Intermittent efforts

Like many bloggers who are lucky enough to find themselves chasing down a 2 year old, my experimental food projects have taken a lower priority indicated by my frequency of posting. I'll always enjoy experimentation in the kitchen but haven't had the time to do as many of these experiments nor assemble the outcome for presentation here (I frequently fall asleep about a minute after Frankie). This is just a note to say, I'll be getting back to it soon, but when I get a chance.

On queue: I'd like to share my mega granola recipe (Frankie loves granola); this is utilitarian and good. I'm going to use my oven to try to make some sweetened, dried sour cherries from a neighbor (trick is how to sweeten them?). I'm totally into flax seeds lately - more with them later ...

In the meantime, I've been logging my food shots for recipes already covered on flickr. It's a good repository for me to put photos of stuff I do routinely but aren't worth a blog entry.

Hope you're all enjoying the Summer!


Viewer mail: pork shoulder cooking time

Lately, we've been eating light. Salads, bread, cheese, veggies ... lite fare for these humid days; not much to blog about. However, that doesn't mean 'Q emergencies don't exist. This one was from a man I'll call Jack:

I was going to smoke a pork shoulder picnic roast, and the recipe I have says to smoke it for 1 1/2 hours per pound. My roast is close to 9 pounds and if my addition is right that makes it close to 14 hours of smoking time. My question is: could I stick it in the oven at about 200 degrees for about 5 hours then move it to the smoker after I wake up in the morning? I really don't want to keep my smoker up to temperature by staying up all night.
A 'Q purist would've passed Jack's email address to the nearest online Viagra salesman and been done with it. But, I saw a person with a busy schedule, not unlike a busy parent, trying to achieve great results on a busy schedule and thought this was actually a great idea. Some oven, some smoking.

He was using a picnic roast (my personal favorite for pulled pork) and cooked it 8 hours in the oven at 200F and 9 hours in an offset smoker. Despite a few ups and downs regarding the temperature of the smoker (tending to other work-related duties, we'll forgive you this time Jack) he achieved a final internal temp of 180F (I believe that's as good as it gets for pulled) and said he got a roast that "cut like butter". Kind of driving you nuts isn't it.

He did comment on the fact it didn't pull with a fork, but I've observed similar results on some outstanding "pulled pork" myself. The picnic cut is a bit different and may not lend itself to a texture that pulls. So, once again, a reader comes up with a pretty darn good work around to the low 'n slow cooking that can sometimes challenge one's schedule. Good job Jack.


First time for everything

Squash-'n-ZucchiniIn my many years of cooking outdoors, I've never used a gas grill. I got one free from my few minutes of fame and finally got the nerve to take the helm the other night.

One of our favorite meals is a simple mix of roasted zucchini, fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced basil, lightly toasted pine nuts, cooked pasta and salt, pepper and olive oil. The residual heat of the cooked pasta gently cooks the tomatoes and the dish is best served at room temperature. And, it has hand size pieces for Frankie to grab (if you use amusing shapes of macaroni).

This time, the only difference I made to the recipe is I grilled the zucchini and summer squash. I cut them in quarters, tossed them with oil and grilled them for a while on medium on a cast iron platform. It required 60 grams of propane (in case you were interested in ridiculous details). It was fun, quick and I might even use my gas grill with some regularity. Totally inappropriate for the low 'n slow thing but quite handy for the lightning fast dinner preps.


Lentils, peas, rice

lentils, peas, rice
A while back, Sasha posted this simple recipe of lentils, peas and rice. I barely modified it but re-posted it as an endorsement if nothing else. A great contribution as a room temperature potluck dish. It's a regular part our nighttime scramble to get healthy food to the table. I simmer 1 cup dry green lentils in in (ca. 3 C) stock and about a teaspoon of fenugreek, caremelize thinly sliced onions, cook about a cup of basmati rice and combine everything into a bowl containing a 10 oz bag of frozen peas (the residual heat of the lentils, rice and onion warms the frozen peas and the frozen peas stop the lentils from further cooking, or, as a chemist, I can't resist saying the whole mess equilibrates nicely). I add a liberal slosh of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and let it set for a while and serve with yogurt/lemon juice on the side. We love it and I hope our gathering today does too. Thanks Sasha!