For Emily.

I’ve been remiss, again, with my posts. Life and long summer days have wrapped me in a tight cocoon and I’ve gone adrift; carried through sadness, sunshine, grief, laughter and bliss.
The loss of a loved one, followed by the loss of another have left great voids, and yet I’ve just come back from one of the best vacations in some time.
photo 2 photo 1 photo 5photo 5 photo 4
Spending the past two weeks in the company of my teenage daughter, just she and I, has been surprisingly pleasant.
A bit of sand and surf in the mix can’t have hurt.
 photo 4
 photo 3photo 2photo 1
In the weeks prior to our departure, I made use of summer’s finest. I set aside sweet aspirations and went straight for the savory: eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers, crafting them into an unctuous load of ratatouille, fat with flavor and richly satisfying.
 photo 4
I don’t generally fare well with nightshades unless they are well-cooked. With ratatouille, the biggest investment is time; the peppers and tomatoes have ample opportunity to languish about at gentle simmer until their flavors mellow, sweeten and concentrate into jammy perfection. Into which gets folded a load of caramelized, roasted eggplant and zucchini. I use a recipe from Francis Lam as my template, following his method (nearly) verbatim, save a shortcut, here and there. I’ve been using it for years; as it’s probably the best ratatouille recipe I’ve found. Its yield is quite generous, encouraging me to divide in half and freeze some for later, however my leftovers were pulled from icy depths within about two weeks, as I found myself craving it daily.
 photo 5
Ratatouille is incredibly versatile, I folded it into fluffy omelets, enjoyed it with quinoa, served it with toasted baguette, and alongside cold salmon during an impromptu picnic. I also recall serving gently warmed over salad with a bit of feta and chickpeas.
 photo 1
This’ll likely eat up an afternoon, however the hands-on investment is pretty modest. Having the ingredients prepped and at the ready makes for a smooth experience.
The rest is merely waiting. And waiting. And…
 photo 2
Enjoy, and Much Love,
J
Weapons-Grade Ratatouille by Francis Lam, with adaptations.
Note: this recipe yields approximately 1/2 gallon of ratatouille. I wouldn’t recommend halving it, as the effort alone is worth its yield. Ratatouille will keep well, refrigerated for ~5 days, or up to three months in the freezer.
Ingredients:
1 head garlic, minced
3 shallots, minced
1 large onion (about 12 ounces), minced
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 large red peppers, puréed
4 pounds of tomatoes, puréed
2 pounds of zucchini, cut into cubed
2 pounds of eggplant, cubed
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Additional 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, as needed
Method:
  1. Salt eggplant with ~1/2-1 tsp of salt, then set in a colander to drain. This will aid the eggplant in releasing some of its water content. Set aside and proceed with the following.
  2. In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium-low and add garlic, shallot and onion. I used a 4-quart wide-bottom Le Cruset enameled cast iron, which I knew would handle the volume. Season with salt and pepper; ~1/2 teaspoon each, or a nice healthy pinch.
  3. Once the aromatics are glossy and golden, add the red pepper puree and another pinch of salt and pepper. Allow the mixture to simmer for a good 30-45 minutes, until the volume is reduced by about half.
  4. Next, add the tomato puree and continue to simmer, giving a gentle stir every 20-30 minutes or so. The sauce will simmer for ~1.5 hours, during which time you’ll proceed with roasting the eggplant and zucchini
  5. Preheat oven to 450. Line two large baking sheets with parchment. Pat the eggplant dry, then toss both eggplant and zucchini with a generous amount of olive oil, salt and pepper.
  6. Roast until nicely-charred, about 40 minutes. This may require shifting pans about halfway through, and may require two stages due to the sheer quantity of veggies. However, this dish has nothing but time on its hands. Set roasted veg aside for later.
  7. Once the tomato base has reduced considerably, down to a mere quart, maximum, and the olive oil has become visible on the surface of the sauce, fold in the roasted vegetables. Give the mix a few more healthy gratings of pepper.
  8. Fold in basil and thyme. Taste again and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.

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.
PicFrame
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.
IMG_0605
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.
__
Enjoy, and much Love,
J
IMG_0604
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.