Today’s the last day of September and therefore the last day of our first month of the Kitchn Cookbook Club. We did an even better job than anticipated of cooking through Salt Fat Acid Heat, by Samin Nosrat. We shared our Pasta with Clams & Sausage and Chocolate Cupcakes with Rosewater Cream, but we also made a gorgeous salad from her Avocado Salad Matrix, a nice roast whole chicken, and some green beans that we didn’t love. We still have a few more recipes bookmarked – the Butternut Squash and Brussel Sprouts in Agrodolce, the Autumn Panzanella Salad, and the Vietnamese Cucumber Salad in particular. We clearly won’t get to all of them before the end of the month, given that we only have a few hours of September left, but for dinner tonight we riffed on the squash and sprouts recipe.
The dish as written is vegetarian and would make a beautiful side dish – Samin says she serves it on her Thanksgiving spread! (Selim wants to do the same!) We decided to throw some sausages in the oven with the veggies to make it a full meal with a protein. I was initially attracted to the recipe because of the vinegar. I love vinegar and have learned from this book how the punch of acid improves most dishes by brightening other flavors. And now, I know what agrodolce means! “Agro” + “dolce” = “sour” + “sweet” in Italian. At its most basic, an agrodolce is a sauce of vinegar and sugar. It can be adjusted in many different ways – various vinegars, subbing honey or syrups for the sugar, and adding other ingredients, like herbs, spices, fruits, nuts, olives, and basically anything else!
We both loved this recipe and plan to add it to the regular rotation. The roasting and the vinegar really brought out the inherent sweetness of the vegetables. The sausages were a welcome addition and their fattiness stood up well to the vinegar. The end result is a little messy, but really delicious. We both independently thought that it would have been better if we’d cut the squash into cubes, instead of slicing as the original recommended. I think we’ll try that next time, but left the recipe with the sliced recommendation since that’s how we made it.*
Sausages & Roasted Veggies in Agrodolce
(Adapted from Salt Fat Acid Heat)
- 1 large butternut squash
- 1 lb brussel sprouts
- 5 Italian sausages
- Olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- 1/3 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Fresh mint leaves
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Slice the squash in half, scoop out any seeds, and slice into crescents*. Halve these if too large. Place in a large bowl and toss with enough olive oil to coat and ~ 1/4 tsp salt and a few turns of fresh ground black pepper. Spread out in a single layer on a lined cookie sheet.
- Halve the brussel sprouts and do the same as above with additional olive oil, a pinch of salt, and pepper. Place them on a second lined cookie sheet.
- Place the sausages on another sheet, or on one of the previous ones if there is room without crowding. (Mine fit easily with the brussel sprouts.)
- Place the veggies and sausages in the the oven. Roast for 25-30 minutes, turning and adjusting the position of the cookie sheets in the oven about halfway through so everything roasts evenly. [Keep a close eye out towards the end – the brussel sprouts may cook faster than the squash. We like ours on the burnt side of crispy, but you may want to take them out about 5 minutes earlier.]
- Meanwhile, submerge the onions in the vinegar to macerate while everything is cooking (at least 20 minutes).
- In another small bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp olive oil, sugar, red pepper flakes, and garlic.
- Once the veggies are cooked, place them in large bowl. Slice the sausages into bite-sized rounds and place in the bowl as well. Whisk the onions and vinegar into the olive oil mixture and then, once well-combined, pour the mixture into the large bowl. Toss to coat.
- Serve on a platter topped with additional salt if needed and a handful of torn mint leaves.
Pickles again? Didn’t we just do that? Yes, yes we did. I’ve been munching on the Midnight Quick Pickles from last week out of my fridge pretty much every day. Sorry for the repetition, but sometimes I can’t help the order of our culinary diary. This weekend, Selim’s parents came to visit us in Virginia, and we all joined my parents in Amherst for the day. Selim and I made dinner for the group, with a little assistance on the grill from my dad. Instead of brats and hot dogs, we grilled sucuk (a delicious Turkish sausage) and some spicy venison sausage (hunted & made by my cousin’s husband), with a variety of toppings. We quick pickled these onions earlier in the week, with the thought that they’d go well with the sucuk and feta cheese, but I thought they worked even better with the spicy venison sausage! The slightly sweet, very acidic pickled onions give your tastes buds a reprieve from the spiciness of the sausage with each bite.
My sister recently ranted to us about how “pickles are the cool new thing,” and how “every restaurant is putting pickled vegetables in things that don’t need pickles.” I respect her opinion, but I totally disagree. I think pickles, depending on their variety, could go on just about everything. I think anything spicy or fatty or really rich is improved with some type of pickle on top. I also eat these guys plain, but I’m not sure I’m in the the majority on that one.
Standard Quick Pickle Disclaimer: As we’ve mentioned with previous recipes (see: Midnight Quick Pickles, Red Quick Pickled Cauliflower and Radishes), these are not shelf-safe “real” pickles. They should not be left in pantry or cellar for eternity. They must stay refrigerated. Hence they’re called “quick pickles” or “refrigerator pickles.” We skipped the step of sterilizing the jar and lid that keeps you from getting botulism when canned goods are left on a shelf for months on end.
Pickled Red Onions
- 1 large red onion
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp salt
- Slice the onion length-wise and place in a jar.
- Meanwhile, bring the remaining ingredients to a simmer. As soon as the salt & sugar are dissolved, remove from the heat.
- Once the liquid has cooled, pour over the onions. Refrigerate for 48+ hours prior to using.
Every time we visit my cousin and her husband, we always come home with more than when we arrived. They live in a more rural county, have a HUGE backyard garden, and freezers full of hunting spoils. We were there this past weekend to visit with them and their brand new baby 😍😍😍 We cooked dinner for the new parents, so we brought a fair amount of ingredients with us. But still, our bag was more full when we went home! They sent us home with a bounty of cucumbers and squash from the garden, three whole trout, and a package of venison sausage links from last hunting season! Even a cucumber lover like me can’t eat all those cucumbers before they go bad, so I made some pickles!
If you take a quick glance at this recipe, you’re probably thinking that it’s a pretty standard dill pickle recipe. Vinegar, water, sugar, dill, garlic… they’re standard fair for dill pickles. Why then do ours look dark and why did we call them “midnight” pickles? For that, we have to thank Selim’s devotion to turbinado sugar, which turns liquid darker when dissolved, as compared to refined white sugar.
As we’ve mentioned with previous recipes (see: Red Quick Pickled Cauliflower and Radishes), these are not shelf-safe “real” pickles. They should not be left in pantry or cellar for eternity. They must stay refrigerated. Hence they’re called “quick pickles” or “refrigerator pickles.” We skipped the step of sterilizing the jar and lid that keeps you from getting botulism when canned goods are left on a shelf for months on end.
This recipes follows a 2 part vinegar / 1 part water / 1 part sugar pickling ratio by which we usually abide. Using that ratio, pickles can be infinitely adjusted for more or less produce, different vinegars, alternate sugars, and a variety of herbs & spices!
Midnight Quick Pickles
- 5-6 small pickling cucumbers
- 1 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 1 tbsp dill
- Slice the cucumbers and place in a large mason jar or similar.
- Bring the remaining ingredients to a simmer in a saucepan. Stir and simmer until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
- Remove from heat. Leave sitting out or refrigerate until cool.
- Pour cool pickling liquid over the sliced cucumbers.
- Refrigerate for several days. (They’re edible essentially immediately, but will have more flavor if you leave them be for 48+ hours.)
We’re not really a picky couple when it comes to meat. We pretty much like it all. Our weekly routine usually consists of two nights of fish or other seafood, a night of beef, and pretty much the rest of the nights with chicken of some variety. We also love lamb, goat, duck, and all kinds of game meat, but get our grad-school-budgeted hands on those a little less often. But somehow, I feel like we always forget about pork. Every time we make pork, we always wonder why we don’t eat it more often. Fall and the cooler weather we’ve (finally!) been having made me think about doing a braised dish and this time, my mind went straight to the other white meat! I initially wanted to braise the pork in cider, with apples and potatoes on the side, a dish I make pretty much every fall. But then I realized that would end up being pretty darn similar to the Cider Chicken with Savory Fall Fruits that we made just two weekends ago. So I browsed our two favorite culinary magazines (Bon Appetit and Food & Wine) for some inspiration. Turns out, everyone braises pork in cider in the fall… But working back a few years, I came across the recipe we adapted this dish from – a different flavor profile that was exactly what I was looking for!
Speaking of different flavor profile… I was a little skeptical about the grapes. I thought the grapes might make the whole dish too sweet. I was happily wrong! While they do add a little bit of sweetness to the final product, it isn’t overwhelming. Even more interestingly, the grapes take on some of the savoriness of the pork. When you see them after they’ve braised for half the afternoon, you’ll notice that they’ve lost a lot of their color. I thought that might mean that they would’ve leeched out all of their flavor too. Not the case! As it turns out, the grapes ended up being my favorite part of the dish, so I’m glad I didn’t trust my first instinct to get rid of them!
Braised Balsamic Pork with Grapes
- 3lb boneless pork loin
- 2 tbsp neutral oil
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- ~1lb black or red grapes (~3 cups)
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 cups vegetable or poultry stock
- 4 large fresh sage leaves
- 2 springs of fresh rosemary
- Season the pork loin with salt & pepper on both sides.
- In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp neutral oil at just above medium heat (#6). Once hot, sear the pork on all sides, 3-5 minutes per side.
- Remove the pork to a plate on the side and lower heat to medium-low.
- After allowing a few minutes for the oil the cool slightly, add the garlic and onions to the dish. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes. Then add the grapes and top with the brown sugar. Cook for another 5 minutes.
- Pour in the vinegar and simmer for about 3 minutes.
- Add the stock and fresh herbs to the dish. Now also return the pork. Nestle the meat down into the dish (the top should still be exposed).
- Bring the liquid to a boil and then immediately reduce to low heat. Cover and cook at a very low simmer for 45 minutes.
- Flip the pork loin, re-cover, and cook at the same low simmer for another 30-45 minutes. [We suggest checking for doneness at the 30 minute mark, especially if you prefer your pork less than well-done!]
- Remove the pork loin from the dish and ensure it is cooked sufficiently with a meat thermometer (the FDA recommends a minimum safe temperature of 145 degrees for pork).
- Meanwhile, increase the burner heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Boil vigorously until the liquid has reduced and thickened. While the sauce is reducing, intermittently skim fat/oil/debris off the top. Also, remove the sprigs of herbs.
- Serve the pork sliced, topped with sauce.