When life hands you clementines…

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…make pulled pork.

Also, if you have a very busy week ahead, a crock pot, and a few minutes in the morning…

…make pulled pork.

It has suddenly become serious deep winter here, with an 18″ dumping of snow the other day, and lows in the double-digit negatives regularly peppering the forecast. As much as I’d like to curl up under blankets, life must go on, and it feels busier than ever lately. Dinner needs to come together quickly at the end of the day, and it needs to be warming for body and soul.

We are lucky, in southern Vermont, to have a bounty of locally raised Everything. During the years we don’t raise our own pigs, there is plenty of pasture-raised pork from small farms to choose from. The cost is not insignificant, however. A four-pound hunk of shoulder can put you out $30+, so when we don’t have a freezer full of homegrown, we tend to go much lighter in our meat consumption, and stretch it as far as we can.

I’m working on ways to cut our food budget and still eat whole, local foods, so perhaps buying a $30 piece of meat seems ludicrous, but it was the only meat I purchased for the week.

Since the last few days were insane and full of other extracurricular photo projects, I didn’t shoot pics of gorgeously plated up dinner. We were lucky to all come together at a decent hour to eat together every night. It’s a point we make, unless C is going to be particularly late (which the goats don’t really allow him to be, anyway), to be present at the evening meal. So, you know, it’s annoying when I take pictures. I’ll be refining the recipe and shooting it for an ebook soon, but here’s the rough version in the meantime, and how we stretched it for several meals for three people:

Citrus-Garlic Pulled Pork

4-pound pork shoulder
2 onions, chunked
2 carrots, chunked
1 fennel bulb, sliced
2 heads garlic, crushed and chopped
rind and juice from 2 oranges (or a few clementines, if that’s what you have!)
2 1/2 tsp cumin
a sprig or two fresh rosemary if you have it, or 1 tablespoon dried
other Italian herbs, if you feel so inclined (I like a little thyme and oregano)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 – 1/2 cup broth (whatever you’ve got. Water will work here, also)

If you’re feeling fancy, and have the time, you can rub the spices, salt, pepper, and garlic all over the pork, let it sit for a few hours or overnight, and then brown the meat in fat (like bacon fat, lard, or oil), before placing into the crock pot.

I just don’t have time for that, so I throw all the ingredients except for the meat into the crock pot, swirl it around to mix it up, and then place the pork shoulder on top, and it know that it will be fabulous.

Set to low and go about your day.

Alternatively, you could put this all in a dutch oven and cook in a low-heat oven for several hours, but if you’re a busy family, I promise you that a crock pot is one of the best kitchen tool investments you can make.

Important tip! Don’t give in to the temptation to add more liquid to the pot. More juice than you can imagine will be released from the beast as it cooks, and adding extra liquid will put you at risk for boiling your pork, instead of slowly braising. Boiled pork = tough pork, and you want this to be tender and falling apart.

So, what did we do with it?

Day one: Pulled Pork Dosas

Dosa batter is a brilliant and beautiful thing. It’s an easy to make, fermented food delivery system. It’s basically a sourdough crepe made from lentils and rice, and takes about 5 minutes of active time to make a half gallon of batter that will last a couple of months in the fridge (not that we ever keep it that long). Leda Scheintaub has the perfect recipe in her book Cultured Foods for Your Kitchen. We love this book in its entirety, and if you come to the Brattleboro Farmer’s Market, she’ll sign a copy for you! She’s my local food hero.

Anyway, dosas cook quickly, and our meal came together in about 15 minutes. Pulled pork, leftover garlic-y beans from the night before, and sauerkraut went into the dosas, plus a salad, and we were pretty blissed out.

Day Two: Pulled Pork and Sweet Potato Stew

Here’s what happened:
I chopped up an onion and a couple of Japanese sweet potatoes (purple skin, pale flesh…less cloyingly sweet than the orange variety, which my son won’t eat). If you’re so inclined, add a head of garlic, crushed and chopped. In my opinion, nearly every dish could use a head of garlic.

Saute this for 10 minutes or so in lard or coconut oil. Then, add the leftover pulled pork and all it’s broth-y juices. Add more broth or water, if necessary, bring to a boil, skim, and then cover and let simmer until the sweet potato is soft. Here’s where I like to add a chopped up leafy green, turn off the heat, and let it all rest for five minutes while I ask O to set the table for about the fortieth time.

Day Three: Quiche, Frittata, Shepherd’s Pie, or Pot Pie

These are my favorite ways to stretch leftover stew into a meal that doesn’t feel as much like leftovers as simply eating stew again. There wasn’t quite enough leftover for that to be an option, anyway. Frittata is the easiest option. I just spread the leftovers in the bottom of a well-buttered or oiled cast iron pan (unless there’s too much liquid, in which case, I cook off some of the liquid first, or thicken with starch), pour my usual herbed egg mixture on top, and bake the thing. Quiche is the same, but with a crust. Crusts tend to be a weekend thing for me, so during the week, the other option would be Shepherd’s Pie with whipped sweet potato for the topping and corn added to the filling.

In the case of the stew and frittata, we bring leftovers for lunches the next day. So, the $30+ hunk of meat, seeming extravagant at the time of purchase, fed three people for several meals, stretching through more than half the week.

My apologies for lack of photographic evidence.

I did say ebook, though. More on that later.

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When you hit the jackpot, fry it up.

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We hit the jackpot last night, a few days after the last heavy rain. I’m quite sure there is no mushroom more worthy of portraiture. The morel reminds me of a sea sponge, the brain, and the inside of an ant hill; the flavor delicate, earthy, and transporting. It’s a once-in-a-season treat that turned our simple Sunday evening plans for grilling into a celebratory feast.

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But, we didn’t grill these babies. I didn’t want to lose the rare treasures to a sauce, either, so in order to preserve the melt-in-your-mouth, velvety texture as a stand-alone, we subjected them to the tried and true method of BBF – Battered, Breaded, and Fried, and the results had us in a fit of gastronomic joy.

Ingredients:

– However many big, beautiful morels you can gather
– Your favorite batter (I used two duck eggs, herb salt, and a splash of cream)
– Cornbread crumbs (We always make Mollie Katzen’s cornbread from the Moosewood Cookbook, subbing einkorn flour and a course, stoneground cornmeal. Any breading, with or without gluten, would work here, but we found that the subtle sweetness of cornbread was a perfect accompaniment to bring out the best of the earthy mushroom flavor).
-Butter

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Method:

Slice the morels into thick, 3/4 inch slices.

Batter generously, and then dredge in breading.

Add enough butter to a heavy frying pan for an 1/8″ depth (I used a little over 1/2 stick), and heat over a medium-low flame. Add battered and breaded morels to the pan in a single layer and cook until they a golden, crispy brown on all sides, turning frequently and keeping the butter at a nice bubble, but not so hot that it smokes. You may have to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan and quantity of mushrooms.

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These are best enjoyed while they are still hot.

We served with caramelized onions, grilled marinated eggplant and grass-fed steaks, sliced thin, and pretty much felt like royalty.

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With any luck, there will be one more flush before the season ends.

If you have morels near you, what is your favorite way to prepare them?

Grain-free (and Lemony) Sunday…

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There have been some pretty low moments in my quest to find or create decent grain-free recipes for my favorite baked goods and breakfast foods. There was the Gingerbread Mess, when I didn’t pulverize my almonds finely enough. We ended up with a pile of oily gingerbread crumbs instead of solid pieces for a gingerbread house (which were great for pie crust, eventually, but oh so disappointing at the time). In fact, most of the grain-free disasters have to do with crumbling and oiliness, failing to obtain the correct balance of moisture with the moisture-sucking stand-ins for glutenous flours.

This week wasn’t like that. I found and tweaked some amazing recipes and feel compelled to share them with you. Even if you aren’t grain or gluten-free***, you may enjoy these nutrient-dense versions of some typically wheat flour based treats.

The Lemon Poppyseed Waffles happened on Sunday, and were inspired by this recipe. I was feeling a little burned out on grinding nuts all the time, and was hoping to find a grain-free waffle or pancake recipe that wasn’t nut-flour based. I was reluctant to try it, since I don’t typically enjoy coconut flour. It tends to be incredibly dry, lending a granular texture to baked goods, and it imparts a great deal of coconut flavor, which I find undesirable 99% of the time. BUT, when it works, it really works.

And usually, this is what makes it work (oh, and having strong flavors like lemon to overwhelm the coconut helps, too):

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Eggs, eggs and more eggs. This is most of your texture and moisture magic right here.

The Wet:

8 eggs, separated (yes, 8! This is a double recipe, which fed three of us with enough left over to freeze a couple more servings for a hectic weekday morning. If I’m going to go through the trouble of separating eggs, then I’m going to make enough for an army). With a mixer, beat the whites until soft peaks form. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and add the following:

2 ripe bananas, mashed

4 tbsp applesauce

4 tbsp raw honey

4 tsp vanilla

2-4 tbsp lemon juice & grated rind of one or two lemons (depending on how lemony you like it). I used meyer lemons. It’s good to have relatives in CA.

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The Dry:

In another bowl, mix the following:

1 cup coconut flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

Mixing by hand, add the dry to the wet, and then fold in the beaten egg whites and 2 tbsp poppyseeds. Whatever your waffle iron of choosing, do butter or oil it generously for every round and proceed as you normally would.

I happened to have homemade lemon curd mousse (lemon curd, cream and egg whites), and so folded in a little bit of that, as well, maybe a cup’s worth. This recipe seems forgiving with a little extra wetness in the batter.

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They were perfect with applesauce and maple syrup. Sort of like a waffle-shaped, not-to-sweet lemon poppyseed muffin.

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And these flourless brownie bites? Well, I’m just going to share the link because they were off-the-hook delicious just as they were, no tweaking. Go here and make them.They freeze amazingly well, too. I love that. They are almond-butter based, but I’m sure they would work with any nut butter you like.

***I am gluten-sensitive, but have chosen to go entirely grain-free with baking for a number of reasons. I have tried a bazillion combinations of gluten-free flours and flour mixes. They often do the trick to satisfy a craving, but they seem nutritionally void and I don’t feel nourished after eating it. The flours are highly processed, dead food whether or not it contains gluten. Grain-free recipes often contain an incredible amount of protein and comparatively very little in the way of sweetening, and are easier to play around with to suit what you have on hand.

Enjoy!

SCOBY Snacks

We broke up with kombucha for a little while.

Brews would be forgotten for too long, flavors were added at the wrong time and sad-looking SCOBYs (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) and less-than-palatable beverages were the result.

Then, it was all water kefir all the time, but I have a hard time keeping that up during the winter. Tibicos are fantastic for what I like to call a fizzy lifting drink, quite refreshing on a hot summer day, but not something I crave when the chill is on. So we broke up with those, too.

It was somewhat liberating not to have any cultures to babysit (excepting the weekly batch of yogurt, which is very forgiving), but then some friends brought over a bottle of their homebrew cranberry kombucha and it was all over. We came crawling back, begged forgiveness and started over, with a bit more research and a lot more enthusiasm. The results have been super-tasty and we find ourselves with wonderfully healthy, rapidly growing mama mushies.

Inevitably, if you’ve got a happy culture going on, you’ll have some extra to give away, feed to your chickens, or…experiment with.

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Enter the SCOBY Snack. If you don’t like gummy bears, don’t make this. It’s basically the most delicious apple-cider flavored gummy chunk you’ll ever put in your mouth. Seriously, I will take SCOBY donations just to make gallons of this stuff.

All you need are your extra SCOBYs and a very simple sugar syrup.

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SCOBY Snacks***

Sugar syrup: heat a 50/50 solution of sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved.

Cut your SCOBY up into one-inch chunks. You want about a 1/2-inch-ish thickness for best results. If you have a really thick one, that has been hanging out for a long time trying to become the size of your jar, you’ll need to slice it into rounds and then cut it up.

Layer the chunks into a baking dish or bowl, sprinkling with a little raw sugar as you go.

Pour the sugar syrup over the chunks until they are mostly covered.

Marinate for about 24 hours.

If you have a dehydrator, spread the chunks out on a fruit leather sheet and set to a raw food temp (I used 115 degrees). Dehydrate until you’ve got gummy bear texture. So far, I’m storing my finished snacks in a glass jar at room temperature. I don’t they’ll last more than a day or two.

If you are using an oven, then spread the chunks on a parchment-lined baking sheet and dry at the lowest possible temperature, checking often.

***btw, this recipe may have kombucha “mushroom” as a base, but it’s definitely candy. It’s probably better for you than anything made with corn syrup and who-knows-what, but I don’t think you can get away with calling it a nutritional supplement. 😉

As for our beverage brews, we’ve come a long way since our earlier flavor experiments. Now we add our flavors during a second fermentation and our culture is much happier for it.

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The best results have been with fruit that we picked and froze for the winter…peach-ginger is such a welcome, happy taste of summer! For each half-gallon jar of poured-off kombucha, we add about 1 cup of fresh or frozen fruit and a tablespoon or so of minced candied ginger and let it ferment for another few days before straining again and bottling.

Yum.