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Friday, March 23, 2012

Dinner for two--girls!

I suggested Jordan, Christian and Jacob have supper with me tonight, fully intending to fix King Ranch Chicken, for which I've had a taste for a while. But Christian had a meeting, and Jordan requested, as she always does, salmon and salad. So that was our menu. But the day was so gorgeous that we lingered on the porch talking about this, that and the other--pet peeves and favorite joys--until nearly six o'clock. Jacob played with the dogs in the back but finally came to join us.
Usually for our salmon dinners, I griill on my George Foreman grill, which I love. But last time I got the fish too done--dry and not particularly tender or tasty. Tonight I poached the piece of salmon in a mixture of half water,  half white wine with onions, parsley, and dill (darn! no fresh, so I used dried). Trick is to poach the salmon, covered, at a simmer for no more than five minutes. I like mine barely cooked, but Miss Jordan requires a little more heat. The result though was moist, delicious fish that needed no sauce, not even lemon.
As a surprise I bought one of Jordan's favorites--an artichoke. I brought it to a boil and simmered forever--at one point, Jordan said, "It's been cooking over an hour. Are you sure it's okay?"I had looked, and it still had water around it, so yes, it was okay. I steam artichokes in water with a bit of olive oil, a bay leaf or two, and a cut up garlic clove. When I finally took this off the heat, the inner leaves and heart were tender and good, but the outer not really cooked enough. Jacob liked the first two or three leaves and then declared he didn't like artichoke at all. Didn't like salmon either, of which he said, "I tasted it with my tongue, and I didn't like it." He liked the lemon though and doused it liberally on his cottage cheese and corn. Everyone to their own taste.
Jordan is going to boot camp and really watching her diet, so I decided against hollandaise for the artichoke and looked up alternate sauces on the web. Most had mayo, which if low-fat would be better than hollandaise, but I tried one that mixed olive oil, white wine, and lemon--suit yourself on the proportions, so I used equal. Add a good bit of coarse ground pepper. Jordan tried it and reported it was missing something. "Yeah,"I muttered, "egg and butter." It was okay, probably too heavy on the olive oil, and we enjoyed it but we'll opt for hollandaise next time.
Jordan fixed her classic blue cheese salad dressing, which I've probably recounted here before: rub an unfinished wooden salad bowl with a split garlic clove. Rub in salt, pepper and dry mustard. Mash blue cheese in the bottom with a fork, then add old-fashioned cider vinegar and stir to make a paste. Add olive oil to taste. It is the world's best dressing. As Megan said once, "This dressing rocks!"
It was a lovely meal, and much as I missed Christian and the King Ranch Chicken, I was grateful we ate things he doesn't like and we shared confidences we wouldn't have if he were here. Time alone with one adult child is a precious experience. Thanks, Jordan.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Lonely Lamb Shank

I've been intrigued by lamb shanks for quite a while. Tried one once in a Lebanese restaurant and thought it greasy. But restaurants charge a high price for them, and I have friends who love them. So I decided to experiment--bought one shank. Looked at a lot of recipes, some of them very complicated, and settled on a crock pot version with wine and beef broth. It called for onions and carrots, which I added,but no herbs--I snuck in some thyme and rosemary. Put it all together in my crock pot. It sure looked strange, like a rock outcropping protruding from a shallow sea--perhaps if I'd had the recommended four shanks, the liquid would have covered them, but not my lonely shank. I cooked it much of the day Saturday and couldn't tell that it was getting any more tender, though it smelled delicious. Finally about suppertime, I cut the meat off the bone, chunked it and submerged it in the liquid. Now I had sort of a lamb stew in a red-wine sauce. Let it cook quite a bit more and refrigerated. Yesterday I skimmed the fat off the top, but I didn't fix it for dinner--lazy, just didn't feel like it.
Tonight I told myself it was time to eat that lamb shank, so I mashed a couple medium red potatoes, heated up a bit of leftover broccoli--got to have those greens--and tried to boil the wine sauce down so that it would thicken. After a bit I figured if I boiled it long enough to thicken I would hardly have any left for my dinner. So I chunked up a reasonable portion of the meat, poured drippings over meat and potatoes, and added the broccoli. Really good, though I got one piece of fat I thought I'd trimmed off. I liked the flavor, but it's a heavier dinner than I usually eat. And I have enough lamb left over for at least three meals. Wondering if, cold, it would make good sandwiches--I love a cold lamb sandwich with mayonnaise, but the lamb has always been from a roasted leg. I'm afraid, ultimately, my lamb-shank adventure will be a failure--unless Christian wants it for lunch one day. I hereby give him permission to fish out the cooked carrots, which he despises and I love.
In a way the lamb is part of my damned if you do and damned if you don't dilemma these days. Just when there's a new study that warns even more seriously about the negative health effects of eating too much red meat, my doctor tells me, "Try to eat more red meat. You're a bit anemic." My stomach simply won't handle iron pills, so I've been trying to eat red meat but chicken and fish, especially tuna, are always my first choices. I do like meatloaf and seared ground sirloin patties--maybe I should stick to those and not try to be fancy.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Boiled pork?Oh, come on now! With black beans

Yep, that's what I served for dinner tonight. Boiled pork. Years ago a friend introduced me to this--he just sort of did it and roughed out how, but later I found a recipe. You take 2 lbs. pork butt, cubed, and cover with 2 cups water and 1 Tbsp. salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer about an hour and a half until the water is all gone. Then stir the meat in the juices left in the pan until it browns--couldn't be easier. The cubes will turn brown and crispy on the outside and stay tender inside. While it's cooking, mix 2 or 3 good-sized garlic cloves, crushed, into 1/2 c. lime juice and refrigerate. Serve with pork. A half cup was too much--1/3 cup would be plenty. I served this to my gluten- and dairy-free friends Elizabeth and Weldon along with black beans. Found a recipe that called for cooking them from scratch with onion, bell pepper (I detest it and left it out), cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. I cheated and simmered canned beans in that mixture--I have never yet cooked black beans from scratch that were tender, though Weldon tells me the trick is to stir frequently, and each time you stir mash some of the beans against the side of the pot so they incorporate into the liquid.
Anyway, with these beans, after they simmered I drained them, added white wine, white vinegar and a bit of olive oil. Delicious. Elizabeth brought a salad and that was more than enough for supper. They went away with two recipes, and I'll cook that meal again. As a matter of fact, I thought the butcher overserved me--I asked for a pound-and-a-half to two pounds of pork and get two and three-quarters, so I froze one and a quarter. We ate every morsel of the pound and a half I cooked.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A chili (but not chilly) day

My attention wa focused on chili today--writing about it, keying in recipes, and cooking a pot. I'm having fun finding odd and different chili recipes. Tonight I made one that could be vegetarian if you used a ground meat substitute. I used lean ground beef. Of course I fiddled with the recipe. Originally tried it because I wanted to try the chocolate/cinnamon additions, but the recipe called for orange juice, and I thought that would be too fruity. I almost always make chili with beer, and I substituted that for the juice. I also added half a large onion. It was really good chli but we couldn't taste the chocolate and cinnamon, no doubt because of my fiddling with the recipe. I made it a bit too tame--would use more ancho chile powder next time. Another change I made was to saute the chili spices with the garlic, before adding the tomatoes. I think that gives the flavor a richness.
Next batch of chili I make will be white with chicken or turkey and white beans. I have several recipes. Not sure which one to try. Got to work my way through a lot of chili for this book.

Chili con Carne (ish) (this is the original version, for those who want to try it)

1-1/2 lbs. ground beef, browned and drained, or equivalent vegetarian substitute, such as Morningstar Farm Grillers Crumbles.
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 heaping Tbsp. garlic
1 28 oz. can tomato puree
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
3 15 oz. cans beans--pinto, black, kidney or a mix
1/4 c. fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
3 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. ancho chile powder
Garnish: shredded  cheddar, sour cream, diced onons, whatever you want

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. add garlic and saute one minute, until fragrant but not browned. Add tomatoes, puree, beans, juisce, spices and seasonings and browned meat or meat substitute. Simmer uncovered 15 minutes, then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer one hour. Be sure to stir frequently so that it doesn't stick.
Original recipe by Wendy Lyn Watson, Mystery Lovers Kitchen, January 12, 2012.