Monthly Archives: July 2006

smoked pork neck bones – great for pea soup!

Okay, probably not big news to most of the world (those who eat pork, anyway) but what a REALLY inexpensive way to flavor up pea soup when you haven’t recently baked a ham!

I used my usual pea soup recipe, except that I pre-cooked the 1.5 lbs of neck bones first. I wasn’t sure if they’d have long enough to cook in the usual recipe – 15 minutes, I believe.

BUT, with these neck bones, better to precook and get all the bones out before adding the other ingredients. I pressure cooked them in the 8 of the 9 cups of water I use in the recipe for about 10 minutes and 10 minutes natural release. Then, quick-released the rest of the pressure under cold water, strained the liquid into my 8-cup measuring cup, and used the broth, plus a cup+ of water to make the 9 cups total liquid. Then, I let the necks cool down a bit, and picked off all the meat, discarding much of the fat, of which there was a lot!

I am really glad that I didn’t just stick the neck bones in with the rest of the ingredients! It would have been a disaster with all the tiny bits of bones and the fat – picking it all out of the finished pea soup would have been a nightmare.

There was plenty of meat for the soup, though. It was great! (Well, still is, since we have a bit more in the fridge and I froze a few containers. Not sure how it will be when defrosted…I seem to remember reading that things with potatoes in them don’t freeze well… Hell, I bet it will still taste good – but perhaps the texture and looks won’t be “fit for company.”

So, while ham hocks make for an economical alternative for pea soup when you don’t have a leftover ham bone, and is easier since you can just pop them in when you make the soup, the necks are even less expensive and add great flavor, albiet the extra cooking step.

Hmmm, now that I think of it, I should buy those necks whenever I see them and do the broth and “pick the bones” thing on a lazy afternoon and freeze it all for a quick pea soup dinner on another night.

Okay, gotta go…time to do some cleaning and organizing. Scary but necessary. If only I were as good at getting housework done as I am at cooking… Where’s the maid?

REALLY easy and yummy summer veggie casserole

I had a smallish zucchini…and tomatoes…. I remembered a really delicious, albeit VERY rich (high fat, etc.) recipe for a summer squash casserole from Frances Moore Lappe’s Recipes for a Small Planet.

Well, all it takes is lots of breadcrumbs and a modest amount of olive oil and grated cheese to turn a bunch of fresh veggies into a totally comfort food creation.

Let’s see…one smallish zucchini, 2 medium tomatoes, about 1/2 medium green pepper, 1 medium onion, 4-5 large mushrooms, and, I also had about 1-2 cups of uncooked broccoli florets leftover in the fridge. Preheat oven to around 350, chop the veggies into one inch or so chunks or slices (a bit smaller for the onion) mix up and put in a casserole dish and drizzle/mix with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with some dried parsley (or whatever you like.) Bake uncovered for around 20-25 minutes until the squash is tender. Mix in a few more tablespoons of olive oil, maybe a cup or more of coarse bread crumbs * and 1/2 cup or so grated cheese (I used cheddar) and then top with more bread crumbs and more grated cheese. Bake for around 10 more minutes or until it looks like you want it to look. You can hold it in a warm oven for a while, too, if your spouse suddenly decides that there are a few more things that HAVE to be done to the sailboat in the backyard before dinner. Don’t ask….

Now, no excuses for the plethora of zucchini and tomatoes in the New England summer! And what a comfort food… for me and my husband, anyway. 🙂 You can vary this by using different combinations of veggies, adding rice or potatoes, and trying different seasonings. Perhaps a touch of vinegar for an Italian essence – or add rice or taters and create a baked curry dish. Um, I don’t think I’d use mushrooms if I went with the curry flavor… hmmm….

I also pressure cooked some chicken leg/thigh pieces in 2 cups of water and a slight tablespoon of dried oregano. 8 minutes high, 4 minutes natural release, then did the quick release under cold water, opened the cooker, then shut it again to keep it hot until we were ready to eat. I am saving the liquid since it is basically oregano seasoned chicken broth or stock.

I usually serve pressure cooked chicken with butternut squash, but that’s more for fall and winter.

Anyway, the casserole was really tasty.

Oh, I never blogged my first time making homemade minestrone soup this past weekend! Got the basic recipe from the Cook’s Illustrated site (one of my few subscriptions) and went from there. I made a bunch of veggie stock and some chicken stock that day, too. Nothing like a four day weekend to give you time to spend a whole day cooking! I need more four day weekends…

* – the bread crumbs. I actually save ends of bread in a brown paper bag and make my own. For fine, a food processor works pretty well. But, if you want bigger crumbs, just select the dried bread you want (I used all whole wheat for this recipe) from your paper bag, put them in a plastic bag (even the ones they give you for produce work fine – you don’t have to ruin a zip lock for this) and pound with the bottom of a glass (make sure you pick a glass with a totally flat bottom – some indent in the middle of the bottom) until you get the desired consistency. I wanted some big chunks, this time.