Resolutions

hoppin' john soup

Let me state the obvious – it is a new year.  Another obvious fact – it has been quiet here.  The truth is, I’ve struggled to find my voice, to find inspiration, to be motivated.  To take the time to photograph a recipe’s preparation and document the teaspoons, cups, temperatures and cooking times.  We’ve eaten well, don’t get me wrong, but I haven’t shared.  I’ve tried.  Looking through my photo files, I’ve amassed quite a collection of fragments of recipes.  Spices in a mortar and pestle, mise en place of veggies next to a steaming pot, pans of roasted chicken pieces, searing short ribs – I could go on.  But I didn’t.  And I’m not sure why.

black-eyed peas

Even in the simple act of admitting this, I struggle to find the right words.  Call it a giant case of writer’s block combined with a lack of creativity.  I’ve experimented so little this year with my own recipe creations, instead relying on my giant collection of bookmarked recipes on Pinterest.  Even WordPress had to stifle a chuckle when providing me with this blog’s 2012 stats.  Maybe it is due to our small, rented kitchen and a lack of a garden.  I’m sure a lot of it is due to my health struggles from earlier in the year and the slow recovery time before I felt like a glimmer of myself once more.  And I’m sure some of it is just plain apathy and laziness.

simmering soup

It is a day of making goals, resolving to do things differently in the new year ahead.  I have a rather succinct list for myself, a tidy little plan for 2013.  One of those items is to find myself here more often, chatting with you and sharing a view into our kitchen.  I promise the recipes won’t all be show stoppers or JB’s Pour House originals, but they will be good meals worthy of a night on the couch watching re-runs of the Big Bang Theory or entertaining new friends.  Because that’s what we will be doing.  We’ll be opening a bottle of bubbly on a Tuesday, because why the hell not?  If there’s a lesson I learned in 2011-2012, it is to celebrate life’s little moments.

broil

So we kicked off this chilly start to the new year with hope for a little good luck.  I figured we could use all the help we could get this year, and a dish rooted in tradition with promises of prosperity wasn’t a bad way to start.  And I took pictures.  From start to finish.  Happy new year friends, and I’ll see you soon.

Hoppin’ John Soup with Garlic Rubbed Toasts

Adapted from Saveur

16 oz. dried black-eyed peas

2 meaty smoked ham hocks or 1 ham bone + 1/2 c. chopped cooked ham

1/2 – 3/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

2 Tbsp. canola oil

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped + 1 clove garlic, peeled

2 carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 large onion, diced

1 bay leaf

2 bunches collard greens, stemmed and leaves roughly chopped/torn

1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp. – 1/4 c. hot sauce

Ciabatta

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Bring black-eyed peas, ham hocks/ham bone, and 8 c. water to a boil in a large stockpot.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 45 minutes.  Remove ham hocks/ham bone and set aside.  Remove 1 c. cooking liquid and set aside.  Drain black-eyed peas and wipe stockpot with a paper towel.  Return stockpot to medium high heat and add canola oil and red pepper flakes.  Once fragrant (do not let red pepper flakes burn), add carrots, celery, onion and bay leaf.  Saute for about 8 -10 minutes or until vegetables have softened.  Meanwhile, remove fat from ham hocks and dice meat, reserving bones.  Set aside.  Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add 12 cups of water, reserved cooking liquid, ham bones, ham, drained black-eyed peas and collard greens.  Bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and partially cover.  Simmer for 1 hour or until collard greens have softened.  Stir in vinegar and season to taste with hot sauce, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to low until ready to serve.

Preheat broiler.  Slice ciabatta into 1 1/2 inch thick slices.  Cut individual slices lengthwise into thick strips.  Place on a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Season lightly with salt.  Toast to desired color.  Remove from broiler and rub garlic clove across craggly surface of toasts.  Serve with Hoppin’ John Soup, preferably dunked happily into the broth.

Wishing you luck and prosperity in 2013,

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 – 2013 jb’s pour house

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BLT Chicken Pasta

Holy cow, summer is going by so quickly!  I can’t believe it is mid-July.  Back to school specials abound and I can’t help but feeling a little sad that summer is almost over.  But then I remember that here in the “northern South,” summer continues well into September (I just love that Southern Living magazine calls KC part of the South – it gives me lots of excuses to make the Southern food I adore!).  Tomato season started early and I have lots of plans for the jeweled orbs.  The farmers markets are overflowing and I’d better get while the getting is good before the impact of this draught starts to catch up with the grocery stores and markets.

I must admit to a bit of laziness and a severe lack of creativity when it comes to cooking this summer.  Maybe that is due to the roller coaster ride I’ve been on this past year.  I think the other part of it is that I don’t have a garden for the second year in a row.  I have nothing going crazy in my backyard, demanding I dream up new and exciting ways to prepare it.  A friend brought over some fresh jalapenos from her garden and I smiled, recalling the numerous recipes I searched and dreamed up to use our plethora of peppers.  A girl can only eat so many jalapeno poppers…

The other aspect of my noticeable absence has been that we have just been so busy!  Last summer flew by in an instant between Ben starting his job, selling our house, making the official move to KC, and then, the nasty C-word.  This summer, we’ve welcomed many friends into our home, traveled to see friends and family, and bummed about town with lazy days at the pool, baseball games, happy hours and more.  One such evening took us to Shakespeare at the Park where we packed a few bottles of wine and a picnic and laughed at the whimsy of a Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Midsummer…

One of the dishes I prepared for our picnic left me with lots of delicious spinach dip left over.  Given its consistency, I felt that it would be better served in another dish versus on its own, scooped with chips or crackers.  Laziness prevailed yet again, so I opted for ease, convenience and rotisserie chicken, a girl’s best friend.  The creamy sauce and spinach got me thinking of an alternate BLT and then I couldn’t help but tinker.  I liked this dish served warm, but it’s likely pretty tasty chilled too and perfect for a picnic or Midsummer Night’s Dream.

BLT Chicken Pasta

recipe:  jb’s pour house with assistance from Food & Wine

 

1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed and shredded

5 slices bacon

1/3 c. sliced onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 box pasta (any shape), cooked according to package directions

1 c. heavy cream

1 8 oz. box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry of excess moisture

1 pkg. Philadelphia cooking creme, plain

1 lemon

Salt & pepper to taste

2 large tomatoes, diced

 

Place bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Saute until crisp, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add onion to pan and saute until translucent and starting to brown, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic, saute for 30 seconds and remove from heat.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan, boil the cream until reduced by half.  Keep a close eye on this as you don’t want to allow the cream to boil over.  Add the dry spinach and stir to incorporate.  Add the cooking creme and stir until melted.  Add the juice of half of a lemon.  Add half of the chicken, reserving the remainder for another use.  Add pasta, bacon, onion mixture and tomatoes.  Mix well to incorporate.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Can easily be doubled.

 

Enjoy!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2012 jb’s pour house

lowcountry boil

I guess I got what I wanted.  I said I wanted to move to a place that was warmer.  Turns out, we moved to Devil’s Lair, USA.  Ok, it is hot out there kids.  And guess what?  Living in a second floor apartment above a bay of garages where the sun beats through the windows throughout the afternoon and evening doesn’t really do much to ease that heat.  If our fans die this fall, I won’t blame them.  I’ve worked them to the bone (or blade, as it were).  I’m literally counting the days until we move into our new house and abandon this inferno (five days!!).  It turns out having a tiny kitchen in the world’s hottest apartment doesn’t really inspire one to do much cooking.  I lovingly fold down the pages of my favorite cooking magazines, earmarking the pages for a summer day in the future.  But in the interim, there’s no way in Hell I’m turning on that oven.

We’ve also been a bit busy, as you’ve noticed from our lack of updates here and from previous posts’ commentary.  Quick meals have become the standard routine around here, mostly so I can hustle my buns back to the spot where both the fan and AC vents blow cool breezes across the room.  Either that, or I’ve spent too much time lounging at the pool, desperate for a cool dip while simultaneously ignoring the crazy neighbors’ tales of snapping photos of homeless people in the dark or their next tattoo artwork featuring images of Samuel L. Jackson next to Scripture.  I’m really not kidding.  Five days…

There are a few tastes of summer I cannot manage to live without, and this one happens to fall into the categories of No Oven, Quick, and One Pot Wonder.  It is a combination of seafood, vegetables, meat, spices and deliciousness rolled into one meal.  And the best part?  It is messy and goes wonderfully with an ice cold beer.

A Lowcountry Boil goes by many names – shrimp boil, Frogmore Stew – but the gist is the same no matter what you call it.  A handful of aromatic spices, seasonings and citrus get dumped into a big pot.  Fill with water, bring to a rolling boil, and start adding things in.  In this instance, the late, great Gourmet magazine forgoes the traditional Old Bay seasoning and jazzes things up with Cajun seasonings and cayenne pepper.  A bit of lemon, bay, and garlic later, and even I am tempted to jump in for a zesty little splash.

Add to that mix some fresh new potatoes, delicious sweet corn, smoked sausage, and shrimp, and you’re set.  I mentioned easy, right?  Wash the potatoes, clean up the corn and halve it, thaw and rinse some shrimp (no peeling!!) and you are done.  While all of that yumminess is rolling around in the pot, you can whip up an equally easy Spicy Horseradish sauce.  A few squirts from a handful of condiments (or splatters, in the case of my ketchup bottle) and your sauce is complete.  Can’t get any easier right?

One of the best parts of this meal to me is that it begs for company and it begs to be eaten outside.  Cover a table with a pile of newspapers or a throw-away table cloth and dump the contents of the pot across the table.  Roll up your sleeves, grab a cold beer from the cooler, and jump in.  Eating with your fingers is highly encouraged, as the intent is for you to grab handfuls of sweet corn, a few bite sized potatoes, and shrimp that you peel before dunking into the sauce and devouring.  You can use a fork if you must.  But it won’t be nearly as fun.

lowcountry boil

adapted from:  Gourmet magazine

5 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning

2 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 lemon

2 bay leaves

8 cloves garlic, smashed and skins peeled away

12-15 small red potatoes

3-4 ears sweet corn, cleaned and halved

1 package smoked sausage

1 lb. shrimp (I prefer 26-30 count)

1/3 c. mayonnaise

3 Tbsp. ketchup

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish sauce

Salt and pepper, to taste

Find the largest stock pot you have.  Place Cajun seasoning and cayenne pepper in the pot.  Halve the lemon and slice each half into quarters.  Squeeze the lemons into the pot and place the remaining lemon pieces into the pot.  Add smashed garlic cloves and bay leaves.  Fill about 2/3 full of water.  Cover and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, add potatoes and sweet corn.  Boil for about seven minutes.  As potatoes and corn are boiling, combine mayonnaise, ketchup, Dijon mustard, and horseradish in a small bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.  Add smoked sausage to the corn and potatoes.  After about five minutes, add shrimp.  After two minutes, remove from heat and pour mixture into a waiting colander.  Once drained, return to pot, dump across a prepared table, or transfer to a large serving dish.  Serve immediately with Spicy Horseradish dipping sauce, plenty of napkins, and ice cold beer.

To the inventor of the Air Conditioner,

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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ricotta and pulled pork stuffed squash blossoms

They say girls like receiving flowers.  Turns out I like eating them.  Don’t worry, your flowers are safe.  I don’t go around and willy-nilly pick off a peony or snap a rose off of a shrub and munch away.  But if I see squash blossoms, zucchini flowers or whatever you choose to call them, guaranteed my heart will start to beat a little faster. 

My interest in floral consumption started several years ago when we were new homeowners.  You see, our former hometown had a huge, amazing farmer’s market each Saturday morning to which we would routinely ride our bikes.  I quickly learned that the trendy items that were quick to sell out early each weekend included bright orange squash blossoms.  A little internet browsing later, I found multiple delicious sounding recipes and soon enough, bunches of blossoms in hand, I was cooking.

Now this summer has been a bit crazy.  My dates with the weekend farmer’s market have been far less than regular.  Instead, trips along the long stretch of highway between Kansas City and Des Moines filled our weekends as a “Sold” sign appeared in our yard and boxes and packing tape began to fill the empty floor spaces inside our house.  Instead of hot dogs, apple pie and fireworks for the 4th, we hauled boxes and furniture under the relentless Midwestern sun.  It seems I’m also death to air conditioners this summer, with no fewer than six repairs and one new air conditioner under my belt between the two residences.  And you wonder why it has been a bit quiet here?

And so we closed the chapter on Des Moines and in this brief respite from moving (albeit not from the heat – thank goodness for a working AC!), I’ve found myself strolling in the morning sun, gazing across tables filled with tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, berries, and wait – squash blossoms!  I beelined through the crowd, leaving B to apologize to the people I cut off or cut in front of as I made my way to the table and grasped my treasures.  In our new barbeque-centric hometown, it seemed only appropriate that we make this recipe first.

ricotta and pulled pork stuffed squash blossoms

recipe:  adapted from Bobby Flay

2 bunches of fresh squash blossoms (keep in water like regular flowers and refrigerate for up to 1 day – they are delicate)

1 1/2 c. ricotta

1/2 lb. best quality pulled pork (you can certainly smoke your own, but we usually buy from our favorite BBQ joint)

1/4 c. barbeque sauce

2 c. rice flour

2 c. ice water

Canola oil

1/3 c. rice vinegar

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. honey

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Snip squash blossoms from stems and place in a large bowl filled with cold water.  Gently swish around and let any dirt or debris fall to the bottom of the bowl.  Remove flowers and tip upside down to remove any excess water.  Peel off the sepals (long green leaves at the base of the flower) and gently open the flower petals.  Note: you may find a few little bugs, this is common as the flowers are typically open when picked and the bugs get trapped inside.  It is worth noting that I found a bee once, so do be careful (this was 1 out of hundreds of squash blossoms, so odds are you won’t find a bee).  Gently pull out the stamen and set the blossom on a towel to dry.  Don’t worry if you tear the flower slightly.  Repeat with remaining blossoms.

As blossoms dry, combine ricotta, pulled pork and barbeque sauce in a medium bowl.  Season to taste and set aside.  Combine rice vinegar, Dijon, and honey in a small bowl.  Whisk thoroughly and begin slowly drizzling in olive oil.  Continue adding oil until mixture is emulsified.  Season lightly with salt but liberally with black pepper.  Taste and adjust to your preference.  Set aside.

To fill blossoms, gently push about 1 tsp. filling down to the base of the flower.  Continue to fill until you are nearly to the top of the flower where the petals start to flare out.  If you have torn the flower a bit, wrap the edges together to form a seal and lightly twist the tops of the petals together.  Repeat with remaining blossoms.

Fill a large frying pan about halfway with canola oil and heat over medium high heat.  As oil is warming up, combine rice flour and cold water.  Stir well to combine.  Dip a blossom into the rice flour batter and place in hot oil.  Repeat with four or five other blossoms, depending on the size of your pan.  Fry for about 2 minutes per side and carefully remove from oil.  Stir rice flour batter again and repeat with four or five additional blossoms.  Repeat until all blossoms have been fried.

Serve immediately while hot with black pepper vinaigrette.

Stay cool friends!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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braised pork with pepperoni sauce

Hello, Spring?  Did you forget you were supposed to stick around for a while?  While I do love your friend, Summer, quite a bit, I was planning on spending a little more time with you.  But you’ve run off and instead 90 degree temperatures have crept into our weekends.  Ok, so it was still too hot to make the pepperoni sauce.  But a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.

The recent finale of Top Chef All Stars saw the judges enamored over a dish of braised pork with pepperoni sauce from Chef Mike Isabella.  I was intrigued.  I’ve had plenty of pepperoni on my pizza but I’ve never had it in a sauce.  The next morning, as I browsed the internet looking for clues as to how to make it, I stumbled across a very high-level overview of the general ingredients and directions.  I was off to the races. 

The braised pork and the sauce are easy enough – not much chopping, not much prep, but certainly a bit of cooking time.  Normally, running an oven at 375 degrees for 3 hours isn’t that big of a deal.  It is a big deal when it is 86 degrees out.  And yes, this was the cooler day of our weekend.  So the oven went on, along with the newly repaired air conditioner and soon the house apartment was filled with the aromas of pork, pepperoni, fennel and tomato.  It smelled exactly the way you would want it too when coming in from the brisk outdoors.  Oh wait…

Soon enough, the timer sounded and as I stood at the counter shredding pork and sneaking bites when B wasn’t looking, I knew this would be the last hearty meal we’d see in our kitchen for a while.  As I alternated between shredding pork and wiping sweat from my brow, I hoped the sauce was worth the added heat.  I plated pillows of golden polenta and piled shards of pork across the top.  As I ladled the bubbling pepperoni sauce over the pork, wisps of steam danced up to my nose and suddenly, I was very hungry. 

We tucked into our meal with fans blowing around us and as our bellies filled with the warm, meaty sauce and juicy pork, our foreheads glistened with sweat.  It may have been from the hot spring/summer day, it could have been due to the warm filling dish, or it could have been from that, uh, second/third glass of red wine we guzzled, but it was worth it.  This dish was a great way to send Winter packing and if it is still cold enough near you to crank up the oven, I’d say go for it.  If like us you are enjoying the start to Summer, go for it anyway, but turn the AC down a few notches before you do!

braised pork with pepperoni sauce

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1/3 lb. pepperoni, thinly sliced and diced into small pieces

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 4 lb. bone-in pork shoulder, seasoned liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled

2 tsp. fennel seeds

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

1/4 tsp. smoked black peppercorns

1 c. dry white wine

2 c. water

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 tsp. fennel seeds

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 24 oz. whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained and crushed (reserve tomato sauce for another use)

3 c. chicken stock

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place about 1/4 of the diced pepperoni in a large oven-proof casserole with a tight fitting lid.  Heat over medium high heat until pepperoni starts to crisp, about 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove pepperoni and set aside.  Add onions and olive oil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook onions until caramelized, about 12-15 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove onions and set aside.  Place pork shoulder in pan, fat side down, and increase heat to medium high.  Sear on all sides until golden brown.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Add garlic cloves, 2 tsp. fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper and 1/4 tsp. smoked black peppercorns.  Stir constantly until garlic is golden, about 1 minute.  Add white wine and water.  Return pepperoni, onions and pork to pan.  Cover and braise for three hours, turning roast over once halfway through cooking time.

As pork braises, place olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium high heat.  Add onion, garlic, remaining fennel seeds and crushed red pepper.  Saute for about 3 minutes or until onion starts to become translucent.  Add pepperoni and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add crushed San Marzano tomatoes and chicken stock.  Let simmer on medium low for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until pepperoni has softened.  Remove from heat and working in batches, puree.  (Note, if using a blender/food processor, very carefully puree in small batches as liquid expands when hot and will spill out of blender/processor)  Return sauce to sauce pan and continue to simmer until sauce has reduced and has thickened.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove pork from oven and shred using two forks.  To serve, place pork over polenta or pasta and drizzle with pepperoni sauce.

Here’s to a whole new world of pepperoni!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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mortadella pizza

Well, I had the best of intentions.  I was all groceried up and ready to tell you all about a certain pepperoni sauce heard ’round the world, but then Sunday happened.  Sunday – in all its 90 degree glory.  Sunday – in an apartment with only west facing windows through which the sun beat unmercilessly until the grace of a storm and cold front finally provided relief.  The sauce is coming, but we’ll have to wait for either a screen door and a glorious cross breeze or a cooler day.

You may recall me telling you about my sister’s continual recipe request for items which have never passed my lips, yet I am supposed to provide instruction.  Well, it finally happened.  In October of 2009, GQ magazine published an article in which a thin crust (gasp) Chicago pizza was named the best in America.  My sister immediately requested the recipe for the mortadella pie.  I’m a little behind on my list it seems.  When I finally got around to making it last week, I was interrupted in my preparations by said sister, requesting yet another recipe.

“I’m a little busy on another request of yours,” I had texted back.  Here’s the kicker – she didn’t even remember requesting the recipe in the first place!  So, I guess we’ve gone full circle.  I know my sis will continue to send requests my way which doesn’t bother me, as I’ll keep playing and trying new things.  I guess it is a way to keep the creative juices flowing.  And at least in the short term, it offered an opportunity to create a delicious spin on an old favorite.

Full disclosure – as with most of my sister’s requests, I have absolutely no idea if this tastes anything close to the real deal.  But that’s ok.  Whether this can hold it’s own against the original remains to be seen, but in the interim, we have a pretty tasty pie on our hands.  I wanted the base to be simple as the spotlight was really intended to be on one thing and one thing only – the mortadella.  While you can buy a pre-made dough from the grocery store, I’d recommend making your own as I did here or swinging through your favorite local pizza joint and asking to buy some dough.  They’ll give you funny looks guaranteed. 

I also wanted the sauce to be delicious but not competitive with everything else going on.  So I simply reduced the liquid in a can of San Marzano tomatoes and once thick and to my desired consistency, I dressed lightly with a few dashes of oregano, a glug of olive oil, and a light sprinkling of salt.  To top the pie, I sliced orbs of fresh mozzarella into disks and quickly brined them to add a little salty bite but also to form a thin skin on the cheese to prevent it from turning too watery in the hot oven and causing the dough to be soggy.  A few minutes in a very hot oven later, and you have the makings for a delectable Margherita pizza.  Yum.  But wait!  We aren’t done yet, kids.  This baby gets topped with slices of mortadella ladened with peppercorns and pistachios.  A quick sear in the oven and the mortadella begins to curl and the edges slightly crisp.  It’s done.

As you take that first bite and the string of cheese forms a tightrope between your mouth and the retreating slice of pie, you can thank my sister.  I know I did.

mortadella pizza

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 c. warm water

1 pkg. active dry yeast

1 tsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

3 c. flour

1 24 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes

3/4 tsp. oregano

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced about 1/4″ thick

1/4 lb. mortadella

Combine warm water, yeast and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Stir and let sit for 10-20 minutes or until bubbly.  Add olive oil and salt and fit the mixer with a dough hook.  With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add flour.  Continue adding until all flour is gone.  Turn the mixer speed up and let the dough mix until it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Place about 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a clean large bowl.  Place dough in bowl and toss around several times until surface is coated with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest overnight.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Lightly flour a working surface and begin to roll dough out to desired size (recommend 14″ to 16″ so as not to be too thin).  Lighly oil a large baking sheet and place dough onto it.  Fold edges of dough over itself to make a crust.  Set aside.  Place San Marzano tomatoes in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Continue boiling and crushing tomato pieces with a wooden spoon until sauce has reduced to about 1/3 it’s original volume and desired consistency has been reached.  Add oregano, olive oil and salt.  Set aside.

Place about 2 Tbsp. kosher salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add about 1/2 c. very hot water and stir until salt has disolved.  Add enough cold water to come up to about 1/2 to 3/4 of the side of the bowl.  Add mozzarella slices and brine for about 15-20 minutes.  Drain.  Spread sauce across dough and place mozzarella slices across the sauce.  The cheese will not cover the entire surface.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove pizza from oven and top with mortadella.  Bake for another 5 minutes.  Slice and serve.

I heart pizza.

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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pecan-crusted pork tenderloin pinwheels with carolina mustard sauce

The hourglass has been flipped.  Suddenly, the grains of sand begin to sift faster and faster into the vial below.  I feel as if I’m grasping for a rope that’s suddenly just out of my reach.  I’m becoming desperate, despondent.  No, it isn’t a bad dream.  It’s fall.

Despite the impression I may have just given you, I don’t dislike fall.  Cool days, crunchy leaves, apples with baking spices, red wine and soul-warming comfort foods are among the many things I enjoy.  It’s just that nagging season that comes on fall’s heels that makes me bemoan summer’s fade into autumn.  It’s why I am digging my heels in, desperately trying to stop the shift from warm sunny days to brisk afternoons filled with falling leaves. 

It is during this time of year that I find myself stumbling across summer recipes that I haven’t had a chance to squeeze in yet among the tomato/zucchini/cucumber/pepper/eggplant galore that is our garden.  Some are old favorites, some are newly bookmarked, and I’m racing against time to try to fit them all in.  Sadly, I won’t get to them all.  It’s why I’m already dreaming of next year’s garden.  Yes, I have spring fever.  And yes, it’s only September.

There was something about this recipe that made me set it aside for a while, marking it as one to try in the early days of fall.  Something about it said “cooler weather.”  It was a recipe I could envision us enjoying as a cool breeze from the open windows dances across our table, and the light from the setting sun (much earlier these days, to my dismay) glimmers against the ruby colored wine in our glasses.  Lucky for me, it turned out just as I envisioned.

Relatively simple to prepare, this is one of those fantastically devious recipes.  As B said, this was something we easily would have enjoyed at restaurant prices and not felt a pang of guilt over having done so.  But again, lucky for us, that wasn’t the case.  Budget friendly to the extreme, this recipe uses inexpensive pork tenderloin and other refrigerator/pantry staples to create a showstopper of a meal once combined.  The pork pinwheels were a symphony of slightly sweet and crunchy toasted pecans, savory and tender pork, and smoky rich bacon.  With a drizzle of tangy Carolina mustard sauce, choruses of “mmmmmmm” and other words of praise soon filled our dinner conversation.

As the sun set on our perfect early fall dinner, I resigned myself to the fact that summer was drawing to a close.  I’ll continue to glean as much from it as I can in the days remaining, but with recipes like this, fall doesn’t look so bad after all.

pecan-crusted pork tenderloin pinwheels with carolina mustard sauce

recipe:  adapted from big bob gibson’s bbq book

 

¾ c. prepared yellow mustard

½ c. honey

¼ c. apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp. ketchup

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. hot sauce

1 pork tenderloin

6 bacon strips

1 c. finely chopped pecans (recommend using a food processor)

1 tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Combine yellow mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce in a small bowl.  Whisk well to combine.  Prepare 24 hours in advance for the best flavor.  Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Slice pork tenderloin in half lengthwise.  Slice each half lengthwise into three long strips.  Repeat with remaining tenderloin half.  Using a meat tenderizer, lightly pound pork strips to flatten slightly.  Place a strip of bacon on top of each pork tenderloin strip and roll into a pinwheel.  Secure with two long toothpicks or medium-length skewers.

Combine pecans, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Set aside about 1 c. Carolina mustard sauce.  With the remaining sauce, lightly baste pork pinwheels and dredge in pecan mixture.  Set aside and repeat with remaining pinwheels.

Preheat grill to medium high heat.  Cook for 7-8 minutes per side or until the edges of the bacon start to crisp.  Note – my grill runs hot.  I reduced my temperature and paid close attention so as not to burn the pecan crust.  You’ll want to watch this as well.  Remove from the heat and serve with the reserved mustard sauce.

Enjoy the dwindling days of summer!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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tagliatelle with fresh corn pesto

“Ode to Sweet Corn,” Five Days of Delicious, Delicate Kernels

 

One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to take something expected or ordinary and to turn it on its side.  I like funky.  I like unique.  I like different.  I love to reimagine and refresh dishes that are tried and true.  But I like to do so in a way that is still approachable for many people.  I am interested in the foams, molecular gastronomy and avant garde presentations of such people like Wylie Dufresne and Grant Achatz, but I know that style of cooking doesn’t have universal appeal across this great land.  And I know that for most people, the more comfortable you are with the general idea or ingredients, the more likely you are to approach a dish with an open mind and a willing fork.

So when I stumbled across a recipe for a fresh corn pesto, I was intrigued.  This was right up my alley.  Basil pesto has worked its way into our culinary vernacular and isn’t something that is too foreign/out there for most people.  A fresh, summery combination of basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmiggiano Reggiano and olive oil, pesto has become a go-to condiment for dressing pasta, basting chicken, or adding zip to dressings and marinades.  And it is easy.  Throw everything in a blender or food processor and viola!  Instant sauce. 

Now I’m no stranger to turning pesto on its side.  In summers past, I’ve been known to whip up a variety of not-so-standard pestos including chive, lemon-parsley, cilantro, walnut-watercress – the list could go on and on.  But I’d never attempted to make a pesto with something that could stand alone, like sweet corn.  I was up for the experiment.  I happily swung through my Italian grocer on the way home from work and picked up some tagliatelle and headed toward my nearby sweet corn stand.

Think of this as summer carbonara, minus the eggs.  You start by frying up some bacon (bonus!) and sautéing the corn kernels in the reserved drippings (double bonus!).  Never a bad way to go, my friends…  Once the sweet kernels are lightly sautéed, into the food processor they go with the requisite pine nuts, Parmiggiano Reggiano, and olive oil.  To me, most commercial pestos are too oily.  I don’t like opening a container and seeing the Gulf of Mexico, oops, an oil slick, on top of my pesto.  My rule of thumb with oils is always this – disregard the volume specified by the recipe.  Add as much as you like for your own personal preference.  In this case, I added just enough to move the pesto along in my food processor while still leaving a little texture.  The resulting sauce was thick and creamy. 

Back to the pan it went, where I added reserved corn kernels for extra texture.  It is important to reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water.  This normal throw-away provides a nice starchy way to thin out the sauce.  The recipe states 1 ½ cups, but I found I was happy with the results with only 1 cup.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of your pan too – nothin’ says lovin’ like bacon drippings on the bottom of a pan.  Into the sauce went the cooked tagliatelle, the reserved bacon, and the fresh basil.  Think of this as summer comfort on a plate. 

tagliatelle with fresh corn pesto

recipe:  adapted from Bon Appetit

 

4 bacon slices, cut into ½” pieces

6 ears of corn, kernels removed

2 large garlic cloves, finely minced

1 ¼ tsp. kosher salt

¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

½ c. finely grated Parmiggiano Reggiano

1/3 c. pine nuts, lightly toasted

Extra virgin olive oil

8 oz. tagliatelle

½ c. basil, finely chopped

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon and set aside.  If necessary/desired, pour off all but 1 Tbsp. bacon drippings.  Add corn and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes.  Add garlic, salt and pepper.  Toss for about 30 seconds.  Transfer about 1 ½ c. corn kernels to a bowl, set aside.  Place remaining corn in a food processor.  Add pine nuts and Parmiggiano Reggiano.  With motor running, slowly stream in olive oil until desired consistency has been reached.

Prepare pasta according to package directions, reserving cooking water.  Return pesto to skillet.  Add reserved cooking water until sauce reaches desired consistency (again, I used about 1 c.), scraping the bottom of pan to remove any drippings.  Add pasta, reserved bacon, reserved corn, and ¾ basil to the pan.  Toss thoroughly to coat and season to taste.  Place about 1 ½ c. pasta in each serving bowl.  Top with remaining basil and serve warm.

Serves 4.

Here’s to summer comfort (and bacon!)

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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summer corn soup with crisp prosciutto and basil

“Ode to Sweet Corn” – Five Days of Delicious, Delicate Kernels

 

I wholeheartedly subscribe to the summer food versus winter food kind of cooking.  I just can’t bring myself to make a big pot of chili in August, nor will I ever whip up a BLT in January.  It just feels wrong.  In winter, I want my food to be hearty and warming, a barricade against the cold and snow just outside my door.  And in summer, I want a light, refreshing meal, fitting for the temperatures and the summer activities that keep me out of the kitchen until the sun starts setting and I realize I’d better get moving on dinner.  And on those late nights (which admittedly, is every night in the summer), I want something that comes together quickly. 

B’s grandpa is crazy about soup.  Something about it just trips his trigger and every visit to my mother-in-law results in stacks and stacks of frozen containers of soup, each icy cube containing any and every variety known to man.  He just loves to make soup.  And while I understand the appeal of quickly thawing a cube and sitting down to supper, it is hard for me to accept such a tummy warming dish during the dog days of summer.  I’m weird like that.

My tendencies usually lead me down the path of gazpacho, vichyssoise, or other chilled concoction, ready and willing to showcase summer produce.  Soups that come together in no time and are the perfect accompaniment to a sandwich or grilled chicken or fish.  So when I saw this recipe for a warm summer soup, I was a bit doubtful.  Fast and easy with the promise of basil and prosciutto, this summer soup recipe lured the ears of corn into my market bag and soon enough, soup was on the menu.

With garden fresh sweet corn, potatoes, onion and basil in hand, I set off to quickly pull together a midweek meal.  The kernels of corn burst against the blade of the knife, sending juices and corn splattering across the counter.  With a few quick chops, the veggies were ready and waiting.  In went the naked cobs, adding extra corn flavor and sweetness to the simmering broth.  In no time, the potatoes were tender and the steaming soup went into the blender.  Pureeing the corn and potatoes created a creamy, chowder like consistency without the weight of heavy cream.  Reserved corn kernels added a bit of crunch and extra sweetness as the kernels burst against your teeth.  Paired with a light sandwich, this was the perfect late summer meal.  And should you be so lucky to have a bumper crop of sweet corn, this would freeze wonderfully for a quick meal when the weather outside is frightful.

summer corn soup with crisp prosciutto and basil

recipe:  adapted from Fine Cooking

 

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 medium onion, diced into ½” pieces

4 c. water

2 c. chicken stock

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

4 ears of corn, kernels removed and cobs reserved

¼ c. finely chopped fresh basil

4 paper thin slices prosciutto

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter in a medium stockpot over medium high heat.  Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 7 minutes.  Add water, chicken stock, potatoes, half of the corn kernels, and reserved cobs.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

As soup simmers, place prosciutto on a baking sheet and place under a broiler for 1-2 minutes or until edges start to curl.  Turn prosciutto over and broil for another minute or so.  Crumble or coarsely chop.  Set aside.

Remove and discard cobs.  Working in small batches, carefully puree soup using a blender (remember – hot liquids expand, so use care).  Return the pureed soup to the pot.  Add the reserved corn kernels and bring back to a gentle simmer over medium heat until corn is tender, about 3-5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Garnish with fresh basil and crisp prosciutto.

Serves 4.

Soup’s on!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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hominy stew with tomatoes & okra

That song is still playing in my head.  (Note:  It probably doesn’t help that I’ve downloaded it to iTunes and can play it at will.)  My South Carolina longing continues and with it, my desire for Southern food. 

What is it about summer that makes us (ok, maybe just me) think of all of those wonderful Southern treats?  Maybe it is the warm weather, the sunshine, the annual mourning for the months-long summer breaks I no longer enjoy…  To satisfy my cravings, I’ve been researching various fried chicken recipes, whipped up a big pan of cornbread for the hubs to take to work, made the aforementioned key lime pound cake, and now, I think I’ve stumbled upon a recipe that closely mirrors the amazing hominy stew with tomatoes and okra I enjoyed at my sister’s Hilton Head wedding.

Can I tell you how giddy I was for this reception?  Sure, I was quite excited for my sister and my new brother-in-law.  But then I saw the menu.  It read like my own personal lyrics to “My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music:  Fried Green Tomatoes, Shrimp Fritters, Country Ham on Sweet Potato Biscuits, Bacon Wrapped Shrimp.  Oh, these are a few of my favorite things!  On to the second verse:  She-Crab Soup, Pulled Pork, Southern Fried Chicken, Baby Back Ribs, Shrimp Jambalaya, Hominy Stew with Tomatoes and Okra, Roasted Potato Salad, Cornbread…  drooling yet?  This was like Thanksgiving, only warmer.  Thank God my bridesmaid dress was A-Line because I had every intention of filling my plate to the brim.   And I did.  And then I didn’t feel so bad.

We were able to wrangle the recipe for the She-Crab soup from the caterer, but weren’t so successful with the stew.  I went on the hunt.  While I had a general idea of what I was after, many recipes I stumbled across had too much going on.  There were gumbos galore with seafood or sausage additions, all of which were a far cry from the vegetarian dish I had enjoyed.  Eventually, I settled on a recipe that seemed to fit the bill, albeit with a few modifications (really though, what recipe is not modified in my house?!).  One of the major changes I made was to shift this from a vegetarian recipe to one that has a wee bit o’ bacon.  If you are bacon averse, you could certainly start with a few tablespoons of canola oil instead.

Stew is a relative term here.  This ain’t your Midwestern, hearty, stick to your bones, chase away the winter chill stew.  The original dish was served as a side, no bowl required.  While mine was thick enough to stand on its own on a plate, I opted to serve this as a main dish over a bowl of rice.  Either way, it is delicious.  There are a lot of textures with the dumpling-like hominy, the soft tomatoes and the okra.  How to describe okra…?  If you’ve never had okra, this is a good introduction as the “silken” textures (often described as slime – I’m here to tell you the truth) combine with the liquid from the tomatoes and aren’t as pronounced as in other recipes.  When looking for recipes, I stumbled across the following saying:

When I was a kid, I ate so much okra I couldn’t keep my socks up.”

That’s all I have to say about that.

 

hominy stew with tomatoes & okra

recipe:  adapted from Threadgill’s Home Cooking 

 1/4 lb. bacon, diced

1 c. diced yellow onion

2 24-oz. cans whole tomatoes, undrained

1/2 lb. frozen cut okra

2 14 oz. cans white hominy

1/2 c. water

2 Tbsp. hot sauce

3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Salt & Pepper to taste

Saute bacon in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Once bacon is nearly crisp, add onions and saute until onions have softened, about 4 minutes.  Using hands, crush tomatoes into large pieces.  Reserve juice.  Add tomatoes, tomato juice, okra, hominy and water to the pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and stew, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes or until okra is tender.  Add hot sauce, Worcestershire, salt and pepper.  Serve as a side or over hot cooked rice.

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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