Saturday, April 18, 2009

The vegetarian side of things

I know it seems like it's all meat all the time around here. It's not.

I get these fabulous whole chickens and ducks or a pound of ground pork or goat steaks or other meat once a week from our half share in a meat CSA, but that's pretty much it. With the exception of a bit of salami or bacon.

We choose to go for the high-quality meat—and happily pay extra for it—and eat less of it overall. Cheaper, healthier, faster.

But the meat gets a lot of play on the blog. It just seems more exciting. These are the meals I have to plan for, look up recipes for. The bean/tofu/veggie stuff? Easy. Comfortable. Delicious.


Can anyone benefit from knowing that we ate cheese and crackers for dinner the other night? On the patio, without plates?

Even a salad seemed too labor intensive. I brought out the salad spinner and a bowl of olive oil, vinegar, and salt and we dipped our token greens. (This is actually a fantastic way to get a two year old to eat salad. Try it. You can thank me later.)

And a lot of our meals are based on a giant pot of beans. Mary Beth of Salt and Chocolate found making a pot of beans and mess of grain each weekend too labor intensive. I agree, if you're doing this for lunches only. Around here, work lunches are leftovers or peanut butter sandwiches. Period.

But I make this pot of beans for three meals and subsequent lunches. Streamlined indeed.

A chickpea week could look like this.
Sunday night: Dump a lot of beans in Crockpot with water to cover generously. Soak.

Monday morning: Drain beans. Rinse. Put back in Crockpot with bay leaf, dried red chile pepper, smashed garlic clove, a halved onion, plenty salt and pepper. (The picture above shows sliced onion. That's just because we had leftover sliced onion from making pizza the night before.) Turn on low and cook until someone gets home.

Monday night: Salad and bread dinner with lettuce and whatever CSA vegetables/cheese/nuts are in the fridge. This week was blue cheese, radishes, onion scapes, and edible flower mix. Past combos have included black beans, avocados, and Swiss cheese or white beans, marinated artichokes, boiled potatoes, canned tuna, and onion.

Tuesday lunch: Another salad with leftovers from Monday dinner. Olive oil and vinegar dressing carried separately in a small Mason jar to avoid sog.

Tuesday night: My fast, off-the-cuff pasta with chickpeas and greens.

Wednesday lunch: Leftover pasta.

Thursday night: Channa masala (chickpeas warmed again with onion, water, and a spice powder I get from our farmer's market). Bottled chutney and Trader Joe's naan. Raita made with yogurt, cucumber, salt, pepper, and a bit of crushed garlic.
If there are any beans left, they go into the freezer in plastic freezer bags. I don't overfill the bags, just put in enough beans for one meal and some cooking liquid. I tip the bags over slowly while still open to release any air and seal the zip locks when the bags are flat on the counter and empty of air. Then I put the bags on cookie sheets in the freezer to make flat, easy-to-stack rectangles. Does this make any sense? I don't have a photo, but it's such a great way to store liquids in the freezer...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sausage carbonara

Homemade sausage from CSA ground pork. Braising greens. A dozen eggs fresh from the neighbors' hens. An insatiable craving for pasta. A drizzly spring evening. Perfect.

Sausage Carbonara

1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1 half large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 bay leaf
dried red pepper flakes to taste
1/2 pound Italian sausage
1 bundle mustard greens, sliced into ribbons (or braising mix or chard or any dark green leafy)
1/2 c. white wine
4 eggs, lightly beaten
a couple sprigs Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 c. grated Parmesean
1 pound pasta (we used farfalle)

Throw butter, olive oil, onion, garlic, bay leaves, and red pepper into large saute pan over medium-low heat. Cook until onion has softened, about 10 minutes.

Raise heat to medium and add sausage. Cook until no longer pink, breaking into pieces.

Add greens and cook until wilted.

Add wine and simmer until thickened a bit, about 15 minutes.

While the sauce thickens, stir eggs, cheese, and parsley together in a bowl with a bit of salt and pepper. Put pasta on to boil.

When pasta is done, drain and add to saute pan with onion mixture. Remove from heat and quickly add eggs, stirring to coat pasta with a creamy sauce. If it looks too raw, pop back over the flame for a second, but don't dry your meal out. Then you'll have scrambled eggs with pasta--ick!

Serve right away with more cheese on top.

Note: For this meal, I sauteed our mustard greens separately in a little olive oil and salt and used them to top the grownups' pasta. The bitter taste contrasts amazingly with the creamy carbonara, if you like that kind of thing. The two-year-old doesn't. She got to try a bit of bitter greens, but ate her pasta without them. Spinach, chard, or a braising mix is more kid-friendly.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mustard pork chops

This kind of creamy, saucy meal seems like it belongs to late fall.

But a quickly fried pork chop in a rich pan sauce is perfect at the end of a cold spring day spent flying kites and picnicking in the thin sunshine.

Especially accompanied by a salad of thinly sliced fennel and tender greens dressed in olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

I used a recipe from Nigella Lawson's Nigella Express. It's a book I love to read but don't cook from that often. Although the recipes are fabulously quick, they are expensive to make--calling for things like garlic-infused oil and mixed bean salad and red current jelly and boneless cuts of meat.

This stuff always requires a special trip to the store.

But this recipe is totally worth the purchase of a bottle of hard cider.

It calls for whole-grain mustard. We only had a German yellow. Nigella says to bash boneless chops thinner. We used thick bone-in chops. It was still awesome.

Mustard Pork Chops (adapted from Nigella Lawson)

3 pork chops
2 teaspoons garlic oil
1/2 cup hard apple cider
1 T. Dijon, whole-grain, German, or other mustard (not American yellow)
1/3 cup heavy cream

Dry chops. Sprinkle on both sides with salt and pepper. Set your dinner plates on the stove to warm up next to you while you cook.

Heat oil in saute pan over medium high heat. Cook the pork chops until just done through, flipping once, about 6-7 minutes a side for thickish chops. Put on plate to rest.

Pour cider in pan and stir over heat, scraping up browned bits for a minute or two. Stir in mustard and cream. Add any juices that have leaked from your chops onto the plate.

Cook sauce a few minutes to thicken slightly. Plate chops and pour sauce over.

Serve with gnocchi or rice or something starchy to sop up sauce.