Tomato Gazpacho

What’s one of the recipes you can make using the abundance of summer tomatoes? Gazpacho!

So let’s make gazpacho! Everybody’s doing it recently, including Cooking with Kyler, which is hosted by my husband’s cousin and his daughter. It’s appealing because it is simple, refreshing, and customizable.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a huge fan of cold soups in general, but I’ve recently warmed to the idea of a good gazpacho (see what I did there?) Especially when you add crunchy toppings.

Gazpacho is simple because you can basically dump everything in a blender or food processor. However, it’s a bit messy – be forewarned. It’s likely you’ll have to transfer the mixture back and forth between different containers since it won’t completely fit in the blender. Then you strain it–unless you don’t mind a little texture. The resulting soup is a unique color (which will splatter all over your counters as part of the process) and fun to serve presented in clear drinking glasses.

I wish the 2 pounds of tomatoes made more of dent in my harvest. Here’s what I collect every couple of days!
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Tomato and Cucumber Gazpacho

Adapted from Julia Moskin’s New York Times Cooking recipe

Approximately 2 lb ripe red tomatoes,

1 green pepper, such as bell pepper, Italian frying, or Anaheim pepper
1 cucumber, about 8 inches long
1 small onion (white or red)
1 garlic clove
2-4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
, to taste
Salt to taste
½ Cup extra-virgin olive oil
, plus more to taste and for drizzling

Optional and recommended toppings:
Hot sauce
Croutons-make your own with stale bread, butter, garlic and salt
Almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
Avocado, cut into cubes

Prep your vegetables: seed and chop pepper, peel and chop cucumber and onion, and core and roughly chop tomatoes.
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The onion in not shown because I had a leftover portion of a red onion in the fridge that I ended up incorporating.

The onion in not shown because I had a leftover portion of a red onion in the fridge that I ended up incorporating.


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Combine as much of the tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion and garlic you can in a blender. It’s highly likely you’ll need to work in batches, so have a large bowl handy for transferring portions back and forth.

Initial batch: I made it through the cucumber and most of the tomatoes before I was at the top!

Initial batch: I made it through the cucumber and most of the tomatoes before I was at the top!


Ingredients batch 2.

Ingredients batch 2.

Blend at top speed until the mixture is very smooth. This may take a few minutes. A rubber spatula is great for scraping down the sides as needed.

Add the vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt. If your appliance allows, do so while the motor is running.

You can add more vinegar later, but I will tell you now that 2 teaspoons was not enough for me!

Pour in the olive oil slowly. The smooth mixture will become an orange-pink color and look like a salad dressing. dsc_4403
Additional olive oil can make the texture more creamy if it is watery.

Press the mixture through a strainer or run through a food mill to extract all the liquids and discard the solids. I was less than enthused about the idea of discarding the nutritious solids, but using my food mill resulted in such minimal solids that I felt OK with sending it to compost.

It's one of the few times year this gets used!

It’s one of the few times year this gets used!


Transfer to a large pitcher, preferably glass, and refrigerate until very cold. This could be done overnight. In the meantime, prepare any toppings. I used some very old cubes of bread from the freezer, cooked in butter with garlic.
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When you are ready to serve, taste to adjust the seasonings with salt and vinegar. Serve in glasses. You can serve over ice or even chill the glasses for the best effect.
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Present with toppings: chopped almonds, garlic croutons, olive oil and Tabasco all worked great for me.
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Why not enjoy outdoors?

Chickpeas and Greens with Bacon

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I told you I was going to feature the pressure cooker again soon, didn’t I? The first time cooking dried chickpeas in the pressure cooker was such a success: 8-hours of soaking, about 10 minutes for the pressure cooker to warm up, and 6-7 minutes of steady cooking resulted in perfect beans, whereas regular stovetop simmering would have added more than an hour. Last time, I started with a little more than half bag of dried chickpeas and ended up with cooked beans that were delicious on their own, then added to a salad, and then transformed into hummus. For the rest of the bag, I wanted the chickpeas to be used in a recipe that used some of the broth and incorporated other ingredients I had on hand. It would also be useful if the leftovers of the dish could be easily reheated for lunch, as I hustled around the house while the wee one napped.

A search on The New York Times Cooking website brought up a “Garbanzos and Greens with Chorizo” recipe. I didn’t have chorizo, but I did have an open package of bacon. I didn’t have kale or chard, but in the freezer, I had a bag of collard greens that I had blanched and frozen weeks before (collards are sold in such HUGE bunches, aren’t they?). Since collards and bacon often go together anyway, it was meant to be!

Note: you could omit the bacon to make this vegetarian. Just amp up the smoked paprika (one of my favorite pantry spices).

Chickpeas and Greens with Bacon
Adapted from The New York Times Cooking

For the chickpeas and broth:
About 1/2 bag or 1 Cup dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
½ small onion
, plus 1 clove
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
1 bay leaf
A generous amount of salt
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

For the beans and greens:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion
, diced (about 1 Cup)
Salt and pepper to taste
About 6 ounces bacon, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
3 Tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 bunch of collard greens – or kale, or chard, washed and cut into slices

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Soak the chickpeas overnight or all day (I soaked mine about 6 hours.) Drain and put in the pressure cooker. Add the onion half and clove, chopped carrot, bay leaf, and vegetable oil and cover with 6 Cups of water. Reference the directions that come with the pressure cooker to make sure you are using it correctly and safely. I put mine over a high flame until the lid sealed and the pressure regulator began to rock. I them set the timer (for 7 minutes) and lowered the heat so the regulator was rocking steadily but not excessively throughout the cooking time.

In the meantime, chop your other ingredients, and toast and grind your cumin seeds.
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When the chickpeas are done (and the pressure has lowered and the lid can be opened), season generously (and I mean generously) with salt.

In a wide, high-sided skillet, heat olive olive oil over medium-high. Add the onion and salt and pepper and cook until softened and turning slightly brown. Add the bacon and cook until browned.
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When the chickpeas were done, I removed the onion, carrot and bay leaf from the pot and then strained the mixture, saving the broth and separating the chickpeas.

Into the bacon-onion mixture, stir the garlic, smoked paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon of the cumin. Then add the chickpeas and about 1/2 Cup of the chickpea cooking broth.
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Turn the heat up until the liquid is at a simmer; add the greens and salt and pepper. If using fresh greens, stir until they wilt. Otherwise, put the lid on the pan and allow to cook for a few minutes.
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Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Then transfer a portion into each individual soup bowl for serving.
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Ladle 1 Cup of broth into each bowl. Sprinkle with remaining cumin and pine nuts.
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Serve with a toasted baguette slice or two to soak up the broth. Enjoy with a celebratory glass of sparkling wine!
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White Bean Burgers with Tomatoes and Basil

I am so excited by how well this recipe turned out. It’s not every day that the leftovers of my meals are crave-able, but these veggie burgers were gone in a snap.
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The source of inspiration for these burgers was leftover basil.

I try not to buy basil in the winter. In the summer, I’m blessed with abundant basil that can be snipped as needed from the garden. But when I buy basil from the store, I’m always faced with leftovers in the fridge drawer. Which means I’m faced with the guilt of potential waste.

But I bought this basil for a special occasion. My husband and I have a tradition of spending the early evening hours of New Year’s Eve at home, making fresh pasta together. Romantic right? (Then we hustle off to a local friend’s house to attempt to be a little more “cool” and social). This time we made a fettuccine with bolognese sauce that was enhanced by the herbal touch of fresh basil leaves.

A few days later, I was on the lookout for recipes using basil, and settled on this one.

White Bean Burgers with Tomatoes and Basil
Adapted from oh my veggies

1 can (15 ounce) cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 Cup sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/3 Cup packed basil leaves
, torn
1/3 Cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 Cup panko
2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese
, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
, lightly beaten

For serving:
4 buns (hamburger, kaiser rolls, challah rolls, etc – whatever you have leftover in your freezer after your husband is overzealous and claims that more people will show up at the party!)
Optional accompaniments:
Fresh basil leaves
Romaine or butter lettuce
Fresh mozzarella or provolone
Optional sauces:
Balsamic reduction
Pesto
Basil Mayo

Basil Mayonnaise
recipe
From the kitchn
Proportions roughly followed:
1/4 Cup packed basil leaves
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 medium garlic clove
, chopped
Zest of about half of one large lemon, about 1 teaspoon
1/2 Cup mayonnaise

Combine in a small food processor or blender.

Preheat the oven to anywhere between 385F and 400F (my oven runs hot so I opted for lower.)
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For the burgers, prepare your chopped sundried tomatoes and basil leaves.

Store-bought basil can be extremely dirty. Be sure to thoroughly wash by swishing in a bowl of cold water and then lifting out to leave the sand at the bottom of the bowl.

Store-bought basil can be extremely dirty. Be sure to thoroughly wash by swishing in a bowl of cold water and then lifting out to leave the sand at the bottom of the bowl.

In a food processor, puree together 1 Cup of the beans with the sundried tomatoes, olive oil, tomato paste, and garlic powder.
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The original recipe called for sundried tomatoes in oil, and less added olive oil, but I had regular sundried tomatoes. So I added some olive oil at first and discovered the mixture was still too dry and was difficult to puree, so I added more olive oil, up to the approximate amount above. Be on the lookout for the mixture seeming too dry. Next time I may experiment with adding some other wet ingredient to bring up the moisture content. Tomato sauce, perhaps?
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In a medium bowl, add the remaining beans and mash them with a fork. Stir in the pureed bean-tomato mixture, and add the basil and remaining ingredients, with the beaten egg added last.
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Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a measuring cup as a scoop, drop the burger mixture into 4 mounds on the sheet, and then shape each mound into a patty.

Note: this scoop-mound-shape method for forming a veggie burger was a worthy lesson on its own--thank you oh my veggies!

Note: this scoop-mound-shape method for forming a veggie burger was a worthy lesson on its own–thank you oh my veggies!


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Bake the burgers until they’re lightly browned on the outside and feel dry to the touch in the center, 20-25 minutes.
Mmmm yes to the melty mozzarella.

Mmmm yes to the melty mozzarella.


In the meantime, make your sauces! I made the basil mayo. I could have made pesto…but I still had some of the summer stock in the freezer.

Prepare your choice of buns with your choice of toppings.

Basil mayo followed by lettuce....

Basil mayo followed by lettuce….

...followed by burger, topped with balsamic glaze and more basil!

…followed by burger, topped with balsamic glaze and more basil!


How could you NOT crave this?

How could you NOT crave this?

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Green Tomato Curry

Season’s Greetings!

I won’t dwell on the fact that there has been a significant lack of recent content here. The second half of 2016 has been exciting and eventful; the activity simply has not taken place in my kitchen.

At minimum, I wanted to share with you a recipe I had executed a few months back, during the transition from summer harvest into fall/winter hibernation.

When I had a job with a normal, local work week, I would frequently travel on the weekends. Now that I’m gone many weeks, I have tried to keep the weekend plans limited. Plus there was the 9 months I spent with class on Saturdays–the weekends finally started feeling solidly long (that is, when I wasn’t traveling for part of them). So on a Saturday in mid-October I gave in to the cooler weather and spend much of the day retiring the garden for the season. Does anyone experience some sense of relief when this happens? No more weeding. No more tomatoes rotting before I can use them. No more weird gross evidence of bugs.

The wintering over meant the last big batch of jalapeños and–yes–tomatoes, green ones. Lots. Of the options for cooking green tomatoes, I had already once made the requisite fried green tomatoes, and as for pickled tomato relish? Um, I still have some from last season. So I wanted to mix it up.
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My husband is a fan of curries and spiced foods, served over rice, so I wondered if there was anyone who had documented an attempt to make a green tomato curry. Of course there was! Other than a few basic substitutions, I followed the version described by Kerry from Classic Cookery on the kitchn, and was mostly content with the result — it just needed more spice! Nothing a little chili-garlic sauce can’t help.

Looks seasonally appropriate to me!

Looks seasonally appropriate to me!

Green Tomato Curry
Adapted from recipe on the kitchn

Tool needed: immersion blender

2 Tb clarified butter (ghee)
2 Tb shallot
, minced
1 tsp curry powder
2 Cups green tomatoes
, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
As many roasted peppers as desired, up to 5 Cups
(I scrounged up less than 2 Cups)
2 cloves garlic, roasted and smashed
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Cayenne pepper
Cumin
Coriander
1 Cup light coconut milk
1 Tablespoon Asian chili-garlic paste
, to taste
Brown or white rice or naan, for serving

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Preheat the oven and roast your garlic cloves and peppers, if starting from scratch. I usually cook these at around 375F.

These peppers could have gone a little longer.

These peppers could have gone a little longer.


Stem, core and chop your tomatoes.
There was some parts of the tomatoes I sliced and tossed because they didn't really seem edible.

There was some parts of the tomatoes I sliced and tossed because they didn’t really seem edible.


Taste the rainbow!

Taste the rainbow!


In a soup pot or high-sided saucepan, melt butter. Add shallots and cook on low heat until soft and fragrant.

Add curry powder, add tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Allow tomatoes to warm fully and start to soften.
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Next add the roasted peppers, peeled and smashed garlic, and garbanzo beans.
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Add about a teaspoon each of cumin and coriander, and then start adding cayenne pepper to taste–this can get very hot. The amount of spice you will need depends on the amount of peppers you end up using.
Cook for a few minutes until hot, and add coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and add seasoning.
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DSC_3603Use an immersion blender to blend the “soup” until mostly smooth but leaving some chunks of tomato, pepper, and whole beans. Taste again and add spice as needed.

Serve in a bowl over rice. Be sure to transfer desired amount to freezer containers for later meals!
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Feta-Brined Roast Chicken with Chimichurri Sauce

Brine is a magical thing. Besides its obvious role in pickled vegetables, an overnight brine has the ability to transform your average weekly roast chicken or even your holiday turkey from a bland or dry entrée to a juicy flavor bomb.

DSC_3219That is what I was thinking when I saved the brine from my feta cheese. The cheese was long gone, but it struck me that there had to be a use for that intensely flavored liquid, other than a future down the drain.

Once again, The New York Times Cooking website delivered. A recipe for feta-brined roast chicken, how perfect! Turns out Melissa Clark demonstrated it back in January. Her recipe includes instructions for creating the brine from scratch with chunks of feta cheese. Having some of the actual brine is even better.

What’s my twist? This time of year, it makes sense to make use of fresh greens and herbs and tangy sauces to brighten up rich meats. Herbs are thriving in the garden. I planted the oregano on a hot dry day in May and thought I killed it. Turns out it’s resilient, almost as resilient as the weeds!
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Along with parsley and some leftover cilantro, I blended together some quick chimichurri. You can do the same, with any combination of those three herbs, and with or without added heat.
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Feta-Brined Roast Chicken
from Melissa Clark of The New York Times

Leftover feta brine (7 oz)
Water to bring the total amount over 4 Cups (3.5 Cups)
2.5 teaspoons salt
, divided
1 whole chicken
2 Tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
, to taste
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
2 large or 3 small lemons, including zest
¼ Cup olive oil

DSC_3220To prepare the brine, add feta liquid, additional salt and water to a blender and whiz to combine. Select a container that will allow the chicken to sit mostly submerged in the brine; you can also use a large sealing plastic bag. Pour brine over chicken.

Place in refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

When ready to cook, discard brine and dry the chicken with paper towels. Allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
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If you are hand-grinding the pepper now, settle in for the long haul! It took me forever to get 2 Tablespoons. Instead, I suggest using an electric spice grinder.

Combine the pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, oregano and the zest of the lemons.
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Rub the mixture all over the bird. Cut the lemons in half and place at least 3 halves inside the chicken. Tie the legs together with twine.
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While the oven heats to 450 degrees, place an oven-safe skillet on a burner over medium high heat. Turn on your hood vent! Add oil, and once hot, set chicken in pan, breast-side up.
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Place the pan in the oven and cook for 50-60 minutes, checking once or twice to spoon the pan juices over the bird.
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The chicken is done when the juices run clear and/or temperature at the thickest parts reaches 165.
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Let chicken rest for about 10 minutes. Slice and serve with the pan juices, a little chimichurri sauce, and vegetables.
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How about some slightly burned yam fries on the side?

How about some slightly burned yam fries on the side?


With any luck, you’ll be enjoying both crispy wings and some of the juiciest white meat you’ve ever had. Enjoy!
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Roasted Chicken Sofrito

Happy New Year!

Where has the time gone? 2015 is well under way. I know my blog has been quiet the past few months. I can explain away the last month, at least, by pointing to all the holiday planning and gatherings and dining out. Before that, of course, there was the slam of my new job, commute, class work…and the end of the CSA. I no longer have cooking inspiration built into my life!

The quiet end-of-December period did give me the chance to devote at least a couple of stretches of time to cooking projects. As I saw a major calendar flip approaching, it seemed imperative that I give attention to some of the (previously prepared or semi-prepared) items in my freezer that were dated from 2014…some with months lower numbered than I care to admit.

DSC_1426One such item was a cupful of sofrito I had made to use up some herbs along with the in- season tomatoes and peppers. I’m still not sure why I didn’t make a dish with it right away, since this recipe (which I think I followed for the sofrito) is quite easy.

This sofrito discovery coincided with a rare craving for roasted poultry. You see, like many people, Christmas dinner in my family features a non-turkey entrée such as ham, pork, or lasagna. It’s all delicious. I just thought it was time to have a little chicken in my life.

I found my inspiration in a version of chicken & rice from Food & Wine and headed to the store. Little did I know, I would be presented with another opportunity to demonstrate my make haste not waste philosophy! While I was having trouble finding chicken legs, I came across a whole cut up chicken at a greatly reduced “manager’s special” price, because it was being sold the day it was dated “sell by.” Perfect! Some grocery stores won’t even offer shelf space for these perfectly good items. What a shame! You need to be careful with meat and dairy dates, unlike many other products, but fortunately I planned to cook the chicken right away. (And the extra pieces I added to other chicken carcasses in the freezer to finally make some chicken stock a few days later.)

So let’s get to it.

Roasted Chicken Sofrito with Rice
From Food and Wine

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
drumsticks, thighs, and breasts from 1 whole chicken
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (split 1/4 teaspoon “hot” chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon regular), plus more for dusting
1 Cup prepared sofrito, plus
10 oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1/2 small onion
, diced
2 large thyme sprigs
3 Cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 1/4 Cup short-grain white rice
, such as sushi rice
2 Tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 Cup roasted almonds, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375°F.
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Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dust lightly with chili powder.

In a Dutch oven or other large ovenproof skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook over moderate heat until well browned, about 4 minutes per side.
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If you're impatient like me, you could use an extra skillet for the extra chicken.

If you’re impatient like me, you could use an extra skillet for the extra chicken.

Transfer to a plate.
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Add the sofrito, thyme sprigs, and onion to the skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
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I didn't decide it needed the onion until after first starting to warm the sofrito.

I didn’t decide it needed the onion until after first starting to warm the sofrito.

Once the onion is beginning soften, add the diced tomatoes. Bring the mixture up to a bubble, then add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil.

Stir in the rice and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer. Place the chicken pieces on top of the rice, with the skin side up.
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Place the pot, uncovered, in the upper third of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Check to see if the chicken is cooked through (some cuts may finish before others) and the rice has absorbed the stock. It took nearly 30 minutes for the fat chicken breasts from my chicken to come up to 165.
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Turn on the broiler and try to get the pot within 6 inches of the heat to crisp the chicken skin, if possible.

Remove the chicken to a separate plate. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs.

Add in the lemon juice.
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Spoon rice onto the place and scatter with some almonds. Add the chicken and serve.
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How was it? Man it was delicious. Yes, it satisfied my desire for chicken. Of course my favorite part was the rice. It had an unbelievable texture, almost like risotto. The flavors of green chiles and acidic tomatoes and lemon juice combined with the rich chicken juices plus a satisfying crunch from almonds–talk about truly crave-able.
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Here’s to a filling and fulfilling 2015!

Leek and Squash Soup

I’m still here! It’s been a busy time. Shall I fill you in? For starters, after two years in a job that didn’t inspire me, I made the switch. The old job happened to come with a short commute and hours that afforded me a generous amount of free time to cook and clean and socialize. Now, I’m commuting from the suburbs to the city, a hub of activity and excitement. It requires a bit more time and energy, but I was ready for it. While I’m still young, I’m going to go where things are happening!

September is a special month, filled with birthdays and wedding anniversaries (such as my own, for both), including a new anniversary established by one of my sisters, who married at a lovely ceremony on September 6. September also has the unique feature of containing two of the most pleasant seasons, summer and fall.

Along with all the events and occasions and changes, it’s harvest time. Tomatoes and zucchini and peppers continue to stream in from the farm share, plus new crops of potatoes and squash. It’s a good time to stay home and cook!

Yet Matt and I also took an overdue trip to visit some of my family in Vermont. We enjoyed a lovely September weekend that included exploring a number of farms in the region by bicycle. (Almost 30 miles of biking…I was almost too exhausted to fully appreciate the agricultural wonders!) During the visit, I made a casual comment about how much I like leeks. I noted that because my farm share so rarely includes them in the weekly offering, and I never buy them because I have plenty of vegetables, I don’t enjoy them at home as much as I think I would. My sister proceeded to pull a bunch out of her garden and send them home with us. So exciting! First I grilled a couple along with zucchini and added walnuts and a lemon dressing with parsley as per this recipe. I knew I wanted to use a bunch of them in a soup. Then the acorn squashes on the counter called my name.
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As usual, I sought out a recipe for validation. Like many soups, however, this is one that you could totally wing. I realized well after the fact that it was especially appropriate to make a squash soup at the end of September around my anniversary, because we served little cups of butternut squash soup for one of the courses at our wedding four(!) years ago!
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Acorn Squash and Leek Soup
Adapted from Food & Wine

3 1/2 pounds acorn squash (about two small) or similar, halved
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large leeks
, white and tender green parts, roughly chopped
5 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 teaspoon dried
4 Cups chicken stock or low sodium broth
1 teaspoons salt
1/3 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Optional toppings:
About 5 Tablespoons sour cream
About 2 Tablespoons chives
, chopped
2-4 slices of bacon (to taste), cooked and crumbled

Set the oven to 350°. Prepare the squash by slicing in half.
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The recipe I followed said to scrape out seeds AFTER the halves are cooked, but I would recommend scraping them out at this point. Place the squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet.
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Roast until tender, checking at 30 minutes. Allow to cool so that you can handle the squash.

In the meantime, prep your leeks by washing thoroughly in a few changes of water. I took my green parts and tossed them in my freezer bag of vegetable scraps; I recently read that they contribute nicely to well-flavored vegetable stock.
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Chop up the white and light green parts.
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Set your large heavy saucepan or Dutch Oven over low heat. Add the butter and melt. Toss in the leeks and thyme and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until soft and browned, about 40 minutes.

Before...

Before…


After!

After!


Discard the thyme sprigs.

When your squash is ready to handle, separate the flesh from the skin. If you waited until this point to scoop out and discard the seeds, do this now, taking care not to toss out too much of the delicious roasted flesh.
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Then scrape the squash from the skin. Get all the good stuff!
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Stir the stock and squash into the leek butter mixture.

Simmer for about 20 minutes. Using an immersion blender, or in a blender or food processor, puree the soup until smooth.
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Season with the salt and pepper.

Spoon the soup into bowls and top each with 1 Tablespoon sour cream, a sprinkling of the bacon, and 1 teaspoon fresh chives if you have them, for garnish. Serve with toast to round out the dish.
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Miso Soba Noodles with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

I knew the day would come when I would have plenty of tomatoes. If I was ever worried about not getting my fill of ripe tomatoes this summer, my cherry tomato plants have been sure to put me at ease. I can’t complain about the steady output from the two plants. In fact, I am particularly pleased that the plump orbs keep well on the counter, several days after being picked. They are easy to share with friends and family, and they just keep coming.
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Fresh cherry or grape tomatoes are wonderful for snacking, but I do love me a cooked tomato, warm and burst open at the seams. Don’t you? Roasted cherry tomatoes serve as the topping for this delicious soba noodle dish, a recipe I picked from Blue Apron. I only used the Blue Apron delivery service once so far, but I’m on the mailing list, and I saw this recipe in July. It seemed unusual to use tomatoes in a Japanese-inspired preparation. It intrigued me. Fortunately, my red miso stood ready (in place of the original recipe’s “hatcho miso”). In addition, I happen to have allowed myself to supplement my stock of CSA vegetables with the purchase a beautiful, leafy head of broccoli from a farm stand on my way home from a North Fork winery event over the weekend.
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A portion of this broccoli took the place of what would have been Chinese broccoli. I even used some of the stems, peeled to remove the tough outer portion, and chopped. I keep reading that broccoli stems can be delicious, and I shudder to think of the dozens of giant broccoli stalks I’ve sent to the garbage in my day!
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Even with a few modifications, the meal came out great. I wished I had made twice as much. It’s definitely a keeper!
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Miso Soba Noodles with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Adapted from Blue Apron

6 ounces Broccoli of any type, including leaves, finely chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced and whites and greens separated
about half a small white onion, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons red miso paste
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3/4 Cup water
, divided
1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger root
A few springs of cilantro
1 large clove garlic
1/2 small onion
, chopped
2 teaspoons sesame oil (toasted is fine)
2 Tablespoons roasted peanuts
2 Tablespoons sugar
5 ounces cherry tomatoes
8 ounces soba noodles
2 teaspoons white sesame seeds

Wash the produce, chop, and set aside. The ginger root should be peeled and minced. The cilantro leaves can be picked from the stems, roughly chopped, and set in a bowl. Half will be added in the cooking process, and half will be saved for garnish.

Another topping will be candied chopped peanuts (cashews are preferred, if you have them).
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To prepare, set a small pot with the sugar and 1/4 Cup of water over medium-high heat. Also prepare a small pan lined with a little bit of parchment paper. Allow the water-sugar mixture to boil, without stirring, for several minutes, until the color starts to change into a golden blonde. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped peanuts.
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Then pour the mixture onto the parchment paper. Spread evenly and allow to cool.

DSC_9561Here’s where it gets exciting (for the person washing dishes)! For the tomatoes, preheat the oven to 450°F. For the soba noodles, fill a medium pot with water and set over heat to boil. Grab a large sauté pan for the vegetables.

In a small bowl, whisk together the miso paste, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and ½ Cup of water, until smooth.

On a sheet plan, spread the cherry tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast 6 to 8 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and keep warm.
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Meanwhile, cook the soba noodles briefly in the boiling water, 1 to 2 minutes. The noodles will remain somewhat firm. Drain and return to pan with a little bit of warm water to prevent sticking.

DSC_9566In the vegetable pan, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Add the ginger, onion, and white part of scallions.

Sauté gently until they begin to soften. Add the broccoli and cook for several minutes until it becomes slightly tender. It’s likely that the broccoli stem portions will remain slightly crunchy, unless you pre-cook them, but they will add some nice additional texture.

Pour in the miso mixture, the cooked soba noodles, half of the cilantro, and the green parts of the scallions.
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Cook for a few minutes, at which point most of the liquid will be absorbed. Remove from heat and taste for additional salt and pepper.

To serve, place the noodle mixture on each of two plates. Top with the roasted tomatoes and chopped candied peanuts. Finally, add the remaining cilantro and a sprinkling of sesame seeds

Mmm delicious!

Mmm delicious!

Kale and Mint Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

A haiku:

‘Tis salad season
What came in this week’s farm share?
Yes, lettuce again.

It is the time of year to have greens on the brain. My Golden Earthworm Organic Farm CSA started distributing its shares just three weeks ago, and I am already racing to keep up. I don’t to come across as complaining–this is some of the freshest, most nutritious food I can eat. And remember Crystal’s experiment? You might be interested in catching up with her here. Sounds like she might enjoy salad right now.

I used recipes from all different sources for my weeks’ inspiration. There was the Warm Orzo Salad with radishes and Dijon vinaigrette, from Good Housekeeping magazine, which I ate spooned over mixed greens. I cracked open Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food II to mix it up and make Red Romaine Salad with Sherry Vinegar and Garlic.
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Joy the Baker inspired me to use the baby kale in her Tuna, Kale, and Egg Salad recipe.
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A real highlight, these strawberries arrived in last week’s share. Eating them sliced over arugula with balsamic glaze drizzle was almost as good as dessert, and I didn’t even add the usual goat cheese!

One particular kale salad I made last week was special. It was a rock star salad; it rocked with flavor. Since kale is so hip, perhaps I should call it a pop star salad? If so, it would compare to those pop stars you think of and say, “he’s so famous, he can’t be any good,” and then you end up being impressed by his talent.

Once again, this salad has an Asian flair–the soy sauce, the spice, the peanut butter. It reminded me of the flavors I loved so much at a restaurant named Chin Chin, in Melbourne, Australia. It’s the kind of heat that makes your nose run a little, but you don’t feel like you’re dying.

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Kale and Mint Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing
from Food52 user dymnyno

Salad*:
1 large bunch lacinato kale, chopped very small
1 Cup fresh mint, minced, or a combination of fresh mint and fresh cilantro
1 Cup walnuts, chopped

Dressing:
3 Tablespoons smooth peanut butter
3 Tablespoons warm water
3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh garlic
, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes

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*These quantities aren’t meant to be precise. I realize that a “large” bunch is very subjective–usually one of my pet peeves in recipes, so I should have given you a weight by ounces. But the idea is to vary the ratios based on your taste preferences and what you have at home. In my case, I had leftover cilantro, a herb that would sensibly fit in with this flavor profile.

DSC_8726Mint was one of the first plants to assert itself in my garden this spring. Some people consider them weeds, they take over so much. If you have to pull some up, try to use it in a salad before tossing the rest!

When you are prepping the salad, the step of mincing the kale makes such a big difference in the texture. Kale can be tough, and this method helps tenderize the leaves without pre-cooking them. I found that the most efficient way to mince the kale was to remove the stems, stack and leaves, roll them up, and slice, using the chiffonade method. See below.
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Toss the chopped kale, chopped herbs, and the walnuts together.
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DSC_8741To a blender or food processor, add the peanut butter, warm water, garlic, rice wine vinegar, pomegranate molasses, soy sauce, minced ginger, sesame oil and red chili flakes. Mix at high speed until everything is smooth. So easy.

Since every bunch of kale is a different size, and every salad is going to be a different size, pour just some of the dressing into the salad at first. Add more as you go until you feel it is adequately dressed, and save the rest for another salad.
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I see more rock star salads like this in my future. But the next batch of green lettuce I get? I think I’ll put some on a burger.
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Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon and Red Peppers

I hope you aren’t one of those people who envisions the color yellow or orange when thinking of cheese.

kraft-mac-and-cheese 2If you are, I’m sure you have lots of company. How many of us were introduced to macaroni and cheese as a child in the form of Kraft’s infamous blue boxes and the orange cheese sauce? Heck, I enjoyed it then. My mom would add cut-up hot dogs, which probably made a huge difference in boosting the bland taste of that cheese. Then there’s baked cheddar Goldfish, another childhood staple (and a fairly good snack choice). At some point, the color orange became associated with enhanced flavor.

This upbringing was misleading! I was duly educated during a tour of the Cabot Cheese facility a few years ago. Cheese should be white, not yellow! Sure it can be a natural additive that gives cheese an orange hue. And OK, apparently it is added, or left out, to signal where the cheese was made. But in the case of Kraft macaroni and cheese, some people believe the dye his harmful. And when think about the main ingredients, isn’t it a little odd? When was the last time you saw yellow milk?

Now that I have finished my tirade, I am going to tell you about my adapted macaroni and cheese recipe, that happens to come out orange. Ha! It is naturally colored that way because I include the spice turmeric. Someone had recently reminded me about turmeric’s purported inflammation-relieving properties, which made me want to use it.
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I adapted a recently published Cooking Light Chicken-Broccoli Mac and Cheese recipe that has turmeric on the ingredients list, but I left out the chicken and substituted red bell pepper for the broccoli. I also followed some of the methods in another recipe from Betty Crocker that had the same ingredients I wanted to use.
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I had been looking for a recipe that uses bacon, because I had a little left in a package that was expiring. I never hear anyone else dealing with this. Am I the only one in the world who has trouble using up bacon?

Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon and Red Peppers
Adapted from Cooking Light and Betty Crocker

6 ounces uncooked pasta, such as macaroni (of course), shells, penne, or rigatoni (my favorite)DSC_8697
2-3 slices of bacon, to taste, roughly chopped
1 (about 6 ounces) red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 (about 1 ounce) green onions, sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/4 Cups low-fat milk
, 1% ideal
1 Cup low sodium chicken stock,
OR 1 teaspoon of Better-Than-Bouillon Chicken Base dissolved in 1 Cup hot water
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
about 1 1/4 Cups (5 ounces) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded; I used this amazing cheese
1/4 Cup panko
1 Tablespoon butter

With the two different recipes, there are two approaches: 1. cooking the bacon and vegetables and sauce in a pan and then transferring everything into a casserole dish to bake for awhile, and 2. cooking the bacon and vegetables and sauce in the same pan you will put in the oven to broil briefly. I chose 2. One less dish to wash!

In a medium saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions, leaving out the salt.

Prepare your vegetables of choice, chopping or slicing them down so they aren’t much bigger than your pasta of choice.
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Cook bacon in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until browned. Remove the bacon from pan with a slotted spoon. Pour all but 1 1/2 teaspoons of the drippings out of the pan.

Such a tiny amount of bacon!

Such a sad, tiny amount of bacon!

Add peppers and green onions to the pan and sauté over medium heat for about 4 minutes.
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Add in the garlic and cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with turmeric; cook 30 seconds, stirring frequently.

Have your other ingredients measured and ready! Also, preheat oven to broil.
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With a whisk, combine 3/4 teaspoon salt, milk, stock, and flour. Add mixture to pan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook until thickened, about 2 minutes, and then turn off the heat.
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Add pasta mixture and about half of the cheese and toss together.
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Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Melt 1 Tablespoon of butter in a dish and combine with panko; sprinkle over pasta mixture. Top with bacon.

Looks like a party, doesn't it?

Looks like a party, doesn’t it?


Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts and just begins to brown. Watch closely. It might not brown evenly. No worries. The imperfection means it is real food!

Enjoy your creamy and naturally cheesy macaroni and cheese!
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