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Friday, May 24, 2013

Gingered Salad, Duck Breasts wtih Raspberry Port Sauce and Pulled Pork


The big family birthday party is this weekend.  My brother John loves to cook as much as I do.  So, we split the menu and both have a grand time cooking away.  My responsibilities this time are pulled pork, strawberry salsa, three bean salad, rhubarb cream pie and strawberry torte.  He's doing ribs, cole slaw and a brie appetizer.  His mother-in-law will do the potato salad.  Since the party got pushed back a week, my strawberries had to be replaced.  My red grapes (good for my eyes!) were on their last legs.  And, I wanted a rotisserie chicken to make Giada's Chicken Salad.  That meant a trip to Costco or Sams.  Costco it was.  We had a gift certificate to use up. 

On the way to Costco I read a recipe for a bourbon pepper bellini.  It'd be perfect with the bourbon smoked pepper the kids had given us in our Christmas goodie box.  That meant I needed frozen peaches.  No dice at Costco.  So, Connie'd be heading to the grocery as soon as we got home.  Well, I also needed onion powder for the pulled pork rub and raspberries for the duck. 

Last time I made the pulled pork I wasn't thrilled with the rub.  This time I used a recipe from Smoke and Spice by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.  It's probably one of my five favorite cookbooks.  It's positively dog-eared.  Oh, and by the way, I saw a paperback version at Sams the other day.  I also used one of Cheryl's mop recipes.  But, I used the method from Heartland.  You rub the butt then smoke it for 2-3 hours on the grill then move it to the oven for 8-12 hours at 250.  Pretty easy.  And, VERY good.  The best part is it's doing it's deal in the oven while you're sleeping :-) 

Dinner was to be duck breasts with a raspberry port sauce.  The recipe was from Food and Wine Fast.  I needed a salad or veggie that would go along...  Somewhere I'd read a recipe for a gingered iceberg salad.  My guess was Rachael Ray's FAST section.  I was right.  But, it called for chopped iceberg lettuce.  I had romaine hearts.  And, I really wanted to grill them.  The recipe also called for pureeing the dressing ingredients in the blender.  But, I love the crunch of toasted sesame seeds.  Whisked it was.  That worked because my fresh ginger was ginger puree.  You'll need to actually puree it if you are working with truly fresh ginger.  Oh, and we have about six seed packets of radishes in our garden.  They'd be a perfect addition.

The duck was looking good.  I put together the salads.  Oh, my.  I called out to Connie to come look at them.  He walked in an whistled.  If only they'd taste as good as they looked.  Our score?  If we gave out sixes, these'd get a six.  But, alas, our top score is a five.  Absolutely a five.  They'd be perfect with shrimp or chicken added to make a meal.  Any raw veggies would work.  I'll try snow peas soon - like as soon as they're ripe!

You ready for some recipes?

Here we go:

Gingered Iceberg Salad
serves 2 with dressing left over

for the dressing:

1/3 c mayonnaise
1/4 c rice wine vinegar
1 T ginger puree or 3 T chopped fresh ginger
4 t soy sauce
2 t sugar

for the salad:
1/4 c finely chopped carrots
1/4 c finely chopped radishes
1 heart of romaine lettuce
2 T toasted sesame seeds


If you're using ginger puree you can whisk the dressing ingredients together.  Otherwise, use your blender or immersion blender.  Chop the carrots and radishes and set them aside.  Cut the heart of romaine in half

and brush with olive oil or vegetable oil.  Grill it for a couple of minutes.  Remove from the heat and put half on each of two plates.  Drizzle it with dressing

then top it with the carrots and radishes.  Top everything with the toasted sesame seeds. 

adapted from Rachael Ray Everyday

The duck breasts were good.  But they were only a four.  Rarely do we dole out two fives in a meal.  The original recipe called for smoked duck breasts so my guess is that might've elevated these to a five...

Duck Breasts with Raspberry Port Sauce


1 T unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
1/4 c port (ruby is preferable)
1/4 c dry white wine
3 T seedless raspberry preserves (we had strawberry so that's what we used...)
1 T raspberry vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 c raspberries
salt and pepper
2 smoked duck breasts


Make the sauce.  Melt the butter in a small skillet.  Add the shallot and cook until it's softened, about two minutes. 

Then, pour in the port and wine and cook until it's reduced to about two tablespoons.  Stir in the preserves, vinegar, mustard and raspberries.  While the sauce is cooking, prepare the duck breasts.  Cut a cross-hatch pattern in the fat and start them cooking skin side down in a large skillet. 

When the skin is nicely  browned, flip them.  It depends on how you like the duck cooked and the thickness of the breasts as to how long you cook each side.  We prefer our duck rare so cooked them about 5 minutes a side.  When the breasts are cooked to your satisfaction, remove them from the heat and allow them to rest for five minutes.  Slice them thinly and serve them drizzled with the sauce. 

adapted from Food and Wine Fast

Pulled Pork

Sweet Sensation Rub

1/4 c ground allspice
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c onion powder
2 T salt
2 t ground nutmeg
2 t ground cinnamon
2 t dried thyme

Basic Beer Mop

12 oz beer (use a lager)
1/2 c cider vinegar
1/2 c water
1/4 c corn oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T Worcestershire
1 T rub


Score the fat on the top of the pork butt.  Rub the pork butt liberally with the rub.  Allow it to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.  Heat your grill to medium/low (abot 250F.)  Add wood chips to the smoker.  Put the pork in a disposable aluminum pan.  Put it on the grill.  Smoke for 2-3 hours, adding wood chips as necessary.  Move the meat to the oven, tenting it with aluminum foil.  Bake it for 8-10 hours at 250.  The meat should be falling off the bone and extremely tender.  Pull the pork. 

Rub and mop from Smoke and Spice.  Cooking method from Heartland


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lamb and Bulgur Stew with Beans

Ya'll ready for a little yard tour here?  We've been at the office WAY too much.  So, finally we came home kinda early.  Like before 7pm.  Connie's not laughing.   I am.  You either laugh or cry.  Your choice.  I laugh.  Well, every once in a while I have a meltdown.  But not tonight.  We were home.  The flowers were glorious.  The light was ok - fading fast but ok.  And, I had my sweetie next to me and a glass of wine in my hand and I was walking my yard.  YEAH!

Out the back door to the hosta garden and the fence garden.  The new hellebore is now the size of the old one.  The hosta are loving it.  One fern survived the nasty honeysuckle.  The wild ginger is coming back from last year's drought.   The Virginia bluebells are starting to melt away.  Such are ephemerals. 

Around the corner, TC (Tommy Cat) is watching us from a safe perch behind the rhubarb.  Ok, yes, you could wear those for clothes.  They're mammoth.  And the rhubarb is fabulous.  We had rhubarb, goat cheese and shagbark hickory syrup salad over sorrel the other night.  Amazing. 

Have I ever shown you the compost bin Connie built?  He's amazing. 

On to the garden.  Our first sprout from the 25 asparagus roots Connie just put in.  The ten we already have just don't produce enough for us.  But, they sure do look wonderful.  So do the peas and radishes.  Oh, and the strawberries and cruciferous bed.  Not sure what made it in there but take a look at the Brussels sprouts from last year that seem to be coming back.  We're leaving them just to see what happens... 



The golden raspberries along the fence are going nuts.  Last year the birds and squirrels beat us to most of them.  This year we will be more vigilant!  Then it's on to the corner garden.  The wisteria.  Oh, my.   It's stunning.

A look under the crabapple at the hosta and daylilies and it's out the gate to the bed in front of the living room window.  Columbine and meadow rue and bleeding hearts and heuchera.  The columbine that doesn't quite go was from my old house.  Pretty much a volunteer and didn't show up at all last year.  I was more than thrilled to see it this year.  Then, on along the entrance street.  The persimmon tree is LOADED with fruit.  We'll have a bumper crop this year.  Speaking of a bumper crop, ditto the crab apple.  Then, there's the yarrow, Shasta daisies, peonies, lilies, hosta... 

On around the corner to the future orchard.  Right now it's home to a peach  and an apple tree.  Their second year.  I counted 66 peaches coming on.  Yup, you read that right, 66.  About four apples.  There's a plum, apricot and sour cherry to go in.  Next year we'll add two pears, a sweet cherry, another persimmon and another apple.

To the front garden.  I still remember people gawking when we moved in and killed half of our front yard.  No, more like 2/3rd's.  Grass is so bad for the environment.  And, flowers are so much prettier.  The stellar performers up front right now are the peonies, roses and Siberian iris.  Amazing.  Around the corner there are iris and pinks.  We've also got salvia, bachelor's buttons, daylilies, cranesbill geraniums...

Then, it's on to the herb garden.  Pretty much everything you can name.  And, a couple dozen pepper plants.  Plus blueberries. 



We do love our yard.  As much as we love cooking.  While we wandered the yard I had a meal cooking away in the dutch oven.  I'd never cooked with bulgur before.  But, we do love lamb.  So, I was game.  Found a bag of Bob's Red Mill bulgur at the grocery so we were good to go.  The recipe actually called for fresh spinach.  But, I had a bag of baby spinach, kale and chard.  That worked perfectly.  We totally loved this dish.  I added a splash of siracha, substituted pinto beans for the white beans and left out the paprika since I'm not a fan of that.  But otherwise I stayed pretty true to the recipe.

Lamb and Bulgur Stew with Beans


1 lb ground lamb
1 medium onion, diced
2/3 c bulgur
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 1/3 c water
1 14.5 oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
5 oz baby spinach (or mix of baby spinach, kale and chard)
3.5 oz feta cheese
1 T fresh oregano leaves


In a dutch oven, brown and drain the lamb.  Add the onion, bulgur and pepper flakes and brown for about five minutes.  Add the tomatoes and water.  Cover the pan and simmer for about 25 minutes.  Add the beans, greens, oregano and about half of the feta cheese.  Stir in well until the greens wilt a bit.  Serve with the rest of the feta crumbled over the top. 

adapted from Martha Stewart Living