After the lazy, hazy days of summer, it’s time to get down to business. With cooler air, we feel the need to move faster and stretch the time further. Although rarely successful, multitasking is one of the ways we try to jam more into every day.
Successful or not, we all brag about our ability to do seven things at once. How long has it been since you gave a phone call your undivided attention? Months? Never? Whether driving or loading the dishwasher, answering emails, coaching little league, folding laundry or running on the treadmill, no one drops what they’re doing to answer the phone. And that’s not all. Knitters binge watch their favorite drama while clacking out miles of scarves and dozens of mittens. Neatniks get their exercise and keep in rhythm by doing a samba with the vacuum cleaner.
When we’re not doing three things at once, we’re flitting back and forth from one task to another and another. Take this article; just as I was getting started, my email pinged. Of course, I checked it out. Next thing you know I’m paying a bill and then emptying the dishwasher. Finally, I get back to the article. Now, what was that terribly clever anecdote I wanted to add?
To distract ourselves further we search far and wide for multifunction gizmos and gadgets. Remember the days when we marveled at a Swiss Army knife. How innocent we were. A knife that whittles, opens bottles (both beer and wine) and tightens screws (both Philips- and flat-head) is an excellent addition to any pocket. But alas, it’s nothing compared to a phone that surfs the net, receives and sends email and text messages, takes pictures, guides you to your destination, sends you moneysaving coupons, tells the time and temperature, takes a message, finds you a date and plays both music and games.
Putting the phone aside … if you can. What are your favorite multitasking machines? I ran into a couple when I lived in Europe. I guess necessity was the mother of many of these clever inventions. For one thing, apartments were generally compact. For another, people did seem at least a bit more concerned about their carbon footprint than the average American.
My favorite multitasker was something called a robot. It was nothing more than a combination food processor, blender, mini food processor and coffee grinder. Any cook would love to have one. I can’t believe they don’t exist on this side of the Atlantic. There was a base with a decent motor and three maybe four processing bowls in different sizes and shapes. The robot came with a bunch of different blades and attachments. It could chop, slice, dice, blend, knead, grind and probably more that I’ve forgotten. When I returned to the US, I had to buy three, make that four, different machines to do the same work.
Although I was forced into buying a closet full of equipment to replace my robot, I have discovered a few hacks to turn some of my favorite kitchen tools into multitasking miracles. You probably already know these tips but here goes nothing. The easiest way to peel ginger is with a regular old spoon. An ice cream scoop is perfect for filling muffin tins. A melon baller can core an apple in a flash. And finally, when in doubt; grab the tongs. They work for just about everything. Flip steaks, stir soup, toss a salad and, my favorite, use them to grab something off the top shelf.
Whether you save time or not, have fun in the kitchen this fall. Bon appétit!
Pork & Black Bean Stew with Salsa Verde
Although it requires a fair amount of multitasking, this Brazilian-inspired stew is worth every delicious step. Enjoy!
1 pound dried black beans
12-16 ounces hot (or sweet) Italian sausage, casings removed
1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
About 3 pounds pork shoulder
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons (or more to taste) minced jalapeno
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup espresso or strong coffee
1/4 cup rum
2 bay leaves
4-6 cups chicken stock or broth
1 cup sour cream
1/3-1/2 cup per person white, basmati or brown rice
Salsa Verde (recipes follows)
Rinse and soak the beans overnight in 10-12 cups water.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Put the sausage in a large ovenproof skillet, add the sherry and 1/2 cup water and, turning once or twice, roast at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Cut the sausage into chunks and then, in 2 or 3 batches, transfer to a food processor and pulse to finely chop. Reserve.
While the sausage is cooking, pat the pork dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat a little olive oil in a large casserole over medium-high heat, add the pork and brown well on all sides. Remove the pork from the casserole and reserve.
Put the vegetables, spices and oregano in the casserole, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the sausage and brown sugar, add the orange zest and juice, lime juice, espresso and rum and stir to combine. Add the pork, 1 bay leaf and enough chicken stock to come about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pork.
Bring everything to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and turning the pork a few times, cook for about 2 hours.
After the pork has been cooking for about 45 minutes, drain and rinse the beans. Put the beans in a large pot, add water to cover by 3-4 inches and the remaining bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer until almost tender, about 45 minutes.
Drain the beans and add them to the pork. If necessary, add more chicken stock. Return the stew to the oven and cook for another 30-45 minutes or until both the pork and beans are very tender.
Remove the stew from the oven and cool to room temperature. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and cut or shred into bite-sized pieces.
Put the sour cream in a small bowl and a little at a time, stir 1-2 cups of sauce to the sour cream.
Stir the pork and the sour cream back into the beans. Cover and store in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
Reheat the stew in a 350-degree oven until bubbling, about 45 minutes or 1 hour. While the stew reheats, cook the rice according to package directions. Serve the stew in shallow bowls with rice and a spoonful of Salsa Verde.
2-3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 scallions, sliced
About 1 1/2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
About 1 cup cilantro leaves
About 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil
Put the vinegar and lime juice in the bowl of a small food processor, add the lime zest, scallions, garlic and herbs, season with salt and pepper and pulse to chop and combine. Add the olive oil and process until finely chopped and well combined.
Let sit the salsa for at least 30 minutes before serving. Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Serve at room temperature.
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Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
Wha’s your favorite multifunction gadget? Feel free to share.
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016