What’s Hitting the Table This Week
October 1? What? Some days, I honestly don’t know what year it is. Are you worried about my mental health, or do you have the same sense of time lapse? Where did the past two years go, the past two months, the past two days? So many questions, I know.
Last week, I tried to cook and eat from what we already had in our fridge, freezer and pantry. I was stocked with an overflow of veggies and lots of odds and ends, so I gave you tons of ideas for how to use up vegetables. I’m working on another post about how to use up chicken and how to use up ground beef (two things that are always in my freezer). I spent zero American dollars on food for our dinners, and we still ended up with a fridge full of leftovers by Friday. Before you make your meal plan this week, take a look at what you have at home. Make use of what needs to be moved along. Transfer items from the freezer to the fridge that you can use in dinners. It feels good to use up what you already have.
While it’s not quite chilly fall weather here, it’s only a high of 84 degrees today in Houston. That’s basically sweater weather! Let’s make a big batch of soup or stew or something braised and delicious. I love a pork roast or pork or lamb stew meat braised in tomatoes with fennel and onions, there’s a recipe on page 253 of The Vineyard Kitchen by Maria Helm Sinskey that I’ve made several times. Fennel can be found in fall through early spring and it’s one of my favorite vegetables either shaved with parmesan, lemon, and olive oil in a salad or roasted and caramelized. After seasoning the pork for this stew, everything gets thrown in the pot and simmered on low. Here’s how to make it:
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 pounds cubed pork shoulder
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, root trim, cut in half, triangular core removed, and sliced thin
4 garlic cloves, smashed
3/4 cup white wine
24-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes and their juices
1 cup mixed olives, pitted or regular (just tell everyone to be careful of the pits)
1 bay leaf
Parsley and crunch sea salt
- Heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large braising pan. Sear the pork in batches in very hot oil, browning on all sides. Don’t crowd too much meat in the pan, you will need to work in batches. Salt the meat as it cooks, and then remove cooked batches to a plate while you finish the rest.
- Drain any fat from the pan and add a couple tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions, fennel, garlic, about 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and sauté. Once softened, add white wine and scrape up any browned bits on the pan. Add tomatoes, olives, bay leaf and stir. Add meat back to pan and put in a 325 degree oven.
- Roast for 2-2.5 hours, until your whole house smells delicious and the meat is tender. You may need to add a cup of water about an hour into the cooking if the liquid has evaporated. You could also keep the pan covered and just remove the lid the last 30-45 mintues of cooking. Serve in shallow bowls sprinkled with chopped parsley and crunchy sea salt. Crunchy bread or flat bread is delicious here. You could make little bites of pork stew wrapped in pita and topped with a dollop of plain yogurt. Yum.
It’s one of those afternoons of ortho-tutor-volleyball game-scouts rotation. I have a Facebook live for my Smart Meal Plan Formula students at 12:30. I’ll teach them how to prep one of my favorite slow cooker dinners. Whole chicken in the slow cooker is a life-saver, but I prefer it with a tangy dry spice rub that melts into the chicken as it cooks. Adding some chopped potatoes and carrots during the last hour makes for easy clean-up.
I’m making dinner for my recipe videographer who just had her first baby. I’ll make a big double batch of this ragu and then pick up garlic mashed potatoes from Trés Market in Houston and make her an extra batch of my super simple salad dressing for a simple salad. I love serving this ragu over buttery mashed potatoes or polenta with an extra grating of parmesan, but you can also serve it over your favorite pasta.
My husband and I have an event to go to, so it’s something simple for the kids. I have some pesto in the freezer that needs to be used up. Paninis (basically just a fancy word for grilled cheese) with mozzarella and pesto it is! You could also put out a bunch of different sandwich fillings–ham, turkey, caramelized onions, cheese, tomatoes, olive tapenade, etc. Everyone can make their own panini. Carrot and celery sticks on the side to munch on.
I have a cooking class tonight full of date-night-at-home favorites. If you want a yummy date night menu, do some pan-seared rib-eyes (I follow a similar method linked here but baste mine with butter, paprika, garlic, and rosemary) or slow-roasted salmon. A green sauce like chimichurri or chermoula would be yummy. Roasted broccolini and steak fries are a good call.
It’s the homecoming football game at our high school tonight. Since kids will be coming and going, I’ll make a batch of chili early in the day. Everyone can grab a bowl before heading to the game. My family eats their chili over steamed rice (weird?) so I’ll have my rice cooker locked and loaded.