Pork Belly Tacos!

I get a lot of requests for what to do with fresh pork belly. Because so many of the local processing facilities do not offer curing and smoking belly for bacon, we offer pork belly in slabs. Many customers choose to cure their own bacon, SO delicious! But there are so many other easy options to add to your cooking repertoire! I have recently seen pork belly tacos popping up on many menus, so I thought I’d show y’all how I make them at home.

It starts with a good ole rub down of spices. I went with more sweet/savory for a warming combination with cinnamon, and coriander. But you can go with traditional taco seasonings and more of a blend of cumin and chili powder, if you wish! Make sure you rub into every little crevice and coat it well. Not pictured: rub the belly down with some olive oil after the dry rub to create a wet surface area.

After slow roasting in the oven for a few hours, you’ll have a toasty spice coated belly. Super important: let the belly rest! If you try to cut into now, you’ll lose all the flavorful juices, while burning your hands! So you can do the initial bake the day before (and cool and refrigerate) or make sure you plan in resting time before proceeding! Thinly slice the pork belly and place on a sheet pan. I drizzled it with the juices from the first bake. And they went back in the oven to get crispy!

We served ours on Siete Grain Free Tortillas, pineapple salsa, citrusy red cabbage slaw, and pickled onions and jalapeños. Delicious!

If you want to make a quick, healthy slaw: thinly slice 1/2 head of red cabbage. Add juice of a lime, half the juice of an orange, 1/4 tsp salt, small splash of oil and mix.

Pork Belly Tacos

Ingredients:

~2lb fresh pork belly slab without skin

1 heaping teaspoon of cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, cinnamon, and salt and pepper.

1 TB oil

Tortillas and toppings of choice, pictured here is pineapple salsa, red cabbage slaw, pickled onions and jalapeños, and salsa verde

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Rub the belly with all the spices. Taking careful consideration to coat all the little crevices and cuts. Rub a bit of oil over everything. Place in a rimmed baking sheet, cover tightly with foil. Roast in the oven for 2 hours. Remove and let cool completely. You can put it in the fridge after cooled or proceed.
  3. Raise or preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Thinly slice the belly. Arrange slices on a sheet pan, drizzle with any remaining juices and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, flipping around 10-15 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and serve on tacos!

Persimmon Upside Down Cake

Persimmon-Honey Upside Down Cake

Honey Persimmon Cake

This is by far my favorite persimmon recipe to make every year! We have a couple of trees and I love finding ways to incorporate them into our daily eating while reserving some for preserving. I slice up the crunchy ones to adorn a salad, like apples. I cook some down into a compote with fresh ginger. Sometimes, I make a quickbread or muffins. And I always dry a good bit of them, too! Dried persimmons are a chewy, sweet treat — my kids love them! 

Back to cake. This is a seasonal take on the classic pineapple upside down cake. I altered it some more to highlight local honey and stone ground grains. The cake batter is a mix of cornmeal, whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour; this combination creates a textured, nutty batter that compliments persimmons perfectly. You can play with the flours, if you wish, but just make sure you use 1 ½ cups total. I have also made this cake with maple syrup, but the honey is exquisite! I did find that with the honey, the cake batter needs some extra spicing up so I added more cinnamon and some ginger, which is reflected below. 

One last tip for making the perfect thin slices of persimmon: cut a small chuck off one end (especially if there’s a small bad spot) and stand the persimmon up on the cut edge to make slicing easier. You can hide the cut edge once you start overlapping slices!

Give this easy and beautiful recipe a try this weekend or tuck it away from when guests visit, but make it soon before these beautiful fruits are done producing! 

Persimmon Upside Down Cake

Ingredients:

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided 
  • 1 cup local honey, divided 
  • 1/2 cup locally stone ground cornmeal
  • ½ cup locally stone ground whole wheat flour (I used spelt) 
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour   
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine table salt 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
  • 1 large egg at room temperature 
  • 2/3 cup local buttermilk  
  • 3 local persimmons, peeled and cut into slices about 1/4-inch thick 

 

 

Directions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Over low heat on the stovetop, gently melt 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of honey in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Remove from heat, set aside. 
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside. 
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the remaining six tablespoons of butter and remaining honey over medium-low until they are thoroughly combined, a few minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add in the egg, and beat for another minute.
  5. Add in half of the flour mixture and combine. Add in the buttermilk and beat for a few seconds. Add in the rest of the flour, mix, scrape down the bowl, and beat until just combined. 
  6. Take the cast iron pan and swirl the butter and honey mixture to make sure the sides and bottom of the pan are thoroughly coated. Set the prettiest slice of persimmon in the middle of the pan, then layer the persimmons in a circle pattern around the center, overlapping them to provide the top layer. 
  7. Pour the batter over the fruit, and smooth out the surface. 
  8. Bake on the center rack for 45 minutes, rotating halfway through. The cake will brown slightly and is done when it tests clean with a toothpick inserted in the middle. 
  9. Remove the pan from the oven. Allow it to cool until it can be handled safely. Using a thin butter knife or an icing spatula, loosen the sides of the cake. Place a large serving plate inverted on top of the pan. Flip the cake over and out of the pan and onto the plate. 

winter potato salad – Sweet potato and broccoli

Wintry Mix – Potato Salad with a Twist

First appeared in the CAFE newsletter and edited by Ellie Sharp

In the middle of the Winter, sometimes you dream of Summer:  the grill, fresh corn, sliced tomatoes, potato salad…the Southern fixin’s of a Summer BBQ meal. But then you remember it’s February. And there’s buckets of rain outside. So you make do with seasonal ingredients and make a Winter BBQ meal happen. White spring potatoes are replaced with sweet potatoes in storage and broccoli from the garden. You can add all sorts of things to this base – apples, pecans, but I implore you to use balsamic vinegar in the dressing – a must!

Ingredients:

3-4 sweet potatoes, diced into ½ inch pieces

Oil for roasting vegetables

Salt & pepper

1 head broccoli, 3-4 cups broken into bite sized pieces 

2-3 slices of bacon

¼ cup mayonnaise 

¼ cup balsamic vinegar 

½ small red onion, minced

1 garlic clove

1 apple, chopped (Fuji, pink lady, honeycrisp preferred, but Granny Smith would work!)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven 425.
  2. On a half sheet pan, combine sweet potatoes, oil, salt and pepper. Mix and spread into one layer. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
  3. Pull out potatoes and flip. Layer broccoli pieces right on top and season those with a bit more oil and salt. Roast for another 10-15 minutes until broccoli is crisped and potatoes are tender. Remove from the oven and cool.
  4. Chop bacon and cook until crispy. Drain oil, set aside. 
  5. In your serving bowl, make the dressing. Combine mayo, vinegar, onion. Grate or add minced clove of garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk ingredients together. 
  6. Assemble. Place sweet potato and broccoli mixture on top of dressing. Add apple. Gently toss to combine being careful not to mash potatoes. Top with crispy bacon!

Root Vegetable Pot Pie

A rich and hearty pot pie is perfect for the season’s cooler tempsMake the most of earthy veggies with this tender main course that suits the season all winter long. Yogurt adds moisture and texture to the flaky crust while the decadent filling guarantees second servings. Try with a simple side salad.

Recipe originally posted on CAFE newsletter, edited by Ellie Sharp

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs each rutabaga, turnips, and sweet potatoes, cut into a ½ inch dice
  • 1 lb each carrots (sliced), Brussels sprouts (halved and tough outer leaves removed if necessary)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (~2TB)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 rosemary stalks, leaves minced

Leek Bechamel

  • Olive oil to sauté leeks
  • 1 bunch of leeks, halved, washed, and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • Salt and pepper

Yogurt Dough (adapted from Nourishing Traditions)

  • 1 cup yogurt (goat yogurt OR kefir would be an excellent local choice here!)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 ½ cups flour (whole wheat is an excellent choice here as the yogurt tenderizes and softens the whole wheat and produces a stellar flavor and texture. A spelt flour version is pictured below.)
  • 1 tspn salt
  • Egg wash/melted butter for cooking

Directions:

Make yogurt dough:

  1. Cream together butter and yogurt in stand mixer with paddle attachment.
  2. Add flour and salt. Mix until combined.
  3. Split into two. You only need half this the dough for the recipe. Freeze the other half for the next time you make pot pie, pasties, etc.
  4. You can use immediately or set aside to allow the yogurt to soak the whole grains to increase nutritional absorption!

Roast veggies:

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. On a sheet pan with a Silpat mat/parchment/foil, combine rutabaga, sweet potatoes, and turnips. Add 1 TB of olive oil, season generously with salt and pepper and half the rosemary. Flip vegetable halfway through. Roast for 25-30 minutes until fork tender.
  3. On another sheet pan add carrots and Brussels sprouts. Add oil, salt and pepper, rosemary.  Roast for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Set vegetables aside or add to your pie pan. You might have more vegetables than needed. They make an excellent topping to fresh greens, goat cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette the next day for lunch. 
  5. Reduce oven to 375.

Make bechamel:

  1. Sauté leeks in olive oil over medium heat for about 5-8 minutes until leeks are translucent. Season with salt, pepper, minced garlic.
  2. Add butter. When melted, sprinkle flour over and combine. Let flour cook for 2 minutes.
  3. With a whisk, add milk 1/2 cup at a time, whisking with each addition.
  4. Allow the bechamel to cook for another minute and make sure everything is combined. Turn off heat.

Assemble:

  1. Place vegetables in pie pan.
  2. Top with bechamel and stir to combine. Taste and add more seasoning if needed! Set aside.
  3. Roll dough (easier if slightly chilled) out on countertop, make sure you have enough to cover pie pan. 
  4. Cover the pie with dough. Press dough onto pie pan using fork, crimping edges or your fingers to press down. Create vents on top allowing steam to escape during cooking process.
  5. Brush with egg wash or melted butter to help brown.
  6. Cook at 375 for 30-40 until crust is browned and delicious looking!

Braised Radishes (w/ bacon or browned butter)

First appeared on CAFE newsletter January 12, 2020

Edited by: Ellie Sharp

In the middle of the winter, finding colorful crunch is hard without the beautiful radish! Most people put radishes in salad. While they certainly are a tasty, crunchy addition to a salad, there are other ways to use them! The most common way is to simply dip them in soft butter and sprinkle with salt. Seriously, don’t knock it until you try it! If you can’t quite swallow that, you can spread some bread with a (thick) layer of butter, then a layer of radish, then top with salt (black salt pictured). Don’t forget about the tops too! They are thinly sliced and placed on top of the radish sandwich here, but radish tops make an excellent addition to homemade pesto and soups (think in place of spinach, kale, or mustard/turnip greens!).

Perhaps though, my favorite way to prepare radishes is to cook them. They are wonderful roasted on pan amongst other vegetables (like potatoes or squash). I’m a big fan of “sheet pan meals” and love to throw potatoes, radishes, broccoli, and some local sausages on a pan to roast and call it dinner! But I want to leave you with a very tasty addition to your recipe box. Braised Radishes. I hope you try it and love it!

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of bacon OR ¼ cup butter
  • 2 bunches of radishes, about 1 pound, or about 14 radishes
  • 3 large shallots or a small red onion, sliced and 1 garlic glove, minced
  • 4 slices of bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Water or chicken/vegetable stock 2TB-1/4 cup
  • Italian parsley, leaves chopped into about scant ¼ cup
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Trim away bottoms of radishes. You can keep nice looking greens intact or remove and save for another use (or compost!). Slice each radish in half from top to bottom. Peel the shallots and slice into thin rings.
  2. Cook the chopped bacon in a large heavy skillet – preferably cast iron. When the bacon is crisped remove from skillet and set aside. If you need to, drain some fat away. You should have enough bacon fat covering the skillet (about 1-3 Tablespoons). OR melt butter in pan. Over low, allow butter to cook until small bits start to brown on the bottom of the pan ~3 minutes.  
  3. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until they start to brown slightly. Move to the outside of the skillet, away from heat. Add the radishes, placing each cut side down in the skillet. Let them cook undisturbed for about 2 minutes or until the bottoms just start to color.
  4. Add the balsamic vinegar and some water/stock – the liquid should just come up around the sides of the radishes. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove the cover and continue to simmer for about 3-4 minutes, or until the water has reduced into a syrupy sauce. Add the parsley/herb of choice and sauté for about a minute or two, until it’s wilted.
  6. If using, add the bacon back in and season with salt and pepper. Serve over grits!

The romantic baker

The other day I got up early to rise a batch of bread. My daughter, who is 8, heard me and joined me at the kitchen counter in the early hours of the morning while everyone else was asleep. We scooped and weighed flour, measured water and sourdough starter, and she began mixing the dough with her hands. After a few turns, she looked up at me and said, “It’s just so cool that flour and water become the yummy loaves that I love so much!” And I think that means I win at parenting? Just kidding – but seriously, it was a good moment.

Usually when I’m baking it’s in the early morning hours or the late night and I’m alone. I turn off my podcasts and listen to the rhythmic sounds of the kneading, slapping, and folding dough. I’m in my body. And then, often, I slip into my mind. My favorite daydream is one where I assume the mindset of my kids at their height of play and pretend I’m a famous alchemist mixing things and transforming them. Because isn’t bread the simplest and most magical alchemy in our world today? Flour + water + salt + hands = delicious sustenance. 

The granolas that I concoct are the same thing. While I start with a base recipe, I create flavors and re-create memories. A favorite drink? A childhood memory? It comes down to seasonal ingredients paired with complementary spices and textures.  When my love affair with cooking began, I always said I’m not a baker. Baking requires precision, which I don’t exactly excel at. Cooking is my artistic and creative expression to the world. Some of us use a canvas, some of us use words, images, etc. To be an artist is to “tinker” – a smidge of this, handful of that, pinches here and there. Going off the roadmap and letting yourself be led by the senses is what drew me to cooking. And after years of baking bread, I’ve found this also in baking. While I do start by measuring my ingredients, a truly good loaf of bread is in the sight, feel, touch of creating it. I add more water or more flour because of the way the loaf looks based on my touch, based on my senses.Ideas, but also feelings and memories, form the flavor profile that go into making a batch of granola.

And finally, cakes – oh the cakes! I never thought I’d really enjoy baking cakes and I do have a certain approach to cake baking: I pay particular attention to ingredients often using whole grain flours to create texture and flavor in the base. But my mind is always turning on how I can incorporate an herb or a vegetable. How can I blend the flavors blooming all around me on the farm to create unique flavors that you may never have experienced in cake form. And the cakes I bake for people? So much of my love of them goes into that cake I bake for them. I often recall a meal, dessert, or a drink we shared together. I think about the things they love and I try to fold it into the cake batter or frosting. I love creating cakes for people, rather than the baking itself. 

So, my point? While baking is a science, I prefer to think of it as a love affair. It allows me to connect with my body, my mind, my spirit, and my heart – and for a moment, someone else, too. 

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