Achiote Frijoles Recado

Achiote Frijoles Recado
Continuing from last time's Verdolaga Sauce, this Yucatan-inspired recipe is a really great way to cook up some beans. Tune in Friday for the final recipe to make some Tacos de Verdolaga con Achiote Frijoles Recado y Guacamole!

We've been on an achiote kick lately. It all started with the Cochinita Pibil. Now we have annatto seeds and annatto powder, not to mention packets of achiote paste in the cupboard. (And another batch of cochinita pibil marinating in the fridge as I type.)

Achiote and annatto seeds are a common components in Yucatan cuisine. Even though I eat a ton of Mexican food, we don't have very many restaurants in my area that offer dishes outside what is quickly becoming Mexican-American cuisine. So when it comes to beans, I usually think of the common refried pinto beans or cooked black beans. I don't often put a lot of spice into them (though I'm a sucker for peppers, onions and citrus with black beans) either.

Now, my husband, as I may have mentioned, absolutely adores beans. He's always on the lookout for another bean recipe to try - and because of him (and Winco), we have a lot of various beans in our cupboard to play around with. He came across this post at FatFreeVegan for a thick, saucy beans with achiote which sounded fabulous.

These are great by themselves (though better with something else great, like Verdolaga Sauce, but more on that on Friday!) and would make a wonderful accompaniment for grilled shrimp or chicken, barbacoa or carnitas. They're super-savory and the scents that waft up as they cook is almost enough to make you swoon.

Or maybe I'm just odd. Let's not rule that out!

In any case, this is a great recipe to swap your standard refried beans out with - including in burritos with rice and meat or veggies.

Achiote Frijoles Recado

Achiote Frijoles Recado [printable recipe]

Adapted from Achiote Beans Recado
Serves 2

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked pinto, mayocoba, or black beans1
  • 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup water or stock
  • juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp ground annatto powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • dash of ground cloves
  • dash of hot paprika or cayenne
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil

In a medium pot, heat oil over moderate heat. Saute onions until browned, then add jalapeno and garlic. Fry for another minute or two, then add the spices and tomato paste. Cook until fragrant. Pour in water/stock, lemon juice, stir well making sure to scrape up the fond at the bottom. Stir in the beans, bring to a simmer and cover, reducing the heat to low.

Let the beans cook for 30 to 45 minutes, checking periodically to ensure they haven't boiled dry. Add water as necessary. When done, the beans will be meltingly tender and the sauce extremely thick.

Serve on the side as an accompaniment, or as part of a burrito, or as I did as part of Tacos de Verdolaga con Achiote Frijoles Recado y Guacamole. Check in Friday for the guac recipe!


  1. Equivalent to 1/2 cup dry beans or 1 15 oz can, drained.

Verdolaga Sauce

Verdolaga Sauce
It's my husband's birthday! I'm busy today cooking up a storm for him -- all sorts of goodies! So I thought I would share three recipes, starting today, for a wonderful meal we had just last week that I think you, Dear Reader, should definitely put on your to-do list. Tune in Wednesday and Friday to hear all about these great recipes.

"Do you know what this is?" asked my husband, pointing to a fluffy, little set of greens in our favorite Latin market.

I looked at the sign. "Verdolaga, apparently." I had no idea beyond that and shrugged. My husband looked at it for a few more moments, shrugged and picked up a bunch. They were on sale for some absurdly low figure, probably a quarter or thirty cents. "Let's try it!"

It took us a while to get around to it. (Honestly, we forgot about them and they languished at the bottom of the crisper drawer for a while. However, I can say that if you buy these really fresh, they last quite a while!)

It turns out that verdolaga is commonly known as purslane, and like many yummy greens, is considered a weed. It's eaten all over the world, from what I've read. Like okra, it's mucilaginous, so it's excellent for thickening up stews. It has a flavor like spinach and sorrel and cauliflower and I don't even know what else. It's interesting, that's for sure.

During my research, I came across some interesting recipes but the one that was most appealing was one that made it into a taco filling. While I was reading, my husband was looking for ways to try out our new supply of annatto seeds and powder. He chanced across a great recipe for achiote frijoles recado on FatFreeVegan that sounded like it would go well.

Which, with some guacamole, meant we had a full taco-licious meal! But I'm getting ahead of myself. On Wednesday, I'll tell you all about the beans and on Friday, about the guacamole. You definitely want to try these, so leave a spot on your menu for next week, okay?

Verdolaga Sauce [printable recipe]

Serves 2

  • 2 Roma tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 white onion, quartered
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and halved
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 bunch verdolaga (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup ricotta or queso fresco
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp annatto seeds
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • salt and pepper

In a food processor or blender, puree tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, cumin, oregano and garlic to a coarse paste. Chop the verdolaga into 1" - 2" chunks and place in a sieve set in the sink. Boil some water in a kettle and pour slowly over the verdolaga1.

In a nonstick skillet over moderate-low heat, combine oil and annatto seeds. Cook slowly until the oil is strongly colored and the seeds are toasty brown. Discard the seeds and turn up the heat to medium.

Pour the paste into the skillet, add the verdolaga and cook until thick. Stir in the cheese and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until it's thick and bubbly.

Serve in tortillas, either alone or with other ingredients, or spread over grilled or baked chicken and rice, or pour over thick cuts of bread and shredded pork... Be creative. :)


  1. Yes, this is basically the fast way to blanch a small amount of vegetables. If I had had a burner and a pot free, I would have boiled some water and dunked them for 10 - 15 seconds. I didn't, so I used the electric kettle.

Curried Couscous

Just a quick little recipe today, as I'm busy working on my senior project. My husband went scrounging through the cupboards, looking for a side to pair with our Veggie Burgers, and decided to use up the last of the couscous in the pantry. Since I don't really care for the stuff, it was a perfect idea to me. He came up with this one -- and surprise! I loved it, couscous and all. Luckily, this would work great with quinoa or bulgur, even probably your favorite whole grain. Give it a shot!

Curried Couscous [printable recipe]

Serves 2

  • 3/4 cup couscous, quinoa or similar grain
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried mint
  • 1/8 tsp hot paprika or cayenne
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • salt, pepper
  • butter

In a medium skillet, melt butter over moderate heat. Stir in couscous and garlic, tossing to coat and cook for 1 minute to heat through. Add spices and continue to cook until the couscous begins to brown and the spices are fragrant. Pour the chicken broth over the mixture, then remove to a rice cooker and stir in the coconut.

** If you don't have a rice cooker, just cover it at this point and cook until the water is evaporated.

Set the rice cooker to Cook. When the cycle has completed, fluff the couscous with a fork and stir in the peanuts and green onions. Let rest, covered, for 5 minutes before serving.

Meatloaf with a Twist

Meatloaf is a quintessentially American dish. It's meaty, unpretentious and satisfying. It's also good the next day for sandwiches. A few weeks ago, when I made this, the weather was more "tail-end of winter" than "almost-summer", with consistent overnight freezing temperatures, rain and snow in the afternoon and generally miserable.

However, meatloaf involves, well, a lot of meat. The average recipe I came across used between 4 and 5 pounds of the stuff in varying proportions. We had come across TVP (texturized vegetable protein) at Winco and wanted to try it out. Supposedly, if you soaked it in stock, it could easily be used interchangeably for meat, particularly in ground meat recipes like meatloaf and meatballs. Lower calorie, easy to store and much cheaper than meat (ground or not), we decided it was worth a try.

Turns out, they're right. It's indistinguishable from meat in this. We've used it a few times now and are sold - we have a protein that can taste however we like, needs no defrosting and is readily available for cheap.

If you'd rather just have a regular meatloaf, exchange the TVP and broth for 1/2 pound of whatever meat you like. You could, theoretically, eliminate the other half pound of meat in exchange for doubling the TVP, I suppose, making this completely vegetarian. I haven't tried it but it should work.

TVP Meatloaf [printable recipe]

Makes 2 mini-loaves (serves 4)

  • 1/2 lb ground beef, lamb, buffalo or veal
  • 3/4 cup TVP
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan or Asiago, finely shredded
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley or 1/4 cup fresh
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chile powder
  • salt and pepper
  • ketchup, for topping

Preheat oven to 350F.

Soak TVP in veggie broth while you put everything else together. Combine everything else, save for ketchup, in a large bowl then add the TVP. Mix thoroughly.

Divide into two mini-loaf pans. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread a generous helping of ketchup over each. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 - 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160F.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble

Strawberry & Rhubarb Crumble

Rhubarb season is finally here. I know some parts of the country have already seen rhubarb popping up at groceries and markets (those lucky bastards) but we only started seeing them a couple of weeks ago. I couldn't resist, so I bought a couple of pounds with the intention of doing a few different recipes.

I saw this recipe pop up on Closet Cooking, and since I had 4 pounds of strawberries to use up, it seemed like the perfect way to start. But, as a complete rhubarb novice who hasn't really ever eaten rhubarb before, I didn't realize that you were supposed to peel it first!

Oops. Sorry honey.

But even with that, this cooks long enough that the skin doesn't seem to matter. At least, neither my rhubarb-loving husband nor I noticed.

I thought this came out beautifully. I used a combination of whole-grain flours and added cardamom, which boosted the flavor considerably. I love crumbles for their simplicity - toss fruit with sugar, top with a mixture of flour, oats and more sugar. However, to cut down on at least some of the sugar, I used one of the stevia-sugar products, Sun Crystals, to acquire the same sweetness without as many calories. Now if only there was such a thing for brown sugar!

One thing I hate about fruit-based recipes, however, is the insistence of American recipes for volumetric measurements. I have a hard time figuring out how many strawberries will fit in a cup! So, I cut my fruit into pieces and measured out one cup's worth of each, weighed it and wrote it down. Frankly, crumbles are forgiving - if you want to use 1 pound of strawberries, I'm sure you'll be forgiven.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble [printable recipe]

Adapted from Closet Cooking
Makes 9 servings

  • 6 packets Sun Crystals or other artificial sweetener1
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tsp + 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp + 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 15 oz / 420 g / 3 cups strawberries, cleaned, hulled, chopped
  • 8 oz / 240 g / 2 cups rhubarb, peeled and sliced into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp rye flour2
  • 2 tbsp buckwheat flour
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 oz melted butter

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine 6 packets of sweetener, cornstarch, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp ground cardamom in a medium bowl. Add strawberries and rhubarb, then toss to coat.

Pour the fruit into an 8" square oven-safe casserole dish. In a small bowl, stir together the flours, oats, brown sugar, butter, remaining cinnamon and cardamom. Sprinkle over the fruit evenly.

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly.


  1. Truvia is another good sweetener. Or, if you prefer, use 1/4 cup of regular sugar.
  2. If you'd rather not use three different types of flour, you can use all of one or even just all-purpose. Only taste really matters in this application.

Cochinita Pibil

Cochinita Pibil over Mexican Rice

I've always wanted to try something wrapped in banana leaves. When I saw this recipe on Simply Recipes, I decided it was time.

Now, her recipe calls for the traditional orange and lime juices to be used as the base for the marinade. When I went looking for the ingredients, I thought that I had a can of orange juice concentrate in the freezer.. but alas, it was not so.

Stumped, I stared into our freezer. My eyes lit upon the cranberry juice container and I took it out, thoughtfully weighing it in my palm. "Do you think we could use cranberry juice?" I asked my husband, who replied, "well, we use cranberry and lemon often and it's acidic, so I don't see why not."

And, wonder of wonders, I had half a bag of cranberries in the freezer door! Problem solved.

The cranberry/lemon mixture doesn't seem to be terribly different from how I imagine the orange/lime tastes. It's fruity and acidic - all that matters. The banana leaves were everything I had hoped for - fun to use and they definitely added to the dish. Besides the wonderful flavor, what I loved was once it went into the oven, I was done! I didn't have to poke at it or check it until 3 hours later. (And it was done!)

This is some seriously wonderful stuff. I'm definitely making this one again. The only bad thing I can say is that it takes almost one entire achiote packet. I have a half ounce left over, so I think I'll buy the bigger size next time so it divides more evenly. I probably could have used the entire packet without problem, however, so it's my own fault. :)

Cochinita Pibil

Cochinita Pibil [printable recipe]

Adapted from Simply Recipes
Serves 4 - 6

  • 3-4 pounds boneless pork shoulder or picnic roast
  • 1 cup whole cranberries
  • 1 large lemon or 2 regular lemons, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 ounces of red (rojo) achiote paste
  • Water or stock
  • Banana leaves, heated or thawed to pliability (optional)

In a blender the night before you wish to cook, combine cranberries, lemon, salt and achiote paste. Add enough water or stock to make the marinade easily pourable.

Cut the pork into 1" - 2" cubes, leaving the fat for braising. Place into a non-reactive container (glass, metal or ziptop baggie) then pour the marinade over the pork. Mix well and chill for 8 to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a 9"x12" casserole dish with foil. If using banana leaves, layer one or two leaf sections across the bottom. Pour in the pork mixture along with the marinade. Layer more leaf sections over the pork (about 2 - 3 layers) or use foil and close tightly.

Wrapping Cochinita Pibil in Banana Leaves

Bake for 3 hours or more. Check the meat at 3 hours to see if the pork shreds easily - it should be just about falling apart. Remove the meat and sauce to a bowl and shred with two forks.

Serve over Mexican Rice or use as meat for tacos or sandwiches.

Orzo-Triticale Salad with Chevre and Feta

Orzo-Triticale Salad with Chevre and Feta

As you might have noticed, we're slowly moving towards a vegetarian-majority diet. We are not vegetarian, however, nor do I expect we ever will be. For one, it would mean no sausage or bacon for breakfast and that's a terrible thought! But, eating more vegetarian meals helps us to lose weight, feel better and put our limited grocery budget to good use. I expect we will be buying more "premium" meat from local farmers, such as Morgan Valley Lamb who have fantastic, great-tasting lamb, than buying meat cheaply in quantity from the megamart. If we're not going to eat a lot of meat, I'd damn sure like to make what we eat count! Plus, moving to humanely-raised, grass-/naturally-fed and hormone-free meat is a Good Thing in my book.

There's also another facet: both of us have eaten meat at almost every meal for a very long time. Learning to cook without meat, to substitute other sources of protein and nutrients, has been a lot of fun... and very challenging too. And sometimes, we just plain don't want to deal with digging up some meat, defrosting it and cooking it.

Anyway. That's why there has been a heavier concentration of meat-free or meat-optional dishes lately featured here.

Coming up over the next couple of months: It's almost time for Jāņi, so we'll be making another Jāņu siers (this time, I'm making a spicy one!). Rhubarb is finally showing up in stores, so there'll be some rhubarb recipes -- my husband has asked me to make him a rhubarb dessert for his birthday and rhubarb-strawberry preserves. And, if all goes well, the long-awaited post on an easier way to make good biezpiens, along with making ryazhenka at home, will be finished too.

Now! On to today's recipe: This was inspired by a recipe that my mom has made for me a couple of times in the past few years. Every time she's made it, I think of something else that would be great in it... and always forget to suggest it when she makes it the next time. She made it for me and my husband a little while ago and I decided this time, I wouldn't forget! So I made it again a few days later.

It came out beautifully. The triticale's chewiness contrasted nicely with the softness of the orzo. (Any chewy grain would work well in its place, like barley or brown rice.) I did wind up throwing in whatever was in the fridge that needed to be used, but it resulted in a well-rounded, delicious salad, so I'm not unhappy.

Yes, it's written in metric. However, for all of the metric without American equivalents, I used around 1/2 cup for each. (My usual mis-en-place dishes are 1/2 cup glass bowls.)

Orzo-Triticale Salad with Chevre and Feta [printable recipe]

Serves 2 - 3

  • 150 g / 1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 130 g / 1/2 cup (heaping) cooked beans, any variety1
  • 80 g fresh or frozen corn or peas
  • 80 g walnuts, chopped
  • 60 g carrot, shredded
  • 30 g sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, sliced
  • 4 oz feta, crumbled
  • 2 oz chevre (goat cheese), crumbled
  • 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch kale, spinach or other leafy green, chopped
  • 3 - 4 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1/3 cup orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
  • 1/3 cup triticale2
  • butter or oil
  • salt, pepper, thyme and crushed red chile pepper flakes to taste

Soak the triticale in salted water overnight. In a pot of boiling, salted water, boil the soaked triticale for 40 minutes. Add orzo and boil for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Strain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking and prevent sticking.

In a large, deep saute pan, heat oil or butter over moderate heat. Add leek and spices, saute for 2 - 3 minutes to soften. Add garlic, carrot and corn or peas, saute for a minute before adding sun-dried tomatoes, beans and walnuts, cook for 1 - 2 minutes. Pour in 1/2 cup of chicken broth and stir in kale. Cover and let steam for 3 to 4 minutes.

Uncover and stir in orzo-triticale mixture and grape tomatoes. Crumble in the chevre and feta, then add remaining 1/4 cup of chicken broth. Stir well to melt the cheeses, taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve.


  1. I used peruano beans, also known as mayocoba beans, because they cook up so nice and soft.
  2. The recipe's times are written for triticale though barley, brown rice or your favorite whole grain can be used.

English Muffin Bread

A Rozentāli Breakfast

Today, I'm continuing the breakfast post from last week with two recipes for English Muffin Bread! This bread is superb, with a lovely, craggy crumb and is just right for pairing with Breakfast Sausage Patties.

We love our English muffins, but the damned things are super-pricey off-sale. What we like best is to fry an egg, a Breakfast Sausage Patty and top our freshly toasted, buttered muffin with them for a Muffinwich.

Now, as I mentioned in the Graham Bread post, we'd recently acquired a copy of Beard On Bread. My husband was flipping through it and came across a very strange recipe for making a loaf of English Muffin Bread in the microwave.

Yes, apparently, the microwave can be used for baking bread. How weird is that? I'd never even heard of it before now, but I could be just a strange and sheltered KitchenMouse.

So, he tried it. Damn me if it didn't taste just like real English muffins! We were sold -- but decided it would be better done if we just made the accompanying larger recipe the more traditional way. Especially since we went through a lot of it quite quickly because we were so enamored with it! The crumb is nice and coarse, with plenty of those vaunted "nooks and crannies" of traditional English muffins. And of course, it's best toasted.

Now, this recipe gives fairly small slices when split between two 9x5x3 loaf pans. Eventually, we'll get around to revising the recipe to get larger slices, but these work so nicely for eggs and sausage that we haven't really bothered.

This is so incredibly worth it. You have to do this recipe if you love English muffins. Plus, it's super easy -- especially the microwave version. As Beard himself wrote, "You are going to be amused watching this bread rise in the microwave." He's right.

English Muffin Bread in the Microwave [printable recipe]

Barely adapted from James Beard's Beard On Bread
Makes 1 loaf

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp instant yeast1
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tbsp warm water

In a large bowl, stir together half of the flour, the yeast, sugar and salt. Warm the milk (in the microwave, if you wish) to 110° to 115° F. Beat into the flour mixture until smooth. Stir in the remaining flour until a stiff batter forms. (It's not quite a dough.) Cover with a clean tea towel and place in a warm corner to rise until doubled, about 40 minutes to an hour.

Dissolve the baking soda in the warm water and stir it into the batter well. Grease a microwave-safe 1 1/2 quart dish (such as a souffle dish or pyrex casserole dish) well and pour batter into the dish. Cover it back up with the towel and let it double again - another 40 - 60 minutes.

Now the fun part: Nuke the batter in the microwave2 for about 6 minutes and 30 seconds, or until there are no doughy spots left. Cool for 5 minutes then remove from the pan to cool completely.

Because this is cooked in the microwave, it will not brown. Then again, it's English Muffin Bread -- it won't brown much anyway. It really needs to be toasted to achieve its fullest potential.


  1. If using active dry, use 1 packet.
  2. Our microwave is 1100W.

. . .

Making this bread in the oven isn't much more difficult. We find it easier because we don't own Pyrex loaf pans, so we get a better loaf using our normal loaf pans. We usually make two loaves at a time, which gives us enough bread for about two weeks' of breakfasts.

English Muffin Bread [printable recipe]

Barely adapted from James Beard's Beard On Bread
Makes 2 loaves

  • 4 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (110° to 115°F)
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp salt (or 1 tbsp + 1 tsp)
  • 1 3/4 cups warm milk
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp warm water

Combine flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 cup warm water and the warm milk, then beat vigorously by hand or using a stand mixer until the dough becomes slightly elastic and the edges come away from the bowl. The dough will still be loose and sticky, though somewhat gummy. Cover it with a clean tea towel and let it rise for 60 - 90 minutes or doubled.

Dissolve the baking soda in 2 tbsp of warm water. Beat down the dough with a wooden spoon and add the baking soda mixture. Mix thoroughly for about a minute or so to ensure that there are no streaks of baking soda in the dough.

Prepare two 9x5x3" loaf pans by greasing well with butter or lard. Divide the dough equally between the two pans. Cover them back up with the towel and let rise for another hour or so.

Preheat the oven to 375°F while the dough rises. Bake the loaves for about 20 minutes, until the top is golden and the edges pull away from the pan. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

Slice, toast and serve.

From Scratch: Breakfast Sausage Patties

A Rozentāli Breakfast

Don't these look delicious? This is one of the breakfasts my husband makes for me on a regular basis! An omelet, two slices of English Muffin Bread and a homemade sausage patty! On Monday, I'll share the English Muffin Bread recipe.

Over the past 18 months, we've adjusted to being married and living on a very restricted income, thanks to being full-time students. Living frugally means (to us) that we re-examine the choices we were making thoughtlessly to determine if it really is the way we want to live, the way we want to spend our limited funds and the way we want to interact with the world. We're finding the way we want to live, rather than living the way we were accustomed to.

I don't talk very much about finance and frugality -- this is a food/recipe blog -- but many of the recipes I write about I discovered because I was looking for a tasty way to do something or incorporate a new ingredient I wanted to try. Many are here because I or my husband wanted the challenge.

I've been surprised at how much we can do ourselves and how much better it is than store-bought. The For Scratch series of posts that I periodically add to reflects those items that we've stopped buying and started making.

Today, I'm adding another one. This is one my husband makes and it is so good, I don't know why we didn't do it sooner. The impetus for it was reading the sausage section in Ruhlman's book, Ratio.

We originally tried this with a few very lean pieces of leftover pork roast. It worked out alright, the sausage tasted good... but, it was dry. It didn't fry up very well and needed a bit of oil in the pan. (Sausage shouldn't require oil to fry!)

So, we picked up a bone-in pork roast on sale with a fair amount of fat and tried again. Yes, Ruhlman is right. 20% fat is about right, it creates a yummy sausage with good texture, juicy flavor and just enough fat to fry itself up. I would caution you against skipping or reducing the minimum hour of marinating; it's absolutely essential (thanks Alton!) and produces the best flavor.

Breakfast Sausage Patties [printable recipe]

Makes about 24 - 30 patties

  • 3 pounds boneless pork roast, with about 15% - 20% fat, cut into 1" cubes
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp crushed red chile flakes
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp hot paprika

Combine everything in a lidded bowl and chill for an hour at least. Grind in a meat grinder. Form ground sausage into small patties, about 50 g each (about 3 tbsp or 2 ounces) and freeze on lined sheets.

To cook: Heat a skillet (cast-iron is best) over moderate heat and fry, turning once, until golden brown and delicious.

Latvian Iced Mint Tea

We have a brand new little Chocolate Mint plant as part of our spring planting because I quite simply could not resist the York Peppermint Patty smell of its leaves. I knew this variety existed but I wasn't expecting to find it at the local nursery.

In Utah, because of our climate, mint is an invasive. If you plant it in your garden, it will fight to take over everything unless restrained. So, we planned to put it into a hanging basket and if it seeded into the planter box, well, so be it. Only weeds are there right now as it is and I want to be able to take my little guy with us if we move later this year.

I confess, however, that I don't really know what to do with it. I would like to make extract out of it and other minty desserts, plus I knew it was a good choice for Thai and Vietnamese dishes.

What I didn't expect was to see a recipe in Latvian National Cuisine for a "Mint Drink" when I was flipping through it looking for something else. My husband hadn't heard of this, so perhaps this is a region-dependent recipe? Or perhaps his family just wasn't a fan. I'm not sure which. It's basically an iced tea but made with fresh mint rather than dried tea leaves or herbs.

We tried it out, figuring that since we like hot peppermint tea, making an iced version should be quite tasty. Turns out we were right, it's really good and very refreshing. It's a lot like lemonade - great to have a tall, cold glass of this when it's hot and you're working in the garden. While I don't like traditional American iced teas, this is just right to me.

Plus, it's a good way to use up mint.

Latvian Iced Mint Tea [printable recipe]

Adapted from Ņina Masiļūne - Latvian National Cuisine
Makes 4 drinks

1 liter filtered water 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar 1 tbsp lemon juice 1/4 cup fresh mint

Dissolve the sugar in lemon juice and bruise the mint before adding it to the mixture. Heat the water until boiling in a kettle and pour over the mixture. Cover and let steep on the counter until room temperature, then strain. Taste, adjust the lemon juice or sugar as needed, before chilling. Serve over ice.