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Microwaved sweet potatoes and an update on Moroccan-style braised pork |Recipe report card

23 Jul

Dave LOVED the Moroccan-style Braised Pork with Couscous I made a while back, and consequently, that has been added to the repertoire. But I have struggled to settle on a good side dish for it. Also, it’s a 45-minute recipe with a flexible cook time (the braising can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, your choice), which is perfect for the days I’m home and go to pick the Bug up at daycare, but not so ideal for the days when I’ll be working all day and then picking up the Bug.

Yesterday, I tried it in the slow cooker. The unfortunate thing is that, since our slow cooker has a ceramic insert, I could only use it for the braising step, which turns it into a two-pot dish. What you lose in ease-of-cleaning, you gain in flexibility of timing, so it’s a good solution for when I need to come home to dinner already made. I cooked it on high for about 4 hours, but you could also do low for longer.

Although the slow cooker solution wasn’t ideal, the side dish was.

Microwaved sweet potatoes

  • Meal: dinner, 7/22
  • Kid tried?: Yes.
  • Keeper?: Yes.
  • Cook’s grade: A+. While we were back East, my mom made baked sweet potatoes, which reminded me how much I love baked sweet potatoes. They are soooooooo gooooooooood. But they take 45 minutes to an hour, which doesn’t really work for us. I read something that suggested pricking them all over, then microwaving them for 10 minutes (5 minutes, then do another minute or two, check for doneness, repeat). I microwaved three sweet potatoes (actually garnet yams) for about 7 minutes, and they turned out well. Next time, I’d go for closer to 8 or 9 minutes, but they were tasty, especially with a little butter and a tiny sprinkling of brown sugar.
  • Kid’s grade: A+. Bug asked for seconds and thirds. SUCCESS!

Microwaved sweet potatoes recipe

  • Prick one or more (up to three) similarly sized sweet potatoes all over with a fork or paring knife
  • Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Check for doneness.
  • If they need more time, microwave them in intervals of 1 or 2 minutes at a time, checking for doneness each time. The total cooking time will likely be around 10 minutes.
  • For toddlers, cut up the sweet potato and place it in the freezer to cool off. They will be “hot hot hot hot hot,” as the Bug says.




Make your own yogurt

13 Jan

Homemade yogurtLast year, I started making my own yogurt, but I quickly got kind of lazy with it. I justified my laziness by wanting to support Straus Family Creamery, which not only makes amazing, though expensive, yogurt (OMG it’s so good) but is a local business.

Making yogurt is actually pretty easy, but you have to stay by the stove and pay at least a modicum of attention to what’s going on there. With a baby, that can be a challenging thing to do. But if you’re, say, making your own baby food and at the stove already, it’s easy to fit in. All you need is another saucepan. So since I was making apples for the Bug and almost out of yogurt and didn’t feel like going to the store, I decided to make some last night.

I use this recipe from Martha Stewart Living because it’s really, really, really, really easy. Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:

  1. Heat a quart of milk in a saucepan over medium-high heat until it reaches 180 degrees, stirring occasionally to prevent scalding. (When it gets to about 150 degrees, keep a close eye on it. The temperature rises quickly.)
  2. Take it off the heat and let it cool to 115 degrees.
  3. Pour 1 cup of the warm milk into a measuring cup and whisk in 3 tbsp of your favorite yogurt, then whisk this mixture back into the rest of the milk.
  4. Pour the whole thing into a mason jar without the lid. Wrap it all up in kitchen towels, covering the top, and put it in a warm spot for 5 hours (or longer, if you like thicker yogurt). I usually let it sit overnight.
  5. Put the lid on, and stick it in the fridge.
  6. Pat yourself on the back because YOU JUST MADE YOGURT!

The Zenzerro: ginger, bourbon, and mint cocktail

5 Dec

A few months ago, I had the fabulous opportunity to interview Southern food writer John T. Edge over drinks at the Bar Americano at the Hotel Vitale in San Francisco. Although the bartender initially steered me to the girly drinks, while I pondered the selection, Edge asked, “Will the Zenzerro be acidic enough for my liking?” (Southern food writers talk like that.) Bourbon, mint, ginger ale, and gingercello (gingercello?) — what wasn’t there to like? (Note: Sadly, they’ve since replaced the Zenzerro with the Ginger Bullet — Bulleit bourbon, ginger ale, gingercello, and bitters.)

We both ordered the Zenzerro. It was delicious. Just sweet enough, very spicy, and the mint helped smooth everything over.

I set about trying to recreate the gingercello first. I asked my moonshiner friend if he had any recommended ratios of flavoring to alcohol. He didn’t, but he did warn that I should keep tasting the gingercello every week or so. “A friend tried to make ginger moonshine,” he told me. “He let the ginger infuse so long, it was undrinkable.”

Duly noted. I grated about an inch of fresh ginger root, let it sit in a bottle with vodka for a few weeks, and tried it a few weeks later. It was — meh. I tried the drink, and it was good, but not the subtle blend that I remembered. The proportions still had to be figured out, but overall, it just wasn’t gingery enough.

I signed myself up for a DIY Mixology class on infused alcohol at Workshop. As we poured the ingredients together for limoncello, I figured out the missing element: sugar. Sure enough, after I added some to my gingercello, the ginger flavor was much stronger. Then I found this recipe for gingercello, which actually included proportions. I’ll try that next.

So then, to try the actual recipe. On the first attempt, I used Canada Dry ginger ale, which is nice and bubbly but does not have the proper ginger potency. On the second attempt, I tried Reed’s Premium Ginger Brew, which had the right flavor but not enough bubbles. Still, it allowed me to find the right proportions, with a tiny bit of tweaking. Here’s my recipe:

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1.5 oz. gingercello
  • 10 mint leaves
  • ginger ale (roughly 6 oz. per glass)*
  • ice

Pour the bourbon into an old-fashioned glass. Determinedly muddle the mint with the bourbon, then add the gingercello. Stir. Add ice, then fill to the top with the ginger ale. Stir again if you want. Clink glasses with a dear friend and enjoy.

* Don’t skimp. American mass-market ginger ale is simply too wimpy for this drink (British or Australian Schweppes might work, though). The ideal ginger ale here has a strong, spicy, natural ginger flavor. It should be carbonated enough that the bubbles move through the drink but not so much that the bubbles tickle your nose as you sip. This is a manly drink. Manly drinks don’t tickle.

Escarole soup like Mom used to make

14 Jan

My mom is awesome in many ways, but she is not a memorable cook. Between working full-time, doing all the chores around the house (I still can’t believe sometimes that she didn’t assign us any and that we didn’t offer when we saw her work so hard), and being the go-to parent, she didn’t exactly have a lot of time. There are a few things that she made, though, that I loved: sloppy chicken (it was actually called Sunshine Chicken, but we renamed it after the sticky layer of marmalade that coated our hands after we ate it), chipped beef on toast, BLTs, and escarole soup.

I used to try to make her escarole soup, but the only virtue of my version was the limited number of ingredients: cheese tortellini, chicken stock, and escarole. It never had any flavor. Tonight, I decided to try it again, only with chard instead of escarole (admittedly, because I couldn’t remember what escarole looked like and was too embarrassed to ask at Lucky) and a quick consultation with a Giada De Laurentiis recipe for something similar.

It was so yummy and light yet filling and took about 20 minutes, start to finish. Go Mom.


  • 1 32-oz. container of all-natural chicken broth that I bought to make the soup
  • 1 14-oz. can of low-sodium chicken broth that I found in our cupboard when I realized 32 oz. was not enough
  • 2 cups water to make up the difference and to thin out the broth
  • pepper, to taste
  • a generous pinch of parsley flakes
  • 1 20-oz. package of cheese tortellini
  • About 3/4 of a bunch of chard, washed well, ribs removed, and chopped into long strips (note: chard doesn’t shrink nearly as much as other greens, such as spinach or arugula, when they wilt, so pick a larger pot than you think you’ll need)
  • Pecorino Romano, shaved into thin slices for garnish
  1. Pour the various liquids into a large soup pot and bring to a simmer. Add pepper and parsley to taste.
  2. Add the pasta and let it cook for about 5 mins.
  3. Add the chard and let it wilt while the pasta finishes cooking, about 2-3 more minutes.
  4. Serve into bowls, shave a few slices of pecorino on top, add a dash of pepper, eat with yummy Italian bread like my favorite, Grace Baking’s Pugliese. Mangia.

So why was mine so terrible before? I used veggie stock (sorry vegetarians, it tastes weird here) and forgot to add pepper.