Braised Pork Shoulder (Ragu) with Fennel and Mushrooms

Watch me make this on my YouTube Channel!

Yield: 6 servings

2 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1½ inch cubes

1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced medium

3 celery stalks, diced medium

4 large carrots, peeled and diced medium

1 medium fennel bulb, end trimmed and diced medium

1 pound baby bella mushrooms, quartered

2 tablespoons tomato paste (preferably double concentrate)

10 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped roughly

1/8 teaspoon crushed red (chili) flakes

1 tablespoon toasted whole fennel seed

1 cup red wine (red zinfandel or cabernet sauvignon)

2 cups chicken stock

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 cup water

2 dried bay leaves

7 sprigs fresh thyme

3 (4-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary

3 (4-inch) sprigs fresh oregano

4 teaspoons soy sauce

4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Ragu Base: pasta, polenta, gnocchi (your choice!)

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, not pre grated

Season the pork (cubes) all over with the salt and pepper.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle-lower position and preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Open a few windows and/or turn on the oven hood/fan; it might get a little smoky!

Heat a heavy 5.5 quart Dutch oven over medium-high until hot, then add 1 tablespoon oil. It will most likely start to smoke. Evenly distribute the pork and brown on all sides, about 1 minute per side. (Work in batches if need be to not overcrowd the pan) Transfer the pork to a medium bowl. (You should have about 2 tablespoons of oil left in the Dutch oven. If not, add some extra-virgin oil to make up the difference.)

Add the onion, celery, carrots, fennel and mushrooms. Stir, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add the tomato paste, garlic, chili flakes and toasted fennel seed. Stir. Cook uncovered for approximately 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid has thickened.

Add the wine and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula, loosening up any brown bits stuck to the sides and bottom of the pan. Cook for 5 minutes more; it will begin to thicken and you will see large bubbles.

Stir in the stock, tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, oregano, soy sauce, Worcestershire, sugar and pork with any of its juices left in the bowl.

Bring the Dutch oven to a simmer throughout (not just the sides), cover partially (opening the lid about an 1-inch) and transfer to the oven. Cook for 90 minutes, stirring once after 45 minutes, until the pork is tender and can be easily shredded with a fork.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes, covered (lid on fully). Remove the pork and transfer to a large bowl. Shred the pork with two forks. Discard the bay leaves, thyme sprigs, rosemary and oregano. Return the pork to the Dutch oven. Stir and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle pork ragu over pasta, polenta or gnocchi. Top with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Rosemary Garlic Tomato Confit

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Rosemary Garlic Tomato Confit

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, crushed, skins discarded
1 (3-inch) sprig fresh rosemary
2 dried bay leaves
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved

In a medium sauce pan over low heat, combine the olive oil, garlic, rosemary and bay leaves. Mix until well coated and cook until just beginning to bubble. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes collapse. Discard the rosemary and bay leaves before serving.

Add confit to pasta or serve over toasted bread.

Note: If you enjoy a little heat, add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the confit to spice things up!

 

 

Summer Heirloom Tomato Tart with Fresh Herbs

tomato tart

Yields: 1 (15- by 10-inch tart), 12 pieces

 

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

All-purpose flour (for dusting)

½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

¾ cup freshly grated Emmental or Gruyere cheese

freshly ground black pepper

1 whole egg

1 tablespoon water

1 pound ripe heirloom tomatoes, preferably assorted colors (about 4 small), sliced ¼-inch thick

2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh herbs, such as oregano, thyme and marjoram

zest of one small lemon (zested on a Microplane)

salt flakes, preferably Maldon or Jacobsen sea salt, to taste

2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil leaves

 

Arrange an oven rack in the upper middle position. Place an inverted sheet tray on the rack. Preheat oven (and sheet tray) to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll out puff pastry on a sheet of lightly floured parchment paper in the shape of a large rectangle measuring about 15- by 10-inches. Prick pastry with a fork in a few places, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges, then slide parchment paper onto a second inverted sheet tray.

Brush the ½ tablespoon of olive oil on the pastry dough, staying within the 1-inch border and sprinkle over the cheese and some freshly ground black pepper.

Whisk together egg and water to make an egg wash. Brush egg wash on the edges of the pastry (the 1-inch border).

Arrange tomatoes on top of the oiled portion, overlapping a little if necessary.

Season the tomatoes with the 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs and the lemon zest.

Carefully slide parchment off of the sheet tray and onto the hot sheet tray in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the inverted sheet tray 180 degrees. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until the edges of the pastry are golden brown and puffed up.

Let tart cool for 10 minutes before cutting into 12 pieces.

Before serving, sprinkle over a generous bit of salt, top with chopped basil and drizzle over some extra-virgin olive oil.

Halibut Ceviche with Tomato Gazpacho

Halibut Ceviche

Photo by Andrew Grinton

Strike this recipe while the tomatoes are overflowing at your local farmers market or in your very own backyard garden! (P.S. This recipe was recently featured in Clean Eating Magazine!)

 

Yield: 4 servings

Gazpacho

½ pound small cucumbers (Persian or Japanese) (approximately 2 cucumbers) peeled and chopped roughly

½ large red bell pepper (¼ pound), seeded and chopped roughly (reserve other half for ceviche)

2 pounds red tomatoes (approximately 7 medium tomatoes), cored and chopped roughly

1-ounce shallot (1 medium shallot), peeled and quartered

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

 

Add all the above ingredients to a blender, except the olive oil.

Blend until smooth. With blender on low, stream in the olive oil until combined.

Taste and adjust salt as needed.

Refrigerate until ceviche is ready to be served. Stir or re-blend briefly before serving.

 

Ceviche

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

¾ cup freshly squeezed lime juice

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 small jalapeno (.75-ounces), seeded, deveined and diced small (1½ tablespoons)

1 pound skinless halibut, diced into ¼-inch cubes (Use Seafood Watch to select halibut)

½ large red bell pepper (¼ pound), seeded and diced small (½ cup) (reserved from gazpacho)

1 scallion, thinly sliced (¼ cup)

¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup + 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

 

Combine lemon juice, lime juice, salt and jalapeno in a small bowl. Stir to combine. Add halibut and mix thoroughly.

Using the back of a spoon, level the halibut off so it is pressed down in the liquid. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap directly atop the fish in the bowl.

Refrigerate for 8 minutes.

Remove plastic wrap and stir. Using the back of a spoon, re-level the halibut off so it is pressed down in the liquid. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap directly atop the fish in the bowl.

Refrigerate for an additional 8 minutes. The halibut should be opaque and white in color.

Drain the mixture in a colander and return it to the original small bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir well to combine. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper and serve immediately.

To serve, pour 1¼ cups of the gazpacho in a shallow bowl. Then, mound ¾ cup of the halibut ceviche in the center of the bowl.

Tomato and Avocado Salad with Pearl Barley and Mustard Vinaigrette

Tomato and Avocado Salad with Pearl Barley and Mustard Vinaigrette

tomato and avo barley

Yield: 2 to 3 servings

 

For Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 small shallot, peeled and diced finely, approximately 2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

Whisk to combine the ingredients in a large bowl.

 

For Salad

2 cups cooked pearl barley

1/3 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

3 small Persian cucumbers, diced small

20 small cherry tomatoes, multi-colored if possible, halved

1 large avocado, pit removed and diced small

 

Add barley and parsley to the large bowl with vinaigrette. Mix.

Combine the rest of the salad ingredients and fold together gently. Divide into bowls and serve.

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes with Fresh Thyme and Garlic

Chef Nathan Lyon Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes with Fresh Thyme and Garlic

These sweet snackable tomatoes are worth the wait of the roasting time. Top them over a piece of fish, chicken or bowl of pasta or simply eat them straight out of a bowl!

Yield: 2 cups

 

2 pounds cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 head garlic, separated into cloves, unpeeled

1½ tablespoons roughly chopped fresh thyme

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

 

1.Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, then preheat the oven to 225ºF.

 

  1. Place the tomato halves, flesh-side up, and all of the garlic cloves on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan. Season the tomatoes evenly with the thyme, salt, and pepper and drizzle over the olive oil.

 

  1. Roast in the oven, uncovered, until lightly colored, soft and slightly collapsed, around 3½ hours… or more. The total roasting time will depend upon the size of the tomato used.
  2. Remove from the oven. Squeeze each garlic clove to remove the sweet, soft insides, and add to the tomatoes. Serve and enjoy.

 

Note:  When roasting for long periods of time, keeping skins on the garlic allows them to steam in their skins and remain sweet, whereas peeled garlic can get bitter. Any leftover tomatoes, garlic, and oil can be transferred into a container, topped off with more olive oil, and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Strawberry Tomato Gazpacho

It’s summer which means tomatoes and strawberries are starting to overflow farmers market stands (among other delicious fruits). Summer also means plenty of potlucks, parties and, of course, delicious July 4th celebrations.

Super Sous and I have come up with the perfect dish for your summer events (whether that means dinner for 2 or 20!). It’s not only easy to make, refreshing and cooling, it’s another in our series of Drought Friendly Recipes, which makes it a win-win!

It’s also quite a stunner and… no oven needed.

Strawberry Gazpacho - Strawberries

Hulled Strawberries

Strawberry Gazpacho - Tomatoes

Ripe Red and Yellow Tomatoes

Strawberry Gazpacho - Overhead

Strawberry Tomato Gazpacho

Yield: 6 cups

 

2 pounds strawberries, hulled

1 pound ripe red tomatoes, quartered

1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced large

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons grapeseed oil, divided

½ teaspoon red wine vinegar

6 drops chipotle Tabasco sauce (or your favorite hot sauce)

1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste

2 small shallots, peeled and diced small

4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1/3 pound yellow tomatoes, diced small

30 small fresh basil leaves, plus more to taste

18 basil flowers, optional

 

Add the strawberries, tomatoes, red bell pepper, 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, red wine vinegar, chipotle Tabasco, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper to a blender.

Beginning with the slowest speed, blend until a smooth consistency is achieved. Strain through a fine mesh colander into a bowl, pressing the liquid against the mesh with the back of a rubber spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Stir to combine the diced shallot and the balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Let rest, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, stir in the 2 remaining teaspoons grapeseed oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper and the diced yellow tomato.

When ready to serve, remove the soup from the refrigerator and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon the soup into bowls, top with a spoonful of the shallot/yellow tomato vinaigrette and garnish with basil leaves and flowers.

Drought Friendly Eggless Shakshuka

On March 18, Super Sous and I posted a blog about the California Drought and how it affects the entire United States via the food grown in California (50% of California fruits and veggies are exported across the US – not just to grocery stores, but to restaurants, institutions, hospitals, schools, etc.).

Another thing that we mentioned in the blog post, is that we (Super Sous and I) have decided to create some “Drought Friendly Recipes”. Since 74% of all water in California is used for agriculture, our idea is that we can incorporate foods into our day-to-day lives that have a lower water footprint (than others).

For example, if the Water Footprint Organization says (global average) that it takes 28 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of lettuce, this might be a better drought friendly food choice than, say, eating a pound of figs which they slate at 401 gallons of water per pound.

Of course, figs and lettuce have different nutritional properties (and you are probably not going to eat a pound of either in one sitting!), but these drought friendly recipes aren’t about completely re-arranging your diet or skipping out on the nutrients you need. It’s about being aware of the drought and what each of us can do to conserve our precious water. If we can substitute a “water heavy” meal (like beef which is calculated to take anywhere between 1500 to 2000 gallons of water per pound), for a drought friendly recipe even once a week, it will make a difference in terms of conservation. (Fun fact: Did you know that 1 pound of goat meat takes only 127 gallons of water to produce?)

Now, this is not a perfect science/water calculation and we know it.

This is about having a conversation about the drought and dialoguing about conservation and solutions.

Our first “Drought Friendly” recipe is an Eggless Shakshuka. Shakshuka is a North African egg dish with tomatoes, onions and spices. Here, Super Sous and I substitute eggs with goat cheese and avocado. You can add both goat cheese and avocado or choose one or the other. Whatever you like best.

1 egg is cited by National Geographic to require 53 gallons of water to produce, whereas 1 pound of avocados (2-3 avocados) takes  237 gallons. Shakshuka would normally call for 6 eggs. So, this dish, (eggs alone) would take 317 gallons of water to produce. The 1 avocado used is 1/3 of that. And whereas a typical American breakfast might be eggs and bacon breakfast or a cup of greek yogurt or grabbing something on the go, this is a great alternative.

Since I began on my culinary journey, from learning how to garden with my grandparents as a child to working at farmers markets for over 10 years to cooking on television, I have always told people to shop locally as much as possible. Go to farmers markets, shop in season and support your local farmer, when you can. If you live outside of California, for example in Virginia where I’m from, and you are buying all of your meat and produce locally, and you are cooking all your meals at home, then wow! you are amazing and Super Sous I want to come over for dinner! But seriously, if you are able to do such a thing, than these recipes will be more food for thought than drought friendly conservation efforts. However, most of us don’t cook every meal at home. And most people don’t shop solely at farmers market nor even have that option depending on where in the country we live and what time of year it is. So, there’s a good chance you are shopping at grocery stores and eating at restaurants that are using California produce.

The last thing I want to mention is about food waste. This recipe calls for beet greens. There are so many recipes for beets out there, but less so for beet greens (although they are so tasty). Super Sous and I want to utilize as much as possible of the fruit and/or vegetable we are cooking with. 40% of all food goes to waste in the United States which translates to trillions of lost gallons of water. No need to discard the beet greens next time you grab a bunch of beets – here’s a great way to enjoy them.

Finally, Super Sous and I would love to hear from you. Comments, questions, thoughts, ideas, etc. Like I wrote, this is not an exact science or a strict dietary plan or about restricting your meals or nutritional needs. This is about a conversation that needs to be happening a lot more.

So, let’s gather around the communal table and discuss. I’ll bring the bread, you bring the shakshuka.

Shakshuka Goat Cheese

Shakshuka with goat cheese only

Shakshuka Goat and Avocado

Shakshuka with goat cheese and avocado

Drought Friendly Eggless Shakshuka

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced medium (1½ cups)

10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (3 tablespoons)

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika

¼ teaspoon crushed red chile pepper (chile flakes)

2 cups roughly chopped beet greens, rinsed but not dried

2 large fire-roasted red bell peppers, diced medium

1 (28-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 small avocado, pitted and sliced

3 tablespoons fresh goat cheese (chevre)

20 fresh cilantro leaves

1 baguette, sliced into large pieces

Place a large sauté pan over medium-low heat and add oil, onion and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add garlic, cumin, paprika and chile flakes. Stir and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add beet greens and stir. The remaining moisture from rinsing the greens will release any brown bits from the bottom of the sauté pan. Continue cooking and stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, until the greens have softened.

Add the peppers, tomatoes and black pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for approximately 10 minutes, until the liquid has thickened slightly.

Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Remove from heat.

Arrange slices of avocado and dollops of goat cheese on the shakshuka. Sprinkle over fresh cilantro.

Serve on plates with a slice of fresh baguette.

Spiced Roasted Eggplant Tomato Soup with Fresh Goat Cheese

Since it’s cooling down in some places (certainly not in Los Angeles!), here’s one for a crisp afternoon or cold evening – using the end of summer eggplants from  your local farmers market.

Spiced Roast Eggplant Tomato Soup

Spiced Roasted Eggplant Tomato Soup with Fresh Goat Cheese

Yield: 8 servings

1 large Italian eggplant, peeled and diced medium (approximately 7 to 8 cups)

7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling

½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

2 large yellow onions, peeled and diced small (3 cups)

6 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped roughly (2 tablespoons)

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme

¾ teaspoon garam masala

⅛ teaspoon crushed red chile pepper (chile flakes), or to taste

1 dried bay leaf

1 teaspoon ground paprika

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained, preferably fire-roasted

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

Fresh Goat Cheese/Chevre, for serving

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, then preheat the oven to 450ºF.

In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with 3 tablespoons olive oil, and season well with some salt and pepper.

Lay the eggplants in a single layer on two sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Place into the oven, and roast, uncovered, until lightly colored, approximately 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes.

Add 4 tablespoons olive oil and the onions to a small pot over medium heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent.

Stir in the garlic, thyme, garam masala, chile flakes, bay leaf, and paprika, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute

Pour in the tomatoes and stock and add the salt and pepper.

Turn the heat to high, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Check the eggplants; if they are lightly colored, remove them from the oven.

Add the eggplants and the stock to the tomato mixture and stir. Increase the heat to high and bring to a simmer.

Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf.

Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.

Add lemon juice, a healthy pinch of salt, and a few really good grinds of pepper. Blend once more. Taste and adjust seasoning once more with additional lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Serve in soup bowls with a drizzle of olive oil, a little goat cheese, and a sprinkling of the chopped parsley and mint.

Pan-Roasted Okra with Fresh Corn and Fire Roasted Tomatoes

Okra is still popping up at the farmers market and, for all my Southern and die hard okra friends, what’s summer without okra and tomatoes?!

Pan Roasted Okra with Fresh Corn

Pan-Roasted Okra with Fresh Corn and Fire Roasted Tomatoes

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

 

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ pound of okra, cut in half lengthwise

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground fennel

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

1 cup fresh corn kernels

1 14.5-ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes

½ cup water

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

1½ teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar

kosher salt, to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

¼ cup plain greek yogurt

 

In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, add the butter. After approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute, the butter will foam up, and then subside. Following that, the butter will begin to turn golden brown. (Yay!)

Once the butter is brown, add the okra and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the okra starts to caramelize.

Add the cumin, fennel and garlic. Stir and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

Add the corn. Cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes and water. Stir occasionally and cook until the liquid begins to thicken, approximately 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and add the thyme, mint, basil and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve in bowls with a dollop of Greek yogurt atop each serving.