Techniques with Kitchen Twine, and Rolled Pork Loin with Oranges
Here, Chef Damon Little shares a few of his go-to techniques using kitchen twine: wrapping up a roast, bundling herbs and veggies, and making a rosemary brush to use in tickling your cat. Damon also shares with us a recipe for Rolled Pork Loin with Oranges, putting the twine technique to use.
Rolled Pork Loin with Oranges
This technique of stuffing and tying a roast always feels just a bit special and fancy, and can be done with a variety of cuts of meat,” says Damon. “I like to do it with a boneless leg or shoulder of lamb or a slightly flattened flank steak where the inside is smeared with lemon zest, garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary, and on occasion anchovies, because they make me happy. In this recipe we are going to use pork loin and go with the slightly sweeter flavor that comes out of using fresh, skin-on orange slices and toasted fennel seeds—kind of a less intense version of a porchetta, without the pork belly.”
What you will need:
- Cotton kitchen twine
- 4–5 lb pork loin
- One large orange, or a few small oranges, sliced thinly with the peel intact and seeds removed
- A couple of sprigs of rosemary striped of their stems and roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 4-5 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
- Olive oil and salt
To open up the pork loin for rolling, start on one of the long sides of the roast. With a sharp knife, make an incision about an inch below the top layer of fat and continue cutting with small strokes until you have cut about ¾ of the way through. Open the roast like a book where you just cut, turn the roast around so that you don’t have to change your knife position, and make a similar cut along the other half of the “book.” You now have something that is less a meat “book,” and more a three-fold meat “letter.” I’m not sure if there is an “envelope” in this analogy.
Make shallow incisions about a 1/4 inch deep in the exposed inside of the roast, 1-2 inches apart. Sprinkle the roast with salt, pepper flakes, rosemary, fennel seeds, garlic, and coriander seeds, and moisten it all with a little olive oil. Lay the orange slices over the roast, roll the whole thing back up, and truss it into a nice package ready for roasting—please reference the video on how to truss your roast). Liberally season the outside of the roast with salt.
You can choose to cook it right now, or to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight. The benefit of the overnight refrigeration is that it allows the flavors to penetrate the meat and allows the salt to kind of brine the pork. Just make sure to leave it at room temperature for 2-3 hours before cooking.
Just before cooking, rub olive oil all over the meat bundle.
Roast the pork in a 400° F oven for 45 minutes to an hour, basting and turning around in the oven every 15 minutes until it reaches an internal temperature of 140° F. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 10-20 minutes. Cut off the twine, and slice your roast into 1/2 inch thick slices.
Serves 4-6 people depending on the hunger level and diets of your guests.
Sherry Dijon Vinaigrette
Making salad dressing from scratch is a flavor adventure waiting to happen: a journey right here at home where acid, salt, and oil combine forces and find other flavors along the way. It can take luscious farmers’ market lettuce to a new level of scrumptiousness or give those veggies you thought had no hope of survival a second life.*
Our salad dressing strategy in the Headlands Kitchen very rarely follows a written recipe with specific proportions, but we do follow a simple process that involves lots of tasting (yay!). But if you’re not quite ready for that leap in your culinary path, below is a straightforward recipe you can follow for our classic Sherry Dijon Vinaigrette.
And if you’re ready to experiment, here are the basic building blocks you’ll need to choose your own salad adventure:
- Acid: Any vinegar, such as sherry vinegar, apple-cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, rice wine vinegar, or citrus juice (Cathy’s personal favorite being Meyer lemon).
- Alliums: garlic, onion, shallot, scallions, green garlic, or any of those pungent little things that grow in the earth—but feel free to omit if they don’t vibe with you. They can have quite a personality.
- Salt: Malden, sea salt, kosher, table. Oh, you know the stuff.
- Fresh Herbs: thyme, rosmery, dill, fresh oregano, savery, sage, parsley, or chives, or, if you don’t have fresh herbs at your fingertips, go for those dried herbs in your spice cupboard.
- Fat: Cathy’s go to is olive oil, and this is the place for the nicest stuff you have. But if olive oil isn’t available, other oils will work too: sunflower, canola, sesame—believe it or not you can even use hot bacon fat or brown butter!
- Other fun flavor options (but please don’t use all at once!): mustard (dijon, wholegrain, even plain old yellow mustard), fresh ground black pepper, anchovies, dry cheese, lemon zest, miso, honey, jam, fermented things like preserved lemons, chili paste, the list goes on and on.
Begin with your acid of choice. Add alliums, herbs, and other fun flavors.
Now, salt. Add a pitch, mix and taste. What you are looking for is the mixer to be just a notch too salty and intense (trust us, it’ll work itself out when you add the oil). If it’s not there yet, add another pinch of salt and taste. This mixture will benefit from hanging out together for a bit—anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours. This lets all the flavors infuse into the vinegar but if you’re pressed for time feel free to forge ahead.
Add your oil to the mix, at a proportion of about 3 to 1 parts oil to vinegar. If using the jar shake method just add oil to the jar then shake! If using a whisk and a bowl, add oil in a slow steady stream and whisk rapidly. Taste again and adjust to your liking. Your dressing should taste powerful and be empowering, YOU just created it.
Sherry Dijon Vinaigrette
(makes 1/2 cup—about enough to dress one large head of lettuce)
- 2 Tablespoons Sherry vinegar
- 1/2 a shallot diced
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- A twist of fresh ground black pepper
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme—just the leaves, not the stalk
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt—a bit less if using sea salt or table salt
- 6 Tablespoons olive oil (your nicest)
Find a jar or container with a tight fitting lid** Add vinegar, shallot, Dijon mustard, thyme, and salt. Let vinegar mixture hang out at room temperature for 15 minutes to a few hours while you are working on other things like chopping ingredients for your salad.
Add oil and tightly close the lid and… Shake! Shake! Shake!
Your dressing is now ready to dress your favorite leafy greens and toppings.
Some of our favorite greens in the Headlands Kitchen include frisée, little gems, baby mustard greens, wild arugula, chicories such as radicchio, Chioggia greens, and Castelfranco radicchio especially from Star Route and Full Belly farms. For toppings the classic combo is fennel, french breakfast radishes, and pumpkin seeds.
After the salad is dressed, eat immediately.
Serves 4 as a side salad or one big bowl to make a lovely meal for one. Make it hardy and top with a protein like tinned fish, pieces of shredded roast chicken, or a poached egg. Don’t forget a slice of bread smeared with that kefir cultured butter!
*Fun trick 1: revive wilted lettuce or unnaturally soft veggies like carrots, cucumbers, or radishes by giving them a soak in ice water for a few minutes after slicing.
**Fun trick 2: if you are down to the last remnants of Dijon mustard and can’t get a whole spoonful out, just use the mustard jar as your mixing jar!
And, in case you want to really dig into salads, check out Cathy’s favorite cookbooks for salad advice and inspiration:
Salad for President by Julia Sherman
Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler
Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell
Sprouting Lentils (or Other Legumes)
Sprouted lentils are a delicious addition to a salad, a sandwich, or anything that could use a vibrant and fresh burst of vegetable protein. This basic technique can be done with a wide assortment of small legumes and whole grains, though the amount of time to sprout can vary. How sprouted you want your lentils to be is entirely up to you—just taste them to see if they are to your liking. When planning to eat them raw, Chef Damon Little usually sprouts them for two to four days so that they have longer tails; if he’s planning to cook them he’ll use them after just a day, when the growing tails first start to poke out of the lentils.
What you will need:
- 1/2 cup green, french green, or black beluga lentils
- A one-quart, wide-mouth mason jar
- A wide-mouth sprouting screen and the mason jar lid ring
- A bowl that can keep the jar upright at an angle and catch any draining water
Cover the lentils with water and allow to soak for 8-12 hours.
Drain and rinse the soaked lentils.
Attach the sprouting screen to the top of the jar with the jar lid ring
Place the jar upside down at an angle in the bowl, and position somewhere out of direct sunlight.
Rinse and drain the lentils with water twice a day, puting the jar back in the bowl between washings.
Repeat this process for 2-4 days or until 1/4 inch tails have grown from the lentils.
Your sprouts are ready to eat. Give them a final washing and store in the refrigerator for up to 7 days, using them to top salads, open-faced sandwiches, or tossing them with roasted vegetables, as just a few examples!
There isn’t a funk that a beautiful bowl of noodles can’t fix. Noodles being, in our opinion, the most fun food to eat. Noodles are playful and are such a joy to eat, slurping each one down like unwieldy creatures—much like one of Cathy’s favorite Headlands’ animal experiences:
“Sitting with Damon under the black acacia tree out front with Christine Swintak (AIR ‘11, Alumni New Works ‘12) and Peter Flemming (AIR ‘14), we saw a flash of white light dropping from the eucalyptus above us. We all ran to the edge of the stairs to see what the commotion was about only to find an owl standing on the ground, slurping down a snake like one big spaghetti noodle. Unable to fly back up the tree, it was paralyzed by a food coma—like we all get after spaghetti night, unable to control our urges for seconds in the Mess Hall.”
But we must not forget the sauce! Noodles are nothing without it. This sauce, puttanesca, is as simple and untechnical as it gets, but it’s a huge crowd pleaser. And the absolutely magical thing about it? It comes together with things hanging out in your pantry—all shelf stable goods. Just keep them all on hand in anticipation of your next pasta craving.
- 1 can (13.5oz) chopped tomatoes
- 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives or black olives sliced in half long ways
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 3 cloves thinly sliced garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 filets anchovies packed in olive oil (or omit if keeping it vegetarian)
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- handful of roughly chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
- half a box of pasta of your choice**
First, place olive oil and garlic in a large saucepan. Place on medium low heat and cook the garlic until it becomes fragrant and translucent, only a few minutes. Then add red pepper flakes, the amount depends on how much spice you can handle. Not too much? Just a little pinch. Like it spicy? Be wild, go for it! A big pinch!
Next, add the anchovies. Sometimes I give a quick chop to give them a head start, but it isn’t necessary. Cook on medium low until the anchovies have melted and they are a brown mush. Add your capers and olives, stir, and then add the tomatoes.
Now the flavors just need to get to know each other. If you have a bit of time add a can full of water and let it simmer and cook down a bit. If not, and you need that pasta ASAP, omit the water and time—once the sauce is bubbling it’s good to go. Last thing, add a handful of chopped italian flat leaf parsley right before you want to eat.
Unite your cooked pasta and sauce, tossing in the pan or a separate bowl. Serve it up, and maybe top with grated cheese (parmesan, pecorino, or dry jack) and enjoy the comfort of a warm bowl of noodles.
Serves two, plus a little leftover.
**I love, love, love making fresh pasta. And will take any excuse to make it. But this is not the time nor the place. A credible chef friend of mine insists puttanesca must be prepared with dried pasta noodles, because it keeps with its pantry identity. When buying dried pasta I go for De Cecco brand bucatini if I can find it. It’s a fatter spaghetti noodle with a tiny hole through the center, perfect for slurping up sauce. But classic spaghetti, or whatever you have, is also great.
Pretty early on into the shelter-in-place period, Headlands Sous Chef Cathy Kossack surprised staff with an updated, scaled-for-the-home version of that Mess Hall perennial favorite, the Aniseed Biscotti—a recipe brought to the Headlands Kitchen by Chef Damon Little, who, in turn, learned it from a friend’s mom back in the day.
What you’ll need:
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons (half a stick) unsalted butter (if all you have is salted butter that’s OK, but add only a very small pinch of salt)
- 2 tablespoons of anise seeds (possible substitutions include fennel seeds, caraway seeds, coarsely ground star anise, etc)
Preheat oven to 350°F
Melt butter in a small saucepan on the stove, then set aside and let cool a bit.
Sift together flour and baking powder into a bowl, then blend in the salt and sugar.
In a separate small bowl, stir vanilla into lightly beaten egg. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients, mix, and then add butter and mix well. Add Anise seeds.*
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the dough on the lined baking sheet and pat it out into a log shape about 8-10 inches long, 2-3 inches wide, and 1/2 inch thick.
Bake the log for about 25 minutes, until lightly browned and set. Remove the biscotti log from the oven and let cool. Once cooled, move it to a cutting board and slice the log on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices on their sides on the baking sheet.
Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the biscotti are set. Using a spatula, move the biscotti off the hot baking sheet onto a rack to cool.
Now, last step: brew yourself a cup of coffee or tea, dunk said biscotti in your hot beverage of choice, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and enjoy. You are now transported back to the Headlands Mess Hall.
*If you don’t have anise seeds on hand, substitute another spice like fennel seeds, caraway seeds, or coarsely ground star anise (but only use a tablespoon of this one because it’s intense!). If no spice in your cupboard will do, try adding a 1/4 cup of sliced almonds or dried fruit. Maybe there are some almonds in that bag of trail mix that’s been sitting in your cupboard for way too long? Get creative!
Kefir, Soured Oats, and Cultured Butter
If you’ve been to dinner with us at Headlands, you know the routine: dinner guests gather in the hall, anxiously peering into the Mess Hall and eyeing the evening’s spread. At 6:30 Damon or Cathy ring the dinner bell before giving a rundown of the menu. Often, there’s fresh baked bread. And, while everything gets some oohs and aahs, there’s a special gasp of delight for the usual bread-accompaniment: fresh, house-churned, cultured butter, often sprinkled with some mysterious and magical special salt. Such a simple thing, butter! But that little detail makes clear the level of care our chefs give to each and every component of a meal. If they give that much attention to butter, imagine the rest!
Here, Chef Damon Little demonstrates how to make kefir—a cultured milk—and how to enjoy and put to use that kefir in a variety of ways: as a beverage, part of a breakfast meal, and in making fresh sour cream and cultured butter. And, below, Damon’s outlined the processes and recipes for each. Should you choose to embark into the world of kefir, you can order kefir grains from Fairfax Backyard Farmer or Oakland’s Preserved.
- A Jar or other food safe container large enough to hold 3-4 cups of liquid.
- A lid for the jar, or a piece of cloth and a rubber band— or anything that you can use to cover the container to keep out dust and flies while letting carbon dioxide escape.
- A mesh strainer, preferably made of nylon or plastic, but metal will work in a pinch.
- A pitcher or bowl large enough to hold the strainer and collect the finished kefir.
- 1/4 cup active milk kefir grains (not water kefir grains)
- 2 cups whole unpasteurized cow’s milk, pasteurized cow’s milk, or goat’s milk
Place kefir grains and milk into your container, and cover with a loose fitted lid or a piece of cloth secured with a rubber band.
Let stand at room temperature (65º-75ºF) for about 24 hours. I like mine best when the kefir looks a little separated and curdled.
Shake up the jar, pour the contents through the strainer suspended over your bowl or pitcher, and agitate by stirring with a spoon and/or by tapping the strainer against the bowl.
Use the finished and strained kefir now, or put it into a sealable container and store it in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Soured Oats with Seeds
Soaking and fermenting grains and seeds helps to make their nutrients more easily absorbed into our system, as well as neutralizing phytic acid. Phytic acid is found in all grains and seeds and can reduce our body’s absorption of minerals in the food that we eat.
- 1/4 cup steel-cut oats
- 1 tablespoon flax seeds
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds and/or sunflower seeds, nuts, or sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons or more of ripe milk kefir (you can also use cultured buttermilk or yogurt)
Mix everything in any food safe container and cover loosely.
Ferment at room temperature (65º-75ºF) for 8-24 hours.
Pour into a saucepan and cook at a simmer until thickened to your liking (5-10 minutes).
Enjoy with your choice of toppings, such as salted cultured butter, fresh fruit, almond butter, and/or more kefir.
- A food safe half-gallon container with either a lid or cloth and a rubber band
- A stand mixer with a whisk attachment, a hand held electric hand mixer, an old-timey hand-cranked mixer, or a whisk, a strong arm, and a lot of breaks
- A large bowl in which to wash the butter
- A towel or plastic wrap to cover the mixer, to cut down on cleanup
- A mesh strainer
- 1 cup ripe milk kefir
- 1 quart heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon salt
Put the kefir and cream in a container, cover, and allow to ferment at room temperature (65º-75ºF) for 24-48 hours, or until it’s thickened and tastes sour. (You have sour cream at this point, so I highly recommend putting a little aside to put on everything.)
Put it all into the stand mixer. Start mixing on medium speed until it begins to thicken a bit, then cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Turn it up to high speed and mix until the cream separates into butter and buttermilk.
Pour everything through a strainer to separate the butter from the buttermilk, reserving the buttermilk for another use.
In a large bowl, cover the churned butter with cold water and massage with your hands while forming one large mass.
Pour off the water, replace it with fresh water and repeat the washing process two more times, or until the water runs clear.
Mix in the salt. Put the butter into a sealable container and refrigerate.
Feel free to start making butter sculptures at this point.
A little sweet, a little sour; Tom Kha soup comes together in minutes. Cathy has often turned to this dish on those chilly days when the fog is so thick you can’t even see across the Parade Ground to sharon’s house. The warmth cuts through that Headlands’ chill, and bright herby aromas wake up the senses.
The original recipe—which Cathy learned in a Thai cooking class—involves a few Thai specific ingredients. They can be found at specialty grocery stores like New May Wah in San Francisco or 99 Ranch in the East Bay, but in the spirit of cooking with what you have and keeping it local, she has tested a few alternative ingredients over a rainy weekend. We’re sharing the original recipe if you miraculously have kaffir lime leaves or galangal ginger, but if not, don’t fret! There is still a tasty soup to be made, with substitutions noted.
- 200g sliced chicken, shrimp, tofu, and/or hella vegetables! (a perfect place for those veggies hanging in the fridge that you can’t figure out what to do with)
- 1 13.5oz can chopped tomatoes
- 1 13.5oz can chicken or vegetable stock (or water if you don’t have stock on hand)
- 2 thinly sliced shallots or 1/2 a red onion
- 1/4 cup sliced galangal ginger (or regular ginger)
- 1 stalk of lemongrass sliced into 1 inch long pieces (or omit)
- 1 cup quartered mushrooms
- 1 13.5oz can coconut milk
- 1 crushed bird’s eye chile (or any spicy pepper like jalapeño or serrano, and in a pinch 1 tablespoon of hot sauce, like sriracha or its chili garlic sauce cousin, or even a large pinch of red pepper flakes will work just fine)
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce (Red Boat brand is our favorite)
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar (preferred, but white sugar also works)
- handful chopped cilantro
- 2 kaffir lime leaves (or the zest of one lemon: use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest, trying your best to not get pith, the white part. This is easiest when the citrus is whole.)
- 2 spring onions thinly sliced (the green and white parts)
- juice of one lime (or lemon)
- pinch of salt
- **2 tablespoons of miso (optional)
Make broth by putting stock or water in a saucepan and adding lemongrass, galangal ginger, shallots, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Heat until boiling. Add coconut milk and your spicy thing of choice. Season with fish sauce, sugar and salt. Stir and add chicken, protein of choice, or veggies. When chicken is done, add cilantro, kaffir lime leaves (or strips of lemon zest), and spring onion. Finally, add your lime or lemon juice.
To add extra depth to the vegetarian version I like to add a little miso. With a small cup scoop up a bit of the broth. Add miso, whisk until it is dissolved, then add back to soup.
Before serving, remove the bird’s eye chilli, lemongrass, galangal ginger, and kaffir lime leaves or strips of lemon zest. They add flavor to the broth and aren’t meant to necessarily be eaten—they also won’t hurt you if you accidentally nibble on one.
The soup should taste creamy, salty, sour, and a little spicy. Taste and adjust to your liking.
Enjoy over rice noodles, soba, or even top ramen noodles (why not?). Brown rice is also nice. But if you don’t have any of those things, it’s ok—on its own is cool too!
Serves 4, and keeps as a great leftover.