Spring may not be the typical season for stews, but they are comforting and sometimes we need a little comfort even when the sun is shining and the nights are warm. On one such pleasant evening, my family gathered around our garden table to enjoy this stew.  The recipe comes from 660 Curries, by Raghavan Iyer, that a friend generously gave to me as a thank you gift. Choosing from over 600 curries is a bit of a challenge.  This one stood out because it is composed of ingredients I generally have in stock (and perhaps you do too): potatoes, apples, carrots.  I also happened to have a leftover grilled pork tenderloin on hand, but the recipe below calls for uncooked pork.  Either works well.

Since it was a glorious spring evening,  I served Indian Pork, Potato, and Apple Stew with a shredded cabbage and carrot slaw to lighten the meal.  It also paired beautifully with a jar of Curried Cauliflower Pickles (which I need to make a double batch of next season, because one pint is NOT enough for our dinner table).  The stew was a tasty blend of rich flavors mingling with the sweet apple and heat from the spices.  This is quite a tasty stew for any season.

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I would love to say that each jar of jam I make is a smashing success.  It would be great if each jar was filled with mouth watering combinations of fruits that strained our self-control through the winter.  In fact many of the jams filling our pantry do exactly that.  The Three Berry Jam of last July is long gone.  Each weekend we dole out the last drops of the Mixed Berry Syrup over yet another batch of Buttermilk Pancakes.  There is only one last jar of Strawberry Rhubarb to get us through until truly sweet strawberries start cropping up at the Farmers’ Market.  Yes, these are fantastic jams that I cannot wait to make again.  The same cannot be said for the poor Drunken Fig Jam I made (too much of) last summer.  They cannot all be winners.

Perhaps it is the brandy- I am not a big fan, or the need for a bit more acidity, whatever the reason, the fig jam did not fly off the shelves.  It got to the point when I began to consider the unthinkable- tossing the jam in favor of freeing up the precious real estate, when I discovered a recipe from the Gourmet Cookbook and adapted this recipe.

Drunken Pork Chops with Fig and Onion Marmalade is perhaps the perfect application of this drunken jam.  Pork pairs so beautifully with sweetness and fig is no exception.  For this dish, the pork chops sear off first, then nestle down into a saucy bed of well caramelized onions bathed in rosemary-infused brandied fig jam.  The dish simmers slowly as the pork cooks through and the flavors meld.  In the end, the pork is incredibly tender and awash in a deliciously sweet and savory sauce.  No ample stash of drunken fig jam in the pantry?  Just add some apricot or plum jam and a splash of brandy.

How do you cook with jam?  Feel free to link to your recipe below.

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Thai Lettuce Wraps

May 26, 2011

The end of the school year is near, which always means my life, as a teacher, becomes temporarily overwhelmingly busy.  The good news is that in two weeks I will be off for the summer with nothing to do but play with the kiddos, work in the garden, and of course cook.  The canning jars are all nearly empty, taunting me with possibilities.  But right now, in between writing finals and grading the last of the lab notebooks, there is little time for much else.  Thank goodness for quick and easy meals that still make dinner seem like a special time of day.

In between all of the bread and the cake that we have been eating lately, I thought we needed to have at least one meal that lacks a substantial carb load. Thai Lettuce Wraps always satisfy on many levels. The combo of sweet, salty, and spicy is so completely delectable that it distracts from the fact that there is no bed of rice or noodles (of course you can add those if you choose).  They are super quick and budget friendly.  Let us not forget that they are also fun to eat!


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Sesame Ginger Meatballs

April 16, 2011

The best weeknight meals are those that are simple to prepare, nutritious, and are greeted with delight by the hungry munchkins at the table.  By the time the kids and I get home, everyone is tired and hungry.  When I am really tight on time, I start the rice cooker in the morning before I go to work.  When I return home the rice is ready and all I have to do is whip up something to serve on top.  These Asian-inspired meatballs are a great alternative to our regular stir fries.  A bonus, my kids love meatballs and broccoli!  They squealed with delight the last time I served this :)

Ginger Sesame Meatballs are very easy to make and super tasty!  Mix up the pork with garlic, ginger, soy and other flavors, form the meatballs and cook.  I serve them with brown rice and broccoli or another seasonal vegetable.  A little terriyaki sauce on top and some sambal oeleck on the side adds another dimension of flavor and color.

These meatballs are really good!  Don’t let the photo fool you.  The truth is, it is very difficult to take a good picture of a meatball!

Ginger Sesame Meatballs

adapted from Cooking Light

serves 4

1 pound ground pork

1/2 cup panko

1 egg

1 tablespoon ginger, grated

1/4 cup green onion, minced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon chile paste (sambal oeleck)

1/4 teaspoon salt

2tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (for frying)

sesame seeds for garnish

Terriyaki Sauce  (optional)

Mix all ingredients except for vegetable oil and terriyaki sauce in a bowl.  Form meat into balls.  I like to make large meatballs for this dinner.  You could easily make smaller ones if you prefer or if you are making these for an appetizer.

Preheat oven 400 degrees.

Heat cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Coat pan with vegetable oil.  Fry meatballs in pan, turning so that each side is evenly brown, but meat is not cooked through.   Transfer the pan to the oven (or put meatballs on a baking tray if your pan is not big enough).  Bake for 10 minutes or until the center of the meatball reaches 160 degrees.  Serve hot with rice and veggies.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Ginger Sesame Meatballs

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Mexican Pozole Rojo

December 30, 2010

Pozole Rojo from My Pantry ShelfFollowing the excesses of the holidays, my family and I generally run for the hills.  Nestled in the rain drenched Santa Cruz Mountains, we seek the calm and quiet that comes with solitude.  We explore, rest, and reconnect as a family.  We also nourish ourselves with simple foods.

The last few years, we have spent the first day of our vacation brewing up a rich pot of pozole.  This traditional Mexican soup has largely been overlooked by the American mainstream.  While burritos, tacos, and enchiladas enjoy widespread name recognition, pozole continues to be a bit of a mystery to many people outside the folds of a Mexican family.  It deserves to be discovered!  Like most great soups, it is composed of the simplest of ingredients that transform into a richly flavored, satisfying supper.

This is an all day soup, but do not let that discourage you!  Just because this soup cooks all day does not mean that you are cooking all day.  Plus, a pot simmering on the stove gives us a fabulous excuse to stay in on these cold winter days and spend the day in our slippers.  The soup begins with a pork shoulder rubbed in Chile powder, salt, and pepper, then slowly braised until the meat is falling from the bone.  The chunks of pork are added to a base of sauteed onion and garlic, dried chiles, and chicken broth.  These ingredients are simmered together with tomatoes and hominy for as long as you can spare.  Upon serving, the soup is topped with shredded cabbage, cilantro, serrano peppers, and minced onion.  The combination of hot soup studded with chunks of pork and hominy,  cold raw crunchy veggies, and tangy fresh lime juice squeezed over the top has won over my family.  My little man gave it “100 thumbs up!”

Mexican Pozole Rojo

adapted from Michele Anna Jordan

makes 10 servings

the Rub

3-4 pounds pork shoulder or butt

2 tablespoons salt, plus more as needed

2 teaspoons Chile powder

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Pat the pork shoulder dry with paper towels.  Mix together the salt, pepper, and Chile powder.  Rub all over the meat.  Place roast in a covered oven-safe dish, add 1 1/2 cups of water and bake for 4-5 hours until meat is very tender.  Remove from oven, set meat aside.  Allow liquid in pot to cool, then skim fat from the top.  Reserve remaining liquid for the soup.

the Soup

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons dried oregano

Black pepper, freshly ground

2-3 dried chiles, preferably ancho/ pasilla, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes.

6 cups chicken stock or broth

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

2 28-ounce cans hominy, drained

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large soup pot.  Saute onions, stirring frequently, until translucent and fragrant, but not brown.  Add garlic and saute 2 more minutes.  Add oregano, broth, tomatoes, and hominy.  Once the chiles have been soaked and are pliable, tear them open and discard the stem and seeds.  Using the back of a knife, scrape the inner flesh of the chile and add to the soup.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring the soup to a boil, then simmer partially covered for 45 minutes or so.

When pork is tender, chop into chunks of desired size.  Add meat and reserved braising liquid to the soup.  Simmer another 30 minutes or more if you have the time.  Season again with salt and pepper.

the garnish

2 limes cut in wedges

2 cups green cabbage, thinly shredded

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves

1/2 cup minced white onion

2 serrano peppers, thinly sliced

Corn tortillas- hot

Serve hot soup in individual bowls.  Create a garnish platter for each individual to top their soup to their liking.  Hot tortillas can be dipped in the soup or used to roll up the pork and hominy into mini tacos.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Mexican Pozole Rojo

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