May 11, 2015

California Cold

Blackberry and Blueberry Crisp

When most people think of California, they envision endlessly blue skies, sunshine, sandy beaches, and a casually chic population dashing about with surfboards and lattes while waiting for their next audition.

Well, that's only partially true--and it depends a great deal on where you live in California. While Mr. B and I aren't preparing for our next audition or loading our surfboards onto the car, most days we do enjoy those blue skies, sunshine, and fairly sandy beaches (the coastline includes a mix of jaw-dropping rocky cliffs, too).

But, not in May. Instead, we often find ourselves cranking up the furnace and whiling away the gray mornings eagerly anticipating a little afternoon sunshine. 

This is the month we don our sweatshirts and hit the yard, preparing the garden for planting and thinking up a landscaping strategy that will make our everyday pool time feel like we've skipped off to one of those star-studded resorts.

Back in the kitchen, I busily go through my pantry and freezer on the lookout for any ingredients or wayward scraps that I can use up in a last homage to the colder season. Soon enough, these cold mornings will be gone and like everyone else, I'll be complaining about the heat.

Most likely, it will only be a matter of weeks until I start writing about frozen confectioneries and other summery treats, but until then, I'll share my amazingly simple and delicious recipe for blackberry and blueberry crisp-- a belly warming treat with cinnamon and cloves, hot from the oven and topped with a dollop of whipped cream.

May 05, 2015

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Pork Carnitas

Spicy Pork Carnita Tacos
Mr. B's a sucker for pork. Although he likes to think of himself as a well-rounded carnivore, the mention of anything containing pork--or pork products--will have him squealing for a taste. One of his all time favorites happens to be carnitas--that Mexican delicacy of twice cooked pork--the first, by a low and slow braise and the second time, with a toss into hot lard until the meat is crispy, caramelized, and deeply golden brown. 

And really, who could blame him? What better to heap into warm corn tortillas and top with chopped onions, cilantro, and spicy salsa? 

Most of the time, we live in a "No Fry Zone," not because I'm opposed to anything deep fried--at least not when it's done well--but, mostly because Mr. B and I tend to cook in a style that can often be referred to--fondly, of course--as guerilla cooking, which means, we like to push things to the edge. 

Unfortunately, that usually means dismantling smoke alarms, opening windows, and praying for the best. For reference, I've seen Mr. B attempt a lobster bisque with a blow torch--a real, professional blow torch, and me, well, I've certainly had my moments of not clearly thinking through my culinary pursuits. Up until this point, we've always managed to avoid disaster, and I wasn't about to tempt fate by bringing a large pot of lard to a near boil. 

After thinking long and hard about how I could go about replicating crispy carnitas without frying, I finally latched onto the idea of using my crock-pot for the braise, and then employing my broiler to 'crisp' up the meat. The results were wildly successful--even Mr. B, my carnitas expert, gave them a thumbs up. And, to make things even better, they're healthier than their fried counterpart--as long as you don't gobble them up by the pound.