December 22, 2007

Christmas Packages Part 1

There is not a strong Christmas cookie tradition in my family - when we were young my sister and I would cut and decorate the requisite sugar cookies, but by the time we reached our teens we mostly abandoned this particular tradition. The culprit - no one in our immediate family really likes sugar cookies.

This doesn't mean that food doesn't play a large part in our family traditions - Mom makes caramels, turtles, chocolate-covered peanuts, and old-fashioned chocolate fudge. My mother does not actually make fudge most years because my maternal grandmother makes fudge for each of her sons and son-in-laws every Christmas and each of her grandchildren that is out on their own (quite a few of us now), requiring so much cream she should invest in a dairy.

Last year, however, I began the search for at least one cookie recipe that could become a new family tradition. I found browned-butter spoon cookies, which were very popular (one friend even specifically requested them about four months ago). This year I have expanded upon the tradition. I made several cookies and candies to give to my co-workers in colorful take-out style boxes, and I am going to blog about several of the successes (I know it's a little late for many people to try these out before Christmas this year, but maybe these will inspire bouts of cookie experimentation next year).

The first recipe I'm posting about is my first attempt at biscotti. I'm not usually a biscotti fan, but these were well received and I even liked them. The recipe is greatly adapted from a recipe in the Des Moines Register, given to me by a co-worker. I will be numbering these posts and starting each one with the same top photo.

In the future I would make a few changes from this first attempt. I used dried, unsweetened bing cherries, which were fine, but they are very dark. Dried sour cherries would be more festive and probably work better with the pistachios. I realized too late that I did not have any light olive oil, so I mixed a neutral oil with some good olive oil and I think that worked well. I am able to purchase shelled, unsalted pistachios. If you can only buy salted pistachios in the shell that is fine, but you need a cup, shelled and you should reduce or cut the salt from the dough completely. Also, my mother says the biscotti would be even better dipped in chocolate.

Pistachio and Cherry Biscotti
Makes about 20 biscotti (minus the broken ones and knobby end pieces)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup light olive oil (or as I used 1/8 cup olive oil and 1/8 cup grapeseed oil)
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon real almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pistachios
1 cup dried cherries (bing are usually a little bigger than sour, so you may want to cut them in half)

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Put the oil, eggs, sugar, and extracts in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the salt, if using, and stir.

Sift the flour and baking soda into the bowl and mix well. Stir the pistachios and cherries into the dough to evenly distribute.

Lightly flour the counter and scrape the dough out. It may be slightly sticky so shift a small amount of flour over the dough to help keep it from sticking to you or the counter. Halve the dough and shape each half into a long log and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten to about 3 inches wide and make sure that the logs are about 3 inches apart.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the logs start the brown lightly on top. Remove from the oven a set on a baking rack to cool for 15 minutes. Transfer one log to a cutting board. Using a serrate knife cut each log on the diagonal into about 1 inch slices. Move each slice to a parchment-lined baking sheet and repeat with the second log.

Bake the slices for about 20 minutes or until the biscotti are dry and lightly browned. Transfer the biscotti to a cooling rack to cool completely. Dip in melted dark chocolate if desired, or place immediately into a tin or air-tight container until ready to serve or gift.

December 6, 2007

A Thanksgiving Surprise

There are people in my life dealing with real, seemingly unending crises, and I then I wonder why I can't even manage to post to this site regularly. I try... I really, really do. I've been holding on to this great recipe that my Aunt Toni shared with our family on Thanksgiving for cranberry salsa. I need to share it because it's simple, it's delicious, and it's appropriately festive. And it's a great way to use up any leftover cans of cranberry sauce (you know - that stuff that is unnaturally can-shaped).

One gripe is that I can't find a brand of whole berry sauce that doesn't have high fructose corn syrup. It's not the end of the world, but I'd rather limit my intake of that particular, pervasive ingredient. If anyone has a favorite HFCS-free brand - let me know.

A quick word about my family - there are a lot of us. I come from a huge family and have only recently begun to appreciate how different from a small family that really is. My mom comes from a family of 10 and my dad comes from a family of 8. Thankfully, we don't try to be with both families for every major holiday. We spend Thanksgiving with my dad's family and Christmas with my mom's family. For both occasions all the children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and associated spouses descend with food and beverages galore. For outsiders these events can be daunting I'm sure - but to me - it's normal.

There are old standbys that particular people bring every year, but occasionally a new entrant captures the hearts of many and then the recipe gets passed around (that happened to a soup I took to Thanksgiving several years ago). This year at Thanksgiving it was Aunt Toni's cranberry recipe that had people shoving crackers at each other saying "Try this!" We also have a tradition of naming recipes for the person that either made it or liked it the most. Chocolate cake made with buttermilk will forever be "Tommy cake."

I hope you like this recipe as much as we have.

Toni's Cranberry Salsa
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
1/2 cup horseradish
2 Tbs. brown sugar
2 Tbs. spicy brown mustard
1/4 cup lemon juice*

To serve:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese

Mix the sauce ingredients together, place in a covered container, and refrigerate overnight or at least four hours (the time allows everything to meld and mellow).

When you are ready to serve place the cream cheese on a plate, and pour the salsa over the cream cheese.

*Full disclosure - the pictured version only had half the lemon juice because I had cooked with lemon that night and thought I had more than I did - the lemon is necessary, but may work as a "to taste" ingredient.

November 12, 2007

Breakfast: Almost a Recipe

I cook a lot, but I only blog occasionally. Why? Usually, because I'm trying out someone else's recipe and I like to blog about recipes that I either develop or that have diverged enough for me to consider them my own. That leaves out most of what I eat.

Why do I do it that way? I like to read blog posts with recipes - even if I have no intention of ever trying the recipe. I'm weird like that, but I want to post more often. I like getting comments and talking to people about what I've written, and the only way to keep people engaged is to give them more stuff to talk about.

With that in mind I have a
sorta recipe to share today. What's a sorta recipe you ask? It's almost a recipe, but it lacks specific directions, amounts, or even ingredients. Instead, it is a suggestion of what goes together based on what I like. It's the sort of recipe outline that you can, and must, adapt to your own tastes. For the sake of convenience I will still post a recipe-type section at the bottom.

Basically, this is one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast. It's simple and nutritious while feeling luxurious at the same time. Serve it with a latte and granola and it's a great breakfast. On its own I think it could fill in as a fast dessert. Basically this is a glop of greek yogurt, a sprinkle of toasted walnuts, a slight handful of sliced fresh figs, and a drizzle of local honey. That's it. Nothing complicated, crazy, or time consuming. The hardest part is probably finding the fresh figs (at least in this part of the world). They show up sporadically from late August until sometime around now. So this morning was probably my last taste of this wonderful concoction until next year, but if you still have access to this ancient and venerable fruit please try this for breakfast (or dessert) and let me know what you think.

Nutty Fig Yogurt

A few figs (usually I can only get black mission figs)
1 small handful walnut pieces, toasted
1 glop* of greek yogurt (like Fage)
Honey to taste (I usually use about 2 teaspoons, I think)

Place the yogurt in a bowl. Quarter the figs and add to the yogurt. Top with the walnuts and drizzle the honey over it all. Stir it up and enjoy.

Use your favorite nut - I know that walnuts and almonds go well with the figs, but try pecans, pistachios, or brazil nuts.

Use your favorite plain yogurt - even if it's made with goat's milk.

*A glop is roughly a 1/2 cup.

November 8, 2007

A Wintery Roasted Dip

As the weather turns colder (and I resist turning on the furnace) I turn to warming, heavy foods like stews, chowders, and creamy dips. The cool weather also marks the the last regular farmer's market of the season in central Iowa. My friend Alex and I braved the biting wind to pick up some of the last local produce until next spring. I used some of my prizes to make up a tasty roasted red pepper & eggplant dip.

At the farmer's market Alex got the last of the goat milk cheddar cheese curds and I picked up some goat milk chocolate fudge with walnuts from Northern Prairie Chevre (a little too sweet for my taste, but otherwise enjoyable). I also picked up some tiny brussel sprouts, a couple nice looking eggplants, and two chickens from Sheeder Farms.

Earlier this fall when I had a glut of eggplant, I decided to try making a dip with some roasted red peppers. After a few attempts I've settled on a master recipe, which will serve as a base for future experimentation. This spread is delicious with roasted pork (try it with slices of pork loin on ciabatta) or with crostini or crackers.

The cooking process may seem a little strange, but I wanted a mellow garlic flavor sort of like roasted garlic without taking the time to actually roast the garlic. I think this method accomplishes that, but if you have roasted garlic on hand (
not the chopped stuff in a jar - the texture and flavor are both wrong for this dish) try that out instead.

Roasted Red Pepper & Eggplant Dip

1 medium-sized, peeled eggplant (roughly 12 ounces)
1 jar roasted red peppers (12-16 ounces)
2-3 garlic cloves (whole and unpeeled)
olive oil

1. Chop the eggplant into large cubes, slicing away the seediest portions. I usually lose about 2 ounces this way, but it's preferable to have fewer seeds.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add about 2 tbs of olive oil and add the eggplant and garlic cloves. Sprinkle about 1 tsp of salt over the eggplant. Try to ensure that one flat side of each clove is directly touching the skillet.

3. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

4. While the eggplant starts cooking remove about 8 ounces of roasted red peppers from the jar - do not rinse or dry them. Also measure out about 2 tbs of liquid from the jar and reserve.

5. Add the peppers to the skillet and cover with a lid. Turn down to medium low and cook for 5 minutes.

6. Uncover and stir. Add the reserved liquid and stir while cooking for another 5 minutes.

7. Remove the garlic to a small plate. Scrape the rest of the vegetables into a food processor fitted with the metal blade. When the garlic is cool enough to handle (or using a spatula) squeeze and press the garlic out of the skins - it should be soft and paste-like. Add the garlic paste to the food processor.

8. Process the vegetables until smooth. Taste for salt. Process one more time and then scrape into a serving bowl.

October 21, 2007

Whole Grains + Bananas + Yogurt = Tasty

Here I go - almost two months late again. I must confess that I didn't think juggling grad school with work would be this hard, and then the personal stuff intervenes and it's been weeks since I posted anything. I start a project (with good intentions) to post about and somehow about halfway through I realize that I'm thinking about diffusion theory or AIDS agenda setting in the 1980's and suddenly I can't remember whether it was 1 teaspoon baking powder or 1 teaspoon baking soda I just added.

Needless to say, once I can't remember what I put in the bowl I can't very well post about that attempt without cooking the whole thing another time, and I just don't have time for that. I have a whole list of partially written recipes that just need another run through to be "blog-ready", but somehow I always get distracted by some other shiny, new recipe.

Not any longer. Today I managed to redo my favorite banana bread recipe. I've actually been making this recipe (in a slightly evolving form) for about a year. It has been relatively stable for about 4 months. I fed it to some very helpful co-workers in the form of muffins (makes a dozen, cook for about 25 minutes). And I took it to my office as a loaf. However, when I went to write it up I couldn't remember exactly how I did it.

Today I kept notes. I haven't tried regular whole wheat (I don't keep it on hand) so if anyone tries this with regular whole wheat leave a comment and let me know how it goes.

My High Fiber, High Protein, Low(er) Fat Banana Bread

3 bananas
2/3 cup lowfat yogurt (something thick and all natural, I have good luck with Brown Cow)
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup oat flour, sifted (you need to sift this because oat flour clumps)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

1. Mash the bananas with a wooden spoon. Stir in the yogurt, sugar, and eggs until well combined.
2. Add the spices and vanilla and stir.
3. Measure the whole wheat pastry flour into a bowl and sift the remaining dry ingredients into the bowl. Add the walnuts and stir to combine (adding the walnuts this way keeps them from sinking to the bottom).
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.
5. Pour into a butter and floured loaf pan (preferably a 9 in. x 5 in. x 3 in.).
6. Bake for about 50 minutes or until well browned and a toothpick comes out clean.
7. Cool in the pan on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes.
8. Slide a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the loaf and then ease the loaf out onto the cooling rack to cool completely.

September 1, 2007

Recreating that Black Pearl Flavor

I haven't suddenly stopped cooking, but I have been away (again) from writing on my blog. In the interim, I've found some new favorite recipes and a new favorite chocolate.

First, a shout out to Freya at Writing at the Kitchen Table for her outstanding tiramisu. I have tried numerous so-so recipes in the past, but for some reason her simple rendition made me try yet again, and this time, I was blown away. I have been raving about this recipe and several friends have exhorted me to post again soon, if only to link to the recipe. I also used this recipe as an excuse to try a new ingredient that has recently made it onto local store shelves - pasteurized whole eggs. While they worked fine, I don't think they'll be replacing the local eggs I usually buy (which I have eaten raw many times without incident).

The second shout out is to Myriam at Once Upon a Tart for her outstanding apricot tart. I substituted some juicy peaches for the apricots, since I could only find some sad examples of apricots. Myriam also gets credit for kicking me in the butt to get this post out by delaying the most recent round of Browniebabe of the Month, so that I had no excuse for not posting.

The inspiration for this entry came from my recent exposure to Vosges Chocolates. I first read about Vosges when Heidi posted about Full Moon Brownies. I recently happened to find myself in possession of three different chocolate bars: a Black Pearl, a Barcelona, and a Creole. All three were delicious, but the Barcelona (a dark milk chocolate with smoked almonds and gray salt) is probably my favorite eating chocolate; however, the Black Pearl is what I decided to use as the basis of my new brownie.

Rather than try to source enough bars, I decided to recreate the flavors by going to Penzey's Spices and getting some wasabi powder and black sesame seeds. I started with those two spices, some fresh ginger, and some dark chocolate. After a few, less than successful attempts, I decided to add coconut as well and for some reason that was the magic addition.

I also substituted whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose flour. I took these into work to some rave reviews and one complete rejection. Today, I tried them out on my family and they were less than enthusiastic, however I love these brownies and I plan to add them to my repertoire. I hope you enjoy them.

Chasing Black Pearl Brownies

8 ounces dark chocolate
10 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small cubs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup peeled ginger (about a 4 inch piece)
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut + 1 tbs water
1/2 cup black sesame seeds
1 tsp wasabi powder
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbs milk
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

10-inch square cake pan
Preheat the oven to 350F.


Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.

Place the ginger in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides, add the coconut, and water (to help rehydrate the coconut so it doesn't dry out the brownies). Process again until both the coconut and ginger are very fine.

Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and add the butter. Stir until the butter is melted and incorporated (this cools the chocolate so that it doesn't cook the eggs).

Add the ginger/coconut mixture, black sesame seeds, wasabi, vanilla, milk, sugar, and salt. Mix well.

Add the eggs, mix, and then add the flour and stir until just combined.

Pour into the prepared pan (I butter the pan, line it with parchment and then butter and flour the parchment).

Bake for about 25 minutes or until mostly set. Let cool for 10 minutes on a cooling rack and then remove the brownies directly to the cooling rack to finish cooling. Cut into squares and enjoy.

June 6, 2007

Brownies and Beer

I've had several bottles of oatmeal stout sitting in my refrigerator for a couple of months. I originally bought them to mess around with real beer floats and I did come up with a formula I liked, but I still haven't tried it out on anyone else. Now I was left with four bottles of stout, and while I could just drink them, I remembered that I had a stout cake recipe tucked away somewhere. That got me thinking about baking with the stout and I ended up trying it out with some brownies.

Since I had just made a cream cheese brownie I decided to use that recipe as a base. I wanted to add a flavor to the cream cheese, but I thought that using stout in both components might be too much, so I settled on espresso for the cream cheese. The espresso and stout worked well together.

I made a half batch two weeks ago and took them to work. I did not come home with any brownies, so I took that to mean they were a success. I decided to try them one more time before posting, and an office social provided just the opportunity. They were a hit again and this time I got pictures. Alas, I cannot take credit for the photography for this post since Dana took all the pictures with the camera I gave her for Christmas. Nor can I take credit for the beautiful setting – the kitchen window and garden both belong to Martha, a master gardener and coworker.

As I was pursuing this idea I discovered a new blogging event – Miriam's browniebabe of the month – which had already happened once before. The whole idea is for a bunch of people to try out brownie (or blondie) recipes and submit them in a bid to have Miriam declare a favorite. Now brownies are a very personal food – some people are devotees of fudgy brownies (such as myself) and other people are major supporters of cakey brownies (I think you might as well eat cake, but cake is only worth eating with really good frosting all over it!). I love the idea behind this event and its a great way to find new ideas for your own kitchen. I know the matcha cream cheese brownies from the last round-up sounded really good to me.

Pick-me-up Brownies

I have given the metric and standard amounts for all the ingredients because I made the brownies in metric and the cream cheese mixture in standard – then I created approximations in both. I really do like weighing baking ingredients, but getting weight measurements in American recipes is all but impossible.

Brownie Batter

125 grams / 4.5 ounces dark chocolate (60-70%, I've made it with both and a mix)
85 g / 6 tbs unsalted butter
150 grams sugar (¾ cup sugar)
50 grams flour / ½ cup minus 1 tbs flour
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup (80 milliliters) reduced stout from an 8 ounce bottle (I used an oatmeal stout)

Cream Cheese Mixture

8 ounces (226 grams) cream cheese
2 ounces (60 milliliters) espresso
2 tbs (20 grams) sugar
2 tbs (15 grams) flour
1 egg

1 10 inch square cake pan (about 25 cm)

Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C).

For the brownies:

Open the bottle of stout and pour into small saucepan and turn on medium heat. You'll need to watch it in the beginning as the carbonation may cause it to boil over even at a low temperature. You want to reduce it to about 1/3 cup which should take about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat when ready to cool slightly.

Place butter and chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat. Stir occasionally until evenly mixed. Remove from heat.

In another bowl beat eggs and sugar until well mixed and then add the salt. Stir into the chocolate mixture and then add flour and stir until just mixed.

For the cream cheese:

Beat softened cream cheese, sugar, and espresso until lump free. Add the egg and flour and mix well.

In a prepared pan (see note) pour enough brownie batter to just cover the bottom of the pan. Spread with a spatula as needed. Then pour a ripple of cream cheese mixture in thick lines until almost covering the brownie batter. Pour half of remaining brownie batter over the cream cheese and then the rest of the cream cheese, followed by the remaining brownie (a zigzag pattern looks nice, but is not necessary).

Place in oven to bake for about 30 minutes. You want the brownie set, but still fudgy. Remove from oven and rest on cooling rack until cool. Remove from pan and slice into small squares.


I like to prepare pans for baking by buttering the pan and then cutting parchment paper so that it covers bottom and sides of the pan. I cut the paper so that two sides stick up above the edge of the pan - it makes it easy to lift the brownies straight out of the pan that way.

Use your preferred method for layering the cream cheese mixture with the brownie batter. The batch that is featured in the pictures was layered by Dana and she made a nice drizzle pattern for the top, but that is definitely not necessary.

May 25, 2007

Big Burger Ballyhoo 2007

Hello out there,

I am ashamed to admit it, but I have been absent for over a month now from Roasting Rambler, but I'm glad to say that I am back from my unplanned vacation from the blogging world (really I returned with the post a few days ago, but that was written before I went on hiatus, I was just waiting on some recipe field testing). However, I have not been absent from my kitchen, and I have a few postings incubating in the background, but to kick off my return I have a shout out to the amazing kitchen duo, Paul and Freya (Freya was the first person to ever leave a comment on my blog). Paul has announced the Big Burger Ballyhoo 2007 over at Writing at the Kitchen Table, and I couldn't stop myself from ensuring that a pork entry made it into the running.

I am an unabashed champion of nearly all things pork (save Italian sausage, which usually is brimming with fennel - yuck!). If it has pork in it, I'll try it. I seem to have textural issues with most forms of ground meat and find myself to be extremely picky when it comes to beef patties, but give me a pork patty and I'll eat it every time. Sadly, however, too many pork patties are over handled and overcooked leading to pork burger's undeserved reputation as dry and tasteless. Treated gently and heated until just barely cooked, pork burgers can be a juicy, tasty alternative to beef.

I love a good pork burger with just a touch of salt and black pepper served on a simple bun with ketchup, but since the goal is to find the best burger I thought I should turn up the flavor. I picked up some local, organic red leaf lettuce, black krim tomatoes, and red onion. I usually go for multi-grain buns, but I was at my second grocery stop and they were out, so I went for a white whole wheat bun instead. I also grabbed some smoked bacon to go with the pork burger.

Unlike a beef patty, I feel that cheese on a pork burger would be superfluous. I wrote the recipe for one, scale as necessary.

Before I get to the recipe I want to say a few things about grills. I am blessed to possess a heavy duty (overkill for one person) grill. It has enambled cast iron grates (which apparently are available as an aftermarket add-on for many grills - I recommend spending the cash if you can because it does make a difference) which stay extremely hot long after the flame has gone out. My grill also has 4 burners so I usually turn the burner immediately under my burgers off to reduce the chance of a flare up. I did follow the direction below when preparing the burger and that is when I got the low end of the time spectrum. When turning the burner off, it takes the burger a little bit longer to cook. I endorse either method, the most important thing is to look at the burger when you flip it. If it has good solid grill marks, and doesn't show any pink then it only needs a couple of minutes more to finish cooking after you flip it. Good luck and let me know what toppings you think are crucial to the perfect pork burger.

Here's my entry for Big Burger Ballyhoo 2007:

Pork Burger for One

1/2 lb very cold ground pork (what I have available is 80% lean)
2 ounces smoked bacon (about 3 slices)
1 thick slice of flavorful tomato (slice up a tomato and taste it, if it doesn't taste great, don't put it on your burger)
1 thin slice of red onion
1 large red lettuce leaf
1 large bun (I recommend whole grain or muligrain - you may want to brush it with a little bacon grease or melted butter before grilling)
course salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat your grill on high for at least 15 minutes before cooking.

Keep the meat as cold as possible as you handle it. Set up near a sink and run your hands under very cold water and then take 1/2 lb of pork, shape it into a rough ball shape and then flatten it (gently) until it is an even thickness (keep your hands cool by running them under the water. Keeping your hands wet will also prevent the meat from sticking to your hands). Your patty should be about 1 inch wider than your bun. Immediately rewrap and gently return to the refrigerator.

Cook the bacon until crispy and then drain on paper towels.

Mix the salt and pepper (about 1 teaspoons each in a small bowl). Take your meat out to the grill with the salt and pepper. Unwrap the meat and sprinkle about half the salt and pepper on one side of the meat. Place that side down on the hot grill and immediately season the other side.

Close the grill and allow to cook for about 3-5 minutes.

Place each bun half face down on the grill (if the bun is over direct heat it may only need a minute before you have nice grill marks, remove before it starts burning). Using a metal spatula, loosen the burger from the grill and then flip it. Close the grill again. This side will only need about 2-3 minutes.

Open the grill and remove the bun. Loosen the burger and then remove to a plate. Let rest for about 2 minutes to finish cooking and soak up the tasty juices. Don't ever push down on a burger - you'll only push out all the moisture.

Place your burger on the bottom bun, top with onion, tomato, bacon, and lettuce. Squirt a good amount of ketchup on the top bun and then sit down to dinner. Enjoy!

*Looking over this recipe as I get ready to post it, I am realizing that this recipe would probably qualify for my "Easy does it" feature, but I haven't done the testing I did with the first feature recipe, so I'll only consider it unofficially a member of the new feature.

May 22, 2007

Easy does it

Recently, I received a request to showcase easy (for the average person) recipes, which was seconded by several friends. This also happened to coincide with Heidi's posting of an Englishman's request for "easy-to-prepare fresh food." I find that my definition of "easy-to-prepare" differs drastically from that of most of my friends, so it is with them in mind that I set out some ground rules (to which I will attempt to adhere) for this recurring feature.

  1. I will list all ingredients, including salt and pepper, and attempt to provide easy to use, concise measurements for them all.
  2. Each recipe will use no more than 10 total ingredients, and I will provide brand suggestions for unique ingredients (and maybe some suggestions for making homemade versions of store bought ingredients).
  3. I will try to present the recipe in a scalable form, i.e. the recipe is 2 servings as written, but can be doubled, tripled, etc. as necessary.
  4. I will only use ingredients that I can pick up in one grocery store visit.
  5. There should be minimum amount of active time and effort involved in getting from the start to the finish.
The homemade variations will be for people like me that cannot help, but attempt to make nearly everything from scratch (even if it is just once). I think the culinary adventure that cemented my (according to my friends) crazy dedication to cooking was when I produced lard at home (something I plan to continue doing by the way).

For the first installment of this feature I made a verde tortilla soup. Just to ensure that everyone gets off to a good start, there are a few points I want to make. First, verde means "green" in Spanish, and instead of a tomato-based salsa, salsa verde is (usually) based on tomatillos. There are many salsa options available in grocery stores that are not tomatillo-based. If you can't find the brand I suggested or would like to try other brands, check the ingredient list for tomatillos, or "green tomatoes" as they are sometimes called. They should be one of the first ingredients.

That said, try this recipe with your favorite salsa no matter what color, or main ingredient it is based on. One of my friends made it with red, tomato-based salsa with great success.

Chicken Verde Soup
Serves 4-6
Cooking time: Less than one hour

I find that I don't add salt as I cook with this recipe because the ingredients themselves are often heavy on sodium since you are using commercial products, but you may want to add salt and/or pepper at the table.

32 ounces Chicken Broth (I like Swanson Certified Organic)
1 cup frozen corn kernels (lately I've really enjoyed the Bird's Eye Baby Gold and White - it comes in a 1 lb. bag)
1 16-ounce jar salsa verde (I used La Victoria Salsa Verde Medium)
1 15-ounce can black beans (I used Bush's)
1 cup fresh salsa (from a 16 ounce container from the produce section - I'd suggest using mild)
1 rotisserie chicken (don't go for something strongly flavored, like bbq or lemon pepper, instead buy something like "savory') or left over chicken or turkey from another dinner - think Thanksgiving leftovers or leftover grilled chicken, just shred or slice (you'll want about 1 lb of meat).

Toppings (optional, but I would recommend using at least a few of these)
1 Avocado, sliced
Tortilla Chips, crumbled or tortilla strips (see instructions below)
More fresh salsa (using leftovers from above)
Sour Cream (add it by the spoonful on top of the soup)
Mozzarella, or Queso Blanco, or Feta (or your favorite white cheese), shredded or chopped into small cubes


1. Pour the chicken broth into a large pot. Place the pot on the stove and turn on to medium. You want the broth to come to a simmer (just a few large bubbles coming consistently to the surface and breaking - not a cascade of tiny bubbles frothing at the top of the liquid, if that happens turn the heat down to low). Add the corn, beans, salsa verde, and 1-cup of fresh salsa.

2. Pull the skin off of the chicken and throw away. Pull the meat from the bones and place in a bowl (you will have a lot of meat). If you just brought the chicken home it may be a little warm still so be careful.

3. When all the meat is removed and the skin and bones have been discarded pull out your serving bowls. Place about 1/3 cup of meat in each bowl.

4. To serve ladle some of the broth and vegetables over the chicken until the bowl is almost full.

5. Top with your favorite toppings and enjoy! (Do try the corn strips - they thicken the soup and give it some real body and texture - I like an equal amount of corn strips and chicken).

Corn Strips

Buy a package or soft corn tortillas (usually near the dairy section). Count on 1-2 tortillas per person.
You can use either lard, shortening, or vegetable oil.

Take about 1 teaspoon of one of the above fats and rub over each side of each tortilla. Then stack all the tortillas and slice with a sharp knife into strips (about 1/4 inch thick). Spread the strips out on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated (400 F) oven for 5-10 minutes, until just beginning to brown and crisp.

If you add them to the hot soup right as they come out of the oven you will hear them sizzle.

If you have a deep fat fryer you could also just cut the tortillas into strips and fry in batches until crispy - I don't have a deep fat fryer and find the oven method the easiest to handle.

April 14, 2007

Shrikhand remix

So about a month ago I stumbled on a recipe for shrikhand (a strained yogurt dish) while browsing through blogs. Based on the picture and the description I decided to try it out and, surprisingly, I had all the ingredients on hand. I found this particular treat on Becks and Posh, a blog I have been reading since I began reading food blogs.

The result matched the beautiful picture from the blog, but I have to admit that I was underwhelmed. I found that the strong, distinct flavors of the cardamom, saffron, and rosewater did not work for me, but I thought that with a light hand and some additional sweetness that I could come up with something I liked. Lately, I've been experimenting with my trusty KitchenAid ice cream maker and decided to try a frozen yogurt version.

Then life intervened and warm weather distracted me by calling my attention to my shiny, new grill. That is until I realized that my sister was coming to visit this weekend for a wedding. I thought that she might like this, so I pulled the recipe back out and decided how I was going to tweak it.

I went with a thick, Greek-style yogurt for the base, and decided that I did not need to drain it because I thought the texture would be just about right. I thought that my sweetener should bring more to the table than just sweetness, so local honey jumped to mind. I started with just 1/2 a cup for the four cups of yogurt, but when I added another 1/4 cup it balanced the tanginess of the yogurt perfectly. I used about the same amount of the other flavorings as the original recipe called for with only one cup of yogurt, but since my recipe called for four cups the flavor was much more subtle. If you really like any of the flavors (cardamom, rosewater, or saffron) you may want to double or triple your preferred spice (or all of them).

The shrikhand I made first was a beautiful deep yellow, but this is just off white. I added roughly chopped pistachios, which added flecks of bright green and vibrant scarlet. My sister and I both really enjoyed this warm weather treat (so did several of her friends).

Another funny thing has happened since I started planning this post. Starting last month, I began participating in Sugar High Fridays. Last month I prepared a raw cocoa nib panna cotta. I went to Is My Blog Burning to see what the next SHF theme would be and low and behold, Monisha of Coconut Chutney was hosting Sugar High Friday #30 - Flower Power. The rules were simple, use flowers or floral extracts to create something sweet and link back to the posting. What great fortune - I had just created a dessert that used a part of a flower (saffron) and a floral extract (rose water), so now my post had two purposes, preserve a recipe that I think turned out really well, and participate in a fun blogging event. I can't wait to see what everyone else came up with!

Shrikhand Frozen Yogurt

Makes just over 1 quart

4 cups thick, creamy yogurt (I used a Greek-style yogurt)
3/4 cup honey (local if you've got it)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon saffron thread
1 Tablespoon rosewater
1 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

Place yogurt and honey in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Using a mortar and pestle grind the saffron threads into a powder. Add cardamom and using the pestle grind together with the saffron powder. Add the rosewater and work with the pestle until the powders are distributed evenly in the liquid.

Pour this liquid into the yogurt and stir until well mixed. Refrigerate for at least two hours to ensure that it is completely chilled.

Following your ice cream maker's instructions churn the yogurt until well frozen and then add the chopped pistachios. Transfer into a container and place in your freezer to ripen for about 4 hours and then serve. If freezing longer, transfer the yogurt to the refrigerator about an hour before serving to soften.


March 26, 2007

Spring Grilling and a twist on unbaked cheescake

We've been having unseasonably warm weather lately (upper 70's, usually we're in the low 50's) and I've used this opportunity to get acquainted with the massive gas grill and rotisserie that my parents gave me for Christmas (spring grilling is much more fun than spring cleaning). I've done chicken breasts with just salt and black pepper, ribeye with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika (a new favorite), and this weekend I tried out Elise's Smoked Paprika Chicken on my rotisserie.

The chicken, and the whole meal, turned out great. I supplied the chicken and green salad, while Katie brought some sun-dried tomato and rosemary bread. She also brought some fresh mozzarella and cherry tomatoes to make a tasty and simple bruschetta.

The real reason for the night's festivities though, was for me to tryout a recipe that I came up with after seeing the Lavender and Lemon Verbena Limeade on A Fridge Full of Food. I remembered a recipe I tested a couple of months ago for Leite's Culinaria, that involved replacing some of the cream cheese with yogurt in an unbaked cheesecake (I would attribute it, but apparently the recipe didn't make the cut and I don't have a copy anymore, leave a comment if you know the author and cookbook and I’ll update this post).

At the time I remembered thinking that the lavender would be better if it was part of the filling, rather than the crust, and I really liked the zing that the yogurt added. When I saw the limeade recipe an idea came together. I would replace all of the cream cheese with yogurt, but I'd drain the yogurt first and I'd put lime and lavender into the filling. I really like gingersnap crusts (which is strange since I don’t really care for gingersnaps), so I decided to make a fresh ginger gingersnap dough to serve as the crust. I served the cheesecake with strawberries that I macerated in lime juice overnight. Everyone really liked the result, but this morning I've found that the crust is all soggy. In the future I might seal the crust with a thin (very thin) layer of white chocolate so that it can’t absorb all the excess moisture from the filling. Once the crust was a little soggy though it reminded me of the cookie part of a Nabisco Fig Newton - I haven’t had one of those for years!

I hope you enjoy the recipe and if anyone tries it, please leave a comment and let me know how it goes.

Lavender Lime Yogurt Cheesecake


About 3 cups drained yogurt (see comments below)

1 cup heavy cream

2/3 cup sugar (divided)

1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers

1 key lime


3 tablespoons butter, softened

1/6 cup molasses (I don't particularly like molasses, so I diluted it with corn syrup)

1/6 cup corn syrup (My liquid measure also doesn't have 1/6 markings so I just eyeballed it and made sure the total of the two was 1/3 cup)

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (I use a microplane)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt


1 pound strawberries

2 key limes

¼ cup sugar

1. The night before you want to serve the cake, prepare the strawberries.

2. Rinse the strawberries and slice thinly into a container. Zest (with a microplane, you want the zest small) the two limes over the sliced strawberries. Sprinkle the sugar over the zest and strawberries. Juice the two limes and add the juice to the container. Cover the container and refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. Prepare the crust. Preheat oven to 350º.

4. Put butter, molasses, fresh ginger, and crystallized ginger in a mixing bowl. Mix well.

5. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix until all the ingredients are evenly blended.

6. Using your fingers press the dough into 9-inch springform pan. You want a very thin layer on the bottom and a thin layer going evenly up the sides. The dough is sticky so you may need to sprinkle it with some flour as you work. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the dough seems firm. Allow to cool.

7. Prepare the filling. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the lavender as finely as possible. Place in a small bowl. Zest the lime with a microplane and place zest in the same bowl. Juice the lime and mix the juice into the lavender and zest.

8. Place the yogurt in a medium bowl. Add the lavender-lime mixture and 1/3 cup sugar. Blend thoroughly.

9. In another cold bowl begin whipping the cream. As the cream begins to thicken sprinkle the sugar into the cream and continue whipping until you have firm peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the yogurt mixture until evenly incorporated.

10. Scrap the yogurt/cream mixture into your cooled prepared crust and smooth the top. Place in the refrigerator uncovered for at least 4 hours to firm the texture and make it easier to cut.

11. Cut into slices with a warm knife and serve with a mound of the macerated strawberries.


To prepare the yogurt, line a mesh colander with four layers of damp cheesecloth (get it wet and then wring it out), and place over a large bowl. I had a 32-ounce container of lowfat yogurt and about 2 cups of lowfat yogurt from an open container. I placed all of this in the colander and folded the cheesecloth over the top. Let the yogurt drain for at least 12 hours. I had just over 3 cups of strained yogurt.

March 21, 2007

5 Things...

So, anyone who visited my blog soon after my launch and then recently has noticed that I sort of stopped posting for a few weeks. Then on Sunday I posted as part of the fun blogging event known as Sugar High Fridays. What you don't know is that I did have several postings planned during that intermission, but, despite the best of intentions, I never actually finished any of them (I started writing two of them, but stopped because I couldn't get photos that I was happy with).

So a couple of weeks ago (by which I mean nearly a month ago) I was tagged by the blogger formerly known as D-Man of Sourdough Monkey Wrangler (who is a hilarious writer – so says my fiancé Dana and I must agree) to write about 5 things you don't know about me. So here goes, in no particular order:

The Five Things You Didn’t Know About Me:

  1. I cannot follow a recipe – even when I try. And I have because I test recipes for this fun little site (James Beard award-winning actually) called Leite's Culinaria and we're required to prepare the recipes exactly as written (with one exception, we are allowed to cut a recipe in half). What this ultimately means is I usually try a recipe, fail to follow it, and then I have to make it again to give it a proper review. This does, occasionally, yield tasty alternate versions – like the brownies I made this month where I accidentally left out the baking powder - I like them better that way.
  2. I love my KitchenAid boat motor a.k.a. my 5-quart Professional KitchenAid Mixer complete with pasta and ice cream attachments. The boat motor nomenclature comes courtesy of my in-house marketing guru.
  3. There is one flavor that you will never find in my cooking and that I go to fairly great lengths to avoid in restaurants. I'll shamelessly badger waitresses and waiters to be sure that a meal does not contain this. This hateful flavor hides in several cuisines and comes in several guises – most commonly known as fennel or black licorice. Also, beets taste like sweet dirt and are the only food that makes me want to vomit - blech.
  4. I am an ardent lover of all things pork. My latest passion is for La Quercia prosciutto and speck. You should check them out – high quality pork slowly and carefully transformed into an artisan product that compels me to do my happy dance when it arrives on my doorstep.
  5. I have been reading food blogs for years, but have I never left a comment until I was getting ready to launch my own blog and until now I hadn't responded to any of the comments left on my blog (if this counts as a response). Woot, I just googled Roasting Rambler and my blog pops up at number 5!

Now to help explain my absence from Roasting Rambler over the last few weeks I will share a sample of my poor attempts at food porn. This was a delicious meal and one of the few times that I have (almost) followed a recipe exactly (No recipe, but I'll include a link). I work at a university and have friends both in college and graduated like me. It happened to be spring break and while several friends were cavorting in Italy, I invited Alex (friend and roommate of said friends) and Katie (a long-term substitute Home Ec teacher who just landed her first permanent gig – congrats again!) over for dinner.

Now like other obsessed people I bookmark, cut out, rip out, and copy far more recipes than I ever try, but this particular recipe kept coming back to the top of my list - Asian Pesto Chicken Salad (from Simply Ming and brought to my attention by Leite’s Culinaria). I say I almost followed the recipe in that I did not measure the herbs, per se; instead, I measured by the handful.

I hadn’t intended to use this for the blog, but as we were getting ready to sit down to eat (thanks much to both my companions for their help getting dinner pulled together) I grabbed my camera and snapped a few quick snapshots. The first shot above is probably the better shot because as you can see the shot below is focused on the napkin (have to remember to keep them out of the shots because my mom doesn’t really know how many of those I have walked off with over the years).

March 18, 2007

SHF - Raw Chocolate

Soon after discovering the varied and compelling world of food blogs, I discovered Sugar High Fridays (SHF), as created by the Domestic Goddess (who recently wrote a great two part contemplation on good food requiring effort). Now that I have my blog up and running I decided that it was time that I participated, so I hopped over to Is My Blog Burning (a great resource for food blogging events and a quick history if you don't have any idea what I'm talking about) to find out who was hosting this month's SHF. My timing must have been preordained because I happily discovered that Emily of Chocolate in Context is hosting SHF #29: Raw Chocolate. It just so happened that I had picked up some raw cocoa nibs recently and had been inspired to use them in an adaptation of Michael Chiarello's recipe for Cocoa Caramel Panna Cotta from The Essence of Chocolate.

I must admit that I have never tried panna cotta before (eating or making), so I am happy to say that I was extremely pleased with the result. Mine did not unmold like the picture in book, but I made one in a ceramic bowl, just in case. This was also my first time working with cocoa nibs. I had tried them before in various chocolate bars and bakery treats while traveling, but I could not find a local retailer that carried them. Then I found them at the local coop, but they were raw – most recipes I found called for roasted cocoa nibs, so I bought some, but I kept putting off trying them in something. This SHF left me with no excuses. While I did not attempt to try them in a completely raw recipe (if I want to taste the raw food movement I'll go to a restaurant), I do think that this was a great way to highlight the complex and unusual flavors of raw chocolate.

I developed this recipe for small portions since I developed it during Spring Break and many of my friends are still students and out of town, but I think that it should scale up easily. Small servings are perfect because this dessert is deceptively light for being based on half and half.

Raw Coca Nib Panna Cotta
Serves 4


¼ cup water
1/3 cup granular sugar
½ cup raw cocoa nibs
1 pint half and half
1 ½ teaspoons gelatin

Place half and half and cocoa nibs in a small saucepan and heat to medium until it is steaming (don't let it boil) and take the pan off the heat and cover for 30 minutes.

Combine the gelatin and 2 Tablespoons water in a small bowl and set aside.

Place the sugar in a small saucepan and add the remaining water. Bring to medium heat, and cook, swirling the saucepan occasionally to color the caramel evenly, until a medium amber (I'm never exactly sure what that is either, so if you're not sure it's better to go too light than too dark).

You may want to brush the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush if sugar crystals begin to form (I just purchased a silicon brush and decided that they are great for many uses, but I'm going to keep my old fashioned ones for pastry).

Strain the nibs out of the half and half and add the gelatin and caramel – reheat gently if needed to dissolve the caramel. Divide into four, 4 ounce molds and refrigerate for at least three hours.

February 22, 2007

Comfort Food: Wheat Pizza

I had another entire posting figured out, but for a few reasons that is getting pushed back to a later date. Look for a posting about my adventures with baked donuts and sorbet in the near future. However, for today, I am blogging about pizza. I like my crust thin, crispy on the bottom, and soft on top. Somewhere, I read about using pastry flour to make such a pizza crust. I have found that using nearly equal amounts of pastry flour and all-purpose flour gives me the best results. That's the crust I make for other people, but lately for myself I have been making a wheat variation (I've also been experimenting with oat flour, but that recipe isn't ready for print yet) and that is the recipe that I am presenting today.

Everyone has an opinion about how they like their pizza and I find that what I like changes constantly. Pizza is one of those great meals to use left over ingredients from other projects. If I have a few slices of prosciutto in my 'frig or some leftover soppressata, I chop it up and toss it on top of the cheese (since prosciutto is so salty, I leave the salt I sprinkle over my sauce off). Left over chicken breast screams out for some tomatillo salsa to replace the traditional tomato sauce and some queso fresco, instead of mozzarella. Below is my version of comfort pizza, this is what I make when its been a really bad day. Because it is so basic it is easy to keep everything I need on hand all the time.

About mozzarella – if you haven't had the fresh, whole milk, real deal, then you've been missing out. It is more expensive than the bland, rubbery blocks or pre-grated stuff, but you'll only need a little and its a whole new experience. The mouthfeel alone is enough for me to prefer it, but the flavor difference is just as amazing. There are various different commercial versions and they vary on quality. If you've never experienced it before, I suggest you try to find one packaged in whey for your first experience, but I find that for pizza making I prefer the plastic wrapped version (there is less leakage as it melts).

About sauce – I have found that I like my sauce simple. Lately I have been using Muir Glen Crushed Fire Roasted Tomatoes. I just open the can and use the back of the spoons to spread out the couple of tablespoons that I have put on the crust. Usually I'll just sprinkle some kosher or sea salt on it, but I'll also grind some black pepper over it, crumble some dried oregano over the sauce, or sprinkle on some fresh, chopped rosemary.

Note: For the last couple of years I have been using a scale for more and more of my baking (its more precise, etc.). That is how I make this pizza, but I will try to remember next time to measure these ingredients and update the recipe later. If someone knows what volumes these weights correspond to – great – please leave a comment.

Whole Wheat Pizza

The dough:

4.5 ounces whole wheat pastry flour

5.5 ounces all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt (if using table salt use ½ teaspoon)

1 Tablespoons granulated sugar

¾ cup hot water (between 95 to 105 degrees)

1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

The pizza:

One can crushed tomatoes (as above, I prefer Muir Glen Fire Roasted)

Olive oil

salt and pepper

Mozzarella (whole milk) – torn or sliced into thin strips

Any other add-ons (prosciutto, arugula, mushrooms, parmesan shavings, etc.)

Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 500° F.


Place the flours, salt, and sugar in a medium sized bowl. Stir to blend thoroughly. You may not need all of the water, start with ½ cup. While stirring with a large spoon (I like wooden spoons) pour the hot water in a slow stream into the water. Stir until the dough comes together as a sticky ball – if it isn't sticky it needs more water.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and allow the dough to roughly double in size. Yeast doughs are (mostly) forgiving. It should double in size in about 30 minutes. Clear some work space on your counter and sprinkle it with a tablespoon or so of flour and scrape the dough onto the floured workspace. Sprinkle the dough with some more flour (only a teaspoon or so) and knead the dough into a smooth, consistent, round ball. Cut into six equal pieces (this makes a manageable single serving pizza). Round up the pieces and let them rest for about 5 minutes (this make the dough easier to work with). At this point the dough balls can be placed in a plastic bag or sealed plastic container or up to three days. Just take the dough out of the refrigerator about an hour before you want to put the pizzas in the oven.

Flatten each ball out gently with your hand. If you're good at working with pizza dough stretch the dough out into a very flat circle shape (supposedly the best way). However, if you're like me and you only end up with holey dough that way use the following method.

Take out a rolling pin and start rolling the dough out until it is about ¼ inch thick. Flip the dough over after every few rolls to make sure it isn't sticking to the counter – add as little flour as possible at this point since extra flour can cause the crust to be dry and dense.

If you own a pizza peel (and if you don't you should, they're cheap and very handy) prepare it by rubbing a teaspoon of flour into the surface. You can also use a flat cookie sheet sprinkled with flour or a piece of parchment paper (you can lay the parchment directly on the stone). Lay on piece of the flattened dough onto the peel and gently stretch it out. You don't want to put holes in the dough or get to be see through, but stretching it out does improve the final texture.

Using a brush, the back of the spoon, or even your fingers spread about 1 teaspoon of olive oil over the top of the dough. Drop a few tablespoons around on the dough and spread out – I prefer a thin layer of sauce. Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Sprinkle with a few pieces of mozzarella – I leave large spaces of sauce showing. (If I remember I will add a picture of the pizza before it goes into the oven).

Using the peel, slide the pizza onto the pizza stone and bake for about 7 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the bottom of the crust is brown and crispy. If you like your cheese brown turn the broiler on high before placing the pizza in the oven (only use this method if you have a pizza stone preheated). If using the broiler the pizza will cook in about 5 minutes.

February 12, 2007

In the beginning... there was comfort food

So after a year of spending hours reading other peoples' food blogs, I have decided to take the plunge and begin a journal of my own culinary adventures. What is the raison d'être for this foray into an already crowded space? Honestly, I hope it serves as a record of what I've read, what I've tried, and a record of what works and what doesn't.

Now the name I've chosen may imply that this blog will be specific to a particular type of cooking or may be specific in some other way, but that is not the case. I spent a considerable amount of time contemplating what I would name my blog, but in the end it was my in-house marketing guru who came up with Roasting Rambler (I think the latter inspired the former). Instead of covering one single topic, my goal is to see where I've been and push myself to try new things. I seldom choose the simple path, if a recipe calls for puff pastry, I plan ahead and make it. If I want lard for cooking potatoes, I buy pork fat. Partially, this is from necessity, as living in central Iowa I do not have access to a variety of specialty stores, butchers, or bakeries, but I also enjoy knowing about my food and how to prepare it.

I will also celebrate the great restaurants, farmer markets, and local food producers that populate my tiny corner of America. I am not a skilled photographer, but I will try to include photographs whenever possible. So for my first blog, I present a Pork and Orange Stew. This is a reworking of a recipe from Parade magazine (sometime Fall '06), which I was asked to test drive for someone. I pulled my version together on a snowy night when I wanted something rich and warming.

If you don't want to try my recipe, then try the Spiced Candied Walnuts from Heidi of (click the photo for the recipe). I made these the next night, sent some home with friends, and took the rest with me when I flew to Tennessee. I'll have to make more though since Dana made me leave the rest with her when I flew home.

Pork and Orange Stew

Serves 4

1.5 pounds boneless sirloin chops
Salt and pepper
2-4 Tb lard or neutral oil
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 cup or about 4 chopped plum tomatoes (from a can of peeled whole plum tomatoes)
1 Tb brown sugar
Zest of 1 orange (in long strips – see notes)
1 ½ cups chicken broth
½ cup white wine (I used a Viognier)
4 carrots, halved and cut into 1 to 2 inch lengths
2 Tb chopped fresh mint

Egg noodles (see notes)

2 Tb butter soft
3 Tb all purpose flour

Cut the pork into 1 to 2 inch cubes. Season well with salt.

Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat and when hot add the lard. Brown the pork in batches, moving the browned pork into a bowl to reserve for later.

When taking out the last of the pork turn the heat down to low, adding more lard or oil if needed, and add the onions and garlic. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomatoes, orange zest, chicken broth, wine, some ground black pepper and sugar. Turn heat up to medium-low and add the pork back to the pot, making sure to add all of the juices that have leaked out while the meat was resting. Simmer for 30 minutes and then add the carrots and mint and cook for about another 30 minutes or until pork is tender and carrots are your preferred texture.

After adding the carrots and mint, prepare the beurre manié. In bowl large enough for the flour and butter plus one to two cups of liquid, work the flour, a tablespoon at a time into the butter until it is a smooth and consistent paste. When the carrots and pork are nearly done, ladle about ½ a cup into the paste and whisk until smooth. Add more liquid, as necessary to make the liquid pourable, about 1 cup.

Pour the thickener into the dutch oven and stir to incorporate throughout the dish. Bring the pork to a simmer until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Remove the large pieces of zest and chop or break up and add them back if desired. Serve over egg noodles.


  • A vegetable peeler can be used, but I find the best tool for getting the zest off in large pieces without a lot of the bitter white pith is a paring knife. Do not use a zester or a microplane.

  • This is the time to buy a nice uncoated, organic orange, if you can.

  • I like a few small pieces of zest to be left behind, they give a quick blast of orange flavor, but you'll want the pieces small.

  • Homemade egg noodles are best here, but if you use store bought make sure that they are thick, high quality noodles (homestyle).