Some tongue.

Over the past couple weeks, I haven’t been cooking anything that takes longer than 10 minutes—the pizza, many salads, a few pieces of fish—but Jim and I had something serious brewing up in our kitchen. Like, 6 days brining and then 24-hour waterbath serious. Yes, a serious, 7+ day recipe. Beef tongue.

We’ve been eating more ethically lately, buying meat from the small, local, and humane meat producers in our area. We get to see how the animals live before they are slaughtered—on big open terrains, munching on grass, or hanging by the lake. They’re happy. And I’m much happier too—the meat tastes better, I don’t feel badly eating it, and it’s healthier.

tongue3

But it’s more expensive. In my new favorite cookbook, we’re told that to eat meat ethically, you should expect that half as much meat will be twice as expensive. It’s true. This shouldn’t deter you, however, but unless you’re a bahgillionaire, you’ll have to rethink your meat-eating. Firstly, you’ve got to eat less meat. Fill your dinner plate up with substantial foods, like lentils, so that you fill up without needing a big hunkin’ steak. (Though, of course, remember to splurge on the steak every once in a while.) Secondly, you’ve got to start cooking with cheaper cuts—chuck, short-ribs, etc.—and offal.

Offal is the entrails and internal organs of the animals that make your meat. Offal’s the lump category for things like heart, liver, and tongue. Offal’s cheap. I mean, real cheap. The big ol’ tongue we bought from our fancy-pants free-range organic meat supplier was about 5 bucks—put that in perspective with the about 30 dollars we spend there on pork tenderloin. Offal’s cheap.

It’s also quite fatty too, which is all the more reason to keep your portions small. The taste of tongue is delicious—meaty but awesomely tender. I don’t really know how to describe it, other than I think it has the flavor of a steak-um. A steak-um but 10 bahgillion times better. Try it. You’ll get a delicious meal, money left in your bank, a clear conscience, and leftovers for days. Can’t beat that.

tongue5

Pickled Tongue

adapted from the River Cottage Meat Book

For the Brine:

  • 5 quarts of water
  • 1 pound light brown sugar
  • 3 pounds coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon juniper berries
  • 5 cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig of thyme

For the Brined Tongue:

  • 1 whole fresh beef tongue
  • 1 herb satchel (with thyme, oregano, celery seeds, and peppercorn)
  • 3 small carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 1 leek, halved crosswise and lengthwise
  • 1/2 garlic bulb, outer leaves removed

Put all the ingredients for the brine into a large stockpot and stir well over low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, allow to bubble for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool. Once cooled, put the tongue in a large non-metallic container (i.e. Tupperware) and cover it with the cooled brine. Put in the fridge and let brine for 6-7 days. (Or up to 10 if you tongue is over 6 pounds.)

Days later, when your tongue is (finally) ready, remove from brine and soak it in fresh water for another day, changing the water at least once. (Soak for two days if you have an over 6 pound tongue.)

When ready, remove the tongue to a dutch oven with the ingredients for the brined tongue. Cover with fresh water, bring to a simmer, then poach gently on the stovetop over low to medium-low heat for 2½ to 3 hours, or until tongue is very tender and yields easily when pierced.

Then (you’re not done yet) remove the tongue and discard the rest. Place tongue on a cutting board and peel or cut away the skin (you’ll understand what I’m talking about when you see it.) When you’re removing the skin, make sure to get rid of all of it, cutting the outer layer off pretty generously–the meat of the tongue is very tender, but the skin’s texture isn’t very pleasant.

Serve with lentils and cabbage, and a good, grainy mustard.

Serves 10 or more.

Peach Puff Pastry Pizza

I’ve been feeling better great lately. I’m still sore in my lower back/hip area, but mostly after I work out, and hardly enough to get upset about. And yes, I’m even working out. This, for me, is a happiness that has me giddy—when you write a food blog that features bacon on more posts than not, working out is an important part of your life. You may have also noticed, I’ve been busy. Since starting my new site over a week ago, I’ve been scouring the web for drool-worthy food photography, reading endless articles on food, and spending way too much time in front of my computer screen—it’s been a blast.

I’ve met great new people with gorgeous blogs, I’ve formed relationships with bloggers who I knew of but hadn’t spoken with before, I’ve emailed more people in 5 days than I have ever emailed in my life. I’ve gotten compliments, hate-mail, encouragement, and deterrents. It’s been a roller-coaster. And I haven’t cooked anything that takes more than 20 minutes.

This is not to say, however, that I didn’t eat well this week. For one, I went to Bouley Upstairs, and had some phenomenal sushi that was accompanied by a burger (the charm of this place is that you can order both.) And, I had this pizza.

This peach puff pastry pizza to be exact, with locally grown arugula, red onion, and fresh goat and fontina cheese. To say it was delicious would be an extreme understatement. It was superb—gobbled up within minutes. The peppery arugula cut through the buttery puff pastry and creamy cheeses, the red onion was sharp and clean, and the peaches added a sweet level that transcended the meal way up above your ordinary delicious.

And it was easy. Like, you’ll never want to eat fast food again when you can have this, easy. A piece of week-night perfection.

Peach Puff Pastry Pizza

  • 2 peaches, cut into thin slices
  • 1/2 pound of arugula
  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup safflower oil
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 package puff pastry, thawed and flattened with a rolling pin so it is about as big as your sheet pan
  • 3 ounces fontina cheese, grated
  • 3 ounces fresh goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Marinate the peach, arugula, and onion in oil, salt, and pepper while you thaw and prepare your puff pastry

Roll out your puff pastry and set on a greased baking sheet, rolling the very edges to make a crust. Spread the marinated mixture on the puff pastry. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

Remove from oven. Sprinkle on the fontina cheese and then crumble the goat cheese over that. Put back in the oven for another 5-7 minutes so that the fontine cheese melts (goat cheese will never really melt.) Let stand for 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving. Goes very nicely with a good Sauvignon Blanc.

My Chinese take-out.

What do you do when you don’t have a grill but the best meat at your favorite local meat producer is the spareribs? Do you cry, lamenting your bad decision to live in an apartment where you don’t have a backyard and grill-space? Do you opt for the much-more-expensive and getting-down-right-old (but otherwise delicious) pork tenderloin that you get all the time? Do you run out of the little farm-store, spear-in-hand, straight for the cows chewing peacefully in their pastures, intent on making a kill just so you can get that sought-after and never available rib-eye steak that would be so perfectly done in the oven? No, no. Don’t be silly. It would take them at least two-weeks to dry age that steak—just take the spareribs.

I did take the spareribs and I have to admit I was pretty bummed over not having a grill until I found this recipe for Chinese Spareribs in the River Cottage Meat Book (thanks Anita for leading me to this wonderful book!) Truthfully, even after I found the recipe, I tossed and turned over making it instead of barbecued ribs. I thought about whose house with a grill I could invite myself to, I thought about making them in the oven. I was upset.

And then, as things usually go, Jim told me I was being crazy and took me out to buy the ingredients for Chinese Spareribs—he’s such a good decision-maker. And a lucky one, too, because these ribs turned out to be the most succulent, fragrant, falling-off the bone, reminiscent of but waaay better than Chinese take-out ribs. All of the ingredients, which seemed too strong when I first put them in the pot, fused together to create the flavor that everyone tries to get when making Chinese food at home. The recipe’s a keeper. The kind of recipe that you use at dinner parties for bosses when you want to get a raise or for a first date when you want to be fallen in love with or at home with your boyfriend when you want to say thank you for putting up with your crappy moods for the past six months: The best kind of recipe.

Chinese-Style Spareribs

adapted from The River Cottage Meat Book

  • 3 pounds spareribs, preferably organic grass-fed
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 3 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 8 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 5 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 10 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 10 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
  • 1 cup pineapple juice, preferably fresh

Cut spareribs into peices about 2-4 ribs wide. Heat oil in a large pot. Fry spareribs until browned on all sides. Add ginger and garlic and fry until they release their aromas. Add in soy sauces, sugar, vinegar, pineapple juice , and enough water to barely cover ribs. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and not letting the liquid get too low.

Remove spareribs from pot. Let the liquid simmer away until it makes a rich, syrupy broth. Put the spareribs back in the pot to re-warm them. Serve with slices of radish or spring onion.

Seeduction.

I always admire those bloggers who give us two-part posts about foods. They show us something—a sauce, some ice cream—and tell us that it went so well with…something, but we’ll hear about that tomorrow. And then the next day, right on cue, we get the perfectly paired pasta, or chocolate cake. I really admire that.

For me, I can’t think that far ahead. I made that cherry jam the other day, ate a few spoonfuls, and then stuck it in the fridge door. I had made it because I was afraid my cherries would go bad, I didn’t have what to do with it in mind. And then I effectively forgot all about it.

Yesterday, for a completely unrelated reason, I went about making a seed bread. There’s a bread from Whole Foods that Jim and I buy weekly called “Seeduction” bread. Besides blushing whenever I have to order it from the nice, portly employee in the bread section, I’m beginning to hate buying this bread for the cost. It’s about 6 dollars for a medium sized loaf. What with my accident, and all the money I’ve been spending to get better lately, that’s a lot of money for a bread that usually goes stale before the two of us can finish it. But don’t get me wrong, it’s good bread—chewy, wholesome, very tasty—and I don’t mind paying for quality food. Well, at least I don’t mind paying for quality food that I otherwise don’t want to (or can’t) make myself. I’ll pay loads for a good chocolate or coffee, or cheese. But I don’t spend my money on chicken stocks, sauces, or prepared foods. I make these things myself, for a fraction of the price, and they taste better than store-bought.

That got me thinking—why not make my own “Seeduction” bread? Surely it’d be sexier for me, rather than that nice, portly gentleman, to present Jim with the “Seeduction.” But I’d always shied away from making my own whole-grain bread because of some gut-feeling that it couldn’t be done without a kitchen-aid mixer. I never, however, looked far enough to figure out the truth. Whole-grain breads are easily, wonderfully made in a food processor. The blade of the processor has enough “umpha” to work the dough, kneading it further than my puny arms could take. It takes all of a few minutes. The result is a hearty, soft in the middle, seed-riddled bread that could easily pass for an entire lunch-time meal. And, like icing on the cake, it is the perfect bread to slather cherry jam all over. The sweet, dark jam is a match made in paradise with the earthy bread. I wish I could take credit for planning that in advance. But I’ll settle for the happy surprise.

Seeduction Bread

makes 2 round loafs//adapted from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger

  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup couscous or bulgur or cracked wheat
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 cup cool water
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds

Pour lukewarm water into a 2-cup measure and sprinkle with yeast. Mix in honey and let sit for about 10 minutes, so it gets foamy.

Put flours, couscous and salt in the bowl of your food processor and pulse to combine them. Pour the sunflower oil and cool water into the yeast mixture and then, while the processor is running, pour everything through the feed tube of your food processor lid in a slow and steady stream. Let it run until the dough stops sticking to the outside walls of the processor and forms a ball. Add a teaspoon or two of water if it’s not sticky enough to form the ball, or flour if it looks too wet. Let the processor run for another minute to knead the dough.

Remove the dough ball to a greased bowl and flip it once so all sides of the dough get a little greased. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm spot for 2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat mat. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. Knead the dough a few times and form into a large oval. Sprinkle with the seeds (reserving 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds) and fold in half. Knead the dough so that you distribute the seeds evenly. Divide the dough into two and form tight round balls. Coarsly chop the remaining pumpkin seeds and roll the tops of the dough balls in them. (You could substitute poppy seeds here.) Place on the baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Bake the breads on the center rack for 35 minutes, or until they are golden and sound hollow when tapped. Cool before slicing.

The happy tedium of cherry jam.

I’m feeling a bit better this week—not better as in I can spend more time off the couch than on it better, or my life is going back to normal and I can sleep a whole 8 hours without being awakened by shudders of pain in my back and hips better, or even I no longer feel like I’ve gone bonkers better, but by now, I ain’t asking for much; and feeling as if there may be a teensy blip of light at the end of the tunnel is seriously uplifting. Almost as uplifting, I must add, as all your comments have been—I loved everyone’s caring words.

They helped me calm down, helped me realize that it will get better—if not physically (though that’s the hope, dammit!) then mentally. Everything that was happening was too much for me to see through—I couldn’t fathom ever getting better, or being happy again. You guys helped me realize that it was stupid ol’ depression talking, that I hadn’t gone totally nuts. Honestly, I started to feel better as soon as I published that post… and each comment that came in made me feel even better.

I realize now that it’s going to be an uphill climb. I’m not just going to one day wake up and feel 100 percent (though I’m not ruling out that possibility), but that gradually I’ll get better. I may not be able to go dancing anytime soon, but that’s okay. I’ve started to get the whole it’s been six months already so what the hell’s up thought out of my head, replacing it with a it’s been six months, that sucks, but let’s do something to get my mind off it kind of thinking. I’m no longer upset about not being able to cook elaborate meals or lavish desserts, spending hours in the kitchen. I’ve given up on that for a bit. I also gave up on my apartment patio gardening—opting to buy pre-potted plants that are, in truth, better looking than the ones I grew last year. I made food processor bread that didn’t need one knead. And I started taking pleasure in the slow, tedious cooking that you can do while sitting down.

There’s a happy tedium in pitting three pounds of cherries. And I’m grateful for that.

Cherry Jam

This is my recipe for one pound of cherries—since cherries are so expensive I never make much of the jam in fear that I won’t eat it all throughout the year. Surely though, double or triple if you want. Make sure to buy a little over the weight of cherries you want to use, to make up for any bruised fruit that you may find in the bag.

Also, I halve the cherries with a sharp paring knife and then pull out the pit—I’ve always heard that you should put pressure on the cherry with the flat side of a big knife and that it will conveniently split open and dislodge the pit. I find that technique too messy so unless you are bent on having plump whole cherries in your jam, cutting in half with a knife is fine.

  • 1 pound cherries, halved and pitted
  • the juice and zest of one lime
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup water, optional
  • 2/3 cup sugar

Put a small plate in the freezer.

Heat cherries in a 2 quart pot over medium heat. Add the lime and almond extract. Bring to a boil and then cook until cherries are tender, maybe 15-20 minutes. If not much juice has come out, add some water, up to 1/2 cup.

Add the sugar and stir for a few minutes. Test the jam by taking the pot off the heat and putting a bit of it on the plate from the freezer. Put it back in the freezer for a couple minutes, then take out and nudge the jam with your finger. If it wrinkled up a bit, or if it hardly moves when you tilt the plate sideways, your jam is done. If not, put the pot back on the heat and cook some more before testing again. Cherry jam sets easily, so you’ll probably only have to test it once or twice.

Pour the jam in sterilized mason jars with new dome lids and screw bands (leaving 1/4 inch of headspace) if canning, or in whatever container you like if you plan to eat the jam in the next few weeks.

If canning, screw on the lids and heat another pot full of water until boiling. Add the jars to the pot carefully and boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars–carefully–and place on a towel. The jars should make a popping noise soon, telling you they are properly sterilized. When you push down on the lid of a sterilized jar, it will not make a clicking noise. Store in a cool dark place and consume within one year.

Fills about 3 4 oz. jars.