Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Regular readers, ahem, Mum, you may be thinking to yourself, doesn’t she usually publish her Kitchen post on Fridays? Why yes, that’s correct, but I’m doing it on Saturdays from now on because I need to work, not play, on Friday mornings. But Saturday mornings are all mine and, besides hiking, I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning than plan menus.

I’ll publish On My Bookshelf, my list of recommended fiction and non-fiction ebooks deals, on Mondays instead of Saturdays. But since we’re in my virtual kitchen, I’ve included a list of great deals on e-cookbooks at the end of this post.

In My Kitchen

I’ve had two Produce Box deliveries since my last Kitchen post. I’m impressed with the quality and portions. I still have a ginormous head of cabbage in the frig from last week’s delivery, but I’ll be taking care of that soon, or at least half of it, it is huge. Yesterday, I received lion’s mane mushrooms (more on that later), tatsoi, kale, collards, Murasaki sweet potatoes (purple skin and white flesh), salad greens, two quarts of strawberries and a package of Carolina Kettle’s Cozumel Jalapeño Queso Kettle Chips as a treat for Jim.

We ended up not being home for dinner last Friday night so I made my first Irish dinner on Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day. The Brown Soda Bread was a bust. For one, I took it out of the oven too soon although it looked and felt done. I even tested it with a toothpick (which came out clean). But, two slices in and the dough was still mooshy. Plus, it was bland. Maybe I should have increased the salt or added raisins. I’m tempted to try the recipe again but life’s too short for bland bread. Moving on!

The Fish Chowder, on the other hand, was exquisite, one of the best I’ve ever had, and no wonder with its salmon, cod, smoked salmon, shrimp (American, of course) and mussels. I found the recipe in one of my cookbooks, Kevin Dundon’s Modern Irish Food. I used half a pack of frozen, cooked mussels (no shells) and substituted clam juice for the fish stock but otherwise stuck to his ingredients—although I wasn’t weighing so I may have used more than he suggested.

On the side, we had Colcannon—potatoes mashed with kale, spring onions, milk and lots of butter—a recipe from The Country Cooking of Ireland. The chowder made an encore appearance a few nights later along with some spicy collard greens sautéed with onion, garlic and ham. And the colcannon returned in a couple different disguises.

Sunday morning we had an Irish breakfast: fried eggs, local breakfast sausage thanks to the Produce Box, baked beans, sautéed cinnamon maple apples, and colcannon cakes. I added a bit of flour to some of the leftover colcannon and turned them into patties which I fried in butter. I was hoping for some brown soda bread toast with jam but the loaf was in the compost by that point.

Tuesday, I made Shepherd’s Pie, a recipe using ground lamb from The Irish Pub Cookbook. Instead of regular mashed potatoes, I topped it with leftover colcannon. I loosened up the colcannon (kale and all) with some of the juice from the ground lamb mixture as it was cooking, put it in a ziplock, and piped it around the circular baking dish. It looked pretty cool. Leftover spicy collards on the side.

We had leftover Shepherd’s Pie on Thursday along with broccoli rabe sautéed with onions, garlic and grape tomatoes. I thought I made enough broccoli rabe for two nights but Jim stood over the stove after dinner polishing it all off.

On Friday night my attention was focused on the lion’s mane mushrooms (see photo below) I received in my produce box—they supposedly taste like lobster or crab when cooked. I remember when I worked at McCormick & Schmick’s we’d get a mushroom from Oregon that did taste like lobster so I figured this would be similar.

Researching online, I found conflicting instructions: dry pan vs oil in the pan, lid vs no lid, when to add butter, cooking times, etc. I can report that you should use a dry pan (I didn’t), no lid (I put a lid on it) and cook them for a long time on each side before adding butter (I added butter way too early). My mushrooms soaked up the oil and butter and didn’t release their natural liquid or the additional oil/butter probably because they were already too far gone in the cooking process. We didn’t detect any seafood flavor because we mostly got oil and butter. Fail. I will try again because you could tell they had potential. It was a fun experiment all the same.

We had the mushrooms first before our salad because we wanted to try them right off the stove while they were still warm. The rest of the meal was a hit: my standard Pork Milanese and a new take on kale. I sautéed onions, garlic, dried apricot slivers, sliced almonds and Turkish seasoning from Penzey’s, and then added the kale to the pan along with a little water.

lion's mane mushrooms

On My Menu

Jim loves corned beef and cabbage so we always have it on his birthday, New Year’s Day. I don’t boil corned beef or cabbage, egad, instead I slow roast corned beef in the oven and sauté cabbage, so much better. This year I originally bought a smaller corned beef than usual for his birthday, but then decided I should get a bigger one to ensure plenty of leftovers. So I still have the smaller one in the freezer—well, by now it’s defrosting. We’ll have that tomorrow with sautéed cabbage and mashed rutabagas.

This gnocchi with mushrooms and feta cheese recipe has been calling my name. I’ll add tatsoi to the mix to make a one-pot meal for Tuesday.

Thursday, we’ll have salmon along with collards and sweet potatoes. Maybe I should add some barbecue sauce to the salmon to make it a completely North Carolina (and Alaska) meal.

I have the shrimp and mussels I didn’t use last weekend in the freezer so for Friday I’m thinking about a spring quinoa paella with shrimp, mussels, asparagus, peas, red bell pepper and whatever else I think should go in the pan. The recipe I linked gave me the idea for making a paella with quinoa—I can imagine Spaniards wincing right now—but I probably won’t stick to it, as you can see.

I’ll report back next week on what I end up making. If Jim doesn’t wolf down all the corned beef, we’ll have leftovers for another night and everything will get pushed back a day or two.

part of last week's delivery from The Produce Box

e-Cookbooks and Food Books on Sale

Caveat: Ebook sales like these sometimes only last a day or a week, so act quickly.

The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by Alana Chernila ($2.99, 57% off)

The Homemade Pantry was born of a tight budget…On a mission to kick their packaged-food habit, she learned that with a little determination, anything she could buy at the store could be made in her kitchen, and her homemade versions were more satisfying, easier to make than she expected, and tastier.”

Koreatown: A Cookbook by Deuki Hong ($1.99)

“A New York Times bestseller and one of the most praised Korean cookbooks of all time, you’ll explore the foods and flavors of Koreatowns across America through this collection of 100 recipes.”

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin ($1.99)

“In this delightful celebration of food, family, and friends, one of America’s most cherished kitchen companions shares her lifelong passion for cooking and entertaining. Interweaving essential tips and recipes with hilarious stories of meals both delectable and disastrous, Home Cooking is a masterwork of culinary memoir and an inspiration to novice cooks, expert chefs, and food lovers everywhere.”

The Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master Bartender, with 500 Recipes by Dale DeGroff ($2.99)

“The first real cookbook for cocktails, featuring 500 recipes from the world’s premier mixologist, Dale DeGroff…The Craft of the Cocktail provides much more than merely the same old recipes: it delves into history, personalities, and anecdotes; it shows you how to set up a bar, master important techniques, and use tools correctly; and it delivers unique concoctions, many featuring DeGroff’s signature use of fresh juices, as well as all the classics.”

Looking for more e-cookbook and ebook deals? Check out last week’s list, some of them are still on sale.

Creative Commons licensed images of lion’s mane mushrooms by Henk Monster on Wikimedia Commons.

Amazon book links are affiliate links which allow me to earn a small commission on any sales that result from clicking. Thank you.

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