Tuesday, October 14, 2008

i spent eighty dollars on groceries

...and that was after $13 in savings with my store savings card!

except for the time we bought food for a cookout last month, this was my first grocery bill over $30 since may. so it's not that i think i spent too much money, per se. so why am i bringing it up?

it's more that this grocery trip was really a series of admissions: that the CSA i joined for this growing season is pretty much over, except for the last gleaning of the year; that i will always need to replenish my pantry at the grocery store eventually; worst of all, that i can't live off peaches and tomatoes forever because summer is over and soon nothing will grow from the ground on the eastern seabord.

i made dinner in forty-five minutes: pan-roasted pork tenderloin with apple gravy

...with matching whipped sweet potatoes!

so pork tenderloin was on sale at the grocery store, so i bought three smallish ones and froze two. i also got broccoli. and i had lots of csa apples. also lots of csa sweet potatoes that i had thrown on the grill last week when the boy was making steaks, just to get them cooked and ready for use.


rinse a 2-lb tenderloin and pat it dry. sprinkle with salt and pepper -- i used a mix of green peppercorns and szechuan peppercorns in our grinder and that turned out awesome. heat a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil in a large, non-teflon skillet; sear the tenderloin all around for a couple minutes per side. toss in two diced apples and a large roughly-chopped onion. stir occasionally until the apples are slightly browned and the onions are translucent and turning gold; then add a small splash of apple cider vinegar and a large splash of broth and cover the pan. cook for about 15 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the tenderloin registers around 155 degrees. remove the tenderloin to a plate and loosely cover with foil; after you take it off the heat it will continue to cook a little, hopefully to an ideal temperature of 160-165. save the pan with the juices in it; these will be put to delicious use soon.

while the pork is cooking, you can put an inch of water in a tall pot and set it to simmer. meanwhile, trim two heads of broccoli and chop it into large-bite-size pieces. pile the broccoli in a steamer basket in the simmering water, and cover the pot. cook to desired doneness -- for me this is around five minutes, til tender-crisp. when it's cooked enough move the broccoli to a bowl to prevent residual cooking. we tossed some shredded cheese on top of the broccoli because we were sort of lazy and it's decently tasty.

peel a couple grilled or roasted sweet potatoes and roughly mash the insides. warm this in the microwave with a tablespoon of butter. mash some of the reserved pan juices and soft cooked apples into the sweet potatoes, to taste. mix up, adding salt or pepper as necessary.

now check out the remaining the pan juices. do you like how they look? will they make a decent sauce? if they're as runny as water, you may need to mash the apples more, or simmer again until sufficiently reduced.

slice the tenderloin on the bias into medallions. pile a few on a plate, spooning the pan sauce over them. serve with lots of sweet potatoes and broccoli. eat up, with a bottle of hard cider.

in the future: i will try this with white wine.

Monday, October 13, 2008

i made ice creams: honey fior di latte and chocolate sorbet

i made so many things in one day! thank god for federal holidays in honor of douchebags who sailed the ocean blue!

so my honey ice cream did not turn out super - it was pretty icy. i am guessing this is because instead of actual cream i used whole nonhomogenized milk from the market, which has such a noticeable creamline that i assumed there would be plenty of fat in there to compensate. but i guess not. the funny thing is, i made a chocolate sorbet -- no dairy at all -- and you might expect something like that to be too icy and not sufficiently creamy, but in fact my chocolate sorbet was smoother and richer than my honey ice cream. awesome.

well, anyway, here is the recipe i used -- i'm not saying i endorse it exactly.

1.5 cups whole creamline milk
1/4 cup honey (or less if your honey is strong-tasting)
scant 1/8 teaspoon salt

warm the milk, then let it cool. warm the honey and mix it into the milk with the salt until well dissolved. cover and chill, preferably overnight. freeze in an ice cream machine. then transfer to a covered container and freeze in the freezer. try to catch it at just the right moment when it's not too wet and not too icy, and eat it.

and here is the dark chocolate sorbet (slightly modified from the source because i was feeling lazy and didn't want to use any stove implements besides the teapot) which i heartily endorse:

1/2 cup cocoa
scant 1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1 cup boiling water
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp rum or vodka (optional)

combine cocoa, sugar, salt in a bowl. whisk in 1/4 cup of the boiling water until you get a thick paste. then stir in the rest of the water. add the vanilla and chill until cold. stir in the rum or vodka (optional - but helps keep it smooth!). freeze in an ice cream machine, then transfer to a covered container and freeze in the freezer. enjoy for weeks because it doesn't go icy -- if you can save it past the first day.

yes, you read right -- no chocolate other than regular old baking cocoa! this makes me smile so much.

i made pan-roasted honey-glazed carrots out of my own garden

they were pretty impressive i think, delicious in their simplicity.

our garden has lots of carrots growing in a tight little patch, planted by the three-year-old son of our landlords, who lived here until the summer. i know -- lucky us. we now get to literally reap the rewards from our backyard. but sometimes i can't decide what i want to do with carrots other than simmer them endlessly for a soup or something. and it's hard to commit to simmering something i plucked fresh out of the ground into a hot mush.

so. pan-roasted carrots. after lots of trimming, scrubbing, and peeling, i had cute little carrots whose sizes approximated those of my various fingers. some thumb-sized carrots, some mailman-sized carrots (remember that song? "mailman" was the middle finger- weird.), but all small enough to cook through in about twenty minutes, i figured.

warm a tablespoon or two of canola or light olive oil in a large, heavy skillet, over medium or medium-high heat. place the carrots in the pan, without overcrowding them. when they are golden-brown on one size, drizzle a tablespoon or so of honey over them all, and squeeze some lemon juice too. then stir them around and flip each carrot over so it can brown on a new side. lower the heat, strip some thyme leaves off a sprig and toss them in, stir everything again, and cover with a lid (add some vegetable broth first if it looks dry enough to start sticking). cook for 10-15 minutes or until carrots are tender. delicious.

i also made a greens-n-cream sauce for my butternut agnolotti (which are a lot like ravioli, only round) which i got at your dekalb farmers market on a recent trip to atlanta. i swear, i could live in that building and die happy. anyway, the sauce had edamame beans (i wanted fava beans but we were out), some sauteed ribbons of mustard greens, a bit of thyme, some vegetable broth and cream. it was a little odd, but not bad.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

i made another tart: baby onion, bacon, leek and tomato

i wish i had taken this -- but i stole it from ilovebutter, who ought to be me just based on that name alone but is not. even as i steal her/his photo, i am hoping someday we can be friends.

use the same damn tart dough i've been posting about for months -- i now have an index card taped to the wall above the range titled MAGIC PASTRY DOUGH and scribbled with my relatively comprehensible recipe shorthand.

use tiny tomatoes or cherry tomatoes to avoid tomato juice making everything soggy. i picked pretty babies from the farmers' market in green and orange.

also, ideally, a week or two in advance have your roommate buy a pork belly to cure with salt, brown sugar, and rosemary and thyme from your backyard. if he forgets it long enough this will turn into a huge hunk of bacon. slice it, mix it into scrambled eggs with some leeks, eat it on the best BLT you ever ate, and chop some up for your tart. fry it.

after you fish out the bacon chunks, it's tempting to use the remaining bacon fat, since you need to brown whole peeled cipolline or baby onions and then sautee sliced leeks. but unless you reeeally like the taste of pig fat (like, more than i do), you'll probably be happier if you drain the fat off and use light olive oil instead. ok, with a tablespoon of butter melted in it if you want.

the leeks, bacon, some thyme and chopped sage and rosemary, a grating of parmesan, and a spoonful of flour get mixed together (also pepper) and spread in the tart. then arrange the browned onions and the fresh tiny tomatoes amid the field of bacony leeky carnage.

bake that sucker! then eat it. it's pretty good. but it could use some kind of something, so tweak it if you can.