New Location

You can find all the old content and new stuff too at

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Beans and Pork

Not too much pork though. Just enough to lend delicious piggy flavor to the beans. Italians love beans and I am particularly enamored with many wonderful Italian bean recipes, such as this one from Fagioli, The Bean Cuisine of Italy by Judith Barrett. I've made a few minor modifications.

Beans and Pork
(serves 8)

2 cups dried navy beans or cannellini beans
6 oz. salt pork or pancetta, cut into 1" dice
4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red onion, finely chopped or 2 Tablespoons dried minced onion
10 sprigs Italian parsley, leaves only, chopped
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
black pepper

Soak beans (see Note). Drain and rinse under cold water. Combine beans, salt pork, and 12 cups of cold water in a soup pot. Heat over medium-high until it reaches a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook for about 1 hour until beans are tender. Reserve 6 cups of the cooking liquid and drain the beans. If using dried onion, add it to the reserved water.

In the same pot, heat olive oil. Sauté garlic, red onion (if using), and parsley for about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, a generous sprinkle of salt, black pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Add beans and reserved water. Once beans come to a boil, reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes. Check seasoning; add more salt and pepper if needed. Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid. This next part-mashing the beans-is optional, but it will result in creamier beans. Take 1 cup of beans and mash with a potato masher. Add back the rest of the beans and as much cooking liquid as you like. If you add just a little, the beans will have very little sauce. If you add more, the mashed beans will thicken it and make a lovely sauce. If you add a lot, you'll have soup! All are good choices.

Note: You have 2 ways to soak beans. You can soak the beans at least 4 hours or overnight - cover them with a few inches of cool water. Or if you want them in ¼ the time, use the fast soak method. Put the beans in a pot and cover them with a few inches of cool water. Bring to a boil, and boil rapidly for 3 minutes (2 minutes at sea level). Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 1-2 hours.

Adapted from Fagioli, The Bean Cuisine of Italy by Judith Barrett, Rodale, Inc., 2004.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Super Slow Mo Better Pork

My friend John (you can see news of his vineyard at Kiger Family Vineyard) is a very good cook (and baker and winemaker). He has introduced me to many great cooking techniques. He is definitely a technique person. The process is what it's about. He made a pork shoulder for us on our last ski trip together. Heaven! I had to replicate it at home while my pork-loving daughter was back from college.

This process is long but requires very little work on your part. It results in delicious unctuous pork. The flavorings here are mine. Herbes de Provence has nothing to do with this kind of slow cooked pork, as far as I know. Pork takes to many flavors and these are some of the many that makes a pork shoulder even better. Herbes de Provence is one of those blends that you buy, usually in those too-large crockery jars for one particular recipe and then wonder what you are going to do with all of it. Well, this is a worthy place to use it, trust me.

You can read more about why this technique works on this tough cut of pork at Serious Eats. I'm going to give you the condensed version.

Super Slow Mo Better Pork
(serves an army)

8 lbs bone-in pork shoulder (also known as pork butt), preferably with skin on

1 Tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence, crushed in your fingers
½ teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons herbes de Provence, crushed in your fingers
1 teaspoon kosher salt

The night before you will cook your pork shoulder, apply the rub. Combine the salt, herbes de Provence, and black pepper in a small bowl. Place the pork shoulder in a roasting pan. Sprinkle all sides with rub and rub it into the pork. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and park in the fridge until the next morning.

About 10 hours before you plan to eat the pork, heat your oven to 250 °F. Remove the plastic wrap, return pork to the pan, skin side up, and stick in the oven. Cook until internal temperature reaches 200 °F (this is where a probe thermometer comes in handy) and the meat falls apart easily when prodded with a fork.

Remove the skin from the top, remove any meat, scrape off the fat. You can add it back to the pan to mix with the pork but there's probably enough fat in the meat. There is no denying it tastes delicious! Set aside the skin. Using a couple of forks, rip apart the meat, which should fall to pieces easily and remove the bone.  Sprinkle the shredded meat with the seasonings.

Place the skin in a 500 °F oven for a couple of minutes to crisp it up. Chop and add back to the meat (or if you are evil, eat it all yourself).

Serve with most anything - rolls, potatoes, noodles. Cardboard. No, just kidding!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Persimmon Bread

I don't eat a lot of persimmons. But, sometimes it's fun to step away from the parade of wintertime citrus, too-long-in-storage apples, and grapes from warmer climes. For the persimmon novice, you need to know there are two varieties and they are very different. One, the Fuyu, can be eaten  while still slightly crunchy. They taste a bit like apples to me. You can also eat them when they are fully ripe. They will be sweeter and the texture will be slightly squishy.

Fuyu Persimmon, small and squat and can be eaten while still crunchy. Illustration from USDA
The other type of persimmon, the Hachiya, can only be eaten when fully ripe and very, very soft. Before this stage, the tannins in the fruit are overwhelming and you will get a serious pucker-face from trying to eat it. You must be quite patient to eat this; I found it took weeks for my persimmons to soften up. Persimmon season runs from October until mid-winter in the US, so we're right in the thick of it now. As a specialty fruit, they are expensive, but you can find them on sale throughout the winter.
Hachiya Persimmon, taller and can only be eaten when very soft. Illustration from USDA

Rather then eat them out of hand, I used them to make persimmon bread, like banana bread. They add a nice flavor and plenty of sweetness. They are very sweet when ripe so there isn't a lot of sugar in this quick bread. This is a great snack or tea bread.

Persimmon Bread
(serves 12)

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder (1 teaspoon at sea level)
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda (same at sea level)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2-3 Hachiya persimmons or 4-5 Fuyu, very ripe
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
¼ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted (see Note)

Adjust a rack to the middle of the oven . Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 8"x4"x2½" loaf pan. Set aside.

Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a medium bowl.

Cut each persimmon across the equator and gently scoop out the flesh: run the spoon under the skin to loosen the flesh, then spoon out the flesh away from the center part that is fibrous and contains the seeds. Place in a small bowl and mash the pulp with a fork. Measure out 1 cup of persimmon pulp. Any leftovers can be eaten with a spoon, frozen for another bread, or added to a smoothie.

Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, and beat to combine well. Add the persimmon pulp, sour cream, and almond extract. Beat to combine. With the mixer on slow speed, slowly add the dry mixture, scrapping down the sides so everything is combined. Add in the dried apricots and toasted almonds and mix to distribute evenly. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan, set on a rimmed cookie sheet (in case it overflows; it shouldn't), and bake for 1 hour - 1 hour 10 minutes. The bread is done when a skewer comes out without any wet batter.

Let cool on a rack for 20 minutes. Remove from loaf pan and cool to room temperature. The bread is hard to slice when warm so be patient!

Note: to toast almonds, place nuts on a sheet pan in a 300°F oven for 8 minutes. Set a timer - it's easy to burn nuts. I speak from experience.

Adapted from Nicole Routheir's Fruit Cookbook by Nicole Routhier, Workman Publishing, 1996.