Striking a balance.

It seems like the last couple of days have been bustling as I recover from the holidays. The New Year promising exciting things; opportunity for creativity and adventure. An occasional craving of a hearty meal, balanced by my perpetual indulgence in sweets.

Thousand Layer Chocolate Chip Cookies

Thousand-layer Chocolate Chip Cookies
Honestly, it is rare to let a day go by with at least a few bites of chocolate, a piece of pie, a cookie. Something. Unfortunately, when it comes to sugar, I am unaware of my threshold, and what often occurs is I substitute these things for real food, or miss a meal entirely.
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And so for me, it becomes absolutely necessary to have a contrast, something grounding, that pulls me back in, reignites my connection to hunger and satiety. The savory always does that for me.
Roast Pork Shoulder

Roast Pork Shoulder

I am desperately in need of a vacation, so any dispensable time is spent dreaming about Paris, reading about Paris, listening to French podcasts; falling in love with MFK Fisher’s The Gastronomical Me and giggling my way through Ann Mah’s Mastering the Art of French Eating…all the while craving cassoulet, crepes and tarts.
However, when it came to planning last night’s dinner, I ventured to make something decidedly un-French, albeit quite deliberate and requiring an investment of time. The slow roasted, mahogany-hued pork was truly impressive; the aroma of sage and garlic and the warmth of the kitchen helped burrow its scent into my clothing. The pork required minimal work, just a periodic spooning of juices to keep it moist. After several hours, it developed a crust that was sweet, salty, crunchy; with just the right amount of fat to keep the flavors lingering, if only for a moment. I served it with creamy polenta, garlic-y sautéed kale and pickled onions; the latter of which were quite easy to prepare and provided a nice contrast to the pork.
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I’ll provide a recipe for the pork, and the pickled onions. The roast is quite forgiving; feel free to play with the spices a bit. The onions need about an hour to cure. Polenta is quite easy, though also will take an hour to cook and a bit of a stir every few minutes. There are loads of preparations available online, and most basic cookbooks have a recipe for polenta tucked inside. To sauté a large pot of greens, simply warm a bit of garlic in olive oil, add greens toss every few minutes, adding a bit of broth or water if the pan seems dry. season with salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice.
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Enjoy, and much Love,
J
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Roasted Pork Shoulder
1 4.5-5 lb pork shoulder, bone-in
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tsp pepper
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1-2 Tbsp fresh sage, or savory herb blend
Method:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
Combine salt, pepper garlic and herbs to make a paste; rub into pork shoulder.
Set pork on a baking rack, lined with parchment, in a large roasting pan
Roast pork, uncovered for 20 minutes, then turn heat down to 325 degrees.
Continue to roast, basting pork every 20 minutes for ~2 hours.
Check internal temperature with a meat thermometer; the internal temperature should reach 155 degrees when pork is finished. Continue to roast; checking every 20 minutes to baste until temperature is achieved (this may take 3 hours).
Remove from oven, and baste again.
Increase oven heat to 500 degrees.
Return pork to oven and cook for 5-10 minutes, with close monitoring. It will smoke a bit; remove from oven if this is excessive.
Remove from oven, cover with foil and allow to rest for ~20 minutes.
Pickled Onions:
 
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
2 tsp salt
juice of two limes.
Place onion in small, non-reactive bowl. Pour boiling water over and let sit for ~20-30 seconds; drain. Return to bowl or jar and combine with salt and lime juice. Let stand for ~60 minutes. Serve with pork.

Roasted.

What one can do with a tray of roast vegetables? I recall an article in the NYT reviewing this book titled An Everlasting Meal, by Tamar Adler. It seduced me with its practicality and how a bit of advance prep and cooking in the kitchie yield several days’ worth of meals. I don’t know about you, but my tastes can change quite dramatically within the course of a day or so. Exactly how many things can one do with roasted squash and cauliflower? In actuality, quite a bit! I was pouring though my food photos and discovered a bevy of dishes I’d created doing just that.

Roasted veggies, greens, egg and sriracha sammie

Roasted veggies, greens, egg and sriracha sammie

salmon:delicata

Salmon with delicata squash and greens

Egg and delicata squash on arugula

Egg and delicata squash on arugula

I’ll never cook a week at a time; I’m too compulsive. I feel the need to eat it all at once and will perseverate over what to eat first. I found myself doing just that thing last week, with a tray of roasted vegetables, a vat of soup, cooked quinoa and the like.

Melissa Clark’s NYT article on creamy carrot and cauliflower soup was the seedling that tied it all together. I made a simple soup of pureed roast vegetables and coconut milk. Adding curried spices seemed appropriate, as they marry well with the delicate sweetness of squash and cauliflower. Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of chili flakes and top with a dollop of creme fraiche or…Greek yogurt – I won’t judge.

Having the veggies already roasted on hand makes for a quick meal, however I’ve included roasting instructions, if you’re so inspired. This soup would also work well with fresh vegetables, however they won’t have the caramelized flavor and complexity that roasted vegetables provide.

Roasted cauliflower and delicata squash soup

Roasted cauliflower and delicata squash soup

Curried Delicata Squash and Cauliflower Soup

For the vegetables:
1 medium-sized delicate squash, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch crescents
1/2 large head of cauliflower, cut into 1-inch pieces
olive oil; about 2 tablespoons
a generous teaspoon of sea salt
freshly grated pepper nutmeg

Method:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Toss all of the ingredients together; the vegetables should have a light coat of olive oil so that the spices can adhere.
Roast for ~40-50 minutes, giving a toss about half-way through to ensure even caramelization.

For the soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, sliced
2 tsp Madras curry powder
3-4 cups of roasted cauliflower and squash
2 1/2 cups broth (vegetable, or chicken)
1 cup coconut milk
salt, to taste
chili flakes, for garnish
creme fraiche, or Greek yogurt, for garnish

In a large pot, sauté onion in olive oil for ~5 minutes until soft and starting to brown. Add curry powder and sauté for about 30 seconds, then add vegetables, 2 cups of the broth, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower to a simmer for ~15 minutes. Remove from heat and puree, adding additional water or broth as needed to bring to desired consistency.

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