Yankee Succotash


Yes, spring is here in Portland, but hanging-on cloudy days have me clamoring for earth tones.  I’ve always preferred muted earth tones and rich jewel tones, and even though I should be eating piles of sweet green pea tendrils and fennel bulbs, I don’t mind the bruise of burgundy from my cellar’s last beets.

My fat of choice these days is either butter or lard, depending; this succotash of corn, edamame, green peppers and beets called for warm bacon fat and a sprinkle of homemade Pinot Noir vinegar. Homemade vinegar (from the old French vinaigre, meaning “sour wine”) is as simple as leaving the cork off an old bottle and screening out the fruit flies. If I’m not crazy about something I’ve opened, I let it run its course and invite the aigre to the vin.

Here’s what to do: spoon some of the bacon fat from that big jar you keep by the stove into a hot cast iron skillet. Saute a bit of diced onion until glossy and fragrant. Toss in some diced peppers, cubed roasted beets, frozen corn and edamame. Favas would be nice, too, if you could stand to blanch and peel enough (I couldn’t). Add a pinch of salt and pepper, and a bit of fresh thyme. When everything’s warmed through and al dente, add another little blob of bacon fat and a few dribs of red wine vinegar (homemade or not) to dress it.

This melange of textures and varying levels of sweetness is, like its southern cousin, a perfect partner to a pork chop, say, or a warm wedge of buttered cornbread drizzled with wildflower honey. I ate mine with chicken andouille and a crispy grit cake topped with melted sharp cheddar.

Suffer-free succotash, perfect for any season.

Posted in Beans and Pulses, Downhome, Fast Food (not that kind), Light Supper, One Pot Wonders, Vegetables, Vegetarian-ish | 11 Comments

Mochi Milk Bread French Toast with Strawberry-Lemon Compote

I know I write a lot about breakfast. Can’t help it. It is, after all, the most important meal of the day, and Portland has such a cultish breakfast and brunch culture (and let’s face it; brunch is just breakfast with alcohol). It might just be that we are humble, foul-weather folk who will eat anything that tastes good with coffee. Best not to analyze it too closely, I guess.

Thing is, I hate waiting for breakfast. Absolutely hate it with a searing napalm passion. My favorite breakfast joints in town were discovered because of my impatience; I’ll gladly pay a little extra for the fact that we never have to wait for a table at Sub Rosa, and I love Denny’s-esque Tabor Hill Cafe just as much for the same reason (and despite their insistence on providing only depressingly peaked, generic hot sauce in lieu of Tabasco).

Or…

I can make breakfast at home. It’s so easy, that unless I’m feeling particularly lazy or like a princess, there’s not a lot of reason to leave the house for it. Especially when I had the foresight to buy a loaf of mochi milk bread from An Xuyen (located in my neighborhood, but they’re also a supplier to Uwajimaya). Mochi milk bread is basically the Vietnamese take on brioche, made with the addition of mochi flour for extra tenderness and sweetness.

I made a basic custard of egg and whole milk, added a bit of sugar, a couple scratches of nutmeg and a drop of homemade bourbon vanilla, then plunked in thick slices to sponge it up. I browned them on both sides and then put them in the oven to cook the custard through and let the sides get a bit toasty. Meanwhile, I made a quick compote by warming sliced strawberries with some of the Meyer lemon marmalade that I canned a couple months ago. Just like that, lickety-split, and you’re patting down your apron.

A sprinkle of powdered sugar is all you need to make this quick-fix breakfast look like something worth dropping an easy $10 on, yet you didn’t even have to get dressed. Add some slices of bacon or sausages on another small side plate for added effect. Oh, and add a mimosa (or two), why don’t you, and make it brunch.
Leaving the house is so overrated.
Posted in Brekkie, Classical and Eurotrashical, Comfy, Fruit, Puttin' Up, Vegetarian-ish, Viet-Thai | 7 Comments

Foodbuzz 24×24—Preparing An Epic D&D Feast


Nerds are not especially known for their good health. When thinking of the classic nerd archetypes, most of us easily picture an overweight, acne-ridden basement dweller or a gaunt, bespectacled rail in a black trench coat. And it’s no wonder—based on my research (and common convention), today’s nerd subsists primarily on a diet of highly processed convenience foods. Hot Pockets, Cup O’ Noodle, Mountain Dew − none of these are known to be nutritional power houses. How, then, can a nerd sustain the energy needed to vanquish a horde of kobolds? Introducing Nerd for Nerd: a line of healthy, homemade convenience-type foods that take all day to make, and only minutes to eat!

Okay, all joking aside, my husband and the four members of his Dungeons & Dragons game (4th Edition, for those keeping track) have been playing together for over a year and had approached the end of their game. Usually when they all come over to play a little D&D, I mock them by playing King Crimson records and laughing mercilessly at their attempts to RP at my kitchen table. But this time, I wanted to send these intrepid rogues and warlocks off in style, and decided to prepare for them a feast fit for a Level 43 Elder Xorn. I put on my robe and wizard hat, then cast Lvl. 6 Symbol of Persuasion to trick Foodbuzz into footing the bill. I rolled a twenty. Critical.

I asked around, and confirmed my hunch that the foods on which I used to love to gorge as an eleven year old nerdling (I played Legend of Zelda, and then Shadowgate during my brief goth days) are still canon. I created a celebratory feast of the utmost quality, based on the dorkfodder of yore:

***

Hot Pockets with homemade Italian pork sausage, buffalo mozzarella and organic, heirloom tomato sauce

Cup o’ Noodles: tonkotsu ramen with hazelnut-finished pork belly and soft-boiled egg, served in a paper cup

Homemade Doritos with extra sharp Wisconsin cheddar

Pop Tarts made from home-canned organic strawberry preserves

Cocktail: Mountain “Do” (homemade Meyer limoncello with lime-grapefruit syrup and soda)

***

My first run at the pizza pocket was not exactly right. The fillings were delicious, but something was a bit…off. Then it dawned on me: I had essentially made a tray of small stromboli, erroneously using a risen dough instead of pastry. The subsequent attempt was spot-on: flaky crust (using a basic pate brisee recipe) stuffed with a smear of home-canned heirloom tomatoes, a thick slice of buffalo mozzarella, and Italian sausage made from Tails & Trotters pork (this pork for which I wax poetic on a fairly regular basis is raised locally and finished on hazelnuts, and every part of it tastes amazing). In my 5lb mortar and pestle I crushed a few cloves of garlic, a couple teaspoons of fennel seed, a spoonful of peppercorn, a few fat pinches of kosher salt and a good spoonful of hot chile flake. I stirred this paste into the ground meat and whirred it together in the food processor to thoroughly combine (and to refine the texture of the ground pork). Then I browned the sausage, cast Lvl. 6 Bigby’s Forceful Rolling Pin (rolled a 12—success!) to roll out the dough and added the sausage to the pastries. I sprinkled on a little cheddar to achieve that lovely browned filagree, and they were perfect. The guys didn’t miss the processed cheese one bit. By the way, you could totally make a bunch of these and freeze them yourself to have a stash of healthier snacks for lazy times. I am thinking of making a bunch of the cheddar-broccoli ones for later.

The Cup O’ Noodles was the winner of the day. The day prior, I meditated to regain my mana before casting Lvl. 8 Broth of the Infinite (I rolled a 20—a critical hit!). I slow-simmered a pot of smoked pork neck bones from the German deli with the chine (backbone) off the whole loin I bought awhile back (I had carved the loin into Flinstonian chops, saving the extra fat for later lard and sausage-making, and the chine for stock-making). The chine was roasted until sufficient Maillard had been achieved, then tossed into the stock pot with the mirepoix and bouquet garnis. On game day, I reserved about half this stock for later use, but then slow-braised a pork belly (also T&T) in the stock, to which I added a 4″ piece of kombu, a few pinches of bonito flakes, a few big spoonfuls of red miso, a splash of sake, mirin and shoyu. I tossed in a couple of corn cobs from the freezer to add a bit of sweetness to the broth. When the pork belly was tender (about three hours later), I pulled it out (removing the cobs and kombu as well) and skimmed off as much of the fat as I could from the broth.

I filled each cup with cooked kansui noodles (the thin, yellowish noodles typically used in ramen), then filled each cup with the tonkotsu-miso broth and topped them with a 2″ cube of pork belly, a half a boiled egg (cooked medium-soft) and a strip of nori. I sprinkled a bit of togarashi on mine for extra spice. This broth was so richly savory (kombu is full of glutamic acid—a natural source of umami), unctuous and full of nutritious probiotics that I gave a sippy cup of it to Zephyr and he couldn’t have been happier. I reserved and froze all the remaining broth for future soups and sauces.

I really wanted to make homemade Cheetos, and I even made the dough and fried a few. I cast Lvl. 3 Interposing Cheesesnack (rolled a 4—failure!) but they turned out kind of terrible and not even close to the right puffy-crunchy texture. They more closely resembled stale, fried cornbread crumbs. So I made the executive decision to substitute a Dorito-esque cheese-flavored tortilla chip. It was confirmed by an expert witness (my husband) that these are more or less interchangeable foods. So I fried some corn tortillas cut into triangles (I didn’t make these from scratch—I was feeling too defeated by masa doughs at this point) and then tossed them in the cheese powder. The cheese powder was made by combining extra sharp cheddar (melted with a tiny bit of water to make a runny sauce) with tapioca powder and then dehydrating the paste in a slow oven (170° for an hour). This resultant crumble was whizzed up in a coffee grinder to an even powder, and then seasoned with achiote (ground annato seed) and sweet paprika for color, plus a little nutritional yeast and onion powder for added flavor. It tasted pretty close, and left orange goo on the fingers, just like the original, though I had a bit of trouble getting the cheese to evenly coat the chips.

The homemade Pop Tarts were claimed to be the most like the original (this was considered a compliment). I didn’t want the pastry to get soggy, so I cooked down about a cup of homemade strawberry preserves with an extra spoonful of sugar and a few drops of jasmine essence until it had thickened to the consistency of Marmite. I cut out rectangles of pie dough (the same pate brisee as used for the pizza pockets) and brushed them with a little beaten egg, then smeared one side with the jam. Then I placed the partner rectangles on top, cast Lvl. 6 Pastry’s Lucubration (rolled a 12—success, barely!) and sealed the edges with a fork. I brushed each pastry with icing made of powdered sugar with a little water and vanilla, then poked holes to vent and baked them until they were golden (350º for about 15 minutes). These, too, could be prepared in droves and frozen for later use. Just reheat them in the toaster until warmed through.

My attempt at Mountain Dew was eerily close, even without the addition of such delicious ingredients as brominated vegetable oil and ester of wood rosin. I made a simple syrup of lime and grapefruit peels. I added spinach powder while it was simmering to achieve a more intense green color, cast Lvl. 5 Transmute Plant to Softdrink (rolled a 9—failure!) but it was unfortunately mostly removed during the final filtration. I mixed this with club soda and my homemade Meyer limoncello to achieve that refreshing, nondescript citrusy taste for which Mountain Dew is known. The Dew, my friends, is Done.

The whole affair was like nerd Thanksgiving. After it was all over, I meditated to regain my mana, but rolled a zero. I spent two days toiling over all of these simple treats just to watch them devoured in minutes, and in my exhaustion and barely-reclaimed kitchen I’d have to admit that I’m not sure I’d do it all again. I will say, however, that each item alone feels like a surmountable feat. Even though I have no problem eating any of the crap in its original, preservative-laden form, I do care about what my little boy eats. And when he’s a little nerdling rolling his very own twelve-sided die, I will be that mom embarrassing him with homemade versions of all his favorite junk foods.

Posted in Comfy, Epic Undertakings, Japanese, Pork, Potent Potables, Small Bites | 11 Comments

Cauliflower-Cheese Pie with Potato Crust


I usually don’t cook from cookbooks, but occasionally one finds oneself with a surfeit of some wintry CSA crucifer like cauliflower, and after gazing at your kitchen shelf, still shockingly covered in dusty quart jars of pickles, decide maybe you’ll try cooking the damn thing for once instead of just stuffing it into a jar of herbed vinegar or curry-brine as a saving throw.

This recipe is from the Moosewood Cookbook. Some readers may be surprised to know that I own this book, or that I was a strict vegetarian for ten years; ten long, thin years. I hadn’t cracked this book in ages, but it was there, full of ideas when I needed it. Unsurprisingly, most of the recipes suggest rendering dinner palatable with the addition of copious amounts of eggs, cheese and garlic. Pretty much any vegetable you have languishing in your fridge can be put into a pie with eggs and cheese and it will be delicious.

In the past few years, though, I have discovered another ingredient that makes any vegetable delicious: bacon. I know, I know. “Bacon has totally jumped the shark,” I say all the time. And it has, on shit like pancakes and ice cream. But before bacon was the sun dried tomatoes of pork products, it was the way my mother and grandmother prepared most vegetables—bacon (or a ham bone, or just some bacon fat) makes everything taste better. Why should a humble cauliflower pie be any exception?


This is a great recipe, though, diced pancetta or no. It’s basically a Spanish tortilla baked in a hashbrown shell. I added a little smoked paprika as a nod. If you do decide to add the pancetta, simply render the dice (I go 1/4″) until a bit crispy and then cook the onions in the lard. Otherwise, just be a boring hippie and use olive oil. It’s still great.

Posted in Vegetables, Vegetarian-ish | 14 Comments

Ukrainian Borscht with Pancetta and Juniper


Many foods are evocative of one’s place of peasant origin, of one’s mother-tongue. When done properly, the mere smell of these foods has the power to bring a grown man to his blubbering knees, felled by memories of hiding shy behind grandma’s apron. Borscht is one such soulful food, instantly wending one to rugged Slavic hinterlands, all ruddy-cheeked and windswept. There are innumerable varieties depending on its maker’s region or family, but mine is really a variation on the standard: beets and cabbage in beef broth with potato, white beans (cannellini in this case) and, specific to the Ukraine, contains fatback (or lard) “pounded with garlic.” I’ve yet to surmise what exactly this means, so I used diced pancetta and bacon fat just to cover all of my bases (my homemade lardo is still curing, else I’d have used it instead). So my recipe is a derivation of the canon recipe, but a little fancier.

While I was headed down this dandy path, I also opted to add diced black trumpet mushrooms left over from last week. Russians love wild mushrooms even more than North American hippies, so this wasn’t terribly out of left field. And in the same neck of the woods, a little crushed juniper berry and caraway seed hearkened me to my own Volga German roots — a nod to the notion that my ancestors could have had their say about this carmine stew and inflected it with hints of the Vaterland, had they not so segregated themselves from Russian influences.


Many recipes I’ve seen call for everything to be boiled separately and then combined toward the end, but this is an inane waste of resources and dish-washing, and doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. Rather, I cut my beets into 1/8″ brunoise to expose maximum surface area (without having to shred them, which I feel subverts their wonderfully dense, rooty texture) and rinsed twice before adding to the simmering beef stock (homemade, of course; with sautéd mirepoi, bay and minced red bell pepper). This removed some of the betacyanins (though obviously, the soup remains the telltale maroon). I did cook the beans separately to avoid toughening them in the salt and acidity of the seasoned, tomato-enriched broth (pressure cooking unsoaked beans for 35 minutes was accomplished while things simmered).

Besides, simmering everything together allows every earth-note to root and meld, and imparts a one-pot simplicity to the soup that is much better aligned with the way your beloved old Baba would’ve done it, if you had one. Eating this with smetana, dill and freshly baked sourdough bread took me back to a special place that doesn’t even really exist — a fabricated memory— though I nonetheless imagined shedding a nostalgic tear and drinking icy vodka to my health.

For a complete recipe and the story of how I came to first learn about borscht at the age of 11, please read my piece Red Threat at The Farmer General.

Posted in Beans and Pulses, Classical and Eurotrashical, One Pot Wonders, Soup, Vegetables | 7 Comments

Penne with Asian mushrooms, bok choy and Gorgonzola cream

Umami is a many-splendored thing. I love just piling it on in my dishes, and I am even known to add a scant whisper (or sometimes more of a prattle) of MSG to my dishes. Oh, lower those eyebrows, you. MSG is harmless. I see you raising your fist and getting all fired up about this, but shut it down for a minute and let this simmer:

If MSG is so bad for our neurology, why are Asians so much better than us at math?

Yes. “Touche.

Harp all you want, MSG makes food taste really good. But sometimes, lilies need no gilding. This dish is packed with four different natural sources of umami: bunashimeji (beech) and black trumpet mushrooms , bok choy, Gorgonzola cheese and walnuts. It is a veritable umami party, and everyone’s invited. Well, actually, I only made enough for my family. Sorry about that.

Craterellus cornucopioides

This sinister-looking relative of chanterelles, the black trumpet mushroom, is wonderfully earthy and spodic, tasting of sweet duff and chipmunk-industry. The comparatively placid bunashimeji, or beech mushrooms, take aggressive heat wonderfully; it just nudges them in a nuttier, chewier direction.

Hypsizygus tessellatus

This is how we do it:

How’s about you get some butter and olive oil sizzling away, and you add a minced shallot? Heck, add a couple mashed garlic cloves, too, while you’re at it. Stir them around a bit, and should they start to get browned on this medium-high heat, add those mushrooms. (Trim off the woody, dirty bit of the stems. Slice the black trumpets into a fungal chiffonade of sorts; the bunamshimeji can stay whole since they are teeny-tiny.) They will release some of the 90% of the water of which their bodies are composed, and this will deglaze the sticky shallot and garlic quite nicely. Add some cleaned and quarted baby bok choys – three should be just about right. Now why don’t you add about a cup of half and half (to which you’ve stirred a few tablespoons of flour), and let that thicken and gelatinize into a creamy bechamel? Shoot, you could even use just whole milk if you’re being particular. Then when it’s bubbly and good, add a good hunk of Gorgonzola or blue cheese, just all crumbled up. Taste and add the proper amount of salt and pepper. Then toss in some chopped parsley, and cooked penne (or other bite-sized pasta, I suppose) and ooh, mommy.

Top with chopped toasted walnuts and serve with a brambly Côtes du Rhône.

Posted in Fast Food (not that kind), Light Supper, Pasta, Vegetables, Vegetarian-ish | 10 Comments

Biscuits and Andouille Gravy-Poached Eggs

Once upon a childless time, the ache in my back and shoulders was reserved for weekend chores, for accomplishment. It was earned by moving 10 cubic yards of compost and manure, shovelful by endless shovelful. This ache is now ever-present, and I gaze out my windows longing to muster the vim to tame my patch of weeds and squirrel-scratched holes back into some semblance of a garden. In lieu of labor, I fill my morning with lamentation. I give myself a pep talk over a handful of ibuprofen and settle for making breakfast; something is better than nothing.


This is a stack of buttermilk biscuits, baked this instant. It is hot Cajun sausages, sliced and browned with onions and poblano peppers, thickened with a golden roux of flour and the fat of the andouille, stretched with homemade chicken stock. It is eggs poached gently in that gravy, ladling warm velvet over the top, over and over, like bathing a baby with a teacup.

Eggs poached in gravy.

This breakfast is the reason we have ribs. It’s for those hale souls who have earned their sore muscles, who have worked up their appetites moving earth and felling timber and tending crops. Breakfast like this, though, is also an accomplishment of its own, and there’s been earning in the doing. I settle back into my window-gazing with a sense of having done something good enough.

Posted in Baking, Brekkie, Downhome, Eggs | 5 Comments

Pork cheek confit with caramelized turnip and apples

Spring has indeed sprung, yet I always find myself at this time of year with a certain yen for autumnal things. Pomes and root vegetables; meats cooked to shredded perfection, their connective stuff all pulverized (by time, or pressure) to gelatin. These are good things, and I am always a little reluctant to put them away in favor of all that asparagus and risotto and springtime fervor. Some of my best gratins are off-season Johnny-come-latelies.

But spring is here to stay, and that means cleaning time. Time to throw open the windows for a flush of warm fecundity, for our sweet ladies daphne and hyacinth to chase the cobwebs and winter’s stale rancor. Time to open our cellars and bid farewell to our hangers-on, and this is our adieu.

So how about this:

Take about a pound of pork cheek medallions (pat dry) and rub them with salt, pepper and about 1/4 tsp crushed caraway seed. Leave this in the fridge for awhile – at least 30 minutes, overnight would be better. Here’s where there’s room for divergence: you can opt to confit this the old-fashioned way in the oven for like three hours at 300. Or, you can do like I did, and use your beloved pressure cooker.

Sear the cheeks in a little duck fat with a sliced shallot, a sprig of thyme and two smashed garlic cloves. When things have browned up a bit, pour in enough melted duck fat to cover the meat (be sure and save a dribble of the duck fat for roasting your turnips and apples). Close the lid on the pressure cooker and set it for 30 minutes on High Pressure (this is around 10-12 psi).

Meanwhile, toss one diced Lady Alice (or other sweet-tart/earthy, firm apple variety) and two diced turnips or rutabegas in enough duck fat to coat. Add a blithe sprinkle of salt and pepper, and roast at around 400 until the the edges are browned and roasty (around 20 minutes or so). And since you’ve gotten so good at multitasking, in this meanwhile, you should be cooking spaetzle. YES, ALRIGHT, I USE STORE-BOUGHT SPAETZLE BECAUSE I AM A BAD GERMAN. Heat up a pretty big pan over medium heat and toast a teaspoon of caraway seed. When it’s aromatic, add a good knob of butter and then brown the cooked spaetzle.

When the pork cheeks are ready, scoop them and the cooked garlic and shallots out with a slotted spoon and add them to the pan of browning spaetzle. Use a fork to lightly shred the pork into hunks (though it will be so tender that you will really only need to suggest this to the pork), and stir it around a bit so the pork can crisp up a little on the edges. Then go ahead and add the roasted apples and turnips and give everything a good toss. Check and adjust seasoning as needed.

Serve with a sprinkle of minced parsley and homemade apfel-rotkohl (I canned a bunch of red cabbage last summer with apples, red onion, juniper berries and star anise). I paired this with New Belgium Abbey. New Belgium recommends serving that beer with desserts, but this tasted so perfect together that they might need to rethink that. The Trippel is also really good with this dish, but I just prefer malt over hops (yes, I am a huge girl about my beer).

Disclaimer:

I know I talk a lot of shit about blogging for “the wrong reasons,” but once in awhile I have to put my money where my mouth is. Which is usually around an adult beverage of some sorts. Foodbuzz recently partnered with New Belgium Brewing Company — makers of some of my favorite domestic beers — so I opted in. And I got a stipend for free beer. A bunch of tasty Trippel and Abbey, all for my tummy. The catch was that I had to blog something about it (though technically I suppose I could’ve just drank all the beer and posted about pretzels). Making good on my end of the deal wasn’t really my impetus, though. I already wanted to make this from some of the five pounds of pork cheek I have recently come into (one of the downsides to buying meat from wholesalers is that they usually make you buy a case of something), but it’d been too crappy out to start trying out the smoker.

Posted in Classical and Eurotrashical, Fruit, Germanic, Shilling, Under Pressure, Vegetables | 10 Comments

Nettle-Mushroom Pie with Pine Nuts

All this cold rain has the nettles taking their sweet time, but in my spot, they’re up a little. They’re up enough, anyway, about three nodes or so, and I snip off the top two and slip them in my bag. Zephyr whines from his stroller, bored, and I’m a little afraid he’ll blow my cover so I hurry. I pick a bag of venomous verdancy and shuffle homeward down the muddy trail.

I stop to admire a trillium in bloom. Zephyr is not amused with this distraction (or my chipper insistence that it’s a dainty harbinger of spring), and hollers his protest. He throws his snack cup down the ravine, and I clamber down after it, less because I care about the cup, and more because I don’t want to leave any evidence that I’ve been there, stealing nettles.

A lot of trouble for a plant that’d sooner inject me with histamine and bitter malice than grant me any kind word, let alone a free meal. But persistence in urban foraging has its perks.

Case in point? This pie.

This easy pie (made even easier by laziness, by ready-made pastry dough, all rolled out) is worth picking nettles. It’s worth going gloveless, even. It’s worth the mud and the hurry, and it’s worth a climb down a slick ravine to a babbling creek bed to fetch a trifling object cast angrily aside by an impatient Zephyr.

And I’ll tell you what:

Fill a clean sink with cold water and swish your hard-gotten nettles around in there with tongs to get them as clean as you can muster. If you’re very fussy, you can do this a few times, but I think it’s fine after the first rinse. Blanch these clean nettles (oh, about a pound or so) in a pot of boiling water just until they flash bright green – like 10 seconds or thereabouts. Drain and shock in cold water to keep that virid flush. Drain again, spin in your salad-spinning device if you have one, and squeeze out the water that remains. If there a lot of big stems, you can pick the leaves off, otherwise just chop these puppies up finely.

In your food processor (or the like), combine a 1-pound tub of cottage cheese (I prefer the whole milk kind, but you could easily cut some corners here with a lower fat version), about a teaspoon of lemon zest (I used Meyer), about 10 or so scratches of fresh nutmeg, a little handful of grated Parm and some salt and pepper (I’ve been preserving lemons and used some of the lemony salt). Crack in an egg, and crumble the last half of your chunk of feta. Whiz this until it’s smooth and silky.

In a medium pan, heat up some butter and a little olive oil (or bacon fat, I implore you). Saute about a cup of chopped onion, a few cloves of smashed garlic and a handful of sliced mushrooms. When it starts to get translucent and aromatic, add a few pinches of dill and thyme. Turn off the heat, stir in the chopped nettles and stir in the cottage cheese “ricotta.” Pour this into your pie shell and top with a sprinkle of pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. Bake at 375° for about 45 minutes or until everything is set up.

Let it cool off for about 10 minutes (be strong!) while you fix a nice salad to go with. Pour a glass of fizzy Pinot Grigio, then pour another one to go with dinner.

Oh my goodness, is this ever a Thing. Best nettles ever.

Note: For more information on identifying and foraging nettles, check out this post I wrote for Culinate.

Posted in Baking, Hunted / Gathered, Light Supper, Vegetables, Vegetarian-ish | 15 Comments

Corned Beef Reuben

A day late and a dollar short, as always.

I decided to try my hand at corning so I could participate in Charcutepalooza this month, but I forgot that I was supposed to post this on the 15th. Oops. It’s cool, though, I didn’t really want to be one more plate of corned beef at Saint Paddy’s day, and I let my creativity and Teutonic roots take me in a different direction.

The neat thing about corning (long-brining meat for 60 hours or more) is that it isn’t for brisket alone. Besides, I didn’t have any brisket – for some reason, whenever I go in on half-beeve splits of grass-fed beef, I never get any brisket. I did, however, get a nice, cylindrical rump roast that I figured would cure well. After all, it is just another cut from a leg; it’s just from the back instead of the front.

I prepared my generic brine by combining kosher salt, pink salt (nitrates are how curing happens), brown sugar and water. I wanted to have a slightly aqvavit flavor so I added caraway seed, a couple clove buds and juniper and allspice berries to the usual peppercorns and crushed bay. Then I got a wild hair up my ass and added grains of paradise to the mix for a little zing. I massaged a little crushed garlic into my roast and then immersed it in its bath. Saint Paddy’s Day came and went, and on the 5th day I pulled the little beaut out and rinsed it off.

Here’s when things went south.

I pressure-cooked it with an onion and some celery. I fully intended for this to be a nice Sunday roast dinner with new potatoes, carrots and peas and all that, but when I sliced up the roast – so succulent! so rosy! – it tasted exactly like hot dogs. I mean exactly.

I slightly panicked. What the hell was I going to do with a 3 pound log of hot dog? “Nitraaaates!” I cursed, shaking my fist. I contemplated dipping the whole thing in cornmeal batter and dropping it into a fryer. Instead, I made my potatoes, carrots and peas, and I dribbled a rich beef jous over everything. It was salty, but edible. The next day, I calmed down and came to my senses.

Of course. A Reuben. Forehead slap.

I picked up a nice loaf of rye and some sliced Swiss. I had everything else already in my coffers. I whipped together some thousand island dressing by mixing some mayo, some of smoky-sweet roasted tomato ketchup that I canned last summer, a few spoonfuls of homemade green tomato relish and chopped dill pickle (also homemade) with a little blob of gochujang for heat. I cobbled together a sauerkraut of sorts by chopping together some chowchow, a wad of pickled cabbage and some pickled Walla Walla sweet onions. My tireless food preservation efforts had once again come to my rescue, and I gave myself a smug pat on the back.

I assembled the sandwich and carefully toasted it on my lovely cast iron flat-top. A nice German beer, some good pickles (currently taking up residence in my fridge: baby beets, dilly beans and hot Kosher dills) and the day was saved.

It really was.

Posted in Beef, Classical and Eurotrashical, Epic Undertakings, Germanic, Puttin' Up, Sammiches, Under Pressure | 13 Comments