Winter Blood Orange Salad


Blood Orange Salad

As I said before, composed salads are really not my strong suit.  I think of salads as a venue for all of my odds-and-ends vegetables – that little strip of red pepper gets a chop, the half of a fennel bulb is sliced thin, and they’re thrown on top of what’s left of my bag of baby spinach.  It is really only in the summer that I take any care with my salads – the time of year when sometimes a leafy bowl of greens is all my stomach can handle.

Yet in the process of “cooking the issue” for Fine Cooking, I was compelled to at least attempt this salad recipe.  I was thrilled to find that I love this dish.  The sweetness of the oranges and the vinaigrette contrasts with the salty parmigiano and the toasty hazelnuts.  This is a perfect salad for a winter get-together — it is bright, colorful, and widely appealing.  I used this salad as a centerpiece for my table, as it seemed prettier to me than any flower arrangement would be!  

Blood Orange and Radicchio Salad with Hazelnuts and Shaved Parmigiano by Joanne Weir for Fine Cooking, Issue 97Blood Orange dressing

(Serves 6)

5 medium blood oranges
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. white wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium (12-oz.) head radicchio, washed, cored, and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces (about 5 loosely packed cups)
1 medium (6-oz.) head butter lettuce,washed, cored, and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces (about 4 loosely packed cups)
3/4 c. blanched hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1-1/2 oz. chunk Parmigiano-Reggiano or aged goat cheese

Finely grate 1 tsp. of zest and then squeeze 2 Tbs. juice from one of the oranges. In a medium bowl, whisk the zest and juice with the olive oil, vinegar, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of black pepper.

Using a sharp knife, trim off the peel and white pith from the remaining 4 oranges and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices; remove any seeds.

In a large bowl, toss the radicchio and butter lettuce with the hazelnuts and just enough dressing to lightly coat (about 1/4 cup). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the salad among 6 serving plates and top each with 3 or 4 blood orange slices. With a vegetable peeler, shave a few shards of cheese over the top.

Radicchio Blood Orange Salad


Pulled Pork to Feed the Soul

Pulled Pork with Coleslaw

When I began this blog, I never would have characterized my cooking style or culinary repertoire as “comfort food”. That label usually applies to heavy, dense, sugary or greasy bowls of fattening casseroles and excessive desserts. It also applies to macaroni and cheese (check, check), layer cakes (check, check), and stews (check, check, check).  **Sigh**  I give up.  The truth is, I do take comfort (a lot of it!) in the eating and preparing of foods.  I feel just as satisfied watching my family and friends chow down on my latest creations as I do eating them myself, and when I’m feeling frustrated or crazed, an hour or two in the kitchen will always help me decompress.

Another association I regularly make with “Comfort Food” is southern U.S. cooking and the dreaded Paula Deen – from whence comes my aversion to applying the term to my own food.  That woman irks me somethin’ fierce, y’all.  Sorry.  That was uncalled for (in so many ways).

Yet no one can write off southern cuisine wholesale.  That would mean eliminating one of RJ and my favorite dishes of all time – Pulled Pork sandwiches – and I simply cannot support such a sweeping and drastic gesture.  Yet in the South, even, there is some serious debate about the proper way to make pulled pork.  From what I’m told, the Carolinians like their pork cooked only in vinegar (none of that ketchup-y stuff).  Others like the shredded pork swimming in barbecue sauce.  I compensate for my strong preference for the latter by making a very vinegary coleslaw (no mayo) to go on top of the pork in my sandwich.  I guarantee that a bite of this combo will make you swoon, whether you can stand Paula Deen or not.

Old South Pulled Pork on a Bun, from The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes by Judith Finlayson

BBQ ingredients(serves 6-8)

1 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. cracked black peppercorns
1 c. tomato-based chili sauce (like Heinz)
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. liquid smoke (I always leave this out – up to you)
1 boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat, about 3 lbs.
Kaiser or onion buns, halved and warmed

bbq-sauceIn a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft. Add garlic, chili powder, and pepper, and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add chili sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. (at this point you can cover and refrigerate sauce overnight or until ready to use — very helpful if planning this recipe for a weeknight).

Place pork in slow cooker stoneware and pour sauce over. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours or on high for 6 hours, until pork is falling apart.

Shredded/Pulled PorkTransfer pork to a cutting board and pull the meat apart in shreds, using two forks. [I will usually try to strain off some of the fat from the sauce at this point – depending on if I did a good job trimming the pork, it can get sorta greasy in there]. Return to sauce and keep warm. When ready to serve, spoon shredded pork and sauce over warm buns. Serve with coleslaw.

Katharine’s Carolina Coleslaw

Cider vinegar
Celery Seeds
Vegetable Oil
Bag of prepared coleslaw or 5 cups of shredded cabbage

Mix vinegar (about a 1/2 cup) with sugar (a scant teaspoon), celery seeds (about a teaspoon) and salt (1/4-1/2 teaspoon). Then add about a 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, whisking the whole time. Taste. It should be quite vinegary and a little sweet, and you should be able to taste the celery seeds. Add more oil or other ingredients as necessary until it is to your own preference. Mix dressing with the cabbage slaw (just enough to coat, not soak, the cabbage) and let sit in the fridge for about an hour before serving to let the flavors blend.

Pulled Pork with Coleslaw

Veal Marsala

Veal Marsala

One of the great things about getting married is the acquisition of all the new family members.  For my part, I gained a mother-in-law, a father-in-law, a brother-in-law, and some very awesome aunt-, uncle-, and cousins-in-law.  Since we’re all now officially family (hence the “in law” part), I am legally justified in adding their secret family recipes to my repertoire.  What’s yours is mine, right?

From what I understand, my father-in-law came into his culinary own later in life.  RJ was astounded the first night we ate dinner at his dad’s house and were served the BEST Chicken Marsala either of us had ever eaten.  When RJ was growing up, his dad was never in the kitchen, and was most excited when “Hit ‘n ‘Hingle” was on the menu (a kid-friendly version of the infamous military meal with the abreviation S.O.S.).  Yet in the past several years he has discovered quite a knack for cuisine – especially sauces.  I have yet to taste his mustardy green peppercorn sauce, but his Madeira gravy is out of this world.

In the past year or so, taking liberties with my new daughter-in-law status, I have hovered over his shoulder on several occasions and taken copious notes about his techniques, sequencing, and secret ingredients.  At long last, I believe I have developed a reconstitution of the Marsala recipe.  I am today testing the limits of familial love and trust by sharing the below dish, but it is so unbelievably good it would be far more criminal not to.  Chip – I love you and hope you will forgive me!

Veal MarsalaVeal Marsala setup
(serves 3)

1/2 c. plus 1 Tbs. flour, separated
1 tsp. dried marjoram
6-8 veal scallops (thinly sliced veal) [can also be made with chicken scallops]
1/4 lb. thinly sliced prosciutto
3 Tbs. butter, separated
5 scallions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 c. sliced or 1 c. chopped cremini mushrooms (optional)
1 c. sweet Marsala wine
3/4 c. chicken or veal stock
1/4 c. heavy cream (optional)
salt & pepper

marsala-meatIn a wide, shallow bowl or pan, whisk together the 1/2 c. flour, marjoram, and salt and pepper to taste. Pat a veal scallop dry with a paper towel and dip in the flour mixture on both sides to cover. Repeat with the rest of the scallops, and set aside. Place a large non-stick skillet, lightly oiled, over medium-high heat until hot. Lay the slices of prosciutto on the pan so they do not touch (this may need to be done in batches). When slices are browned on one side, flip and brown on the other side. Put cooked prosciutto aside on a separate plate.

Add 1 Tbs. butter to the same pan, allow it to melt over high heat, then brown the veal scallops on both sides, approximately 2 minutes per side.

marsala-sauceMelt the remaining butter over medium heat in the same pan used for the meats, then add the white and light green chopped scallions (reserve the dark green parts), stirring to pick up any browned bits. Cook until scallions are softened and fragrant, approximately 4 minutes. At this point, you can also add chopped or sliced mushrooms, cooking until mushroom liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle remaining tablespoon of flour over the scallions (and mushrooms, if using) and stir, cooking, for 1 minute. Pour Marsala into the pan, stirring, until reduced by half and thickened. Pour in the chicken stock, and simmer for 2 minutes. If desired, add the heavy cream at this point, stirring to combine (heavy cream creates a smoother, richer sauce). Salt and pepper to taste – Chip also adds some more dried marjoram at this point. Add the veal back into the pan to rewarm it for a minute or so.

We usually serve the meat and Marsala sauce over egg noodles, using the prosciutto and dark green scallion slices as delicious garnishes.

Creamy Marsala Sauce

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Some recipes, like croissants, are expected to be difficult and involved.  Recipes like those take actual scheduling to tackle – as in, when will I have three straight days in the same kitchen without interruption?  Other recipes such as, um, spaghetti and meatballs, seem so simple as to be almost an afterthought.  In fact, even though I knew that I needed to post this recipe today along with the other Barefoot Bloggers, I figured it would only take a half hour or so to make and photograph, so it was only last night that I began it.  

While spaghetti and meatballs is one of those American classics, it was never something my mother made.  If she had, maybe I would know that this dish takes FOREVER… At least the way Ina makes it.  The meatball combining and forming is not time-consuming, but frying said meatballs (in batches, no less) takes a long while…  Those puppies cook slow over medium-low heat.  Then you make the sauce and cook the meatballs in the sauce for a half hour.  The only thing you can do simultaneously – since Ina insists you use the meatball-browning pan for the sauce – is boil the pasta.

All that being said, the meatballs tasted great.  They had a light texture and a subtle but interesting flavor, led by the addition of nutmeg.  RJ immediately said “Great Meatballs!” – not eloquent or revelatory necessarily, but still sincere and based in experiential expertise.  Not sure I’d take the hour+ on another weeknight to make this dish, however.  

 Spaghetti and Meatballs, from Barefoot Contessa Family Style

(Serves 6)

For the meatballs:
1/2 lb. ground vealSpaghetti and Meatballs - Ingredients
1/2 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground beef
1 c. fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
1/4 c. seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 extra-large egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:Spaghetti Sauce
1 Tbs. good olive oil
1 c. chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 c. good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) c. crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs. spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
Freshly grated Parmesan

MeatballsPlace the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don’t crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don’t clean the pan.

Spaghetti Meatballs

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.