A New Obsession (warning contains explicit material for vegetarians)

It’s summertime on the farm!

Which means I’m diving into the freezer, head first, and grasping for the last bits of our meat supply. What’s left (until the Fall butchering) are the humble pieces I’ve ignored. Like landmarks invisible to us on our daily commutes, I never saw that tongue until last week. There are beef hearts and trotters (pigs feet), bones and livers. What am I going to do with all this tough shank? This box of pork blades?

I’ve discovered a clever solution to utilizing this jetsom that has now become the available, end of season flotsam in the freezer. This would be via the work of  my new kitchen obsession– a nifty meat grinder attachment that my sweetheart bought me on a whim. (The beauty of having a gift-giving hubby who can see straight through you to your inner metronome.)

I’ve never been a fan of pork, and this has been disconcerting to me because chef’s and gourmands are infatuated  with pork, using the entire animal in the way they obsess over rare delicacies. Like gooey duck and bone marrow. (Think “The Whole Beast” approach of  cooking pork from Ohio Iron Chef, Michael Symon.)  The same can rarely be said for beef save for the burger and sometimes aged steak.  (The Publican in Chicago cook their pork with hay!  Now, that’s some crazy pork obsessed nutjobs I thought when i first heard this!)  What am I not getting about porkamani?

Cut to:  Marital intervention of the meat grinder. Because of this humble gift, I have  since found a flavor in pork that I’ve never experienced by taking the unwanted and the whatnots and trimming the fat, then grinding my own meat with pitch-perfect spice blends. Fennel seed, garlic, and smoked Paprika (alot) are the trinity I start with. Next I add about 6 more different flavors in the form of spices, fresh herbs and acidity.

(Pork shoulder and pork chops post-trimming, pre-grinding)

So titillated are my tastebuds these days, and my creative juices that the culinary possibilities have unleashed a new-flowered love.  At last! I am slowly attuning to the intensity of feelings generated by this porkly beast.  Now I understand why we had to weave our way thru the maze of cured pork legs hanging from every restaurant in Europe: I’ve never tasted anything but blase’ American pork products. Whether flotsom, jetsom, lagan or derelict these unassuming (and unappetizing) cuts have become beautiful darlings of  my carnivorous treasure trove in the shape of a freezer. And I’m thinking, couldn’t we make our own sausage this year? Like the kind they make in Portugal and Spain…. like linguica  and chorizo?

“Perhaps that’s overestimating us a bit, ” hubby intoned. “You’re always saying the layman should embrace their laymanship and leave true craft to the masters.”

“The layman and the masters started as equals. The difference is the layman didn’t over-embellish their talents from the beginning.”

“Or maybe they just had a couple hundred year’s worth of family sausage making. We didn’t smell sausage from the womb. We smelled  8 tracks and Miracle Whip. We saw the world in Harvest Gold.”

What we foodies search for in the flavors of food is not in the end so far from what we search for in love. Be creative with a meat grinder. Even if it means experimenting with cheese whiz and tater tot casserole in your sausage. :-)

(Normally, I grind the meat for burgers or meatballs or sausage-like frittatas but I roasted the meat with veg and then put all of this thru the meat grinder for ravioli stuffing. See Below)

(“Pull up a stool and make dinner together!”)

(They went gaga over the corn husks.)

(Final dishes. Pasta in homemade chicken stock with scallions, basil, and dried tomatoes, a splash of soy sauce. And stuffed ravioli with yellow squash, zucchini, parmesan cheese.)

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Fancy (easy) potatoes

Here’s a photo of someone stealing potatoes from my plate. (stuffed cabbage in picture left.)

Look how vibrant these potatoes are. Here’s what you do. It’s so easy! —-

Medium Heat. A little olive oil. Slice small red potatoes in half. Add about 2 cloves of garlic. Place potatoes face down. Add salt and pepper. Turn after about 10 minutes. Cook another 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper again. Then spritz with Medeira (a Portugese wine. cheap and available in most supermarkets or liquor stores.)  and cook medium to low heat. After potatoes are fork tender transfer to bowl. Add Medeira to pan and reduce, scraping up the bits. Pour over potatoes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. These were AMAZING potatoes with a sweet, but not too sweet flavor with a perfect carmelized texture. It was requested I add this one to the regular recipe book!

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CHEESE MAKIN’

Cheese making sounds daunting, like something to be left alone to the centuries’ old artisans. But it’s such a cinch! And there’s many varieties and techniques if you want to give it a whirl. My first attempt was not so much a big hit, tho. The texture was perfect but I’m giving it a big yawn on flavor. I made two varieties: low fat and full fat. The former turned out like parmesan in consistency and the latter was very feta-ish. Using the best ingredients I could find, this cheese was rather expensive to make when you factor in the cost of organic milk and yogurt. I should’ve added salt, too. So, for me, the very reason I’m not a fan of mozzarella… flavorless… is why I’m not a fan of my first go-round in cheesemongering. Here’s a photo of the cheese. scroll down to see the fabulous way I used it!

Not having the energy to cook tonight, luckily I had some leftover pizza dough from the weekend. I discovered that when left in the fridge for a couple days it develops air pockets to create a big, bubbly crust that is crisp on the outside and chewy and light on the inside. This pizza was so light that after a couple pieces I was still hungry! With such puffy  end-crust pieces I served it with a side of herb olive oil for yummy dipping. Thankfully, the fresh garden tomatoes and the basil carried the bulwark of flavor for the unassuming cheese. When i *do* succeed next time I will post the recipe!

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Sweet N’ Spice Blackbean Chili Sin Carne

The mention of chili spurs a yawn in me. Yet, it’s so delicious and teeming with full-bodied satisfaction. The  first document for chili con carne (chili with meat)  was put on paper in the 17th century by Sister Mary of Agreda of Spain. What history books reveal next is a variety of legends and proclamations hovering around Texas, all by Spanish emigrants spieling the Chile pepper an aphrodisiac. I concur on this one. (Note* http://www.theochocolate.com makes a ‘chili dark chocolate’ bar. To date my favorite chocolate trip.)

Next, The Texas chili went national at an exposition in Chicago. But let’s not entirely ignore the chili town criers, purists that ‘chili ain’t got no beans’. Say Huh??? Which segues to chili with beans but no meat. This is called ‘chili sin carne’. Get a load a’ this: Here’s some eclectic chili ingredients over the eons: sweetcorn, peanuts, butter, pineapples, bananas, oranges, tomatillos, beer, chorizo, cocoa, coffee, tequila, cola, honey, cinnamon, whiskey, bourbon, and …..potatoes???

My yawning over chili dates back to childhood; I ate everything, even chewed on bone marrow, but always felt a disgruntled underwhelmed-ness when chili showed up at the dinner table. It was a result of that particular recipe. No such pineapple or potatoes, but entirely the fault of no jutzpah! I’ve since invented a bad ass chili in which i cook all day over an open fire (beer and wine included in-recipe). But this post is not that– It’s 10 degrees outside. And i’m craving black beans, without meat, and it’s the post-holidays, and this new vegan diet is working swimmingly.

Simmer Together for Hours and Hours (until the greens break down. The greens add a mild sweetness plus healthy.) The herbs listed I use fresh if on hand, but wintertime leans toward dried herbs. I use loads of the herbs and powders. Overloads, actually.

Black Beans generously covered with Veg Stock (beef stock for non-vegetarians), Cabbage, Kale,Yellow Onion, 3 Bay Leaf, Thyme, Oregano, BasilParsley, Scallions, Black Pepper, Chili Powder (lots), Red Pepper Flakes (optional), Paprika, 6 Garlic Cloves plus Garlic Powder, 4-6 Tomatoes (or Large can of tomatoes or even pizza sauce), Ketchup, Vinegar, Worchestershire, Brown Sugar (I use agave syrup). Salt to taste. Top with scallions, cheese, sour cream if desired.

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