9/12 CSA Bounty from the fields of Pennsylvania!

Hi Everyone – Adam here. I haven’t died nor have I abandoned the blog completely. I’ve just started grad school and that makes being a regular poster here a little bit harder. I thought I’d take a break from Microeconomics to share some pictures of the bounty that arrived today from the CSA we joined here in Washington. For more details follow below the fold.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Continue reading


A Summer Southern Feastly Picnic

Saturday just past Laura and I cooked up a little indoor picnic for some amazing new friends all of whom just happened to be on staff with or hosts for AirBnB. There was cole slaw. There was cornbread. There were collards. There were sweet potato fries. There was even a syrupy berry salad for dessert. But! The core of the meal was an 11 lbs Boston Butt that I turned into some of the best pulled pork we’ve ever had. If I do say so myself. Now, a battalion of smokers, BBQers, and grill masters have spilled an ocean’s worth of ink and probably some blood on the best way to make this Southern staple and I have no doubt that any number of them can tell me exactly what I did wrong and why I am a heretic for having done it my way. So, I’d now like to spill a little myself describing how I did it so that you, dear reader, can have my Carolina Pulled Pork at home with only a little bit of effort.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I have to admit upfront that this was the first time I had ever done pulled pork solo and so I relied on a few hours of internet research and a long conversation with my best friend, Whit, on the best way to get the job done. All that being said – here’s the way it happened:

  1. Obtain the Butt – I got lucky on this one. I was pretty sure when we were putting the menu together that the kind folks at Harvey’s Market would have what I was looking for and, lo and behold, they came through with a 22-day dry-aged pork shoulder and we’re even kind enough to do all the trimming for me. For those that don’t already know, dry aging is a process of allowing natural enzymes in the meat post-slaughter to activate and so tenderize the meat. 22 days is a long aging and made for a very tender shoulder.
  2. Brine the Butt – In my brief research, my experience being around pulled pork growing up, and through my conversation with Whit, it was made clear to me that brining your meat is absolutely necessary to getting the best results at the end. All Brining means is soaking the meat in a heavily salted water (with a few other choice seasonings) for 4-18 hours. Be sure to do this in the fridge. No one needs to die for their pork. The brining process  improves on the meat’s natural juiciness and infuses it with the flavors added to the brine. In my case that was a hickory smoked salt from Maine, my own dry rub mix, and a few bay leaves.
  3. Massage that Butt with Dry Rub – this last step before cooking is absolutely essential to having Carolina Pulled Pork. Take whatever mix of kosher salt, black pepper, and spices you want (mine is a secret) and shovel lots and lots of it onto the brined pork that you have pulled out of the liquid and patted dry. I really mean lots and lots. You want the pork to look like the first picture below. Massage the mix into the meat being sure you get into all those cracks and creases. It’s the dry rub that turns into what the old hands at this call a “bark.” That bark is what provides the sharp points of flavor in old-fashioned pulled pork that everyone loves so much.
  4. Slow Cook that Beautiful Butt – once the pork was thoroughly covered in dry rub, I lightly covered it with foil and put it in the oven at 215ºF. At that low temperature, the meat had to cook for 18 hours before it reached the goal – a core internal temperature of 200ºF. It was a long wait but it was totally worth it. When it was all done and had rested for about 30 minutes, the shoulder bone slid right out with no resistance at all and the meat pulled apart with two forks just like it was supposed to.

Those are the four steps to delicious Carolina Pulled Pork. Easy-peasy. Except that it takes three days. Enjoy these before and after pictures!


A Friday Fall Feast – in which we Feastly again

Ze Menu:
Shredded Slow-cooked Savory Brisket Sandwiches
Moroccan Raw Carrot Salad
Roasted Potatoes & Kale
Whole-Wheat Dinner Rolls
Mini Baked Apple Fritters

Our Guests: a couple originally from Mumbai, India (NOT vegetarians – I had a moment of panic when they first arrived of the ‘oh no am I about to try and serve beef to Hindus?’ variety – probably presumptuous and stereotypical of me, given that they had to have seen the menu before signing up, but I can only liken it to suddenly realizing that your guests are from Israel and the main dish is pork chops. The odds are good that you have just royally screwed up.)
I am really digging this whole dinner with people I’ve never met before. I have no idea how else I would have met this couple otherwise and they were really good dinner companions – talkative and good listeners, interested in food so we had something in common and it got the conversation started, different life experiences so we got to talk about things which were new to both sets of couples, and just generally a fun evening.

Also, having to pull together a menu and pitch it to the Feastly community is good-for-me(TM). It’s pushing me to consider (more) how dishes go together – more than ‘have a protein, carbs, and at least 2 servings of vegetables’ which is where I’ve been stuck skill-wise for a couple years. In my defense (excuse!), I’ve been concentrating on knife and technique skills. But really now, this is a useful food skill and I am glad to be finally developing it. (There, I said it, stop twisting my arm now! ::poke, poke::) Learning to pitch things is also good for me in the ‘stretch beyond your comfortable skills little introvert!’ kind of way… but seriously, if anyone ever calls me a ‘little introvert’ with a straight face, there will be pain in their future. I’M the only one who gets to mock my lack of social acumen. Well, occasionally Adam too.

Plus, excuse to try out a new dessert recipe – it’s an event, dessert is totally justified and we don’t end up munching on way too many sweet things for the next 3 weeks.

Mini Baked Apple Fritters

Recipe Count – 40 left
Section Count – Dessert: 10 left
9 fritters

MEH. So much meh. They weren’t bad, they just weren’t… anything. No wow, no interesting texture, no interesting sweet, or spices, or tastiness. They were entirely composed of food. And my dessert binder is full of dessert recipes that are composed of tasty goodness that are entirely worth the a) effort and b) nutritional downsides of the occasional food indulgence composed of all the sugar and butter.

This recipe has earned a trip to the recycling bin, not a place in my binder of sweets.

Which means I am totally not inflicting it upon y’all, who deserve good sweets in your lives. Tasty goodness in recipe form to follow below, of something actually worth your time.

So, the original plan was that I would make the dinner rolls and they’d be the bread to our sandwiches… Yeah, I’m still getting the hang of using whole-wheat pastry flour in place of all-purpose flour. The rolls were tasty, but not fluffy/big enough to be sandwich rolls. Luckily there’s a Harris Teeter close enough that wonderful husband Adam could run out and grab some sandwich rolls from their bakery. Also, all-purpose flour. Somethings are just better that way (like pie crust). Also, I’d made the rolls by 4pm. So, you know, enough time to fix things.

The carrot salad is a cold one, and thus could be made early that morning, hanging out in the refrigerator until dinner time. Also, totally not over-chilled by hanging out so long in the fridge, which was nice. Also nice? The cumin and cayenne spices – just enough kick to make it interesting without kicking you in the face as a greeting and a ‘pay attention to meeeeeeeee!’

Roasted potatoes and kale are quickly becoming my thing, so much so that I am consciously banning my self from using them for a third time in our next Feastly. By this point, I’ve actually made them three times – first was just before the break-in and thus, I lost my write up and pictures but taking the pictures was ticked off on my mental list and I have yet to take more photos. Which y’all totally deserve because this is a tasty recipe. Which Adam informs me that I ‘need to make again’. Every. Time. The man bans roasted carrots for about a year (and counting….) after one unfortunate week of trying out all of my roasted carrot recipes (3 or 4….) to cut them down to a reasonable amount, but still wants these? Timing is, apparently, everything.

Roasted Potatoes and Kale

Adapted (minorly) from What’s Cookin, Chicago?

  • 1 lb potatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
    • different varieties will give this recipe slightly different textures/tastes – experiment and find your favorite is my best advice
  • 1/2 lb fresh kale, rinsed, stems/tough ribs discarded, and roughly chopped
  • cloves of garlic, minced
    • pick a number of cloves to your taste
    • Adam and I have been influenced enough by several friends of Italian cooking traditions that the answer to ‘how much garlic?’ is usually ‘Yes’
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • salt & pepper, to taste
    • pepper is best as freshly cracked/ground from peppercorns
    • if using peppercorns, pick your favorite type/color. or mix it up and try out different types for slightly different tastes each time
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper, non-stick cooking spray, or your favorite food don’t stick here method.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the chopped potatoes with 1 tbsp of oil, the minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Transfer potatoes to the baking sheet; bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  3. In the same bowl, toss the chopped kale with 1 tbsp of oil, salt, and pepper, to taste. After potatoes have roasted, add the kale on top – do not worry if it looks like a huge mound on top of the potatoes. The kale will shrink/flatten out as it crisps. Just mound it in such a manner as it will not fall off the baking sheet. Return the baking sheet to the oven and roast for another 10 minutes, or until kale is crisp.
  4. Serve hot or at room temperature, but not cold.

Check back in next Tuesday for my write up of the Shredded Slow-cooked Savory Brisket Sandwiches

In which there is much pain (Jamaican Jerk Paste)

So this is one of the recipes I’d written up but lost in the break-in – thus no idea how many recipes were left after this one and no photos 😦 I do know it was the last one in the queue for the Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades section (huzzah!)  I’ll try to recreate it as best I can.

I’d say something stupid about this being a 5 pepper spicy recipe, but there’s 10 habañero peppers in this one.

I know, I cut them up myself.

This is a spicy recipe – have milk at the ready to drink, starts with a quick burst spicy pain, and it just lingers, spicy. Check the skin under your lower lip where the paste touched to see if it’s turning colors ’cause it’s still tingling hours later spicy. So much so that I’m not even going to recommend ways to make it milder for those that don’t like all the spicy – it would just be a futile endeavor. Don’t like spicy? Please, please, skip making this one. Adam and I like the spicy food.  Originally, i.e. when we started dating, I had a much higher tolerance for spicy pain goodness then Adam.  Annnnnd then he went to Peace Corp. Yeah, when Adam ‘I’ve been in the Peace Corp in the Caribbean’ thinks a recipe is bordering on too spicy, you know it’s spicy.

Adam’s Peace Corp post was in Suriname. Live in the jungle on the Caribbean coast, food traditions from Hindustani, Javanese, and African-creole, Peace Corp. His tolerance for spicy food is much, much higher than mine now. One time while down there, he chopped up some mystery peppers from the bush in his front yard. Washed the knife, washed the cutting board, washed his hands. And then did what he always did after washing his hands. Ran his palms down his face, from forehead to chin.

He says the burning in his eyes stopped after about 36 hours.

Yeah, I did something similar the night of making this paste.

Let’s just say it wasn’t my eyes. Somewhere a lot more intimate. The second after I did that, Adam and I look at each other in this sort of half horrified, half amused ‘did I/you really just do that’ kind of way and I spent the next ten minutes alternating between crying from laughing at my own stupidity and from owie while pouring milk over my skin to try and wash off the capsaicin.

When the universe uses that large a clue bat, even I notice, Captain Obliviousness me.

This recipe is getting recycled out of spite.


(Adam: Aw, I liked this one! And do recommend it for anyone who likes really spicy food.)

(Laura: Fine, fine… we can keep it.)

(Adam: Glee!)

Jamaican Jerk Paste

adapted from Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary Edition
1 1/4 cups

Originally the recipe calls for fresh lime juice – I used the bottled lemon juice we have in the house. I don’t think it decreased the spicy level.
I also omitted the optional orange juice, because, well, orange juice gives me migraines.

  • 1/3 cup bottled lemon juice
  • 10 habañero peppers
  • 2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 bunch green onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp dried basil
  • 2 tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Purèe all the ingredients together in a food processor or blender until the mixture has the consistency of thick tomato sauce. If necessary, thin with additional lemon juice or vinegar.

I used it to top grilled chicken and it was tasty. You could also use it on a pork chop.

One more warning: this is “Not-for-the-faint-of-heart” spicy. If you do not enjoy fire-hot spicy food, DO NOT EAT THIS. Please, you will regret your actions.

In which we Feastly

So Adam and I joined Feastly (http://eatfeastly.com/) and hosted our first dinner on Saturday.  The idea behind Feastly is for people to get together over dinner at each other’s homes. Some members sign up as cooks (like Adam and I) if they want to host – there are amateurs, professional cooks, and every thing in between. Other members sign up as ‘feasters’. Cooks host dinners, parties, brunches, cooking lessons, or whatever they choose to – they set the menu, the house rules, the number of seats available, price per head, etc. Some use the site to drum up business or as another source of income, others try to just cover the cost of the meal, and, again, everything in between.

Adam is so busy these days at work that all he really wants to do after work is eat dinner and recharge, so we made a deal: this is completely my thing – I take care of the planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning up, advertising, write up on Feastly; Adam knows the date and time and does his hosting/interacting with new people thing. Which let me tell you, makes dinner parties a success – he’s got a gift for getting conversation going and keeping it going. Trust me, I’ve tried dinner parties on my own, I need Adam and his hosting thing – it must be his southern charm.

What can I say, I like the team we make. Good thing too, since I married him 🙂

So what did we actually, you know, cook?

Well, having pulled together a menu, I spent about 10 minutes staring at the screen trying to come up with something to fill in my nemesis on forms.

The title.

Let’s just say I’m not confident about my naming abilities. Among other things, this is how a male child of ours will end up with the initials REBL. Took me months to notice Adam had snuck that past me. And he had to be the one to point it out. Bloody [expletive], this northern Jewish white girl is not too comfortable with her male child by a gentleman from the state that kicked off the Civil War having initials spelling out ‘rebel’. Bloody promises…

ANYRATE – I named our Feastly ‘Steak and Chocolate’

(I am looking forward to when Adam has the brain-space to do naming work, again.)

The menu:
Steak à la Alton Brown’s method
Tagine of Butternut Squash, Shallots, Cranberries, and Almonds
Stir-fried Broccoli
Homemade Challah
Deep-Dish Chocolate Chip Cookies

Quick run down on the ones I’m not talking much about:
the tagine – I need a new tagine. The one we got for our wedding (because that came up while I was on a Moroccan kick) is this beautiful, hand painted, lovely, small, 1 or 2 cup tagine – basically big enough for a side dish for 2 people. I was serving 4. Also, I have eventually figured out that this is one of the tagines intended to be a pretty serving dish, rather than a cooking dish that you pull off the stove and place on the table as, ta-da!, now it’s a serving dish. So, yeah, I’ve managed to do bad things to this one, namely a crack in the ceramic in the bottom portion that goes all the way through, as evidenced by the drippy, drips along the crack after cooking. This, Le Creuset Moroccan Tagine, is the one I’m lusting after, these days.
Stir-fried broccoli – mostly like steamed broccoli in a wok. Cut the broccoli into florets, heat oil in a wok, stir-fry as much minced garlic as you like, add the broccoli, sprinkle with a teeny-tiny bit of sugar, pour in some water, cover the wok and cook until bright green and tender.

I’ll get to the dishes I do want to talk about more in a second, but I’m gonna plug Feastly for a second. Click here if you rather skip the plug.

So Feastly – yeah, my reaction that evening (after our guests left) was ‘I totally want to start planning the next one’. I got to meet two new people who were interested in food and interesting dinner companions, while having a good meal with good conversation. The Feastly team was awesome – quick to contact us in response to our original application to be cooks, fun to talk to, honest in where the site is, who they are, what info they have and what they hadn’t thought about until we asked, and really good about advertising my dinner in their email and on twitter. The tools to set up a ‘feast’ on the site were clean and easy to use, as well as giving me as much control as I wanted plus, prompted me to add in info about a couple things I hadn’t thought of, like if I wanted shoes on or off in our house and dress code (either way and casual. this time. 🙂 ). The tool to manage the feasts I’m hosting is good and allows you to re-use menus if you want. They also let feasters tell you they’re ‘craving’ a particular past menu, so you know what was popular. It’s like a ‘like’ button, but for food. Also, it’s now the Tuesday after the Feastly and we’ve been paid – 3 days (2 business) after the event. Check them out if you’d like to eat out some nights, but rather not deal with a full-fledged restaurant experience. They’re mostly in the Washington DC area but open in the New York and San Francisco areas and looking to expand. I’d love to host some of y’all over for dinner.
Plug over.

Normally, when I cook, especially multiple recipes at one, attempting to time them to come out together, an end result is a mountain of dishes in the sink. This time not so much. My secret? The challah and the cookies were mostly made the day before. As the two real ‘baking’ recipes (and thus my main source of dishes), I could then wash the dishes the day before.

Challah (at least the recipe from the Joy of Cooking I use) just has a step ‘allow to rise in the refrigerator, covered, for 4-12 hours until doubled in size’. Yeah, that’s gonna happen overnight. It’s been years since I made a challah though, so the next day, I had to watch a Youtube video on how to braid 4-strand challah. ::shrugs:: I found one, it produced a pretty loaf.

Feastly Challah

Adam and I have been buying our flour from the bulk section of Glut (it’s a food co-op in Mt. Rainer, MD) where they have everything I can think of – except all-purpose flour. Well, they do, it’s bags of Red Mill all-purpose emptied into a bulk bin; not doing that. So we’ve been using whole wheat pastry flour at a one-to-one substitution for white flour all-purpose – the extra grinding to produce pastry flour seems to balance out the extra bindiness (that’s totally a scientific term there) of whole wheat and the 1-to-1 substitution is working for us. I also don’t sprinkle the loaf with poppy or sesame seeds like Joy calls for – other wise, follow the straight up recipe from Joy of Cooking and you too shall have challah. Yummy, yummy, eggy challah.

Steak à la Alton Brown
Alton Brown is a cookbook author who should work perfectly for me – science based, good explanation of why he does what he does, and so on.  I think I just hit him at the wrong point in my learning career. If he’d been one of the first authors I’d read, I’m sure my whole method of cooking would be different – totally would have learned to substitute ingredients much earlier. Maybe even have reached a point where I feel confident enough about what I’m doing to start experimenting sooner. But as it is, I didn’t. And I have no idea how to copy his recipes out succinctly.
Be that as it may, for this dinner, I got two NY strip steaks (about 1.25 lb) from Harvey’s Meats in Union Market the morning(ish) of. Countered them around 5pm to bring them closer to room temp, lightly misted with the oil we keep in a spray bottle (per Alton’s suggestion), rubbed it over the meat to distribute, salted and peppered each side, and heated our cast iron griddle pan on high heat. Luckily Adam remembered to turn on the vent in our microwave at this point. So looking forward to somewhere (anywhere) we can have an actual hood. Put the meat in the pan, waited three minutes, stuck my fingers in my ears as I flip the steaks and Adam takes the batteries out of the smoke alarms and opens some windows. Wait three minutes (produces rare to medium-rare steak; cook to your tastes), pull off heat, put on resting rack (i.e. a dinner plate with enough chop sticks laid across it to hold up the meat) and plop a bowl over the plate. Slice on the diagonal upon arrival of guests and serve.

And now for the recipe you’ve been waiting for:
Deep-dish Chocolate Chip Cookies

So, I may have mentioned in ‘Things you should know about Laura’ that I’m allergic to chocolate. Adam, on the other hand, loves chocolate and totally doesn’t get it as often as he’d like since he thinks it’s just silly to have it available when I can’t eat it. … Yeah I’m not sure about that logic either. He might just be telling himself that in order to keep from having it every dayFrom my perspective, chocolate is a staple of baking and something most people absolutely love. So, unless I can bake the chocolaty goodness, I am not a good baker. … Yeah, I’m not too sure about that logic either. Too? In addition? So, if we have an ‘event’ (good dinner party, someone’s birthday, other celebrations…) I like to bust out the baked desserts because randomly keeping them in the house is a recipe for bad things (mostly eating all of them within two days).  And I like to use try out the chocolate desserts at these events since I can get more feedback that way – not being able to taste test them myself.

Ramekins came out of oven.
Ramekins go on table.

1 minute later, ramekins are empty.

I think everyone liked them. 😀

Recipe count: 44 left to try
Section count: Desserts – 11 left
originating source: TheKitchn

yields 3 ramekins/servings

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup/2oz unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup/4 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/6 cup/2.5 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg (medium or small is fine)
  • scant 1/2 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. If the chocolate chips are large (à la Ghirardelli 60% coco dark chocolate chips), chop into smaller pieces. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter until creamy but not whipped. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy (and pale), about 2 minutes. Or less if you turn the stand mixer up. Add the vanilla extract and egg; beat for about a minute.
  3. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Using a wooden spoon, mix the chips into the batter.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between 3 ramekins; use a spatula or the back of a spoon to push batter to the edges of the ramekins and smooth down evenly. Place ramekins on a baking sheet (for ease of taking in and out of the oven) and bake for 18 minutes, or until gold-brown on the edges and still a little golden and soft in the middle. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving with or without a scoop of ice cream.

Variation: (and what I did) Cover the ramekins of unbaked cookie dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 1 day ahead; cook for 20 minutes.
Originating recipe claims you can freeze these bad boys for up to 3 months and bake without thawing (although will need more time in the oven) – I haven’t tried it, but thought I’d let y’all know. Drop me a line in the comments if you try it – let me know how it went.