𝘕𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳 15, 2021
Several weeks ago, Melissa went to visit a friend of hers in the Ozark Mountains. The friend lives just outside of a small town in a secluded house on a bluff above the White River. Melissa’s friend also has a key ingredient for Melissa to continue to work from home, highspeed internet. Over the last several years the friend has begun to focus on preparing and eating nutritious gourmet recipes that are also simple to make. Melissa enjoyed the solitude and the meals and brought back several recipes to share with me. We went to the market on Friday and purchased the ingredients to make both dishes. The first was crispy carnitas and the second was Greek meatballs. I was looking forward to the weekend.
The gourmet feast began on Saturday with Carnitas Tostados. Melissa put a 4-pound (1.8 kilogram) pork roast in the slow cooker for 4 hours. This was simmered with a medium onion, a glass bottle of coke (real sugar), a cup of orange juice, lime juice, and herbs (garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, cumin, and bay leaves). By the time it was done it was so tender it was hard to get it out of the cooker without falling apart. We fork shredded the meat and broiled it for ten minutes with a ladle of the juice to help it crisp. This was served on a fried flour tortilla with the usual tostado toppings. A form of this dish used to be my go-to meal at a local Mexican restaurant until they changed the recipe and stopped broiling the pork. While this made the dish easier to make for the restaurant, I missed the crispiness of the broiled pork. It was nice to enjoy the taste again. Especially since there was leftover pork.
Now I was psyched to try the meatballs on Sunday. Rather than making our own, Melissa purchased fresh meatballs from the butcher (not frozen!). These were sprinkled with a variety of Greek spices and then browned in the skillet along with a thin sliced lemon. While this was happening, I chopped scallions and green Greek olives to use as garnish. Then I combined feta cheese, Greek yogurt, and olive oil into a soft paste in the processor. The next step was to remove the meatballs and lemons and cook the orzo in the same skillet, finally returning them to the orzo mixture with a little more lemon juice. A layer of feta paste was spread on the plate, the rice and meatball mixture layered over it, and then the olives and scallions as garnish. Another simple gourmet meal. I suggested to Melissa that she could make a return visit to her friend anytime she wanted.
𝗧𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀: I have mentioned that I rarely use recipes except to spark ideas for dishes I would like to make. These (almost) always come out tasting good. I also realize the difference between my simple concoctions and the gourmet offerings we tried over the weekend is the subtly of spices. While I do get creative and try some spices, things like cumin and cinnamon are rarely on my list. The expert chefs spend a lifetime learning how to blend the spices to provide the unique flavor that makes the dish gourmet. Perhaps I should pay more attention to the experts who contrive the recipes. It is interesting what listening to the experts can reveal. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.