Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Moroccan Chicken Stew

I love crock pot season. I was surfing the web looking for a Moroccan dish and I found a recipe that looked good but of course I had to tweak it. This dish turned out so well that I will make it again.

1 TBSP olive oil
4 whole chicken legs
1 medium onion, sliced thin
salt and pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp turmeric
chicken stock
8 prunes (cut in half)
1 can (14.5 oz) stewed tomatoes
1 carrot, in rough chunks
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup almonds
1/2 cup frozen peas

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Season chicken legs on both sides with salt and pepper. Place them in the hot oil to brown. After about 2-3 minutes, flip the chicken legs and add the onions. After another 2-3 minutes, if chicken is pretty evenly browned, remove to place in a crock pot (I used a big one so the chicken fit in one layer on the bottom). Add the spices to the onion in the skillet and cook until the onion is almost caramelized and the spices are fragrant. Put the onion on top of the chicken in the crock pot and put the skillet back on the heat. Add about 1/2 cup of chicken stock and deglaze the skillet. Turn off the heat and pour the stock into the crock pot. Add the prunes, the can of stewed tomatoes (I made sure to cut any big chunks into bite-sized pieces), and the carrot. Pour in the orange juice and more stock to make sure everything is covered. Before I added the almonds, I toasted them lightly in a pan over high heat for a few minutes but you could just add them. I put the crock pot on low and left it for the day. When I get home, I'll throw in the peas and while they thaw in the stew, I'll make some couscous to serve it over.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Our Simple, Local Supper

Another long week, which meant that I needed to make something quick and nourishing. I had thawed some lamb sausage from our meat farm share and dug out the last of the collards from our veggie farm share. It seemed like a good idea to put them together.

This dish took about 30 minutes to make and it was so worth it.

Here's the recipe (more or less):
1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 lb lamb sausage links, cut into 1" slices (you can substitute another kind if you like)
1 clove garlic
8 collard leaves, stems removed and sliced in 1" ribbons
1 can white cannellini beans
1 can stewed tomatoes (or if you are a canner, you can use your own - I didn't have the time this year)
1/2 - 1 cup Chicken stock (depending on your taste)
good Parmigiano Reggiano to shave over the top

Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the onions and cook until soft. Add the sausage and stir occasionally while it browns. When the sausage is mostly cooked, add the garlic and greens. Let the garlic get fragrant (30 seconds to a minute). Add the cannellini beans and the stewed tomatoes, including their juice. I like to make sure the tomatoes are in bite sized chunks, not too big. Stir this together and bring up to a simmer, put a cover on top and let it cook for 5 minutes and then check it. If it starts to look dry, add enough chicken stock to make sure everything is coated with cooking liquid. I like this dish to be more like a stew than a soup. Once the collards are cooked to your taste, it's all done. Serve in bowls with plenty of shaved Parmigiano Reggiano on top and good rustic bread on the side.

Chicken Pot Pie

So good for a cold fall night. A little leftover chicken, some peas, carrots, onions and potatoes and a lot of yummy gravy, all topped with a puff pastry crust. Happiness.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pasta for comfort

Friday nights are all about comfort food. By the time I get home, I don't have enough time or energy to do much, but I need to make something that satisfies and fortifies. Tonight I came home to a big bunch of broccoli rabe from the farm share and the memory of a pasta dish that I had at one of the more upscale Italian restaurants in the area.  This was my chance to try to recreate it.

While the pasta water came up to a boil, I toasted pine nuts and soaked some golden raisins.Then I sauteed 3 or 4 small cloves of garlic in olive oil. I coarsely shredded the rabe and added it to the skillet with the garlic. I let it cook down for a little while and then added a splash of balsamic vinegar, a little chicken stock, a few cranks of the pepper mill, along with the raisins and their soak liquid and let that simmer to bring the flavors together. When the penne was just about finished, I drained it and added it to the skillet. I threw the pine nuts over the top and folded it all together, letting the pasta absorb most of the remaining liquid in the skillet. I served it with lots of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

This dish is so easy to throw together and it's incredibly satisfying. The pungent flavor of the garlic and the slight bitterness of the rabe blend perfectly with the woodsy taste of the pine nuts and the sunny sweetness of the raisins. Served with a glass of Spanish red, some good rustic bread, and the last of the garden's tomatoes, it was a perfect way to end the day.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Breakfast for Dinner

Today has been a long day in the middle of a long week. As I drove home, I couldn't imagine being able to muster up the energy to make a pot of chili, which is what our menu says for tonight. So when I got home, I asked the kids if they were in the mood to have breakfast for dinner. They get a kick out of eating cereal and eggs in the evening so they were happy with the suggestion. While Nina ate scrambled eggs and Rita filled herself with cheerios, I made my own dinner. 

Breakfast foods are what I crave when I want comfort food and this was just what I needed to restore my equilibrium tonight. I minced some onion and garlic and started them in olive oil in a skillet while I shredded and rinsed a big bunch of kale and Swiss chard from my farm share. I threw the wet greens in with the onions and garlic and then added some chicken stock, a little coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, and covered it to let it cook down. With the greens underway, I fried a farm-fresh egg over-easy (these are incredible eggs, a gift from chicken-raising friend, writer BJ Roche). Finally, I toasted up an English muffin and slathered it with butter. I served the egg over the greens and dotted the top with Sriracha chili sauce. When I cut into the egg with the side of my fork, the perfect, bright yellow yolk just oozed out over the greens. I was in heaven.

I know this is no one's idea of "cuisine," but for me this is one of the most satisfying meals that could land on my kitchen table. I am almost revived enough to make that pot of chili for tomorrow's dinner.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fall dinner

As I'm stirring, Paul asks, "Aren't you sick of risotto?"

Stirring the risotto
"I don't think that's possible," I reply. We're making dinner. He is responsible for grilling the pork chops. I am making pumpkin risotto with smoked paprika and a side of sauteed zucchini.

I was driving home from work tonight, thinking about what to do for dinner (I swear that I do most of my best cooking while I'm in the car).
I knew I didn't have time to make pumpkin ravioli with Romesco sauce, which I have been craving. It will have to wait until the weekend. However, I really wanted to do something with the pumpkin from the farm share. I had baked, scraped and mashed it on Saturday.

While I was driving, I was thinking about the amazing dinner we had last night at Venus and the Cellar Bar, in our hometown of Easthampton, MA (I promise to write about it soon). I was re-living the quinoa risotto that I had savored, then I thought about the pumpkin puree in the fridge and thought, "Hmmm, that would work really well in risotto and would pair nicely with those chops."

For me, the act of making risotto is almost as wonderful as the eating of it. You saute minced onions in olive oil until they are translucent, then you add the arborio rice (one of the most versatile and luscious ingredients imaginable) and cook and stir until it glistens, then you slowly add the liquid - first some white wine, then some chicken stock and pumpkin puree - just a little at a time and keep stirring until it's incorporated, then you add some more - until it's absorbed about 3 cups of liquid per one cup of rice. Then, you finish it with at least a tablespoon of butter, a little coarse salt and some freshly cracked pepper.

The beauty of arborio rice is that it can handle being combined with an array of flavors. It takes them on and makes a subtle, complex dish. Tonight I made pumpkin risotto, seasoned with smoked paprika, cumin, allspice and a little cocoa powder. Another night, I might use soaking liquid from wild mushrooms, along with white wine and chicken stock and season it with sage. I've made scallop and saffron risotto and risotto with Parmesan, prosciutto and peas. I've had an incredible dish of risotto flavored with white truffle - subtle and spectacular. The rice itself lends itself to any number of combinations, becoming creamy and absorbing the flavors. It's really remarkable. Mostly what it takes to make a good risotto is patience.
Plate and present...

So, for our dinner tonight, Paul grilled the pork chops to perfection while I stirred the the risotto. I piled the rice on our plates and topped each with a chop. We ate the zucchini out of a communal bowl between us. And there it was, dinner.

P.S. Thanks to our friends, Lauren and Aidan, who invited our kids over for an impromptu dinner play date tonight. We owe you one.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lazy morning breakfast

On the weekends, I'll often make a big batch of pancakes. I reheat the leftovers for a quick breakfast during the week, or I'll freeze them to use another time. This recipe is one of my family's favorites. They go over well when they are covered in maple syrup with some bacon on the side.

Carrot Cake Pancakes:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 TBSP granulated sugar
1 heaping TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP ground flax seed (optional)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash cloves
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 TBSP melted butter
1 medium carrot, finely grated

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Lightly beat the egg with the milk and butter, then add the grated carrot. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix until just combined. Pour onto your pre-heated griddle. Serve. Eat.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Garden Overflow - Part I

Over the weekend, I started harvesting my pole beans. I plant two different kinds - the standard Kentucky Wonder and an heirloom variety, Rattlesnake Pole Beans. I get the Rattlesnakes from a friend who grows them and saves the seeds each year. I like to plant both varieties together and see what happens. Well, this year, what happened was a big crop!
Bringing in the goods.
Even after I shared some of the harvest with my neighbors, I still had a lot of beans. While I like to say that I've never met a vegetable I didn't like, my kids, unfortunately, do not have this same attachment to green things. This means I have three options: steam and freeze, give some to friends, or make a big batch of something that will last a while in the fridge and continue to improve in flavor over time (and take it for lunch all week). Luckily, I found Sheila Lukins's Three Bean Salad with Lemony Dressing from her U.S.A. Cookbook (1997, Workman Publishing). I mostly follow her recipe...

First you, clean, snap and steam a pound of beans. Then rinse them under cold water so they stop cooking.
These are the Rattlesnakes, aren't they gorgeous?
Unfortunately, they do lose the purple streaks after they are cooked.
Then you whip up a dressing of lemon juice and zest, dijon mustard, a little sugar, salt and pepper, and whisk in some olive oil. Put the green beans in a big bowl and add two other kinds of beans - I use red kidney beans and chick peas. To that you add some finely diced onion or scallions and parsley. Pour the dressing over the top and stir to combine.

I love how the dressing makes the salad glisten. It's sooo good!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sunday Night Supper

I do try to plan out our weekly meals - even though I think I do better when I cook on the fly (hence the "Mama's choice" category). You can see here that on Sunday night we were planning for chili, so that's what we did.

We don't use the meal chart all of the time. I'm really not that organized...
My dinner - without cheese
This is skillet chili. First I cut up and sauteed some garlic and cheese sausage. Then I added onions, red and green peppers, and garlic, along with some cumin. Next in was a can of diced tomatoes and a can of pinto beans. I added chili powder, oregano and salt and pepper to taste and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

I topped it with some fresh cilantro, shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. On the side there was homemade corn bread. Made with the recipe off the back of the Quaker corn meal container - except I replaced the oil with melted butter. A glass of Berkshire Brewing Company's Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale for the grown ups and water for the littles.
Paul's dinner  - with cheese

The three year old at least tried it. She's on the white food diet these days - bread, butter, cheese, bananas, the occasional apple (peeled of course). But, it did get rave reviews from my spouse, and the six year old kept saying, "Mama, I love your chili!" and then she asked to have it in her lunch the next day. That is high praise indeed.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Visions of Meals Gone By or Tales of Past Repasts

I have an odd habit of taking pictures of meals and dishes I've created. Maybe it's because the food tends to disappear in much less time than it takes to put it together and somehow I'd like to capture it before it goes. Maybe it's just because I'm obsessed with food and this is my version of porn (btw -I do call it food porn when I'm trolling my favorite foodie sites on the web). Either way, I've accumulated a lot of pictures of food and I thought I'd share a few here.
Ginger pear scone - funny thing, it began it's life as a recipe for cheddar-chive biscuits. It's strange how sometimes one recipe will just morph into something completely different.
.Swiss chard, ham and potato saute with onion and garlic. Sometimes you just gotta go with the flow of the farm share.
This was a simple lunch of fennel, celery, carrots, onions, sauteed with mint and lemon and served over quinoa with a generous dusting of Parmesan cheese.
Crumble top carrot coffee cake with raisins
Smoked trout pate

We got a bunch of yellow watermelon at the farm. I pureed some with fresh mint, added simple syrup, a few squeezes of lemon and enough water to get it to the right consistency. Then I poured it over ice.

This is just a start, there's more to come... 

P.S. I want you to know that I do realize that words like saute and pate are supposed to have accents over the "e". I just haven't figured out how to make that work in Blogger - any tips on this?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Night at the Apollo

The Apollo Grill , at 116 Pleasant St. in my adopted hometown of Easthampton, MA, may well be my favorite restaurant of all time. I'm never disappointed and often I'm raving after a visit. It's our standard spot for date night but it's also a good place to bring the kids when we don't have a sitter. Tonight was one of those nights...

The Apollo is known for it's interesting decor and also for it's magnificent collection of vintage salt and pepper shakers. Each table has a different set. We had the bass tonight.

The menu varies from season to season and there is an emphasis on using fresh, local ingredients. They bill themselves as "American fare with an outer-space theme decor" and they are located in a renovated mill building close to the center of town. It's a great spot for this particular restaurant - quirky with high ceilings and exposed pipes. It just works.

The waitstaff is always friendly, funny and accommodating. It's not easy to go out with small children. Our waitperson tonight has kids of her own so she knew to bring us bread and butter right away. Always a crowd-pleaser for our family. 

On its face, the kids' menu offers what you'd expect: grilled cheese, burgers, macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers and quesadillas, but here they are prepared with the same care as the "grown up" meals and they come with a generous helping of fruit as well as fries. Tonight we had  watermelon, apple and orange slices. Thank you for offering my kids something colorful, healthy and delicious.

We started off with one of my favorite appetizers, veggie spring rolls with a delightful sweet and spicy dipping sauce and a refreshing cucumber-mint salsa. The rolls are crunchy on the outside and packed with yummy cellophane noodles, cabbage, carrots mushrooms and probably other things I haven't yet identified (just means I have to order them again). The plates are even lovely, hand-crafted by a local artisan. Can you see the stars on the plate that echo the one decorating the dipping sauce? A nice touch.

Sometimes pictures don't do a meal justice... For example, you can barely see the pile of coleslaw hidden below this gigantic burger and surely you can't see how it is delicately dotted with caraway seeds to add just the right flavor. The fries are hand-cut and perfectly cooked. This is not a meal I typically order out, but sometimes you just gotta have a monster burger - medium rare, please. And it does help that the beef is raised locally and ground fresh. Just so you know, this is from the "Lighter Fare" section of the menu...

Paul had the lamb kebabs. This is his standard order at the Apollo, which wouldn't be so surprising if it weren't for the fact that the man wouldn't even eat lamb when we first met. I take credit for getting him to appreciate it. It's beautifully seasoned and is served with hummus and pita, along with a little Mediterranean salad.

I would have taken a picture of the empty ice cream bowl that finished off our meal - vanilla from Mt. Tom's Homemade Ice Cream, another of our frequent haunts (go and try the maple bacon) - but someone's finger got pinched and there was a lot of screaming and crying so we figured it was time to leave before they decided not to welcome us back... All in all, though it was a successful dining experience: the kids ate, the adults had a drink and a few minutes of peaceful conversation, we all laughed a lot and enjoyed ourselves like mad. It's all part of Casey's plan.

Next time you are in my town. Go and try the Apollo Grill. I promise you won't be disappointed!

Welcome to this new space!

I love food. I love to eat it, cook it, write about it, and even take pictures of it. A friend recently suggested that I should start a blog dedicated entirely to food, so here goes.

As with food, some things are better when they are shared, so I invite my friends to contribute to this venture by sending me their food stories, recipes and photos. Credit will always be given where it is due.

Bon appetit!

P.S. Here's a sneak preview - these are pizzas I made last night. I picked up some Naan at one of my favorite independent grocers and used odds and ends from the fridge to make a dinner that everyone in my house would enjoy. The pesto pizza was my six year old's favorite!

Before they went in the oven.

Pesto, mozzarella and black olives on the left. Margarita pizza on the right.

Barbecued chicken with Monterey Jack, onions and red pepers