Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A column, briefly

Okay, okay, state law in federal courts etc, but I wanted to share this recent, thoughtful Mark Bittman column.  I especially liked the last paragraph:  what is the integrity of your food?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Taking Finals in Memphis

An embarrassment of riches:

Or, the market is open for business!  Last Saturday I headed down to Central Station super-early (I had oral arguments at 11, but no way that was going to stop me) to check out the spring bounty.  In my head, I toyed with the notion of buying a whole roasting chicken from West Wind Farms and celebrating the new season, you know, with a large chunk of centerpiece protein.  But once I got there, oh, my love of vegetables won over.  Those radishes beckoned me from Whitton Farms' table, so coy and blushing.  So what if they're a cool-weather crop and I'd snacked on them in October, a mere 6 months ago?  These were spring radishes, far less peppery, cool and positively singing spring.  And it was all downhill from there; the spring onions from Downing Hollow Farms taste amazing mashed into a butter, and I have omelet-type plans for Van Cheeseman's shiitake mushrooms and Bonnie Blue Farms' eggs and goat cheese.  That'll teach me to go to the market with plans.  All in all, such a wonderful morning, seeing familiar faces and catching up on what people had been up to over the winter.

But with spring comes a different kind of event in the life cycle of a law student:

Yes, it is also exam season, so there will not be any posts from me for a while, probably not until they are over on May 8th.  Until then, send me good thoughts so I can complete the holy exam trinity with positive karma.  I've already got the first two elements in spades:

So, a temporary goodbye, but I shall return, with so much more time to share delicious meals from the mid-south.  Until then, I remain,


PS That is an accurate rendering of me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Use It or Lose It Challenge: Parsley and Roasted Almond Pesto

Greetings!  And happy leftover season, if you celebrated Easter this past weekend.  I spent mine with Jessica's family.  They are lovely people, and so welcoming.  Some of my best moments since I've lived here have happened on the porch at their country village, beers in hand, hanging with friends, watching the nefarious pony kick his heels up and scheme to get us to feed him more hay.  Jess wasn't home this time, though---I missed you sorely, friend!  

Jessica's mom, ever-generous, sent me home with leftover ham, sweet corn from last summer's garden, and huge bunches of fresh-cut rosemary and flat-leaf italian parsley from her herb bed.  And on the way home I got to wondering... what the heck am I going to do with all that parsle? I mean, tabbouleh is the first answer, but I didn't have any bulgar wheat or couscous, and the goal this week is to clean out, use up and otherwise get ready for the abundance of fresh produce from the market this weekend.

This reminded me of a recent Slate article on using up the bounty from your CSA box.  Mark Bittman was quoted and said something like, "You should be putting parsley on everything," so it should, obviously, never go bad.  Um, hi Mark---I'm Diana (nice to meet you), and I don't cook  every day, and what am I going to put this here parsley on?  My oatmeal?  Clearly, I needed to bring in the big guns.

Turns out, Google can Help You Out.  "What do I do with a ton of parsley" schooled me in the ways of parsley pesto.  Alright!  I said.  Let's do it.

Parsley and Roasted Almond Pesto
Improvised from a bunch of online recipes that all use walnuts

Fresh parsley--a big handful
Garlic--a clove or more, chopped
Parmesan cheese to your taste
Olive oil

Mostly I eyeballed this.  But the measurements I remember are: about 2/3 cup of almonds and about 2 1/2 loosely packed cups of chopped parsley.

Spread your almonds on a pie pan and roast in a 350 degree oven.

While almonds are roasting, chop your parsley.

Take the almonds out of the oven when they're golden brown (about 20 minutes --  I peeked in every now and then)

Transfer the almonds to your blender or food processor and pulse to chop them up.

Add in the parsley, garlic, parmesan cheese and just enough olive oil to hold it together.  You want to aim for a thick paste.

(blend blend)  Ta-da!  Pesto!   Of the intensely nutty and pungent variety.  I could have eaten it with a spoon, but I was civil and had it on spaghetti.  The rest is now frozen into ice-cube-sized portions.  I'm pretty sure I will be reaching for my own homemade convenience food during finals.

Now, any ideas for using up a bunch of fresh rosemary?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pork Roast Braised in Milk and Herbs

Subtitled:  Ode to Crock-Pot, or Everything (In the Freezer) Must Go

"Wait!"  You might be saying.  "Don't milk products curdle in Crock-Pots?  Isn't that kind of gross?"  Yes on the first, and no on the second.  The curdling is the point:  as the milk heats up and melds with the flavors of the roast and the herbs, it turns into an incredibly delicious, creamy sauce.  The recipe below called for 2 1/4 pounds of roast.  Mine (from Barnes Farms) was only about 1 1/2, but I made the full amount of sauce anyway, and I'm glad I did, 'cause man, it was good.

Pork Roast Braised in Milk and Herbs
From Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook

1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin or roast, trimmed of fat and blotted dry (I left mine on.  I like to live dangerously)
1 tbsp minced fresh oregano
1 tbsp minced fresh tarragon
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (dried is ok for all of these)
1 3/4 tsp salt
8 grinds of black pepper
2 to 2 1/4 cups hot whole milk

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil until very hot.  

Add the meat and cook until browned on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes total.  You're not cooking it all the way through here; the Crock-Pot will take care of that. You just want to get a nice crust.

Transfer to the Crock-Pot and sprinkle with the herbs, salt and pepper

Add the milk; it should come halfway up the sides of the pork.  Cover and cook on low for about 5 1/2 hours.  Peek in every now and then!

Transfer the pork to a warm platter and let rest for 10 minutes (it is tired from its time in the sauna).  Cut into 1/2-inch-thick-slices (if you can!  Mine was so fork-tender, it just fell off the bone when I tried to cut into it) and spoon over the sauce.

I was so impressed with the quality of this meat.  The color and texture of the muscle made it pretty clear that the pig hadn't spent its life caged up and freaking out.  I'm willing to go out of my way to support that!

Bonus Road Trip Feature:  Drinking Memphis (And Kentucky) In Durham, NC!

Yay road trips!  Last weekend I took a little vacation to the Triangle to visit one of my most favorite people, my friend Jessica, who's in grad school at a certain gothic University up there.  It was super great to see and hang out with her, and to see the town.  She was kind enough to show me her favorite local spots (hints: biscuits, brewed coffee, books, beers) and around the campus.  It really couldn't have been a nicer weekend; got to celebrate her fantastic summer internship, got the travel bug out of my system before exams, got to experience a new place, got to meet new folks. 

Yes, please

Slightly befuddled by this

The "drinking Memphis" part; two Boscos growlers hitched a ride, and came in handy for the celebratin'

Picnic in the gardens, tasty, tasty Ale-8

How many cameras do you see?