Friday, August 23, 2013

pomegranate pork loin with cabbage

Friday, August 23, 2013

If you have read even a little of my blog, or happen to know me in real life, you probably know that when it comes to extreme weather, I've developed something of a "thin skin" ever since moving to California.  One might think that a native Texan who grew up in what can properly be described as a rugged, mountainous desert (all with no air conditioning, I might add) should be able to handle even the warmest days here with no complaint.  The opposite is true, actually--on those days it is usual to find me prostrate on the couch in front of a fan, wishing for a popsicle and sorely tempted to plunge my face into my son's water table.  All of this behavior on my part is ridiculous, especially considering that a hot day here is easily 10-15 degrees cooler than a mild Texas summer day.  

I bring all of my complaints up because even by California standards, it's been quite a warm summer.  There was one particularly scorching week that even my dad found difficult to bear (he was visiting for A's birthday).  This resulted in LOTS of grilling, because as everyone knows, it feels absolutely criminal to even go near one's stove on a hot day, knowing just how much hotter your house can get.  Days passed in this fashion, and my culinary inspiration trickled down to almost nothing.  I was desperate for an opportunity to turn my oven back on.  

My friends, the time has finally arrived.  In the mornings, I can comfortably wear a sweater.  I have to be careful that little A doesn't get completely soaked when he's playing with his water table (a daily afternoon activity), because the breeze can be nippy.  We have definitely started burrowing under the covers at night.  

For my first cooler weather dish, I settled upon this pork loin from the wonderfully family friendly cookbook, Dinner: A Love Story.  I had a sneaking suspicion that it would be both easy and delicious, and I was right on both counts.  This is not exactly a revelation, because pork (and plenty of other things) predictably falls apart into strands of tastiness when simmered low and slow with plenty of flavorful juices.  That doesn't at all take away from how wonderful this particular combination of wine, broth, and pomegranate juice becomes after seeping into the pork for three hours.  All three of us loved it, and A particularly enjoyed the rich, purpled cabbage, which actually ended up tasting a bit like a mild pickle.  I'm already looking forward to making it again, and as it happens, the conditions are perfectly right.  

Pomegranate Pork Loin with Cabbage, adapted from Dinner: A Love Story, by Jenny Rosenstrach

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 boneless pork loin (2 1/2-3 pounds), patted dry and salted and peppered
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice (optional: I skipped it myself)
Salt and pepper
Dash or two of soy sauce
About 3 cups any combination of red wine, pomegranate juice, and chicken broth (Jenny recommended a third/a third/a third, which seemed to work out quite well)
1/2 head red cabbage, shredded

1. In a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, add the oil.  Brown the pork loin on all sides so you get a nice golden crust, about 5 minutes per side.  Remove to a plate.  Add teh onion, garlic, Chinese Five Spice (if using), and salt and pepper and start cooking until soft, about 5 minutes.
2. Return the pork to the pot.  Add the soy sauce and your combination of red wine, pomegranate juice, and broth to allow the liquid to come a third of the way up the loin.  Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for 2-3 hours, flipping once halfway through (I set a timer halfway through).  Monitor the liquid level to make sure a third of loin is always submerged-add more juice or wine if not.)  The longer it simmers, the better.
3. About 10 minutes before you serve, add the red cabbage to the pot.  Remove the pork and slice.  Bring the braising liquid to a boil and cook until it has slightly thickened, 2-3 minutes (It won't get syrupy because there is not enough fat in the meat).  Serve the pork with the braising liquid and the cabbage spooned on top.  
Note: I was planning to serve this the next day, so after I sliced the pork, I put it back in the pan with the cabbage.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

sprouted kitchen's coconut loaf

Sunday, August 18, 2013

We recently returned from a very busy, very HOT few days in Texas and I decided to take the kitchen by storm. Somehow, there is nothing more motivating than having been away from the comfort and familiarity of one's own kitchen.  I made several meals based on what I had in my pantry and freezer alone, than got totally on top of the grocery shopping, so much so that I won't need to return for at least another week.  The refrigerator is full to the brim (partially because of the ridiculous amounts of fruit that we go through for my little guy), and I have plenty of protein in the freezer.

Instead of resting on my proverbial laurels, I have decided to tackle a few baking recipes that have long been on my to-do list.  One of them is this coconut loaf, from Sara Forte's The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook.  I love everything I've made from her blog and cookbook, which are dedicated to clean eating and focused on whole foods.  One of the things I appreciate most about Sara's food is that it's remarkably accessible-I don't feel intimidated about the kinds of flours or grains I have on hand, and while I have been trying to experiment with a few new, more healthful products, Sara writes in such a way as to make one feel virtuous just for small efforts at change.

In my adult life, I've come to really love coconut, particularly as it's become relatively easy to find unsweetened and lowfat coconut products.  I'm not trying to be particularly saintly about my disdain for the sweetened version-it's really just too much for me, reminding me of cakes I encountered in childhood that were showered with the super-sweet flakes, when all I really wanted at the time was something chocolate.  I'm obsessed with these big flakes, which I use for one of my favorite dishes, and a can of lowfat coconut milk is a part of every curry recipe in my limited repertoire.  I love the inherent creaminess of coconut, which is somehow exotic and homey all at once.

From the moment I came across the coconut loaf recipe in Sara's book, I knew it needed to be tried.  I love having a mildly sweet loaf of bread around, something like a dessert but also light enough for breakfast.  It turned out exactly like I hoped, delicious and just barely sweet (even with the light powdered sugar glaze).  We ate it in the morning and at snack time, when little A joyfully begged for "more coconut cake!" I only wish that I had made it for a specific occasion and could have shared it with more people. I'm pretty sure they would have thanked me.

Coconut Loaf, adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen, by Sara Forte

1/4 cup extra-virgin coconut oil, melted, plus more for the pan
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs
1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup organic powdered sugar, or more as needed

*Note: Sara (of Sprouted Kitchen) is not the first cook/blogger that has recommended whole wheat pastry flour.  It's apparently quite a bit lighter and less coarse than whole wheat all-purpose flour.  I can attest that the loaf had a lovely light crumble, probably in no small part to the flour.  This was my first foray into coconut oil, and it was quite simple.  I just measured out what I needed and melted it in the microwave in a Pyrex mixing cup.

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease an 8 1/2 loaf pan with a thin coat of coconut oil.
2. Spread the shredded coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven until just golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Watch it carefully, as it can burn very quickly.  Set aside 1/2 cup for topping the loaf.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of the toasted coconut and the turbinado sugar.  Sift in the flours, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt and stir to combine.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs together, then whisk in 1 cup of the coconut milk, the coconut oil, and the vanilla.  Gently stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined.  Pour the mixture into the loaf pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 45-50 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
4. While the loaf is cooling, combine 1/4 cup of the remaining coconut milk and the powdered sugar in the bowl and whisk until there are no lumps.  Add more sugar or coconut milk to taste, depending on the consistence you prefer (You won't use the whole can of coconut milk).  Pour the glaze over the cold cake and sprinkle the remaining toasted coconut on top.

-I just used the "sugar in the raw" I had on hand, which is pretty close to turbinado.  I didn't have a hard time finding unsweetened coconut, but if you do, Sara suggests scaling back the sugar by about 2 tablespoons.  She also notes that the bread can be made a day ahead and kept covered until serving.  It really gets a bit dry after two days, even tightly wrapped.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

daily wisdom

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
How can you live sweetly amid the vexatious things, the irritating things, the multitude of little worries and frets, which lie all along your way, and which you cannot evade?  You cannot at present change your surroundings.  Whatever kind of life you are to live, must be lived amid precisely the experiences in which you are now moving.  Here you must win your victories and suffer your defeats.  No restlessness or discontent can change your lot.  Others may have other circumstances surrounding them, but here are yours.  You had better make up your mind to accept what you cannot alter.  You can live a beautiful life in the midst of your present circumstances.  -J.R. Miller in Daily Strength for Daily Needs

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

browsing history

Tuesday, August 13, 2013
This particular edition of "browsing history" is a bit dated, given that I started it about two weeks into July and we're just as far into August now.  I still love all the topics, though, so I'm not going to make any changes.

*Mumford & Sons' video for "Hopeless Wanderer."  Jason Bateman is obviously the best, particularly when he's draped in 3+ instruments.

*The American Sean Bean, or, for diehard 24 fans, Chase:

*Cover art for Molly Wizenberg's follow-up to A Homemade Life (via the July 8, 2013 entry on Orangette). I am so very excited about this!

*Truly, the Sharknado phenomenon is endlessly humorous. Tweets and all.

*First full trailer for Catching Fire.  I think it's time to admit that when it comes to the books, I'm Team Peeta.  The movies, however? Team Gale.

*I'm going to make these gorgeous little strawberry muffins from Sprouted Kitchen as soon as I can pick up some more strawberries.  Post coming up soon about SpK's extremely delicious Coconut Loaf.

*Quinoa, best-dressed toddler on Pinterest. One of my favorite finds of the month.

*Design Sponge's "Living In: Girls Just Want to Have Fun".  I love this almost as much as I would have loved the post if it had been about the similarly titled movie.

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

*I tried really hard, for a number of years, to actively dislike Matt Damon.  I blame The Talented Mr. Ripley, and to be totally fair, it was his bang-up job in that film that instigated my aversion to begin with.  However, I have to admit defeat.  He's pretty great.  See what Cinesnark's Sarah writes about him and this latest trip to the Colbert Report here. P.S. Excuse the strange blank video screen that is somehow permanently attached to this post.


Granted, if you look at the title closely, you can see that it clearly states "in partial fulfillment of the degree..." but for all intents and purposes, I consider myself FINISHED.  You might think I feel a bit of sadness at being finished, a wistful nostalgia for the days on campus, trips to the library, and scholarly emails.  Truthfully, I am tremendously relieved.  A mighty weight has been lifted from my shoulders, and the freedom I'm currently experiencing far outweighs a sense of pride or accomplishment.  Those 102 pages were extremely hard-wrought, causing me no small amount of anxiety.  A few months from now, I might leaf through my work and reflect upon it with pleasure, but for now, I am relishing loads of non-academic books, unrestricted time with my little guy, and perhaps an afternoon or two of mindless television.

I don't miss you, William Godwin.