Friday, August 22, 2014

My quest to spend more time at the farmers' markets continues with full force this week.  I challenged myself to buy as few groceries as possible in a bricks-and-mortar store and create as many meals as I could just from farmers' markets finds.  I confess I had a few meals that contained grocery store items, but every meal consisted of something fresh as well.

My crowning achievement this week was the salad I created for my lunches.  Corn and peaches dominate the farm stands these days and I love them both dearly.  I wanted to integrate them both into the same dish.  I decided the best way to do that was with a salad that contained both.  I mixed fresh corn kernels with peach slices and little heirloom tomatoes.  When I first came up with the idea for this salad, I though ham would be the perfect protein to mix in and make it a meal.  Then I came across this cheesemaker at the farm market.

This is a very mild fresh goat cheese that mixes perfectly with fruit.

I had some inspiration for the dressing as well.  I found this grass-fed yogurt over the weekend.

I don't generally enjoy spooning yogurt directly into my face. I don't enjoy the taste that much (and don't dare tell me to stick it in the freezer and tell me that it can even begin to be as good as ice cream).  I do think it can work well in dressings, particularly for those of us who dislike mayonnaise more than we dislike yogurt.  I mixed some of the yogurt with honey (local again), mint, and lime juice.

I added tomatoes to the salad too for some more variety of texture and flavor.  These little heirlooms were just gorgeous.

It was a little monochromatic, but quite tasty and refreshing.  It had a pleasing mix of flavors and textures.

I wasn't sure what to call it since Peach-Corn-Tomato-Goat Cheese Salad seemed a little wordy.  I decided to call it Late Summer Salad, since it uses the ingredients that are always the best in late summer.

Late Summer Salad

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh mint leaves
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp mild honey
  • 4 peaches, sliced
  • Corn kernels cut from two cooked cobs
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (mixed color heirloom tomatoes look and taste the best)
  • 6 oz mild goat cheese, crumbled

 In a small bowl whisk together first four ingredients.

Place remaining ingredients in a larger bowl.  Gently toss with the dressing.  Allow to sit for about an hour so that the flavors can really blend.

What else have I made from the market?

I grilled these pork chops on my new electric grill.  I served them with blueberry-balsamic dressing.

I made risotto with fresh sorrel and grilled sausages.

I feel so healthy!

What else did I make this week?

Pork chops from Gaia's Breath Farm topped with Blueberry Balsamic Sauce.  That new electric grill is coming in handy.

How about risotto?  I tried a new green this week.  I chopped up lemony sorrel leaves from Lani's Farm into risotto.  I added some grilled sauages, also from Gaia's Breath.

I don't know how much time I'll have for farm markets this week, so we'll see what kinds of wholesome foods I can come up with!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Easing the Summer Produce Guilt with Pasta All Checca/Cruda and Other Delights

I was really feeling guilty.

How many times have I been to a farmer's market this summer?

Why am I not taking advantage of all that wonderful produce - one of the best parts of summer?

I asked myself these questions again and again all summer long.  I really needed some fresh local food.  My vacation to Chincoteague last week really drove that point home.  When driving through the rural parts of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, I saw scores of roadside stands selling tomatoes and melons and peaches.  Even on Chincoteague Island itself I saw a half dozen produce stands and markets along with a bi-weekly farmers' market.  I was on vacation and staying in a hotel, so I couldn't really buy any of it then. I had no kitchen to prepare much of anything.   The guilt had me in its grip.  I vowed to make sure I visited markets regularly when I returned home.

I started out on my quest while I was still on the road.  As I drove off Chincoteague and onto Route 13 I made sure to stop at the first roadside stand I saw.  I bought a bounty of tomatoes and peaches.  I wanted some of their string beans too, but you could only buy them by the basket, so I passed as it was likely more than I needed.  

My first local cooking adventure started with pasta.  When the garden tomatoes are ripe, I love to make homemade sauce.  Sometimes I don't feel like going through the motions of boiling, peeling, and running them through the food mill though.  I decided to do it a little differently this time.  I made raw tomato sauce.

I have heard raw tomato sauce referred to as "Salsa Cruda" or "Salsa Alla Checca".  I'm not sure if one is more correct than the other, or if there is a difference between them.  All I know is that if the tomatoes are fresh and ripe, you have a delicious and easy sauce.  The key is to let the tomatoes marinate in the dressing overnight so they get nice and soft and sauce-like.

I doubt my version is different from any of the many others floating out there, but I'm going to give you the recipe anyway.  I like to add a few red pepper flakes to mine, just as I do with my cooked tomato sauce.  Does that make it any different?

I have seen people serve this with spaghetti, but I don't like to eat chunks and strands.  I like hearty pasta so I have chunks and chunks.

I added some steamed shrimp to my husband's portion and some chunks of fresh mozzarella to mine so we could have a bit of protein with our meal. Feel free to add your own proteins.

Pasta With Raw Tomato Sauce

  • 6 large ripe tomatoes, cored seeded* and chopped
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic lightly crushed
  • 2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
  • 1 handful chopped basil leaves
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 tsp salt to taste
  • 1 pound hearty pasta such as penne, ziti, or rigatoni
*Squeeze the seeds out of the tomato over a strainer and save the juice to add to your sauce if you wish. It adds a bit more substance and flavor to the sauce and less of the tomato is wasted.

In a large bowl whisk together vinegar,  juice from the tomato seeds, salt, garlic, basil and red pepper flakes.

Whisk in olive oil until well blended.  Gently toss in tomatoes.  Allow to marinate several hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and toss with tomatoes.
My farm market cooking didn't stop there.  Another night during the week when I didn't have much time to cook after Zumba class, I made a nice frittata with farm market eggs, farm market lamb's quarter, mushrooms, and caramelized onions.

Don't worry.  I didn't serve it raw.  I just took this photo while it was still cooking.

No recipe needed here.  Caramelize the onions, cook the mushrooms, wilt the lamb's quarter, add in 6 eggs.  Cook until bottom is set.  Stick in the broiler 2 minutes to brown the top.


I have one more.  This one also doesn't need a recipe.

I have a new kitchen toy.  See my new electric grill?

I still can't grill outdoors, but I can at least try to simulate that grilled flavor.  I had a Foreman grill years ago, but it got pretty worn out from years of use.  I decided I didn't need it anymore because at that point I ended up with a Le Crueset grill pan.  Unfortunately it smoked up the kitchen terribly every time I tried to use it.  A few months ago Cathy at Noble Pig was recommending this Hamilton Beach electric grill.  I decided that an electric grill was the way to go for quickly cooking meats and give me a grill flavor.  I bought myself one for my birthday.

I inaugurated the grill with chicken breasts that I had tossed with rosemary, thyme (from my balcony garden), olive oil, garlic, salt and lemon zest and let sit for an hour.  

Then I made my own version of ratatouille on the side.  I layered Japanese eggplants (creamier texture and less bitter than the giant ones), zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes in a baking dish. All of the vegetables were from the farmers' market.   I made sure there was plenty of basil (from my balcony garden), garlic, olive oil, and salt in each layer.  I roasted the whole thing at 400 degrees for about an hour.

A little grated cheese on top is a nice addition. 

I feel a bit less guilty now.  I also feel lighter after all of the heavy meals I ate in Chincoteague.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Cherry Cobbler - Just For Us!

How do you define a cobbler?

I usually think of a cobbler as a fruit dessert topped with a crust, but it isn't a pie because a pie has a bottom crust. 

But what kind of a crust?

If it's a crumb or streusel type of topping, what makes it a cobbler and not a crisp?

If the fruit is cooked in a batter such as this type of cobbler recipe that somewhat negates my definition of a cobbler as a reverse fruit pie, doesn't it?

Wait.  A cobbler isn't always about fruit is it? (Although when I make a similar recipe to a chocolate cobbler, I call it brownie pudding.)

Anyway, a cobbler doesn't have to even be dessert.  I realized that my chicken pot pie isn't really a pot pie since it is just chicken and vegetable filling topped with biscuit dough.  I now call it Chicken Broccoli Cobbler.   Marc agrees with me.

I don't know.  The more I think about it I start to think dessert shouldn't be about asking questions.  Dessert just needs to taste good.

Every summer I try to make cherry pie.  It's my favorite type of fruit pie (well, maybe blueberry is, but life is too short to waste making silly choices like that).  I love making it when cherry season is in full swing. I often like to make an almond-studded version as I love the way the flavor of  cherries and almonds complement each other.

This summer I wanted to try something different.  Maybe the idea was just born of not feeling like rolling out pie crusts.  I won't say.  I just thought it would be fun to swap out the pie for an interesting cobbler.  I decided on a cherry-almond cobbler where a little amaretto would flavor my cherries and almonds would flavor my crust. 

Once I had my idea for my filling, how would I do the crust?  Would the crust be crumbs, biscuits, or something more like a piecrust?

I decided to go with biscuits.  I would make a regular sweet biscuit dough and spread it over the top.  
I made it gluten free by mixing the almond flour with King Arthur gluten-free all-purpose flour.  I learned the hard way that that almond flour and rice flour make very cake-like biscuits, but they still taste good and it would make an interesting crust for my cobbler. 

I just put the butter, flours, sugar, salt and baking powder in the food processor.  I tossed in the almonds and then gently stirred into the milk until I had a thick batter that I could pour over the cherries.

Cherries were macerated (I said MACERATED) with amaretto and sugar for an hour..  Before they went into the pan I stirred in some cornstarch.  I put them in a baking dish and covered them with biscuit dough and baked it until it was golden.

Eat this quickly or the top will become soggy. 

I found that the grainy texture of rice flour is still pretty prevalent in the topping, even with the almond flour mixed in.   I would like to try this with regular flour and see how that changes the consistency of the dough.  I might be able to create more of a crumble texture this way.  I will definitely try a non-gluten-free version in the future.  My recipe has an all-purpose flour option.

I had really wanted to make this for a crowd.  Remember how I said in my last post that I wanted to make it for the 4th of July party?  Since that idea was shot down I worried that I wasn't going to have a chance to make my wonderful cobbler idea.

Dejected I turned to Sir Pickypants and moaned that I we hadn't been invited to any parties where I could take this wonderful cherry cobbler recipe I had in my head.

"You can make it for me," he said.

Funny how rarely I do that anymore.  When was the last time I baked a dessert just for us?  In my efforts to keep my weight down, dessert goes out of the house as soon as it comes in.  Good for my waistline, but not happy for my poor husband who only takes a bite before it's whisked away.

Cherry Almond Cobbler

  • 4 cups cherries, pitted and stemmed
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup amaretto
  • 2 Tbl corn starch
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour (gluten-free if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 Tbl baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold butter cut into pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Place cherries,  1 cup of the sugar, and amaretto in a bowl.  Place in refrigerator for about an hour.  Right before using, stir in the cornstarch.  Pour into the bottom of a baking dish.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt.  Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Pulse in the butter until it looks like crumbs.

Place the flour mixture in a bowl and toss in the sliced almonds. and gently stir in the buttermilk.  You want to keep that crumbly texture and not quite incorporate it into a smooth dough.  Scatter this evenly over the cherries in the dish.

Place in oven and bake about 15 minutes or until crust is golden.

Butter Me Up!

I know I say I like bad puns, and that bad puns are a mainstay of TERP, but I think I just brought this blog to a new low.  The pun in this title is painful, which kind of disrespects a good restaurant.

I'm kind of over celebrity chefs.  I am just not starstruck by Food Network personalities anymore. I hardly even watch the Food Network.  I am extremely cautious about eating at restaurants owned by celebrity chefs.  I worry that they get by too much on the chef's name rather than the quality of the food.  If a chef owns multiple restaurants, I wonder what the quality control is like. Once upon a time I would have died to eat at Paula Deen's Lady and Sons.  Now I'm sure I could probably find a dozen better restaurants should I ever make it to Savannah.  I have no interest in ever trying that hot mess Guy Fieri opened in Times Square.   On the other hand, I have eaten at two of Mario Batali's restaurants and enjoyed them. It's not that I think all celebrity chef owned restaurants won't be good.  I am just a bit skeptical.  I think the one point to consider when eating at a celebrity restaurant is whether or not the chef in question is better known for his or her personality rather or for the food he or she prepares.

It was definitely the food and not the chef that has made me want to eat at Butter all of these years.  Although she is rather dismissive and biting when she judges Food Network competition shows, Alex Guarneschelli is my kind of cook.  I first discovered her on her old show The Cooking Loft and then eventually watched of some of her show Alex's Day Off.  I always loved the food she cooked.  She pays close attention not just to taste, but to texture and emotions.  Her cooking isn't just about flavor, but it's also about feeling.  I imagined that the food at her restaurant would be extremely satisfying both emotionally and physically.

For years I never tried to go to Butter because it was just too far downtown.  It's a little out of the way of my job and my husband's job to bother with travel.  Then she opened Butter Midtown just this year.  It's just a short walk from my office and Grand Central Terminal.  I can walk over there for dinner after work and then walk back to the train and go home as soon as dinner is over.  I knew I had to eat there for my recent birthday. 

It is located at the bottom floor of a hotel with a street-level entrance.

Here is a shot of the lounge in the restaurant's entryway.  The decor is very warm and inviting although not really my taste.  The restaurant has no windows, but the ceilings are open and there are murals of forest scenes around the walls at the top.  Everything is paneled in wood.  I'm not a fan of dark wood paneling and this place almost reminded me a bit of a basement rec room or the country cabin of a very wealthy hunter.

Our menu awaited us at our table.

I started with a cocktail.  This had watermelon, vodka, lime, and mint.  I could have drunk three of them.  It wasn't too sweet and the flavors were all perfectly balanced.  I'm wondering if I can replicate it at home.
Bread was very special.  These rolls were like a combination of brioche and croissant.  We had plain butter and herb butter to spread on them.  Not shown is a small dish of course sea salt should one prefer simple salted butter for the bread.

 It was my birthday, so I had to go all out and have as many courses as I could stuff into eager little face.  My appetizer was burrata and tomatoes.  Burrata can be disappointing for me because often I will order it and find that the outside is rubbery and the inside is watery whey.  This was nice and soft on the outside and the inside was very creamy.

Kevin didn't like his appetizer as much.  He ordered chicken liver mousse with schmaltz vinaigrette.  There were also these little onion bits scattered on it.  The whole thing was served on a sheet of matzoh.  I tasted it and found that it was a bit salty.  The pate tasted kind of sausage-like. 

We both did well with our main course.  I had a delicious pork chop with braised collard greens and bits of ham hocks and a mustard glaze.  It was a bit salty, but the flavors they used on the pork chops was perfect. 
Kevin opted for chicken with sauteed lambs quarter.  I thought the greens were very well handled.

They had a special side dish that night of fried zucchini blossoms.  These were amazing.  They were deep fried heaven. The coating was light and crispy.  They were topped with a tartar sauce and served over sauteed leeks.  I want another plate of these after just looking at the photo.
I was so stuffed at this point that I couldn't stomach my own dessert.  We decided to share.  I was very torn between the raspberry beignets with vanilla dipping sauce or the chocolate dobosch torte.  I opted for the latter.  The layers of yellow cake and creamy milk chocolate buttercream were lightly encased in a shell of hard caramel.

The service was perfectly timed and everyone was relentlessly cheery.  It was a pleasant experience overall.

I would definitely come back here for an occasion even if I didn't know who the chef was.  Well done, Butter.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

4th of July - Can I Make Cole Slaw More Interesting?

I really wanted to make dessert.

I always want to make dessert.  That's pretty typical.  When I was invited to my brother's 4th of July barbecue this summer, I especially wanted to make dessert.  I have a fantastic cherry cobbler recipe in development and this was the perfect place to try it out on my family.

I couldn't believe how quickly my sister-in-law put the kibosh on it.  "Can you make a salad?" she kept asking.  Salad?  Really?  Salads are boring.  Salads take way more brainpower than I want to use on a hot summer day to not be boring.  Really, I can make such a good dessert.  Everyone in the family knows that.

Sister-in-law was persistent.  "You make such good salads."  I do?  I don't think it's going to be on my epitaph that I was a maker of superb salads.  I'm not sure it's how I want to be remembered anyway.  I guess she really liked the salad I made for Father's Day dinner.  My mother was making the potato salad (more specifically, she was making my recipe for sweet potato and black bean salad), so how about I make the coleslaw?

*Yawn* Did I hear someone ask for cole slaw?

Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but while cole slaw is always appreciated at a picnic, I just don't find it interesting.  I mean, I do always eat it when it's offered to me, but it's not what I most want to make for a picnic.  When I do make it, I try to jazz it up, but my usual way of jazzing it up is my tropical cole slaw and I'm bored with that recipe.  I'm not inclined to make the classic version because I don't really like mayonnaise.

I floated some ideas around my head and looked up some recipe variations online.  What could I do to add some different flavors and textures to ordinary coleslaw?  Now that it's summer, the ingredient I think of most is corn.  I envisioned coleslaw with corn, roasted peppers, and two different colors of cabbage.  That would give a few colors and flavors.  Such a coleslaw  would need a light dressing that would be a bit sweet, a bit acidic, and maybe even have a little spice to it.  Vinegar, honey, and mustard would do that tick nicely.

I really went all out for this.  I cut up my own cabbage.  I wasn't even planning to do that.  The store just didn't have any bags of pre-shredded coleslaw mix.  I did use frozen corn though.  It may be summer, but it's not quite fresh corn season yet.

I also made biscuits because I love biscuits and can never make enough of them.  I mixed some parmesan and black pepper into my classic recipe (the one I use for this crust, but with another half cup of flour) for a new spin on flavor.

Salting cabbage overnight to get the excess liquid out ahead of time makes for less soupy cole slaw.  Thank you Cooks Country for teaching me that trick.

The resulting cole slaw is almost red, white, and blue!

Of course we had other food like ribs, fried chicken, two kinds of sausage, and the aforementioned sweet potato salad along with some cold ratatouille, red potatoes, and corn on the cob.

The family was very into the soccer game as you can see.  Too bad Colombia lost to Brazil.

Colorful Picnic Cole Slaw

  • 1 head green cabbage, cored and cut into strips
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, cored and cut into strips
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 10 oz package frozen corn, thawed (NOT IN THE MICROWAVE - it shrivels up and dries out)
  • 1 6 oz jar roasted red peppers cut into small dice
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 Tbl dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup olive oil 
 The night before making the salad, toss the cabbages with 1/4 cup salt and place in a colander set over a bowl.  Allow to stand in the refrigerator and let the liquid drain off.  Right before making the coleslaw, rinse well and dry. 

Toss cabbages with corn and peppers in a large bowl.  Set aside.

In a small bowl whisk the vinegar, honey, and mustard together until well blended.  Slowly whisk in the oil until it is blended and emulsified.  Toss the dressing with the vegetables and allow to sit and let flavors blend before serving.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Brown Butter Sage Chicken

I love pasta, and in many ways I am a traditionalist.  Sure I love all kinds of weird and creative pasta recipes, but deep down I know the old-time sauces are the best ones.  Give me something tomato based or slather that pasta with pesto.  I love a hearty thick pasta with a good ragu`. I'm not a huge fan of alfredo, but love a simple aglia e olio or cacio e pepe.

When it comes to certain types of pasta like mushroom ravioli or gnocchi, nothing beats brown butter sprinkled liberally with sage.  This combination comes up often on gnocchi and ravioli here at in the (dis)Ordered Kitchen.  It is comforting, slightly sweet, and has an oddly complex flavor for something so simple.

As with many of my favorite types of recipes, the time came that I wanted to take the concept outside of the box.  What else would brown butter and sage taste good on?  Well, that question is easily answered.  What protein am I constantly cooking?  How about brown butter and sage on chicken?

I used for my base recipe the traditional red-sauce-Italian-restaurant staple, chicken francese.  This is a recipe where you dip pounded chicken breasts in flour and egg, cook them up, then douse them with a lemony butter sauce.  I just tweaked that idea.

I battered my chicken  breasts and fried them up.  Then I browned the butter in the pan and crisped up some sage leaves in the butter.  I added just a hint of wine.  I wanted the wine to cut the richness of the butter sauce, but didn't want to compromise the sweetness.

Very basic, but very tasty.  This is a great weeknight dish.

Brown Butter Sage Chicken

  • 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
  • Flour for dredging (about a cup)
  • 2 tst salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine (not too dry)
  • 3/4 stick butter
  • 6-8 fresh sage leaves
Mix together salt and flour in a dish.  In another dish, lightly beat the eggs.  Coat a piece of chicken in the flour, and then in the egg.  Set aside and repeat with all other pieces of chicken.

Heat the oil until shimmering over medium heat.  You want the pan hot or you will have eggy bits all over your pan and not on your chicken.  Cook the chicken breasts until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.  Remove from the pan and keep warm.

 Add the wine to the pan to deglaze.  Scrape up any bits at the bottom of the pan.  Add the butter and sage leaves to the pan and cook over medium heat.  Cook until it foams up and foam subsides and butter begins to darken and the sage leaves become crispy.  Test for seasoning and add salt if you need it.

Drizzle over your chicken breasts and serve. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Father's Day Feast

I know it's a few days too late, but I do hope everyone enjoyed Father's Day.  There probably aren't too many fathers who are regular readers of this blog, but if you're a father and you are reading this, then I hope you had a great one.  For those of you who aren't fathers, I hope you enjoyed a day with the men you love in your life.

One thing I love about Father's Day is that it's a great excuse for me to cook up the kind of hearty, meaty dishes that the fathers in my life love.  My husband, is, as you well know Sir Pickypants.  He requires a fish or chicken dish.  My mother has a more delicate and sensible appetite and it's the same with my mother-in-law.  They are best served by going out to dinner.  My father and my brother on the other hand, are real guy's guys when it comes to food.  For them I can cook all of the foods I normally have to leave off the menu.

I love pork shoulder and it's so easy to prepare because you can stick it in the oven for a few hours and forget about it.  While the typical way to prepare it is barbecue style (which I have done before) I was thinking of trying something different.  I was inspired by Debby and her pork ragu` recipe.  Two years ago I made a ragu` from short ribs.  Why not try one from pork shoulder?  I thought that rather than repeat myself and serve it over pasta, I would serve it over polenta, which would be perfect for those with likely gluten sensitivities.

My recipe was rich, thick and hearty.  Grated cheese is optional, but it does take this over the top.

For dessert I wanted to make the most of seasonal fruits.  I decided to rework my strawberry lemon cake recipe with farmer's market strawberries.  I made a basic vanilla butter cake, but flavored it with some lemon and then layered it with fresh strawberries and lemon curd, and then covered the outside with Swiss buttercream flavored with pureed fresh strawberries.

Why are my layer cakes always lopsided?  This is why I don't bake for a living.

Want to see what the inside looked like?
I think everyone enjoyed the meal.  My niece even ventured to try the pork (although the children preferred to eat ice cream rather than try a cake filled with noxious fruit).  To me, cooking someone a meal is one of the ultimate expressions of love, so I hope the important fathers in my life enjoyed this Father's Day gift.

So for the recipes...

Pork Shoulder Ragu`

  • 1 4-Pound Pork Shoulder Roast
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1  large onion, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 16 oz. cremini mushroom, sliced
  • 2 28 oz, cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 bay leaves*
  • 1 Tbl chopped fresh thyme
Heat oven to 325 degrees

Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper.  Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and brown the pork on all sides.  Remove from pot.

Turn heat to low and add olive oil to pot.  Add fennel seeds and cook until fragrant.  Add onion and cook until soft and transparent.  Add garlic and cook another minute until fragrant.  Add mushrooms and cook until soft and give off their liquid.  Stir in the tomatoes and wine along with the bay leaves and thyme.  Return pork to the pot. 

Cover the pot and cook for five hours in the oven. 

Remove pork from the pot.  Place in a bowl or large plate and use 2 forks to shred it.  Return it to the sauce and keep warm over low heat for another 30 minutes. 

Serve over your favorite hearty pasta or polenta.

Strawberry Lemon Cake

For Cake

  • 2 stick of butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 Tbl lemon juice
  • 3 ¼ cups cake flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
Heat oven to 350 degrees. 

Grease and flour 3 9” round cake pans (or use flour cooking spray)

Cream the butter until fluffy with an electric mixer.  Add sugar and continue creaming for about 6-8 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one.  Add vanilla, juice, and zest.

Begin to add the flour and milk alternately.  Start and end with the flour. 

Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. 

Cool in pans for 10 minutes.  Invert onto wire rack to cool completely before assembling cake.  

For Strawberry Frosting

  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 sticks of butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup strawberries, hulled
Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Set aside.

Place the egg white and the sugar in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (it's best to use the same bowl that you will be mixing the frosting in for convenience).  Whisk the egg whites and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture feels uniformly warm.  Remove from heat.

Using a mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture until it is stiff, fluffy, and glossy, but not dry.  This should take about 10 minutes.  Start the mixer on low but gradually increase the speed.   

Begin adding the butter a few pieces at time, making sure each addition is incorporated.  When all of the butter is added, add the vanilla.  Switch to a paddle attachment and continue mixing until smooth and then add the strawberries at a low speed and mix until well incorporated.

Chill if you aren't going to use it right away, but bring it to room temperature before using as this type of frosting hardens when cold.

For assembly
  • 1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 2 Tbl liqueur such as framboise or limoncello
  • Lemon curd (You can use store bought, or make your own.  I use Ina Garten's recipe.)
Brush each cake layer with a small amount of liqueur.  Spread some of the lemon curd over the top and then top with strawberries before adding the next layer.  

Make sure your lemon curd is very cold so that it stays firm and doesn't drip out the sides of the cake.  Make sure your frosting is at room temperature.

Frost the entire outside of the cake with strawberry buttercream.

*Confession time.  I truly intended for this recipe to contain bay leaves.  Unfortunately, I assumed I had bay leaves in the kitchen, but when I went to put them into the sauce, I found out I didn't have any.  I did without.  If you want to use bay leaves, I'm sure they would be delicious.  If you don't, this sauce is still good.