Monday MmmMmmMmm: Pork Roast, Potatoes and Green Beans

I am NOT a morning person.  I know this admission completely shocks some of you….not!  But what will shock you is that I was up at 6:38 a.m. this morning…and I had all my prep work done for dinner by 9:00 a.m!  I don’t know what happened; but I find it’s best not to question a morning of good fortune.

When my eyes opened at 6:38, my first inclination was to slam them shut and go back to sleep for another few hours, but after drinking a few sips of coffee and reading a few pages of the book in which I am currently engrossed; I hopped out of bed and started cooking.  I started by slicing a bunch of potatoes (white, red and sweet) into very thin slices and stacking them in little piles like decks of cards.  I put the decks of potatoes on their sides into mini loaf pans I had sprayed with cooking spray and spooned about 1 Tbsp of butter over each one.  I then topped them with minced thyme, kosher salt and pepper.  I baked them about 3/4 of the way in the morning, knowing I would finish cooking them just before Jeff arrived home from work.

Potato Decks in Mini Loaf Pans

Potato Decks with Butter Thyme Salt and Pepper

Potato Decks Baking

Just before I finished prepping the potatoes, I set a large pot of water on the stove to boil.  After the potatoes were in the oven, I began cleaning green beans and by the time they were clean, the water was boiling so I slipped the beans into the water and prepared an ice bath to shock them after blanching.  I cooked the beans for approximately 4 minutes and removed them directly to the ice bath to cool – not only does the ice bath stop the cooking immediately, it also maintains the bright green color of the beans.  After they were cool, I spread them on a sheet pan I had covered with a towel, gave them a quick pat to dry them, and slid the pan into the fridge to keep the beans cool.

Ice Bath for Green Beans

Blanched Green Beans in Ice Bath

Green Beans Drying

With the green beans and potatoes prepped, I turned my attention to the pork roast I had pulled out of the freezer to thaw over the weekend.  The first thing I did was make parallel cuts across the top of the roast about 1 inch deep so that the seasonings I would slather onto the roast would penetrate deep into the meat.  I then dried the roast with paper towel, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and set it into a hot roasting pan containing olive oil to brown.  The sizzle of the cool meat hitting the hot pan was mesmerizing and the smell of the meat browning was heavenly.

While the meat was browning, I raced out to the garden (don’t tell my mom I walked away from the stove) to pick some onions, which I washed, peeled and cut into wedges.  After the meat was browned on all sides, I dropped the cut onions and some cherry tomatoes into the roasting pan and slathered the meat with some sun-dried tomato butter I had in the fridge.  I had previously made the butter for another recipe and had some left-over.  In addition to butter and sun-dried tomatoes, the concoction also contained parmesan cheese, herbs, lemon zest, salt, pepper and garlic.  Like the potatoes, I slid the roast into the oven and cooked it part way, knowing I would finish it just before Jeff walked through the door.

Browned Pork Roast Surrounded by Onions and Cherry Tomatoes

Roast Slathered with Sundried Tomato Butter

The rest of the day was filled with exercise, showering, grocery shopping, balancing the checkbook, uploading some photos from my camera to my computer, cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming the downstairs, etc.  By the time I got everything done it was time to reheat the potatoes and the roast.  While they were reheating, I cut the green beans into bite-sized pieces and made a light apple cider vinaigrette to serve over the cold beans.

Everything was coming together nicely when Jeff got home.  He had just enough time to change his clothes before we sat down to eat.  My final step of preparation, which I did while Jeff was changing clothes, was to whir up the pan drippings and softened onions and cherry tomatoes with an immersion blender to create a nice sauce for the roast. The good news is there is enough sauce that we will also have some later in the week over the spaghetti squash I couldn’t resist buying at the farm stand yesterday.

I haven’t had spaghetti squash in years and am already plotting how I will ‘love my leftovers’ when I make it!  I think there will be some beans for protein and some green veggies (perhaps the other half of the bag of green beans or some broccoli) added to the sauce that will top the squash.  We’ll see what inspiration comes….

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Dinner was great – well-balanced, colorful, and filled with flavor.  Like my friend Marisa, I love Mondays – particularly when they include a Monday MmmMmmMmm!  TGIM!

 

Behind the Scenes: Dinner for 14 – Day 5

We are preparing for dinner for 14 at our house tomorrow evening.  Today was Day 5 of the preparation schedule.

I have three things to say emphatically:  1) I am sooooo incredibly lucky to have the husband I have – he took the day off today to help me clean and prep.  I completely understand that not many husbands would do that and so I want to publicly thank him for being such a terrific guy!  2) I am also incredibly glad I got more done yesterday than was on my list.  In addition to the things on the list, I also prepped all the ingredients for the food I needed to make today and it was a HUGE help!  And finally, 3) I RRREEEAAALLLLLLYYY wish I had a cleaning person (or perhaps a magic wand).  As much as I love cooking; I loathe cleaning!  But I will admit, now that the house is clean I am really happy.  It smells like a combination of clean and yummy right now!

I never did get my walk in with my fuzzy gals yesterday, but I certainly got my share of exercise going up and down the steps and wrestling said fuzzy girls in the shower before getting into bed last nigh!

The following are pics of the progress from yesterday.

Tree is Decorated - All 12 Feet of It!

Tree is Decorated – All 12 Feet of It!

Tiramisu….step by step:

Potato Stacks w/ Gruyere, Caramelized Onions & Roasted Garlic:

After a hearty breakfast of savory oatmeal and copious amounts of coffee, Jeff and I got started on our list.  On the agenda for today:

  • Pick up chairs (did not happen, but will get them tomorrow)
  • Cleaning – every room is sparkling at the moment – if only it would stay that way!!!
  • Make potato stacks – no, Mark, not curly fries!
  • Stuff and partially cook pork roast (and chicken breast for those allergic to pork)
  • Hang pictures (didn’t happen yesterday, but done today)
  • Iron napkins
  • Make vinaigrette
  • Roast butternut squash
  • Laundry (in order to make sure what we plan to wear tomorrow evening is clean)
  • Make iced tea
  • Fill nail holes and touch up paint in dining room

We can check  everything off the list – and then some.  I also finally found a way to display some ornaments I’ve been wanting to display for the last few years and created and embossed a printed note for each place setting.

Tomorrow’s list includes:

  • Pick up chairs
  • Pick up dishes
  • Get a little extra sleep!!!!! Yeah!
  • Set table
  • Set appetizer buffet
  • Set dessert buffet
  • Set bar
  • Make filling and fill macaroons
  • Sweep floors just before everyone arrives
  • Spruce up powder room
  • Make rolls
  • Cook chicken
  • Put finishing touches on all food
  • Primp and pamper and perhaps take a cat nap

I am looking forward to quality time with our friends and to kicking off the holidays in a festive way.  I can’t wait to show you pictures of the evening!

Sea Food

Good Morning!

What an amazing morning…..Jeff and I got up early to catch the sunrise on the beach.  I am so lucky to be married to a man who understands that if I am going to get up early enough to see the sunrise I NEED to have some coffee with me.

Sitting on the beach is one of my favorite things in the world – I love hearing the sound of the waves and I marvel at how no two waves are alike – kind of like snowflakes!  I love the smell of the air and how if I stay long enough my lips taste salty.  It is no wonder people flock to the beach and come here for respite.  I can’t imagine being able to look at all this beauty and not attribute it to God!

And speaking of God, we were all grateful last night for the blessings we’ve been given.  We were sitting at the table enjoying a FANTASTIC meal and even better company.  Then after dinner we retired to the deck for drinks and to watch the night sky.

The menu last night was:

Felty cooked the steaks to perfection – a luscious medium rare.  The taters had a light coating of olive oil, salt and pepper and were in the oven for a good 90 minutes.  The outside was perfectly crisp and the inside was succulent and creamy…..mmmmmm……and the corn was sweet and hot……ahhh!

Oh, and it was capped off by a homemade pizzelle with a light dusting of powdered sugar.  Does life get any better than this?

I don’t know if it was especially good food, the spectacular company, or being by the sea – perhaps a combination of all three – but I can truly say it was a memorable meal – one of the best in a while.  I love that great sea food doesn’t have to be seafood!

 

 

Turn the Beet Around

I think Gloria Estefan would forgive me for the word play on her song title – especially if she tasted the pickled spiced beets from The Village Whiskey – Iron Chef Jose Garces’ Philadelphia restaurant.

The Village Whiskey beets are what inspired my purchase of 10 pounds of red beets at the Lancaster Central Market on Friday. Philadelphia is a little far to drive for an appetizer, so I have to learn to make them on my own.  I hope Jose Garces will forgive my twist on his recipe.

The Village Whiskey makes their pickled spiced beets with baby red and golden beets, but I made mine with oven-roasted, full-grown red beets since I am still waiting for a late planting of beets in my garden to yield results.  Sadly, the rabbits had their way with the beets Jeff planted in the spring.

I roasted my 10 pounds of beets after washing them and wrapping them in foil.  They cooked in a 350 degree oven for approximately 90 minutes (they were big beets).  I let them cool, peeled them and cut them into bite-sized pieces.  While I was peeling and cutting the beets, a pickling solution was simmering on the stove.  Now I don’t know what The Village Whiskey puts in their recipe – that is for them to share or not; but I put some allspice, cinnamon, mustard seeds, thinly sliced onion, thyme, bay leaves, orange zest and orange juice along with some water and different types of vinegars.

After the beets were prepped, I poured the pickling liquid over them and now they are just swimming in the liquid getting happy, subtly spiced, and “pickley.”  Tomorrow I will can them so that I can enjoy them for months to come.  When I serve them, I will likely want the toasted baguette and whipped ricotta that is served at the restaurant with all their pickle selections.

Whether or not you want to try to make pickled, spiced beets on your own; I would HIGHLY recommend a trip to The Village Whiskey if you are in Philadelphia.  The restaurant is small and they do not take reservations, so Jeff and I try to arrive between lunch and dinner.  Not only are the beets amazing, so are the pickled herb cherry tomatoes and the french fries cooked in duck fat – especially when they are topped with delectable short ribs and cheddar cheese.  And if you are keeping up with the latest burger fad, do yourself a favor and do not pass up the Village Burger.  It is served on a buttery, light and flaky sesame bun with lettuce, tomato and house-made thousand island dressing.  I add the caramelized onions and one of the terrific cheese selections.  This is the kind of burger you wake up hungry for!

The Village Whiskey
118 South 20th Street
Philadelphia, PA  19103

To Market, To Market . . .

Sometimes cooking, eating and entertaining begin not in the kitchen, but with a journey.  My mom, Connie, and I set out early yesterday on a trip to Lancaster Central Market (LCM) in Lancaster, PA, which is approximately 40 miles from home.  We were not in search of anything specific, just adventure.  I haven’t been to the LCM in probably 18 years so I wanted to reacquaint myself with it.

I find a trip to the farmers market quite relaxing…. and it can be both informational and inspiring.  I like seeing the fresh ingredients and dreaming about what I can make from them. One of the ways I can tell the best stands at the market – the ones with the freshest, choice ingredients – is by spying on the chefs.  If the chefs are shopping there, I reason there’s probably some good stuff to be had!

We entered LCM at the corner of Orange and Prince Streets and were met at the door by beautiful sunflowers and the equally sunny disposition of the woman selling them at Spring Knoll Farm.  Although not all stands had as much personality, it was a great beginning to the experience.

As we meandered through the rows in search of nothing in particular, we spent a lot of time pointing to various things (produce, flowers, pastries, etc.) saying, “ooh, look at that” or “hmmmm, what is that” and telling each other about things we’d made from similar ingredients.

One of my favorite stands was Tulip Tree Hill Farm, which sells small packages of sprouts and greens and a lovely tart raspberry lemonade.  The stand is nice to look at and the woman who helped me with my purchase of micro greens and lemonade was quite friendly.   I don’t yet know what I’ll make with the micro greens, but I cannot wait to try them.  They will likely be served alongside the roasted veggie soup Jeff is making today.

*I put a quarter next to the greens so that you can get an idea of how tiny and delicate they are.

Other than some multi-grain rolls from Willow Valley that looked too yummy to pass up and 10 pounds of beets (more to come in a later post), it seems our adventure was in miniature.  In addition to the micro greens we bought some teeny patty pan squash and some beautiful mini purple striped globe eggplant.

What we will make with the patty pan squash and eggplant remains a mystery.  But I can definitively say that we had a great time at the Lancaster Central Market and will surely return soon.  Yesterday proved that not all who wander are lost….some of us are preparing to cook, eat & entertain!

Additional photos of the beautiful produce we saw at LCM can be found on my Photo Gallery page.  Enjoy!

Smoke from a Distant Fire!

No this is not a review of 70’s music – it’s a recap of a great meal….So I got an email this morning from my husband, Jeff.  Attached were some pictures from his iPhone of a fantastic meal we ate this past Sunday with friends and I just had to share them.

Some cooking, eating and entertaining is planned in advance and some is spur of the moment.  And although I am not a good spur of the moment entertainer, I appreciate those who are and love the serendipitous feeling of being included in such events.  We got a call on Sunday from our friends Jeff and Holly F. saying “Jenny and Tom (Holly’s sister and brother-in-law) are here.  We have a brisket in the smoker and the kids are all playing, do you want to join us for dinner?”

Well, these are some amazing people – the kind whose company you just don’t pass up, and did someone say “brisket” and “smoker” in the same sentence?  Of course we went.  The only question was what to bring to contribute to the meal.

I remembered a recipe I had recently found for Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.  This being the end of summer, which means our garden is littered with tomatoes, made the decision a no brainer.  Jeff and I worked together on the recipe and during the process of slow roasting the tomatoes our house smelled incredible.  I really wish there was such a thing as “smellavision” because it was an aroma that real foodies would love to share.

As I’m reliving the night in my brain, I am asking myself, “What are the things that made it such a memorable meal?”  The answers include:

  • Amazing friends who share your love of truly good food
  • Spontaneity
  • Good beer and wine
  • A lot of laughs
  • A lively atmosphere
  • Incredible food – smoked brisket, roasted tomato Caprese salad, and oil/salt rubbed roasted potatoes

The brisket was divine……it had been prepared with a simple rub of olive oil, salt and pepper and smoked for several hours.  The resulting smoke ring was a sight to behold.  Thanks, Tom! Please remember the photos were taken with my husband’s iPhone, not in a studio!

The Caprese salad was delicious – a keeper of a recipe as far as I am concerned.  The only change I made was rather than putting whole basil leaves in the salad, I made a fresh pesto for the side – you have to think creatively when kids are involved.  And in my honest opinion, pesto flavors a Caprese salad better than individual leaves of basil.  You can schmear it around and get the basil flavor throughout the salad rather than in isolated pieces.

We dug into the meal and I noticed there was not much talking going on – always a sign of good food.  The conversation we were having was mostly about how good everything was.  We hit a point near the end of the meal when there was only one slice of tomato and one piece of mozzerella left on the platter and just a few slices of brisket remained.  You know that stage, where everyone wants to take the last serving, but doesn’t want to look like a pig. In some company this would have been awkward, but not with these friends – one of us proudly took the last of the Caprese salad while another took a slice of brisket and dragged it through the “dressing’ that remained on the Caprese platter – a brilliant idea.  The next thing we knew, we were all picking up one last slice of brisket with our fingers and following suit!  Mmm mmm mmm.

The meal proved that not all cooking, eating and entertaining has to be stuffy.  Sometimes a last minute invitation and eating with your fingers is the finest dining around!!!