Eating Local in Phoenix

Carnitas with Slow Cooked Beans
August 22, 2011, 12:28 am
Filed under: challenge, recipe | Tags: , , , , ,

Published February 1, 2011
OrangesIt’s not saguaro cactus, warm dry air or even the various take-out places ending in ‘bertos. No, for me, the Valley of the Sun is defined by orange trees. They are the markers of the seasons and the bearers of sunshine in winter. At their most simple, they are a joyous fruit.

And yet, come February, most residents of the Valley can’t get rid of them fast enough. They, along with lemons and grapefruit, start appearing on office break room tables with the somewhat motivating incentive of “free.” There are drives to donate the fruits and fear-inducing local TV stories warning of roof rats. And if that isn’t enough, someone eventually complains about the fruits rotting underneath the “decorative” orange trees and a clean-up drive is organized.

And then, suddenly, it’s spring and you can smell the orange blossoms from the freeway.

But before we reach that wonderful week in March, I’ve stumbled upon a recipe that uses up a handful of those oranges along with some of the fresh, new produce coming into market.

Pork CarnitasCarnitas is a wonderfully simple dish that is very easy to dress up or down. Serving it topped with an orange reduction and accompanied by slow cooked beans makes you look like a kitchen genius (when, in fact, it takes very little effort).

Shopping for this meal prompted my first trip to the Meat Shop. I frequently purchase from them, typically at Phoenix Public Market or Tempe Farmer’s Market, but I had never been to their store.

It turns out that Fridays and Saturdays are their Fresh Days – where you can watch them carving your cut of meat through the glass window. I was so carried away by it all that I left with not only the two required pounds of boneless pork shoulder but also lardons, breakfast sausage, rashers and a large bone.

Finishing the slow cooked beansThe unsung hero of this meal, however, was the beans. Left in a crock pot for four to six hours, it’s the addition of fresh tomato, onion and bell pepper at the end brings a lightness to the dish which compliments the mild flavors of the pork.

Combined with the fresh tortillas from Phoenix Public Market and oranges from my parent’s orange tree, this meal bridged the gap between two seasons – celebrating the winter oranges and the new, crisp arrivals.


Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food

Carnitas2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, crushed
8 cups water
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup milk
Zest of 1 orange
12 torillas
1/3 cup goat cheese
1 small bunch lettuce mix, preferably with some varieties mixed in

In a large dutch oven, or similar type of heavy pot, combine pork, garlic and water. Season with salt and pepper. Cover pot and bring to a boil, once boiling reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes or until pork softens. Drain well.

After about 20 minutes, start in on the orange reduction. In a small sauce pan, bring 2 cups orange juice and orange zest to boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low until sauce is just simmering.

In the dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, add pork, 1/2 cup orange juice and milk. Stir occasionally until liquid has evaporated and the pork is browned about 10 – 12 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

By this time, the orange sauce should have greatly reduced into an almost syrupy mixture. If not, bring to a rapid boil until thickened.

To make mini tacos, layer lettuce, pork and crumbled goat cheese on a warmed tortilla. Top with a drizzle of orange sauce.

Slow Cooked Beans

Adapted “Tia’s Beans” by Lorraine Glazar from Valley of the Sun, The Farmers Market Cookbook

Slow Cooked Beans2 cups dried pinto beans
1 qt water
Pork bone or 1 strip bacon
1 small jalepeno
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp chile powder
1 tomato, diced
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1 tsp salt

Rinse beans well with warm water, being careful to remove any bits of dirt or rock.
In a large slow cooker, combine beans, water, pork bone, jalepeno, carrots and garlic. Cover top of slow cooker with aluminum foil and lid. After 1 hour, remove the jalepeno. Cook on high for 4 to 6 hours.

One half hour before the beans are done add Worcestershire sauce, chile powder, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, bell pepper and salt to taste. Stir gently and continue cooking at high heat in slow cooker for remaining half hour.


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