I've been invited to join Fiddleheads Board member Mark Roberts on Ronna Stuller's "Thinking Green" cable access show. The program is at 7pm tonight on Metrocast channel 25 (in the New London CT area.) First I'll be doing a vegan dish - a variation on my beloved mushroom-veggie medley with quinoa, similar to my last post but with a turmeric sauce; and then a Four Mile River Farm sirloin steak. Something for everyone.
The real reason for going on the show is to promote Fiddlehead's 4th Birthday Bash this weekend, Saturday Feb 4. I really can't believe it's been an entire year since the last one. This year promises to be even bigger, with live music all day long, cake, raffles, prizes, cake, samples, the usual Farmer's Market vendors as well as reps from some of the brands that the co-op carries on its shelves, and - did I mention cake? We'll have donations of homemade cakes from various members and customers, plus local businesses such as Mangetout Organic Cafe and You Take the Cake. We've really grown this past year, so the party should be even bigger than the last one, and a lot of fun. (I've not decided yet what I want to sample at the FMRF booth: ready-made bbq beef (the work's been done for me), or bulgogi, the korean marinated beef that was such a hit a couple of weeks ago. Any opinions?
I know Mark will be wonderful on the show tonight; he's very articulate and has a warm, engaging presence. Me? I've got butterflies, but I'll get through. I will be pre-cutting and prepping everything, of course, both for the limits of time (I'll have 20 minutes), and the fact that my knife technique is a disaster. Laugh at my dramatics, my nerves, my imperfect teeth or my wild hair, if you will - but even I have my limits.
Please watch us tonight at 7pm (Metrocast channel 25) if you can, then join the fun at Fiddleheads on Saturday.
Can you believe that Fiddleheads 4th anniversary celebration is less than a week away (Saturday, Feb 4th)? I know I can't. Didn't we just have the 3rd anniversary party maybe a month ago? That was the day I began grilling up samples of Four Mile River Farm's beef and pork for the Saturday markets. All the other vendors had samples every Saturday, why shouldn't FMRF? It looked like a lot more fun than what I had been doing, just sitting at the booth and talking about the products, and a lot more effective. Sure I can sell up the wazoo and talk a blue streak (in case you haven't noticed), but actually getting to taste their grass-fed, hormone-free locally-raised beef and pork is a whole 'nuther matter. (Fact: gross sales on Saturdays easily doubled last year when I started serving the little morsels at the booth.) It's obvious from first bite that this is nothing like the half-rancid, chemical and dye-injected flesh, from animals raised in feedlots, that generally passes for "meat" at the big-box retailers. The taste is what sells it, and in this instance I get to sell both the sizzle (the flavor) and the actual steak (or hamburger, or bacon, or....)
The only problem was - I was starting to get a little bored. Not with the customers and the interactions (can I ever grow tired of the exclamations of surprise and delight? No, I cannot), but with the samples themselves. There is only so many times you can sample hot dogs and top round pork sausages, however excellent they may be, before you begin to wonder *cue Peggy Lee* "Is that all there is?"
So over the last few weeks at the Four Mile River Farm booth on Saturdays (during the Indoor Farmers Market at FH), I've been experimenting with adding vegetables from the produce department to the usual meat samples. This particular dish, for kielbasa with mushroom-vegetable medley, is typical of my M.O. - there's little or no pre-planning involved; I look at what is available and fresh, what will go with the cut of meat I'm cooking, when I arrive at the co-op that morning. Then I walk across the aisle to the Bulk Herbs and Spices section, open the jars and let my nose help me decide what will best compliment the food. No measuring spoons, no exactitudes, just a bit of this or that according to feel. Add a little oil, olive or sesame depending on what's needed, from the general bulk section, and - TAH-DAH! - I'm serving up a tasty, satisfying and delicious snack in no time. It's better than any magician's trick.
Several customers asked me to post the "recipe" so here it is, but once again, it's merely a guideline; the measurements below of all the seasonings and mushrooms are to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. Speaking of salt - I put the seasonings into small bowls or dishes, salt and pepper separately from the other herbs; this gives me a bit more control over the seasonings than putting them all in one dish. I use the large traditional size kielbasa, rather than the kellie dogs (hot dog-sized) here. Although kielbasa is the centerpiece, I've made very similar meals of mushrooms and various veggies at home as main dishes without any meat in them, replacing the sausage with sliced portabello mushrooms (see Vegan Version below). You could also add tempeh, seitan, tofu, etc. - any extra protein you like, or none at all.
Kielbasa with Three-Mushroom & Vegetable Medley
finely-ground sea salt, and ground or cracked black pepper
marjoram, dried and sifted, about 1-2 teaspoons
pinch each of ground sage and organo, or about 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon
extra-virgin olive oil
1 large kielbasa (traditional ring or oval-shaped), cut into slices then quartered
1 large red onion, sliced or coarsely chopped
3/4 cup (approx.) white button and/or crimini mushrooms
3/4 -1 cup shiitake mushroom caps, stems removed
1-2 bell pepper, any color , sliced or chopped
Combine salt and pepper into one cup or dish, and the marjoram, oregano and sage into another; combine each well. Set aside.
Heat up electric frypan or skillet on medium with a scant amount of oil, and add the kielbasa chunks and chopped onions. Cook until the meat is golden brown on all sides and the onions likewise golden and limp; do not burn.
In the meantime brush any remaining dirt from the mushrooms and cut the larger button or crimini 'shrooms into halves or quarters as needed. Likewise tear the larger shiitake caps into halves or quarters, leaving the smaller ones whole; be sure to reserve the stems for later use in broth, etc. Put the mushrooms and peppers into a bowl, sprinkle with some of the salt and pepper, then some of the herb mixture to taste. Drizzle with just enough olive oil to coat, and combine until seasonings and herbs are well-distributed. When meat is nearly (but not quite) done, add vegetables to the pan, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple of minutes until the mushrooms and peppers are tender, al dente, but not overcooked; the peppers should still retain some of their original color. Serve immediately.
Four-Mushroom Vegan Version: Replace the kielbasa with 2 large portabello mushroom caps, stems removed, cut into chunks or slices.
*Last week on our Facebook page, we had a lively discussion about our favorite ways to eat blueberries. (The consensus? Grab handful, pop into mouth, chew and repeat.) Then Loretta McElwee found this scrumptious recipe for grilled chicken breasts with blueberry chutney, from the Vitacost website. I think this recipe would also work great with pork chops, or seafood, also at Fiddleheads, but will it work with tofu, tempeh or seitan? Anybody game to give it a go?
*Sweet Tanka Chili, comes from Marco Frucht , an Uncasville-based NAMA-nominated songwriter (for his song "Frybread"). Like a lot of contemporary music by Native American artists, who work in every musical genre, Marco's recipe marries traditional elements with unexpected surprises: nitrate-free, hormone-free Tanka Bites (bison meat nuggets with cranberry and spices); cumin, cayenne and black beans; jalapeno and sweet potatoes. (Check out the link to his Reverbnation page above for a calender of upcoming appearances.)
*Co-op on the March: A Little Insurrection of Good Taste is a wonderful article written by author, political activist and FH tea buyer Frida Berrigan in time for our forth anniversary on Feb 4. She sets down in words the experience and the very feel of being a part of FH - as staffer as well as customer - more accurately and engagingly than I could imagine possible.
*Ellen Anthony, shared an "action alert" from the Organic Consumers' Association: you can contact the FDA if you believe we have the right to know about dioxins (remember Agent Orange?) in our food supply: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_24750.cfm
*Since we're speaking of politics and going off the subject of food for a moment - your forebearance I ask, gentle reader - did you see this article in Sunday's New York Times about the deaths and injuries of Chinese workers making Apple products, thanks to the company's willingness to ignore health and safety violations? But thanks as well to our insatiable demand for the newest Apple products at the lowest cost. It also puts paid to the warm and fuzzy image Apple has so carefully cultivated. (And as it happens, I'm typing this on an Apple desktop 'puter, so it's a chilling reminder that I'm part of the problem as well.) How does that relate to food? Not at all - until we remember that how we treat workers any place around the world, in any industry - including food production and argriculture - is all part of the same philosophical paradigm, whether the end product is cheaper toys or tomatoes.
(This and all over blog recipes can also be found on our recipe archive page, "Here's Linkin' at You, Kid.")
Kiwi is one of those items that have rarely made their way into my kitchen, and I'm not sure why. Their taste, fragrance and texture reminds me of nothing so much as strawberries, which I do love, but which can be difficult to find truly ripe and intensely-flavored. The fragrance is in fact a bit more subtle than strawberries with floral as well as fruity top-notes. So why have I ignored them for so long? Is it their year-round ubiquity at the co-op, unlike red starkrimson pears, cherries, blueberries, persimmons, etc: items whose season and availability always ends too soon? Is it their thoroughly unprepossessing exterior appearance - a hairy fruit? Those dark, follicle-coated little ovals don't exactly pop out and scream at you, as they sit in the produce section, "BUY ME!" the way more brightly-colored oranges and berries and apples do. And yet, we do have them at the co-op year round, so apparently - a lot of our customers have heard the siren call and discovered the pleasures under those ugly surfaces, so I've got some catching up to do. To that end I bought a couple of kiwi at the co-op the other day, along with blueberries, bosc pears and mandarins, with no particular plan in mind. I can't stop myself from buying up fat handfuls of blueberries and several bosc pears every time I'm in the store lately; unlike the kiwi, they are not avaiable year-round.
This is so easy you don't need a strict recipe, but let's give it a crack anyway. You can change ingredients around to suit your liking as well as seasonal availability. With both the kiwi and the pears, select ripe fruit that yields slightly to the touch with gentle pressure but are not mushy or soft; with the bosc pears, look for skins that are more brown rather than green. As there are several types of oranges and citrus at the co-op right now, you could try a hamlin orange, a blood orange, or a tangelo in place of the mandarin; you want a variety that is juicy, sweet and intensely flavored. (If you try limes or lemons instead, be sure to adjust the sweetener or the blueberries in the sauce to balance the sourness.)
Kiwi, Blueberry and Pear Fruit Salad, with Blueberry-Orange Sauce
2 ripe kiwi, peeled, cut in half lengthwise then sliced
1 cup (approx) ripe (or thawed frozen) blueberries, divided into halves
1 ripe (but not overripe) bosc pear, cut into bite-size chunks, skin left on
1-2 small mandarin oranges or other juicy, sweet orange (such as blood orange or red cara cara), tangelo or tangerine, cut in half, plus grated zest
2 T - 1/8 cup dark (Grade B preferable) maple syrup and/or agave nectar (I used blue agave but any variety should work, esp if combined with the maple syrup)
powdered coriander to taste (optional)
pecans or walnuts, toasted, whole or broken in to pieces, for topping (optional)
Put prepared kiwi slices into a bowl with half of the blueberries and the pear chunks. Squeeze the juice from 1/2 of the mandarin orange over the fruit and lightly sprinkle ground coriander on top, as well as some freshly grated orange zest if desired; toss all ingredients gently. Drizzle with Blueberry-Orange Sauce (below); if desired, top with toasted pecans or walnuts just before serving. Serves 2 as a dessert or side-dish (or breakfast, lunch, etc...) You can substitute or add other fruits according to availability and preference, such as strawberries, bananas, etc.
In a microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl smash approximately 1/2 cup of the remaining blueberries with a fork, then squeeze juice and pulp from other half of the orange into cup, and some fresh orange zest. Add a couple of tablespoons of the maple syrup and/or agave, and a dash of coriander if desired, and mix thoroughly, continuing to smash blueberries if they are not already soft and broken-down. (Show them no mercy, my friend, no matter how much it hurts.)
Put the cup or bowl with the sauce in the microwave and heat on low 1-2 minutes, stirring as necessary. Sauce should be not overly-sweet or gummy, and have a rich, deep blue-ish ruby-red color. You can strain out the blueberry skins but I prefer to leave them in; they add to flavor and color. The sauce thickens very quickly as it cools into an almost jelly-like consistency; if you want it to be a little thinner, simply squeeze in a bit more of the orange juice and stir. There will be more sauce than you need for the fruit salad, so store any left over in refrigerator.
Note: If you don’t wish to make the sauce from scratch, try adding orange zest and juice to blueberry jam, instead.
Deborah Hinchey sent me one of her favorite recipes from the Avoca Cafe Cookbook 1 by Hugo Arnold (with Leylie Hayes) for the chain of Avoca shops in Ireland. Department stores that have their own cafe has become a rather "quaint" idea, at least in this country (or at any rate in Michigan where I grew up), although Lord and Taylor's in NYC has a charming cafe (hint for travelers making their first trip to the city: L&T also has restrooms); and Ikea is trying to revive the practice. (If you're willing to set foot in those monstrous, chaotic spaces to begin with. Especially in New Haven, where dining options are so plentiful.) Most department stores in this country needn't bother with their own cafes, of course, when the mall itself has a "food court" to serve that need, even if those spaces are rather dismal and serve up standard fast-food fare.
I also remember some lovely lunches in a very elegant old-world setting with my mother in the 1980's at Hudson's Department Store in Detroit, Hudson's was the 100+ year old department store that was to Detroit what Macy's is to New York; the company even hosted the big Christmas parade in downtown Detroit that was telecast every Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, Hudson's was bought out, merged with another company and then eliminated altogether and the original downtown store torn down. Gone was the store and gone was the parade; another link to the city's own history, and another bright spot in the year, were eliminated when we perhaps needed them most.
But, I digress....we're here to talk about stew.
The recipe Deb shared, (which is also up on our archive page "Here's Linkin' at You, Kid") is different from most beef and Guinness recipes I've come across in that you do not dredge the meat in flour before you brown it; instead, you use flour to create something of a simple roux or gravy, and that suits me fine. I've never had a positive experience coating beef in flour, when the meat itself browns so beautifully; the flour only seems to create an odd texture and mouthfeel, and if the pan isn't hot enough the flour won't form a proper crust. Four Mile River Farm sells pre-cut stew beef in 1lb packages at Fiddleheads; or try a lean but flavorful cut such as top round, eye of round, sirloin tip; or experiment with FMRF soup shanks or beef ribs.
Across the pond Guinness is not just a beverage but a food (especially in the centuries when both food and water quality were questionable at best), and if you've ever enjoyed a draught you'll understand that it is a meal in itself. If you can’t get a Guinness - or would rather drink it than cook with it - Fiddleheads has regionally-produced porters and stouts, such as Wolaver’s Stovepipe Porter. Deb has only used Guinness in this, but if you give another brew a try, won't you let us know how it came out?
BEEF AND GUINNESS STEW
(From the Avoca Cafe Cookbook written by Hugo Arnold with Leylie Hayes.)
3 lb beef brisket, cut into 2 inch cubes; or pre-cut stew beef (see note)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 heaped teaspoon plain flour
1 pint Guinness
3 carrots peeled and sliced
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1 garlic cloved, peeled and crushed
In a heavy skillet, stewpot, dutch oven or casserole dish (Deb’s note: I use my cast iron stewpot), brown the meat in the oil on the stovetop in batches, transferring it to a plate as it is done. Add the onions to the pot and saute for 10 minutes, until they are just coloured. Lower the heat and return the meat to the pot. Add flour and cook, stirring for 2 minutes, then stir in the Guinness along with the carrots, thyme, bayleaf and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and bring to simmering point. Cover the casserole and transfer to an oven preheated to 275 degree F. Cook for
1-1/2 hours, until meat is very tender.
Did you know that January is National Hot Tea Month? Lindsey Goodwin suggests 31 ways to celebrate the month and expand your beverage repertoire. (And of course, you can get everything she mentions - black, green and white teas, herbal tisanes, etc - at Fiddleheads.)
Grow and Behold, a kosher meat website on our links page, has an intriguing recipe on their blog for beef flanken with...blueberries. The recipe calls for fresh or frozen berries, both available at the co-op right now. FYI - "flanken" refers to the first five short ribs of the beef rib cage, cut across rather than parallel to the bones. I'd try this recipe with regular short ribs and I suspect it would be awesome with pork ribs or chops. (Thanks for this find to Allen Longendyke, our fresh foods buyer, a.k.a. "the man who brings us turkey at Thanksgiving, hams at Christmas; and wonderful cheeses and soymilk, etc, all the year round.")
On our Facebook page, Ellen Anthony shared a link to a myriad of egg recipes on The Incredible Edible Egg.org. (Anyone else remember those commercials?) The global climate change we're experiencing means the hen's bodily rhythms are confused* and they are laying when they normally wouldn't. Ergo, we have eggs at co-op. Now's the time to try those recipes for chocolate souffle, snow eggs with pistachio custard or poached eggs with tomato-cilantro sauce that you've been meaning to get around to.
Cathy Elton's onion tart with greens and cashew cream is perfect for those of you who 1) are looking for new ways to use the chard or kale you bought from the co-op; 2) are wanting a simple gluten-free crust recipe (this one uses chickpea flour); 3) want to eat healthier without sacrificing flavor, or 4) don't give a flying fig about any of the above, you only know that tart looks crazy-delicious.
Dry skin? Try this salve you can make at home with melted beeswax and coconut oil from Cara at Health, Home & Beauty. The beeswax keeps the coconut oil from solidifying, as it does at room temperature. Thanks to member Loretta McElwee for the find!
Sheila Herbert signed this petition to support the authentic fair trade movement, and kindly brought it to our attention on Facebook. 243 people have signed it thus far from across the US and Costa Rica, as well as Canada, Italy and the UK. Fair trade - paying farmers a living wage for their labor and their products - is one of the central tenants of our philosophy at Fiddleheads, and to the co-operative movement in general. (I've just added my name to the petition. Will your's be next?)
And in economic news: Hostess (maker of Twinkie and Ho-Ho's) is filing for Chapter 11 protection. I know that the employees (blue and white collar) never end up the winners in this sort of thing, so I feel for anyone who is going to lose a job, no matter where they are on the corporate ladder. On the other hand, I think back to all those yellow sugar-and-lard filled sponge tubes that our moms put in our lunch boxes back in the day, with the noblest intentions to give their kids a healthy lunch with a treat - because they knew we were just going to pitch the apples they gave us anyway. And I can't help but think "They had it coming. People eat differently nowadays than 40 years ago; did they not see the writing on the wall?" (Full disclosure: it's not that I was an ultra health-conscious kid who rejected Twinkies in favor of the apples and such. It's just that I wanted the sugar-and-lard filled chocolate cupcakes instead.)
*Of course the poor hens are confused. I can't even figure out from day to day if I can lower my storm windows or if I need to wear a turtleneck when I go out.
On Saturday I had accompanied the bulgogi (see previous post) I sampled at Fiddleheads with strips of daikon radish that I seasoned and stir-fried or sauteed in the electric skillet along with the beef. I had meant to include the recipe in yesterday's write-up at this blog but forgot to include it.
I hadn't decided on the daikon until after I'd gotten to the co-op and was heating up the electric skillet, but it seemed a natural fit with the Korean beef recipe. The marinade was something I threw together on the spot entirely from ingredients available to me right there in the bulk section: rice vinegar, sesame oil, five spice powder and curry powder. Carol Booth, our bulk spice buyer, suggested the five-spice powder; the one she purchased for the co-op is redolent of cinnamon and milder in flavor than previous versions of the seasoning I've encountered, which were robust and rather awful. The curry powder I used is the one that is simply labeled "curry powder", is a brighter yellow-orange than the other jar of "machi" curry, and has a subtler fragrance with an almost floral quality. The other powder is a dull yellow and smells like the kitchen of an Indian restaurant. I used coconut sugar from bulk because I didn't have honey or agave available; for the same reason I used kosher salt instead of soy sauce. As I was throwing things together right there at the co-op into my bowl, I was unable to measure anything and so went by taste. In other words, this is (per usual) more of a suggestion than a set-in-stone recipe - and all brickbats should therefore be slung my way.
Briefly, daikon is a radish of Asian origin that is milder than the familiar red radish; it's crisp texture and mild taste are actually closer to a turnip once cooked, although it still has a mild "bite" when raw. When you go to the co-op's produce section, you'll see it near the carrots; it's a thick and elongated white "club" (at least it looks to me like you could whack someone with it in a desperate emergency, although I doubt it would inflict lasting damage.) You can use it any way you would use any other root veggie: shredded raw on salads, stir-fried (my favorite way to cook it), oven-roasted, pickled; it can even be boiled, pureed and served as you would mashed potatoes. In fact, one young customer at the co-op Saturday, barely taller than the FMRF table, said that his sample "tastes just like potato!" And as he finished it off with a grin on his face, I took that as a seal of approval.
Seasoned Daikon "Fries" (Skillet Version)
(with thanks to Carol Booth for her advice and assistance)
1 daikon radish, cut into strips about the size and shape of a standard french fry
Marinade the strips in a combination of the following:
brown rice vinegar
toasted sesame oil
salt (kosher, sea salt, or soy sauce)
sugar (coconut, raw, honey or agave)
Adjust seasonings to taste, pour over daikon strips, and set aside while your lightly-oiled skillet or wok is heating up. When the pan is just hot (don't let the oil smoke or burn) toss the strips in, and turn every so often with your spatula until brown on all sides and the strips are as crisp or as tender as you like. The longer the strips sit in the marinade the more quickly they cook and the more tender they become, so time accordingly. If you want them to have some crispness, let marinade a few minutes to an hour; longer if you want them more tender.
Serve alongside bulgogi (Korean marinaded beef), perhaps wrapped up in lettuce leaves, or drain on paper towels and serve as a snack or appetizer.
Last week Elisa Giommi, owner of Mangetout Cafe, suggested that I try a different preparation for the samples of Four Mile River Farm meats I serve up at Fiddleheads every Saturday. "Slice the beef in thin strips and grill it immediately for each customer; like for fajitas..."
I bristled automatically at the word 'fajitas'. I'm indifferent to "Mexican cuisine" in general, thanks to the sloppy offerings of a certain Big-Chain-Purveyor-of-Fake-Mexican-Cuisine during my formative years.
"...or Korean..." she continued, and that seed landed in very fertile soil. *
A bit of googling (is that a verb?) brought me to a recipe for bulgogi on My Korean Kitchen . All of the ingredients I used were from Fiddleheads, including a ripe bosc pear. I made a few small adjustments to the recipe: I substituted freshly-grated organic ginger for the powdered ginger; rapadura sugar and honey stood in for the brown sugar. Most significantly, I used about 2 pounds of FMRF top round rather than the sirloin the recipe calls for. The leanest cut that FMRF sells at the co-op, and therefore one of the cheapest cuts, top round is, in my opinion, a very underrated cut. It has a very silky texture when you cut it into thin strips and can be more flavorful than some of the more expensive cuts. Using top round also allows you to economize without seeming to do so; you can serve this recipe to your guests and no apologies. (Besides, you really do want to save that sirloin for the grill, preferably over hardwood or coals. Trust me.)
But would the recipe work on a practical sense in the busy "theater" of the co-op? For that's really what the FMRF booth at the co-op is, and indeed any kitchen - a theater. I've read a lot and even written about cooking being an act of sharing and an act of love, but it's also a drama being played out. In this case, though, the cook (me) and the customers/eaters on the other side of the table take on the roles of performer and spectator interchangeably. I flung the strips into the hot pan with a flourish, a good bit of fun, then listened to the gratifying and repeated exclamation and moans: "Oh my god! What is the recipe?" And then the freezer was emptied of top round - and sirloin tip, or any cut that would fit the bill.
So yes, it worked very nicely indeed.
Bulgogi (Marinated Korean Beef)
(adapted from My Korean Kitchen)
2 pounds good-quality and VERY fresh top round beefsteak
5 T soy sauce (I used gluten-free)
3-1/2 T rapadura (or other raw) sugar
1-2 tea honey
1-1/2 T rice vinegar (I used white)
2 T grated onion
4 T coarsely grated pear (1/2 average-sized bosc from FH = 4 T)
1-2 cloves garlic
1 T freshly grated gingeroot, or to taste
black pepper to taste
dash of cayenne powder
handful of raw white sesame seeds
2 T - 1/4 cup sesame oil (to add at last moment)
canola or other light oil (for pan)
Rinse thawed beef, pat dry, then slice into thin slices across the grain, about 1/4" thick, give or take (no, don't pull out your ruler, just go by feel). Mix together all ingredients for marinade (don't include the oils); tasting and adjusting as you go to your liking. (More soy sauce? More ginger? etc) Add the beef strips, stir to coat thoroughly, and leave at room temperature for at least 1 hour (or up to 4 hours in the refrigerator).
Heat your wok or non-stick skillet (if you're using an electric skillet and have a temperature adjustment dial on it, turn it to 325-350 degrees F.) Add a little bit of canola, just enough to coat pan surface; while heating add some sesame oil to the beef and marinade and stir again to coat. When the pan is just hot, fling the strips of beef in with a flourish and a smile. (Presentation is most important here; it's all in the wrist.) Sear (browned, not burned), for perhaps 30 seconds or so on the one side; flip and sear on the other for just a few seconds more, until none of the meat looks visibly "raw".
Take out of the pan and serve immediately; it's at it's best when hot. You can wrap it in softened rice paper, or wrap in lettuce leaves for less fuss and bother, with matchsticks of sauteed daikon radish, and/or cucumber or other crisp raw vegetables. You can also serve over rice or noodles, if you like.
The original recipe calls for a dipping sauce. You don't need it and you won't miss it.
*I freely admit never having experience the genuine article when it comes to Mexican cuisine. On the other hand, repeated exposure to cans of fake "chinese" food from the big-box retailers, or bad meals at questionable "oriental" restaurants, has only increased my appreciation for lovingly-prepared shrimp pad thai, it's mound of soft rice noodles topped with crunchy peanuts; vegetables spring rolls in soft wrappers and served with a gingered dipping sauce; hearty beef pho with fresh basil; and I would mainline tom kha gai (Thai coconut soup) straight into my vein except for the pleasures my mouth would be missing out on. No, I don't understand it either; some things in life are simply not to be questioned.
A few years back (the '90's, perhaps?) I recall reading a newspaper or magazine article about the rise of "comfort food" amongst folks of every income level, and at fancy restaurants of the day. Suddenly everyone, it seemed, wanted the "simple comfort foods" of their childhoods, the food of the working class, from that magical, golden time and place called "yesterday" that I suspect exists only in fantasy and memory. The article specifically made mention of meatloaf as a popular offering; I laughed at that and said "They're welcome to it."
When my brothers and I were teenagers we were "latchkey kids", though we never thought of ourselves as such or used the term in conversation. The fact was, however, that we came home and made dinner for ourselves and tried to help raise our younger sister (who, no thanks to our sloppy efforts, turned out just fine: a loving wife and mother of two kids, with all of her street-smarts and no-nonsense sass fully intact.) I took turns being the primary cook with my brother Ed; the rotations were based something along the lines of "Nobody appreciates all the work I do! I'm sick of this, you do it!" As a matter of fact I did enjoy cooking and baking (sometimes), and I allowed myself a certain creativity with it (sometimes), within the bounds of our mom's modest budget.
There were other items, however, that I slogged through joylessly but made them nonetheless because they were cheap and filling. Meatloaf, and it's demon spawn, salisbury "steak", were such items that struck me with dread and loathing. The meatloaf recipe probably came from our copy of the Betty Crocker Cookbook, which was covered in grease stains on the inside and, eventually, black electrical tape on the outside to hold it together, and was already missing several pages. (The only recipe from that book I wanted to copy down when I left home to go to college, the spiced sour-cream raisin pie with meringue topping my mom made so superbly was, of course, on one of those missing pages.) I recall the meatloaf being a large dark hunk that I referred to as "a bowling ball". It was slathered with bottled barbeque sauce because that was the only part of it I liked, then shoved in the oven until it was overdone on the inside yet floating in a pool of hamburger grease on the bottom, plus crusty, sticky and red-black on the outside from the semi-burnt sauce.
You might not be surprised to learn that I never made it again after I left home and went off to college. In fact, I made a silent vow to myself: "I am NEVER making meatloaf again - ever!" Which is not quite as dramatic as, say, Scarlett O'Hara's vow - but I doubt that even she would be so hungry as to stoop to making that ground beef bowling ball. I spent many a tight and hungry year through college and beyond and consumed bowls of oatmeal and rice in preference to ever breaking my vow.
But last year, older and, if not wiser, then a bit more open-minded with a "what the heck" attitude towards life and the kitchen, I actually succumbed to the unsuspected charms of my lifelong nemesis, brussels sprouts. (See previous recipe posts.) So I suppose anything is possible.
"Anything", at the moment, happens to be the recipe reader Martine Flory sent me the other day: her version of meatloaf using some of the usual ingredients - an egg, carrot, ketchup, onion etc - but held together with ground turkey, which Ms. Crocker never dreamed of back in the day. (Or if she did, she never mentioned it.) Turkey is of course a leaner option than ground beef but is rather dry; here, a modest amount of ground pork is added as a supporting player for moistness. I personally might add a bit of stone-ground mustard to the ketchup glaze; ketchup and mustard can go all sorts of places together and not just on a hot dog. Another idea for this would be to try a more "Asian"-inspired glaze, perhaps a teriyaki sauce with a bit of ginger or lemongrass. (There are several excellent ready-made choices at the co-op.) If you happen to shop at Fiddleheads and can't find plain ground pork, substitute a pre-seasoned ground pork sausage, and adjust the rest of your flavorings accordingly as needed. (Four Mile River Farm's pork breakfast or sweet italian sausages would both go quite nicely in this, I think.)
Martine Flory's Turkey and Pork Meatloaf
(adapted from JENNIE-O recipe)
2 T olive or canola oil
1 cup chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1/4 lb ground pork
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 large egg
3/4 cup ketchup, divided
2 tea. Worcestershire sauce
3/4 tea. salt
1/2 tea. ground pepper
Pre-heat oven 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a standard-sized loaf pan.
Heat oil over med-high heat in small frying pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for another 5 minutes.
Add turkey, pork, bread crumbs, carrots, egg, 1/4 cup of the ketchup,
Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to the bowl with the turkey and mix well, until thoroughly combined. Pack into the loaf pan and spread remaining 1/2 cup ketchup on top.
Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink in center, with an internal temperature of 165 degrees on a meat thermometer. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before slicing.
Serves about 5.
If you never roasted pineapple in the oven, you owe it to yourself to give it a try, especially now that we have organic pineapple coming into the co-op once again. It's super-simple (once you get past prepping the fruit) and ridiculously addictive. This is really more of a suggestion than a recipe, as there is no hard science here; basically you're popping fresh pineapple spears in the oven until they are tender, then glazing with a mixture of honey and ground coriander until it starts to brown and carmelize. The result is something akin to candy (if candy were warm and juicy) but much, much better.
Preheat your oven to 375-400 degrees F, depending on how hot it runs. Peel and core 1 fresh (preferably organic, of course) pineapple; this is not hard, but it's time-consuming and requires a bit of attention if you want to keep all your fingertips intact. (I've become rather fond of mine, thank you.) The method I use is essentially Betty Crocker's, as that was the cookbook I grew up with: "Twist top from pineapple. Cut pineapple into fourths. Holding pineapple securely, cut fruit from rind. Cut off pineapple core and remove "eye". A different method has you remove the outer peel before you quarter and core it; Sandy Smith shows how it's done with simple instructions and clear photos at Eat Real.
Once you've got the basic prep done, cut the pineapple quarters in half, then half again to get thin strips. (If you'd rather have larger spears, only halve the quarters once; or if you prefer, cut the spears into large chunks.) Lay them down on a lightly oiled baking tray, and put in the middle of the oven. In the meantime stir together enough honey and ground coriander to taste; you want enough to glaze the pineapple spears but not drown them. Check the pineapple after 5-8 minutes; if starting to become tender, flip spears over to the other side, cook until thoroughly tender but not falling apart. Pull tray from oven and drizzle or spoon the honey glaze over both sides of the pineapple to coat thoroughly, return to oven 3-5 minutes until honey starts to carmelize. Turn spears over if necessary and repeat.
And that's it. If you can wait until it cools a bit the honey gets stickier in contrast with the fruit inside; but I doubt it will make it that long, unless you are far more disciplined than I am. You'll be eating it right out of the oven, it's that good. It's delicious as-is, of course, but I couldn't resist gilding the lily and topping it with a dessert sauce I had made from thick coconut milk kefer combined with toasted coconut flakes and vanilla bean, grated fresh ginger, mandarin orange juice and a bit of orange zest. The tropical notes of the sauce seemed an appropriate pairing for the fruit. Another lovely idea would be scoops of vanilla bean or coconut ice cream, sprinkled again with toasted coconut.
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Text and photos copyright 2011-2013 Janice Janostak unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.