I love supermarkets. They are my inspiration, at least for regular food shopping. I just don’t think I’ll ever be a digital food shopper who logs in the order, or lets the fridge do so, and sends a driver-less car to pick them up. Tonight’s inspiration was chimichurri.
It sat gracefully poised in a beautiful jar on a shelf in the middle of the condiment aisle, gleaming with its bright green color. I paused and wondered, why would anyone buy this in a packaged, processed state when you just need to mix up fresh parsley and cilantro with some oil? The metaphorical dinner bell clanged and I had dinner plans: grilled chicken with chimichurri sauce.
1 cup Meyer lemon juice
Cracked black pepper
More avocado oil
One vine tomato
Two cloves of garlic
Trim chicken and place in large plastic, zippered storage bag with lemon juice, about a quarter-cup of avocado oil and a liberal amount of seasoning. I actually spilled Cajun seasoning into the marinade bag and that worked out fine. Tightly close bag seal and place in fridge. Marinade at least a half-hour.
For the chimichurri sauce, place the following in a food processor or hand-crank salsa maker:
Rip off a handful or two of parsley and cilantro (each)
Drizzle in a lot of oil
Shake on some salt
Add tomato quarters
Thinly slice garlic and place in the mixing bowl
Let it spin! If you live in Texas, you might just have a hand-crank salsa maker like mine. I got mine at either a home & garden or a hunting show at the Reliant Center in Houston. I always get the coolest gadgets at these events.
Place your chimichurri in a bowl or keep in the processing bowl and put in fridge while the chicken cooks. Light your outdoor grill; use a propane gas grill to maintain an even temperature. Grill chicken for approximately 20 minutes to a half-hour at about 350 degrees. Because of the oil, it will take a bit for the meat to brown, but rest assured it is cooking on the inside. My boyfriend also had to take pains not to accidentally cook a lizard that normally lives in the grill but was temporarily evicted during the dinner preparation. Once done, bring to table on platter and serve sauce in separate dish with serving spoon.
You can serve this with a variety of sides. We had leftover risotto and I freshly made sautéed vegetables: mushrooms with chopped red pepper and asparagus (all cooked together in a covered non-stick pot).
The moral of the story: do not buy anything in a jar you can easily make yourself.
Want the comfort of pasta with a lot of vitamins? This is a recipe for veggie pasta with veggie sauce. This is extraordinary easy, especially with a slow cooker.
2 (28 oz.) cans Cento San Marzano peeled tomatoes
3-4 carrots, peeled and diced
5-6 stalks celery, diced
½ large sweet onion diced
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic (optional) diced
half-and-half cream (optional)
1 12 oz. box of Ronzoni SuperGreens rotini
Grated cheese of your choice
Start this sauce with several hours to spare so you can use the slowcooker to get a nicely developed full flavor from the tomatoes. At lunchtime, I was dicing onion, carrot and celery to a tuna salad and realized I should just go ahead and dice all the veggies to use them to start a veggie pasta sauce. My family calls this “V8” sauce and it’s wonderful on tortellini. It also is great with spaghetti or, as this evening turned out, with a SuperGreens rotini.
Saute the diced carrot-celery-onion in a tablespoon of olive oil or grapeseed oil in a large pan. Cover and let soften over a low flame. (About 10-15 minutes, stir a little in the interim.) Using a spatula, pull the softened veggies into the slow cooker. Add tomatoes with a sprinkle of dried parsley and the bay leaf. Set the low and cover. Walk away. Do your thing. Come back about four hours later, stir, add salt and pepper, turn up to high and walk away. An hour or two later, turn back to low. Spoon through to find the bay leaf and remove. Then mix the sauce with an immersion blender. Add a quarter-cup of half and half (optional, but really good). Cook pasta according to directions, drain and place in a pasta bowl. Add a pat of butter (optional, but nice!). If you are going to add grated cheese, do so now to melt it into the pasta. Finally, ladle over with sauce. Be sure not to over-sauce pasta. This is not soup. Ladle and gently stir to ensure a good pasta to sauce balance. Place in bowls.
The Sage Leopard is a lifestyle blog primarily about cooking, but bear in mind it is named for a dog who thinks he is a prince. Today, Higgins reminded me I have always told him I love him more than anything, except he now notices I love someone else too.
That someone is Buster Tobias, our Catahoula Leopard Dog, who is at this writing is 50 pounds and counting. He’s nine months old and new aspects of his personality continue to emerge, including jealously.
As I pet Higgins on the love seat tonight, Buster first sat in disbelief and let out a protest howl. He then laid down and bore into my soul with the guilt-trip eyes. Higgins challenged me to stop giving him my undivided attention.
This dynamic might be part of the reason I’ve struggled to train them alone. Instead, my boyfriend and I took them to our favorite dog trainer. Higgins immediately knew his master from his boarding school days and Buster is so happy-go-lucky he had no idea what we were bringing him into. After a few visits, Buster started crying on the way to obedience training, even if training mostly amounts to heel, sit, stay and lay down.
The truth is Buster is not a fan of rules any more than Higgins is. When he first was learning to stay in lay-down mode, he started stretching out his back and front legs to inch forward with his paws.
His trainer was not letting him get away with it. Whining ensued. I think I caught Higgins laughing at Buster. The key to getting this training to stick was bringing Byron along so the four of us trained together. That’s when the hounds realized I was serious. Now they had two humans to follow.
Tonight when Byron got home, Buster had not immediately noticed because he was outside. When he came back in, I asked, “where’s Daddy” and Buster ran to the front door. When he eventually found his human daddy in the master bedroom, he wagged his tail and wholeheartedly greeted Byron.
This begins a night of relaxing and a cycle of habits: Higgins racing around the backyard looking for possums and barking like crazy, Buster climbing furniture to watch Higgins through windows and crying, and of course: Higgins and Buster vying for the role of top dog.
What is a quiche really, other than an omelet in a pie crust? What do you serve men holding a homeowners’ board meeting when “refreshments” are expected? Quiche.
How do you pull this together when working? I left a midday meeting and stopped at the grocery for two Pillsbury pie crusts, spinach, a small carton of mushrooms and green onions. I already had eggs, milk, cheese, red pepper and such at the house. I threw everything in the fridge and returned to work.
About an hour-and-half before anyone was expected, I did the following.
Prime pie crusts by thawing and pre-baking per package instructions for 10 minutes in a pre-heated 400-degree oven.
Dice one jumbo green onion, four shallots and one red bell pepper. Saute in skillet with 1-2 tablespoon of butter. Split into two bowls.
Saute a bag of spinach in a splash of avocado oil.
Return to cutting board and chop a big handful of cilantro.
Chop spinach with scissors and fold into one bowl with onion-shallot-pepper mixture. To that, add 1 cup milk, two eggs and your choose of shredded cheese (amount to taste. Try a couple of handfuls). Fold together and then roll into one of the pie crusts. Place in oven and set timer for 30 minutes.
Now, saute the mushrooms. Mix those into the other bowl of onion-shallot-pepper mixture with cilantro. Add chopped queso fresco (a quarter of a wheel). Roll into other pie crust and place in over.
The quiche should be done in about a half-hour, but you can add 15 minutes to make them extra golden.
These were a big hit. Oh, and the leftovers are a wonderful alternative to an omelet for breakfast.
I always thought chili was created to cover for not so great meat that travelers might be getting as pioneers, hustlers, cowboys and some other stereotype. And, in the original colonies, other spices including nutmeg were used to cover for possibly fading meat quality. After all, these people didn’t have fridges.
One of my favorite meals is venison chili and after recently taking two javelinas on a hunt in South Texas, my boyfriend and I have been looking forward to experimenting with recipes. He is planning to make smoked sausage. To get started, I simply made a basic tomato sauce with ground javelina, parsley and cheese. It was pretty good.
This afternoon, I started the chili with spices, canned tomatoes and ground javelina in the crock pot. After I defrosted the meat, I drained it in the colander and the scent of the raw meat was earthy. As if I was back on the sendero. I wasn’t sure if that was a good or a bad thing. I folded it into the crock pot and let it stew for a few hours.
A taste test indicated the chili needed more tomatoes and more water. I also added a bottle of Corona Light. Plus some more salt. Voila, it started to taste like really good chili. But it was missing something.
Now, I may lose you here, but I put beans in my chili. Yankee? Guilty as charged. I rinsed and added red kidney beans, pinto beans and black beans. Let that simmer. Or, sink in, depending on how you feel about beans in chili.
Time to bake the cornbread, which bakes in a skillet in about 30 minutes. I used the real deal cornmeal, stone ground from Nora Mill Granary, which I have raved about before. The recipe is basic: 1 cup of cornmeal, two eggs, ¼ cup of oil and 1 cup of sour cream. Bake at 400 degrees.
After the cornbread cooled a bit, I ladled chili into bowls, sprinkled on a blend of grated Mexican cheeses and added cornbread slices. And, the chili tasted like chili with meat that was not pronounced in flavor. The meat is good. But the meat is so lean, it doesn’t carry a strong or distinct taste. If you gave a tester a bite and asked what meat is this, I don’t think they would guess javelina.
Don’t get me wrong. This was worth the hunt and the meat is high-quality. It just tasted a lot better when I added something else to the chili: a jalapeno-poblano hot sauce. That is outstanding and brought all the flavors together.
The lesson in all this is we’re are likely to get more taste out of the javelina if we combine it with pork in sausage or just wrap a bunch of it in bacon.
I’ve seen javelina on hunts in Texas and Arizona, but had not yet been on a dedicated javelina hunt. I had no idea what to expect.
I knew what the hunt would likely be like: gear up and sit quietly. Maybe stalk, quietly. What I didn’t know was what the meat would taste like if we were to harvest any. You can tell just by looking at javelina that the meat will be very, very lean.
Contrary to popular opinion, the javelina is not a wild hog. It’s in the peccary family. They are pretty wild looking. It’s the kind of animal that looks prehistoric and kinda bizarre in the way an alligator is amazing to gaze upon.
In Texas, there is no hunting limit on wild hogs because that is an invasive species. By contrast, the javelina is supposed to be here and hunting them is regulated. We were on a Texas Parks and Wildlife management hunt and each hunter was allowed to only take one javelina.
We were encouraged to take as many hogs and coyotes though. The coyotes eat the deer on this wildlife management area and the hogs are destructive to the environment. We did not see any hogs but heard a lot of coyotes.
The hunt was fielded by a drawing and Byron and I were among those picked. They also had a lot of standby hunters hoping to be drawn the first morning of a three-day hunt. I actually had the honor of drawing a select few from those names in a bucket.
Ultimately, there were about 40 hunters on a wildlife management area covering 15,000 acres. Byron estimates our compartment was more than 600 acres. To get around, we drove the truck over dirt roads and senderos (dirt paths). Some of the roads were pretty treacherous and as Byron maneuvered his big pickup over and through giant holes, he joked he sure wished he had a BMW. Seriously, we are not car people. I need a vehicle my dogs can jump into and I don’t worry about floods or mud.
The first afternoon we made our way around our compartment, finding old deer blinds to use and corning some of the roads and senderos. We used deer corn, which javelina like to eat.
The next morning, we set out before dawn. Legal shooting time is a half hour before sunrise. I climbed up into a blind I checked out the day before, above the road we corned. After dawn, I heard hoof steps, but it was a young buck. No javelinas showed.
I moved to another location for the afternoon and sat quietly. This may be my favorite part of hunting. Just sitting. Listening. Bird watching. I bring a journal and take notes about the nature around me. I may jot down notes for a novel I am working on. I breathe deep and let go of things that don’t really matter.
I just sit. It’s wonderful. It’s something I reflect on over and over when I am busy in regular life. It’s these small moments I can go back to in my mind and regain perspective. It is so quiet you notice everything.
It’s also hard to not notice the sound of a four-legged creature coming through brush. The stride sounded shorter than a deer. It was a javelina, I was sure. He emerged onto the sendero. I was shocked.
He moved along and I took deep breaths. I slowly raised my rifle. Slowly. Watching him through the scope, I waited to see if he would move into a broadside position. The moment came to pass. I saw I had a clean shot and took it. He dropped. I lowered the rifle and breathed.
This is a stunning moment to collect. You have taken a life to harvest the meat. Again, this was an unknown to me. I wanted to be fully thankful and appreciative of the harvest. My phone vibrated. My boyfriend texted to check if the report he heard was from my rifle. I affirmed. He said he would head my way.
I waited 20 minutes. We met and moved to the javelina. It was time to field dress it. I asked Byron for a moment and rested my hand on the javelina’s torso and cheek. My man said a prayer of thanksgiving. Hunters do not take hunting lightly. For starters, there are plenty of hunts where you do not get anything. That’s why it’s called hunting. Moreover, we eat the meat. I love cooking with venison. I was very nervous about javelina. When we dressed it, I could tell this was a very healthy, lean animal.
We placed it in the truckbed and brought him to the check station. I reported where exactly I took it and a wildlife manager weighed it and checked its teeth to gauge the age. Three years old. We placed it in a meat locker and went back out for a few hours.
Byron too harvested a javelina from the same area. We sat together in silence after I had spotted them and radioed Byron to rejoin me. I had been wondering if a coyote was going to show up to take what we had left of the javelina. I was somewhat surprised to see more javelina. Byron and I sat there a good while when they came along again.
When we returned to the check station, we joined other hunters who were also cleaning their meat. I asked them how they liked to cook it. Chorizo. Sausage. Another guy likes to wrap in foil with veggies and roast it over a fire. Byron took great care in icing down and re-icing the meat. He then was diligent in trimming any fat. He packed the back strap and tenderloin in kitchen shrink wrap (Food Saver). We also used a meat grinder and sealed up that meat as well.
The first thing I made was spaghetti with tomato and ground javelina sauce.
To start the tomatoes, I sautéed diced garlic and onion in olive oil and added dried oregano and parsley. Once the garlic turned gold, I added a big can of plum tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then turn to low to simmer for at least a half hour. In a separate pan, I browned the javelina in olive oil with fresh parsley. Again, salt and pepper to taste. Once it was cooked, it was time to confront the unknown. I took a fork and picked up a piece. The taste? Good. Very nice. Nothing overpowering. Lean. Perfect for sauces. I think it will be great in chili too. That’s next!
Fishermen might tell whoppers, but hunters always tell the truth.
Last weekend my boyfriend and I went on javelina hunt on the Chap. That’s short for Chaparral Wildlife Management Area, south of Cotulla, Texas. We had driven our covered wagon there and brought our personal chef Cookie.
We set up camp with other hunters and I impressed all the guys by starting a fire by using my eyeglasses as a magnifying glass to capture the sun’s rays. Everyone started swapping tips on hunting and cooking with game. As evening settled in, one guy pulled out his phone to show us an app with electronic coyote calls.
He placed it on a piece of firewood and let ‘er rip. Sure enough, a pack of coyotes circled the fire. The big daddy coyote swooped in, snatched the phone in its mouth and confidently trotted off.
The man howled and whipped out a handgun. He shot at the coyote and the beast dropped the phone. We were impressed it wasn’t damaged except for teeth marks in the case. That was enough excitement for one night and we drifted off to sleep. I had the strangest dreams in which the trees seemed to have voices.
The scratching of an armadillo on the tent awoke me and I geared up. I reached the deer blind before dawn and climbed the ladder to await javelina. Soon enough, I heard hoof steps.
A young buck with little antlers was eating the corn I had left out the afternoon before for the javelinas. Then, I could have sworn I heard a whisper in a male voice: “Be careful.” I looked down the sendero in the opposite direction and saw a majestic old buck with a huge rack of antlers. Was it his voice that spoke? I shook my head and saw him slip into the brush, like a ghost.
That afternoon, I switched blinds. This one was a so-called tower blind, essentially comprised of two plastic molded chairs perched up on a small platform with little ladders. The seating arrangement was nestled between thick brush and abutting this area’s sendero. It wasn’t long, surprisingly enough, before a javelina emerged up the path. I took aim, but couldn’t get off a shot. I could have sworn I heard that voice again while I draw a bead on the javelina. “Be careful.”
The javelina moved forward out of view. It spooked me and I radioed my boyfriend to join me. I told him I spotted what we were looking for and went back to a crossroads of senderos to wait for his truck. We walked back and I showed him the pond where I suspected the javelina were watering.
We walked up to the tower blind and got situated. Eventually, three javelina showed up, weaving in and out of the brush and sendero like someone laying a latticework pie crust. Two emerged and started coming our way. It was laborious to watch them slowly making their way along the corn trail. Again, I could have sworn I heard something strange in the wind. Then, a fluttering and rustling as a green jay settled in a branch of a mesquite tree behind me.
The javelinas don’t have great vision and they didn’t notice us up off the ground in the chairs. Soon enough, they were walking right toward us. Then right in front of us under our boots. I could not believe it. We barely breathed. Then, they moved along passed us. Byron slowly drew his rifle up to his left shoulder and I drew in a breath.
He took aim and I saw his left finger slide onto the trigger. Suddenly, a voice screamed out. I couldn’t believe it. I recognized that voice as the same with the be careful warning. It was the green jay screaming, “Look out! Look out! Look out!”
I wrote this after a real javelina hunt for a Tall Tales Contest in my Toastmasters International club. I hope you enjoyed it!