Test Kitchen Tuesday: Pork Chops & Collard Greens

One benefit of belonging to a CSA is that you learn to cook with foods you wouldn’t normally buy. Jake and I get local New England produce through Boston Organics, so tonight I used the contents of our weekly delivery to make collards (with bacon, of course). Keeping with the southern theme, I used my cast iron pan to cook up some caramel apple pork chops with the extra tart apples in our delivery. I liked the collards more than I thought I would, having never made them before, and the pork chops will definitely make it to our regular fall rotation!

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Working for the weekend

What an awesome weekend! We kicked off Thursday night by driving up to Portland, Maine to see the Avett Brothers at The State Theater (fantastic small venue) and celebrate Jake’s brother’s birthday. This is a clip from the show that we went to. We stood right behind this person:

That would have made for a great weekend on its own, but then Friday we went to see the Red Sox which is always awesome. We won.

Pedroia wasn’t having a great game but I still love him. Seriously, how cute?

Saturday Jake went to the American Craft Beer Festival with the boys and I went to the MFA to scope out a Japanese print collection – it was well worth the trip. Jake got me a membership to the MFA for Christmas last year so it is nice to be able to go whenever I like.

We met up after and had a few beers at the Whiskey Priest on the harbor downtown and then found an authentic Chinese Restaurant in China Town for dinner that was out of this world. They had tanks of live(ish) fish, prawns, eel and crab and we couldn’t read half of the menu because it was written in Chinese. Great find! David, Lisa and their friend met us out and we had a ball over garlic chicken followed by dark and stormies.

Sunday was relaxing. We tried a new restaurant for brunch, which was an experience. Service was OK but the kitchen was in the weeds so our food took 2 hours. It was wonderful when it came though, and we got free mimosas while we waited so I guess I can’t complain. We had a ton of food, too. Kobe sliders with fried quail eggs, skirt steak tacos, truffled fries and a red velvet pancake. Mmmm…

All in all, an amazing Boston weekend! I’ll leave you with one more Avett Brother’s video from our show, just because they are so good. Enjoy!

Get the grill going

Here’s a few photos I shot for work this week. I’m so thankful that summer weather has finally made its way up to New England – perfect grilling weather.

Cedar plank salmon with blueberry horseradish BBQ sauce.

BLUEBERRY HORSERADISH BBQ SAUCE:

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs Olive Oil
  • 1/3 cup Vidalia Onion – finely chopped
  • 1 tbs Dijon Mustard
  • 2 tsp Thyme – dried
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • ¾ cup Cider Vinegar
  • 1/3 cup Ketchup
  • 1 tbs Horseradish
  • 2 cups Blueberries – fresh or frozen
  • 2 tbs Lemon Juice
  • 1.5 tbs Tamari
  • 1 tsp Crushed Red Chili Flakes
  • ¼ tsp Garlic – granulated
  • ½ tsp Chili Powder
  • ¼ tsp  Black Pepper
  • Dash Sea Salt

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a heavy saucepan until just smoking.
  2. Add onions and sauté until golden brown and softened, about 6-8 minutes.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well with a whisk.
  4. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 10 minutes until slightly reduced and the blueberries have popped open.
  5. Remove pan from heat. Using a hand blender carefully puree the mixture until smooth.
  6. Season with salt to taste.
  7. Cool completely in a separate container, keep refrigerated until use.

What I’m Reading: The Help

I just finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett and I LOVED it. The story is about a pair of housemaids in Mississippi during the 1960s and their brave attempt to take a stand against racism with the help of a young progressive white woman. It had the potential to be a pretty depressing book given the social “norm” of the time, but it is written beautifully in their three different voices so you can feel the frustrations and triumphs of the maids. It offers some of the best character development I’ve read in a very long time. Although it isn’t all rainbows and kittens, it paints a realistic portrait of life in the south at that time and leaves you with a lot to think about.

I accidentally left the book in Charleston last weekend and I wanted to finish it so badly that I bought another copy in the airport so I wouldn’t have to wait a week to read the last 50 pages. It’s that good!

The best birthday surprise – Jenny!

One of my very best girlfriends, Jenny, surprised me the weekend after my birthday by flying up to Boston! I had no idea she was coming and couldn’t have been happier to see her. We had a fantastic weekend of getting our nails done, going to the Museum of Fine Art for the Chihuly exhibit, watching the Derby and lots of eating and drinking our way around the city. Here’s just a snippet of a very full weekend.

Love you, Bear! And thanks to Jake, Aaron and Craige for organizing the best birthday surprise ever!

Adventures in baking

I had the brilliant idea to make an apple pie and buttermilk biscuits from scratch for Easter. Not as easy as I thought, turns out. Jake was a big help though and both turned out deliciously!

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PIE CRUST:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, chilled
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/3 cup ice water

Directions

  1. Combine flour and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer. Cut butter or margarine or butter and shortening into tablespoon pieces; add it to the flour and butter. Use the paddle beater to cut the butter and flour together. Alternatively, this can be done by hand with a pastry blender.
  2. With the mixer on low speed , or while stirring the mixture with a fork, pour in the cold water. When the dough starts to clump, and before it turns into a ball, stop stirring.
  3. Lightly knead dough in the bowl until it forms a ball. Divide dough into two parts. Flatten each part into a disk, and chill for about 30 minutes before rolling.

PIE FILLING:

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 8 Granny Smith apples – peeled, cored and sliced

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a sauce pan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add white sugar, brown sugar and water; bring to a boil. Reduce temperature, and simmer 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Cover with a lattice work crust. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off.
  3. Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes.

Strawberries, Spring Rolls & Soup-bread

Another in-house photo shoot I did for work – delicious, light spring foods that we devoured after the shoot!

Strawberry and spinach/mixed green salad with crumbled goat cheese, bacon, red onion and balsamic vinaigrette (I’d add almonds if I made it at home, but we’re a nut-free facility so we couldn’t add them here)

Kid-friendly spring rolls with grilled chicken, pineapple, carrot, lettuce, green onion and rice noodles served with sweet chili sauce

Cornbread made with Kettle Cuisine Chicken Tortilla Soup (This photo is for the newsletter, so the blank space on the right will be covered with the recipe)