Saturday, December 27, 2014

Go-To Winter Salad with a California Twist (Romaine Salad with Citrus, Avocado, Pomegranate Seeds and Walnuts & Tarragon Citrus Vinaigrette )

Recipe updated - October 2017
Heads up.  If you invite us over for dinner this winter and ask me to bring a salad, chances are this is what you’ll get.  So far, no one has complained.  But you’ve been warned.

So very colorful.  So very SoCal.
This was by far the most spontaneous Christmas break we have ever had, and it was defiantly one to remember.  From Will surprising me on my birthday by coming home five days early, to our decision over coffee to jump in the car and drive up to DC for the weekend, to Chicago style pizza and a bon fire with friends on Christmas evening, it seems like flexibility was the order of each day.  

Plans made weeks ago were dashed, quick decisions were made.  The tree never was purchased let alone decorated and the box with the stockings is still high on its shelf in the garage.  Santa still came and we spent incredible time with family and friends.  My lesson of the season: Perfection is over rated; and always have grapefruit, oranges and avocados on hand.


Well, that last bit refers to the stars of the show from my Winter rift on my Summer Farmers Market Salad that made an appearance at the Bon Fire on Christmas night as well as the Boxing Day Dinner we enjoyed with another set of friends last night. Both dinners featured rich main courses – Chicago Style Pizza (shipped direct from Lou Malnatis in the Wind City) and Oyster Stew, respectively –  and the wonderful clean flavors of this citrus based salad proved to be the perfect complement.  It is also the perfect ode to our SoCal homeland, with Winter in California favorites:  grapefruit, orange, avocado walnuts and pomegranate seeds. 

Here’s how you can do it yourself:

Serves 6

Serves 6

2 hearts of romain lettuce - cut into bite sized pieces
1 large grapefruit, cut into segments
1 navel orange, cut into segments
1 avocado, sliced
1/2 pomegranate, seeded
1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted

1 TBS grated shallot
1 TBS fresh tarragon, minced (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1 TBS grainy mustard
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 TBS honey
1/4 cup walnut oil
1/2 cup of the juice that remains from the sectioning of the citrus fruit
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper


Prep the fruit:
  • Working over a small bowl to catch the juices, segment the grapefruits and oranges.  To do this, put the fruit on a cutting board, slice off the bottom and the top to stabilize, then use a sharp butcher knife to cut off the rind.  Then pick up the fruit and use a sharp paring knife to cut the individual segments.  This is called "supremeing" an it sounds a heck of a lot more difficult than it is.  The results are worth honing this skill.
  • Slice the avocado. My favorite way: Slice the avocado down the middle, twist to divide, then remove the pit.  Now use a knife to slice thin slices lengthwise and make a single slice horizontally to cut those segments in half. Take a large spoon and run it along the inside of the avocado, between the flesh and the skin. The slices will come out nice as can be.
  • Release the pomegranate seeds – another task that seems daunting, but is not.  Fill a large bowl with cold water.  Submerge the pomegranate and slice it into four pieces. (doing this under water keeps the juice from squirting all over). Working under water, twist and turn the quarter of the pomegranate to release the seeds.  Pick and pull as you go.  The white membrane will float to the top.  The seeds will sink to the bottom. Your kitchen and your clothes will not be splattered with red stains.  Simply strain the seeds and you’re good to go. (Or buy them already removed from the fruit, but where is the fun in that?)
  • Toast the walnuts:  put the walnuts into a pan over a low heat and warm then, shaking the pan now and then, until they are toasty and fragrant.  Do not leave the unattended… they will burn and it will not be good. When you are happy with the results, tip them out to a cutting board to cool.  Then copy them into medium sized pieces…. Not walnut dust, but nice crunchy bites that will add great texture to the salad.

Make the vinaigrette
  • Put the shallot, tarragon, mustard, honey, walnut oil and juice/vinegar mixture in a jar
  • Shake shake shake
  • Taste and adjust.  Maybe a little more honey, maybe a tad more salt.... make it your own. 

Assemble the salad
Layer in a large salad bowl in the following order
  • Layer In a large salad bowl in the following order:
  • The lettuce, tossed with enough dressing to coat but not drench
  • The oranges and grapefruit
  • The avocados
  • The pomegranet seeds
  • The walnuts
  • Stand back, admire at how pretty the whole thing is
  • Toss well to distribute the ingredients evenly
  • Serve
  • Say “Thank you, I’m so glad you enjoy it,” as people shower you with compliments.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Rainy Day Binge Watching (Tarragon Chicken Pot Pie)

Yesterday was cold and rainy.   A bad day to go out and do anything.  A great day for making a cozy dinner and, spending time as a family, 
Will and Steve take in the National Mall; I can't get
over how they stand exactly the same.
binge watching a great TV drama.  I'm happy to say we accomplished all three.

Piping hot from the oven

Will is home for Christmas and since the weather was pretty nasty, we took an impromptu weekend trip to DC.  Sure it was cold and nasty there, too, but we were able to check out a few monuments, hit the Spy Museum and had some amazing meals at some incredible neighborhood restaurants around DuPont Circle and Georgetown. Not to mention the fact that were able to spend time with our son as we drove to and from Our Nation's Capitol.  

During that drive, the topic turned to the fact that Steve and I somehow missed out on the Netflicks's series, House of Cards.  Last night we fixed that little problem.  Well, at least 8 of the 13 episodes from Season One.  Whew!

The money shot.  Dang, that was good.
An afternoon/evening/night like that calls for a cozy dinner, that can be eaten in front of the TV.  And since we had a half of a rotisserie chicken in the fridge, and a frozen pie crust in the freezer - you got it, we had chicken pot pie.

The following maps out the steps I took to make this yummy dinner.  You can substitute a wide range of veggies and herbs to make it your own.  And if you don't have a pie crust and are not inclined to make one from scratch, serve it in a bowl and call it stew.


  • ½ Rotisserie Chicken, skin and bones removed and meat cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 TBS butter
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • ½ onion, small dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 6 asparagus stalks, cut into inch long pieces
  • 3 TBS flour
  • 2TBS chopped fresh tarragon, divided or 1 ½ tsp dried tarragon divided
  • 2 cups stock (I used turkey stock that I had in the freezer, but chicken stock works equally well), heated
  • Splash of cream or half-and half, if you have it
  • 1 TBS Kitchen Bouquet (for color – optional)
  • 1 cup frozen peas or frozen pea/carrot/corn mix
  • 1 frozen pie crust, thawed
  • 1 egg beaten into an egg wash
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

 Pre-heat the oven to 425 and position a rack in the center of the oven
  • In a large skillet, melt the butter with the oil
  • Sauté the onions and celery until they begin to soften, then add the garlic and asparagus.  Sauté a tad more, until the asparagus begins to look slightly soft, but not overly cooked.
  • Sprinkle the flour over the veggie mixture and cook for about 3 minutes, sprinkle in half of the tarragon.
  • Add the warm stock; whisk to combine. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it begins to thicken.
  • If you have cream or half and half on hand, add a splash to richen the sauce.  A bit of Kitchen Bouquet will darken the color a tad; but don't fret if you don't have any.
  • Now add the chicken and the frozen veggies.  Stir to combine, add the second half of the tarragon.  Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
  • Now set set aside to cool a bit. 
  • When the mixture is warm / cool, pour into a skillet or baking dish
  • Top with the crust, crimp the outer edge inward, cut slits in the top for the steam to escape, and brush the top with the egg mixture. Sprinkle a bit of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper on top for a little added interest.
  •  Bake in the 425 oven for 30 to minutes,  then lower the heat to 350 and continue to bake until the top is completely browned and the contents are bubbly.  About 10 to 15 minutes will do.
  •  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Serve and enjoy.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Blog Worthy - Chipotle Pig with Cilantro Rice (3WW ppv + 4 WW ppv)

"Oh yeah, that one's blog worthy!"  Six words I love to hear at my dinner table.  
It happened tonight - and wouldn't you know, no photos were taken until we were cleaning up. So what you see here is the aftermath.  And trust me, great a great salad or sandwich will follow tomorrow.
Better late than never - Chipotle Pig
with Cilantro Rice leftovers...

In case you don't know, we live in the land of the pig.  Pork is a big deal in these parts.  And luck for us, there are some pretty healthy ways to serve up a nice lean pork roast. 

Just such a thing happened tonight.  But first, let's rewind to lunch time....

I worked from home today, which often means spending the entire day at "my duty station," as a colleague of mine used to say.  Today, I had to take a break.  So at lunch time, while I was making a salad, I was also throwing together a marinade for a pork sirloin roast I bought earlier this week. 

Pretty easy stuff, just stash a 1.5 pound pork roast in a big zip lock bag along with herbs, spices, a bit of oil and an acid.  In this case:

  • 1 1/2 TBS smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2  chipoltle chile powder
  • 1 TBS garlic powder,
  • A big fat pinch of Kosher salt
  • About a 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • About 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar 

Then into the fridge and back to work.

Fast forward to dinner time.....

As the evening wound down, Steve fired up a screaming hot grill.  I dried off the marinade from the roast, seasoned it up with salt and pepper, drizzled senor pig with olive oil and out to the deck we went.

Time to Grill:

  • First Steve seared all four sides of the roast two times each
  • Then he turned off the burners in the center of the grill, and turned the outer ones down to medium
  • He centered the roast in the center of the grill, over the "off" burners
  • And he cooked until "done" - 15 minutes on each side (probably about 30 minutes total) and when the instant read thermometer read 130 degrees F.  
  • Then into the house, tented loosely with foil. And it rested for a good 20 minutes. Yes, rare pig police, it continued to cook as it rested and was a perfect medium done, juicy and oh so good.
While the roast was resting, I made up a nice batch of fluffy white jasmine rice.  And when it was done, I stirred in a pat of butter, about 1/8 cup of finely diced Vadilia onion, a big ol' pile of chopped cilantro (probably close to 3/4 to a full cup) and some salt and pepper.  I stirred it all up in a bowl to keep it fluffy.

We served it all up with sliced heirloom tomatoes from Funny Girl Farm.  

And yes, it was definitely blog worthy.

(Roast = 3ppv for 3 oz and cilantro rice = 4ppv for 1/2 cup. Sliced Tomato = 0)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summer twist on a Barnett Favorite: Lemon Chicken Hits the Grill

Grilled lemon adds great flavor - and are tasty, too.
This one's a bonus blog -- had to share the yummy chicken that we served with the Farmers Market Summer Salad that I posted earlier today.  Lemon Chicken has been a Barnett go-to meal as long as I can remember.  Served up with lemon pasta, I have made it just about every time I've visited Will -- at college in Montana, and now at his city digs in Downtown LA.

Tonight, I did a grilled version - with great success.  Had to share.

Ready for a day in the 'fridge


  • Whole chicken cut into parts and skinned.  I like to cut the breasts in half, so you can pull the thin side off the fire before the thicker pieces.
  • About a 7 or 8 inch sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped fine
  • One lemon, cut into very thin slices
  • Garlic powder (not garlic salt)
  • 4 or 5 fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/2 lemon to squeeze over the finished chicken
Prep the chicken
  • After you skin the chicken pieces, prep one side of each piece: sprinkled lightly with salt and pepper, then generously season with the garlic powder. 
  • Top half of the pieces with a slice of lemon, drizzle with olive oil and then put seasoned side down into a shallow glass dish.
  • Now do the same treatment to the other side, putting the lemon on the ones you left bare before.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and
    stash in the 'fridge.  
  • I let mine marinade all day - if you don't have that kind of time, a couple of hours should do it.
Time to grill
  • Get your grill screaming hot
  • Place the pieces of chicken on the grill, putting the lemon on the side that is up.  Close the lid and cook until they have got good grill marks and are feeling firm.
  • Now pull off the lemon and flip.  Replace the lemon on the top of the pieces of chicken.  (Trust me, this is worth it).
  • Continue to cook and flip until the chicken is done.  It will be firm and juices will run clear.  
  • When you pull from the grill, squeeze the lemon juice over the chicken and sprinkle with the basil.

I Love Summer! (Summer Farmers Market Salad with Walnut Honey Mustard Vinaigrette) 2 WW ppts

I never thought I'd acclimate, but I'm here to proclaim that I,  Holly Billings Barnett, Southern California Native - where the heat is a dry heat and the summer nights are cool - have grown to appreciate a sultry summer day in the South.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not abandoning my SoCal roots. But there is something special about stepping outdoors, feeling your body and soul slow down, and hearing those cicadas in the trees scream out that summer is here!

Summer in North Carolina also means amazing produce.  Yesterday I scored a garden fresh cucumber from a friend, and then hit the Farmers Market for tomatoes, corn, basil and sweet sweet vadelia  onions.   Together with a bit of watermelon and a yummy vinaigrette made with one of my secret ingredients, walnut oil, this baby is a winner.

I can't wait to get back from the pool this afternoon and dig into a big ol' helping served along side grilled chicken.  Yeah Summer!

Here's how I did it:

Prep and combine the salad ingredients:

Cut the corn off of the cob:

  • On a paper towel or tea towl:  Hold the corn cob horizontally, run a sharp knife along the cob to shave off the kernals.  Pull the sides up on the side of the towel and pour into the bowl.  

Cut into about 1 inch dice:

  • 1 cup of peeled cucumber
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup watermelon

Cut into very very small dice

  • about 2 Tbs of valdalia onion (Maui onion or any other sweet onion from your region will do)

Chop finely

  • 3 or four fresh basil leaves

Mix it all together gently, add a pinch of Kosher salt, cover and stash in the 'fridge.

Make the vinaigrette
Put the following in a jar and shake shake shake - then taste and adjust.  Maybe a little more honey, maybe a tad more salt.... make it your own.

  • 2 or 3 TBS grated valdalia onion
  • 1 TBS grainy mustard
  • 1 TBS honey
  • 1/4 cup walnut oil (keep this in the fridge between uses to keep fresh)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Pinch of Kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper

To serve - toss the salad with the dressing and dig in.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Breakfast with my feathered friends - Eggs Florentine Breakfast Sandwich (6 WW Pts)

One of the things we enjoy the most about our North Carolina home are the amazing birds that frequent our yard.  Recently, Steve relocated one of our feeders to the deck off of our living and family rooms.  The motivation was to get it away from the deer - the real benefit is that now we have woodpeckers, blue birds, chickadees and a range of other feathered friends feasting outside our windows.  And the more time we spend with them on the deck, the more comfortable they become sharing their space with us.
Two weeks ago he would have flown
away; today he enjoyed his
breakfast just a few feet from me 

What a great excuse for dining al fresco!

I took advantage of a lovely morning today by enjoying my breakfast on the deck.  Me, a cup of coffee, a nice egg sandwich to get the day going.  

Slowly but surely the birds also arrived to enjoy their first meal of the day.  My favorite -- the strong and sturdy woodpecker with the bright red bonnet.  
He keeps an eye out for predators as he pecks away at the special suet that Steve puts out for woodpeckers.  But he also is becoming more familiar with us; and today for the first time did not fly away when I moved to take his picture.  A nice way to start the day.

This one hits the spot
Another nice way to start the day is by enjoying a tasty, nutritious and figure friendly breakfast sandwich. I love Eggs Florentine; the tang of the swiss cheese against the bite of sautéed spinach and a perfectly runny poached egg atop an English muffin.  Some folks even put hollandaise on this little beauty. Gilding the lily for sure, but mighty tasty.

But boy, oh boy, the calories can add up. A better option is to make this yummy sandwich that takes packs a serious flavor punch, without the fat and calories.  It also takes just a few minutes to make and travels well for work day mornings, or a breakfast picnic at the beach.

Eggs Florentine Breakfast Sandwich 
Serves One (6 WW Pts)


  • 1 farm fresh (if you can get them) egg
  • 1 Tbs diced sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup fresh baby spinach
  • 1 wedge Laughing Cow Lite Swiss Cheese 
  • 1 toasted Sandwich Thin (whole wheat with flax seeds is my personal favorite)
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt and pepper


  • Heat a small nonstick pan and coat lightly with cooking spray
  • Drop in the onions, salt and pepper and saute until translucent. 
  • Add the spinach and saute until it just begins to become soft
  • Crack the egg over this mixture.  As it begins to set, break the yoke and stir to combine.  Cook, stirring lightly and form into a little patty about the size of the sandwich thin.
  • Meanwhile, lightly toast the sandwich thin and spread with the Laughing Cow cheese wedge on both pieces.
  • When the egg is set to your liking, slide the patty onto the bottom half of the sandwich thin, top with the other.  
  • Enjoy immediately, or wrap tightly in foil if you are transporting.  It will stay warm for about 30 minutes.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

Keepin' it light without additives - Tuna Salad Sandwich with Avocado "Mayo" (5 WW points)

I love a good tuna salad sandwich.  And yes, I’ll admit it, “good” equals a nice dollop of Best Foods, Hellman’s or Dukes full fat mayonnaise.  Not exactly figure friendly.  So what’s a tuna-lovin’ girl to do?

Now that's a satisfying and
healthy lunch!
Simple, so many folks say -- Use low-fat or fat-free mayo.  In my world, that is so wrong on so many levels.  First, it does not taste the same.  And second, with a ton of additives (16 ingredients vs 8) including high fructose corn syrup, most commercially made low fat mayos are not always the best (i.e. closest to the original food source) way to go.  

So today, as I was pondering my lunch options, it dawned on me – at 50 calories, an ounce of avocado has about half the calories as regular may, close to half that of the “lite variety mayo, and about twice that of fat free.  Plus the fat in avocado has been proven to do some pretty cool things, like increase the absorption of  fat-soluble nutrients like carotenoids. And, the fat in an avocado is a monounsaturated fatty acid, which has also been shown to help lower our risk of heart disease. So why not give it a go as the binding agent for my tuna sammie....

Eureka! I found it!  

Moist, tasty and not green – a side effect I was a bit concerned about -- this is one heck of a sandwich.  And it weighs in at a healthy 5 WW points plus value.  You could make it even less with the use of a high fiber tortilla wrap (like the ones from Ole) or open face on a slice of whole wheat bread, rather than the sandwich thin.  

Here’s the recipe, I hope you give it a go.

Tuna Salad Sandwich with Avocado "Mayo"
Serves 2; 5 WW pts each


  • 1 small can water packed tuna, drained
  • ¼ avocado, mashed
  • 1 Tbs Lemon Juice
  • 1 rib celery, finely diced
  • ½ carrot, shredded
  • ½ red chili pepper, seeded and diced (optional)
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • Pinch or two of kosher salt
  • Pinch or two of black pepper
  • 2 Sandwich thins, toasted (I like the whole wheat with flax seeds)
  • Leafy mustard greens, lettuce or spinach


  • Mash the avocado with the lemon juice in a medium sized bowl
  • Add the salt, pepper and celery seed.  Stir to combine.
  • Next add the celery, carrot and onion. Stir to combine.
  • Crumble in the tuna.  Mix well – a fork is fine, but frankly, combining it with a clean hand is the best. 
  • Toast the sandwich thin.  This is really necessary – they are not that great untoasted.
  • Pile half the mixture on the bottom half of the bread, top with a leafy green – I love mustard greens for this! – top with the other half of the bread and you are good to go.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mid-Week Inspiration (Asian TurkeyLettuce Wraps) (6 WW pts for meat, with sauce count as 8-9pts)

When the going gets tough, the tough get chopping!

So I'm driving home from the office this evening. Hungry. Of course. Sure, I had the most important meal of the day (breakfast); and a yummy salad for lunch.  But by the time I left the office I was down right ravenous.  

Tooling down 147 (Note to SoCal friends, they don't put a "the" in front of the the number.  Weird. But you get used to it.) I did a mental inventory of our 'fridge: Ground turkey. Random veggies.  I'm not sure exactly how it happened, but I decided to make Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps. 

Had I done them before?  No.  Did I have a recipe?  No.  Did I have lettuce?  No.  

No biggie.  A quick trip to Harris Teeter and we had all the supplies I thought we'd need.  And by the time I got home, Steve's buddy Jeff was on his way over to join the fun.  

The result -- YUMMY.  And a big shout out to Jeff -- who was pressed into service to take notes while I threw this one together.  

Here's how we did it:

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps
(weighs in at 6 WW points for the meat mixture, with sauce I count as 8-9, just to be safe)
Serves 4

The meat:
3/4 pound ground turkey
1 large or two small cloves garlic, diced
5 large white mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup bean sprouts, chopped
1/2 cup water chestnuts, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
3 scallions, chopped
1/2 tsp 5 Chinese 5 Spice
2 tsp sesame oil, divided in two
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs pepper spiced rice vinegar (regular will do fine)
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp canola oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

The sauce: Mix in a small bowl and set aside
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup pepper spiced rice vinegar (or you could use regular rice vinegar with a pinch of cayenne) 
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp Sriracha hot sauce (the one with the rooster on it)

The wrapper:
1 head of iceberg lettuce, washed, cored and cut so that you have four circular wedges. See photo.

In a large bowl mix:

  • The turkey, the spices, the vinegar, soy sauce and 1 tsp of the sesame oil, plus a good pinch of salt and 5 or 6 grinds of black pepper

Heat a large skillet over a medium high flame

  • Add the oil and then the turkey mixture.
  • Stir as the meat browns, to crumble
  • When the meat is done, spoon away any liquid and fat.  Throw away!
  • Then add in the mushrooms, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, cilantro and scallions.  Continue to cook until everything is cooked through, but still a bit crunchy.
  • Adjust the seasoning with salt if necessary, drizzle over the second half of the sesame oil, stir and serve.

To serve:
Put a spoonful - or two! in a lettuce leaf, spoon on some sauce and eat.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ding Dong Winter is Dead (Tiny Potatoes with Green Beans & Cilantro - 4 or 5 WW points)

To say the folks on the East Coast are sick and tired of Winter is an understatement.  

Green beans, potatoes and cilantro
take me back to lunches with one
of my very best friends.
I celebrated yesterday's Carolina Blue Skies and warmer temps with a walk with friends, a crazy good tennis clinic, a quick trip to the Farmer's Market and a tennis lesson.  By the time evening came, I was wiped out and ready for Steve to fire up the grill and cook a steak. 

Tiny Tiny Potatoes - Quarter added
for scale (-;
Steve is a fantastic griller.  Simplicity reins supreme.  Just a nice steak (not too big or thick, but a good quality piece of meat with just enough marbling for flavor), salt, pepper and a tad of olive oil and a screaming hot grill.  Cook one side long enough for some nice grill marks, flip, sear and remove to continue cooking as it rests to a perfect medium rare.

I had no idea what to make for the side, but we had some wonderful tiny potatoes, cilantro and farm fresh green beans.  It reminded me of the saltados my friend Jennifer and I used to get at Inka Grill when we worked at Telelogic in Orange County, California.  There they mixed green beans, french fries and chicken (weird but good).  Why not do something similar with the tiny little potatoes that we had on hand???

Well, I'm here to tell you that the result is going to become a standard side dish around the Barnett household.  I may tweak it here or there, but feel good about it to share.  

Add a crust to the cut side of the potatoes
Nothing like a cast iron skillet!
The finished product alongside a
WW friendly portion of steak
(yes, you need to cut that fat off!)
Tiny Potatoes with Green Beans & Cilantro - (4 or 5 WW points)
Makes two servings

Note:  The potatoes and green beans can be made way in advance, and kept cold until you are ready to assemble and serve.  Perfect for a day when you'd rather be outside playing than inside cooking.


  • 2 handfuls of tiny tiny potatoes cut in half, or 2 1/12  new or red potatoes cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 handfuls of fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, peeled but not chopped
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 2 green onions, white and green chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 scant Tablespoon of olive oil.  Just enough to coat the skillet lightly
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds (you can use a little more if you like cumin - I really just throw some in a pan.  No measuring)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander (ditto comment above about not measuring)
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder (ditto)
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper


  • Prepare an ice bath:  fill a large bowl with ice and cold water.  Set aside
  • Place the potatoes and the whole cloves of garlic into a pot of cold water, add a bunch of salt and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are just tender.  Pull the potatoes and garlic out of the water with a slotted spoon or "spider" and place in the ice bath to stop the cooking.  Slice the 
  • Now add the green beans to the boiling water. Cook until just tender and still slightly crisp.  Pull out of the water with a slotted spoon or "spider" and place in the ice bath to stop the cooking.
  • Put the cumin, coriander and chili powder into a dry cast iron skillet or other pan and toast until fragrant over a medium high heat. Stir them around a bit and don't let them burn.  
  • Now add olive oil and a pinch of salt to the pan, and add the onion and the garlic (pull from the ice bath, dry and chop the garlic first).  Saute until the onions are becoming soft.  
  • Then add to potatoes, plus a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Toss them around in the oil and spices and then arrange them cut side down and cook on a medium high heat until they are just getting browned, stir to cook the other side.  
  • After about a minute or two, remove the greenbeans from the ice bath and pat them dry with a paper towel.  Add them to the potato mixture along with 3/4 of the cilantro and 3/4 of the sliced green onions.
  • Cook until heated through.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  

Serve topped with the remaining cilantro and green onion.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Farmers Market Find: Braised Pork Shank

Ready for the oven. See you in
three hours!
I went to the Carboro Farmers' Market for eggs yesterday.  Came home with a pork shank to boot.  I guess that's what happens when Cain Creek Farm, the people who raise some of the best pasture raised eggs in the area, also raise hogs.  I'm not complainin, just 'splainin.  

I've never cooked a pork shank, but I'm thinking it will work a lot like my signature dish, oso buco.  And, flash back to last Sunday's pot roast.  Big hunk of meat.  Sear. Saute some veg.  Add liquid. And letter rip, so to speak.  Low and slow for about 3 hours.

The eggs I went to the Farmers
Market to buy.  Yes - pasture raised
chickens raise superior eggs!!
Turns out pork shanks are pretty fatty, so I'm making this one way early and then I'll chill the resulting liquid in an ice bath in the fridge so I can skim off all the bad stuff.  I'll also be able to remove any visible fat from the meat before I serve it.  I know the cooking show folks revel in fat.  But not quite part of the lifestyle we're living.  While there will be some residual fat, but hopefully the wind will die down and I'll get some tennis in this afternoon.  Otherwise, to the treadmill we will go.  Hi Ho.  

Here's how I'm doing it... posting early, but I'm quite confident that it will be yummy.  I will make adjustments tonight if necessary

  • Pre-heat the oven to 325
    • Trim any excess fat from the shank, down to about a quarter of an inch to half inch if necessary.  Liberally season the pork shank with salt and pepper
    • Heat a medium sized Dutch oven and place the shank, fat cap down and leave it there without fussing with it until it is well browned, and a good amount of fat has been rendered.
    • Turn and repeat until the entire shank is well browned. Remove and set aside. Pour off the grease and toss in the trash. (Note, do not pour the hot grease into an empty plastic yogurt cup.  Yes, they melt down to nothing.)
    • While the browing magic is happening, chop up half an onion, about six cloves of garlic, two stalks of celery and three carrots.  I had some frozen sliced leeks in the freezer, so I thawed them, squeezed out the liquid and added them as well. Saute these until they are just getting soft.
    • Now for the herbs and spices:
    • As the veg sauteed, I added a pinch of kosher salt and some fresh cracked black pepper; a bout a teaspoon of fennel seeds, about a half teaspoon of celery seeds, a scant palmful each of dried sage and dried oregano, and three dried bay leaves.  
    • Now place the browned shank back into the pot.
    • Next comes the liquid
    • If I'd had an open bottle of dry white wine, I would have added a cup or so, but since I did not I added about two cups each of chicken stock and enough vegetable stock to come up just over half way up the shank.  If you don't have veg stock, use whatever stock you have.  Seriously, do not over think this!
    • Now bring it to a bubble, clamp on the lid, put the whole thing into the oven and set your timer for 90 minutes.  
  • Figure out and do what extra exercise you will do today so you don't feel guilty.  Write blog post.

  • At the 90 minute mark, flip the meat.  
    • Adjust the liquid if necessary (this is rarely needed) and set the time for another 90 minutes.
  • Do that exercise if you didn't do it earlier.
  • When it is all done and the meat is literally falling off the bone, remove the shank and let cool, then refrigerate until you get ready to serve. I
    • f you are doing this the day before, put the braising liquid in a bowl, and let cool, then put in the fridge over night.  If you are serving the same day, put the bowl of liquid in a larger bowl filled with ice and water to speed up the cooling process.
  • When the fat has congealed remove it and throw it away.  
    • Feel good about doing what you an to make this a more figure friendly dish.
  • When you are ready to serve, pop the shank into a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until it is headed through.  

    • Meanwhile, heat the liquid in a sauce pan and puree it with a stick blender to make a velvety sauce.  
  • Enjoy.