I figure it’s safe to post a pumpkin recipe now. For a while there (all of October and November) I thought I was going to drown in pumpkin-flavored products. Is it just me, or are they becoming more and more prominent every year? Regardless, pumpkin soup is a hearty, warming way to enjoy the cold months of fall and winter, and I didn’t want to let spring hit me before sharing this recipe.
Like many foods we enjoy today, pumpkins are a product of the New World, and entered Europe in the 15th century. Most foods introduced during that time took a while to gain momentum in Europe – sometimes hundreds of years – but not the pumpkin. Because they resembled gourds and squashes common in the Old World, pumpkins were readily adopted and prized for their robust flavor and easy cultivation. It was quickly made into various soups, and mixed with honey and spices as early as the 17th century – a precursor to pumpkin pie.
For today’s recipe I wanted to keep pumpkin closer to its place of origin – North America – so I decided to focus on a Mexican soup commonly referred to as Sopa de Calabaza, often flavored with cumin and chorizo sausage. I really like the cyclical nature of this dish. Cumin was first cultivated in India and introduced to the Americas by the Portuguese and Spanish. Chorizo is the best of both worlds: Old World sausage flavored with paprika made by New World peppers, and later re-introduced to the Americas. So this dish is the product of the unique culinary marriage of these two continents and cultures.
While pre-roasting a whole pumpkin inevitably lends more depth of flavor, using canned pumpkin puree drastically cuts down on your cooking time and effectively turns this dish into a 30-minute meal. Continue reading
Today’s recipe is a combination of two recent events in our house. First, I recently bought a remote grill thermometer, and I was itching to try it out. The thermometer has has two probes: one that goes in the meat and one to gauge the overall grill temperature. It’s an easy way to keep an eye on both the grill temp and your food without having to open the grill lid. Plus, it has a wireless receiver so I can keep an eye on the temperatures from afar, perfect for some wintertime grilling.
Second, we recently came across a beautiful French Rack of Pork at our local market, which is a shoulder pork loin still attached to the ribs; basically, it’s a rack of center cut pork chops. As luck would have it, the rack was on sale; my guess is that it intimidated customers and the store was having a hard time selling it. Either way, we couldn’t turn down the price, so I dragged the big hunk of meat home and the rest is history.
I decided to smoke the rack on my gas grill, which would allow me to give it a flavorful crust without overcooking the tender meat inside. Just to be safe, I brined the pork overnight to keep it from drying out, which was also a good call. The end result was crisp on the outside, and ridiculously juicy and flavorful on the inside.
To tell the truth, it’s not often that I get a hankering for a meal-sized salad. There’s a lot of chewing involved. But if I am going to sit down and enjoy a full salad, I prefer to eat something made with a wide variety of hearty ingredients. In that regard, Cobb Salad takes the cake: it’s basically lettuce and a bunch of solid, pleasurable mix-ins. No dainty ingredients like sprouts, no sir! Okay, sometimes Cobb recipes call for chives, but you get my point.
Both the salad and dressing used in today’s recipe come from California in the early 20th century. Bob Cobb, owner of the Brown Derby Restaurant in Hollywood during the 1930s, whipped up a quick salad for a friend with a toothache using leftovers found in his kitchen. He cut the ingredients up into small pieces so as not to exacerbate his friend’s condition. (Personally, I would have whipped up a pureed soup if my friend had a toothache.) Other stories contend that there was no toothache involved. Either way, the salad was such a hit that Cobb added it to his menu, and it took off from there. Green Goddess Dressing was made by a San Francisco chef in the 1920s, after a popular stage play of the same name. While the salad and dressing don’t traditionally go together (Cobb salad is usually served with red wine vinaigrette), I really like the pairing of the two. Plus, they each call for 1/2 an avocado, so in that sense, they fit together perfectly.
Special thanks to my friends at Pacific Merchants who donated the hand-carved acacia wood salad bowl for the picture you see above. Their 12″ bowl is both beautiful and sturdy; it’s a perfect size for a whopping salad like this one.
Jaegerschnitzel (Jägerschnitzel) is a traditional German dish, most commonly made with pork or veal cutlets (schnitzels) today. Historically, they were made with wild boar or venison (jäger means “hunter” in German) and paired with wild mushrooms. Today, its accompanying mushroom gravy is what separates Jaegerschnitzel from its more commonly-known (and gravy-less) counterpart, Wiener Schnitzel. Fun fact: it’s believed that Chicken Fried Steak originated from this dish, when German and Austrian immigrants brought it to Texas during the 1800s.
Making this dish within a Paleo template is easy, as it only requires a different type of flour. A combination of potato starch and arrowroot flour works best, but if you have only one flour on hand it still turns out pretty well. Tapioca starch can also be used in a pinch.
Carne de Porco à Alentejana is a traditional recipe from Portugal, made from a combination of pork, wine, paprika, clams, and black olives, and typically served with roasted or fried potatoes. When a reader first suggested I tackle this dish, I was floored by the seemingly odd ingredients list; but much like Chicken Marbella, the offbeat ingredients mixed together perfectly to create a unique taste that’s more than the sum of its parts.
While the name might lead you to believe that this dish originated in the Alentejo region of Portugal, it’s actually from Algarve (the Southernmost point of the country). Legend has it that chefs in Algarve gave the dish this name to let diners know that the pork was from Alentejo-raised pigs, who were fed acorns and had a flavorful meat. At the time, pigs in Algarve were fed fish scraps from the burgeoning canning industry, and was not considered very tasty. Some argue that the addition of clams to the dish was a way of masking any “fishy” tasting pork.
A reader recently tipped me off about the idea of pan-frying rice papers (bánh tráng) to make a quick snack. Not only was it a great idea, it served as a unique way of making a quick serving “dish”; in fact, they acted not unlike tostadas in that sense. So to keep with the theme of rice papers, I decided to make some deconstructed spring roll “tostadas” as a quick and easy meal.
This past weekend I competed in a bacon cook-off fundraiser, entitled Baconpalooza, which was hosted by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. The contest was part of an entire weekend of events, which included a tour of Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm and nutrition talks and cooking demos by Robb Wolf and Jenny McGruther. My competition was very stiff during the cook-off, with many imaginative and delicious entries trying to woo the sold-out crowd of 250 voters.
I’m happy to say that I was the winner of the cook-off! I thought it would be neat to share the recipe of my winning dish so you can recreate it at home.
Rouladen is the German version of the French roulade, which is a roll made with thinly-sliced meat. The German version is interesting in that it probably came from Germans using items they had on hand most of the time – mustard, pickles, onion, and pork – to make something that’s unique in its own right. What’s even better is that these characteristics also make it easy to throw together this delicious meal with items you probably already have in your kitchen.
There’s no denying the French influence on this dish, with its use of a wine and broth braise (although Germans sometimes use beer instead) and mirepoix vegetables to add flavor. It’s commonly thought that Rouladen was originally made with strips of pork, although beef has become the most popular meat for this dish over the past century.
Greater Baltimore area residents: I’m speaking about food and nutrition at CrossFit Glen Burnie on Saturday, July 13th. More info is here.
Like most red-blooded American men, I have a special place in my heart for barbecue ribs. That’s probably pretty obvious, since I have no less than TEN ribs recipes on my site (my favorites are here and here) – that’s nearly 5% of all my recipes!
My taste in ribs has changed over the years, as well as my cooking method; originally I braised my ribs in apple juice and onions for a couple hours, then crisped them over a grill. While I still like ribs that way from time to time, I’ve come to better appreciate smoked ribs – those cooked over low temperatures for extended periods, gently nudged to perfection by wafting curls of smoking cinders.
The trouble is, despite all of my outdoor cooking adventures, I keep pushing off the idea of buying a charcoal grill or a smoker, the usual staples of tasty smoked ribs – my backyard patio only has so much real estate, and I don’t think Mrs. Domestic Man would appreciate more contraptions back there. So I’ve been diligently plugging away at making an easy, foolproof method for smoking ribs on a gas grill, and I’m ready to share the meats of my labor.
To demonstrate, I decided to use spare ribs, which is a cheaper cut of ribs, but they taste just fine to me when cooked properly. I also used a drip pan full of hard cider to flavor and moisten the ribs as they smoked (regular apple cider or water would do fine as well).