It’s not often that you’ll see me extolling a dish for its hearth healthy qualities. It’s not that I don’t care about good health, it’s more that I prefer to focus on eating a diet that is balanced, with the philosophy that “all things in moderation” will render it unnecessary to have to specifically seek out recipes that are low cholesterol or low fat or whatever. But at the beginning of this year, Marvin let it be known that he’d like us to eat less meat and more vegetables and grains. He specifically requested whole grain salads, which I already make from time to time and which are great for quick lunches when you have the hectic schedule of a freelance photographer.
I happily obliged by adapting a recipe from Once Upon a Tart (a great cookbook for soups and side salads) with wheatberries, beets and pomegranate. The recipe instructs you to fold in the beets and pomegranate at the end so they don’t stain the salad, but I wanted the dramatic, deep reddish-magenta hue to soak into the wheatberries… so much prettier and seasonally appropriate. The salad is quite good as it is, but even better with a little crumbled feta or fresh goat cheese on top. (This I would add at the last minute though, since I draw the line at pink cheese.) Although there’s no reason not to make this any time of the year, it would make a dramatic Valentine side dish- I plan to serve it alongside a venison tenderloin tomorrow. And you can serve it feeling comforted in the knowledge that you’re not potentially bringing about your loved one’s early demise with rich foods. If you do have a decadent main dish or dessert planned, no worries- it’s all about balance. Continue reading
I was talking to my mom
a couple weeks ago and she mentioned that she wanted to send my blog link to a friend, but it had been “so long” since I had last posted, that she didn’t have the link anymore (she gets the feed through email). Yikes! I’m certainly far from the days where I used to post two or even three times a week, but I didn’t realize it had gotten that bad.
The silver lining is that I’ve been occupied with other new and exciting projects, including some freelance writing for these publications, making jam and other treats for my fledgling company Beau Bien Fine Foods, organizing the first-ever (and I hope annual) Detroit Holiday Food Bazaar, and rehearsing and playing shows with Scarlet Oaks. Are you tired just reading that? Combined with house-hunting (we found one! More on this later…) and a full social calendar, I have barely had time to cook lately let alone photograph it or write about it.
When my good friend and Beau Bien business partner Molly organized a pre-Thanksgiving dinner at her place, I was determined not to let the opportunity pass since I had to cook a dish to bring anyway. I had some peeled, roasted chestnuts from the shipment of goodies that Oh! Nuts sent me a few months back and I knew I wanted to incorporate those. I recalled a recipe in Nigella Lawson’s Feast with brussels sprouts and chestnuts and used that as a guideline. The combination of pancetta and brussels sprouts was not new for me, but the addition of chestnuts, marsala and a generous amount of parsley intrigued me.
I got up nice and early (8am) to make sure I had plenty of time to run errands, cook, take pictures, get ready, etc, but was foiled by Michigan’s now-overturned law that you can’t purchase alcohol before noon on Sundays… ugh. That’s not the first time I’ve needed alcohol for Sunday cooking only to have to wait (I never said I was a good planner). I ended up being about an hour late to the party due to the rushing around, but my stress was soon soothed with a delicious glass of bourbon milk punch made by my friend Todd. If you’ve never had a milk punch, think eggnog-ish, but less cloying. As an added bonus, the milk was a delicious raw milk from a local cow share.
Dinner was a mix of old and new foods and friends. Molly’s sister and brother-in-law brought a turkey they smoked in their “egg”, with a subtly smoky flavor that didn’t overwhelm the other foods. The stuffing was made from wild rice and sausage, there was a green salad with fennel and orange, a fresh cranberry relish, and a great roasted cauliflower dish with capers and vinaigrette that, I’m sad to say, completely upstaged my slightly overcooked sprouts. I’m totally cribbing that for the next potluck I attend (don’t worry Evan, Ill give you your due credit!). For dessert, our friends Noah and Liz made sweet potato pie and apple pie. Where I found room for those I’ll never know, but I do know that if I ever make sweet potato pie I’m making it with graham cracker crust. Another idea to appropriate.
After dinner we walked across Lafayette Park (erm, there may have been a bit of stumbling along with the walking- see above) in the unseasonable 65°weather over to Supino’s in Eastern Market, where some friends had broken down a pig and were having a party of sorts. I’m regretting not taking the camera for that portion of the evening, and also regretting not having a second or third stomach to sample some of the treats that were being passed around (slices of pig kidney, anyone?). Hopefully they will feel the experience bears repeating at a later date. I still want to make blood sausage darnit! For now, though, you’ll have to settle for these brussels sprouts… (hey, at least there’s pancetta in there.)
Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts & Pancetta (adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson)
2 lbs brussels sprouts
8 oz peeled roasted chestnuts
about 6 oz pancetta, diced (three medium-thick slices should yield this)
¼ cup marsala
large handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
a couple Tbs olive oil or butter
Notes: The original recipe stipulates boiling the brussels sprouts whole and then adding them to the pan for a quick sauté, but my sprouts were a little on the mature side so I opted for the “shredded” version. If you have smaller, tighter sprouts, I’d maybe go with the original version as it looks a bit prettier. However, the shredded version does have a more homey, comfort-food appeal to it.
Wash and trim the brussels sprouts. Cut in half lengthwise and cut a small notch to remove the toughest part of the stem. Chop each half crosswise into three or four sections to “shred” them.
In a large skillet, sauté the pancetta over medium heat with the olive oil or butter. (The pancetta will render some fat, but the additional fat emulsifies with the marsala later to become a “sauce” of sorts.) When the meat is starting to brown but before it dries out, add the brussels sprouts. They will release some moisture which will enable you to deglaze the pan.
Sauté, stirring frequently, until the thickest parts of the brussels sprouts are al dente. Stir in the chestnuts, breaking them up with your spoon or spatula. Raise the heat a little and add the marsala, stirring well. As soon as it bubbles away, remove from the heat. Stir in the parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
I own a lot of cookbooks, so it takes quite a bit for me to become so enamored with a cookbook that I make several recipes from it within the span of a few months. But that’s exactly what happened when I purchased All About Braising by Molly Stevens a couple years ago. The fact that I haven’t written more about it here is partly due to “blogger backlog” and partly because I made some of the recipes before I started blogging. Please believe me when I say, though, that this cookbook ranks in my top 5 for many reasons, not least of which is this cabbage. I first made it for a St. Patrick’s Day potluck, partly because cabbage is traditional but also because I was kind of broke and cabbage is really cheap! To my surprise, the dish went over like gangbusters- who knew?! I had never heard cabbage described as “amazing” before; I even had a professed cabbage-hater tell me they liked it. Long braising makes the cabbage melt-in-your-mouth tender, and a blast of heat at the end of cooking caramelizes the dish and brings out all its mellow sweetness.
I’ll go on a little bit of a tangent here to tell you about the other reasons I love All About Braising, since I probably won’t ever get around to giving this book its own separate “review” entry. First of all, the recipes are solid. I have made five or six of them and not had any duds or problems whatsoever. Secondly, it’s very eclectic- there’s a great variety of recipes inspired from all over the world. I’ve made the Chicken Do-Piaza, Chicken with Star Anise, and Goan Chicken, and all were stellar. (Yes, I do eat meats other than chicken; I also used Molly’s recipe as a guide when making these oxtails.) The only recipe I didn’t absolutely love was an Indian-style braised cauliflower (I found it to be a little lean), but that could also have something to do with the fact that cauliflower is not a favorite of mine.
Back to our cabbage- this is one of those dishes that you make and think to yourself “Why have I not been cooking this for years?” I made a roast chicken the other day and, along with some leftover butternut squash & sage risotto, this was a perfect rustic side dish. If you’re having a big holiday spread, this would be a great addition since it only takes a few minutes active prep, yields a lot, and works out to about 25¢ per serving (take that, Wal-Mart!). I wanted to post it before Thanksgiving and didn’t have time, but really it’s a good side dish for any winter meal.
The only deviation I have made from Molly’s recipe is that I don’t bother turning the cabbage over halfway through the cooking time like she does. The first time I made it, I forgot to do it, and found that it made no difference whatsoever; the cabbage was still perfectly cooked throughout. Seasoning on both sides prior to cooking also eliminates the need to flip.
1 green cabbage, approx. 2 lbs (ok if it’s over)
1 medium to large onion (about 8 oz.)
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup chicken stock (use vegetable stock or water for vegan version)
sea salt, pepper, & dried red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 325°. Core your cabbage; if it weighs over 2 lbs, remove a wedge or two and reserve for another use. Cut the remainder into 8 wedges. Peel carrot and cut it into coins. Peel and slice the onion into ¼-inch-thick rings.
Brush a 9 x 13 baking dish with a little of the olive oil. Season the cabbage wedges with salt & pepper on both sides and place into the baking dish, overlapping them slightly. Scatter the carrots and onions over the top. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Drizzle the remainder of the olive oil over the vegetables, and pour the ¼ cup stock or water into the bottom of the dish, tilting slightly to distribute. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 2 hours. Check after an hour or so to make sure the pan is not dry; if it is, add a small amount of water or stock.
After 2 hours, remove the foil and increase the heat to 425°. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the cabbage begins to caramelize and brown a little on top. Sprinkle a little sea salt on top (I like to use the chunky kind) and serve.