Posts filed under ‘pork’

Greens and pasta

Pasta with Bacon and ChardWhen I was growing up, greens came to our table in one of two forms:  lettuce (generally iceberg), raw in salads, and – on rare occasions,  what my Southern-bred mother called “a mess o’ greens,” boiled to within an inch of their lives with a chunk of ham hock. The result was salty, greasy and kind of slimy, to my child’s palate.

It may not surprise you to learn that I was not a big fan of greens.

Times change. And to be fair to my mother, who was a terrific cook, her options were often limited to what was available in a military base commisary, which in the late 1950s and early ’60s (yes, I’m that old) did not offer much by way of fresh produce.

Each spring I am reminded how lucky I am to live in a rich agricultural valley at a time when small-scale farming-for-the-market is exploding, and with it the seasonal availability of all kinds of produce, including the leafy greens.

Right now it’s chard, with its vivid, extravegant, crumpled leaves and crunchy rainbow-hued stems. When I encounter the first chard of the season, I have to restrain myself from buying armfuls of the stuff – I’m generally cooking for one, after all, and while chard has enough substance, properly prepared, to make for very good leftovers, there’s no sense wasting it.

Still, while it’s here, I favor chard as a main dish, not a side. And I love this preparation, which I was first served in a Midwestern restaurant, because it’s like a really *good* version of mom’s mess o’ greens, with the salty tang of good pork but crunchy and chewy and just tasty as heck.

I’ve reconstructed the recipe from memory, and these amounts make two hearty main-dish servings or four as a side dish, perhaps with some nice broiled fish or chicken.

Pasta with Chard and Bacon


  • Pasta of your choice (I remember having this with linguine; I made it tonight with rotini. Use whatever substantial pasta you like)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4-6 slides of thick-cut bacon, cut in half-inch pieces*
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots, onions or leeks, as you prefer*
  • 1 large bunch chard, rinsed, dried and chopped. If it’s young chard, go ahead and chop up the stems, too; for older chard, save the tough stems for making soup.*
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Shaved Parmesan
  • Salt and coarsely ground pepper to taste

* Locally sourced ingredients.


Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup or so of the cooking water. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil to keep it from sticking together and cover to keep warm.

While the pasta cooks, place the bacon pieces in a large , thick-bottomed skillet or pot over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, until just crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels or a brown paper bag.

Drain off all but a tablespoon of the bacon fat and return the pan to the stove; increase heat to medium-high and stir in the shallots, cooking until softened. Add the chard, and pour the pasta liquid over it. Stir and toss until the chard begins to wilt, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the pasta to the cooked chard and toss well; transfer to plates, add salt and pepper and sprinkle with bacon. Finish with a little shaved parmesan. Serve hot.  Enjoy.

Feel free to experiment with proportions; you might like more vinegar, and if the bacon’s salty, you can probably skip salting the dish.

May 25, 2010 at 8:32 pm Leave a comment

Of cabbages and …

Color SlawThanks to the recent increase in great local winter produce here, combined with my inability to resist it, I found myself staring at the vegetable bin this weekend and thinking, ” You know, I really need to eat this stuff up before I make another order – or worse, before it goes bad.”

So there I was with a big, beautiful head of purple cabbage, bunches of beets and carrots, and a half-dozen radishes left from the clutch I’d been nibbling at all week. Plus four lovely little boneless Red Wattle pork chops from Heritage Farms Northwest. And a couple of Liberty apples.

Apples, pork and cabbage are naturals together, and a rummage through my recipe collection turned up some traditional German dishes that provided the inspiration for a sweet and sour cabbage with pork that, while delicious, wasn’t terribly photogenic.

That still left me with half a cabbage, and I’ve been craving crunch, so: slaw, with beets and carrots and a fistful of parsley thrown in for vitamins. Talk about color!

My errant sense of smell (and thus taste) is mending, but slowly, so I decided to give all that crunchy color a horseradish kick. The result is absolutely delicious.

Spicy Winter Slaw with Root Vegetables


  • 1/2 large head red cabbage (or 1 small head), cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 medium beet, shredded
  • 6 large  radishes, shredded (that’s a lot of shredding – thank goodness for my Benriner Japanese mandoline!)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley, minced
  • 1/4 cup commercial cole slaw dressing (I like Marie’s)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp prepared hot horseradish (or more, or less, to taste)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


In a large, lidded bowl, combine all the vegetables and parsley. Blend remaining ingredients well, pour over vegetables and toss well (or, as I did, close the bowl and shake it for a while). Taste, correct seasoning. Cover and chill for at least a few hours to let the flavors blend. Makes 6-8 servings, depending on how hungry you are and the size of your vegetables.

Sweet-and-Sour Cabbage with Apples and Pork Chops


  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, coarsely sliced
  • 2 tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 boneless pork chops (do not trim off fat)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350F.

Cut bacon into 1/2 pieces; in a large skillet, fry over medium heat until most of the fat has rendered off. Drain off all but 1 Tbsp of bacon fat; return skillet to heat and add onions. Saute until onions start to go limp, then stir in the sugar, balsamic vinegar and wine. Add cabbage and apples and stir well to coat. Cover skillet and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, then add water and cook uncovered for another 10-15 minutes, until cabbage begins to soften and a good deal of the liquid has evaporated. Taste to correct the seasoning.

Transfer cabbage mixture to a 9×13 ovenproof baking dish. Add oil to the skillet and turn up the heat. Using oven tongs, hold the pork chops on edge to brown the fat, then lay them down and sear for about 2 minutes per side. Remove from heat.

Lay the pork chops on the bed of cabbage. Place pan in oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until chops reach an internal temperature of 160F (or are just barely pink in the center).  Serve immediately.

Serves four, generously (or in my case, one, four times). Goes great with mashed potatoes.

January 25, 2010 at 9:17 pm 1 comment

End-of-the-season stews

Autumn harvest still-lifeOur farmers’ market is … diminished. With just three weekends left this season, the number of vendors was down sharply this weekend, filling just half the municipal parking lot where the thing is held. It always makes me a little sad, and fills me with “hurry up and buy stuff before it’s all gone” fervor.

On the bright side, lots of the produce available now keeps well, with a little care. Apples, garlic, hard-skinned winter squash can last for a month or more, unrefrigerated, if you keep them in a cool, well-ventilated place. I’m reminded of the tornado shelter at my grandfather’s north Texas home – I’m not sure he ever used it to shelter from the weather, but his wife called it the root cellar, and stored vegetables and home-canned goods there year-round, because it was dark and cool and dry.

Root cellars have gone out of fashion, but I’ve kept apples for months by wrapping them individually in newsprint and setting them in a big, shallow cardboard box, not too closely crowded and unlidded, down in the garage that occupies half the daylight basement under my 1908 home. And I don’t think I’ve ever had a winter squash go bad on me, even sitting for 5-6 weeks in the basket on my kitchen counter. They’re pretty much built for storage.

This weekend, though, I’m focused on the short term, not the winter ahead. I’m in rehearsals through December, which means I leave the house for work at 7:30 in the morning and don’t get home till after 10 at night. If I don’t spend my Sundays cooking, I’ll spend a whole lot more money than I want to eating during the week. So I’m getting back in the habit of preparing good, hearty dishes that reheat well and lend themselves to portioning into containers I can carry to work for lunch and dinner. I try to come up with strong-flavored dishes, packed with nutrition and taste, so I don’t get bored before the week is over.

Stews serve the purpose – and also lend themselves to slow simmering while I go about my other weekend domestic maintenance.

Here’s what’s on the stove today: A rich autumn stew of pork, winter squash and apples, and a spicy vegetarian chili that’s quick to make and wonderful served over brown basmati rice or homemade cornbread. The first is almost entirely made with food I bought at the market yesterday; the second uses local turtle beans I put on to soak before bed last night, but could just as easily be made with canned black beans. These are both nutritionally dense, low-fat dishes, and easy to adjust to suit your own tastes.

The number of servings depends on how hungry people are and whether you’re serving the stew as a one-pot meal or a dinner course.  It looks like I’ll get 6-7 meal-sized servings from of each pot of autumn goodness. With cornbread and rice, I’m set for the week.

End-of-the-Season Stew


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 acorn squash (or other winter squash of your choice
  • 1 lb lean pork, cut in cubes. Most stew recipes call for pork shoulder; I tend to buy tenderloins (because they’re small enough for one person). But you could just as easily use the meat off a few thick-sliced pork chops. Just trim off most of the fat so you don’t wind up with greasy soup.
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2-10 cloves of garlic, minced (I’m using a whole head’s worth, but I love garlic and got a lot of it at the market).
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cups good chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary (or 1/2tsp. dried)
  • 1 tsp minced fresh sage (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled (if you want) and cubed
  • 2 large carrots, sliced into discs
  • 2 tart apples, cored and cubed


Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the squash in half; use a spoon to scoop out the seeds surrounding fiber. Oil the cut halves and place the squash cut-side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until the skin can be pierced by a fork. Remove from oven, let cool enough to handle; peel off the rind (it will come off easily with your fingers) and cut squash into cubes. This can be done the day before.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Dredge the cubed pork in flour and cook in small batches until browned on all sides. Add the garlic and onion, lower the heat if needed to keep it from scorching, and continue cooking until the onion has softened. Add stock and stir to free any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add salt, rosemary and sage, potatoes and carrots. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add apples and squash. Return to a simmer, then cook, uncovered, until potatoes and apples are tender, about 20 minutes more. Taste, correct seasoning, and serve.

Black Bean Chili


  • 1/2 cup applesauce (mine’s homemade)
  • Spices: This is where you get to shine. I like a lot of cumin in my chili, and I like heat; I still have fresh herbs in the garden. You know what you like. If your spice cabinet is modest, a couple of tablespoons of commercial chili powder would work. Here’s (approximately) what I used:
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
    • 1/2 tsp dried ground chipotle pepper
    • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
    • 1 tsp fresh oregano (1 /2 teaspoon dried)
    • 1 tsp fresh rosemary (1/2 teaspoon dried)
    • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme (1/4 teaspoon dried)
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 cups black beans, soaked overnight (or two cans of black beans, drained and rinsed)
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste (I’m using my oven-roasted tomato goo)
  • 2 -6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms (optional, but they add a nice heartiness to the dish. I’m using chanterelles)
  • Vegetable stock or water to cover.


In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, combine the applesauce with all the herbs and spices. Stir until well-blended. Stir in remaining ingredients, adding just enough stock or water to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it’s not thick enough for your taste, stir in a handful of cornmeal late in the cooking. Serve with cornbread and your favorite chili toppings (chopped onions, grated cheese, sour cream, etc.)

As with most chilis, this is better the second day – and I’ve found the heat doesn’t fully develop until then, so don’t get carried away if it doesn’t seem spicy enough to suit your tastes.


November 1, 2009 at 12:39 pm 3 comments

Cooking from the larder

Two months till the farmers’ market opens for the season, and I’m in “OK, time to start polishing off the things I put in the freezer last fall” mode. Including, this week, a 4-pound boneless pork shoulder from Wood Family Farms.

Four pounds is a lot of pork roast for one person. But pork shoulder is a lovely cut. More fatty than the overrated tenderloin, but slow-roasting melts most of the fat away, basting the meat as it goes and leaving a tender, flavorful meat that’s not only lovely on its own – with a side of potatoes, perhaps, and some of the remarkably cheap California asparagus that’s been showing up in Safeway – but also useful in wonderful second- and third-day meals that turn the word “leftovers” into something magical. Cuban pork sandwiches, for instance, or a hearty, spicy New World stew.

Slow-roasted Pork Shoulder


  • 3 to 4 pound boneless pork shoulder.
  • Rub:
    • 2 Tbsp mustard seeds
    • 2Tbsp cumin seeds
    • 2 Tbsp black peppercorns
    • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
    • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
    • 4 Tbsp brown sugar


Make the rub by grinding together the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns and salt. I keep an old electric coffee grinder for grinding spices; a food processor or mortar and pestle will do, too. Mix in the brown sugar.

Rinse the pork roast and pat dry. Turn the fatty side up and use a sharp knife to score it in a diamond pattern, making sure the cuts go clear through the fat and into the meat.

Using your hands, pat the rub firmly all over the pork, bottom side first; turn it over and massage the rub deeply into the cuts in the fat (the salt content will help draw moisture away from the surface and create a nice crust.) Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate from 3 hours to overnight.

When ready to cook, remove the roast from the refrigerator, take off the plastic wrap and place the meat on a rack in a roasting pan. Pour a little water in the bottom of the pan to prevent smoking, and cover the pan with aluminum foil Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Roast, covered, for two hours; then remove the foil and continue roasting for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until an instant-read thermometer inserted at the thickest point of the roast reads 170F. Remove from oven; let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Cuban-Style Pork Sandwiches

Now, that's what I call a sandwich.It’s been years since I had a real Cuban sandwich, bought from a stand-up roadside joint in Florida. I have no idea if this is authentic, but it’s the result of a good deal of Googling and some experimentation that led to the flavors I remember. I’m told that in Cuba, the mojo would be made with the juice of sour oranges, which aren’t available here, but lime juice is terrific.


  • Roast pork, sliced thinly.
  • Onions, sliced thinly
  • Hearty bread or Panini-style rolls, split. You want bread that’s substantial enough to stand up to the juiciness of the filling; I’d just made a loaf of the infamous New York Times no-knead bread, and it was perfect.
  • Mojo sauce (see below)
  • Butter

Mojo sauce

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • Juice of a lime


In a very small saucepan, combine olive oil and garlic. Heat till oil is bubbling, then reduce heat to a slow simmer. Cook 10-15 minutes until garlic is golden and soft. Stir in cumin and lime juice. Remove from heat.

Making the sandwiches

Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet. Add onions and sautee until they begin to soften. Add thinly sliced pork and stir until the meat is hot.

Brush both halves of a roll or two slices of bread generously with Mojo sauce. Pile meat on one slice of bread or half a roll; top with sauteed onions and the second piece of bread/roll

Wipe skillet clean and return to burner. Add a small amount of butter and heat till melted. Grill the sandwiches, pressing down with a spatula and turning when one side is done, until golden brown. Serve with beer and lots of napkins.

New World Pork and Pumpkin Stew

New World StewI had a lone sugar pumpkin left from my last market trip in the fall; stored in the cool basement, it’s kept well but I noticed a spot of mold forming on the skin and decided it was use it or lose it. Google turned up a number of recipes combining pork and pumpkin, many of them Thai or Burmese, along with an interesting-sounding stew that contained ingredients I’m not crazy about (turnips) or didn’t have on hand (kale). Improv time! I went for flavors native to the Americas, and what resulted was easy, relatively quick (as compared to starting from raw pork) and extremely tasty. That’ll be lunch for most of the week.


  • 2 lbs roast pork, cubed. If there are fatty bits, render them to substitute for:
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp crushed dried red pepper (I used some peppers I bought at the market last year and threaded on heavy thread to dry. Hot, but not too incendiary).
  • 1 cup good vegetable or chicken stock (from the freezer)
  • New potatoes, scrubbed but with the peel left on, cut into bite-sized pieces to make about 1 cup
  • 1 small pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut in 1–inch chunks
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained.
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Put oil or rendered pork fat in the bottom of a heavy, lidded pot or dutch oven. Heat and add onions and garlic; cook until golden brown. Stir in the cumin and chiles. Add the cubed pork, and cook, stirring, till thoroughly heated (if you roasted the pork with a rub, the yummy browned crust will come off and incorporate into the onion/garlic/spice mixture. This is a feature, not a bug). Remove meat to a bowl with a slotted spoon.

Add potatoes and pumpkin to the pot. Stir to mix well with spices and onion. Add stock; bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for 30 minutes or so, until vegetables are tender. Add tomatoes and pork, stir well, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes to combine the flavors.

Like most good stews, this one’s even better the second day. Serve with a green salad and hearty bread.

February 15, 2009 at 7:54 pm 1 comment

Weekend cooking: Carnitas with chipotle-lime sauce


Carnitas with Chipotle-Lime sauce

As fond as I am of dishes that can be thrown together at lightning speed, sometimes it’s nice to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon cooking, especially when it’s the sort of cooking that lends itself to watching a movie and knitting while it mostly takes care of itself.

Yesterday I defrosted a boneless pork shoulder roast I’d bought from Wood Family Farms. I wasn’t in the mood to leave the house, so I figured I’d see what I could do with ingredients I have on hand; thanks to a summer of shopping locally and putting things aside for winter, there’s lots of good stuff in my larder and the big freezer downstairs – including a supply of dried chiles of assorted varieties.

Pork shoulder takes a little more effort than, say, tenderloin. They tend to have a good deal of fat layered with the muscle, and the meat is on the tough side; a moist cooking method such as braising or stewing gives much better results than just throwing the whole thing in a hot oven.

Years ago, a friend from Mexico taught me her mother’s method of making carnitas, those bite-sized mouthfuls of pork that are so tasty wrapped in tortillas or served over rice. It involves simmering the cut-up meat in liquid for a couple of hours, a process which renders out most of the fat – and then, when all the liquid has evaporated, briefly frying the meat in that rendered fat. The resulting morsels are tender, flavorful and succulent, with crispy edges.

This is not a fast dish; it’s a simmer-all-afternoon dish. But the prep is minimal, and that gives you lots of time to concoct a spicy sauce and a couple of simple side dishes to serve with the carnitas. The result is a hearty, warming, exceedingly satisfying cold-weather meal, and the leftovers are great wrapped in a warm tortilla.

Carnitas with Chipotle-Lime Sauce


  • 2-3 lb. boneless pork shoulder*
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled*
  • A few black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seed


Slice the raw pork into 1-2″ thick slabs, and cut those into cubes. Do not trim away the fat!

In a wide, heavy pot – a cast iron Dutch oven, for instance, or an enameled cast-iron casserole – combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to very low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until all the water is evaporated (1 1/2 to 2 hours). When nothing is left but the pork and the simmering melted fat, increase heat to medium and allow the pork to fry in its own fat, turning occasionally, until browned (5-10 minutes). Remove from heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer the pork to a large bowl, draining off the fat as you do so.

Make sauce while pork simmers:

Chipotle-lime sauce


  • 2 small or 1 large dried chipotle chiles*
  • 2 large, mild dried peppers (I used an ancho chile and a dried paprika).*
  • 1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped*
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa (or, if you’re lucky enough to have cacao nibs on hand, substitute those)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Juice of two limes


Remove the stems from the dried chiles; split open and remove seeds (unless you want a very hot sauce)

In a small, non-reactive saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add chiles, onion and garlic. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until peppers are soft.

Meanwhile, toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet; cool and grind with cocoa or cacao nibs (I keep an old coffee grinder just for grinding spice; you can also use a mortar and pestle).

When chiles are done, transfer them along with the onions and garlic to a food processor with a slotted spoon; reserve cooking liquid. Squeeze two limes into a measuring cup and add enough cooking liquid to make one cup. Add to food processor and process until pureed. Taste, and add salt if needed (the resulting sauce should be smokey/tangy/spicy and a little salty). If sauce is too watery, return to cooking pot (after discarding remaining cooking liquid) and return to burner to simmer and reduce.

To serve, toss pork pieces with a few spoonsful of the sauce to coat, and spoon a little more onto the plate.

I had this tonight on brown basmati rice with a combination of black beans and dry-toasted sweet corn (Just spread frozen corn in a pan and toast over a medium heat, stirring now and then, until it begins to brown, then add black beans and stir till heated. It was tender, delicious – and not at all fatty, thanks to the long slow cooking.

Depending on what you serve it with and how carnivorous the diners are feeling, this should feed 4-6 people nicely.

(* Indicates locally grown ingredients)

November 23, 2008 at 9:49 pm Leave a comment

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