Aaaaalmost Summer


Ahhh June.  55 degrees and gray skies with a chance of drizzle. Summer solstice is 2 days away, yet I will be wearing my sandals with woolen socks until Seattle’s actual 1st day of summer – July 5. But we bozos who live here, we hang in there, because we know its just about to get reeaaally good. For about 2 weeks.  But its totally worth it, right?  Right?

Anyway, though I would love to be making chopped salads from the garden every day until I turn green from chlorophyll, I am still making hearty dishes to warm me up from the inside.  So here is a recent favorite for all of you who need a little warming up.  It is slightly adapted from one of my favorite cookbook authors, Melissa Clark. She also writes for the NY Times, and her recipes are always right up my alley – straightforward, hearty and mouthwatering good. If you are one of my friends in New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin or pretty much anywhere but the Pacific Northwest, turn up the swamp cooler, put on a hoodie, and preheat your oven.

Braised Pork Shoulder with Tomatoes, Cinnamon and Olives – adapted from Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now

*Serve this with polenta, buttery noodles, or just in a bowl with a spoon

2lbs pork shoulder – cut into 2 inch chunks

Kosher or sea salt

2 TB cooking oil

1 large shallot or 1 small red onion, diced

5 garlic cloves, chopped

2 TB brown sugar

1 – 28oz can diced tomatoes

1 Cup  dry red wine (or use 1/4 cup good balsamic vinegar & 3/4 cup water)

5 anchovies (I don’t care if you don’t like them, put them in)

2 – inch piece cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves

2 big sprigs marjoram or rosemary

2/3 Cup pitten green olives

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Season the pork pieces with about a tablespoon of salt.  In a dutch oven or other heavy pan, warm the oil over medium high heat and sear the pork in batches (don’t crowd the pan man).  Brown on 3 sides, this takes 8-10 minutes. Repeat with the rest of the pork, and transfer pork to a plate as it is done. 

Turn the heat down to medium, add the shallot/onion and garlic to the porky pan and cook, stirring a few times, for 1-2 minutes.  Put the pork back  in the pan and add the sugar, tomatoes, wine, anchovies, cinnamon, bay and marjoram or rosemary.  Cover with a lid or carefully with foil, and put in the oven to cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. 

Remove pan from oven and add the olives.  If you’d like it to be a bit thicker, leave the lid off and simmer over medium heat until it thickens a bit.  It will thicken up as it cools also.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over  polenta, noodles, or eat it from the pot while standing over the stove in your woolen socks in the middle of June.

Naked Pot Sticker Noodles

We recently visited our friends in the Methow Valley, and as always, had a wonderful time cooking dinner together.  I don’t always love cooking with other folks in the kitchen, mainly because I am secretly bossy and impatient.  Shhh.  But somehow when Brooke and I cook together its improvisational and fun and always turns out delicious. 

This time Brooke had all the ingredients for pot stickers and soba noodle salad.  When we ran out of pot sticker wrappers, we just formed that tasty filling into patties and fried them up naked.  It was a lot quicker and makes this dish do-able even on a weeknight when you’re alone in the kitchen.  Do feel free to improvise with the veggies to make this seasonal.  I made it recently with roasted asparagus and leeks (yum!).  Also, do expect your toddler to ask you to deconstruct the “sausage” by removing anything green, yellow, red or non-meat related.

Naked Pot Sticker Noodles – makes 4-6 servings

3 bundles soba noodles (270 grams)

Kosher or sea salt

1/4 Cup minced shallot

2 TB minced ginger

1 Handful cilantro (1/4 C. chopped) plus more to garnish

1 Pound ground pork

1 Teaspoon soy sauce

1 TB brown sugar

1 Egg

Peanut oil (for frying)

4 TB honey

3 TB Lime juice

2 Tsp sriracha (or other asian hot sauce)

2 Tsp soy sauce

2 TB fish sauce

2 Tsp sesame oil

1 large cucumber – sliced or cut into matchsticks

1 large carrot – grated

2 Cups salad greens (spinach, arugula, lettuce, cabbage, etc.)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt and cook the soba noodles according to pkg  directions.  Drain, rinse with cool water and set aside.  Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, combine the shallot, ginger, cilantro, ground pork, 3/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp soy sauce, brown sugar and egg.  Mix with your hands just until all ingredients are well distributed.  Shape the meat into small patties about 2 inches across and 1/2 inch thick or so.  Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat, add a thin layer of peanut oil.  Cook the patties  in batches, about 2 minutes on each side, and set on a paper towel lined plate as they are done.

Mix the honey, lime, sriracha, 2 tsp soy sauce, fish sauce and sesame oil in a small bowl. 

In a large bowl toss the noodles with the cucumber, carrot and greens, then toss with half of the dressing.  Serve the noodles topped with the naked pot sticker patties.  Finish with more cilantro, sriracha and drizzle on some more dressing as you like.