Liquid Gold

It’s March 1st and winter still has us in her clutches, with no sign of letting go anytime soon.  I tell myself “no problem” and head into our basement to see what vegetables are still holding up.  I find both white and orange sweet potatoes and carrots still in good condition.  I dig around the freezer and find a quart of homemade chicken stock.  I grab some onions and garlic and head back upstairs.

Whenever I want to make soup using root vegetables, I find I like to roast them first.  It always gives the soup much more depth, not to mention those warming smells in the kitchen.  As I’ve mentioned both in my previous blog Basics With A Twist, and this one, I always lean toward the savory,  I enjoy herbs and spices and love what they do to food.  It’s really ethnic cooking at its finest.

With this soup I’ll roast the sweet potatoes and carrots to make a puree for the base.  While they’re in the oven I will toast cumin and coriander seeds.  Toasting whole seeds releases a flavor far superior to purchased ground spices; you’ll find the scents exotic and sensual.  Although you can grind them in a spice mill, I prefer to use a granite mortar and pestle. I also use shallots, rather than onion, and brown them slightly.  I like how the sweetness of the root vegetables pairs with the intensity of the spices.  Puree it altogether with a bit of apple cider vinegar and it really comes alive.  I enjoy topping it with toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and chopped cilantro.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup:

  • 6 cups sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups carrot, peeled and sliced into 2 inch sections
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 3/4 tsp cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seed, toasted and ground
  • 1 1/2  cups shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp ghee
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  tsp ground cayenne
  • 1 14oz can full-fate coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Perfectly roasted veggies

Perfectly roasted veggies

Toasted cumin and coriander seeds

Toasted cumin and coriander seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Peel and cut sweet potatoes and carrots; place in a large bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt.  Toss until well coated; place on large sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Place in oven for 40 minutes or until soft; turning vegetables halfway through. Cool.
  2. While vegetables are roasting, place cumin and coriander seeds in small dry skillet over medium heat and toast until lightly brown.  Grind in mortar and pestle or in spice grinder.  Set aside.
  3. After vegetables are cool, place half of them in a blender with some of the chicken stock and puree until smooth;  pour into large bowl and set aside; repeat with remaining vegetables and stock.
  4. Melt ghee and olive oil in large pot.  Add sliced shallots and pressed garlic.  Saute on medium until soft.  Add ground cumin, coriander, salt and ginger.  Stir for 1 minute.  Add cinnamon and cayenne.
  5. Pour half of vegetable puree into pot with shallots and blend with stick blender until smooth.  Add remaining puree and coconut milk.  Heat on low until warmed through.  Add apple cider vinegar and mix well.
  6. Ladle into bowls, topping with a few pepitas and chopped cilantro.

Serves: 6-8

Liquid Gold

Liquid Gold

“Soup is a lot like a family.  Each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and it needs time to simmer to reach full flavor.”  —-Marge Kennedy

 

Little Things Mean A Lot

Initially, when we went grain-free, we thought it might be a difficult transition.  Being foodies, we were anxious to understand the perimeters of this life-style approach and how we might use our creativity to still make food that excited us.  When looking for inspiration, I often go to my collection of ethnic cookbooks.  I was not disappointed; we love Middle Eastern, Indian and Mediterranean food.  I was soon mixing up a concoction of ground turkey, shredded zucchini, herbs and garlic into small meatballs that were first browned in a pan, then finished in the oven.  Topped with a soothing sauce of homemade yogurt, sour cream, lemon juice and sumac, they are perfect as an appetizer or served on top of a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, feta and sunflower sprouts.

Moral of the story:  change doesn’t have to be difficult, and little things mean a lot.

Zucchini and herbs at the ready

Zucchini and herbs at the ready

Turkey-Zucchini Meatballs With Lemon Sumac Sauce:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large organic egg
  • 2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp ghee

Lemon Sumac Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup homemade or Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp sumac (found in Middle-Eastern grocery stores)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Browning in ghee

Browning in ghee

  1. First make the lemon-sumac sauce by placing all the ingredients in a small bowl.  Stir well and chill until needed.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the ghee.  Mix with your hands (you will really get a better result) then shape into small meatballs about the size of golf ball.
  3. Melt the ghee in a 12 inch skillet on medium-high heat.  Add meatballs, making sure to leave room between them.  Saute on each side until browned, about 4 minutes per side.
  4. Place browned meatballs on a cookie-sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place in oven and bake for 7-10 minutes.
  5. Place on platter and pass sauce; or place on top of salad.
Delicious and savory

Delicious and savory

“THE SECRET OF
CHANGE lS TO FOCUS
ALL OF YOUR ENERGY
NOT ON FIGHTING THE
OLD BUT ON BUILDING
THE NEW.”

To Market, To Market

It’s been an interesting winter.  Powerful storms have dropped feet of snow, only to melt during the next cycle of upward temperatures.  Regardless of what goes on outside, I love this time of the year. We savor indoor activities like reading, contemplation, projects and weekend visitors.  We vacillate between soups or stews to gratins and roasts.

We eat differently in winter.  I tend to cook food that takes more time and intention.  Is there anything better than the aroma of Sunday dinner wafting through the kitchen?  One of my favorites is stuffing a pork loin with porcini mushrooms and dried apples.   So enjoyed by my family, it has replaced our traditional turkey at Thanksgiving.   It’s a perfect dinner for company, when you want to create something special.  Each spiral slice looks beautiful on a plate.

Fortunate for us, we have options for great grass-fed beef and milk-fed pork at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market in Grand Rapids, Michigan where we are seasonal vendors.  With high-quality meat, this is a entree worthy of the season.

Proscuitto-Wrapped Pork Loin with Roasted Apples

Filling:

  • 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup dried apples
  • 1 lb Tuscan kale, bottom stems removed
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp cognac (I use Hennessy)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb ground pork

Pork:

  • 1 trimmed and butterflied 2.5-3.0 lbs pork loin (have your butcher do it for you or follow directions below)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 medium apples (such as Granny Smith or Fuji), quartered
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup hard cider
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

Filling:  

Place dried mushrooms and dried apples in separate bowls.  Add 1 cup boiling water to each bowl.  Let mushrooms and apples soak until very soft, about 30 minutes.  Strain mushrooms.  Cover and chill mushroom soaking liquid.  Drain apples, discarding liquid.  Finely chop mushrooms and apples, combine in a small bowl, and set aside.

Meanwhile, blanch kale in boiling salted water for 1 minute, until wilted.  Using tongs, transfer kale to a bowl of ice water.  Drain on paper towels, once cooled completely.  Remove any large ribs.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion; cook, stirring often, until soft and golden, about 8 minutes.  Add mushrooms and apples; cook, stirring occasionally until flavors meld, about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic, thyme and rosemary; cook for 1 minutes.  Add cognac and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to bowl, let cool completely.  Add ground pork and combine well.

Pork:

Open butterflied pork loin, cover with plastic wrap. (If your pork loin in not butterflied, do the following:  Put pork loin on a work surface and beginning along one long side, cut 1/2 inch above the underside of the loin. Continue slicing slowly inward, pulling back the meat with your free hand and unrolling the loin like a carpet, until the entire loin is flat.)  Using a meat mallet, point to an even thickness.

Stuffing just before assembly

Stuffing just before assembly2.

Uncover pork, season with salt and pepper.  Place kale leaves on top of loin in an even layer, overlapping as needed and leaving a 1 inch border.  Spread filling on top of kale.  Roll pork into tight cylinder.  Wrap one layer of prosciutto around roast.  Tie roast securely with kitchen twine in 1 inch intervals.  Tuck rosemary sprigs under twine, spacing apart.  Roast can be made 1 day ahead.  If making ahead, cover and chill., then let stand at room temperature for one hour before continuing.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place apples in a roasting pan.  Melt 1 Tbsp butter with oil in a large skillet on medium-high.  Brown pork roast on all sides, about 5 minutes total, then set on top of apples in roasting pan. Add hard cider and 1/2 cup of water to skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits in pan.  Pour mixture into roasting pan.  Roast pork until an instant-read thermometer reaches 140 degrees, about 1 hour and 40 minutes.  Let roast rest for at least 20-30 minutes.

Pork loin stuffed, tied and ready for searing

Pork loin stuffed, tied and ready for searing

Place roast on platter.  Reserve apples from roasting pan; spoon off fat from juices in pan.  Place pan on top of stove over medium-high heat.  Add chicken stock and reserved mushroom liquid, leaving any sediment behind, and cook, scraping bottom of pan to release any browned bits, until slightly thickened; about 5 minutes.  Whisk in remaining 2 Tbsp butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Strain sauce; slice pork.  Serve apples and sauce along side pork.

Serves: 6-8

 “As long as you have food in your mouth, you have  solved all questions for the time being.”  –Frank Kafka

Made For Each Other

Don’t we all know when certain combinations go together?  Like tomato and basil, greens and eggs, steak and mushrooms, bacon and everything!   Each day can be an adventure in eating!  When we eat the magic that each season offers there are combinations that are savory surprises.  This week we needed to use some of the acorn squash we were storing.  We thought a pairing with chicken thighs was a simple, yet delicious combination.  Quick, easy and satisfying, you can put this together in no time and your family will love the results.

ROASTED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH ACORN SQUASH:

  • 1 lemon, ends trimmed, halved and cut into wedges
  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chick thighs
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup local maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 medium acorn squash, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch rings
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
Marinating chicken thighs

Marinating chicken thighs

  1. In a a large bowl, toss chicken thighs with lemon slices, 1 Tbsp of olive oil, sage, coriander, salt and pepper.  Let stand 30 minutes to an hour.
  2. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine syrup, butter, additional salt and cumin.  Simmer for 3 minutes.  Toss mixture with squash slices.
  4. Spread squash in a 9×13 inch pan. Nestle chicken and lemon on top of squash.  Roast for 30 minutes.  In a small bowl, toss scallions with 1 tsp of olive oil.  Scatter over squash;  keep roasting until chicken is no longer pink, about 30-40 minutes more.
Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Serves 4

“All the statistics in the world, can’t measure the warmth of a smile.”

Savory combination of squash and chicken.

Savory combination of squash and chicken.

Toxic Thoughts

Can we talk?  I mean really talk?  I love liver…always have.  Maybe it’s my German heritage.  I know, I know, some of you have to get past the yuck factor; but when you get past all those toxic thoughts, you’ll learn it is one of the most nutritionally dense foods you can eat.  Yet how do I convince all you skeptics out there?  After all, its been appreciated for thousands of years, and recently advocated by Paleo enthusiasts.  Why, its developed a bit of a cult following.

So let’s start by stating some nutritional information.  Liver actually contains, gram-for-gram, more nutrients  than any other food!

  • Nature’s most-concentrated source of vitamin A and vitamin B12, and rich in all other B vitamins
  • Great source of folate (folic acid is the synthetic stuff found in vitamin pills)
  • Rich in copper and chromium
  • Co-Q10 for heart heath and antioxident benefits
  • High quality protein
  • Contains an “anti-fatigue” factor (making it great for individuals fighting anemia, like me!)

Another misconception is that liver stores the toxins and therefore is not safe to eat.  It is true that liver is a detox organ.  But it is not true that liver is where the toxins are stored.  What it does store is a motherlode of critical vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidents.  These are what help the liver get rid of the toxins in the body–not trap them inside.  One caveat I do strongly suggest is insisting on grass-fed liver from pasture-raised chicken or cows.  The term “you are what you eat” does not only apply to humans.

So there it is…I suspect that if you were inclined to eat liver before, you will continue.  If you have never tried liver, I urge you to give this recipe a shot.  It’s savory, rich and delicious.  Who knows…you might just like it.

Sauteing with fresh rosemary and vermouth

Sauteing with fresh rosemary and vermouth

 

CHICKEN LIVER PATE:

  • 3 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 lb grass-fed chicken livers
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms, cleaned, and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2/3 cup white vermouth
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/4 cup ghee, (plus a little additional for melting on top)
  • Sea salt
  1. Melt first 3 Tbsp of ghee in a large skillet, over medium-high heat.  Add the livers, onions, and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the livers are browned.
  2. Add the garlic, vermouth, mustard, lemon juice and rosemary.  Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, until the liquid is gone.  Allow to cool.
  3. Process in a food processor with 1/4 cup of ghee.  Season  with salt to taste.  Place in individual ramekins or mold, pour melted ghee over top to preserve.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours.  Freeze additional ramekins for future use.  Serve with crackers, coarse mustard and pickled red onions.

Serves 8-10 total

And so GOOD for you!

And so GOOD for you!

 

“Laughter is an instant vacation.”  –Milton Berle

Feel The Warmth

I’ve lived most of my life as a Michigander.  I love how the seasons change the landscape in front of my writing area.  Today the stillness of winter has struck just the right cord within me.  I feel the warmth of the wood-burner,and the sounds of Val getting our morning coffee.  I watch the birds at our feeders, their small feathered body’s puffed out against the cold.  In that stillness, resides a sense of gratitude and the accumulative effect is one of peace.  This inner peace is much needed as we head into the next phase of my physical journey.  I have been referred to a hematologist for a bone marrow biopsy and thorough blood workup.  A suspected blood disorder is looming large.  Again, we learn patience and perseverance.

Val built our home on 52 consecutive Sundays; you can feel the love seeping through the structure.  This is our house of God.  It is a home that has seen much history and celebration.  Today our neighbor Lynne, my older brother Bill and his girlfriend Deb are coming for dinner.  There are few things I enjoy more than filling our home with the scents of cooking and the anticipation of sharing that meal with those I love.  Good food is often like that, an invisible bridge connecting us to each other.  An expression of goodwill that transcends the simplicity of the moment into something larger, more intimate and we bask in its warmth.

Today’s meal will be a wonderful Brazilian fish stew called:  Moqueca De Peixe.  With aromatic garlic, onions, cilantro and red bell pepper, it has just the right amount of heat, which is tempered with the addition of coconut milk.  Loaded with tomato, fish and shrimp, it is a big bowl of warmth.  It invites you to eat the shrimp floating in the broth with your fingers.  I smile when I see Bill’s eyes closed with enjoyment.  This is why I cook.

Sauteing aromatics

Sauteing aromatics

BRAZILIAN FISH STEW:

  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lbs firm white fish, cut in 1 inch pieces (I use cod)
  • 2 lbs wild caught fresh or flash frozen shrimp (21-24 count)
  • 2 Tbsp ghee or olive oil
  • 2 cups yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cups red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup green onions, sliced thinly
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 14.5 oz cans Muir Glenn Fire-Roasted chopped tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, plus more for garnishing soup, chopped
  • 2 cups clam juice or fish stock
  • 1 cup home-made chicken stock (or if you’re using a commercial product, make sure it’s stock not broth)
  • 1 14 oz can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 whole lime, cut into wedges

Instructions:

  1. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.  Add the ghee or olive oil to a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add onion and saute until soft, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the red bell pepper, green onion, garlic and bay leaves. Saute for 10 more minutes or until vegetables are softened.  Add tomatoes and tomato paste, combine well and cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken and fish stock or clam juice, along with the cilantro and simmer until hot but not boiling, about 10-15 more minutes.
  4. Finally, add the coconut milk, fish and shrimp, including their marinade.  Cook until shrimp looses its opaqueness, about 3 minutes.  DO NOT OVERCOOK!
  5. Ladle into bowls and garnish liberally with additional cilantro.  Pass the lime wedges.
  6. Kiss the cook.

Serves 4-6

Just the right amount of heat

Just the right amount of heat

 

 “Worries go down better with soup.”  –Jewish proverb

Short On Stature, Big On Flavor

Ready for slow cooking in the oven

Ready for slow cooking in the oven

I have a confession.  I’m really a vegetable lover.  When it comes to meat, it better be savory and it better be tender!  This recipe meets both requisites with ease.  We are fortunate to have great resources for grass-fed beef in our area, such as Woodbridge Dairy in Byron Center, Michigan.  With beef short ribs there are two different cuts available: English-Cut and Flaken-Style. When I develop recipes, the biggest challenge for me is to measure amounts to duplicate the result.  I have decided that the Paleo approach is a template that each of us decides to what degree we follow.  For example, wine is a beautiful meat tenderizer, the alcohol evaporates during the cooking process; so you will find dry red wine in this recipe.  It is up to you whether or not you adjust for it.  I also don’t use the flour often recommended during the browning process. Instead I used tapioca, which is gluten-free to help thicken the sauce.  I also serve it over mashed cauliflower instead of the typical mashed potatoes, to help keep it in the Paleo realm.  The result was well received.  Please feel free to share your thoughts and/or adjustments for this approach.

Browned short ribs ready for the oven

Browned short ribs ready for the oven

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs:

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4-5 lbs grass-fed bone-in English-Cut beef short ribs (about 10-12 pieces)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 12 medium sized carrots, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 cup finely diced shallots
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and thinly sliced
  • 4 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp Aleppo chili flakes (I use Penseys)
  • 1 cup homemade beef stock
  • 2 cups dry red wine (whatever the cook’s drinking)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup Tapioca
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 recipe cauliflower mashed potatoes (recipe follows)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 F.  Dry short ribs and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Heat a Dutch oven to medium-high.  Add olive oil and brown all sides of beef ribs in a single layer (about 12-15 minutes total). Set a side.  Repeat with the remaining ribs.
  2. Lower heat to medium. Add celery, shallots and carrots to oil and saute for 3-5 minutes, or until shallots are soft.  Add garlic and tomato paste.  Stir to blend, about 2 minutes.  Add Aleppo chili, thyme, bay leaves, stock, wine, and Tapioca.  Bring to a simmer.  Place beef ribs on top of sauce.  Turn to coat.  Place in oven, covered for 3-4 hours; pulling out each hour to turn ribs in their sauce. Cook until fork tender.
  3. Put a dollop of cauliflower mashed potatoes in a shallow bowl.  Top with one or two ribs, sauce and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Serves 4-6

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes:

  • 1 head fresh cauliflower, cut into flowerettes; placed in pot with water to cover and 1 tsp salt. Bring water to boil and cook for 15 minutes
  • 1/4 cup ghee
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Drain cauliflower and add it to the bowl in a food processor with ghee, salt and pepper.  Process until smooth.
Savory and tender

Savory and tender

“Food in the end, in our own tradition is something holy. It’s about sharing,

it’s about honesty, it’s about identity.”  —Louise Fresco