Tag Archives: plum tomatoes

Slow-Cooked Hungarian Pork Loin (serves 8-10)

Here was the situation the other night; I was without a car and the pantry was down to the dregs. When I say dregs, I am talking about what I call the last bits and pieces of what I think one would need to scrounge up some sort of dinner. I am pretty sick of hearing myself say this, but here we go again: if you have what you consider the bare necessities on hand in your kitchen you can always come up with something to put an evening meal together.

a dish that cooks itself!

A dish that cooks itself!

Well, what did I have on hand in my pantry? What I didn’t have was anything green save for the rosemary plant I was nursing through the winter freeze on a sill in the kitchen, or anything quick cooking like eggs or a piece of chicken, fish or even any canned sardines (which I almost always have hidden somewhere – they are great with a bit of red sauce and pasta and pepper flakes in a pinch!).

Essential to this dish

Essential to this dish was another staple in my pantry, Paprika!

What I did have was a big hunk of pork (which I found in the freezer and set out to defrost; Lesson 1 – have a hunk of meat in the freezer at all times) along with three ingredients I deem essential  if you want to build something from nothing; garlic, onions and olive oil. These are things that last forever and even the saddest looking onion is worth saving. The other thing that comes to my rescue is a modest stash of spices, salts and a few select dried herbs and greens like good bay leaves and maybe a jar of Herbs de Provence, (I am not a fan of large collections of dried herbs and spices sitting on the counter in a big carousel, or neat jars in rows over the stove – most of this stuff shrivels up and looses flavor before you have a chance to use it – a few keys things stored in a dark cupboard is a much better idea and less wasteful).

Cook capers with seasonings

Good dried bay leaves go a long way in a pinch (these are from the Laxmi company based in Mumbai, India – I love this company. They have great varieties of bulk spices and herbs, as well as oil seeds like sesame, and dried fruits, namely raisins)

The only thing in this ingredient list that wasn’t something that I normally have on hand in the winter were the plum tomatoes. They had been sitting in the kitchen for several days, leftover from a salsa that I didn’t end up making. I threw them into the dish just to use them up and they were perfect (and sort of substituted for my lack of a vegetable!). So, if you get a pantry in order filled with the things that appeal to you, there will be no panic if you find yourself a prisoner in your own home!

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You will need:

3 tbs olive oil

3 1/2 lbs pork loin, cut into big chunks

3 medium sweet onions, halved and sliced

4 to 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3 celery ribs, sliced

4 or so sprigs fresh thyme

1 small spring fresh rosemary

1 tbs hot Hungarian paprika OR 1/2 smoked 1/2 hot OR 1/2 sweet 1/2 hot paprika (any combo will work)

4 or 5 Roma tomatoes, halved

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock (OR good quality stock cube and 6 cups water – *If your stock cube is very mild, use two for full flavor)

Method:

Preheat oven 300*

1 – Season pork with good quality salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put saute pan on high heat and add the oil. When it is very hot sear the meat in batches on all sides. transfer to a deep casserole or straight-sided pan as you go.

sear pork loin

sear pork loin

2 – Turn heat down to medium/low and add a little more oil if you need to. Add the onions, garlic and celery and saute for about 3 minutes before adding the fresh herbs. Continue to cook, stirring frequently for another 3 or so minutes.

Saute onions, celery and garlic

Saute onions, celery and garlic

3 – Add the paprika and stir into the veggies. If you are using a stock cube add it now. Stir lightly for about a minute.

add spices

add spices

4 – Add the liquid (stock or water) and turn heat up to high. Add the meat and when the mixture comes to a boil add the halved tomatoes, halved side down (this helps keep the skin in tact!). taste a little of the juices and adjust salt and pepper to your taste .

Add broth, then pork loin

Add broth, then pork loin

5 – Place in oven and cook for 3 hours or until meat is very tender.

cook for 3 hours or so and serve with whatever your heart desires!

cook for 3 hours or so and serve with whatever your heart desires!

Serve with whatever you like; rice, spaghetti, pici pasta, fresh crusty bread, and sautéed greens. The sauce is great with any of the above.

Whole Chicken Cooked with Creamy Celery (serves 4)

 When the cupboards are getting bare, I usually have onions and celery in the house. They keep for a long time and do wonders for anything they are added to.

If you are not sure what to keep on hand for those days you do not want to go shopping (that would be me), or, it is just that time of the week when you generally run out of ingredients, put 3 things on your list of staples; onions, celery, chicken broth, OR, good quality bouillon cubes. If you have these few things, you will never be stuck.

I buy a really great vegetarian bouillon cube  which has herbs and sea-salt added. In a pinch, they are all I need to pull together a soup or stew-like dish. They also make a great base for various pasta sauces (will be posting about this wonder-cubes in my pantry section tomorrow!)

This was a wonderful and simple method to coax the most flavor out of my chicken dinner!

Yes, it is also a good idea to have a couple of chickens in the freezer, and a stock of canned goods such as plum tomatoes.

It is also worth mentioned that this dinner costs pennies to make.

Last night I put all my stables to the best possible use and whipped together yet another amazing chicken dinner! It took little or no effort on my part and the flavors were not compromised. I give all the credit to a few sticks of celery and a couple of onions.

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You Will Need: 3 1/2 lb whole chicken, 4 big celery ribs, including leaves, sliced, 2 medium onions (yellow or sweet), large dice,  2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tbs unsalted butter, 3 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 14oz can plum tomatoes, including juices, 2 cups chicken broth (or, 1 good quality veggie or chicken bouillon cube & 2 cups of water), 1/2 cup heavy cream, sea-salt and freshly cracked pepper to season chicken.

Preheat oven 425*

saute veggies, then add liquid

1 – Put heavy-lidded casserole on medium heat on stove top and add butter and oil. Add the onions and celery and cook for 15 or so minutes. add the cream, tomatoes, thyme, and broth and bring to a simmer.

add chicken

2 – Lay the whole chicken on top of everything and spoon some of the juices and greens over the skin. Place the lid on your pot and place in the oven for 70 to 75 minutes.

3 – Transfer chicken to a plate and cover for 10 minutes to rest and cool down a little.

Whole chicken cooked in Creamy Celery (my son had some rice in his broth)

This dish has lots of yummy broth so serve in shallow bowls giving each person a big piece of their favorite part of the chicken. You can also serve it along with rice, pasta or crusty bread.

Mexican Inspired Salad (serves 4)

 I had to think of a dish that would use up a large quantity of my pepper hoard. It was out of control! Since so many of the varieties were on the hot side, I started to think about some sort of Mexican inspired dinner.

lots of peppers from my garden & from next door!

It was too late to make flour tortillas, but I was in the mood for that kind of flavor. I decided on frying up a whole bunch of peppers, tossing them with some super-thin smokey chicken and served it all on a bed of fresh spinach. 

I was also in luck and had some plum tomatoes from the garden, which added a nice cool note to the final dish. This is a fantastic thing to put together for a crowd (just double or triple the recipe). I couldn’t get enough of this humdinger of a meal!

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You will need: 4 tbs olive oil, 2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, mixture of peppers; 1 red, 1 green, 1 yellow, long green and red, jalapeno, cherry bombs, cayenne peppers (use enough to make up about 6 cups chopped), sliced, 2 chicken breasts (fillet), thinly sliced, 1 clove garlic, finely chopped, 2 chipotle peppers with adobo sauced, chopped (you can find these in the ethnic aisle. They come in a can with smokey adobo sauce), 8 cups fresh spinach leaves, 4 plum tomatoes

1 – Prep all ingredients before you start cooking.

2 – Put sliced chicken in a bowl with the garlic, chipotle peppers,  some adobo sauce and 2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil. Mix together and set aside.

prep the peppers

3 – Put big pan or wok on high heat and when it is hot add 3 tbs of the oil. Let the oil get hot before adding all of the sliced peppers. stir-fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to plate.

stir-fry peppers

4 – Add the last tablespoon of oil to pan and add the chicken, spreading quickly onto pan surface in an even layer. Cook for 3 minutes. Do not try to move chicken around during the cooking or it will stick. After about 3 or 4 minutes the chicken will loosen and can be tossed to turn over. Cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. Add the peppers back to the pan and turn off heat.

stir-fry chicken

5 – Lay a layer of spinach leaves on the bottom of each plate and mound with chicken mixture. Place sliced tomatoes around the border.

HOT salad!

You can also put some condiments on the table such as sour cream, hot sauce and grated cheese.

Penne with Creamy Vegetables and Bacon (serves 6)

Last night this dinner came together because I needed to use up some peppers and tomatoes from my garden. My approach to dinner, for the most part, is to look around to see what I have, and then do my best to use those ingredients, rather than buying everything especially for that meal.

Really Good Dinner of Penne with Creamy Vegetables & Bacon

It gets really expensive and wasteful if you pop out to the shop to buy something new for every meal. According to the season I may have a glut of a certain thing (peppers & green beans at the moment!) which forces me to be creative.

Cooking these ultra-fresh peppers and tomatoes in a white sauce gave them a wonderful creamy tang, and no one seemed to remember, or care, that they had already eaten both of these vegetables at least 4 other times this week!

I will admit that anything involving bacon doesn’t hurt either.

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You will need: 1 lb bacon, 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 red pepper, finely diced, 1 green pepper, finely diced, 3 small sweet onions, diced, 12 small plum tomatoes, halved, 1 cup baby peas (I used frozen), 6 sprigs thyme, 3 tbs unsalted butter, 3 tbs all-purpose flour, 3 cups milk (any %), 1/2 cup chicken or veggie broth, 1 tsp coarse sea-salt, several grinds black pepper, 1 lb ridged penne pasta (I used mini penne by Barilla)

1 – Put a big saute pan on low heat and fry the bacon in batches until getting crispy, and the fat on the edges is cooked. Set aside.

First, get bacon on.

2 – While bacon is cooking, put large pan on low/medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions and peppers and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3 – Next add the tomatoes and thyme and continue to cook for another 8 minutes. Remove from pan to bowl and set aside.

cook vegetables

4 – Warm the milk and broth in a saucepan.

* Also this is the time to put on the pasta water and cook according to instructions. Time so it is cooked by the time it is ready for the sauce.

5 – Put  butter in the same pan, and when it melts, whisk in the flour until you have a pasta. Add the warm milk slowly and whisk as you go until all the milk is incorporated.

make roux

6 – Turn heat up to medium. Add the peas and bacon and cook until the sauce has thickened (about 8 or so minutes)

add warm milk, then peas & bacon

7 – Add the rest of the vegetables and stir with a wooden spoon. Turn off heat. When penne has cooked, drain and add it immediately to the sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

add rest of vegetables, followed by pasta

Transfer to a big warmed serving dish and put on the middle of your table and let everyone help themselves (of course they can do this just as easily from the pan also!). Garnish with Parmigiano Reggiano if you like.

time to serve!

Spaghetti with Burstingly Fresh Herbs, Tomatoes & Garlic Infused Oil (serves 4)

Last night I had dinner with friends (and strangers!) so I didn’t have to cook dinner. I did however have to make lunch, and I decided to make something that could work for either dinner or lunch. It was good,  so good in fact, I was sorry I didn’t make it for dinner when people were coming over! Isn’t that always the way? One can go to tons of trouble to prepare dinner when company is coming, and, on days when there is no pressure whatsoever, you invariably come up with a winning dish!

Such was the case yesterday afternoon. All of a sudden the kids were clammering for food, and I lied as I usually do, and said they would be eating in “12 minutes or less!” I put a pot of water on for pasta and told myself that by the time it was ready, there would be something in a pan to receive it.

The reason for the dish; Basil and flat-leaf Parsley

I raced down the back steps to my little plot of dirt, and decided on a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, and sweet basil leaves. All I envisioned was chopping them so finely they would turn everything a brilliant green. I was so excited about the resulting bowl of food that I stood by my kids and wanted to know immediately what they thought.  They barely got a mouthful down before I attacked them for a critique. My daughter declared it was the best pasta dish I had ever made, and my son nodding in agreement, too busy eating to speak.

a Real Winner!

Of course hunger can do terrible things to one’s judgment, but I have to say, if you can get your hands on some fresh herbs, and you want something ultra-fast, this is the thing to make. It would also be great if a hoard of people descended upon you, and they are in need of feeding!

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You will Need: 1/4 cup plus 1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 bunch of Basil and 1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped ultra-fine (chopped, should measure a 1/2 cup in total), 1 big garlic clove, thickly sliced, 3 plum tomatoes, skinned, pulp removed and diced (I used 3 plum tomatoes from a can, so the prep was quick and easy), 3/4 lb spaghetti pasta (I use Barilla brand), coarse sea-salt (I use Maldon slat flakes) and freshly ground black pepper, Parmigiano Reggiano for sprinkling over finished dish.

1 – Put pot of water on to boil for spaghetti. When it boils add a tsp of salt and cook spaghetti according to instructions (generally 8-9 minutes).

Prep vegetables, but, do not start step 2 until the pasta has  6 minutes left to cook.

Chop herbs ultra-fine

2 – Put big saute pan on medium heat and add oil. When it warms up, add the sliced garlic. Cook on both sides until beginning to turn brown. Remove garlic and discard.

Cook garlic, then discard.

3 – Add tomatoes and cook for about 1 minute before adding the fresh herbs. Cook for further  3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add a little coarse salt (1/4 tsp) and several grinds of pepper.

cook tomatoes & herbs.

4 – Turn off heat and toss drained pasta into pan and incorporate.

Top with a little Parmigiano Reggiano

Serve in warm bowls with a little cheese if you like. I also cooked a few seasoned sausages on the side, for the meat lovers.

My man Dave ate his lunch right out of the pan (i live with peasants!)