Garlic and Fennel-seed Studded Pork Roast

>> Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Garlic and Fennel-seed Studded Pork Roast

Jenn and Jessie, one of these days you'll probably want to make a pork roast for a special dinner or a holiday. In fact, you could invite your parents over for Mother's Day (second Sunday in May) and serve them this wonderful roast with gravy, and of course, plenty of mashed potatoes.

Fennel seed is the fragrant seasoning in many sausages. It seems to naturally pair up with pork. Adding ground ginger and mustard gives the meat a bit of tang.


1 3-4 pound pork roast
2 garlic cloves, slivered
2 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups beef broth, divided
1 tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp cold water


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

With a sharp knife, deeply pierce the fat layer in one or two inch rows all over the pork roast. Insert a sliver of garlic and one or two fennel seeds into each piercing. Stir together the mustard and ginger and sprinkle it all over the meat.

Pork roast stuffed with garlic and fennel seeds

In an oven proof pan, brown the meat on all sides. Pour one cup of hot beef broth over the roast, cover, and put it in the oven. Roast it for 30 minutes per pound, basting occasionally. Add more liquid if it boils away. The roast is done when it is no longer pink deep in the middle, or when a meat thermometer inserted in the center of the meat reads 160-170 degrees. You do have a meat thermometer, don't you? If you do, make sure you don't roast the plastic meat thermometer sleeve, like I did the first time I used one.

Pork roast braising in Dutch oven

Remove the meat from the pan, place it on a cutting board, and cover with foil. Put the roasting pan on the stove and turn on medium heat. Pour the rest of the beef broth into the pan and bring it to a boil, scraping off the rich crusty bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir together the corn starch and water, then slowly pour it into the sauce while stirring constantly. Allow it to simmer until thickened into gravy.

Carve the roast and pour any juices from the cutting board back into the gravy. Serve with the gravy on the side.

Serves 6-8, depending on the size of the roast.


Dill Pickle Roasted Chickpeas

>> Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dill Pickle Roasted Chickpeas

Everybody's all about roasted chickpeas lately, but my sister Beth, who is the Queen of Dill Pickles, had an idea for pickle-flavored roasted chickpeas. How could that be wrong?

Roasting chickpeas is a little more complicated than the recipes that say pop them in the oven for 45 minutes and they come out crunchy and yummy. The best method seems to be to roast them for half the time period, take them out and let them cool 10 minutes, then roast them the rest of the way. This allows the inside of those little beauties to reach maximum crispiness.

This recipe is great to make after you've just finished a jar of pickles. Don't throw away the brine - marinate the chickpeas, then roast them up.


1 28-oz can cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 1/4 cups pickle brine
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp dill
Pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with oil.

Place the chickpeas in a saucepan and add the brine, vinegar, and garlic. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat and let the garbanzos soak for at least 15 minutes. The longer you marinate them, the more flavorful they'll be after roasting. Alternatively, you can put the beans and dill pickle brine in a jar and soak them in the refrigerator, then drain them and roast.

Drain the beans thoroughly. Spread onto the cookie sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Stir and turn the sheet. Roast for 10 more minutes, then remove from the oven and let cool 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and dill, and roast 15 more minutes, or until crunchy and slightly browned.

Allow to cool before sealing in an airtight bag or jar.

Makes about 3 cups.


Olive-Stuffed Italian Bread

>> Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My siblings share with me a special love for olives - something that has become a bit of a joke at holidays. We would not dream of a holiday celebration or family party that didn't include a big bowl of olives, and my older sister has a really cool olive-serving bowl shaped like a spiral.

Growing up, I only knew of pimiento-stuffed green olives and canned black olives. The first time I tasted a Kalamata olive was a whole new world of olive-y flavor. Now we have olive bars in a lot of our grocery stores, and some of my current favorites are green ones stuffed with almonds and a tri-color mix of olives marinated in herbs. That's where this fabulous bread comes in.

If you make extra chopped olives and don't stuff it in the bread, you can use it as a tapenade for our recipe Crispy Polenta Wedges with Olive Tapenade - or if you end up with extra tapenade after making that recipe, by all means stuff it in your next loaf of homemade Italian bread!


2 cups warm water (110-112 degrees)
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast from a jar
1 tsp sugar
5 cups white flour, plus 1/2 cup or more for kneading
2 tsp fresh chopped oregano, or 1 tsp dried
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups mixed olives, pitted and chopped (we used green ones with pimientos, Kalamata olives, and oil-cured Italian olives)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg white
1/4 cup sesame seeds


In a mixing bowl, stir together the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit for 20-30 minutes, until the mixture is bubbly (this is called "proofing the yeast"). Stir together the flour, oregano, and salt, then gradually stir into the yeast mixture.

Turn the dough out onto a floured counter or kneading board. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticky.

Grease a bowl that is at least twice as large as the volume of dough. Place the dough in the greased bowl, and then turn it over to coat the other side of the dough. Cover with a damp dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Stir together the chopped olives and parmesan cheese and set aside.

Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Sprinkle a flat surface and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out half of the dough into an 8x12 oval. Sprinkle half of the olive mixture evenly over the surface. Starting at one of the long ends, roll up the dough jelly-roll style, tucking in the sides occasionally, and pinching the end shut. Place it in a greased baking sheet. Repeat with the other loaf.

Cover the loaves with a damp dish towel and allow to rise until dough has doubled - about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut diagonal slashes in the top of each loaf, then brush with the egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the crust is golden and the loaves sound hollow when rapped with a knuckle.

Turn out of the pans and cool on a baking rack. For best results, slice it at room temperature.

Makes 2 hearty loaves.


Bouillabaisse (French Fish Soup)

>> Friday, April 10, 2015

Bouillabaisse (French Fish Stew)
Bouillabaisse, we have conquered you.

Quite a few times we've said, "We should really try bouillabaisse;" then we open Julia Child's cookbook and shake our heads at the 3 pages of directions.

But my beloved F. Scott Fitzgerald mentioned bouillabaisse in his legendary novel about Americans living in the French Riveria: "The Divers went to Nice and dined on a bouillabaisse, which is a stew of rock fish and small lobsters, highly seasoned with saffron, and a bottle of cold Chablis....with the burn and chill of the spiced broth and the parching wine they talked."

 I'll never be young and rich in Nice as the Divers were in "Tender is the Night", but I can eat like them.

Basically, bouillabaisse is a quick soup of fresh leftovers from the fisherman's end of market day. They brought home what didn't sell and cut it up into the pot with some broth, tomatoes, and spices. Julia Child, and some other French cooks, make a bigger science out of it by suggesting you use 5 kinds of fish - some lean, some flaky, some firm-fleshed, and perhaps shellfish. We used fish that was on sale and that we knew we liked.

lobster and vegetable scraps for seafood broth
Lobster Boy wants to know what's for dinner.
Of course, Joe likes to take it up just a notch and make his own broth. This time he used vegetable scraps we'd been storing in the freezer, and the shell of a lobster we had when frozen lobster got down to $2.29 a pound last month (ridiculously cheap, right?).

By all means, make this as simple or elaborate as you want. If you're going for elaborate, do not miss the vegetable-herb sauce called rouille. It add a huge pop of flavor to a simple fish soup.


For the Bouillabaisse:

1 cup leeks, julienned
3 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup fennel, julienned
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
Salt and pepper
6 cups fish broth, OR 4 cups chicken broth and 1 12-oz bottle clam juice
2 lbs assorted fresh fish fillets
1 1/2 cups lobster meat (or any other shellfish)
1/2 pound mussels
Salt and pepper
1 tsp saffron
 12 slices of crusty French bread

For the Rouille:

2/3 cup roasted red peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
 1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil


Put the broth in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Add the saffron, leeks, tomatoes, orange juice, orange zest, fennel, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Add the fish and cook for 10 minutes. Add the shellfish and saffron, and cook for 5 minutes.

In a food processor or blender, combine all the rouille ingredients, except for the oil. Puree until smooth. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Strain the seafood from the soup and keep warm. Place a slice or two in each bowl, then cover with the fish broth. Arrange the fish in each soup bowl. Drizzle with the rouille before serving.

Serves 6-8.

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