Clams, Dandelion Greens & Hog Jowl

This past weekend’s chilly temperature notwithstanding, Monday’s visit to the Union Square Greenmarket suggests that spring is here to stay. I picked up more young collard greens (color me obsessed), chives, carrots, mint, ramps and dandelion greens. Last night, having worked late, I dined on sautéed collard tacos augmented by half an avocado that had miraculously stayed fresh while I was out of town for a long weekend. Tonight I departed work on time, leaving me with the energy/blood sugar level to swing by my local sustainable seafood shop for a dozen littleneck clams. Half an hour later, dinner was served.

Clams, Dandelion Greens & Hog Jowl

  • 1 ounce hog jowl (or bacon), finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 12 littleneck clams
  • 1 bunch dandelion greens
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper

Bring a medium-sized pot with a good fitting lid up to medium heat. Add the hog jowl and olive oil and cook stirring occasionally until the pork is partially rendered. Add the onion and continue to cook stirring occasionally until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook stirring constantly for two more minutes. Add the wine, raise the heat to high, and add the clams. Cook with the lid on for 10 minutes or so, stirring once or twice, until all of your clams have popped open. Stir in the dandelion greens in batches and cook until just wilted. Add the lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste.

Watching the clams give way to your bubbling broth is mighty relaxing–particularly if you do so with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in hand.

This would make a killer sauce for linguine. Given that I was cooking for one, I went with a piece of grilled whole wheat sourdough, which did a fine job of soaking up the luscious broth.

Steamed Clams with Dandelion Greens and Hog Jowl

Smoky Creamy Field Peas

I just returned from a truly epic road trip down South. It’s going to take me a minute to put the whole thing down in writing, but suffice it to say that one of the many highlights was consuming five different specimens of pulled/chopped pork in 24 hours. Of all the fine swine that we consumed, the winner by unanimous decision was the unsuspecting plastic-wrapped BBQ sandwich from Cooper’s Country Store in Salter, South Carolina.

Cooper's Country Store

Cooper’s is a classic combination gas station and country store that I suspect hasn’t changed much since it was built at a country crossroads in 1937. Mercifully, they do take credit cards, so we were free to stock up on Blenheim’s ginger ale, locally ground grits, field peas, and all manners of pork. My traveling companions couldn’t resist the lure of the country hams that were curing behind screens. Being a single gal who lives in 600 square feet, I limited myself to several pounds of bacon and smoked ham ends, which would make excellent seasoning meat.

Cooper's Counter

But back to that sandwich. It came on an ordinary enough white hamburger bun. No slaw. No dripping sauce. Just pulled pork meat (whole-hog, as is de rigueur in South Carolina) that was smoky but not overpoweringly so, assertively vinegary, a good bit spicy, and just the tiniest bit sweet. This was the barbecue of our collective dreams.

BBQ Sandwich

Three days later, I found myself back in Brooklyn, catching up on real life. After 36 hours of kale salad, haricot vert and sushi, I was feeling recovered and even a bit nostalgic. The field peas that had made it out of my backpack but not into the cupboard were calling out to me. And, of course, there was that seasoning meat.

Field Peas

Smoky Creamy Field Peas

  • 1 pound dried field peas, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 large hunk seasoning meat (approximately the size of a deck of cards), sliced – bacon ends, ham trimmings, salt pork, or what have you
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 2 carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
  • 3 peeled and halved garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • dried chilis, fresh chilis and/or red pepper flakes
  • 2 or more tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, minced 
  • salt and pepper
  • hot sauce (optional)
  1. Fill a large dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot up halfway with water. Add the seasoning meat, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay, thyme and chilis. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add your peas and let simmer partly covered for approximately 45 minutes or until tender but not falling apart.
  2. Remove and discard the veggies and herbs. Pull out the seasoning meat and dice into small pieces. Unless you are feeding a crowd, remove a pint of the peas and most of the cooking liquid, reserving for future use. (Beans freeze brilliantly.) Scoop another pint into your food processor with a bit of the liquid and let run until they form a paste.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar. Taste your beans and adjust seasoning with salt, black pepper, more vinegar, and a little hot sauce of your choice. (If you used country ham ends like I did, you may even be able to forgo any additional salt.) If needed, add back a bit of your cooking liquid.
  4. Add butter to a small skillet over medium heat and sauté the bell pepper until just soft. Stir this into your beans along with the parsley and remove from heat.

Field peas are traditionally served over long-grain Carolina rice. But, if you happen to have a pot of kale and mustard greens slow cooked with some more of that seasoning meat, that would do fine too.

Field Peas and Greens

Working (Wo)man’s Cassoulet

Last week was a doozy. I worked late on Friday and arrived home in need of some whiskey and a comforting meal–in that order. Fortunately, the night before I’d thought to defrost some of Lewis Waite Farm‘s most excellent kielbasa and soak some flageolet.

Flageolet

Flageolet are a lovely pale green bean used in rustic French cooking, including cassoulet. I had a classic cassoulet once and it was delicious. Saveur’s recipe calls for duck fat, ham hocks, pork shoulder, pancetta, duck confit legs and pork sausage (that last one being optional) and, by my rough estimate, takes about eight hours. While I am not averse to spending an entire day cooking, eating such a heavy meal at 4:00am seemed ill-advised. The recipe below will yield a rich, comforting meal for a crowd in under two hours.

Working (Wo)man’s Cassoulet

  • 1 pound flageolet, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons pork fat (or olive oil)
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
  • 1 healthy pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 quart concentrated pork stock (See Going Whole Hog for the recipe. Chicken stock would also suffice, though I might throw a little bacon in at the beginning.)
  • 1 pound kielbasa, thinly sliced
  • 1 very large carrot, cut into small cubes
  • 1 very large daikon radish, cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 300.
  2. Melt a tablespoon of pork fat in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft. Add the garlic, tomato paste, herbs, and red pepper flakes. Sauté for another minute. Then add your pork stock plus enough water to cover the beans, turn up the heat to bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.
  3. Melt the other tablespoon of pork fat in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the kielbasa slices in batches, searing on both sides. Dump these in with your beans. Stir in the carrot and radish along with some black pepper.
  4. Pop a lid on your beans and tuck them into the oven for 30 minutes—or until your empty whiskey glass compels you to go back into the kitchen. Take the pot out of the oven and check on your beans. If they aren’t yet tender, let them go a little longer. If they yield easily to your teeth, stir in the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat up to 350 and place back in the oven uncovered for 45 minutes—or until you’re in desperate need of something to soak up the whiskey.

Flageolet with Kielbasa

Going Whole Hog

I live in a 600-square foot apartment. From the front door, you can see straight through my entire home and out the bedroom window. Should you want a little air, it’s two flights up or two flights down. As I type this, I’m watching a neighbor across the alley preparing dinner. (Looks like pasta again.)

My kitchen is small but efficient. I’ve pulled off dinner parties for 12 and a surprisingly rocking baby shower for 30. But there’s no way a whole pig is going into my Easy Bake-esque Ikea oven. Sometimes you have to leave the cooking to professionals.

Last Sunday an intrepid group of friends risked life and limb in the name of pork. With snow and ice coating the ground and another storm on the way, we boarded a northbound train along the Hudson. By the time we made it out of the tunnels, the flakes were coming down hard. We disembarked at Dobbs Ferry into a glittery wonderland and hiked up a steep hill. As we rounded the corner, we caught sight of yellow light spilling out of the lone sign of life. It was The Cookery and we were there for their Pig Dinner.

We warmed up with a round of cocktails before tucking into some delightful swine and wine. The first course was a sunny side up egg atop some luscious braised kale, which was paired with a dry Gewurtzraminer that did a nice job of cutting through the fattiness. The first course was a hit, despite the fact that some in our party were surprised that it was not fried egg and tail.

As they cleared our plates, the wait staff offered sobering instructions. When the lights flickered, we were to clear the way. A few minutes later, the lights flickered and our pig emerged on the largest cutting board I have ever seen. They placed the animal in the center of the table, where the chef made short work of breaking it down into edible parts.

Pig Carving

The pig came with a red wine that escapes me at the moment and some stellar seasonal vegetable dishes. But all eyes were on the succulent meat and the skin, which has taken on a candied quality during a final blast of high heat. We ate with abandon, as if we were desperate to ensure our fair share of the meat. Within 15 minutes, everyone was easing into a pork coma. Turns out eight people are no match for even a modest 35-pound pig.

Pig Carcass

The wait staff left us to contemplate a sparkling Moscato and a surprisingly refreshing maple panna cotta while they divvied up the leftovers. And so, less than two house after arriving in Dobbs Ferry, we found ourselves slip-sliding our way back down the hill, aluminum pans of meat and bones in hand. It is a good thing there are no wild dogs on Metro North. I made it back to Brooklyn around 11:00pm. It had been a long and booze-laden weekend. It was all I could do to shove the meat into the refrigerator and the pork bones into a baggie in the freezer before  climbing into bed.

A few days later, I found myself working from home in a desperate bid to push a couple of grants proposals out by the end of the week. It was a cold and nasty day–at least from what I could glean from my view of the alley and various social media posts. For breakfast, I fried up some of my pig meat with a small onion and added some scrambled eggs for quick and delicious breakfast tacos.

Pork Breakfast Tacos

But my real focus was the bones lurking in my freezer. With a whole day at home, I had time to make some serious bone broth. I threw the bones into a roasting pan and popped it into a 350-degree oven. An hour later, I added a couple of quartered onions plus some roughly chopped and slightly limp root vegetables I found hiding out in the back of the crisper.

Roasted Bones

After another hour, my bones and vegetables had taken on a rich brown color and were ready for the stockpot. I added enough water to cover everything, brought the pot to a boil and then lowered the heat until I had a very slow simmer going. I also threw in a couple of bay leaves and 12 black peppercorns for good measure. My pork stock simmered for eight hours, requiring nothing but an occasional stir and a little more water when the liquid started to get low. Before bed, I strained the liquid into a glass container, let it cool and popped it into the fridge.

Pork Stock

My patience yielded about a quart of unctuous concentrated pork stock. It was the texture of Jell-O and topped by a nice layer of pork fat, which I reserved for a future use. Half of the stock went in the freezer (I’m thinking ramen) and the other half went into a pot of flageolet the next night. More on those later.

Hoppin’ John is Health Food

It is with a heavy heart that I announce that Windflower Farm‘s CSA season has come to a close. The winter season starts in a couple of weeks, so you can look forward to reports on root vegetables, hard squashes, and dark leafy greens.

In preparation for the slow and low cooking that these vegetables imply, I took the opportunity to place one last order for meat from Lewis Waite Farm, which partnered with my CSA for the first time this year. I worked from home this morning so that I could meet an unmarked van full of meat on a street corner near my house. Given that I already had a serious stockpile from my Carnivore Share, I may have gone a bit overboard.

Freezer Full of Meat

I took the afternoon off to catch up on some reading for school. I’m taking Contemporary Issues in Food Studies this semester and spent most of the weekend writing a paper on Taste, Culture and the Production of Cool. This week, we are shifting gears to examine the systems that create and perpetuate global hunger.

And so I find myself reading about the impact of The Green Revolution–which increased crop yields but came with a serious consequences in terms of individual health, the environment, economic equality and overall food security–while simmering a large pot of Hoppin’John chock full of whole grains, humane meat, organic legumes and locally-sourced vegetables.

It’s enough to make your head spin.

Hoppin’ John with Brown Rice and Kale

  • 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
  • 1 smoked ham hock or pork shank
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 whole garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 leek, sliced and rinsed (or an onion)
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers (depending on their heat and your tolerance for heat), minced
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or a sprig of fresh if you have it)
  • 2 bunches lacinato kale or other dark leafy green, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped (optional)
  • apple cider vinegar or vinegar-based hot sauce
  • salt and pepper
  1. Dump the beans into a bowl, add enough water to cover by a few inches, and soak overnight, or for at least six hours.
  2. Cover the hock or shank with water in a large dutch oven. Add bay leaves and garlic and cook at a slow boil for one hour.
  3. Strain and rinse the black-eyed peas, add them to the pot along with a big pinch of salt and continue your slow boil for another 45-75 minutes until the peas are tender but not mushy.
  4. Transfer the pork shank to a cutting board and dispose of the bay leaves. Dump the peas into a bowl, put your pot back over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add your leeks and peppers. Stir occasionally while the vegetables soften, adding thyme after a few minutes. Meanwhile, pull the meat off of the pork bones, chop it up, and add it back to the pot. 
  5. Add a cup of long-grain brown rice, plenty of freshly ground pepper, two cups of the bean liquid, and two cups of water. Taste the broth and add salt if needed. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, put a lid on it, and simmer for 40 minutes or until your rice is tender. 
  6. Stir in the kale, cover and let simmer for an additional 5 minutes. (I like my kale toothsome but, if you prefer more tender greens, add them a little earlier in the cooking process.)
  7. Mix in the parsley and the black-eyed peas, along with enough of their cooking liquid to give the dish a loose consistency. Add more salt and pepper as needed. I like to round out the flavor with a couple of tablespoons of vinegar. If your peppers aren’t as spicy as you might have liked, you can also use a vinegar-based hot sauce to get that tang.

Healthy Hoppin' John

For a little Hoppin’ John history, another tasty recipe featuring black-eyed peas and greens, and a glimpse at my Dollywood pilgrimage, check out A Hoppin’ New Year.

My 15 (or 25) Minutes of Fame

I recently had the opportunity to tape a television show discussing two things I am passionate about: home cooking and abortion access. The Park Slope Food Coop produces The Coop Cooks, a show that airs on Brooklyn Cable Access Television and is now available online. The host, Barbara Kass, invited me on to talk about the New York Abortion Access Fund (NYAAF), a cause that is close to both of our hearts. In fact, Barbara and I first met at NYAAF’s annual bowl-a-thon. The National Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon is an amazing example of grassroots fundraising–and a whole lot of fun. Sometimes as little as $25 separates an individual from accessing abortion services. NYAAF and a network of funds across the country bridge this gap, ensuring that choice is a reality for everyone.

To see me talking shrimp, grits and abortion access, click on the image below.

Coop Cooks Still

Pork, Beans & Greens

I flew home last Tuesday from an intense two-week study trip to New Orleans. OK, there may have been a little fun thrown in there. But, since then, it’s been all about work and school. I spent most of the weekend reading and writing, but I did manage to carve out some time to cook those beautiful yellow eye beans from Cayuga Pure Organics that I picked up last month.

Dried beans may seem intimidating, but they are infinitely better than canned and it’s honestly hard to screw them up. They’re also cheap and a great source of nutrition. Ideally, you soak them overnight, after which they should look something like the photo below. But the quick-soak method is just fine. Add the beans along with enough water to cover them to a pot, bring to a boil over high heat for a few minutes, and then let soak for a couple of hours. Whichever method you choose, be sure to drain them.

Soaked Yellow Eyed Beans

Yellow Eye Bean Stew

  • 1 pound dried yellow eye beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • 6 ounces bacon, roughly cut
  • 3 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 5 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • dried, smoked chili peppers (to taste)
  • 1 pound smoked pork neck bones (A ham hock or even a smoked turkey wing or two would also do the trick.) 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Render the bacon in a large dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and cook until wilted but not yet browned.
  3. Add the celery and carrots and cook for a couple more minutes.
  4. Add the beans, garlic, dried chili peppers, neck bones, bay leaf, and enough water to cover.
  5. Bring to a boil and then let simmer until the beans are tender, about two hours. (If by chance you just tossed in a few peppers from your extensive and unlabeled collection, you might want to taste the broth midway through. If it has already reached that sinus-clearing point but is just shy of bringing tears to your eyes, it’s probably time to remove the chilis.)
  6. Remove the neck bones, strip off any remaining meat, chop roughly, and add back to the pot.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.

BeforePre-Cook

AfterYellow Eyed Beans with Pork

I love me some beans. And I love them even more when they’re served with greens. I cooked these up on Sunday night, took a nice helping over to my neighbors’ apartment, and have been eating the rest throughout the week along with some mustard greens that I had in the fridge.

Last night, I tossed the beans, raw mustard greens, and some cherry tomatoes with an apple cider and whole-grain mustard vinaigrette.

Yellow Eyed Bean and Mustard Green Salad

Tonight, I heated the beans up with some additional water, added the mustard greens, and simmered until they were lightly cooked. A few splashes of a vinegar-based hot sauce was the finishing touch.

Yellow Eyed Bean and Mustard Greens Soup