Saturday, March 17, 2012

Friday Dinner: Tuscan Pork Stew and Polenta

Tonight, with rain coming down in buckets, it was a perfect night for a warm, aromatic stew over creamy polenta cooked with milk and finished with some Asiago cheese and parsley. When Lynn, my cooking partner extraordinaire, suggested that we make this I was immediately all-in but since polenta's not her favorite thing, I was a little puzzled. She found a recipe on the Food and Wine site and  and thought that polenta was just the thing. It looked great to me, too - pork shoulder marinated in wine, aromatics, rosemary, sage, bay, and cloves! ... and juniper berries! According to the writer, it was developed by Chef Joe Sponzo to be made with wild boar.

...not that we don't have feral pigs with a little wild boar in the historical breeding mix here in Northern California. When I lived in Clayton for a little while (in Contra Costa County), I would read news reports of the wild/feral pigs that are the scourge of parks in and around Mt. Diablo, but no... we used pork shoulder.

One thing that struck both of us about the recipe is that it seemed like it hadn't been adapted for pork instead of wild boar. Some of the aromatics (juniper berries, cloves) and methods (boiling the meat before searing and braising it - don't do it) seemed more oriented towards game so we made some changes that I'll pass along in the recipe. In addition to the stew and polenta - we went a different direction with the polenta - we had roasted asparagus (Spring!) with garlic, salad and we drank a San Giovese with dinner.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Quick Preserved Kumquats - When Life Gives you Kumquats and Not Lemons...

This is the tabouli-ish salad I made using the quick preserved kumquats
Nagami Kumquats
I've run out of my preserved lemons and I am sad but I cheered up when I read the article, Preserved Lemons Brighten a Stir-Fry by Melissa Clerk at the NYTimes online site. Ms. Clark is spot-on when she writes, "A jar of preserved lemons sitting in the fridge is a boon for the busy cook. Chopped up and tossed into salads, stews and saut├ęs, they add a bright, nuanced burst of flavor in one speedy step — as long as you happen to have some on hand."

True, dat. It's also true that the quick preserve method doesn't give you the same complex flavor as true preserved lemons, but this method provides a good substitute when necessary. Or you have some Nagami kumquats

Her recipe calls for 1 1/2 Meyer lemons, but I had a few of the Nagami kumquats and a plan to make a kind-of-a-tabouli salad and figured I'd give Ms. Clark's method a try. I love kumquats to eat out of hand, but I prefer the Miewa kumquats that I get from Will's Avocado's at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market which, while still tart inside, have a sweeter rind.

The Nagami's would make an awesome marmalade but for me, one or two eaten raw is my limit (Hmm... Shaker Kumquat Pie, anyone?). I eat the Miewas seeds and all but for this recipe, I de-seeded them as they would be used in a salad. Getting rid of the seeds is a bit fussy but since I wasn't working with too many, I didn't mind.