Sunday, May 17, 2015

Porchetta with Roasted Fennel

This was a revelation for me.  I know I LOVE roasted pork, and things like my Cuban Roasted Pork are favorites, but with this one I found that I could love the veggies roasted with the pork even more than the meat.  Slow roasted fennel might be enough to make me a vegetarian again (if it hadn't been cooked in pork drippings).



3-3.5 lb pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed and reserved
juice from one orange

Herb Rub:
2 large sprigs rosemary, stripped from stems and chopped
zest of one lemon and 1.5 oranges
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 t kosher salt
2 t toasted and ground fennel seeds
2 t ground black pepper

3-4 bulbs fennel, trimmed of tops, halved, cored, and thinly sliced (trust me, more is better, but take in to account the size of your baking dish; I can just barely fit 4 in my 5.75 qt Le Creuset)
Olive oil and ample salt to taste for the fennel

If using a bone in pork shoulder, cut three or four deep cuts in to the meat and evenly distribute the rub in them.  Use butcher's twine to hold the meat together.  If boneless, butterfly the entire roast out and spread the rub on the entire inner surface before rolling and trussing with twine.

Place the roast in a covered ceramic baking dish and bake at 350 F for two hours, turning every 30 minutes or so, and basting with the orange juice.  If things seem to be drying out too much, use juice from the other orange or from the lemon.

After two hours, add in the fennel with olive oil and salt, and toss to combine with the drippings in the pan.  Continue to roast for another hour and a half, stirring the fennel every 30 minutes and turning the meat to promote even browning.  The fennel should be almost melting and the meat should be falling apart. 

Serve with the pork with polenta and plenty of the roasted fennel.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Polenta

For being little more than corn meal, water, and a little seasoning this is a truly wonderful accompaniment to any Italian meal.  I take the basic method from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (which I highly recommend), but tweak the ingredients some to make it richer.

7 C water
1 T salt
1 2/3 C coarse cornmeal
6 T butter
1/2 C grated Parmesan

Bring the water and salt to a boil, then very slowly whisk in the cornmeal to avoid lumps.  Stir continuously for several minutes before reducing the heat to a bare simmer and covering the pot.  Cook, covered, for 10 minutes before removing the lid and stirring thoroughly.  Repeat this 10 minute covered cooking and stirring cycle until the polenta has cooked for 40 minutes.  Stir in the butter and Parmesan then serve.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Shakshuka

A middle eastern breakfast dish of eggs poached in a spiced tomato sauce.  While nominally a breakfast dish, it's savory enough to eat for other meals as well as being fast and easy.  This dish can be made vegan by leaving out the eggs, though it ends up lacking protein.  Serve with pita.

1 28oz can of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, crushed
6 T olive oil
1 t cumin
1/2 t carraway
1/2 t cayenne (or to taste)
1 t paprika
6 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
A squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

Heat the oil and saute the garlic lightly in a large skillet.  Crush the tomatoes by hand in to the skillet and add the seasonings.  Cook for 15 minutes or so partially covered, then taste and adjust seasoning.  Crack the eggs in to the skillet and cook, partially covered, until the whites have just set.

Falafel

This is the Egyptian version of the well known fried bean dish.  Unlike other versions of the dish the Egyptian version uses fava beans instead of chickpeas, and flattens out the balls to pan fry rather than deep frying.  As a note: it is absolutely necessary that you start with dried beans; canned beans will produce mushy results.  Serve with tahini sauce; you can also serve this with pita, cucumber, tomatoes, and/or pickled turnip if you want to make sandwiches out of it.

1 lb dried fava beans, split and husked, soaked in plenty of water for two days in the fridge
2/3 C flat leaf parsley, de-stemmed
2/3 C cilantro, de-stemmed
1 T cumin, ground
1.5-2 t coriander, ground
8 cloves of garlic
1 t baking powder
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 t cayenne, or to taste
2T flour
Salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil for shallow frying

Add everything except the vegetable oil in a food processor and pulse to combine.  You may have to work in batches, and you're ultimately looking for it to be well combined but still have a little texture.  Form patties roughly 1 cm thick and 4-5 cm across; the patties should just hold together (add a little extra flour if they don't).  Form a small patty and cook it to test seasoning; adjust as necessary.  Fry patties until browned and crispy, with an interior that is soft (and green!).

Tahini Sauce

A wonderful garlicky tangy accompaniment for many middle eastern dishes, especially falafel. Before the water is added this will be a very thick paste, but will thin out to a rich and creamy sauce.

2/3 C tahini
2/3 C freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
Cold water to thin out the sauce (about a 1/4 C)
Salt to taste

Blend together the first three ingredients, then pulse in the water until you reach a creamy consistency.  Add in salt to taste.