Monday, October 02, 2006

Let Yourself Go

This snap of M and his friend B doing a ritualistic fertility dance is the cover photo for the CD I made for the girlfriends I'm seeing this weekend. Every year, DKG (the Damn Knitting Group) spends a weekend (DKW) somewhere knitting, eating, talking, and drinking too much wine. This year we're going to Betsy's former boss's country house. It's on the Indiana/Michigan border. I packed little gifts for the DKG members, some local goats-milk cheese, and some knitting. The house is right across the street from a winery, and because there are no children (and thus child-rearing responsibilities) involved in DKW, we can observe the "It's 5:00 somewhere" rule. Consequently, I brought some very simple knitting -- the Annie Modesitt Pinup Girl sweater from Stitch and Bitch, which I'm making with some kid mohair my mom found at a garage sale for about $2. Too cool.

Two months ago, after reading Julie and Julia, I convinced DKG-er Kim to make a DKW meal completely from Julia Child's watershed Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I'm a little intimidated. Wish us luck. If it turns out (or doesn't), I'll post photos of the adventure. God bless Julia Child.

So it's been a few days since I blogged, and will be a few more before I do again. Neat thing is, two different people wrote me on the same day this week and sent a recipe they thought I might want to post. So I leave you with some ideas for slowish weekend cooking as I sail into a world of local wine, kid mohair, and French culinary adventures.

First, my sister-in-law Laura sent this recipe for Apple Pork Chops. She got it from her and Phil's Uncle Joe, which worried me a bit. Joe's fantastic, but a bit quirky. And the most frugal person I've ever met in regards to food budget. "Frugal" doesn't really describe it. That gives a bad name to people who, say, wait for loss-leader sales on tuna fish and stock up or buy rice in bulk at a food co-op. Joe's many steps past that. He does things like accidentally dropping a pot of chili on a driveway and scraping it up, gravel and all, and serving it to guests so as to not waste "perfectly good" chili. Or making casseroles from the crusts of pizza people have left on their plates at church gatherings. But this recipe's actually a winner. Here it is:

What you need:

Chops for however many people you're serving (Laura uses boneless, but it really doesn't matter)
Minced garlic
Ground pepper
Apple juice or apple cider
Sour cream -- or plain yogurt if you're watching calories & fat. Laura uses about 1/2 cup or so if she's making 4 chops; you'll need more if you're serving a crowd

Here's what you do:

Rub the chops with garlic, salt, and ground pepper on both sides. Then sear them in a skillet on both sides until brown. Pour the apple juice/cider over chops until just covered and simmer until tender (generally about 15-20 minutes after juice boils). This is a
good time to get the water going for the noodles.

Once the chops are done, remove from the skillet and put them on a plate in a warm oven. Pour off about half the juice that's left in the skillet, but save it! You may want more later. Add the sour cream/yogurt to the juice in the pan and thicken with flour to make a nice gravy (stir constantly with a wire whisk to minimize lumps). This is why you want to keep that extra
juice around--you might want to make a little more gravy.

Serve the chops on noodles and cover the whole business with the gravy.
This is good served with a side of stir-fried squash and zucchini.

Says Laura, "EXCELLENT!" And no half-chewed pizza crusts or crunchy chili!

The second recipe is for Farmer's Market Soup and came from Katie, the queen of the Tuna Noodle Casserole (and a fellow DKG-er). Katie modified this from Lynne Rossetto Kasper's e-newsletter Weeknight Kitchen (sign up for it here). I have to admit I haven't made this yet, but Katie has never steered me wrong in the kitchen, and reading through it, it sounds fantastic -- especially as the farmer's markets are bursting with garden harvest right now.

Here's what you need to start:

3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 leeks (the white parts and about an inch of green), chopped
A pinch of saffron

Saute these 3 ingredients together on low heat in a large stock pot until the leeks are glossy and translucent. It'll smell so good at this point, you'll want to eat it already! Then add the following vegetables, all chopped:

3 waxy boiling potatoes
3 medium turnips
2 large, ripe tomatoes (with their juice)
3 medium zuccini or summer squash
3 medium carrots
A couple handfuls of green beans (tipped and cut into 1-inch pieces)

Cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat, then add 1-2 quarts of vegetable stock (enough to cover), 1-1/2 tsp. salt, and 2 cloves chopped garlic; simmer for another 20-30 minutes. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste, and you're ready to serve.

To serve, stir 1 Tbsp. of basil pesto into each bowl, if desired. (Katie highly recommends this step, and as I said, she's got a good kitchen sense.) You can also add pasta or beans to the finished soup.

Have a great weekend! I know I will!


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