kicking off the new year

winter sunwhitecaps

The past few days have all been surprisingly full of pork and sunshine – both very good things.

On Friday we went for a walk out at Washington Park near Anacortes. The sun was out but the wind was howling across the water and through the trees on the headland. It was fresh and deeply invigorating. We went home and made steamed bao, stewed kale and a pork roast marinated and braised with hoisin sauce, loads of garlic, scallion and ginger.

pork and greens and bao

Chinese-style pork

steamed bao


The pork was remarkably flavorful all the way through. We sliced it thinly and made little sandwiches with the pork and kale on sliced bao, with the sauce from the pork as a dipping jus. I may have eaten too much of this.

New Year’s Eve was Neapolitan-style pizza with friends, featuring spicy coppa and bits of leftover Christmas ham. We drank many bottles of Prosecco, Cava and homemade cider. I made onion dip and it turned out really, really well. A good time was had by all.


New Year’s Day is when we make cassoulet. I did a simple one, based on the version we learned at Duckfest. White beans, brined overnight then cooked with onion, bay, garlic and epices rabelais. Toulouse sausage from the Paris Grocery in Seattle, and a package of duck confit from our co-op. I got a great crust on it this year (still no breadcrumbs, mind you). A salad of baby arugula and a bottle of St Cosme made for a perfect, low-key evening.

Our fridge still seems to have a lot of pork in it.

pumpkin-free Halloween


For years we’ve eaten pumpkin on Halloween. Often in the form of soup, with Yorkshire pudding and sausages alongside, and sometimes in ravioli. This year we decided to take a complete break from it. Instead I made an equally autumnal supper of pan-fried rainbow trout and a rather successful melange of Brussels sprouts, onion and bacon, which worked extremely well. The trout was from Skagit’s Own Fish Market and was just beautiful, lightly floured and fried in a bit of bacon fat. The bacon itself was from Skagit River Ranch, and I wish I could say I liked it better. Everyone we know has been raving about it for the last year, and I finally got hold of some (whoa! expensive), but good lord it’s sugary. It smells wonderful in the pan, like smoke and maple syrup, but it burns really easily, and after a few bites I feel like I’ve eaten a candy bar. Brussels sprouts made the perfect vehicle for it, giving the sugar somewhere to go.

We drank a bottle of Sones Cancion del Mar white wine, gave out a few Butterfingers to the neighbor kids, and didn’t miss the pumpkins at all.




sprouts and bacon

a less thrilling braise

first frost

Happy November! I’ve decided not to do NaBloPoMo this year, but I do intend to try posting a little more often. I have enough other writing/photography projects going on that I’m not feeling up to the post-a-day commitment, but we’ll see how it goes.


We’re trying to work more new recipes into our menu planning, after what seems like  several months of making old standby-type stuff. We’re experimenting with pulling out a cookbook at random, then opening it and pointing to something. This is quite dangerous, as it can lead to strange meals of onion sauce or rice pudding, so we’re keeping it flexible. Last week I pulled out Falling Cloudberries, a book that I was wildly excited about when it came out but have never actually cooked from. I chose a promising Cypriot recipe for pork marinated in red wine and braised with coriander seed. It was, I’m sorry to say, kind of meh.



pork braise

There was nothing wrong with the pork – a roast of well marbled meat from our last pig (which is nearly gone, except for several pounds of pork belly), which I whacked up and put in a bowl with two cups of red wine the night before. I had some issues with the cooking instructions, which optimistically say to sear all of the pork in a casserole until golden. Well, first, it’s soaked in red wine, and even if you dry it off first it’s not going to sear at all unless you do only a few pieces at a time in a very hot pan. Second, it’s soaked in red wine and is dark purple, and is not going to turn “golden” no matter what you do to it at this point.

I knew what she meant, though, so I fried the pork, added in the marinade, some garlic, bay leaves and five teaspoons of lightly crushed coriander seed, cooked it until the meat started falling apart, and served it with roasted pink fingerling potatoes and some lightly wilted arugula. It was…okay. The pork flavor was overwhelmed by the wine, and the coriander was incredibly strong and acrid, not to mention kind of a weird texture. The potatoes (which turned out fantastically) and greens helped to balance, but I didn’t really like it all that much.

leftovers with an egg

The leftover pork was improved by chopping it up finely with the rest of the potatoes and cooking it up as hash with some sweet onion, then serving with an egg on top. That wasn’t bad at all.

Anyone else made this recipe, or anything else out of that book? I want to give it another chance but not sure what to try.

pork for lunch

pork-arugula hoagie

I realize I haven’t been around here much, so here’s a nice sandwich to keep things going. Last Sunday we celebrated the start of the wind-and-rain season with a milk-braised pork roast studded with garlic and herbs, serving it with buttermilk mashed potatoes and a fresh arugula salad. It was a big roast, so every day this week my lunch has involved some variation on the pork sandwich – oh, the hardship. Yesterday’s version (pictured) started with a sourdough hoagie roll from the Breadfarm, spread lightly with mayonnaise and dressed with chunks of rewarmed pork, dripping with garlicky milk sauce, and a few leaves of arugula for contrast. Today’s version was the same, but with a freshly home-baked sweet potato roll in place of the hoagie. Zowie.

pork chops


The last package of pork chops from our freezer pig, brined in sugar and salt and grilled over charcoal. Broccoli rabe from Dunbar Gardens, sauteed in lots of olive oil with sliced garlic and red chile. Soft polenta with butter and parmesan. A quiet evening and a half bottle of Shooting Star Lemberger left over from the night before. The beginning of summer.

arugula pizza

prosciutto & arugula pizza

My mother has, in the last year, gotten sort of obsessed with arugula pizza, and it’s gradually infected us as well. Tutta Bella makes a particularly good one, which we had recently on a day when my parents and I converged on Seattle. A very simple pizza, it was topped only with prosciutto, a bit of tomato and cheese, with fresh arugula leaves added after cooking so they stayed fresh.  When Jon and I stopped by the Dunbar Gardens farmstand last week, that pizza being fresh in my mind, a huge bunch of fresh arugula called out to me and demanded to be made into dinner.

I had been thinking in terms of putting the prosciutto on the pizza before baking it, then adding the greens partway through. But I noticed over on Epicurious that another option is to bake the pizza with nothing but cheese, then add the prosciutto and greens after it comes out of the oven. We tried it, and it was very successful – instead of crisping up, the prosciutto melts softly into the hot cheese, and the arugula perches on top, wilting only slightly where it touches. A little awkward to eat, perhaps, but you can always use a fork to snatch extra leaves off the plate. We ate the leftovers for breakfast the next morning with…yup…a fried egg. Fantastic.

prosciutto & arugula pizza

smoky stew


Directions: in August (approximately six months before serving), barbecue some pork ribs. Make sure they’re good and charred and salty. Eat them, then make stock out of the bones and freeze it. In April, take the stock out and thaw it. Cook some beans. Blanch collard greens and chop them. Sear chunks of country-style boneless pork ribs in oil and remove them from the pan. Saute a lot of garlic in the remaining oil, then add back the pork and pour in the smoky, salty stock. Simmer, covered, until the meat is tender, maybe an hour. Add the beans and greens. Eat voraciously, and wish you had thought to make cornbread.

hot and sour

hot and sour soup

We recently made hot and sour soup for the first time, and I can’t imagine why I waited this long. It was prompted by the annual advent of scallion-chive flatbreads, since the chives are shooting up in the garden and we happened to have a bag of cilantro in the fridge, and nothing goes better with these breads than soup. We just picked up a used copy of The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen by Grace Young, and I pulled this recipe out more or less at random. It looked simple and fast, useful features when you’re also making involved flatbreads.

I followed it pretty closely, while leaving out the lily buds, adding a bit of extra pork, and using the pre-shredded black fungus that we’ve become addicted to instead of whole cloud ears. The soup is heated with white pepper and soured with cider vinegar, and the main complaints we had were the lack of salt (fixed with a dab of soy sauce after serving) and the dullness of the vinegar flavor, apparently due to adding it early in the cooking process. When we ate the leftovers I added a bit of fresh vinegar and it was much peppier. But other than that it was really good – soothing and very textural, and the breads (which I made with hot chile oil and plenty of salt) were fantastic dipped into it.

scallion-chive bread

I think we’ll try a variation on the recipe soon – maybe Barbara Tropp’s version which uses rice vinegar and soy. Does anyone have a recipe for hot and sour soup they really like? I think this could become part of our regular rotation.

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Cuban pork


Ever since we picked up our half-pig from the butcher, I’ve been wanting to make Cuban grilled pork. This urge was heightened by the pork sandwiches we bought at Paseo to take to a Zootunes concert – savory, rich, and so thoroughly sopping with dressing we went through a vast pile of napkins and still needed to pour water over each other’s hands afterwards. Given that we don’t live around the corner from Paseo, it seemed that we needed to be able to recreate the phenomenon ourselves.

on the grill

We had one pork roast in our freezer labeled “shoulder”, apparently the closest we were likely to get to the recommended Boston Butt. We thawed it out and put it in a bag with a marinade (recipe below) composed of juice, garlic, herbs, zest and oil. The next day Jon tore himself away from his garage-painting project early enough to start the grill and get the pork going. He piled hot coals on either side of a metal roasting pan, put the grates in, then positioned the pork over the pan and closed the lid. We left it more or less alone for two hours, checking occasionally that the temperature was staying between 300-325°. At one point it dropped a bit and Jon added a few more live coals. When the pork seemed sufficiently blackened and fragrant, we took it out and tented it with foil to rest.

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the temple of porcine love

Inner Sanctum of the Temple of Porcine Love

Only twelve hours ago, we didn’t know this place existed.

Inner Sanctum of the Temple of Porcine Love

We had decided to run down to Seattle for the afternoon and pick up some necessary framing materials. I had recently received an email from Seattle Metropolitan featuring good lunch spots, so I pulled that up to look over while we were getting our stuff together. The Inner Sanctum of the Temple of Porcine Love immediately made itself known as the place we needed to have lunch. Today.

Inner Sanctum of the Temple of Porcine Love

As it turns out, this place is a recent adjunct to the quite fabulous little butcher/charcuterie shop The Swinery. It’s rather like the old Pok Pok in Portland, back when it was just a takeout stand in someone’s driveway. You order your sandwich, eat it on a bench in the narrow courtyard, and pay for it in the shop (where, if you’re like us, you will instantly succumb to the lure of gorgeous charcuterie as well). They’re doing it as a bit of a trial run, to see how it goes.

Inner Sanctum of the Temple of Porcine Love

How was the food, you ask? Hmmm. Jon got the Swinery Burger with caramelized onions and Swiss cheese, cooked medium rare. I got the Carolina pulled pork sandwich, which was so rich and smoky it didn’t need sauce (except for mayo, which I can’t live without). Both were fabulous. I was especially impressed with the bun, which was soft enough to squish down over the meat but didn’t dissolve into mush, and had been nicely toasted. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to try the BLT or the tallow fries.

Inner Sanctum of the Temple of Porcine Love

West Seattle isn’t on our usual route, so I’d just like to put a call out to anyone in the area – check this place out! Give them enough business to consider making it permanent. The world needs more really great burgers and pulled pork sandwiches. Not to mention duck chorizo.