summer vegetable crumble

Posted on August 21, 2014

Growing up, eating with the seasons just happened to a bi-product of my mother’s obsessive gardening. She’d try planting just about anything once, but under that hot Sacramento sun things like squash and tomatoes really thrived. I remember harvesting zucchini the size of toddlers and tossing them back and forth in the swimming pool. Summer produce stands out most in my memory, though I’m sure we ate from her garden past August.

summer vegetable crumble | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Eating from the garden was just how eating went in my family, and it wasn’t until my senior year of college when I became more interested in food politics and the complexities of our industrial food system, that I really understood the impact eating seasonally and locally has on our local economy, our environment and our health. The short answer is it’s a big one. And the long answer is much better explained by the folks who really know what they’re talking about, Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle to name a few.

Eating with respect to the seasons and spending our dollars in support local farms and food businesses has become a not-so-private mission of ours, and even in my mother’s eyes, we verge on militant. But if there is one thing to care about, the health of our family and our planet isn’t a bad one, especially if it also means eating wonderful food.

Living in middle of downtown San Francisco, we don’t grow much beyond a few pots of herbs, which is where our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm Share subscription from Eatwell Farm comes in. Eatwell Farm’s mission is to feed body and soul. They are committed stewards to the environment and constantly challenge industrial agricultural practices in favor of sustainable ones. They care about their land, their employees, and growing the healthiest and best food money can buy—and you can absolutely taste it.

We’ve had our CSA with Eatwell for over 3 years and could not be happier. We get perfect produce. We eat healthier. We stretch ourselves by cooking with ingredients we might not necessarily buy. We know our dollar is going to support a local farm and local families working hard to change our food system. And we spend the same amount as we would spend at the grocery store, where just pennies of your dollar make it back to the farmers. If we don’t support local farms, we’ll lose them—a tragedy with repercussions far beyond just taste—and a CSA is a simple, effective and delicious way to vote with your dollar.

If I haven’t convinced you, taste the difference for yourself! Eatwell Farm has been kind enough to offer our Northern California readers a discount to try their CSA Farm Share subscription. New Eatwell Farm subscribers can use the code: ALWAYSPORK to get their first 4 box subscription for just $99. Good ingredients make it easier to cook good food, and I honestly cannot recommend Eatwell enough. If you don’t live in Eatwell’s delivery radius, I urge you to check out Local Harvest to see if there are any farm share subscriptions in your area.

summer vegetable crumble | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Now I’ll step down of my soapbox and move onto the recipe. This dish is made with all kinds of wonderful summer produce—zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers. It was inspired by ratatouille, with a little sprinkle of cheese and buttery pastry crumble added to jazz it up a bit. It’s great as a vegetarian main dish, but could also be served as a side. It takes just 30 minutes to throw together, but tastes like far more effort went into it.

Savory Summer Vegetable Crumble
1 onion, diced
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1 Japanese eggplant, cut into 1” chunks (or half of a globe eggplant)
1 – 2 zucchini, cut into 1” chunks
2 peppers, diced (we used bell pepper, but any mild pepper will do)
a good sprinkle of fresh thyme or oregano
1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
chili flake, salt and pepper to taste
⅓ cup gruyere, mozzarella or parmesan cheese, shredded (use what you have)

For the crumble topping
4 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into small 1 tablespoon pieces
¾ cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour (we used Eatwell’s Sonora Wheat Flour, which was A+)
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 450° F and put one rack closest to the top.

summer vegetable crumble | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

First make the crumble topping. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the butter and work it into the flour with your fingers or a pastry blender, until the butter is in pea-sized pieces and the mixture just comes together if you squeeze it. It will still be pretty crumbly, which is just what you want. Put the crumble topping into the fridge until the veggies are ready.

summer vegetable crumble | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

In a cast iron skillet or other oven-safe pot, sauté the onion in a little olive oil over medium-low heat. When the onions are soft, add the tomatoes and sauté just a minute more. Season well with salt, pepper and chili flake. Add the other chopped vegetables and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and then with the crumble top.

Bake 20 minutes on the top rack, until the vegetables are just starting to get soft at the edges and the crumble top is browned. This will serve two to three people as a vegetarian main, or four to five people as a side dish. It would be delightful alongside a roast chicken or quickly sautéed pork chop. You could also top with a few eggs in the last few minutes of cooking if you’d like something a bit heartier. The beauty of good, simple food is it’s flexibility, so mix it up! I hope you enjoy!

summer vegetable crumble | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

The post was written in partnership with Eatwell Farm, but the opinions are always our own.

-Emily

just throw it in the vitamix

Posted on August 7, 2014

Sometimes in life you end up with a watermelon past its prime on your counter, a bit of lime juice lingering in your fridge left over from a previous night’s margaritas, and a fiancée (say what?!) who’s favorite solution to produce is blending it into submission. Just throw it in the Vitamix, he’ll say. And then, because of your undying love for him and a deep-seated aversion to wasting foodstuffs, you’ll do just that, and the resulting beverage will be really, really good. It’ll be so summery and refreshing that you’ll wish you had more personal watermelons lying around, and you’ll finally understand why he insists on keeping that bag of ice in your freezer even though it takes valuable space and there are two ice trays in there already. Teamwork, compromise and watermelon people, that’s what it’s all about.

just throw it in the vitamix | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Watermelon Icee 
1 personal watermelon, cut into chunks
3 limes, juiced
2 cups of ice

Remove the watermelon flesh from the rind and cut into large chunks. No need to remove the seeds. Put the watermelon in your blender, add the lime juice and a couple of cups of ice. Blend away! Serve immediately, it’s best when quite cold. It will start to separate if it sits, so just stir it with a spoon if that happens. No harm, no foul. Add booze if you want—rum, tequila, gin. You can’t go wrong.

just throw it in the vitamix | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

And, because no mention of watermelon is complete without this clip. You’re welcome.

I’ll leave it there for tonight. Over and out.

-Emily

lamb meatballs with pistachio couscous

Posted on July 31, 2014

The first time I had cinnamon in a savory dish was my 18th birthday. I had chosen to go out to a Moroccan restaurant in Sacramento with my family, plus Jordan and my cousin Katie and her then boyfriend-now fiance Scott. Unfortunately, I was also a vegetarian at the time and Moroccan cuisine is decidedly not vegetarian-friendly. It was a meal of meat, meat, and more meat. One of the dishes that I did tentatively sample was chicken bastilla, a pie made with a filling of ground chicken and spices wrapped in a phyllo dough crust. I remember being both confused and intrigued by the savory chicken filling topped with the lightest dusting of powdered sugar and cinnamon.

Cinnamon doesn’t often venture out of sweet territory in the dishes I usually cook, but I must admit it really is quite good when it does.  This couscous recipe was inspired by a recipe in David Lebovitz’s new book My Paris Kitchen. The warmth of the cinnamon goes wonderfully with the brightness of the lemon and the nuttiness of the pistachios. When pared with the very savory lamb meatballs, it is fantastic meal. It’s also quick to prepare. The couscous will cook in about 10 minutes and the same with the lamb. With just a bit of chopping and mixing for prep, you’ve got dinner on the table in 30 minutes.

lamb meatballs with pistachio couscous | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Lamb Meatballs with Lemon Pistachio Couscous
For the lamb meatballs
1 lbs ground lamb
1/4 onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
plain yogurt for serving

For the couscous
1 cup israeli couscous
2 tablespoons butter
1 lemon, zest and juice
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
fresh ground pepper and salt

lamb meatballs with pistachio couscous | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Combine ground lamb, onion, garlic, parsley, cumin, salt and pepper. Stir with your hands to combine and then shape into small patties, about 2 inches across. Cover and then refrigerate. Feel free to make the lamb patties the night before.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the couscous and cook according to the package directions. Drain the couscous and put it into a large bowl. Add the butter, lemon zest and juice, pistachios, cinnamon, and parsley, and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You can serve this warm or at room temperature.

Heat a tablespoon of neutral cooking oil in a cast iron pan over high heat. Cook the lamb meatballs about 3 to 4 minutes per side, until browned and cooked through. Medium is probably what you’re aiming for.

Serve the couscous with lamb meatballs and a salad if you like. Add a dollop of plain yogurt on top of the lamb if you have any on hand. Enjoy!

-Emily

lamb meatballs with pistachio couscous | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

give me your answer true

Posted on July 17, 2014

give me your answer true  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Jordan and I met when we were 17 years old. I remember the day I decided Jordan was cute and that I should probably do something about it. We were hanging out at our friend Brian’s house making signs for our friend Aaron’s Modern Socialist Club protest of the local Wal-Mart. The girls were drawing signs, the boys were horsing around and playing guitar.  And in that silly, clichéd way of every high school movie ever, I looked up from my sign and there was Jordan with his floppy hair and skater t-shirt, playing guitar and cracking jokes, and I was smitten.

Over the past eight years, we’ve grown up together. The eight years between high school graduation and ‘real life’ are big ones, and we’ve navigated them, somehow sticking together through a hell of a lot. There’s been stuff that felt really big and tough at the time, as things often do when you’re 19, and stuff that legitimately is big and tough no matter how old you are, and so, so many good times too. Having that shared history, those shared eight years of highs and lows, it feels even better than I could have anticipated.

I don’t think I’ve ever doubted that Jordan was a good egg, that he was exactly my kind of guy. There isn’t anyone who can make me laugh harder or comfort me better, often both at once. He’s funny and smart and strong, this unique blend of mellow and intense that I absolutely adore. He is just so good.

He also pushes my buttons, just enough to keep things interesting, and when I look up to give him a piece of my mind, he’s got this sweet, mischievous twinkle in his eyes. A good reminder not to take life too seriously, one I sometimes need.

Jordan also lets me do my thing, and I’ve taken him up on that plenty. It’s quite the trick to give someone the space they need to grow, while still being so intimately involved in their life. Jordan has never failed to rise to the occasion, steadfast in his support and trust, silly puns at the ready.

I would not be the person I am today without our relationship. A fact that is probably obvious, but deserves to be said nonetheless. And what this all brings me to is some happy, happy news. Jordan and I are engaged.

We got engaged in a parking lot on a street corner in San Francisco. Franklin and Page streets. Like we’ve approached most big life things that we’ve been through over the past eight years, we decided this one together. And then we went to our favorite izakaya to celebrate with bacon-wrapped mochi and a beer. Perhaps not terribly romantic by some standards, but very, very us. I can’t imagine life any other way, and couldn’t be happier.

My sweet Jordan, I love you.

give me your answer true  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Bacon Wrapped Mochi 
3 pieces kirimochi (savory Japanese glutinous rice cakes), cut into thirds after boiling
5 slices of bacon, cut in half

Bring a pot of water to boil. Unwrap the kirimochi and drop them into the boiling water. Boil for just a minute (or microwave for 20 seconds), until they become tender. Remove from the water and cut into thirds. Wrap each piece of mochi in a piece of bacon and secure the bacon with a toothpick. Grill the mochi over high heat or cook in a cast iron pan over high heat, until the bacon is brown and the mochi is oozing. Enjoy hot from the grill with a bit of soy sauce. The bacon is smokey and salty, the mochi is chewy and strange—it is a wonderful combination!

-Emily

give me your answer true  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Ps. Our rings were made for us by our friends Rachel and Andrew, who kept a great secret for a few weeks.

 

sausagefest

Posted on July 8, 2014

A few years ago for his birthday, I got Jordan the meat grinder and sausage stuffer attachment to our kitchen aid mixer. While the meat grinder has been put to use a few times for meatloaf, burgers and paté, the sausage stuffer had yet to make it’s debut. Until a few Saturdays ago…

sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Porksausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Porksausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

We decided to team up with our friends, the ever-adventurous Russ and Kelly. The ladies would make pretzels, the men would make sausages, and then we’d eat it all in the grandest of all backyard bar-b-ques, Sausagefest! Now this was the real deal, there were natural pork intestine sausage casings, there was food-grade lye for legitimate pretzeling—we were not messing around.

And it was delicious. How could it not be? The sausages were beyond juicy and perfectly seasoned, cooked in a beer bath and then finished on the grill. A nice dip in lye gave our fluffy pretzels the characteristic flavor and deep brown color. There were even grilled peaches with whipped cream and macerated strawberries for dessert. Food heaven on earth.

The cookbook Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brain Polcyn was our guide for the sausages. I will not pretend to have internalized enough of the process to give accurate instructions, so I recommend you check out their book if you want to give this a go at home. We made the bratwurst and pork sausage with poblano and cilantro. Both were off the hook.

Generally the sausage-making process goes like this: cube and seasoned the meat the night before, grind the meat, mix the meat with additional flavorings like cream for bratwurst, or poblano and cilantro for the other sausage, soak and wash the casing, stuff the sausage, refrigerate the sausage, cook the sausage, and then eat the sausage!

sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

One top tip: while you’re stuffing the sausage, some air will get pushed into the casing. Obviously you want your sausage stuffed with meat, not air,but do not panic. Keep a safety pin handy and just prick the casing near the nozzle a few times and squeeze gently but firmly to push the air out. When you’ve filled the entire length of sausage with all of your meat, give yourself a few more inches of casing for slack and then cut the casing.

To portion out your sausage, we found it was easier to squeeze in between the two links and then push some of the filling one way and some the other. Then twist them off. If you just try and twist them straight away, the casing will burst open. After you’ve twisted them, put them on a plate in the fridge and let them sit for an hour. Then with scissors cut at the twist to portion the sausage into individual links.

We cooked ours in a beer bath (2 tall cans of PBR will do ya) on the stove for 10 – 15 minutes, then finished them on the grill. You want them mostly cooked in the beer, they’ll float when they’re ready, and then char them quickly on the grill. We did this for both the brats and poblano sausages and it turned out great.

sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Porksausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Now the recipe for gorgeous pretzels is from the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook and like all things Thomas Keller, they are very delicious and the recipe behind them is rather intense. I can’t begin to consolidate TK bread recipes here, so please comment if you’d like me to send you the full recipe, I’m happy to oblige.

sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

It was a blast and we’re hoping to make Sausagefest an annual thing and get more folks involved next year. We’ve got enough pork casing for 200 lbs of sausage and now have a decent stuffing technique down, which begs the question, who’s in?

sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork sausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Porksausagefest | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

-Emily

chocolate stout creamsicles

Posted on June 25, 2014

chocolate stout creamsicles | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Hurray, it’s Popsicle Week! So many frozen confections taking the interwebs by storm! I wasn’t sure I was going to have time to pull something together for this year’s Popsicle Week before heading off to Las Vegas for the American Library Association’s annual convention (?!?!/we’ve got a booth for our app/I’m going to go meet thousands of librarians/Joannes Gutenberg temporary tattoos might be involved/life is weird), but when this idea came to Jordan, it was too good to pass up.

chocolate stout creamsicles | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

These popsicles are sort of like a Guinness float, but the beer is far better and so is the ice cream base. The vanilla flavor is not at all shy but the pop also has hints of chocolate and booze. The stout adds some serious depth and you get nice a cocoa powder-esque bitterness at the end. I was also picking up some bourbony notes, but maybe that’s just the stout getting to my head. In any case, these popsicles are delicious and should probably be added into your summer repertoire.

In case you hate fun and popsicles aren’t your thing, you can also easily make this as an ice cream instead. I have a feeling it would be really fantastic sandwiched between two chocolate wafer cookies.

chocolate stout creamsicles | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Chocolate Stout Creamsicles
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup 1% or 2% milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
5 large egg yolks
2/3 cup chocolate stout (We used Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout)

In a heavy saucepan, combine the cream, milk, 1/4 cup sugar, salt and vanilla bean seeds and pod. Put the pan over medium high heat. When the mixture begins to bubble around the edges, remove it from the heat, cover and let the vanilla bean steep for 3o minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. After the vanilla bean has been steeping for 30 minutes, bring the mixture back up to a bare simmer Scoop out 1/2 cup of the hot milk and whisk it slowly into the eggs. Repeat, adding another 1/2 cup of hot milk to the eggs. Then slowly whisk the egg-milk mixture back into the saucepan.

Cook the mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and it coats the back of a spoon or spatula. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean tupperware container. Set the tupperware in an ice bath and stir occasionally until it is cool. Cover your container and refrigerate the base for 2 hours or overnight.

After the base is chilled, mix in 2/3 cup of chocolate oatmeal stout and stir to blend it in. Then freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. If you want to make popsicles, scoop the ice cream base into popsicle molds and freeze for four hours. If you’re not in the mood for pops, just scoop into a clean tupperware and freeze for a few hours or enjoy right away!

Ps. For the full list of 40+ frozen novelties, check out Billy’s blog Wit & Vinegar.

-Emily
chocolate stout creamsicles | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

nonnie’s carrot cake

Posted on June 17, 2014

After a glorious weekend away, we had to come back to reality. Back to work for both of us. But the upside to getting back to our regular routine is that I have Sundays at my disposal. Jordan works all day Sundays and so I’m left to my own devices. I like to think of Sunday as my project day. Usually this means walking Willow, putting off showering, planning dinners for the week (or as many days I as I can figure out/carry home), going grocery shopping, cooking something, listening to a lot of 99% Invisible, walking Willow some more, and maybe blogging, but usually procrastinating by checking Instagram, cleaning algae off my shower curtain or watering my plants. It’s rather glamorous.

But really, I’ve come to love having a day to myself to work on my things, whatever those things happen to be. Usually it’s food, but sometimes it’s putzing with a camera or trying to get better at calligraphy. It’s energizing to have time to myself, though maybe not quite as refreshing as no cell phone service, fresh air and a stunning view of vineyards.

nonnies carrot cake  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork nonnies carrot cake  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

I made this cake on one such Sunday, I think it was last weekend, but it could have been the one before. Carrot cake is one of those desserts that you only really have once a year, usually around Easter. Something about bunnies and carrots, maybe? It’s is a neglected cake flavor, up against a tough crowd. Honestly, it’s hard to be a vegetable and hold a candle to dark chocolate or vanilla bean. But I happen to really like carrot cake and think it deserves a little more time in the spotlight. It popped into my head to make it, and so I did, even though Easter is long past. Cake doesn’t have to be chocolate to be delicious, especially if it has cream cheese icing.

This carrot cake is recipe from my Nonnie, which means it is pretty much perfect. It’s moist, delicately spiced, and easy to make. It doesn’t have raisins lurking in its layers, but you do get a little crunch from the pecans. The cream cheese frosting is also divine, and good on just about anything you can think to put it on. My Nonnie usually makes this cake in a 9″ x 11″ dish, but two stacked rounds with frosting sandwiched in between are just too cute to resist. Add a few more minutes to the baking time if you prefer a single layer cake.

nonnies carrot cake  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Porknonnies carrot cake  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Nonnie’s Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup crushed pineapple in juice (seems strange, but it’s the magic ingredient)
1 cup carrot, grated (about two large carrots)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
2/3 cup neutral-tasting oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat an over to 350 degrees. Butter, line with parchment paper, butter again and flour two 8″ round baking pans. Experience has taught me that taking the extra time to add a layer of parchment really does make it easier to extract cakes from their molds.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, pineapple, carrot, pecans, oil and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix to combine.

Divide into the two pans. Bake at 350° F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean. Take care to not over-bake this cake, the moistness is spectacular if you don’t overdo it. Cool on a rack and frost when cooled.

nonnies carrot cake  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Porknonnies carrot cake  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Cream Cheese Frosting
6 oz cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
dash of salt
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted (especially if you live in damp SF)

Cream butter, cream cheese, vanilla and salt until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Frost just about anything and I guarantee you’ll love it!

-Emily

shrimp salpicon

Posted on June 9, 2014

A few weekends ago to celebrate finishing another semester of graduate school for Jordan and launching version 2.0 of our app for me, we went up to visit our friend Katie. Katie and I were roommates in college. She was the first person I met at Georgetown and one of the big reasons I stuck around. She embraced my California quirks, somehow tolerated my insane homesickness and was generous enough to bring me along when she’d hang out with her older brother Chris and his friends. Georgetown was a much friendlier place because of knowing Katie, and there’s no way I would’ve made it through the first semester if we hadn’t met.

When we graduated, I moved to San Francisco to live with Jordan, and after year or two in DC, Katie also succumbed to California’s siren song. Now she works as a chef at the Boonville Hotel Restaurant, after working for a few years at the Philo Apple Farm, all just a few hours north of us in the Anderson Valley.

shrimp salpicon | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork shrimp salpicon | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork shrimp salpicon | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Our weekend in Boonville was perfect. I almost don’t want to write about it, and just keep it as a secret to savor all to myself, in case writing somehow makes the whole thing seem a little less magical. But this shrimp dish is too good not to share. So here goes.

We stopped in at the restaurant to say hi to Katie and tour the kitchen, ate an ice cream cone, went hiking in an old growth redwood forest, gave my new-old 4×5 camera a spin, were treated to the best of meals at the hotel, stared up at a star-filled sky while standing next to a fire, ate breakfast with new friends on a patio with breathtaking views, got a personalized tour of The Apple Farm and its many plants and animals, drank hard cider under a canopy of mulberry trees, sat in the sun tasting wines and catching up.

The weather was wonderful, clear and warm. Jordan and I spent two whole days off in a row together. There wasn’t cell phone reception. We got to hang out with one of our most favorite people and see the beautiful life she’s built for herself first hand. We left Boonville more relaxed than we’d felt in months, our bellies full and hearts fuller.

shrimp salpicon | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork shrimp salpicon | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork shrimp salpicon | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork shrimp salpicon | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork shrimp salpicon | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork shrimp salpicon | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork shrimp salpicon | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork shrimp salpicon | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

This shrimp dish was the first course of our meal at the Boonville Hotel. It’s a perfect dish for late spring or early summer when it’s starting to get warm and the corn is coming in. The charred flavor of grilled shrimp goes wonderfully with the creamy aioli, and that’s offset by the tangy vegetable salad. Grilled bread soaks up all the juices from the salad, and yet still has some chew to it. If you’re worried about the pickles being weird, they’re not. It all just works.

shrimp salpicon | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Porkshrimp salpicon | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Shrimp Salpicon, adapted from the Boonville Hotel Restaurant
Serves four
For the shrimp
2 lbs fresh shrimp, peeled
1 lemon, zested
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons pimente d’ville or a pinch of paprika and bit of cayenne
salt

For the salsa
1 cucumber, diced
1 red onion, diced
2 – 3  bell peppers, diced
2 ears of corn, cut off the cob
1/2 cup cornichon, sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
juice from a lemon
salt and pepper

To assemble
12 slices of crusty bread
aioli, thinned with a little more lemon juice

shrimp salpicon | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Clean the shrimp and put them in a bowl. Add the lemon zest, oil, pimente d’ville and season with a pinch of salt. Cover and refrigerate.

Dice up the vegetables and put them in a big bowl. Add the olive oil and vinegar and stir to combine. Season well with salt and pepper. The salad should be pretty tangy and have extra dressing pooling at the bottom of the bowl.

Slice the bread into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange them on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Under the broiler or on a grill, toast both sides of the bread.

shrimp salpicon | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

After your bread is toasted, grill the shrimp. We cooked ours in a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. At the hotel they cooked them on the grill. Do whichever is easiest for you, but be sure not to overcook the shrimp. They only take 2 to 3 minutes per side.

To serve, put a few slices of toasted bread on a plate. Mound the salad on top, making sure to pour some of the extra dressing onto the bread. Top with the grilled shrimp and drizzle the whole thing with aioli. Enjoy!

-Emily

bee suits and banana bread

Posted on May 22, 2014

Last Saturday, we had the great fortune to participate in our first ever honey harvest! It was a food nerd’s dream day. We began with some pastries from the sublime French bakery B. Pattiserie and then spent the afternoon harvesting (and sampling) honey, ending the day with the best ramen we’ve ever had at Ramen Dojo in San Mateo. It was magical, and all thanks to our friend Russ. Russ works with beekeeper Kendal (and turns her excess honey into homemade mead!) and knew we’d be really into harvesting honey and learning about bees. And so he arranged for us to come down and help with Kendal with her honey harvest.

bee suits and banana bread  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork bee suits and banana bread  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork bee suits and banana bread  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Kendal has three thriving beehives down in Palo Alto. Not only is she super knowledgeable about bees and beekeeping, she was a patient hostess, especially considering all of our questions and general clumsiness. I’m not going to pretend to have learned enough about beekeeping in just one day to give you any specifics, so I’ll just say it was a super fun day and definitely made me want to have a hive of my own someday. If you’re curious to learn more about beekeeping, I’d recommend you check out Kendal’s Bee Blog—I’ll sure be recruiting her whenever I decide it’s time to start my own hive.

bee suits and banana bread  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork bee suits and banana bread  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

After getting all of the equipment set up in the garage, we suited up and took the frames full of honeycomb from the top boxes of the hives. Kendal had put in a bee separator between the frames we were going to harvest and the rest of the hive so those frames wouldn’t have too many bees on them.

bee suits and banana bread  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork bee suits and banana bread  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Porkbee suits and banana bread  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork bee suits and banana bread  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork bee suits and banana bread  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

After checking the frames to determine which had the honey at the right stage to harvest, we shaved off the top layer of beeswax with a hot knife. The bees cap each little comb with wax so that the honey stays where they want it and so you’ve got to carefully open up the comb so you can extract the honey. This is pretty much what my face looked like the whole day. It was SO fun.

bee suits and banana bread  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Porkbee suits and banana bread  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork bee suits and banana bread  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Then we put the honeycomb into the extractor. Basically it’s a honey centrifuge. Then the honey drains into a bucket through several layers of strainers to remove any impurities and it’s ready to bottle. It’s pretty much impossible to harvest honey without eating a lot of honey. So tasty!

bee suits and banana bread  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Porkbee suits and banana bread  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Instead of pretending to know more things about bees, I’ll stick with what I’m a bit better at, food. Inspired by the honey all around me on Saturday, but lacking the motivation to make what I consider to be the one true monument to honey, baklava, I made this banana quick bread with honey and cinnamon sugar. And it was really good. Like most quick breads, this one is perfect with a scoop of ice cream for dessert and even better with a cup of coffee in the morning.

bee suits and banana bread  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Banana Bread with Honey and Cinnamon Sugar Topping
11/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used bread flour because that’s all I had on hand and I’m a heathen. Turned out just fine) 
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 mashed ripe bananas 
2 large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup honey
¼ cup water

For topping:
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. packed dark brown sugar

Butter and flour a loaf pan, or butter and line with parchment. Preheat your oven to 350° F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Stir in the eggs, vegetable oil, honey and water. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to combine. It’s advisable to run a spatula down the sides and scrape the bottom of the bowl. Mix the cinnamon sugar topping in a small bowl.  Pour the batter into a lined baking pan and sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar topping.

Bake for one hour, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for an hour and unmold. Slice and serve with a scoop of ice cream, dollop of whipped cream or as is.

bee suits and banana bread  | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

-Emily

olive oil ice cream | angel food cake

Posted on May 6, 2014

Asking me to pick a favorite food is like asking a mother to pick her favorite child. It’s hard. But press me long enough and I’ll probably say ice cream. Or pasta. Or green beans. Or sushi. It really depends on the day.

Indecision aside, ice cream is up there at the top of my list. It aways sounds good even if I’m stuffed. I like even the worst of ice creams. Wendy’s frosty or McDonalds vanilla cone, I’ll choke one down—if choke is synonymous to joyfully consume with a grin of happiness across one’s face. I love ice cream.

This ice cream was inspired by the orange olive oil cake that I made a few weeks ago. The ice cream follows the same general recipe as Bi-Rite’s ice creams: heavy on the cream, light on the other flavorings. It’s really wonderful. And as my custard was chilling, I mused… orange and olive oil would go really well with pistachios, and who doesn’t like ice cream topped with with crunchy bits? Thus pistachio brittle brittle was born. It was a good hunch. This is a really sublime combination. I’m only sad I can’t fit more than one batch of ice cream into my ice cream maker.

olive oil ice cream | angel food cake | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

olive oil ice cream | angel food cake | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Whenever I make ice cream, I end up with a jar of egg whites in my fridge. They’ll languish there, maybe a tablespoon is added to a cocktail, and then a few weeks later I’ll toss the rest. It’s wasteful and a shame. And so, I decided to see if I could make a baby angel food cake out of the remaining egg whites. Turns out, you absolutely can! It’s about half the height of your traditional angel food cake, but no less delicious.

Orange Olive Oil Ice Cream with Pistachio Brittle
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup 1% or 2% milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 orange, zested
1/4 olive oil

In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks just to break them up and then whisk in half the sugar (6 tablespoons). Set aside. Put a plastic container in an ice water bath.

In a saucepan, heat the cream, milk, rest of the sugar and salt over medium heat. When the mixture is just about to simmer, whisk 1/2 cup into the egg yolk mixture. Then whisk in another 1/2 cup. Then add the egg mixture in with the remaining milk in the saucepan and stir.

Cook the mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly until it is thickened. If it can coat the back of a spatula and hold a clear path when you run your finger across it, it’s ready. Pour through a mesh strainer into a plastic container. Zest the orange over the custard mixture and mix in. Stir occasionally until the mixture cools. Once cool, put in the refrigerator to chill for 2 hours or overnight.

Whisk the olive oil into the chilled base. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Enjoy right away, or put back into the plastic container and freeze.

olive oil ice cream | angel food cake | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork olive oil ice cream | angel food cake | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

For the pistachio brittle
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup light corn syrup or tapioca syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter

A note on candy making:  The first time I tried to make this brittle I used an organic sugar made from evaporated cane juice. It’s basically the more hippie/less processed variety you can buy at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Don’t do this! Your brittle will reach a point where it suddenly transforms from syrup to rock candy. There’s no way to coax it into caramel and it is a nightmare to clean. To make this recipe, you’ll need to get the super processed C&H or Domino Pure Cane Sugar that your grandma uses.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and then brush it with a light layer of oil. Combine sugar, water, corn syrup and salt in a heavy saucepan. Put the pan over medium heat and cook without stirring until the mixture reaches 280° F, about 20 – 25 minutes. Pay close attention once it reaches 250° F because it will get to 280 very quickly and you don’t want it to burn.

Stir in the pistachios and stir frequently as the nuts toast and the syrup browns. When the syrup is a mahogany brown, remove from the heat and carefully stir in the baking soda. Once that is blended, stir in the butter.

Pour onto the prepared baking sheet and carefully spread into a thin and even layer using a heatproof spatula. You’ll want to work quickly to spread it before it hardens, but be careful because the mixture will be very hot!

Let cool to room temperature for at least an hour and then cut into pieces to sprinkle on top of the ice cream. Store in a tupperware on the counter.

olive oil ice cream | angel food cake | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Porkolive oil ice cream | angel food cake | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Baby Vanilla Angel Food Cake
2/3 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup cake flour, sifted
3 tablespoons warm water
5 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract (I bought vanilla paste online for a Thomas Keller recipe about a year ago. It’s basically just several scraped vanilla beans in a bit of alcohol with some zanthan gum to give it a gel texture. It’s wonderfully strong flavored and pretty great stuff)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

olive oil ice cream | angel food cake | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork olive oil ice cream | angel food cake | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a food processor, spin the sugar for about 2 minutes until it is super fine. Sift half of the sugar with the cake flour and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixture or a large mixing bowl, add the egg whites, water, vanilla paste and cream of tartar. Whisk on medium high until stiff peaks form. This will take about 10 minutes. Once the mixture is looking meringuey, carefully fold in the flour mixture.

Spoon batter into an ungreased tube pan. Cook 25 minutes, until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool upside down on a cooling rack for an hour before unmolding from the pan.

-Emily

olive oil ice cream | angel food cake | Full recipe at The Answer is Always Pork

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