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Porchetta, Peanut Butter, Pesto Pasta & Peas

We have been busy the past couple of weeks! I know I left you hanging about the pork party and now I have to tell you that we had a derailment occur. I had pre-ordered my ham (leg with shank) from Farmer George and I picked it up the Thursday before last. I prepared a bucket and brined it for three days; carefully rinsing and re-brining each day. On Saturday before I went in I toasted some spices and prepared a rub with garlic, salt and spices, and left it in the fridge. I mapped out the 18 hour cooking time so that we would get it out of the oven well in advance of needing to leave, and left a note for Mark as to how to apply the rub, what temp the oven should be and when to put the pork in the oven. (I was to be giving a wine tasting for the Kitsap Wine Society that evening.) Mark got it rubbed and in and the house smelled yummy when I got home that night. When we went to bed the oven was softly humming along and the air was perfumed with the scent of cooking pork. We slept in a bit (for us) and when I went in to check the ham I found the oven turned off. Off!! Panic set in. How long had it been off? Was the pork safe to eat? How could this have happened? Was the oven broken? Was the pork safe to eat??? We pulled it out and it was clearly not done. It would have had a couple more hours to go anyway, but I did not know how ‘done’ this ham was, since I had never cooked one before. CRAP! We temped it: 134 degrees. It had been in a 225 degree oven over night. The oven was still slightly warm. How long had it been? I know it can safely be between 40 and 140 degrees for about 2 hours before we have to worry. When the oven shut off how long did it take to cool down to 140? How long did it stay in that danger zone? CRAP!!! Ok think. I cannot let his pig have sacrificed its life and limb to be tossed away like so much garbage, never mind the value of my time and efforts and money. We decided to finish cooking it to see how long it would take. It took about 3 more hours. Ok. Well… I believe that the oven was off 2-4 hours total and that the pork would not have been in the danger zone for more than 2 hours. And I could not risk taking it to the party and possibly making several people ill. I was so upset! I let the pork rest and decided to make myself the guinea pig. I would eat just a bit and wait to see if I had any discomfort, then repeat the process a couple of times. Oh man it was good. It was really hard to only eat a few bites!! I am fairly sensitive, though, and I knew my intestines would tell me soon if I was going to throw it away. An hour and a half passed and I tried another chunk. MMMM, even cold it was really good. Another hour and I decided to take the skin and bone off and taste some from the middle of the ham. It was so tender and while that familiar porkiness was definitely a part of the flavor, it had a flavor that I had never helped to create before. So rich and yummy! It was an Italian recipe for ham, aka Porchetta, and yet I know that this is what they eat in Mexico and South America too, it is so familiar from carnitas tacos. All night long and the next day I WAS FINE!!!! I do not regret keeping it from the pork party goers, that was never worth the risk, but I am so glad I sacrificed my own well being to know we could eat this lovely Porchetta. We ate it all week (and one day I did make it into tacos!) and then froze the rest. We will have it again and I am so grateful to that little pig! We will make the next party and perhaps I won’t try something I have never tried before… or perhaps I will. I will certainly do this recipe again!

One of my favorite meals was about 2 weeks ago. I got home too late to eat a proper dinner before bed and I was hungry and tired and needing comfort. So I made peanut butter toast. It was the BEST dinner I could have had! And it made me feel better. I love peanut butter toast!

Our nephew Travis is staying with us once again this summer to earn some dough. We absolutely love having him here and we are so lucky that we get to spend this time with him. He is a great sport and while he is a fairly picky eater, he is always willing to try new things with us. He knows we will never have him try something ‘gross’ and Mark has really worked with him to let him know that just because a dish may contain something that he does not particularly like, say a soup that has onions in it, he may still really like the dish. What is in it is far less important than how it tastes! Trav picks up on this quickly and has enjoyed many new tastes. I remembered that last year his first taste of pesto was enjoyable, though I could not remember which pesto recipe I used. Rather than fret it I just made some pesto with fresh tomatoes, almonds, basil and pecorino, and dumped it on hot spaghetti. He loved it! Our team member Jennifer has a fabulous garden and she brought in several things including some fresh peas. They were so sweet and delicious! I have great memories from childhood with my grampa Wright pulling over near the pea patch and wading in with me to shell a few fresh peas. I shelled some and offered one to Travis. He was hesitant and I told him that it tastes like candy so he was on it. He loved them! Trav does not eat too many veggies so we were delighted with this revelation. He did not enjoy eating the pea pod due to the texture, but he chowed down on those peas.

I have 2 recipes for you today, both of course are easy, though one is SUPER easy. It is my version of the old shake and bake trick:

Get a bag of our house-made croutons and crush them (I use a food processor) into crumbs any way that you want to.
Get some chicken (whatever pieces you like of course) and dip them in some milk, egg, or even water to make things stick.
Preheat your oven to 350
Toss the chicken pieces around with the croutons until well coated. You do not even need to season the chicken first because the croutons are so well seasoned!
Place the coated pieces on a baking sheet (I actually use a baking rack on a baking sheet, but it is not necessary)
give them a quick spray of cooking spray or oil and put them in the oven
Bake until done (different pieces will take different times. Boneless breasts will take about 20 minutes, bone-in breasts closer to 40, etc…)
Voila! with about 5 minutes of prep time you have a great dish!

My other recipe is a quick soup that you can make from the fresh veggies you get at the farmer’s markets.

Carrot Ginger Soup

Peel & Grate about 3+ inches of fresh ginger & 1 bunch of fresh carrots
Finely chop an onion & 2 cloves of Fresh Garlic
Saute ginger, onions & garlic with some salt until they begin to soften
Add carrots and cook another 3-4 minutes more
Add 3 cups veggie stock (actually I use chicken at home) and simmer until very soft, about 10 minutes

Put in blender and puree with 1 cube of silken tofu, the juice of one orange, and a pinch of paprika until creamy (DO NOT FILL THE BLENDER BOWL WITH HOT LIQUID. FILL ONLY ABOUT HALF WAY AND PUT THE LID ON WITHOUT THE MIDDLE PART. FOLD A TOWEL UP AND PLACE IT ON TOP WHERE THE MIDDLE PART GOES, HOLDING SECURELY IN PLACE WITH YOUR HAND. BEGIN PUREEING ON LOW AND SLOWLY INCREASE THE SPEED. The reason for this is that hot liquids ‘bloom’ and will explode out the top if not allowed some air and time.

Top with a bit of paprika or fresh dill and serve warm.

Again, 30 minutes start to cleanup and you have soup!

Do you have any quick and easy recipes to share with us?