Recipes From Around The Web: Pho, Pumpkin Stew and Olives

Normally my taste buds run in streaks. I’ll get a taste for duck and I’ll make duck several times in several different ways for a month and then I’ll be done. Or pumpkin, for about 6 weeks of the year everything I touch has pumpkin in it, near it or I have shaped to look like a pumpkin. Either I am losing my attention span or my taste buds are changing, but for the last two weeks I have been all over the map. In keeping with my normal taste bud streak I have been quite literally pickling everything I can get my hands on. I am lucky enough to have several friends in my life who are more than happy to pick up the ‘slack’ because although nutritionally, pickled produce isn’t the worse thing that one to eat, it will take its toll on your kidney’s eventually especially if you eat nothing else.

Speaking of pickling, well technically, brining, I decided to kick the preserving up a notch and make my own olives. This is at the long end a 6-month process and on the short end a 6-week process. After reading several different recipes and watching a lot of youtube videos like this one:

I decided to go with Apple Crumbles. Her recipe was the most clear to me and I liked that she had pictures most steps of the way. Since I don’t own a pickling kettle I just have the olives in mason jars that I am draining and refilling with brine daily. Apparently, the more you change the brine the quicker the process. My goal is to have these olives ready for Thanksgiving. I am cutting it pretty close.

It being pumpkin season and all, I was pretty excited when I came across Jehan Can Cook’s recipe for Chicken and Pumpkin Stew. What attracted me to the stew was that it was a slightly spicy coconut milk based stew. The recipe pulls together a lot of the flavors that I like, cumin, garlic, ginger, pumpkin (technically calabaza squash), and coconut milk. The recipe does call for chicken bouillon, which I just never have, so I added a little homemade chicken stock instead to bump up the flavor. The recipe says to cook the stew for 20-25 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender, I cooked it for close to 40 minutes, only because my pumpkin was taking bit longer to break down. It was wonderful that this was a one-pot stew and I did end up with a delightfully spiced stew in under an hour that I served over brown rice, but would probably just serve with crusty bread next time.

This week’s final treat was Vietnamese Beef Pho Soup. The two recipes that I found most helpful, and I’m a little chagrined to say this were the recipes at epicurious and at Food Network.  My first try out on this, I had pork stock in my freezer so I went ahead and used that. To give the broth the unique Pho flavor I toasted my star anise, cloves and fennel seeds and then put them into a cheesecloth with chunks of ginger, dropped the spice packet into the broth and simmered for a good 20 minutes allowing the spices to infuse the broth that way. As I am typing this I have a beef broth cooking on the stove to try the recipe again to see if the difference is that huge. Both recipes called for either knuckle or oxtail to make the broth, and my butcher was sympathetic as he told me he was out, but then he suggested that I use the shank instead. What is lovely about Pho is that it is so simple and so delicate in flavor. The cilantro, mung beans, scallions and lime juice keep the soup fresh while the rice noodles and beef fill you up. I will admit that putting the raw sliced flank steak into the soup was a little nerve-racking, until after delivering myself a swift kick in the shins I reminded myself of all of tartares and carpaccios I have eaten in my lifetime with no harm.

If anyone knows of a stunner Pho recipe I would love to hear about it!

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