Scene in Spain, #20

We arrived in Ponferrada early in the morning and sat tiredly in the hotel lobby until our room was ready. (The staff were amazing – brought us wonderful coffee and fruits and kept apologizing that the room wasn’t ready despite us arriving before most people would even be up!)

When we finally moved out to walk around, we found out there was a festival happening – what timing to catch the final day when we weren’t even aware it existed! It looked like a Renaissance Fair. There was a display of birds including these two rather sarcastic looking owls:

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There were also a ton of food vendors. We stopped at this one because it smelled amazing.

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This is where we got the delicious festival food I posted earlier (a looong time ago, actually) – and I still have yet to grill jalapenos!

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Can we still have a pumpkin thing? Yes.

I am a fan of simple tasty recipes that also are healthier than the alternative. I’m also a fan of quick. This is even easier than the black bean brownies (yes, you read that right) and is also just two ingredients. Just a box of spice cake mix and a can of pumpkin. Mix thoroughly and then you bake per the instructions on the box. I generally make cakies (cookies that are pretty cake-like) by dropping spoonfuls on a baking sheet and baking the amount of time for cupcakes. But you could do cakes or proper cupcakes too, of course. Enjoy!

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Pardon the interruption…

Wow. I can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted something. I know that right after the last post in August we went on vacation and I took hundreds of photos in Spain, planning to post them while there but I never did. And then when we got back I got really busy with work and also I was just a bit overwhelmed by all the stuff I *could* post that I got paralysis about it all and so didn’t do anything. I even took more photos on my walks around home and work and have other items to post about crafts I’ve done with my mom, but I’m just so overwhelmed by choices! AAAAACK!

I have more time off coming up with Thanksgiving, and my plan is to spend some time organizing my Spain photos and doing a lot of posts about our travels there, as well as my usual items. In the meantime, here is a picture of some food we enjoyed in Ponferrada, Spain. As it happened, the first day we were there was the last day of a festival they were having – so we got wonderful festival food for lunch. And this reminds me – I really need to grill jalapenos! That was amazingly tasty.

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Smokin’

As July 4th approaches, I’m preparing to smoke pork shoulder in the Southern tradition. Not only it it a national holiday, it’s my husband’s birthday – and he’s loved pulled pork ever since my father introduced him to it. My father taught me, and then I got his old smoker when he upgraded to a new one. Smoking pork is an all-day affair with a big payoff at the end. I did it for Memorial Day weekend and the results were fantastic.

I start by lighting the fire before 6am – pork is smoked over indirect head and “low and slow” is the only way to go. Once the coals are hot, I add water-soaked hickory chips on the coals to generate the smoke.

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It’s important to have the coals up on a grate, because there will be a lot of ash created – the foil lining the bottom helps with cleanup.

Now I put on the meat – this is about 4 pounds of pork shoulder (aka “boston butt” and don’t ask me why) cut in two pieces.

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This has marinade basted on it that is very important – we use Wicker’s original and there is zero reason to look for anything else. It’s perfection. Close the lid, and now we’re smokin’!

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For the rest of the day I keep checking the smoke and the coals – every 15 minutes or so (maybe 30 at max) I need to add coals and/or wood chips. Now, there are people who will tell you that adding more wood chips after a certain time is meaningless because no more smoke will penetrate the meat. Perhaps they are right. There is no doubt a time that I add the wood chips solely to torture my neighbors with the fantastic aroma.

After an hour or so, the meat starts to tighten up and become firm and the color darkens.

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I’m continuing to baste with the Wicker’s and I turn the meat every so often to make sure the indirect head is generally distributed. Again, some people will tell you that once you close the lid you should never open it again until you are done. I say to them: my results are amazingly tasty so shut up.

After about 10-12 hours the meat has a nice bark on it and eventually it will start to feel “loose” – loose means it wants to fall apart on its own. This is what you want.

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At this point, you remove the meat and if you’ve done things right you only need a couple of forks to pull the pork apart into delicious shreds.

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The more pink you see the better – that is how far the smoke penetrated. It is juicy and delicious!

I serve this with red onion, amazing barbeque sauce, vinegar-based cole slaw, and baked beans. Many people use a bun and make a sandwich, but the bun to me is just taking up room on my plate that I could fill with pulled pork! The bark is intensely tasty and a prized treat as well.

Now I’m hungry, and I have days yet before the 4th….

Bon appetit!

Winemaker’s dinner – food porn

My husband and I are fortunate to live in the heart of Washington’s wine country. Within an hour of our home there are well over 200 tasting rooms and growing. Of course, we all have our favorites and luckily the two of us agree that Terra Blanca is top notch (and the people there are very friendly, too!). We belong to their wine club and enjoy visiting their gorgeous facility. We recently attended a winemaker’s dinner there that featured their signature wine, Onyx. This is what we got to enjoy:

This is what a wine dinner table looks like when you're having a seven course meal with seven different wines...

This is what a wine dinner table looks like when you’re having a seven course meal with seven different wines…

first course - Cocoa dusted sea scallop with roasted wild mushrooms and fig syrup. Paired with 2002 Onyx

first course – Cocoa dusted sea scallop with roasted wild mushrooms and fig syrup. Paired with 2002 Onyx

second course - Roasted beet tartare with goat cheese, sumac powers, beet chip, and arugula pesto. Paired with 2003 Onyx

second course – Roasted beet tartare with goat cheese, sumac powder, beet chip, and arugula pesto. Paired with 2003 Onyx

 

third course - pork with greens, red wine jus, and barley truffle risotto. Paired with 1999 and 2006 Onyx

third course – pork with greens, red wine jus, and barley truffle risotto. Paired with 1999 and 2006 Onyx

At this point we had a palate cleansing lavender scented sorbet with vanilla-honey and apple, but I didn’t get a decent photo of that. It was lovely!

fifth course - Duck breast with roasted parsnips, dark cherry gastrique and braised Swiss chard. Paired with 2000 Onyx

fifth course – Duck breast with roasted parsnips, dark cherry gastrique and braised Swiss chard. Paired with 2000 Onyx

 

sixth course - Lamb crusted with pepitas, with black current veal jus and potato croquette. Paired with 2009 Onyx

sixth course – Lamb crusted with pepitas, with black currant veal jus and potato croquette. Paired with 2009 Onyx

 

seventh course - Chocolate gateau with wildberry jam, Hawaiian sea salt, vanilla bean creme, and caramel glass. Paired with 2007 Onyx

seventh course – Chocolate gateau with wildberry jam, Hawaiian sea salt, vanilla bean creme, and caramel glass. Paired with 2007 Onyx

The pork had two pairings because the winemaker (Keith Pilgrim) and his wife (ReNae) had differing opinions of which was better. The vote of the room was for the 1999 Onyx, which means Keith gets to keep being the winemaker as that was his choice. Both were excellent, but I picked the 1999 as well.

The beet salad made me nervous as I had a traumatic beet experience as a youngster that involved a salad bar and an assumption that something was a spiced apple when it was, in fact, a beet. But I tried everything and I did enjoy the beets – I suspect the roasting had a lot to do with that. I’ll not be running out for beets, and I probably enjoyed the goat cheese more, but I cleaned my plate.

The lamb was my absolute favorite of the food dishes (though the chocolate cake was divine!). Although the 2009 Onyx is really young it is amazing already. We walked out with several bottles to enjoy at home.

All in all, if you have the chance to attend something like this – DO IT! We hired a car service so we could enjoy and be safe. It’s certainly an extravagance, but we had a wonderful evening and met some really interesting people.

Bon appetit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Bean Soup is good food

When the weather gets colder soup becomes a very attractive meal. I love making soup for guests because I make it the day before and then have very little prep when people come over. This week I made black bean soup and I thought I’d share it because it’s ridiculously simple and tastes wonderful.

1 cup (ish) chopped onion

1 cup (ish) chopped carrot

1 cup (ish) chopped celery

1 seeded/chopped red bell pepper (can be yellow or orange)

1 seeded/chopped jalapeno (optional)

1 seeded/chopped habanero pepper (optional)

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cans black beans (sure, you can go to the trouble of soaking your own beans, but I don’t)

2-4 cups chicken stock (use vegetable stock to keep this a vegetarian dish) – amount depends on consistency you want

I happened to have matchstick carrots on hand for my salads-in-a-jar that I make for lunch at work, so I used those this time.


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I like it spicy, so I use both the jalapeno and habanero peppers. The usual warnings about handling hot peppers apply! Carrots/onion/celery are a standard mirepoix that is a great start to any soup. After all the veggies are chopped, saute them in a large pot with about 4 tablespoons of butter (don’t forget the garlic!):

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Once the veggies soften (this smells divine, by the way) add the black beans (do not drain) and stock:

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Let this simmer a while (there is not a specific amount of time; you just want the veggies nice and soft). While it’s simmering, taste the broth – if you feel a need you can add red pepper flakes or ground pepper, but honestly I rarely need to do that. There is plenty of great flavor in the base ingredients.

This is a pureed soup. While you can now transfer to a food processor/blender to puree that is really kind of a pain. I highly recommend a stick blender so you can puree it right in the pot:

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After pureeing, I let it simmer a bit longer so I can again sample for flavor. Then remove from heat, let the pot cool a bit, and cover and put in the refrigerator overnight. This really helps the flavors meld, plus it makes the next day’s meal a snap. Just reheat on the stove, and serve with some nice bread and fresh avocado (or sour cream, or whatever sounds good to you!).

 

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Bon appetit!

Turkey in the fryer

Yes, most people would post their Thanksgiving turkey items actually on Thanksgiving. But let’s face it, this wouldn’t do any good for anyone on Thanksgiving itself (I’ve always found those tv segments full of recipes that happen when it’s too late to be useful annoying) and I was busy eating, watching football, walking, and enjoying time with family.

A few years ago my sister bought an infrared turkey fryer and transported it to my parents’ home to be used for the Thanksgiving turkey. It worked amazingly well. After that instead of taking it back to her house she left it with us. Thanksgiving moved to my house and so did the infrared fryer. It’s hooked up to a propane tank. Once it’s heated up (about 10-15 minutes is what I allowed) you drop the basket with turkey into the fryer (turkey is oiled):

Then you put the cover on, which is important because it also heats up and helps brown the skin:

This is an eleven pound turkey; the fryer can handle up to a sixteen pound bird but we definitely don’t need one that big!

It takes just 10 minutes per pound, and you don’t do anything to it in the meantime. This means the kitchen is free for doing all the other things that go along with the meal, which is much much simpler. The fat drains out the bottom into a container drawer that can be pulled out and cleaned pretty easily. They claim you could take it to make gravy, but ick. Not gonna happen.

After 110 minutes I used a meat thermometer to make sure the bird was at least 165F, which it was. I recommend an Ove Glove or two for this stage, because it’s really really hot inside the fryer!

It does take two people to pull the basket out and get the bird out onto a plate. My husband helped here, and nearly dropped the bird. That could have been comically tragic (we wouldn’t have starved – there was plenty of other food). In the end, it looked and tasted great and there are plenty of leftovers. My apologies for this photo, but I was focused more on getting everything to the table and didn’t take the time to pull out the tripod and do this properly….

If you do a big sit-down meal for Christmas or anything else, I do recommend considering an infrared fryer. For Christmas we just lay out a ton of food and let people graze, so I’ll just be cleaning the fryer out and putting it away for next year…