Category Archives: recipes

Three things (delicious summer food edition)

peaches in the summertime, apples in the fall...

Yes, so, kind of ridiculous to try passing this off as another three things post when most people over the age of about six can clearly count (at least) 20 items here. But hey, I’m talking about tomatoes and corn and peaches! All is forgiven? Moving on.

1) Delicious summer food we’ve made and gobbled down recently:

Fresh corn cakes from David Lebovitz. We topped them with a fresh corn and tomato salad (see below), chèvre, and eggs over easy. Leftovers kept well in the fridge and were delicious reheated in the toaster oven.

Bangain bharta. This is a traditional Punjabi dish made with charred eggplant, tomatoes, and lots of good spices, and I’m putting it in our rotation until there are no more tomatoes and eggplant. So good. We ate it over brown rice and topped with a dollop of plain yogurt and scooped it all up with Camille’s naan, which we made with lard we’d rendered from our own pastured pigs. If you eat and have access to real lard, I heartily recommend that substitution. This particular version was shared with us by a CSA member a couple years ago.

Pasta with let-my-eggplant-go-free! purée from Francis Lam. (Thanks, Molly!) One of those awesome kitchen alchemy recipes, where simple ingredients combine and go BOOM! I would only like to say that after about 12 years of trying, I can say with certainty that I really, really, really don’t like whole wheat pasta. I think I’m going to stop trying. I suggest white pasta here, which, for flavor and texture reasons, will really let this sauce sing. Might even make my own next time.

Fresh corn and tomato salad. No real recipe here, and it changes some every time we make it, which is a couple times a week at least. Shave the kernels off an ear of corn, chop a couple hefty handfuls of cherry tomatoes, chiffonade some basil, squeeze in some lime juice, salt to taste. Scale up as necessary. I love it on top of brown rice and black beans (try Molly’s quick black beans with cumin and oregano) and topped with a fried egg, or on top of those fresh corn cakes above, or straight from the bowl. I bet it would be good in a tortilla soup too.

Cream of tomato soup. I had the Campbell’s stuff often enough as a child, usually with grilled cheese, and while I didn’t have to force it down, I didn’t really understand the fuss. Now that I make my own I sure do. I love Marion Cunningham’s recipe in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. The ingredient list is quite short so the quality of the tomatoes matters enormously. If you’re using fresh tomatoes, make sure they are dead ripe, and make sure you love how they taste raw. You can also fix a slightly lackluster tomato soup with a big spoonful of tomato paste. Canned tomatoes are also an excellent choice here. I’ve seen lots of versions out there made with stock, which sounds good too and would be perhaps a little less rich than the one we make. I’m also tempted to try a version with roasted tomatoes.

One-pan pasta from Martha Stewart. I followed this recipe nearly exactly (just subbed our homemade chicken bone broth for half the water) and while it was delicious – I adored the sauce that forms from the tomato juices and pasta starch – next time I will use all broth and will double or even triple the tomatoes. Edited to add: I can’t wait to try the farro verion of this from Smitten Kitchen. Could something this tasty and easy also be a bit more nutrient-dense?

2) Delicious summer food I love but have somehow not yet made this year:

Cultured salsa from Nourishing Traditions. I can’t even begin to explain how good this is. Get yourself some whey (I just strain it from full-fat plain yogurt) and hie thee to your kitchen! It should last for ages in your fridge only it won’t because you will eat it all in two days, and that’s if you don’t have company.

Braised okra with cherry tomatoes, which I wrote about last week.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s sweet corn polenta with eggplant sauce. Polenta made with fresh corn! It’s a little labor intensive but very straightforward. And the eggplant and tomato sauce is good on everything. I put it in a savory galette once with some chèvre and should really do that again.

Tomato and cheddar pie. This one requires a little planning: the biscuit dough for the crust needs to chill for an hour, and the tomatoes need to drain for 30 minutes.  But otherwise it comes together quite easily. The crust is quite forgiving. Once I was a little short on flour, and the dough seemed a sticky and hopeless mess as I eased it into the pie pan.  But it baked up beautifully, and didn’t get soggy even after a day in the fridge. And seriously: tomatoes, mayonnaise, cheese, biscuit crust? Need I say more?

Tomato cobbler with blue cheese biscuits from Joy the Baker. Everything about this is amazing. The flavors are assertive but perfectly balanced – I recommend all spices and seasonings in the called-for quantities.

Peperonata. Sweet peppers cooked long and slow, with some capers, red wine vinegar, and herbs tossed in at the end. This is ostensibly good with many things – I imagine it would taste great alongside almost any kind of meat, on crostini with some soft tangy cheese, mixed into hot or cold pasta, on top of polenta, maybe folded into a frittata – but I wouldn’t know because we always eat it straight out of the skillet.

Pomodori al forno from Molly Wizenberg. You cook roma tomatoes low and slow and then marinate them with garlic, parsley, and olive oil, before serving them with goat cheese and sliced baguette. This stuff would make you very popular at a brunch and would also make a very fine (and messy!) start to a summer dinner party, but again, I’m only guessing, because I pretty much eat this standing at the counter with the bowl of tomatoes, a hunk of bread, a tub of cheese, and a knife.

Gordon’s Cup, also from Molly. Gin! Lime! Cucumber! Salt! Do it!

Peach pie. I do make a mean pie. ‘Tis the season!

3) Delicious summer food I have never made (so please share your recipes with me!):

Tomato jam


Tomato sauce for putting up. I’m happy to freeze or can. I make sauces from canned and fresh tomatoes all the time, but I’ve never done it in storage quantities. Maybe I should just make more, and freeze it, but I still feel on the lookout for something really worth all that peeling and seeding.


Corn ice cream!

And that’s a wrap.

What about you? What are you eating these days? And can you help me with that last section?

Confessions of an okra lover, part the first

Okra blossom

Okra/Abelmoschus esculentus Moench. Virginia, August 2012.

My husband says I can get nostalgic about a paperclip, and he’s not far off. Something I’ve been missing like the dickens this summer? Okra. Oh man. It was a star crop for us at our old farm. I never ate it growing up except under great duress, but seven years on Virginia farms turned me into a card carrying okraphile. I guess there are northern varieties (farm and garden friends, please chime in and tell me what they are!!), but we don’t currently grow them at this farm. My husband tells me he’s been seeing some at market – it’s reasonable to ask him to bring me home five pounds next week, don’t you think?

The rest of this post is another that first appeared on our farm blog – hence the references to our being Southern farmers and to a time and place when we grew lots of this little emerald wonder. The recipe at the bottom, for braised okra with cherry tomatoes, is what I would be making this very second if I still had a 200-foot block of okra (or even just a plant or two) a short walk away. It’s dead easy and, more to the point, one of my very favorite things to eat ever. The original post also included recipes for the other things I love to make with okra: lacto-fermented okra pickles, our favorite fried okra, and my husband’s gumbo. I’ll probably bring them on over here too, soon enough.

(Insert Wayne’ World Scooby Doo ending sound here. Boom! It’s two years ago, and you’re sitting on our back porch in Virginia sipping a beer while I finish cooking dinner.)

Confession: we are vegetable farmers, and we are Southern, and until recently I just didn’t like okra very much.  It’s not that I found it offensive exactly. I was always happy enough to eat it in my husband’s gumbo, where, in his deft hands and alongside a rich roux and some smoky spices, its infamous slime is somehow alchemized into a velvety sauce. In a gumbo the okra itself almost disappears, which makes it quite easy to tolerate.  I also tried frying it, over and over again.  It was always okay.  It was certainly pretty to look at, and I felt I must be doing my body a favor by eating it, even if I had to choke it down.  I always felt virtuous eating okra, but I never had very much fun.

With apologies to the many awesome lunch ladies I have known, I am pretty sure the cafeteria at South Columbia Elementary School in Martinez, Georgia, circa 1984, is to blame. I remember dreary piles of the stuff, breaded and steamed and slumping forlornly, almost apologetically, in its compartment of the brownish melamine lunch tray. I looked at its dusty breading and its drab interior, utterly unconvinced, and occasionally gave it a nudge with my fork.  It yielded immediately, like pudding, and slid right back off the fork.  We got off on the wrong foot, okra and me, and I’m afraid now that I wasted more than twenty-five years holding a grudge.

Because this summer?  I’m on an okra bender.  I’m not sure what changed for me, exactly. We’re growing okra again after a hiatus of several years; perhaps I see those gorgeous plants with their flowers like delicate ivory trumpets and I just want to do right by them.  Maybe something clicked for me when my husband said, “I love okra because it’s the most vegetable-y of our vegetables.”  He’s right: when you cook it right, okra’s flavor is green and clean and bright, the very essence of fresh.  Maybe it’s because now, as a mother, I don’t want to waste any more time being virtuous.  What I want is joy at the table, a strong body and a curious mind and an open heart, a rich family life. I swear I’m finding all that in okra.

Some quick notes, and then a recipe.

Storing okra: Keep your okra in a plastic or paper bag in the fridge, unwashed, and use it within a few days.

Using okra: Please don’t bread it and then steam it. You could steam it very gently, just till bright green and still with some snap to it, and then eat it warm, drizzled with butter and a squeeze of lemon juice, or chilled, dressed with a bright vinaigrette.  Try it breaded and fried, braised, pickled, skewered and grilled, in stews, in curries, in place of squash or zucchini in ratatouille.

A word about okra slime: In Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Deborah Madison writes, “Okra is slimy, and rather than try to ignore this fact, perhaps it’s best just to admit that’s how things are.” Maybe that’s what changed for me this summer.  I’m not trying to wish the slime away anymore.  Instead, I’ve learned how to make it work in a dish’s favor.  In our favorite fried okra, it binds with a cornmeal and parmesan coating to create a perfect golden crust.  In our okra and tomato braise, it thickens the juices of burst cherry tomatoes and makes the most lovely sauce.  And of course it’s essential for thickening up gumbo.  Maybe thinking about it this way will help you, too.

chooks and okra

Braised Okra with Cherry Tomatoes
(serves 4-6, unless you eat like we do, in which case: serves 2)

This recipe comes to us from our friend and former CSA host Noell. Don’t be fooled by its apparent plainness: this belongs in everyone’s summer arsenal.  It’s amazing eaten straight from the skillet, and pretty darn good eaten straight from the fridge as well.  It’s wonderful on top of quinoa and other grains, and it makes a great wrap or burrito filling.  Every time I take a bite I grin.

Quantities are approximate.  Use roughly equal amounts of okra and cherry tomatoes, and garlic to taste.

1 lb okra
1 lb cherry tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic (or to taste), chopped
olive oil, salt & pepper

Warm a few tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Meanwhile, trim off the okra stems and then slice in half lengthwise, or slice into 1/4-inch rounds.  When the skillet is ready, add the okra and the chopped garlic.  Saute for about 10 minutes, flipping occasionally, until the okra begins to brown.  Add the cherry tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste, and cover.  Braise 5-10 minutes, checking every few minutes.  The dish is done when most of the cherry tomatoes have burst.

Braised okra with cherry tomatoes

Fridge pickles!

Fridge pickles!

Tara mentioned making fridge pickles from a recipe I posted on our farm blog a couple summers ago, and that got me to thinking it makes sense to migrate some of those recipes over here, to this blog that’s not a food blog.

I blogged for our farm, sporadically but earnestly, for four years, and there’s a lot of history there. I’m still not quite sure what to do with it all – it really doesn’t make sense to continue paying for the site. The land that we farmed is becoming something else. We’re not quite sure what, yet, but our story there is (nearly) over. On the other hand: it’s our story! I’m not sure what I want to do with all those pictures and words.

These pickles are part of that story. When it comes to putting food by, what I am is a master dabbler. Sure, I know a heck of a lot more than I did in my city days. I make jam every once in a while, but I freeze it every time. I am always happier when I can dig into lard I made from the fatback of our own pigs instead of reaching for supermarket butter. I do know how to make bacon and yogurt but I only do it sometimes. I think I am fondest of lacto-fermenting vegetables in small batches – it’s quick and easy and delicious and yay for living foods! But beyond freezing bone broth and freezer-friendly produce, none of this is an integral part of our kitchen year.

It’s not that I lack for excellent organic produce (umm…), and it’s not that I lack for inspiration. My kitchen bookshelves are really something to behold, and there are so many great online resources. There are questions of time, of priorities, of honestly assessing how much you can fit into a day, of choosing between sterilizing jars and snuggling up on the couch for another round of George and Martha. But the real stumbling block, for me? I am a big honking extrovert. I play very well with others and get pretty lonesome standing all alone at the stove. I need a class – and, dare I say, homework. I need to blanch the peaches while a mama friend gets the jars ready and our boys stir in the sugar. I need people.

I actually have a lard rendering date next Tuesday! That makes me smile so much I think I might march on down to the old milk room in the lower barn to see if there are any returned cucumbers from yesterday’s market. Cucumbers fresh off the vine are ideal, of course, but the point here is to make something delicious instead of letting something waste. And these fridge pickles? They do the trick.

As I said in the original post on our farm blog, these are a great beginner pickle for the curious-but-intimidated, but they’re also a really tasty way to work through a glut of cucumbers when you don’t have the time or the inclination to can. They are always good.

chooks in the cukes

Fridge Pickles
adapted from Donalyn Ketchum

Crunchy, garlicky, and just sour enough, we can’t stop reaching for these. Pour a simple brine of water, vinegar, and salt over cucumbers, garlic, and herbs. Leave the jars alone for a few days … and voila! Pickles! They aren’t canned, so they need to be stored in the fridge. They’ll keep at least a couple months in there – if they last that long. Makes 6 pints or 3 quarts.

For the brine:
2 quarts water
1 cup white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup canning or pickling salt (kosher salt is also fine, but may result in cloudier pickle brine)

For the pickles:
Cucumbers, enough to fit snugly into your jars, washed well and sliced into spears
Garlic, 1-2 cloves per pint jar or 2-3 cloves per quart jar, smashed and peeled
Herbs (dill is classic; we also love thyme), 1-2 sprigs per pint jar or 2-4 sprigs per quart jar, rinsed well

Clean your jars thoroughly with soap and water. They do not need to be sterilized.

Combine all brine ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally to be sure the salt dissolves completely. While the mixture is coming to a boil, prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Place a smashed garlic clove or two in the bottom of each jar. Add the sprigs of your chosen herb.

Fill the jar the rest of the way with cucumber spears. Really cram them in there – otherwise some spears will float above the brine when you add it, and this can lead to premature spoilage.

Add another smashed garlic clove to each jar – wedge it down between some cucumber spears so it won’t float when you add the brine.

Pour the simmering brine over the vegetables, being sure they are completely submerged. If your brine isn’t simmering, bring it back to a simmer before pouring it over the vegetables.

Put a lid on each jar.

Leave at room temperature for 2-3 days (less time when the weather is very hot, more when it’s cold) and then, if you can stand it, put them in the fridge for an additional 1-2 weeks.

We usually break into the first jar right away but give the rest of the jars the additional slow fridge fermentation before eating them.


Blue skies reflected in the pond!promisespeekmaple budsMountain laurel or rhododendron? Help!Bolted!bolted arugulaskunk cabbageNettles!

A couple weeks ago the spring peepers launched headlong into their moony chorus and I don’t want them ever to stop. A few years ago I found a copy of The Gardener’s Bed-Book: Short and Long Pieces to Be Read in Bed by Those Who Love Husbandry and the Green Growing Things of the Earth at an estate sale, or maybe it was at a fantastically Hogwartian junk shop near our old farm. Either way: I find it a (largely) addictive and delightful little book, even if author Richardson Wright does refer to the “infernal squallings” of the peepers. Me, I say their song is about the prettiest and most heartening thing I know. There I am, plodding along in my slippers, shoulders hunched in cold self-preservation over another cup of coffee, cracking the front door to check the weather and wondering if I can summon the wherewithal to suit up self and child for a bracing evening walk – and there they are! When I hear them I know for sure that we are on the other side of winter’s worst. (Did you know though that the cold-blooded peepers can tolerate sub-zero temperatures without dying? Whoa! It’s a pretty complex process; more here.) And they do most of their eating and, umm, merrymaking after dark and throughout the night – which is to say: they sing us to sleep.

So it’s moony peepers and moony me. Last week the forsythia woke up and this week it’s just exploding, fountains and fireworks of it everywhere we go. I don’t know what made me think we’d moved too far north for magnolias, because we haven’t – they’re everywhere too and instead of making me feel homesick they are just making me feel at home. Inside the high tunnels where we’ve been gleaning scraggly kale and rosemary, the greens are bolting and the herbs are flowering and the heady smell of it all makes me grin so wide I can hardly speak. And I’m not sure what’s redder: the maple buds against a sky that is one hour thick with thunderclouds and the next a blinding blue, or the robin’s breast in the pear trees behind our house, or the barn in the setting sun??

And the skunk cabbage! It’s huge now, up to my knees nearly and bright bright green, and as I walked in the marsh behind our house yesterday and the day before I saw that wherever the skunk cabbage is growing, nettles are too. Nettles! I will wait just a little longer, and then I will put on some gloves and get to work. I want lots of tea, and I want the buttery nettle soup a friend made for me in France 10 years ago this summer, and I want Nicole’s nettle tart. The marsh where they grow, half frozen just a few weeks ago, is carpeted in thousands upon thousands of tiny cotyledons. Is it too much to wonder if some of them might be watercress? This marsh habitat is so new to me. I don’t know its calendar yet at all.

Oh, friends. It has been a very long winter. This is how I am finding home.

“The Peace of Wild Things”

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry
The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry

A great many fine things

Last weekend I took the train into New York City all by my blessed lonesome. I did a great many fine things while I was there, one of which was buying a pound of triple-crème Irish Tipperary brie from East Village Cheese, just two blocks from my old apartment. Tonight I’m eating it alone in my cozy new house while a rabid lion of a wind rattles our eaves, whips through the branches of evergreens whose names I don’t yet know, and keens across the icy fields and marshland all around me. I took the cheese out of the fridge an hour ago and it hasn’t really come all the way up to room temperature yet, but I’m standing at the counter anyway, shaving from either side of it with an old paring knife. I’m eating it with a glorious slop of roasted grapes, scooped straight from the roasting pan with my fingers. I wish I could still drink wine, because it’s the kind of mood I’m in tonight. But I haven’t been able to since before I got pregnant, four years ago; now even a drop brings on a raging headache. So I’m drinking bourbon instead – a maple sour, made with maple from trees tapped five miles away!

(Maple sours changed my life, true story: I have known and loved a great many whiskey drinkers but I never could get on board until this winter. That’s when I started drinking these and now I’m all why-would-anyone-ever-drink-anything-ever-but-bourbon-ever??) 

My son is asleep, coughing and fitful, his tiny body still duking it out with a bullheaded cold that has plagued our whole family for close to a month. For an hour before he finally nodded off he lay curled in my arms on the recliner in the living room, his cheeks flushed and his eyes fluttering wearily as he coughed. I wish he were well. My husband is back at our old farm for the second time in the two scant weeks since our move, doggedly tending to all the outside cleanup that there just wasn’t time for before we left. I wish he were here.

Still, the night is not without its sweetness. I’m eating this cheese and thinking of the hot lunches we had every weekday at my old office in my New York City days (another true story). I was part of a volunteer corps and so none of us had much money at all, but we all chipped in two or three bucks every day and ate beyond our means, if eating beyond your means means warm food filling your belly, a table loud with the laughter and shouts of anywhere from three to twelve people, the reliable warble of the coffee maker as the lunch hour drew to a close every day. There was lots of spaghetti, lots of lentils, lots of roasted potatoes, lots of on-sale cheese, lots of Maxwell House. Sometimes I think I was never so well fed.

Of course I am married to a farmer now, and we eat beyond our meager means too, if eating beyond your means means eating dead ripe seconds Cherokee Purples and Brandywines with homemade (by him) mayo on homemade (by me) bread every lunch for weeks, gilding the lily sometimes with homecured bacon, or a fistful of fresh basil, washing it down with a gulp of fresh Jersey milk.

So this snow won’t melt. And the coughing won’t stop. And the truck won’t start. But I watch wild geese soar over my house every afternoon. And I can hear the creek from our back deck. And you should see my bookshelves. And one of my oldest friends came last night with coffee and porters and music, and stayed until late this afternoon. While the boy napped we slurped potato leek soup and talked of summer music, and new apartments, and work, and the lonely wonder of parenthood. Also I’m sleeping again.

And these grapes! Maybe if you make them your mind too will begin to slow and steady. I think they might be magic like that.

Slow Roasted Grapes

I think this method comes from All About Roasting, by Molly Stevens. It certainly has her stamp of sweet simple genius. I don’t have the book, though; I first ate these at my parents’ table in North Carolina sometime last year as part of a perfect ploughman’s lunch along with cheese, pickles, cold roast chicken, and sesame crackers. Sometimes I think if I could only eat one meal ever, over and over again for the rest of my life, it would be a ploughman’s lunch.

I’d never thought to roast grapes before but now that I know, I won’t ever stop. They are just, gosh, perfect. Jammy and forward and every good thing. Some of them caramelize a bit and you really might moan when you get one of those. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

You should really try these with cheese, and they’re excellent with roasted meats. But I imagine they’d also be good on oatmeal, or stirred into yogurt, or on top of ice cream, or maybe with a bit of whipped cream and pound cake, with some strong coffee to cut the sweetness.

1 pound seedless grapes
2 tablespoons olive oil or melted butter

Preheat the oven to 250°F/120°C. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the grapes with the olive oil or butter, spread on the baking sheet, and bake for two to two and half hours.


Sweet Annie/Artemisia annua. February 2013, Virginia.

Sweet Annie/Artemisia annua. February 2013, Virginia.

So grateful for this practice of noticing and remembering some really delicious stuff, here in the thick of the move. For National Margarita Day on Friday, which brought joy to my packing, and for our whole grain waffles the next morning, which brought joy to my belly. For a child who called out gleefully from the backseat, “Turn that up, Mama!!” when this came on the radio, and then “Dance, Mama!!” when I was too still at the wheel. For a fantastic coffee date where we really did fit in a fair amount of adult conversation, even with our little ones at our sides. For the moment when I showed myself a little compassion and tossed the dry lumps of whole wheat tortilla dough into the pig scraps bucket and pulled out the tub of white flour. (I still want to talk about my seemingly Sisyphean efforts to find the perfect whole grain tortilla recipe – but not today.) For last night’s riff on our favorite new one dish meal: baked bratwurst with cabbage, carrots, and sweet potatoes, inspired by Dinner: A Love Story. For Connie Britton. For sleeping in. For this berried breakfast cobbler (two suggestions: top it with yogurt thinned with juice from the orange you’ve zested, per the recipe, and use salted butter – it does something amazing to the crust), and for the wee boy who did all the measuring and mixing himself. For the blue skies and blinding sun, and for the coffee I drank while the boy dug in the dirt and (ahem) threw dirt at the chickens. For a long midday snuggle with an under-the-weather bub who needed his mama.

And for this:


Touched by your goodness, I am like
that grand piano we found one night on Willoughby
that someone had smashed and somehow
heaved through an open window.

And you might think by this I mean I’m broken
or abandoned, or unloved. Truth is, I don’t
know exactly what I am, any more
than the wreckage in the alley knows
it’s a piano, filling with trash and yellow leaves.

Maybe I’m all that’s left of what I was.
But touching me, I know, you are the good
breeze blowing across its rusted strings.

What would you call that feeling when the wood,
even with its cracked harp, starts to sing?

Patrick Phillips

(joining Amanda at The Habit of Being)

Sally Schneider’s Close-Roasted Pork with Ancho, Cinnamon, and Cocoa

December 2012, North Carolina.

December 2012, North Carolina.

Was it the way it felt to unfold ourselves from that long and rainy drive? Was it easing into that warm and laughing kitchen? Was it knowing that we’d granted ourselves leave, for one sweet week, to put all our complicated feelings about leaving our farm on a back burner? Was it because the roast came from our own pigs, raised outside in the sunshine and fresh air, with lots of room to run and root and plenty of good vegetable scraps and cracked eggs? Was it because we didn’t have to cook? Was it that long slow cooking is pretty much always the answer to our woes?

I can’t say for sure. But this slow roasted pork is one of the best things I have ever eaten.

Close-Roasted Pork with Ancho, Cinnamon, and Cocoa
from The Improvisational Cook, © 2006 Sally Schneider

This is really nice alongside some hearty rice and beans, and although I haven’t tried it yet, I am sure it would be phenomenal in a taco or burrito. You could also feed a lot more people with it that way. I can’t wait to try it that way this spring with some of our own cilantro, and maybe some avocado too. Oh, or how about shredded into a salad with lettuce, grapes or apples, chopped toasted walnuts, and maybe even some thinly sliced fennel if you have it?

In the original headnote for this recipe, Sally Schneider remarks that this is perfect for a dinner party because it’s so little work and it can be cooked ahead of time. True. But she also says it can feed eight people. If you’re not feeding ravenous farmers, and if you also have some fantastic sides on the table, that might be true too. But maybe double the recipe, if you can afford to. Because this stuff is INSANE.

Boston butt is the obvious choice for this recipe, but a picnic roast would also work well. The farmer’s wife in me feels compelled to encourage you not to neglect cuts of meat that are unfamiliar to you. After all, a pig is not made of bacon and ribs alone! The sooner you help your farmers work down their inventory, the sooner you get more bacon.

Another note: This is not my recipe. I am adapting it scarcely at all from the way it was originally written, since I didn’t make it myself and can’t speak to the process. I have not (yet) gotten permission to reprint this recipe, so I’m linking to the Amazon page for the book rather than my normal link to Goodreads. Sally Schneider’s books are wonderful and something pretty out of the ordinary – really highly recommended.

2 1/2 tablespoons Mole-Inspired Seasoning with Ancho, Cinnamon, and Cocoa (recipe below)
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
About 3 1/2 pounds bone-in pork shoulder (try Boston butt or a picnic roast)
1 head of garlic, broken into cloves but not peeled

1. Season the meat. In a small bowl, combine the mole seasoning, salt, and sugar. Rub all over the pork shoulder and place on a plate. Marinate for 1 hour unrefrigerated, or 2 to 24 hours refrigerated.

2. Prepare the meat for roasting. Preheat the oven to 275°F. Place the pork in a Dutch oven or deep-lidded roaster just big enough to hold the roast snugly. Scatter the garlic cloves around the roast. Place a large piece of aluminum foil over the pot, then press the lid down securely. Alternatively, wrap the meat in a tightly sealed foil package (make sure the seam is at the top so the juices don’t leak out) and place the package in an ovenproof skillet or casserole.

3. Roast the meat. Roast the pork until very tender and practically falling apart, 3 3/4 to 4 hours. Transfer the roast to a platter and cover with foil.

4. Defat the roasting juices. Pour the juices into a sauceboat and place in the freezer for 10 minutes. Spoon off the fat that has risen to the top.

5. Serve the meat. Pull the meat apart with two forks or your hands. Pour some of the juices over and pass the rest. Save any remaining juices for heating up leftovers.

Mole-Inspired Seasoning with Ancho, Cinnamon, and Cocoa
makes about 1/3 cup

In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons ancho chile powder or sweet pimentón de la Vera (smoked Spanish paprika), 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano.

Virginia, June 2012.

Virginia, June 2012.