Goat Kidneys

I seem to be the only person in Durham–or perhaps the nation–who is excited about the goat kidneys I found at the Durham Farmers’ Market a couple of weeks ago through Meadow Lane Beef farm. The near-universal response to the news that we’d tried them was a wrinking of the face, followed by an “Euw!” or an “Ugh!” or the occasional polite “Oh.”

The horror, though, was inevitably followed by curiosity: “So . . . what did they taste like?”
Fred described the flavor as “what you wished a giblet tasted like.” I said they were a cross between liver and a chicken thigh. The texture closely resembled that of liver, just firmer and with no tendency to crumble.

Unable to find a recipe for goat kidney even on my overburdened cookbook shelves, I turned to James Beard’s recipes for lamb kidney in his American Cookery.

Beard sure does love his offal. True, he devotes only a small section of the book’s 850 or so pages to the subject–but then again, he doesn’t even offer a recipe for cheesecake. Describing cakes, cookies, and other typical confections, he shows about as much enthusiasm as someone about to clean a bathtub: “This is a popular cake for church picnics.” “This cookie has an unusual flavor that is not unpleasant.” But when it comes to lamb’s tongues, he speaks as he would of a long-lost love or a beloved, recently departed parent:

There was never a time, it seems to me, when there were not some pickled lamb’s tongues on the shelf of our family larder. They were used for a quick snack, for a cold supper, for sandwiches, or for picnics. And how tender and delicious they were . . . . I fear that lamb’s tongues are lost to most people today, who won’t take the trouble to prepare them and don’t know what eating pleasure they are missing.

His descriptions of lamb’s kidneys were equally rhapsodic, so Fred and I eagerly anticipated trying the goat.

The kidneys were very easy to prepare. First, I removed the little tube in the kidney and the white gristle-y parts. Then I soaked them in milk for about an hour.

I brushed them with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and broiled about 5 minutes, turning once. The most important thing, it seems, is not to overcook them.

They were not as rare as James Beard suggested, but that was fine with us on our first try.

The verdict? We’ll try them again. And if anyone knows where we can get lamb’s tongues, please let me know.

Finally–Durham Farmers’ Market

It’s embarrassing to start two blog posts in a row with the phrase, “It’s a little embarassing . . .” So be it.

It’s a little embarrassing to have lived in Durham for over two years and never to have visited the Farmers’ Market. My early complaints about store produce were always met with tching from friends, who would scold, “You just need to go to the Farmers’ Market!” But their admonitions were also laden with various qualifications, “It’s small.” “You need to go early.” “It’s only on Saturday.”

Such comments had led me to expect a dozen or so ragtag booths, populated by earnest, tie-dye clad organic farmers, each with three or four tomatoes and some salad greens on display, all of which would have disappeared by 9:00 a.m. Why would I drag myself out of bed on the only day of the week I can truly sleep in for that?

Yesterday morning, though, I found myself in unusual circumstances. First, I was Fredless, since he was working a 24-hour shift at the hospital where he serves as a chaplain. Second, I was awake and about by 9:00. It was a gorgeous morning and I had nothing to lose, so I figured I’d stop by the Farmers’ Market and see what it had to offer.

Quite a bit, it turns out. First, there were these tiny heirloom tomatoes from Bluebird Meadow Farms. The orange ones could well be the sweetest, most perfect little tomatoes I have ever eaten.

I ate about half of them plain, then put the rest in this salad of olive oil with a dusting of sea salt. It turns out that plain was best–they were simply so perfect that the extra flavoring was wasted.

There were also these baby eggplant, though I can’t remember where they came from. They are coated in kosher salt, waiting to be broiled with olive oil and pepper as I type this.

Best of all, however, was this:

These are goat’s kidneys, from Meadow Lane Beef farm. Neither Fred nor I have ever tried kidneys, but they are soaking in milk and will be cooked for supper tonight. They are supposed to be quite tender and delicious. I will post results.
Durham Farmers’ Market, I am sorry I ever doubted you. I will be back!

Pork Belly

The title here does not refer to the current state of our waistlines (apt though the description may be), but to the dish I made last week. Of course, our continued love of food like this is utterly destroying our feeble efforts to lose wei–um, eat more vegetables and try to be healthier.

Pork belly, as you may know, is quite the rage these days. It’s basically uncured, unsalted bacon, and most recipes I’ve seen use a cut large enough to roast. The beauty of the belly is that like bacon, it has lots of lovely fat, which produces a wonderful abundance of porky flavor.

Our belly did not come to us as a roast, but in thick bacon-like slices. We found them at Food World here in Durham, a former Winn Dixie south of downtown that has been transformed into a Latin/Asian market. Actually, “transformed” is too strong a word. The aisle signs remain unchanged and so bear no relation whatsoever to the actual items contained therein. (I found myself staring at 15 different kinds of soy sauce in an aisle labeled “Flour, Sugar, Cake Mixes, Baking Supplies.”) It is also not notable for sparkling cleanliness–it’s not dirty, exactly, just a little rough around the edges. But the prices are spectacularly low, and the store contains a bonanza of foods you won’t find at even on the snooty shelves of Whole Paycheck. A bag of 50 or so dried morita peppers? $3.99. At Southern Season, you’ll find similar items for about a buck–for each pepper.

But back to the belly. The bacon cut is more typically of Asian food (the label was in Korean, I think, which was mercifully translated), but since we had purchased so many wonderful Latin American foods, I decided to make a Latin version.

Chipotle Pork Belly Slices with Potatoes

8 slices pork belly
2 medium onions, finely chopped
Olive oil for sauteing
2 large potatoes, cut in 1/2″ pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 chipotle peppers, crushed and minced
1 tablespoon sea salt, or to taste

Boil potatoes gently in salted water, covered, until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Preheat oven to 350. Saute onions in olive oil until translucent. Mix garlic, peppers, and salt in small bowl. Place four slices of belly in bottom layer of roasting pan. Sprinkle with half of garlic/pepper mix. Add potatoes. Add onions. Cover with remaining pork belly slices. Sprinkle remaining garlic/pepper mix over top. Bake for 30 minutes.

The F Word

Fat, that is.

Last week I went in for my annual physical and the scale revealed terrible, terrible news: I weigh the most I ever have in my life. Not much more, but that’s not the point. Apparently the desserts, the bacon fat, the butter, the steaks, the pasta, and the wine (the last purchased and consumed to cope with the outrageous food prices here in the RTP) have taken their toll.

And so, Fred and I have embarked on a . . . an effort to improve our eating habits and get in better shape as middle age attempts to settle itself around our waistlines. To that end, we bought shares in an organic CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture). The farm will deliver a box of fresh, organically grown vegetables to us each week at a mere $18 a pop–about the same amount as a small bag of lettuce at Whole Foods.

I made some particularly tasty dishes on our maiden voyage into the die–um, more vegetable-oriented food waters. One surprising effort was this soup:

Tomato, Cauliflower, and Ground Beef Soup

Serves 2 with leftovers

1/2 lb. ground beef (for vegetarians, omit beef and saute vegetables in 4 tbsp. butter)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
1 head cauliflower, cut into very small stalks about 1″ in size, or chopped
1 16-oz. can crushed tomatoes (I had home-canned, but Muir Glen or another good brand would do)
2 c. chicken broth (if using canned, use low salt)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 – 2 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 tsp. thyme

Brown beef on medium high heat in medium to large soup pot. Drain all but 1 tbsp. fat, or leave fat in if you are not di–increasing vegetable consumption. Add onion and saute on medium high heat until translucent. Add garlic and stir. Reduce heat to medium; add celery and saute about 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on medium heat until cauliflower is tender, about 45 minutes.


Well, the movie plan was ditched once again, this time because WFW forgot that he had agreed to meet a friend at 9:00 to play trivia at a local pub. So he got his calabasa soup at last.

The soup was both a success and a learning experience. First, the basic recipe, then the gory details.

Calabasa Soup

1 lb. hot Italian sausage (turkey or pork, but beware the turkey–see below)
Olive oil (or could use bacon fat if you’re using turkey) for sauteing
1 large chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 large calabasa, seeded, basted with olive oil, roasted at 350 for about an hour, then scooped out
Enough chicken or other poultry stock to cover ingredients
Spices (adjust amounts below as needed)
Cumin (1 – 2 tbsp)
Cayenne (1 tsp or more to taste)
Cloves (1/2 tsp)
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown sugar (1 – 2 tbsp, depending on the ripeness of the calabasa)
Red pepper flakes (1 tsp or more to taste)
Cardamon (probably optional–about 1/2 tsp)

Saute onion over medium heat in large stock pot until onion, not stock pot, is translucent. Add garlic. Add sausage and brown. Puree calabasa and chicken stock in food processor or blender. Add to pot. Add spices and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes. I suspect this would be best served the next day.

That’s what you should do. Now for what I actually did.

The ingredients in all their glory are to the left: the calabasa, prepared two nights ago when poor WFW gave up his movie; the hot Italian turkey sausage, which was neither hot nor really sausage (more on that below); the ubiquitous onion and garlic.

To the right is the turkey sausage beginning to brown. A lot. Note the hamburger/potato smasher to the left, which belonged to my grandmother and which I burned recently by leaving the handle too close to the stove eye.

This is what happens when you try to brown turkey sausage from the Farmer’s Market. Apparently there is NO FAT in turkey sausage. I suspose this is one of those things that should be painfully obvious since turkey sausage is one of those healthy things and because I bought it in an effort to, well, stave off the plumpness that is descending, but STILL.

And to the right is the half-cooked turkey sausage, removed from the pot before it had completely burned and stuck to the bottom. I added the onion and olive oil to the pot and scraped the sausage bits off the bottom to avoid further disaster. There was a moment when I contemplated frying some bacon in the bottom to add more delicious flavor, but it felt like too much trouble. Next time: Pork.

A friend–the first person besides WFW who has been told about this blog–suggested we add a Fred-O-Meter (Fred = WFW) to gauge the effectiveness of a particular cooking effort. It would be based on how many helpings he had. Despite the turkey sausage incident, this was still a 3-bowl success.
The only problem with the Fred-O-Meter is that he likes EVERYTHING I cook. He even liked Sunday’s spice mix, which he said tasted exactly like barbecue potato chip salt.
I felt a surge of triumph. I gave myself a high-five.


I’m going to start all this with kale, chicken, and wild rice soup. I have been married just over one month and am enjoying a wonderfully creative time in the kitchen. My husband does not cook—unless you count broiling steaks or opening cans of sardines to eat with mustard, crackers, and beer—but he will eat anything except Brussels sprouts and rutabaga. So he’s the perfect guinea pig/victim for these culinary experiments.

I feel I need to precede this with a little bit about myself and what I’m up to. My husband Fred and I are embarking on this marriage adventure a bit late in life—I’m 41 and he’s 46, and neither of us has been married before. One day when Fred sells his paintings for a lot of money I’ll quit my day job and cook all day, but until then I’m hanging on to my medical insurance and retirement account.

But back to the kale. I wanted to start this blog because I wanted to chronicle our first year of married life in food. Nearly every night I cook something new and because I almost never use a recipe, and when I do I always change it, I can’t remember some good things I’ve made lately. So I want a record somewhere, and on the Internet seems safer than inside the demonic innards of this evil Being that pretends to be a computer but was clearly spawned in the pit of Hell.

Anyway, on Thursday I had some chicken thighs and wanted to make a soup because it was chilly here in Atlanta (i.e., below 60). So here’s what I came up with:

–Cook wild rice according to directions, enough to make 2 cups cooked rice
–Sauté 2 medium or 1 large onion in olive oil
–While onion is sautéing, coarsely chop 4 stalks chopped celery. Once onion has sautéed, add celery and sauté a little longer
–Mince 4-5 cloves garlic and chop 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs into bite-size pieces.
–Once onions and celery are tender, sauté everything until chicken thighs are lightly cooked—white on the outside but not brown
–Add about 1 quart stock (I used turkey stock frozen from Thanksgiving. I am lazy so I thaw it by putting it in the microwave on high for five minutes then dump the semi-frozen result directly into the pot.)
–Add salt, pepper, sage, and bay leaf.
–Cover and simmer until your frozen stock has melted and the chicken is done—10 to 15 minutes.
–In the meantime, remove stems and chop the kale—not too fine, maybe 1-2 inch pieces.
–Add cooked rice and kale. Stir up just so that kale has wilted and you’re done.

I served this with grated Parmesan cheese but it did not melt well into the soup. I would either use a very coarser grater or a very fine one next time, or perhaps try a cheese that melts a little better, or leave it off.

Although the whole thing sounds horribly healthy, it was actually pretty good. The wild rice and kale together had a nice nutty flavor.