The sun came out today, but only briefly, shining bright and hard before the clouds raced to pull their gray curtain, heavy and damp, down to the ground. By lunchtime, perpetual twilight again prevailed.
Yes, it's the January doldrums.
This is the time of year when I need inspiration and color from anywhere I can get it, especially in my food. A quick pickle of carrots and parsnips, though still wintry, reminds me of brighter days ahead. Freshness, spice and a bit of richness -- this wrap offers flavors we need to get through the gray days. So go make it.
While you're in the kitchen, you might want to consider cooking up some Doro Wat or Japanese curry from scratch (throw out those old MSG-laden cubes you got three years ago at the Asian market, please). I've been making plenty of both dishes, each of which are warming and thoroughly satisfying. They're relatively simple to make as well.
I know many of you are working on your resolutions to eat better and be healthier right about now. Up here next to the woods, I've been focusing on my goal of learning how to bake bread using levain, basically a sourdough starter made with just flour, water and any wild yeast drawn from my kitchen, or even my hands as I mix together my ingredients.
It's been fascinating and exciting to learn the basic principles, with help from bread bakers like Josey Baker, Ken Forkish and Chad Robertson. This week I've been reading through the Tartine books and getting inspired. These books! They contain way more than just recipes. They embody the thinking behind ancient and healthful ways of creating bread that are completely relevant today.
Whatever your resolutions and goals may be, don't let the January doldrums hold you back. Stay inspired by everything and keep moving ahead.
Asian Collard Wrap with Garlicky Pork
Adapted from Hot, Sour, Salty Sweet
For the meatballs:
1 pound ground pork
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup minced garlic
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon sriracha
2 teaspoons potato starch
Generous grinding of black pepper
neutral oil, such as sunflower
For the quick pickle:
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 parsnip, peeled and shredded
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 teaspoons coconut sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the spicy mayo:
1/4 cup mayonaise
2 teaspoons hot sauce, such as sriracha
1 bunch collard greens
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a small bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Add carrots and parsnips and toss to combine. Set aside.
In a large bowl, gently combine pork, shallots, garlic, fish sauce, honey, sriracha, potato starch and black pepper. Form into 1" balls or small patties. Arrange on baking sheet and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, using a paring knife, remove tough stems from the collard leaves, making sure to keep the leaves otherwise as intact as possible. Set aside prepared leaves.
Add enough oil to a skillet to cover the bottom and set over medium-high heat. Add meatballs, flipping and turning as needed until they start to brown, about five minutes. Cook in batches if necessary to prevent crowding. When browned, transfer meatballs onto a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven for ten more minutes to finish cooking through.
For the spicy mayo, in a small bowl, whisk together mayonaise and hot sauce.
To assemble the wrap, drain pickled vegetables. Lay a collard leaf down on a work surface, tucking together the parts where the stem was removed. Place a portion of the pickled vegetables on the leaf. Drizzle with spicy mayo and lay a row of meatballs on top. Roll, tucking in ends of leaf. Serve alone as an appetizer or with steamed rice, for a light meal.