Pickin’ a Chicken.

We’ve got busy lives, Keith and I.  The working week can be particularly crazy.  Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays Keith is at the gym until 8.30 at the earliest; on those same nights, I try to be in bed by ten o’clock at the latest, as I’m slogging through my own work out Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 5.45.  Those evenings, I teach Puppy Kindergarten and don’t leave sometimes until after eight.  Other nights, I may meet with clients and their dogs and not return home until past nine.

Basically, it’s a little crazy around here.

To make things even trickier, I cook dinner several times a week, probably four meals on average.  A lot of the time, I cook in stages; perhaps I’ll prep my mise en place in the morning, or maybe I’ll make my meatballs several hours before broiling, or I might possibly start a recipe only to finish it later.  If I can, I find a recipe that can cook itself while I’m out — this chicken is a great example of that.

Soy-Ginger Chicken -- 10thirty.I like Asian food; it’s what I grew up eating.  This recipe brings all those sweet and savory flavors together in a highly-satisfying way, and the fact that everything can just be tossed into a pot and left alone is a solid plus.

Next time around, I’ll definitely add more ginger, and I was without a doubt more generous with my scallions and cilantro than the recipe called for, but I think it’s better that way.  And while I’m sure that this chicken is delicious with a pillow of steamed rice, I chose to pair it with some roasted cauliflower since Keith is off grains at the moment.  In my opinion, you can never go wrong with some roasted cauliflower.  Keith didn’t complain, anyway…

Soy-Ginger Chicken, from Everyday Food
Makes four portions

1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2/3 cups fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped, plus whole leaves for garnish
1 piece fresh ginger, about 2 inches, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 packed cup scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground pepper
4 chicken drumsticks and 4 thighs, about 2 ½ pounds total, skin removed
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Cooked rice for serving (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚.  In a 5-quart Dutch oven or other heavy pot, stir together soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, cilantro, ginger, ½ cup scallions, vinegar, coriander and pepper.  Add chicken and carrots; toss to coat, then stir in 1 cup water.  Cover pot and transfer to oven; cook until chicken is tender, about 1 ½ hours.  Using a large spoon, skim off any fat from surface of cooking liquid.
  2. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup or small bowl, whisk cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water.  Ladle 1 cup cooking liquid into measuring cup; whisk to combine.  Pour into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil; cook until thickened, about 1 minute.  Stir mixture into pot to combine.
  3. Serve chicken mixture with rice, if desired, garnished with cilantro leaves and remaining ½ cup scallions.
Pickin’ a Chicken” by Eve Boswell.
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Dinner, Dessert + More Gossip Girl.

The thing about a show like Gossip Girl is that once you start watching, it’s impossible to stop.  I suppose the series is a bit like Pringles that way, but with leagues more manipulation and making out.   Darlington and I were two discs deep into season one when we decided a midweek mini-marathon was in order.  It had been something like seven days since we had last snuggled up with Serena, Jenny and Dan — and that was seven days too many.

It’s way too easy to sit  lumpishly on the sofa with a bag a of chips (or a tube of Pringles, for that matter) and bask in Gossip Girl‘s glow, so Darlington and I decided that a more wholesome dinner was in order.  I knew just the meal that could satisfy us on both a taste and health level: a mix of roasted carrots and cauliflower served with couscous, chickpeas and greens.  The salad is as delicious to eat as it is a breeze to make; the most trying part of its preparation is in peeling the carrots.  After that, it’s pretty much just a matter of waiting while the vegetables roast.

Speaking of roasting, what is it about applied heat that deepens the flavor of carrots and intensifies the cauliflower?  Come to think of it — I don’t know if I even care about the science behind my question.  All I know is that the end result is incredible.

Nutritious nosh aside, neither Darlington nor I are delusional; we each have a wickedly strong sweet tooth.  That said, we didn’t want to completely wreck the integrity of our meal with something completely as decadent as a chocolate cake.  What we could do, on the other hand, was supplement our evening with a batch of relatively healthy cookies.

“They’re called ‘Wheels of Steel,'” Darlington said excitedly,  as I raised the most skeptical eyebrow.  My wariness stayed firmly in place even as Darlington told me that her mother used to bake these cookies years ago; the original recipe is from Feed Me, I’m Yours, the iconic 1974 child-friendly cookbook.

Even if I hadn’t started out as being a disbeliever, the ingredients alone would have had me questioning these cookies; after all, how could wheat germ and sesame seeds possibly combine in any positive way, let alone become a kid-tested dessert?  This might be one of the few times where I was excited to be wrong because these wheels were remarkably good.  (For those of you who are wondering, the “steel” part of the name comes from its high-fiber make-up and overall nourishing components, though we did substitute chocolate chips for raisins.)  The biggest surprise, however, wasn’t the cookie’s soft and fluffy texture, but rather the nuttiness imparted upon it by the toasted sesame seeds.  So good.  If only I could say the same thing  (without sarcasm) about Chuck Bass’s fashion choices

Couscous Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Chickpeas, from Everyday Food
Makes four generous portions.

1 pound carrots, sliced ¾ inch thick on the diagonal
1 head cauliflower (3 pounds), cored and cut into florets
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup whole-wheat couscous
1 tablespoon lemon zest, plus ½ cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 lemons)
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
6 scallions, thinly sliced
5 ounces baby mixed greens

  1. Preheat oven to 450°.  Place carrots and cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet; toss with cumin and two tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread half the vegetables on a second baking sheet. Roast until browned and tender, twenty-five to thirty minutes, rotating sheets and tossing halfway through. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring 1 ¼  cups salted water to a boil. Stir in couscous; cover and remove from heat. Let stand until tender, five minutes. Fluff with a fork; set aside to cool, uncovered.
  3. Make dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice and remaining tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper.
  4. In a large bowl, combine roasted vegetables with couscous, chickpeas, and scallions. Place arugula on a serving platter, and drizzle with one tablespoon dressing. Add remaining dressing to couscous mixture, and toss; serve over greens.

Wheels of Steel, from Feed Me, I’m Yours
Makes about twenty cookies

½ cup butter, softened
½ cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oatmeal, uncooked
¼ cup wheat germ
½ cup powdered milk
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons milk
1-2 cup raisins (we substituted milk chocolate chips)

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.  With a hand mixer, cream butter with sugar until smooth. Add peanut butter, egg and vanilla; beat well.
  2. In separate bowl combine flour, wheat germ, dry milk, baking powder and baking soda.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet; stir well. Stir in milk, oats and raisins.  When thoroughly combined, place heaping spoonfuls of dough onto a greased cookie sheet; be sure to leave an inch or more between cookies. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for ten to twelve minutes.  Allow cookies to cool completely before removing from sheets; they are very fragile while warm.

CSA 2008, Week Sixteen.

Oh, Summer.  You have gone and left me behind, even though you promised to stick around until Sunday.  How cruel, how heartless.

How typical!

Regardless of the telltale chill of fall in the air, my CSA box this week from The Food Project had the most summery surprise inside: the prettiest, plumpest raspberries.  Their taste was so very quintessentially raspberry, with the perfect combination of tart and sweet.  I suppose I could have done something with my bounty like make a sauce for peach melba or another dessert, but honestly, popping them into my mouth like so many candies was the best possible thing.

The rest of the box held the following:

  • Beets
  • Cabbage
  • Chard
  • Edamame
  • Hakurei turnips
  • Kabucha winter squash
  • Onions
  • Pac toi
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes

The edamame was very exciting, as I’ve only ever seen them in either little frozen packages or prepared and sprinkled with coarse salt at restaurants.  These arrived dangling like pale yellow earrings off of a bouquet of hairy, spindly branches.   After I plucked each pod off of each twig, I steamed them and peeled a few out of their shells.  They were nutty and sweet.

quinoa-stuffed-pepper

I was also happy to see the peppers, I’ve got a recipe that I haven’t made since the last cold spell this past spring.  It’s a savory and heartening dish to which the peppers add more than a hint of sweetness.  I always add tons more cheese than the original recipe calls for; I’ve also replaced the suggested Provolone with a combination of mozzarella and Parmesan, since Provolone might be one of the only cheeses that I don’t like.

The best part, in my opinion, comes immediately after removing the peppers from the oven — the heat causes the vegetables to both sizzle like a snake and sing like a bird.  I’m serious; if you make this dish, make sure you take a second to lean in and give the peppers a listen.

All in all, it makes for a great meal, and the perfect one to usher in the fall, no matter how reluctantly.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers, adapted from Everyday Food
Makes four portions.

4 bell peppers  (Though I used two huge red peppers, two small purple peppers and one small green)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
½ cup fresh parsley
1/3 cup walnuts coarsely chopped
1 cup coarsely grated mozzarella
¼ cup coarsely grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 450˚.  Stand peppers upright in an ovenproof baking dish; if they cannot stand on their own, use a knife to level off the base of each pepper.  Cut off pepper tops just below stem and remove the ribs and seeds. Discard stems, chop tops and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium.  Add onion, garlic, coriander, chopped pepper tops; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion has softened, four to five minutes.
  3. Add quinoa and cook until fragrant, one minute. Add one cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, eleven to thirteen minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, walnuts, a third of mozzarella and half of Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper
  4. Stuff peppers with equal parts quinoa mixture and return to baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until peppers are tender, about fifty minutes to one hour.
  5. Uncover and top with remaining cheese and bake until cheese melts, about ten to fifteen minutes more.