bowl and fold the mixture until barely combined. Don’t mix it to death, just incorporate all the dry wispy bits of flour from the sides of the bowl. The dough will be lumpy, sticky in places and shaggy around the edges. This dough is not pretty and to the baking uninitiated like me, will look like it is not going to work. Pick the dough up and knead it carefully in the bowl, turning over with each pass, 3-5 times (I did 5, the original author stuck to 3), until almost all the mixture forms a cohesive mass. Don’t knead any more, or you will get hockey pucks.

To form the biscuits, pinch off a ball of dough about 2 1/2 inches around and form into a thick free-form patty. This recipe should yield 6 large biscuits. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Slice and serve with sturdy cheddar-like cheese, heating in the microwave until just-melted.

The Best Damn Grits I’ve Ever Tasted

These grits are good. Like jump-up-and-smack-yo-momma good. Better than the stone ground fancified grits at my favorite restaurant good. And the best part? I can have them any time I please. This is another comfort dish my DH has taken and made his own. Love it when he does that.

Chris’ Bomb-Ass Grits

2 cups milk (we use 2% Horizon Farms Organic)
2 cups water
1 cup yellow grits (we used Arrowhead Farms organic yellow corn grits)
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. grated parmesan
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Pour the milk and water into a saucepan on medium-high. Cover & wait for the milk to boil. When it does, add the grits & salt and kick the heat down to medium. Stir constantly (yes, constantly means what you think it does) until the grits look like a thick soup, approximately 8 mins.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring only every 2-3 minutes until the grits thicken and fall nicely from the spoon, 7-8 minutes. You’re not looking for crazy thick here, just a nice thick but not concrete consistency.

When the grits reach that golden consistency, start stirring constantly for a little longer until they become creamy, fluffy & soft. Turn off the heat.

Add the parmesan, butter, pepper & red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Taste for salt and add if needed.

Serve with anything. We’ve had them with a great slow cooked ragout of mini bell peppers, onion and swiss chard and a plain topping of fire roasted tomatoes with kale.

To make the pepper & onion ragout:  slice 1 pint mini bell peppers into 1/4 inch thick rings, 2 cloves garlic and 2 small white onions into thin slices. Sautee, stirring frequently to avoid burning, over medium heat with 1 Tbsp. olive oil 20 mins. or until caramelized. Add 1 bunch chopped rainbow chard and 1/4 c. water and cook until chard wilts and water evaporates. Add 1 tsp. chipotle Tabasco sauce and sriracha (Chicken Sauce) to taste (for me, that’s a turn of the pan and a half). Salt & pepper to taste.

Serve over grits with thick batons of home made bacon.

If by some miracle you happen to have any leftovers, try this recipe inspired by Carla from Top Chef:

Fried Grit Fritters

Heat a medium pan on medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil.

Take roughly 1/4 cup of your now solidified grits and dump them on a plate. Carefully with either your hands or a spoon, smash and spread the grits out until they look like a free form pancake about 1/2 inch thick. It doesn’t matter if you have little cracks here and there; you’re looking for something that will more or less stay together in the pan.

Transfer carefully to the pan and fry until golden brown. Flip & repeat.

This treatment wakes the leftover grits up and gives them a pleasant, almost nutty taste.

Pickle Me Pink Salad

Wondering what to do with all the pickled beets you just made? Well so was I, so I whipped up a little light salad to use up some CSA veggies.

Pickle Me Pink Salad

Oh no she didn’t go there; that recipe title is terrible! Ok, so I’m a dork, so sue me ;p

1 c. bulgur wheat
3 cloves garlic
1/2 c. broken walnuts
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 grapefruit
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1 bunch spinach, washed & chopped
3 oz. goat cheese crumbles
3/4 c. sliced pickled beets
1/4 c. + 2 tsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper

Add bulgur to 2 1/2 c. boiling water, turn off the heat, slap on a lid and let sit for 30 mins.

In the meantime, slice garlic wafer thin and add to a pan on medium heat with 2 tsp. olive oil. Sautee until golden and crisp. Set aside and wipe the pan.

Put the pan back over medium heat and add walnuts. Toast in a dry pan until starting to color and smell sweet. Add maple syrup and cook, stirring frequently, until most of the syrup has evaporated. Remove immediately to a dish to cool fully.

In a large bowl, whisk together the juice of 1 grapefruit, dijon mustard and 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil. Salt & pepper to taste.

Add the bulgur (drain if it is a little wet), chopped spinach, goat cheese crumbles and sliced pickled beets to the dressing. Stir & serve.

Makes a nice healthy meal for 2, with enough left over for lunch the next day.

Pickled Beets: My Father Was Right

Much-reviled beets are one of the few foods on Earth I find truly repulsive. I think they taste exactly like musty dirt and generally want absolutely nothing to do with them. And then came my crusade to eat more seasonably and locally and my decision to join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) club. My CSA ships year-round organic vegetables that are sourced as locally as is possible/cost effective. Part of that commitment was bound to include trying new things. Enter the beets.

I remember as a kid thinking after the first taste made my taste buds want to retreat down my throat that beets must have been something you ate in the depression, because they were less hard than pebbles, and that anyone that still ate beets was a: ancient and had no taste left, or b: wanted to eat what they ate when they were little.

I’m fairly certain that an ancient person was the first to get me to try beets. Possibly my grandfather with Althziemers. Maybe it was only my father. I did think he was ancient, after all. (what can I say? I was a little kid. Being in your 30s was one and the same with being in your 60s or 80s to me at the time. Yeek!)

The first time I got beets, I was terrified. Beets, while a beautiful shade of claret, are gross. They taste like dirt. What the crap could I possibly do to them to make them edible?

I made pasta. My fresh beet pasta came out a beautiful shade of burgundy and I served it with a brown butter and poppyseed pan sauce, because everything is better with butter. And you know what? It worked. The beets were only slightly earthy; combined with the butter and some fresh shaved parmesan, they were great. And pretty.

I’m not scared of you any more, beets. You hear that? I’ve kicked your ass and lived to tell the tale.

Now I know, I can’t serve them in pasta every time I get them. I’ve also roasted and shredded them for beet and potato latkes, and they were great.

Every time I mention beets to my father and how I’m running out of the limited things I can do to disguise them, he tells me how great pickled beets are. I’m skeptical to say the least–sounds like some weird old people shit to me–I’m willing to try it for him. If for nothing else, but a reason to talk a little smack.

Pickled Beets
Adapted from Simple Recipes

5 beets (about 2 c.)
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Scrub beets and cut into uniform sizes so they will cook evenly. Boil for 15-30 minutes depending upon how large your pieces are, until a fork slides easily into them.

Drain and rinse in cold water until cool enough to handle. use your fingers or a paring knife to slip the skins off. They should come off easily. Discard the peels and slice the beets 1/4 inch thick.

Whisk the rest of the ingredients together to form a vinaigrette. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking. Salt & pepper to taste.

Add beets to the bowl and stir to coat. Let sit at room temperature 15 minutes, stir again, and let sit 15 minutes more.

The verdict: Well, shit. These are actually pretty derned good. The first bite tasted a little like dirt in a not unpleasant way, and subsequent bites tasted sharp and sweet. I could even eat these in a salad without dying. So, dad, you were right ;p.