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Pancetta and Beans with Spinach

December 13, 2016 Entrees, Menu No Comments

With the cold winter weather rolling in, now’s the time to start planning some good, old fashioned, stick-to-your-ribs kind of meals. The dish that I’m sharing with you today is one of my all time favorites. The simple, yet classic ingredients make for a wonderfully tasty and hearty comfort dish. Old-school Italian soul food at its best!

 

 

 

 

 

Pancetta and Beans with Spinach

4 oz pancetta, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 14.5 oz stewed tomatoes, drained
1 15 oz can cannellini or garbanzo beans (I use a mixture of both)
1 bag spinach
olive oil (if needed)
1/4 to 1/2 cup chicken broth (if needed)
salt and pepper

Sauté pancetta in a large pan over medium heat until crispy and fat is rendered, about 7-10 minutes. Remove pancetta and set aside.

Add onion to rendered fat in the pan, sauté until soft and translucent (you can add some olive oil if needed). Add tomatoes and beans, stir together, cook until heated.

Add the spinach, stir together. You can add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chick broth if needed, to help cook down the spinach.

Once the spinach is cooked down, add the pancetta back to the pan. Stir together, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve and enjoy with a loaf of crispy Italian bread!

 

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Crock-Pot Pulled Pork

December 2, 2016 Entrees, Menu No Comments

Cooking a pork shoulder in a Crock-Pot or a slow cooker is a popular and easy method used for making pulled pork. While my personal favorite method is to slow cook it on the grill (you can find my recipe for grilled pulled pork by clicking here), I have tried a few different versions in the Crock-Pot as well. This version that I’m sharing with you today is my favorite Crock-Pot version. The pork shoulder gets rubbed down with a mixture of garlic powder, oregano, red pepper flakes and kosher salt prior to cooking, so barbecue sauce is not needed. Instead, I simply add two jars of pork gravy, which makes for a juicy, tender and delicious pot of pulled pork!

 

 

 

Crock-Pot Pulled Pork

1 large Vidalia onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 (5- to 6-lb.) boneless pork shoulder roast
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (10 1/2-oz.) can condensed chicken broth
2 12-oz jars pork gravy
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Lightly coat the bottom of a 6-qt Crock-Pot with olive oil. Make 1-2″ deep slits around various parts of the pork shoulder. Rub the garlic powder, oregano, kosher salt and crushed red pepper all over the pork shoulder. Be sure to get the spices into the slits as well. Place onions in the pot, then place roast on top of onions. Pour broth over roast. Cover and cook (HIGH 6 to 7 hours, or LOW 8 to 10 hours) or until meat shreds easily with a fork.

Carefully transfer the pork to a cutting board. Remove and discard onions from the broth (you can reserve the onions to use as a topping, if you like). Add the two jars of pork gravy to the broth in the pot. Let the pork cool for 10 minutes, then shred with 2 forks, removing any large pieces of fat. Add the shredded pork back to the pot. Serve and enjoy!

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Comté Cheese, Please!

November 17, 2016 Appetizer, Menu No Comments

One of the greatest pleasures in the life of a foodie is the moment that you get to unexpectedly taste something amazing and new. Being a lover of cheese, these moments of new discovery often take place for me during my regular visits to my local cheese shop. The cheesemongers who work at this location are very friendly and knowledgable, and I have gotten to know a few of them over the years. My curiosity and conversation reaped big rewards during my most recent visit as I was treated to a sample taste of their latest and greatest offering, Marcel Petite Comté.

For those of you who are not familiar with traditional Comté cheese (I, myself was not familiar with it prior to this visit), it is a French cheese made from unpasteurized milk, and has similar taste and texture to Gruyére cheese. The aging process takes place in special caves, which helps produce a unique, complex taste that helps classify this as one of the finest cheeses in the world. The piece of Marcel Petite Comté that I sampled, and eventually purchased, is considered by my cheesemonger friend to be one of their greatest and rarest cheeses that they offer. The French cheesemaker allows it to age for 24 months, producing one of the most flavorful and complex cheeses that I have ever tasted. Hints of mushroom, pasta and beef broth were pointed out to me, and I was able to detect them all. Simply amazing. There are only eight wheels of this variety produced by this particular cheesemaker each year, which made this incredible find all the more exciting.

After doing some further research of my own, I was happy to discover that other types of Comté cheese are often sold regularly in super markets. While they may not be quite as complex and unique as the one that I had the pleasure to sample, I will definitely be looking forward to trying out these other varieties. With the holidays quickly approaching, I encourage you to consider serving Comté cheese at your dinner parties and get togethers. All of the information that you need to know about Comté cheese can be found in the links below. After looking at these sites for reference, I figured it would be best to just share the links with you, rather than try to explain what they have already covered in fine detail.

Cheers!

www.thekitchn.com/why-french-comt-cheese-needs-to-be-in-your-fridge-comt-cheese-tour-206217

www.cheese.com/comte/

www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/whole-story/discover-french-cheeses-comt%C3%A9

Image courtesy of istock.com

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Marinated Eggplants – Keeping it in the Family

October 25, 2016 Menu No Comments

One of the biggest traditions in the kitchen that I look forward to each year is marinating and jarring eggplants. I still have vivid memories from when I was very little of my Grandmother distributing her jars of marinated eggplants to the family this time of year, telling us to let the jars sit until Thanksgiving before opening them. The eggplants didn’t have anything to do specifically with Thanksgiving…but rather it was just right amount of time to allow the jars to sit and age. I never got the exact recipe from my Grandmother, but I did put together my own version a few years back. Everyone in my family still enjoys them and looks forward to when I hand out my jars, so I know that I am keeping a family tradition alive and well.

As I prepared to put together this year’s batch, our daughter Julianna asked if she could help. It may sound silly, but Julianna’s interest in helping me filled me with such pride and happiness. We always make it a point to involve our kids with preparing our meals as often as we can. They may not necessarily enjoy eating the meal if it is too experimental for them. But if they are involved with creating the meal, it is enough encouragement for them to at least sample it. And I’m fine with that.

To see Julianna’s interest in wanting to help with the marinated eggplants means so much more. It shows me that she has a true interest in our family history and traditions. Hopefully what she learned from helping me will stick with her, and will encourage her to keep those traditions alive.

Below are a series of photos that I took of Julianna following the step-by-step process of marinating and jarring. And not to worry…I made sure to carefully guide her through each step to avoid injury with the food processor and the boiling water.

You can find the link to my marinated eggplant recipe by clicking here.

 

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This year’s batch is a combination of Italian Globe and Japanese eggplants.

 

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Running the peeled eggplants through the food processor, using the shredder blade.

 

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Weighing down the shredded eggplants tossed with salt, to strain out the bitter juices.

 

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After rinsing the salted eggplants and soaking them in white wine vinegar, Julianna adds the olive oil herb mixture.

 

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Placing the marinated eggplants into the jars.

 

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The bain marie (aka the water bath), to help seal the jars.

 

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Carefully removing the jars to let them sit and cool. They’ll be ready to enjoy in about 4 weeks…just in time for Thanksgiving!

 

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Julianna’s marinated eggplant!

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