Tuesday, March 4, 2014

5 Spice Pork Roast

With the rainy weather, I find myself braising/slow cooking meat a lot more and this pork roast is so flavorful and ridiculously easy I find myself making it a few times a month now.  You can use a pork shoulder, butt, or picnic roast for this recipe--they all work, so just get what's priced best and get it from a local producer if you can (This one is a shoulder).  There's a fantastic "gravy" that results from this and we use it to drown all the roast veggies that we make to accompany this dish--pictured are some Japanese sweet potato coins.

5 Spice Pork Roast

1 2-3lb. pork roast (I made 2 at a time once for a larger group--same cooking time, twice the meat!)
1.5 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsp. pork lard--get this from a butcher if you can, try to avoid the tubs in the dairy case.
Chinese Five Spice blend (get it pre-made or make your own)

Preheat your oven to 300.  Season all sides of the roast with salt, pepper and five spice in equal amounts, no need to create a thick layer, but definitely don't be shy.  In a Dutch oven or cast iron skillet, heat the lard on med high heat until hot but not smoking.  Brown the roast on all sides--be sure to keep the heat up for this and keep the meat moving in the pan so it doesn't burn but gets nice and crispy on the outside.  When the roast is looking done, turn off the heat and deglaze the pan with the chicken stock--you can keep the roast in the pan, just be sure to loosen up all the bits in the pan.  You want the liquid to reach maybe an inch up the side of the meat.  If you have used a dutch oven just go ahead and put the lid on and put in the oven and cook 1.5 hours for a 2 lb. roast and add 30 min. for each additional pound.  When you pull the roast from the oven, it can sit for a little bit. Remove the roast from the pan, and you are left with the gravy/sauce.  Skim the fat off with a spoon by tilting the pan and just taking off the top layer and reserve (maybe you can cook tomorrow's eggs, or sauté your veg in the fat!).  Slice the roast into servings and make sure to cover it all with the sauce. 

If you need to use a slow cooker, after browning, put the pork in the slow cooker, deglaze the pan then pour the liquid into the slow cooker.  Set on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I Heart Mammoth Minis

Happy Valentine's Day!  Well, okay then. December and January happened.  I have to say, I got a little buried this Winter basically cooking recipes off my site and really keeping everything simple.  A lot of roasting with just salt and pepper and browning in lard, then roasting off at 300 for about 1.5 hours for a 2lb. roast.  Same with vegetables--roasted all of them.  Salads had a lot of pomegranate seeds and pears in them for the first half of winter, then we moved into pommelos and apples for January.  Navel oranges are really hitting their stride right now too.

As for the little treat pictured above.  My good friend Anthony and his partner is crime, Mike, have come up with an outstanding product.  And I just adulterated it by dipping it in chocolate.  Think Mammoth Roca (I used the almond flavor).  Use a good quality chocolate--mine was 70% with no dairy or soy lecithin.   

Read all about Mammoth Bars here: www.mammothbars.com.  Like them on Facebook, rave to your friends.  These guys have put a lot of care and thought into what they are making.  My favorite thing about them is they use organic sprouted nuts.  And you should all know how I feel about sprouted nuts.

Chocolate Dipped Mammoth Bites:

6- 12 oz. melting chocolate--you need something with pure cocoa butter in it.
Mammoth bars or minis
cookie cutters (optional)

Temper the chocolate
cut your bars into desired shape (you can use coconut oil to help with the release of the cut out--mine got a little stuck in the cookie cutter)
dip the bars in the chocolate covering completely
rest on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and refrigerate until hardened (about 20 min.)
transfer to a sealed container in a cool dry spot

Monday, November 18, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower, Celery Root and Kale Soup

I feel like the first round of colds/flu has begun so soup and stock making will be on my regular rotation for meals now.  Getting a great soup and then adding protein is such a fantastic way to get all the macronutrients in one fell swoop.  Cauliflower and Celery Root are going gangbusters right now and it's never a bad idea to add kale to anything you are cooking up right now.  We added some shredded roast chicken to this soup this time, but literally any type of protein is a welcome addition to this soup or just have it on it's own as a starter to any meal.

Roasted Cauliflower, Celery Root and Kale Soup

1 large head organic cauliflower (got mine from Swanton) washed and separated into uniform pieces
1 medium organic celery root peeled and uniformly diced
Olive oil
Sea Salt
1 large organic Japanese yam peeled and uniformly diced
several organic kale leaves--I like the curly kale for this recipe
1 quart chicken stock* (or vegetable stock if going vegan on this)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400.  Toss cauliflower and celery root with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil (or more) to evenly coat all vegetables.  Spread out on a baking sheet in a single layer and sprinkle with sea salt.
Roast for 10 minutes then turn over the vegetables with a spatula and roast for an additional 10 minutes or until tender.  In the meantime bring the chicken stock to a simmer and add the sweet potato in the chicken stock until tender, about 20-30 min.  Wash and strip the kale leaves of their tough stems then cut into strips and small pieces.  When all the vegetables have been cooked, in batches, combine them with the stock in a blender or food processor and puree--adding to pot on the stove until finished.  If soup is too thick add water until you get to your desired consistency.  Add the kale to the puree in the pot and simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.

*If you are not making your own stock you can get stock from bones locally at Bel Campo Meat Co. in Larkspur consistently and at the Farmer's market stands sporadically at Marin Sun Farms, Prather Ranch or Tara Firma Farms.  When you see it, just buy it and store it in your freezer--it will last a couple of months.  At the supermarket, just be super diligent in your label reading if buying it off the shelf, there are lots of random things in most brands--sugar, dairy products, oils.  Pacific Brand has one that works, it's just a matter of finding it at you market...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pork Chile Verde

Chile Verde is one of my all time favorite dishes.  At this time of year you can find all the vegetables locally and organic in our area--even the tomatillos are coming out of California now so if you can't get to the farmer's market you can still find some domestic varieties out there.  This time out I used a roast from Prather Ranch and cut it into chunks. I also added a "base" of roasted Japanese yams (white flesh, dark red skin) to take some of the heat off--the jalapeno can get a little spicy!  One other little trick is to brown the meat in lard--you can get it really hot and get the sear on the pork that creates that wonderful crisp exterior with the super tender insides of each little chunk of pork.  This is a very simple recipe from www.Food.com, there are myriad variations especially all up and down the Hispanic/Latin countries--be sure to do a little research and have fun with making this your own favorite family meal.

Pork Chile Verde
1 1/2 to 2 lbs lean pork
3 tablespoons lard
2 Tablespoons Olive oil                                           
1/2 large organic yellow onions, chopped
large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tablespoon sea salt
1/4 to taste fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 tablespoon cumin
2 medium poblano chiles, seeded and chopped
1 large jalapenos, seeded and minced
large yellow bell peppers, seeded and chopped
3/4 lb fresh tomatillos, husks removed
1/4 bunch cilantro leaf, chopped


Trim off any excess fat from the pork and cut into 2 inch squares. In a large (6 to 8 quart) stock pot, over a high heat, sear the pork in the lard until golden brown. Remove the pork from the pot and pour off half of the oil or fat drippings and add 2 tablespoons of  olive oil to the same pot.  Over a medium heat, add the chopped onion, garlic, salt, and pepper and saute until transparent. Add the cumin, pork, and chicken stock, and cook for 1/2 hour.

Add the poblanos, jalapenos, and bell peppers. Puree the tomatillos and cilantro in a blender in batches. Add them to the pot, bring the stew to a simmer and cook a minimum additional 30 to 45 minutes and up to 2 hours on a very low heat. 

For the roast sweet potato:

One average sized sweet potato will feed 2 people.  Preheat your oven to 425 or 400 if your oven runs hot.  Peel and evenly slice the potato into disks.  Evenly coat with coconut oil or olive oil and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Roast for 10 minutes then flip each potato over to get even browning.  Go for another 10 mins., peeking in at around the 8 min. mark to make sure nothing is burning.  This will happen in the blink of an eye so keep watch! Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Braised Beef Cheeks

And then it was Fall.  I have to say, I missed you all this Summer.  I was making salads, eating raw fruits and vegetables, grilling pasture raised meats--for some reason pork captured a lot of my attention.  We traveled to France on an incredible odyssey.  While I don't think their children are necessarily better behaved than ours, as a population they do enjoy better overall health and look a lot happier and fit than most Americans.  While I found a lot of the food there to be repetitive, their go-to methods of preparation are far better than ours and is one of the factors, I believe, to their overall condition.  Take braising.  You use a lower priced quality piece of meat that is thought of as "tough" and you turn it into the most tender, melt-in-your-mouth, why haven't you made this for us before? meal that your family and guests will never forget. I did this with Beef Cheeks last night from Tara Firma Farms and the kids got to take leftovers to school today.  Beef Cheeks are a little harder to come by, just let your butcher know you are interested they'll get them for you, but if you just happen to see them, buy them up.  I used 4 16oz. cheeks last night and yes, there were leftovers, but not a ton.  I paired this also with some roasted fennel from Tomatero Farm and broccoli from Swanton Berry Farm

Braised Beef Cheeks with Fennel and Broccoli
original recipe here

  • 2 tablespoons lard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 (12-16oz) beef cheeks, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 medium organic onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium  organic carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 organic celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups red wine (preferably a dry Lambrusco or Chianti)
  • 1 32 oz. organic can whole tomatoes including juice, chopped (3 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 1 sweet potato (optional)


Heat lard in an ovenproof 6-10-quart wide heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. While oil is heating, pat beef cheeks dry and season with salt and pepper. Brown beef, without crowding, on all sides, about 20 minutes total, and transfer with tongs to a bowl. Pour off fat from pot, then add 2 tablespoons olive oil and cook onion, carrot, and celery over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Stir cocoa powder into vegetable mixture, then add wine and scrape up any brown bits. Increase heat to high and boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
Return cheeks (with any juices) to pot and add tomatoes with juice, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then braise, covered, in middle of oven until very tender, about 3 hours. 
When done, remove cheeks from oven, keep covered and set aside.  Turn oven up to 400-425--if you have a convection feature on your oven use this.  Slice fennel, wash and chop broccoli into florets.  If doing sweet potatoes too, peel and slice into discs.  Toss the fennel and broccoli with the olive oil and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Toss the sliced sweet potato with the coconut oil, covering every disc as well as possible (you may have to do this with your hands if the oil is solidified).  Spread on a foil lined baking sheet and season with a little salt.  You can put both sheets in the oven at once.  At the 10 min. mark stir the vegetables, flipping the sweet potatoes over so they will evenly brown.  Set the timer for an additional 10 min. checking on everything at about min. 8 to make sure nothing is burning.  Stir everything up again and let them go until you get to your desired crispness from 2-5 min. longer.  Ladle everything into a bowl, the sauce is heavenly with the extra vegetables added.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Roasted Riblets

I was at Prather Ranch the other day and they had these packs of riblets.  These have way more meat on them than short ribs but you can cook them the same way--they were economical too, over 2 lbs. of ribs for under $15.  This recipe was particularly yummy as it was hearty but not bogged down with too much sauce.  My daughter and her friend made a spectacular salad to go along with it with a fantastic "bashed" walnut, basil, balsamic dressing they found in the Jamie Oliver cookbook.  Their special ingredient in the salad was blueberries.

Roasted Pork Riblets
original recipe here

2+ lbs. baby back ribs or pork side ribs
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 chopped onion
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp. coconut aminos
1/2 tsp. Chinese 5 spice seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof pan and sauté the garlic and onion; slice the ribs to single riblets and add them to the pan. When the riblets are browned transfer them to a slow cooker or set aside (you should have a pre-heated 300 oven if not using a slow cooker) add the wine, coconut aminos, 5 spice seasoning, salt and pepper to taste to the onions and garlic in the pan and deglaze. Pour everything into the crockpot and combine (or return ribs to skillet and combine).  You can add a little water if it looks too dry.  There should be enough liquid to cover the bottom 1/4 inch of the meat. Cook in the slow cooker on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours.  If going into the oven, cover and roast for 2-3 hours until meat is falling off the bone.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sweet Potato Leek Soup

This soup is not for the faint of heart vegan crowd.  It explodes with flavor with the addition of a ham hock.  Yes, you can go vegan with it if you want, but it is so worth adding the ham hock.  I picked mine up from Prather Ranch at the Thursday Civic Center Farmer's Market.  I saw them at Bel Campo too.  I'm betting Marin Sun Farms and Tara Firma have them available as well.  It is an inexpensive way to add so much good stuff to your already awesome-for-you soup.  If you do go with the ham hock, you can cook it off in the morning or the night before and save everything for when you are ready to make the soup.  The soup itself is definitely one you can make ahead and refrigerate (or freeze!) and just reheat gently when time to serve.

Sweet Potato Leek Soup

2 TBSP. Olive Oil
1 small or 1/2 of a large yellow onion chopped
3 leeks white parts only chopped
2 medium sweet potato chopped ( I used 1 Japanese yam, white flesh, and 1 Hannah yam, yellow flesh--I don't recommend using 2 orange/yellow flesh yams but you can use 2 Japanese yams if you want)
3-4 cups chicken stock if you buy this please buy organic free range and make sure it does not have added sugar (!)
1 ham hock
If not doing ham hock add:
1 TBSP grated ginger
1 TBSP. fresh lemon juice

Cook ham hock for about 2 hours over low heat in a covered pot with water or stock covering about half way up.  You can turn it half way through cooking time if you want.  You want the meat tender and falling off the bone.  You can reserve the pan juice for the soup if you want.  Remove the hock, discard the big ring of fat and cut the meat into chunks and reserve.  Set the bone aside as well.

In large pot, sauté onions in 2 Tbsp. olive oil until lightly browned.  Add leeks, sweet potato and ham hock bone--add 3-4 cups of stock (or reserved pan juice),  enough to cover all the vegetables.  Bring to a boil then let simmer until sweet potatoes are fork tender--about 20 min.  Remove the ham bone, and either using an immersion blender or regular blender (in batches) puree the vegetables until creamy.  Return everything back to the pot, put the ham bone back in, add the reserved meat (I ended up using maybe half the amount and saved the other half to snack on later--OMG!!!!) and let simmer for another 20 min.  I garnished mine with a little rosemary which added a nice touch, but it did not need any extra salt.

If skipping the ham bone part, just add the salt and ginger in with the leeks and potatoes then fresh lemon juice at the end before serving.