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Archive for March, 2007

Roasted Chicken

I had a request for the roast chicken we had last week.  Very simple, really.

Whole chicken, about 3 1/2 pounds

3-4 large carrots, peeled and cut in 2″ chunks

2 onions, in thick wedges

2 stalks celery, cut in 2″ chunks

Salt, pepper, paprika, whatever herbs or spices you want

Preheat oven to 450.

Rinse the chicken, inside and out, and pat the outside dry with paper towels.  Season the outside of the chicken with the salt, pepper and paprika.  Place in a shallow roasting pan on top of the vegetables.

Roast uncovered for 30 minutes. Turn oven down to 375 and continue roasting until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is poked. (About another 30-45 minutes.)

Remove from oven. Take the chicken out of the roaster and cover it with foil to keep it hot. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and place them in a small serving bowl. Take as much fat out of the roasting pan as possible. Then add flour, 1-2 tablespoons, to the remaining juices in the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, to cook the flour. Add 3/4 to 1 cup chicken broth and cook, stirring, until gravy thickens.  You may add a tablespoon of cream to enrich the sauce if desired. 

Slice the chicken, cut off legs, thighs and serve with the gravy.

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Try a Mojito

mojito_4.jpgIf you’re looking for a refreshing cocktail to add to your bartending repertoire, you might consider the mojito. A traditional Cuban drink, it is easy to make, most easily done ahead of time, and requires no unusual ingredients, or fancy liqueurs.

Here is my recipe, provided by El Meson, a Spanish heritage restaurant in Ohio.

To get in the right frame of mind listen to the music.

Mojito 

2 oz. white rum
1 1/2 oz. lime juice
1 1/2 oz. simple syrup*
1 oz. club soda
mint leaves
lime wedge, for garnish, optional

Muddle 3 mint leaves in the bottom of a tall glass. Fill with ice. Mix rum, lime juice and syrup in glass. Add club soda and lime wedge for garnish.

*equal parts sugar and water, heat and stir to dissolve sugar.

To prepare it ahead of time for a party, increase the amounts proportionately according to the number of drinks you wish to make. Make the syrup ahead of time and mix all the liquids, except the club soda, in a pitcher. Keep refrigerated. When ready to serve, muddle the leaves in each glass and pour 5 ounces of the mojito mix and add an ounce of soda. Garnish and serve.

Enjoy!

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driedbeans.jpg  After a preview of spring to come with two days of 70 degree temperature, a cold spell has arrived to remind us that it is March, not April and the “lion” has not yet given way to the “lamb”.  Yesterday, with cold wind and rain, it seemed like a good day for soup.  I awoke at 3:30am, tossed and turned a while, then remembered my chicken carcass in the refrigerator. 

I had roasted a chicken Tuesday evening.  We only ate  half the meat for dinner and I wrapped up the carcass with remaining meat still attached, and refrigerated it.  Yesterday at 4:30 am, I got the chicken, saved what meat was easily removed, and put the rest of the carcass into a pot of water to make broth.  So, by 5:30 the kitchen smelled like chicken soup.  Not a bad way to start the day.

I fixed chicken salad with the leftover chicken, enough for two or three, and made soup, enough for an army.  I used a container of mixed beans, red, black, pinto, navy, split peas, lentils, and I don’t know what else.  I did the quick soak method for preparing the beans, which I had already picked over.  I boiled them for a minute, covered the pot, and let it sit for an hour.  I drained the water, refilled the pot with the chicken broth made earlier in the day (about 5 cups were produced) and a few more cups of water. I added 2 ham hocks, a couple of sliced onions, and cooked the beans at a simmer, for about 3 hours.  The last hour I added two stalks of celery and 1 large carrot, chopped. I cut off whatever ham I could find on the hocks and put the ham into the soup.  I also added 2 cans of diced tomatoes, a red pepper cut into bits, and 2 large garlic cloves, a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, a pinch of ginger, salt, and lots of black pepper.  I let this simmer another hour and then we tasted it. My husband suggested adding some sugar (?) and I added about a tablespoonful for the whole pot. Then it was time to cool it down before storing it in the refrigerator.  Out came the stainless steel bowls and I pour some soup into each.  After it had cooled a while, I transferred it into smaller containers.

I gave some to my daughter to take home but we still have enough for twenty meals.  I may freeze some, because I know we will never eat it all before it would spoil.  I’ll get a loaf of good country bread, ciabatta, or sourdough, and we can enjoy a soup, cheese, bread meal or two over the weekend.

If it’s chilly where you are, maybe it’s going to be a soup day for you, too.  If so, happy slurping!

Morgana

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Keep those empty spice jars when you use the last teaspoon. Every now and then you will come upon a recipe for a spice/herb mixture or a dry rub. Mix it up and fill your  empty jar. Just label it and store it away. 

 I have a jar of a spice marinade from an old Julia Child cookbook, “The Way to Cook.”  It is for pork, pates, sausages, goose and duck.  Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t cook goose or duck and don’t mix my own sausage, although I might someday. Therefore, I can only say that the spice mixture is indeed good for pork.  I have rubbed it on roasts and chops with good results. If you have an old coffee grinder you can use it to grind up anything whole.  Clean the grinder with dry rice and it’s ready for next time.

I used the dry marinade last night on pork chops and to flavor a quick sauce.  First, I seasoned the two chops with a little salt and black pepper then sprinkled a little of the spice mix on both sides.  Next, I dredged them in flour and shook off the excess.

Then I sauteed the chops in a little olive oil in a skillet.  After a two or three  minutes on each side, the chops and the skillet went into a preheated 375 degree oven for ten minutes while I got the rest of the dinner under way. We had potato salad already fixed, and I had made Greek salad dressing and washed lettuce earlier in the day.  All I had to do was peel and slice cucumber, chop some green bell peppers, slice up some roasted red pepper, halve some Kalamata olives and toss it all together with  tomato wedges and feta cheese for garnishing.

When I removed the skillet from the oven, I sprinkled 1/4 teaspoon of the spice mixture in the skillet and then deglazed the pan with 1/4 cup white wine. I added 1/4 cup chicken broth and cooked that for a few minutes to thicken it slightly and then added about  one tablespoon of heavy cream with a little salt.  I served this over the chops and it was very good.  Try it, but get the marinade ready in advance.

JULIA CHILD’S DRY PORK MARINADE AND SEASONING MIX

(Makes about 1 1/4 c., so reduce amounts if necessary to fit your container.)

2 T. each ground: imported bay leaf, clove, mace, nutmeg, paprika, and thyme

1 T. each ground: allspice, cinnamon, and savory

5 T. white peppercorns, ground

———————–

Blend it all together and store in a screw-top jar.

Use up to 1/2 t. per pound of meat

By the way, when putting your skillet in the oven to finish cooking, be sure you have an ovenproof handle.  Also, be sure not to grab the handle once it is removed from the oven.  It’s so easy (I know – I’ve done it!) to just grab the handle to stir up a sauce, forgetting that it is probably 350 degrees and will leave quite a burn after only 1 second. Keep a hot pad over the handle or find one of those grips that fit over the handle. pan-handle.jpgAmazon.com

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More on Broccoli

My sister and her husband live in Brooklyn where they enjoy the availability of many ethnic restaurants. They are both adventurous people, both in travel, and in culinary endeavors. They have spent time in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Cambodia.

Ellen has been visiting Sri Lanka since the early l970’s where she spent nearly a year studying dance. She has returned there several times both to visit old friends and to continue her studies as well as to film a documentary on Sri Lankan rituals and festivals.

Bruce is currently back in Thailand where he is working with his Thai friends on art projects, mainly a beautiful mural depicting Thai and Cambodian folklore. I have seen portions of the work and it is very impressive. In a month or so, he and Ellen will be going to Cambodia for more work on the project and, I believe, a showing of his work.

For several years, Ellen worked at the James Beard House where she was able to meet some of the best chefs in the country. The Foundation’s mission is to celebrate, preserve, and nuture America’s culinary heritage and diversity in order to elevate the appreciation of our culinary excellence. She observed food preparation and service and had a valuable education in American cuisine at its best.

Ellen is an intuitive cook, much more so than I. I like the security of recipes, but Ellen has more of a natural instinct with an adventurous flair. She occasionally caters events both large and small and tackles each job head on successfully. Cooking over an open fire? No problem. For several years, while renovating their vacation home in the Adirondacks, the lack of a kitchen did’t stop her from preparing delicious meals. We had bacon and blueberry pancakes, corn chowder and more all prepared over an outdoor fire pit.

Here is the broccoli recipe from Ellen that I described in the prior post. Use your own intuitition for the amounts. Go easy on the sesame oil (the dark variety) unless you know you like a lot of it.

BROCCOLI:

Blanch brocolli spears by dropping in boiling salt water for 3 -4 minutes.
Then shock with ice water and drain.
Put some olive oil & sesame oil in frying pan, add sliced garlic and fresh or bottled ginger slices, and cook for a few minutes, add soy sauce & sugar… to taste. Pour over room temperature broccoli and serve.

Sorry I do not have the measurements, but do by sight & taste
Enjoy.
Ellen

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images.jpg

The bane of many children’s, and adults’, dinner plates, broccoli has always been a favorite of mine.  As a child, I ate frozen broccoli spears, sometimes with cheese sauce, and sometimes just plain, but I don’t remember even seeing fresh broccoli in the local groceries.

I have found and enjoyed many different casseroles, soups and salads with broccoli as a main ingredient and am always on the lookout for something new. At the bottom of this post, I will give you a recipe for a broccoli salad that often appears on our Christmas Eve Feast menu. This might be the “something new” that you are looking for.

It would be hard to find another vegetable as loaded with nutritional goodies as broccoli.  Full of vitamin A, C, B1, B2, B3, B6,  iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc, it has lots of the trace mineral chromium as well as phytochemicals. Look for dark green flowerets and stems without hollow cores to be sure to get the freshest possible.

I always cut a shallow “X” in the bottom of the stems before steaming broccoli, which supposedly helps them cook faster.  I never peel the stems, although I see recipes that call for it. Sometimes a sprinkling of Parmesan is all that I do before serving and sometimes I fix a cheese sauce. My sister fixes a delicious broccoli dish with lots of garlic and soy sauce. I’ll get the recipe from her and pass it along later.

We used to have a phony “Eggs Benedict” for dinner.  I would top toasted English muffins with a poached egg and surround it with broccoli. With cheddar cheese sauce on top, it was a delicious dinner, although not exactly low fat, the way I made the cheese sauce. I had a recipe that was delicious for extremely quick cheese sauce: 1 c. milk, 1 c. mayonnaise, and 1 c. grated cheddar cheesePut in a saucepan, whisk together and cook over med-low heat, with a stir now and then.  Mmmmmm. That served 4 people but was still rather heavy on the fat and calories.  An optional addition to the above is a slice of canadian bacon, or even ham chunks added to the cheese sauce.  Broccoli is what made that dish attractive as well as tasty, and added some good nutrients to boot.

BROCCOLI-CAULIFLOWER SALAD

large head broccoli, cut into florets, thickest part of the stems reserved for soup.

head cauliflower, cut into florets

4 strips bacon, cooked, drained and chopped

1/2 c. red onion, chopped

1/2 c.Mayonnaise

1/2 c. Green goddess dressing*

1/2 t. Celery seed

Black pepper

1 ripe tomato, cut into wedges, or cherry tomatoes for garnish

——————-

In a large mixing bowl, mix mayonnaise and green goddess dressing with seasonings and bacon pieces.  Add the broccoli, cauliflower and onion and stir gently.  Refrigerate overnight or at least 6 hours.  Garnish with tomato wedges or cherry tomatoes, halved if large, just before serving.

* Green Goddess dressing can be hard to find.  I use 7 Seas when I can find it.  If I can’t find it,  I sometimes substitute creamy italian dressing, but look for the green goddess, it makes a difference. But here is a recipe for making your own.

Happy dining,

Morgana

Photo credit

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A is for Asparagus

beauty.jpgUPDATE:  See new post on asparagus here

Asparagus is a vegetable that we were served only occasionally when I was a child. Mother opened a can of asparagus spears and heated them on the stove with a couple of tablespoon of butter.  I rather liked the funny-smelling, slimy little devils. 

At some point I had fresh asparagus, probably steamed, but not within an inch of its life.  It was tender but still had some body.  I don’t remember if it had a sauce or not. But I do remember wondering how something this green, and tasty became the yellowish, slimy pseudo-asparagus of my youth.

I have not had canned asparagus, or frozen, since then.  Now that fresh asparagus is available year-round, there is no reason to settle for second, or third best. 

One bundle of asparagus can serve the two of us easily, maybe even with some leftovers.  I usually steam it and sometimes serve it with a dollop of a super quick dijon/tarragon sauce*, and sometimes just rolled in browned butter.

Last spring, I had a delicious asparagus and spring pea soup at Panera. As soon as I could, I went to Panera’s website where nutritional and ingredient listings are available for menu items.  I found the ingredients for their asparagus soup, and after “googling” for other similar recipes, came up with my own interpretation. I thought it was good and prepared it a few times when fresh peas were available at the farmer’s market.  Someday, I’ll share the recipe with you.

Asparagus is a vegetable that a lot of people dislike.  One reason may be one of the peculiar aspects of asparagus-eating, the peculiar odor appearing in the urine of some people soon after eating it. Apparently, only 40% of the population displays this odor, and only 40% can detect it.  Curiouser and curiouser.The United States is the world’s largest producer of asparagus, mainly in Michigan, Washington and California. Peru exports the most asparagus followed by China and Mexico. 

*Dijon/Tarragon Sauce for Asparagus(The amounts depend of how many people are to be served. The following amounts are for at least two generous servings.)

Mix the following and serve on cooked asparagus:

2 T.Mayonnaise (Hellmans’, of course)

1 t. Dijon mustard1

t. Dried tarragon, or fresh if you have it——————————-Photo credit

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