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Market bounty: Pork belly and Broccoli Summer Vegetable Puree

22.July 2010

This summer I’ve been making a major point of going to as many farmer’s markets as possible.  Luckily I find myself situated within an easy walk of fabulous markets four days a week.  Tuesdays, I like to stop at the Harvard Square Farmer’s Market (where I have bought maple syrup, beautiful fresh broccoli, squash, and many beautiful and cheap plants – herbs and vegetables) on my way home from teaching.  Wednesdays and Thursdays I take the T instead of the bus and stop at one of two markets between the T and my house.  The one on Wednesday has a stall that sells maple products (including AMAZING maple cotton candy – or candy floss, if you’re my husband) and a really nice guy who sells local meat and eggs.  Thursdays I buy bread from the nice bread lady.  Fridays I walk over to the Cordon Bleu, where they sell surplus produce and baked goods that are produced by their students.

It’s been a lovely, decadent, veggie and fruit filled summer.  One week it was garlic scapes, another week it was strawberries (also in mounds), this week it was blueberries and plums.  It’s been amazing.

The first time I bought meat from the meat man, I saw that he had fresh pork belly.  If you know me in real life, you will know a couple of things: I love Top Chef and I think that Kevin Gillespie was ROBBED last season.  And he’s the pork man!  Anyway, everyone always makes pork belly on Top Chef and I’ve been feeling inspired to cook cuts of meat that I hadn’t previously tried.  So, I bought a beautiful (humane! organic!) slab of pork belly and got excited.

There was also gorgeous, lush broccoli at the market and I bought a mound of it to make soup as a side dish.  They also had a pile of gorgeous spherical summer squash and, because I was feeling fancy, I served the soup in beautiful, edible squash bowls.  Garnished with some basil leaves the effect was quite elegant.  In fact, if it weren’t quite so much work, I would do it all the time!

To cut to the chase, this is what I did:

Pork Belly

The Rub:

  • 1/2 t cumin seed
  • 1/4 t coriander seed
  • 1/4 t yellow mustard seed
  • 1/4 t fennel seed
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T fresh thyme
  • 1 T fresh rosemary
  • 1 t balsamic
  • 1 T olive oil
  1. Grind all dry ingredients with a mortar and pestle or in a grinder.  It’s okay if it’s a little coarse.
  2. Add balsamic and oil and mix into a paste.

To slow roast:

  • 1 1/2 lb pork belly skin on
  • 1 red onion
  • olive oil
  1. Score the pork skin in a cross-hatched pattern.  I found a serrated knife worked best.  Don’t cut all the way through the fat layer  to the meat.
  2. Rub paste into pork underside and then skin side, being sure to rub it into the score lines.
  3. Slice onion into 3/4″ slices and place in a layer in bottom of baking dish or roasting pan.
  4. Place the pork on top, skin side up.
  5. Roast at 450 for 40 minutes or until fat renders and skin begins to crisp.
  6. Add water into bottom of pan to 1/2″ deep, turn the oven down to 350 and bake 2-3 hours (until tender and fat is completely rendered – you should easily be able to pull the meat apart with a pair of forks).

For the Summer Broccoli and Vegetable Puree:

  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 3 small summer squash, sliced (plus the inside of the squash bowls, if using)
  • 1 T thyme
  • 1 handful basil leaves
  • 6 c water
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • 1 cube frozen garlic scape pesto (made with romano) (or two cloves of garlic)
  • old pecorino romano rind (or about 1/4 c grated romano)
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 c cream
  1. In the pot you plan to use for the soup, heat oil, cook onion and carrot until soft, add pesto cube until melted and browning.
  2. Add water and herbs.
  3. Simmer until the broth is reduced and then season with salt and pepper.
  4. About ten minutes before you serve the soup, add roughly chopped broccoli and cook 5-ish minutes with the simmering stock (until the broccoli is bright green and beginning to become tender – the idea is NOT to overcook it).
  5. Working in batches, puree using a blender or, if you’re so lucky to have one, use your immersion blender to do the job.
  6. Stir in cream and butter and warm until butter is melted.

Serve in squash bowls:

  1. Take the roundest little summer squash you can find at the market and slice their tops off, about 3/4″ down from the stem.
  2. Using a knife, cut a cylinder inside the squash (don’t cut all the way through!) and begin to cut out portions, in effect hollowing out the little guys.
  3. Once the bulk of the innards are removed, use a spoon to smooth out the inside walls.
  4. Add squash insides to your soup!
  5. Coat the insides and top edge of the squash bowls with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place upside down into a baking dish and bake at 375 until tops begin to brown and the squash is fork tender.
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