The Humble Pot

A cheap cut of meat and some aromatic vegetables. This used to be thought of as a poor folks dish. An inexpensive way to feed a lot of mouths for little cost. Slow food revolution, back to basics cooking, whatever you want to call it, this pot of humble beginnings is what it’s all about. I haven’t seen it make the comeback that it rightfully should, but in time I’m sure it will.

A rich aroma that passes through the house gets anyone within reach feeling hungry. The warmth of the oven makes the kitchen a cozy place to wander in and stay. Second only to bread, a dish made in a single pot can warm a house and gather everyone to the kitchen before they are called for the meal.

I am not talking about hotdish (for you non-Minnesotans, casserole) although, those can be good and an easy way to use up leftovers, a humble pot dish is so much more. In the way of comfort food there is really nothing better. The meat- super tender and juicy, some of the vegetables- cooked down until they reach a rich, flavorful sauce, the rest have soaked up all sorts of great seasoning. Everything mingles together in one pot. No single ingredient more important than another (except salt, that rules all).

Recently, I have been making these more and more. Mostly because I work full time in town and still want a decent homemade meal for my family. A humble pot dish can be started the night before or morning of and placed in the oven with a timer and left to cook for the better part of the day. Some people use crockpots for such dishes. I do sometimes, but more often than not, I find it is not roomy enough to get the full potential from the ingredients inside. The vegetables need space to cook down and work with the added liquid of choice. I prefer to use cuts of meat that have the bone in tact, not only does it add richness to the dish but it also adds more nutrients too. Even a small roast or bird take up a considerable amount of space when coupled with vegetables and broth.

For all of these dishes I use a heavy enameled cast iron pot. The whole thing can go into the oven, lid and all. The lid is important; a foil covered dish just doesn’t make the same results. I think it has something to do with how the lid retains more of the steam and helps the insides to keep a more even temperature… or I am just full of it. It’s just a guess. In addition to the collection of cast iron skillets in my kitchen, I also have a variety of these pots as well. In a perfect world I would set up a pot for each weekday on Sunday, place them in the fridge and have them ready for the week. Maybe someday, if we end up with an extra refrigerator, right now there is no room in the one we have.

I must admit, not every humble pot I make looks very pretty, in fact most don’t. The taste more than makes up for the lack of visual appeal. Honestly, over time the look doesn’t change but the dishes start to look better and better just because of the anticipation of the deliciousness to come. I know it’s possible to make such a meal vegetarian style, I have yet to make one as such. Considering we just made the last chicken in the freezer, this may be something to look a little closer at. I can and have “offed” a chicken on a meal by meal basis, but it’s not something I would like to make a habit of. I would like to stretch the beef supply as long as possible. I really don’t want to have to start getting meat at the store. I could. I don’t want to.

The method is simple:
Start with a combination of aromatic vegetables, most common around here is onions, carrots and celery in a 2:1:1 ratio.
Sauté the vegetables.
Add any herbs, spices or seasonings.
Add meat. ( a cut with the bone in tact will produce more flavor and nutrition)
Add dry rice, par cooked beans, or raw potatoes or squash.
Add liquid. (water, broth, wine, beer etc.)
Cover and cook slowly until done.

With this simple “recipe” there is an endless amount of meals that can be made.

Continue Reading

Cilantro and Parsley

As I was flipping through seed catalogues years back I was having a hell-of-a-time finding “Cilantro” seeds; apparently I was having a “blonde” moment at the same time…

cilantroCoriander also known as cilantro, Mexican parsley or Chinese parsley is one of my favorite herbs ( I think I say that about all herbs). When referring to cilantro it is the green part of the herb (leaf and stem) where as coriander is the dried seed. The seed is used in the kitchen both whole and ground. The leaves are used fresh, they are not good dried.

Growing cilantro/coriander is quite simple. It likes full sun and moist soil during germination. Once the plants have reached about six inches tall the leaves can be plucked for use. If left to grow, wispy, dill-like leaves will form. It will flower with little white flowers, then of course the seed will form. Let the seeds dry on the plant. A light shake into a paper bag is all you will need to harvest the seed. If left, the it will reseed itself.

Cilantro not only adds flavor to you favorite salsa and guacamole but it also helps the body rid itself of heavy metals that can get very toxic.

Parsley is grown in the same manner, however it take a second season to produce seed.  It is also will stand a partial shade spot in the garden and is slightly hardier when is comes to cooler temperatures. I have yet to seed a use for parsley seed other than propagation of the plant. The leaves and stems are used commonly in the kitchen. There are multiple varieties, all are used in the same manner. Parsley can be used fresh (I think this is best), dried, or can be frozen and used through out the winter.

Parsley is rich in vitamin C and A as well as lots of minerals. It is supposedly a natural remedy for garlic breath… I haven’t tried it, I rather skeptical about that one.

Avocado Cilantro Soup
Print Recipe
(cold soup) I am not a fan of cold soup but some are, and those that are seem to really enjoy this one.
Avocado Cilantro Soup
Print Recipe
(cold soup) I am not a fan of cold soup but some are, and those that are seem to really enjoy this one.
Ingredients
  • 2 each Ripe Avocados peeled and halved
  • 2 each Scallions roughly chopped
  • 2 cup Sour Cream
  • 1/2 each Lime juiced
  • 1/2 cup Chicken Stock
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/4 cup Cilantro Leaves chopped
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Place everything into a blender. Blend until smooth.
  2. Serve with a dash of hot sauce and garnish with a cilantro leaf.
Share this Recipe
 
Cauliflower Soup
Print Recipe
Cauliflower Soup
Print Recipe
Ingredients
  • 1 each Cauliflower head broken into florets
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 each Garlic clove chopped
  • 2 each Parsley Roots sliced
  • 1 each Parsley bunch chopped (leaves only)
  • 2 tbsp All-purpose Flour
  • 1 tbsp Paprika
  • 1 cup Cooked Brown Rice
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Steam the cauliflower until almost done.
  2. Saute the garlic and parsley root in the olive oil for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the parsley.
  4. Stir in the flour and paprika.
  5. Add one cup of water, stir until thickened.
  6. Stir in the cauliflower and another 5 cups of water.
  7. Cook, stirring until thickened.
  8. Add the rice and sour cream.
  9. Serve warm.
Share this Recipe
 
Continue Reading

Marjoram and Oregano

 

I put Marjoram and Oregano together for one good reason, they are very closely related. Like Rosemary, these are also native to the mediterranean.

Marjoram and OreganoMarjoram can grow to be a rather large bush (2-3 feet) in southern climates. In the north it won’t stand the winter and must be replanted each spring and then it only has time to grow to a small, 1-2 feet, bush. The tiny flowers are usually white or lavender in color and show up mid-summer. Like we talked about in  All Things Lavender, marjoram can be propagated in the same ways; seed, cutting or burying a living stem. Any way you start them, be sure it’s in fertile soil, that is very damp (not root rotting wet though) and in a partially shady spot. Once established it will “self seed” if you let it. Marjoram is a shallow rooted plant making it great for pots too.

To harvest just cut stems or pluck the little leaves. It should be noted that some varieties are ornamental. Sweet Marjoram is the most popular of the “kitchen” varieties. It can be used fresh or dried and is very popular in Italian dishes, sausage and stuffing.

Oregano is usually about half the size of it’s cousin marjoram and can be planted much closer together. It too, comes in a few varieties. Do a little research about the varieties available to you. The wild varieties tend to have much less flavor than a Greek variety for example. I have had oregano make it through a North Dakota winter, we will see about a Minnesota one. Of course it can be propagated in the same manner as above and will “self seed” too.  Harvesting is the same as above too. Pretty easy.

Even though both will do well in pots you will notice a difference in the flavor of those grown indoors and those outdoors. Growing them outdoors is ideal.

Herb and Sausage Frittata
Print Recipe
Sometimes the ol' egg and bacon can get a little boring for breakfast, why not switch it up with something just as quick, healthy and easy.
Herb and Sausage Frittata
Print Recipe
Sometimes the ol' egg and bacon can get a little boring for breakfast, why not switch it up with something just as quick, healthy and easy.
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup Butter
  • 1/4 cup Shallots chopped
  • 2 tbsp Parsley
  • 1 tbsp Marjoram
  • 2 tsp Thyme
  • 8 each Eggs
  • 6 oz Breakfast sausage cooked, crumbled and warm
  • 1/3 cup Asiago Cheese grated
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a mixing bowl whisk the eggs and white wine together and set aside.
  2. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter and add the shallots. Saute until partially cooked, add the sausage and herbs.
  3. Pour the eggs into the pan very shortly after adding the herbs. Cover and let steam until cooked through. Top with the cheese. Cover and cook just until the cheese has melted.
  4. Serve hot. (with some really good coffee)
Share this Recipe
 
Continue Reading

Farmer in the Dill?

DillI find a lot of common herbs underrated, Dill is no exception. It’s little yellow flowers and wispy leaves make this plant look so light and airy and yet its most commonly associated with pickles. Now I like pickles just as much as the next gal but there is so much more that dill can enhance why limit it?!

Growing dill is quite easy. It’s slower to germinate and likes a damp soil to do so. Planting next to cabbage will help deter unwanted bugs. Dill can grow up to four feet tall but doesn’t shade anything because of it’s airiness. I know it doesn’t take  much to have plenty for the season, but it’s so easy to grown and has so many uses I tend to plant a fair amount. If a plant or two is left to seed it will replant itself, but don’t worry it won’t take over your garden.

Harvesting is just a matter of sniping what you need. The “heads” are the flower blooms, the “dill weed” are the wispy leaves, and if left to flower and make seed then you obviously have dill seed. All parts are usable. The seed has the strongest flavor. The stem, flowers and leaves can be used fresh or dry.

 

Garlic Dill Beef Roast
Print Recipe
This slow roasted beef is so good. It's tender and has great flavor. The amounts of everything will vary depending on the size of your roast.
Garlic Dill Beef Roast
Print Recipe
This slow roasted beef is so good. It's tender and has great flavor. The amounts of everything will vary depending on the size of your roast.
Ingredients
  • Any beef roast of your choice (London Broiltop bottom or eye of the round or serlion)
  • Whole Garlic Cloves
  • Fresh Dill
  • Red Onions sliced
  • Kosher Salt
  • Pepper
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Make cuts, the width of a paring knife and the depth of a garlic clove, evenly throughout the roast.
  2. Stuff a garlic clove in each cut.
  3. In the bottom of a roasting pan layer the sliced onions.
  4. Place the roast on the onions.
  5. Rub fresh dill (or dried if that's all you have), salt and pepper into the roast.
  6. Cover and let this sit at room temperature for about two hours.
  7. Bake at 250 degrees for 30 minutes.
  8. Then turn the heat down to 170 degrees and bake until the internal temperature of the roast is 120 degrees. (about an hour for each pound)
  9. When done, remove from the oven, cover lightly and let rest for 15 minutes. Then slice and serve.
Share this Recipe
 
Old Fashioned Dill Pickles
Print Recipe
I know I said there's more to dill than pickles but seriously everyone should have a fermented dill pickle recipe.
Old Fashioned Dill Pickles
Print Recipe
I know I said there's more to dill than pickles but seriously everyone should have a fermented dill pickle recipe.
Ingredients
  • Fresh Pickling Cucumbers
  • 5 tbsp Kosher Salt
  • 3 cup Water
  • 2 each Fresh Grape Leaves
  • 3 each Cloves of Garlic smashed
  • 1 each Thin Slice of White Onion
  • 1 tbsp Crushed Red Peppers or 2 whole dried chili peppers
  • 6 each Whole Peppercorn
  • 2 each Head of Dill
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Wash the cucumbers very well in cold water.
  2. Bring the water and salt to a boil to dissolve the salt.
  3. In the bottom of a clean quart jar place the onion slice, one grape leaf, a couple of the garlic cloves, the peppercorn, the and one head of dill.
  4. Pack the cucumbers in the jar and top with the remaining ingredients.
  5. Pour the hot brine over everything leaving only 1/8 inch head space.
  6. Cover tightly with clean a lid and ring. Keep at room temperature for 1 week. Then the jar can be transferred to the root cellar. After 6 weeks the pickles are ready.
Share this Recipe
 
Continue Reading

Rosemary and Good Bread

 

Rosemary OilThe name translates as “dew of the sea”, this herb is native to the Mediterranean loves sandy well draining soil and lots of sun. It has been used forever in the kitchen as well as in the medicine cabinet. The plant has woody stems and very narrow leaves resembling pine needles. The tiny flowers are usually a light pink or blue color. The essential oils contain stimulants helpful with circulation, and digestion.

Growing Rosemary is quite easy but does require a little attention. . A full sun spot is best with well draining soil and moderate amounts of water, but here’s the kicker, the full sun spot needs to have cool temperatures. But the temperatures of the north do kill it over winter. I like to keep one plant in a pot and bring it in the fall.

Rosemary can be propagated by root cutting or by burying a stem as you would lavender. I don’t tend to bother too much with this because I have to start fresh every season anyway. But it is possible and does work well.

Harvesting Rosemary is pretty straight forward too. Cut the stems, and either store them in the refrigerator between damp towels or hang to dry. Once dried the leaves or needles can be stripped of the stem and stored in  an air tight container.

Rosemary has been used for centuries as a healing herb too. An infusion of leaves, fresh or dried, helps migraines and indigestion. The essential oil made into a balm works wonders as a muscle relaxer, helps aches and pains and poor circulation.

Rosemary Olives with French Bread

Infused Olive Oil – Using a heavy bottomed pan sauté 1 clove of garlic (minced) until golden brown. Strain the garlic from the oil, saving the garlic. In a glass bottle or jar place a couple sprigs of fresh rosemary, a few whole peppercorns and the garlic. Fill the jar with olive oil and cover. Let this sit in a dark spot for about a week.

Add any of your favorite olives and let them marinade in the oil for a few days. Use the oil as a dipping oil for the French bread below or as a part of salad dressing or any other application you desire.Baguette

Tim’s French Bread

Personally I love a great crusty baguette, but sometimes, I don’t have two days to make it. When I still owned the bakery, I had a customer named Tim. He was so pleasant to talk to, he always bought his wife a few molasses cookies and himself a dessert or two. He was also in search a great French bread; not the crusty baguette I made daily. He wanted a softer crusted bread with a chewy crumb. I tried and tried and he was so patient trying each loaf until finally I came up with the recipe he deemed perfect. Since then he has passed away but this will always be Tim’s recipe.
It’s very basic, using white flour that I’m not overly fond of using but I will admit for white French bread it is pretty good.

Tim's French Bread
Print Recipe
It's very basic, using white flour that I'm not overly fond of using but I will admit for white French bread it is pretty good.
Tim's French Bread
Print Recipe
It's very basic, using white flour that I'm not overly fond of using but I will admit for white French bread it is pretty good.
Ingredients
  • 1 tbps Dry Yeast
  • 3 1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 1/2 cup Water
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine the yeast, 2 cups of flour and 2 tsp kosher salt.
  2. Mix in the water. Let this rest 30 minutes.
  3. Add the remaining salt and knead in the rest of the flour. Knead for 15 minutes until the dough is very smooth.
  4. Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover and let rise for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
  5. Punch the dough down and let it rise again until it's doubled in size.
  6. Divide the dough into 2 and form into long loaves.
  7. Let the loaves rise on a greased or parchment lined pan for about 2 hours (again covered).
  8. Lightly brush the loaves with an egg wash and dock them (score the top of the loaves).
  9. Bake them at 425 until the sound hollow when tapped on and are lightly browned.
Share this Recipe
 

 

Continue Reading