Tag Archives: arugula

Spice-Rubbed Pork Shoulder with Radicchio and Balsamic Vinegar

I made it back from my trip to the East Coast safe and sound and will share my experience after it settles and I’ve had time to savor it all.   In the meantime, I have many recipes to share and ideas for more.  I guess there’s nothing quite like time away to clear my mind and realize again that inspiration lies in unexpected places.  I need time to process that as well which makes me envious of those of you who can seize an idea in no time and move to the next while I’m still mulling over the inkling of my first.  It’s a good thing I enjoy process, I suppose.  What is it they say about the sum of parts being greater than the whole?

That would be me.

Speaking of parts, today a book caught my eye that comes as close to my philosophy about food as I’ve seen.  It’s called Culinary Intelligence:  The Art of Eating Healthy and Really Well.  And no, this isn’t a review, because I haven’t read it yet.  But Barry Esterbrook’s review provides me enough information to agree that flavor above all else is what helped me lose weight earlier this year.  Good, fresh ingredients with excellent flavor always work for me.  Long after I’ve enjoyed something tasty, I think about it and realize the satisfaction of a good meal without having to ingest portions well beyond what someone of my age and size should — or anyone for that matter — is perfect.  Cost comes up in this matter, and it should.  My family roots are meager at best, and so the cost of anything will never be taken lightly.  But I’ve learned that when something is just right, when it satisfies without over indulgence, the memory lingers without having to deal with a full stomach.

It sounds like I’m selling something and that isn’t the case.  I just love it when I find a perspective that makes me feel as if I’m not alone.  Doesn’t everyone?

With that in mind, this recipe for Spice-Rubbed Pork Shoulder with Radicchio and Balsamic Vinegar is so very good.  It’s not a challenge to prepare if you spend some time ahead to prepare the pork — but that’s the best kind of recipe.  Do a bit ahead of time for enjoyment later.

And if you’re not familiar with radicchio, then know that it has a lovely bitter taste to it.  I enjoy bitter “greens” quite a bit, but understand that others don’t.  I usually enjoy radicchio in salads — it adds a different flavor and color.  But if you’re not sure, then use red cabbage instead.  The flavor will not disappoint.

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Roasted Beet Salad with Arugula, Sorrel, and Hazelnuts

I like to think I’ve always enjoyed vegetables — especially those others would prefer didn’t exist, let alone show up on their dinner plates.  The what are those, how does one prepare them, cook, or eat them vegetables.  But my perspective was limited early on by what so many of ours has been:  the availability and affordability of certain types of fresh vegetables as well as what our mothers actually served us.

Which brings me to beets.

The only beet I recall sitting on my dinner plate was a deep magenta slice of somewhat gelatinous matter not too unlike the canned cranberry sauce sliced and served at our holiday turkey dinners.  It was smaller in circumference and served with iceberg lettuce suggesting it was a salad.  My mother might tell me otherwise, but I’d also venture a guess cottage cheese was involved — or something white — and remembering our fridge, know that had to be it.  Creamy, soft goat’s cheese, salty feta, or crumbly cotija would not have been regulars in our cheese drawer which housed my stepfather’s sacred box of Velveeta, a wax-covered package of American cheese slices, and a green can of Kraft Parmesan.

I never learned to enjoy the taste or texture of those beets,  an odd combination of sour and sweet and something I thought should be warm instead of cold.  Years and years would pass before I learned of how one  friend enjoyed them — from jars with spooned sauce drizzled over a homemade chicken pot pie hot from the oven.  I can hear her now singing the dish’s praises with the accent her small town Texas roots provided her, and remember watching the respective juices ooze and mingle across the bowl she served the meal in.

I did not want a bite regardless of how happy she was about the idea and suspect she knew it was an odd favorite, goading me to take a bite.  I loved her in spite of that beet fiasco because don’t we all have at least one oddball of a dish we secretly enjoy?

Since that time, I’m embarrassed to admit that as much as I realize how good beets are for my body, I still have not quite learned to fully enjoy them.  I see them among the other vegetables I routinely purchase and pass them by unless I see rainbow beets, or golden beets.  Somehow their beautiful color tempts me to stop and wonder an extra second or two before I give in and throw them in the basket, giving them the benefit of my persistent doubt.  But rarely do I consider picking up a bunch of red beets unless I’ve seen a recipe somewhere that suggests I might reconsider trying them.   And I’m still reconsidering, because I do try them, then decide not to share the recipe.  What favorable comments might I make when the recipe isn’t what’s lacking, but my palate?

Beets leave me thinking that sure, the flavor is okay, and possibly bordering on pleasant,  but I can’t shake the memory of those Harvard beets years ago sitting on my lettuce and making everything pink.  We’ll call this salad made of roasted golden beets with arugula and sorrel picked from my sad excuse of an herb box a truce of sorts.  My continuing attempt to enjoy beets.

I’m not quite there yet, but maybe.

You?

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Chicken Wrap with Spicy Greens

I’ve been working on our patio for a few months now trying to make it more functional and enjoyable.  It’s a narrow area that wraps along two sides of our house and much different than the half-acre of hillside we tended at our former house.  At first, the idea of having so much less to manage outside was attractive because we were busy with our jobs and moving closer to the ocean and a beautiful seaside community that would inspire us to get out more and enjoy weekends full of sun and fun.  But I’m a gardener — I always have been.  And as much as the weather is often quite gorgeous here, I’m content to spend time outside digging in the dirt.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t been very easy for the past few years.

A former owner had planters installed on the patio and made less than smart choices about what was planted in them, so now, several are completely root bound.  Old flagstone capping has loosened from the planter walls, much of it cracked or broken completely.  The fence, although beloved by my cats for its great scratching post qualities, was more a termite high rise.  Tearing it down took little thought.

I’ve always kept pots of annuals and herbs, and for the first time two years ago, began growing tomatoes in pots.  About a year ago, I put together a small herb box as well.  This year, one of the tomato pots has become a salad greens pot.  It may not seem like much, but I can tell you the snails would be quite upset if I ever got rid of the little herb box.  And this year, they’ve truly enjoyed picking out all but one variety of salad green from the new pot.  Who knew snails had such discriminating palates — erm — radula?

Even though my patio is small by suburban yard standards here, I could squeeze the few things I enjoy harvesting in an even smaller space such as a balcony if I had to.  In other words, it doesn’t take much to grow a few of your own veggies and or herbs.  I’d enjoy planting even more among the roses and succulents I’m currently planting in the newly filled, capped, and painted planters, but until those plants are established, adding anything edible to them isn’t advisable and may never be.  Hence, the pots I have are a great idea because I can move them around according to the seasons and sunlight.

My tomato plants are sporting grape-sized fruit, but the idea frying tiny green tomatoes isn’t as appealing to me as plucking some of the salad greens, a few leaves of the perennial bloody sorrel that continues to thrive, some wild arugula, and purple basil.

Perfect for a wrap with a bit of left over chicken and, if the patio was finished, a nice lunch outside with a good book.  All in due time.

Are you a gardener?  Do you have an outside space to relax in when the weather is pleasant?

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Red Sorrel and Arugula Salad with Avocado and Orange

Red Veined Sorrel Salad

I live in an area that is perfect for growing just about anything all year long if one can forget the pesky dilemma of drought we’ve endured for the past many years.  I’ve been a reasonably capable gardener most of my life — thanks to my mother who most likely could grow a stick in the Sahara —  so I’ve always had plants that needed tending.  Whether they were house plants, everyday geraniums, or wildflowers I grew from seed scattered over moist soil, I’ve enjoyed the peace that has come from caring for them.

Fast forward about 10 years.

I no longer have any property to speak of to plant things in;  instead, I have what I’ll call an extended patio that wraps around one and a half sides of our house.  It all seemed so wonderful when we bought it, not to have to worry about fixing a leaky roof or painting it, and for the most part, I still agree.  But there are days when I long for a yard — or at least a yard that is more than eight feet wide.  On other days, I’m thankful that I don’t have to take care of that dream yard.  I used to have one and know that as much as it provides a sense of accomplishment and overall beauty to a home, it can be overwhelming to care for.

Last spring, I finally decided to purchase an herb box.  Of course, I’ll be the first to admit that an herb box (dimensions roughly 8″ x 36″) isn’t quite the replacement for a dream yard, but I can deal with the delusion when the Pacific is a short 10 minutes from my door.  My rosemary bushes grow like weeds in my planters, so they were the least of my concerns.  It was more the need to have parsley, or oregano, and maybe marjoram, or salad greens.  Now that would be a luxury!  A year has gone by, and I’ve been so busy I haven’t spent much time on my patio.  The herb box hasn’t gotten much attention.  Thyme has disappeared in more ways than one, and the purple basil never really flourished to begin with.  What I’m surprised to find is red sorrel bursting with life and all but wearing an advertisement for snails and worms to have lunch.  It never really died down over winter, and now, after our recent rainy weather, it’s flourishing along with the parsley and marjoram.  Granted, the level of soil in the box is about 50% of what it once was, but still.  Surprisingly, the arugula is sending out tender shoots as well.  Go figure.

I decided that it was the perfect reason to make a spring salad, even though the vernal equinox is still a week away.  Anything surviving the neglect my herb box has had to withstand deserves to be celebrated.  And I suppose it’s proof that one only needs a strip of space with bright light most of the day to lull her into the notion of being an urban gardener warrior.

Nice.

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Cream of Greens Soup: Dandelions, Spinach, and Arugula

Earth Day Soup

When I think of Earth Day, I think more about how I was raised instead of an event marked on a calendar that occurs once a year.  I guess my mother was green before her time simply because she needed to be frugal with her earnings.  But that’s not all.  Her common sense was what was really at work.  If you’re a single mother who works split shifts and have three children under the age of six, you put all of them in the tub at the same time and teach them that the water cannot rise above their belly buttons.  Absolutely no showers, ever.  You rinse your two girls’ very long hair with a tablespoon of  apple cider vinegar mixed with water they wished was warm instead of shockingly cold.  You nag your children incessantly until they understand that lights are turned off when not in use and that electricity costs money — which sadly does not grow on trees.  You make your children’s clothes, and as much as your younger daughter may not love the idea, pass the older daughter’s clothes down once outgrown.  You make shorts from cut off pants, either outgrown, or made possible by knees that have worn through.  You purchase less of everything and teach them how to take care of what they have, because if they don’t, they’re not getting anything new.  You make popsicles from koolaid poured into ice cube trays and dole them out over a few days like they were gold nuggets.  You remind them to bring home from school each day, not only the brown bag their lunch was in, but the baggies their chips and sandwiches were stuffed in to.  You teach them to clean their plates at meals, and never, ever to waste food.  Ever.   Or else.

And you teach them how to eat their vegetables — especially the green ones.

In celebration of Earth Day and smart, frugal moms everywhere who were green long before it was the cool thing to do, this soup is for you.  It’s healthy, and made with a bit of this, and a bit of that from my vegetable drawer.

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