Monday, April 16, 2018

Spring Chicken

Given how many rules of decency the Trump administration has repealed or rolled back, fresh from a farm chicken is about the only chicken you should buy.  The "organic" label along with "free range" have been co-opted and corrupted by big biz and are now meaningless guardrails to safe and pure food.  Buy chicken once in a while because it's the cheapest "meat" protein source as well as the leanest in calorie calculations. It always makes great leftovers and cooked chicken freezes for the future.

Here are six worldly ways to have your spring chicken right now:

Nepali Chicken Curry
This recipe and photo were featured in the magazine Zest last fall and was very popular with readers. It's not spicy hot, just flavorful. By cutting a whole chicken into many parts, you can feed plenty of people on the cheap. Plus the recipe is foolproof.  Typically chicken curry is served with basmati rice, a fruit chutney and braised greens. Yum!

Serves 6 regular portions or 8 small ones
4 large chicken quarters (4 pounds), skinned as much as you can and cut into 3” pieces (this is larger than bite-sized)
¼ c vegetable oil
1 dried Arbol or other thin red chili, whole
1 large red onion, peeled and diced
8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed into a paste with the ginger, or smashed and minced
2“ fresh ginger, peeled, smashed and minced into a paste with the garlic, or grated
2 tbsp ground cumin*
1 tbsp ground coriander*
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp salt
2 tomatoes, diced (do not substitute canned or boxed: too juicy)
1 small fresh green chili pepper (e.g. Serrano, jalapeño), minced
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
½ bunch fresh cilantro, leaves stripped from the stems and minced 
*Grinding the seeds definitely enhances the flavor

Coat the bottom of a large sauté pan with the vegetable oil, get it hot on medium flame, then fry the dried pepper for a minute to flavor the oil. Add the onion, stirring to blend into the oil and sauté 3 minutes to soften. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander and cumin. Stir and continue to sauté about a minute to brown this mixture.
 Stir in the turmeric. Add the chicken pieces and blend. Add 3 tbsp of water or chicken stock and raise the heat to high. For 5 minutes, constantly stir the chicken so it doesn’t burn, scrapping up any brown scraps that stick to the bottom of the pan, to obtain full flavor.

Lower heat to medium. Add the tomatoes, minced green chili, salt, 2 tbsp of water or chicken stock. Cook 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom and burns.  Add 2 tbsp of water or chicken stock if the pan is drying out. Add a handful of chopped cilantro and blend. Cook 5 more minutes, adding water or stock a tbsp. at a time if the chicken doesn’t have enough sauce for your taste. Check salt and chili flavor and adjust to your taste, using ground chili powder.

Put the contents of the pot into a shallow serving bowl or high-sided platter. Garnish with the rest of the chopped cilantro.
Afghani Chicken Qorma

This is a qorma lawand, a fragrant Afghan curry thickened by nuts and made creamy by yogurt that's naturally sweetened by carrots (native to Afghanistan) and raisins.

serves 4-6
 1/2 cup almonds
4 garlic cloves
2" fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced
1/2 c water or chicken broth if you prefer
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (breast meat won't be as tasty or tender)
1/4 ghee or unsalted butter
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 yellow onions thinly sliced
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and minced (2 if you like hot food)
2 med carrots, peeled and sliced in thin disks
1/3 cup dark raisins
1 heaping cup plain thick yogurt
salt and black pepper to your taste
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro leaves
In a food processor purée the nuts, garlic, ginger and water.
Put this into a large bowl.
Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, stir into the marinade.
Marinate at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Melt the ghee in a large heavy gauge lidded casserole over medium heat. Add the spices and sauté about 30 seconds until they are fragrant but not brown. Stir in the onions and chili pepper. Sauté until the onions are soft and starting to brown, maybe 7 minutes.

Stir the chicken into the pot with all its marinade. Simmer 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. Stir in the carrots and raisins and yogurt, blending everything. Add 1/2 c water or chicken broth to make gravy. Bring to a boil,then reduce heat to low simmer, cover the pot and simmer 40 minutes, adding water or broth if the dish seems to be drying out. Most important: keep heat low to avoid curdling the yogurt.  Serve with the chopped cilantro on top as garnish. Serve with rice, roasted potatoes or naan and perhaps a simple spinach salad.

Broccolini Chicken Salad 
Simple sophistication on a serving plate. This colorful and healthy combination is an old favorite.
serves 6

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 c brown/green lentils
2 whole cloves
2 c broccolini cut into bite sized pieces (you can use regular broccoli too)
1 c scallions cut into thick disks
1 English cucumber, peeled, halved and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 c grated orange carrots
1 1/2 c roasted cashew nuts, coarsely chopped
Mixed lettuces/arugula, watercress, baby spinach--greens, to serve
2 c raita or tsatsiki (store bought is fine)
pinch of ground nutmeg

Put the broccolini in boiling salted water and cook until tender. Drain really well.
Cook the chicken one of two ways: poach it in salted water or put it on a baking tray, cover with foil and bake at 350º 25-30 minutes until it is just cooked through but still moist.  Remove immediately, cool and cut into large bite-sized pieces (1/2-3/4" cubed).
Boil the lentils in salted water with the cloves until tender, 20-25 minutes. Drain well and cool.
(You can assemble all this ahead of serving.)
In a large bowl, combine the chicken, broccolini, scallions, cucumber and carrots, and blend well. Add the raita and thoroughly blend everything. Check and adjust for salt.
Arrange the greens on a serving platter and sprinkle very lightly with olive oil. arrange the chicken salad over the greens. Sprinkle with nutmeg and top with the chopped cashew nuts to serve.
   Very delicious served with garlic naan and sliced fresh tomatoes.

Ethiopian Berbere-spiced Chicken
With or without berbere spiced green lentils on the side, this is hands-down the chicken thighs winner. The meat is coated in that tongue tingling, soul satisfying berbere spice mix and pan fried to a crisp before being baked to get the interior to melting tenderness.
Serves 4-6

Preheat oven to 450F
6 chicken thighs ( skin-on)
2-3 T Berbere Spice Mix
3-4 tbsp corn oil
Kosher Salt

Pat the chicken dry and salt all sides.
Generously rub each piece with Berbere spice mix.**
Heat oil (enough to totally cover the bottom 1/8" at least) in a heavy bottom skillet you can put into the oven, on medium high heat,  place chicken skin side down and sear until is crispy, about 10 minutes. Using tongs, flip over, and turn heat down to medium. Sear  3-4 minutes. Put the hot pan in the oven 10 minutes. Top with coarse seat salt to serve for extra finger licking finesse.

One more time because I can't say it enough:
3 T sweet paprika
1 T red pepper flakes, ground plus more for extra spicy
2 tsp cumin seeds or powdered cumin
1 tsp coriander seed (or powder)
1 tsp cardamom powder or 1 tsp cardamom seeds (shell off)
1 tsp turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 tsp fenugreek seeds (or powder)
1 tsp black peppercorns or freshly ground peppercorn
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

If using whole seeds, lightly toast them on the stove top in a skillet for 2-3 minutes.
Grind them using a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Remember to crush or grind the chili flakes.

Indian Butter Chicken
People who think they don't like Indian food LOVE this buttery, creamy sauced chicken.
serves 6

1 1/2 c full-fat Greek yogurt
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp garam masala
2 tbsp ground cumin
3 pounds (8-10 large) chicken thighs, on the bone
1/4 lb (i stick) unsalted butter
4 tsp corn or vegetable oil
2 medium-size yellow onions, peeled and diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 ttsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated or finely diced
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2 medium-size tomatoes, diced
2 red chiles, like Anaheim, or 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
Kosher salt to taste
2/3 c chicken stock
1 1/2 c whipping or heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
3 tbsp ground almonds, or finely chopped almonds
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, stems removed. leaves chopped

Whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, turmeric, garam masala and cumin in a large bowl. Put the chicken in, and coat with the marinade. Cover, and refrigerate (up to a 24 hrs).
In a large pan over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil until it starts to foam. Add the onions, and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add garlic, ginger and cumin seeds. Cook until onions start to brown.
Add cinnamon stick, tomatoes, chiles and salt. Cook until the chiles are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the chicken and marinade to the pan, and cook 5 minutes; Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes. Stir in the cream and tomato paste; Simmer until chicken is cooked through, 10 - 15 minutes.
Add the almonds, cook another 5 minutes. Remove from  heat and garnish with cilantro leaves to serve.

Judy Rodgers' Famous Zuni Cafe Roasted Chicken
This is served for 2 at the restaurant but I think you could get 3 out of it.

One 2 3/4 lb free-range good quality chicken
4 thyme sprigs
4 small garlic cloves, lightly crushed and peeled
2 tsp fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Using your fingers, gently loosen the skin from the chicken breasts and thighs. Stuff the thyme and garlic under the skin and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle the salt all over the chicken and season with pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 500°. Preheat a large cast-iron skillet in the oven for 5 minutes. Put the chicken in the skillet, breast side up, and roast 30 minutes. Turn the chicken breast side down and roast for about 15 minutes longer, or until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced. Transfer the chicken to a board and let rest 10 minutes; carve.

This is typically served by taking the pan juices from the chicken and pouring them boiling hot over some lightly sauteed chunks of bread. Stir in a handful of raisins and handful of pine nuts and a tsp grated lemon zest.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Pick up a Parsnip: It's very Now

Parsnips are the Rodney Dangerfield of vegetables: they get no respect. Probably because for all the centuries until Columbus' New World edibles Eureka (potatoes, beans, squash, tomatoes etc) they were the only vegetable the Brits and Celts had to eat. They're still considered poor man's food. That doesn't mean they're not tasty. I discovered parsnips in Morocco during a December, piled high along the roadways for sale, and thought they were some kind of white carrot. Then I tasted some sauteed in cumin and olive oil and went berserk. I've been hooked ever since. (They are one of the seven vegetables in the legendary couscous with seven vegetables.)

The odd and wonderful peculiarity of parsnips is that even though they are fully grown by late fall and often harvested at that time, many are  left in the ground over the winter. They not only survive but thrive. Freezing brings out their sugar and makes them sweeter than those harvested in autumn. So as ground thaws, you're bound to see parsnips piling up in markets. And you should feel bound to buy some to enjoy. Your reward is potassium, folic acid and fiber. Those first two are hard to come by so parsnips are a nutritional treasure.

Here's what to do (in addition to couscous with seven vegetables) to celebrate the spring harvest when you get some:

My Basic Sauteed Parsnips with Cumin
This has been my go-to parsnip dish for decades, my iteration of that long ago Moroccan eye-opener. If you buy bigger parsnips an inch or more in diameter and slice them very very thin, you can get "chips." These are a great side dish for omelets, roast chicken and lamb chops. They're an excellent vegetable addition to a dhal bhat meal. Vegan to the max.

1 parsnip per person
1/4 tsp cumin per parsnip
Sea salt to your taste
Olive oil to fully cover 1/8"  the bottom of a frying pan/skillet.
handful of chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Peel the parsnips, wash and dry thoroughly. Slice into thin disks.
Heat the oil in the skillet/frying pan over medium high heat.
Add the parsnips, stirring to coat with the oil. Add the cumin.
Lower heat to medium and stirring so they don't stick, sauté until soft. Flip them once to get both sides browned. This should take 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of those disks.
Remove the parsnips with a slotted spatula or spoon to a serving bowl. Season with salt and garnish with the chopped cilantro. Serve hot.

Here's an upscale variation on that Moroccan theme. Without the accompanying yogurt, it's vegan.
Parsnips with Dates

Serves 10
3/4 c plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, smashed
3 lbs parsnips, peeled and sliced on the diagonal 1/2 inch thick
12-14 pitted Medjool dates, sliced in half then half again
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Optional to serve:
1 c plain Greek yogurt
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp ground sumac

Preheat the oven to 350°.
In a large skillet, over medium/low heat 3/4 c olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until garlic is golden. Using a slotted spoon, remove it. Add half of the parsnips to the skillet and cook stirring occasionally, until golden and just starting to soften, about 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the parsnips to a roasting pan. Repeat with the remaining parsnips. This time put the parsnips and any oil left in the skillet into the roasting pan. Add the dates and oregano, season with salt and pepper. Roast just until the parsnips are tender and the dates are slightly caramelized—8-10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter.

Optional to serve:
In a bowl, whisk the yogurt with the lemon juice, sumac and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt. Serve side by side with the roasted parsnips to be spooned over.

Parsnip Paté (a "hummus")
Something a bit different if you have great flatbread or pita to show off.

For the vinaigrette
2 tbsp cumin   
¼ c lemon juice         
½ c olive oil    
For the parsnip hummus
3 c parsnip purée (8 parsnips, peeled, chopped, boiled in salted water til tender, drained)   
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped          
½ c pine nuts, toasted in butter           
1 c brown butter
1 c Tahini
pinch of sea salt
¼ c cooked/canned chickpeas, well drained, for garnish

For the vinaigrette: Whisk together the cumin, lemon juice, and olive oil. Set aside.
Blend the parsnip purée with chopped garlic, salt, pine nuts, tahini, and brown butter.
Put in a serving bowl and garnish the top with the chickpeas.
Lightly pour over the vinaigrette.

Parsnip Chickpea Soup
A pinch of saffron anoints the parsnips to royalty here in this creamy, hearty soup. i posted it earlier in my chickpea collection posts but it's so easy and tasty, it's worth repeating. 
Serves 4
½ lb parsnips, peeled and thinly diced
3 c chicken or vegetable stock
1 can chickpeas, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp ground cumin
A good pinch of saffron
2 tbsp milk
½ c heavy cream cream
Chopped fresh chives

 In a large saucepan or small soup pot, boil the parsnips in the chicken stock until tender, then add the chickpeas and cook 2-3 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the ground cumin.
Soak the saffron in the milk for a minute or two.
Blend/process the soup to puree. Return the soup to the pot, then add the saffron milk and cook 2 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer.
Add the cream. Simmer for 5 minutes being careful not to boil and ruin the cream. Serve garnished with the chopped chives sprinkled on top.

Mashed Parsnips with Brussels Sprouts
This is a British recipe.
Serves 6
For the parsnips
2 lbs parsnips
2+ tbsp. butter
1/3 c heavy cream (or nonsweetened evaporated milk for less calories)
1 lb Brussels sprouts
¼ c olive oil
2 butter
6 cloves garlic, peeled
pinch smoked paprika
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp honey
Salt to your taste

Preheat the oven to 375º. Peel the parsnips, cut into a few pieces and submerge in lightly salted boiling water for 15-20 minutes or until soft enough to mash. Trim and halve the Brussels sprouts and put them into a bowl with olive oil, 2 tbsp butter, garlic, smoked paprika and thyme. Blend carefully. Put the bowl contents in a roasting pan and bake 35 minutes, till the sprouts are golden brown and soft. Stir/toss the sprouts twice as they roast to be sure they stay coated in the sauce and don’t dry out.
Drain and mash the parsnips. Whip in the butter and cream and beat till smooth. (You can do this in a blender or processor.) Arrange on a serving dish, level and smooth. Remove the sprouts and garlic from the oven and trickle honey over them. Toss gently and spoon on top of the parsnip puree. Season with sea salt to your taste.

Parsnip Chowder
A soul warmer for those rainy April days. (Sorry no photo)
Serves 4-5

3 lg parsnips, peeled and washed
1/3-1/2 lb. mushrooms, cleaned
½ sm roasted red pepper, chopped, or 1 tbsp chopped pimentos
1 sm onion, peeled and diced
1 lg shallot, peeled and diced
1 tsp. cumin seed
½ tsp. celery seed
½ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground cumin
4 tbsp. butter (1/2 stick)
3 c vegetable broth or water
1 12oz can evaporated milk
½ c half ‘n’ half or light cream
½ tsp. salt (more to your taste)
Freshly ground black pepper to your taste
½ c cracker crumbs or crumbled croutons
¼ c finely chopped fresh flat parsley leaves

Slice the peeled parsnips into thin disks. Cut the larger disks in half so all pieces are close in size for better cooking. Chop mushrooms.

In a medium size, heavy gauge pot, melt 3 tbsp. butter. Add onion, shallot, mushrooms, cumin and celery seed. Stir to blend and sauté until vegetables are soft. 
Add parsnips, ground coriander and cumin. Stir to blend and sauté 60 seconds. Cover the pot contents with broth or water, bring to a boil, cover the pot and lower heat. Simmer 10-12 minutes until parsnips are tender but not mushy. Add liquid if necessary so there is always some even with the top of the vegetables.

Stir in the evaporated milk and half ‘n’ half, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat until soup is hot. Do not boil. Stir in 1 tbsp butter, the crumbs and parsley. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot.

And finally, you can boil and mash up a parsnip or two when you boil up potatoes to make mashed potatoes, thereby making mashed potatoes with parsnip: very flavorful and not so caloric as full blown mashed potatoes. You can also layer parsnips with potatoes to make a gratin, or layer them with potatoes and rutabagas to make a richer more flavorful gratin. These are winter dishes for autumn harvested parsnips.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Maple Syrup rising

It's that time of year when sap rises in the maple trees, collection buckets get nailed on and the sap is boiled for days to get it down to that amber colored syrup you get in glass jars and plastic jugs. Northern New England and Canada's abutting Quebec province produce almost all the pure product and that's what you want. Beware pure syrup sold in tins because tin bruises the flavor. Beware the supermarket stuff that's mostly corn syrup with a tad of maple thrown in.

Maple syrup is sold with differing names because it's graded by its translucence. Grade A is lighter than Grade B not only in color but flavor. Sub category Amber is lighter than Medium Amber or Dark. Grade A Amber is sometimes called “fancy.” It's the easiest to find in stores. Some people flat out prefer the darker, heavier, more thickly flavored syrup that's easiest found at sugar shacks where it's brewed in late March and April. 

As of 2015, commercial naming was forcibly changed. All pure maple syrup is presumed Grade A. From there what used to be Light Amber is now Golden Color and Delicate Taste. What used to be Medium Amber is now Amber Color and Rich Taste. What was Dark Amber and Extra Dark Amber--the more robust syrup--is now Dark Color and Robust Taste.

An unopened container and an opened one stored in the refrigerator will both last a year until the next batch is boiled down. If mold appears, you can skim it off and boil remaining the syrup a few minutes. Pour this into a sterilized canning jar, tighten the lid and store it in the refrigerator again. Maple syrup tastes best served at room temperature or slightly warmed.

This tree sap is good for you! It has hard to come by minerals manganese and zinc. It has more calcium than honey. And I have heard and operated on the news that it's a no worries sweetener for diabetics.
How sweet is this: The aboriginal Indians who discovered this treat brightened winter for their kids by pouring freshly boiled syrup over the stored popped corn, and that's the origin of Crackerjack. So you can make your own, pure and simple. Of course you can slather it on pancakes, corn fritters and waffles. You can stir it into oatmeal and yogurt. It helps barbeque sauce get a glaze and can be brushed on a fresh from the oven roasted chicken or turkey to make it shine. Many people like to glaze baked salmon with maple syrup. You can fill the cavity of a winter squash with maple syrup, melted butter, sea salt, ground cinnamon and nutmeg before you bake it. You can pour it over fresh fruit when making a pie or crisp if you want to avoid white sugar. You can also make vegan, sugar free cake icing by grinding up cashew nuts until they release their oils to become a paste and then thinning that paste until its a spread with maple syrup. I like to pour it on when I stew up that other spring marvel, rhubarb, whose tartness needs creative sweetening.
Tangy parsnips, which are traditionally overwintered and harvested in spring just as the sap is being boiled down, happen to be terrific partners for maple syrup. 
Shaker Parsnips with Maple Syrup
This is an old traditional New Hampshire Shaker community recipe from maple syruping time.
Serves 6-8

2 lbs parsnips
1 c maple syrup
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp ground cinnamon OR ground cumin (depending on your taste preference)

 Heat oven to 400º. LIghtly butter a baking pan.
Peel the parsnips and slice into 2" thick disks.  Put them on the baking pan, season with salt and pepper. Pour the maple syrup evenly over them, then pour the butter. Finally season with your chosen spice. Cover the pan tightly for foil and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes until parsnips are tender. Garnish with a handful of chopped fresh parsley.
Peel and slice 2 lbs into thin disks, throw them in a baking dish with 1 cup of maple syrup and 2 tbsp butter, and put them in a 325º oven until tender--maybe 30 minutes.

And here are more seasonally appropriate ways to splurge this Spring:
Maple Syrup Muffins
makes 12

1¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup milk
2½ tsp double-acting baking powder
¼ tsp almond extract
¼ tsp salt
½ stick (2 oz) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
¾ cup toasted pecan pieces
1 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350º. Butter or line tins for 12 muffins.
In a small bowl whisk flour, baking powder and salt. In a mixer bowl, beat the egg, add milk and almond extract. On low speed gradually add the flour mix, alternating with maple syrup, scraping the bowl as you do. Add butter and beat briefly. Fold in pecans. Ladle the thin mixture into muffin tins. (If you want, you can sprinkle the tops with Kashi or sliced almonds.) Bake on a low oven rack for 15 minutes, then reverse the pan and bake on a higher one for 15 minutes, or until tops spring back when pressed. Immediately remove muffins from pan and serve warm. Be careful: they are delicate.

Fennel basted pork chops with rhubarb
for 2 2  6 oz 1” thick pork chops

1 tsp fennel seed 1 tsp coriander seed ½ tsp black peppercorns ½ tsp sea salt 2 tbsp butter 1 tbsp sunflower or corn oil finely grated zest and juice 1 orange,

¼ c marsala wine ½ lb rhubarb, trimmed and cut horizontally into 1 1/4” thick slices 1 tbsp pure maple syrup

Score the rind of each pork chop at even intervals. Smash the fennel, coriander seeds, peppercorns and salt to a coarse powder. Rub most of it into the pork slits, and hold the rest.

 In a medium/large heavy gauge skillet or frying pan, melt 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp oil over medium heat. Put pork chops scored fat side down and brown 2-3 minutes.

Flip chops and cook 2 minutes, then flip to the other side and do the same. Sprinkle the remaining spice mix on top now.

Add the remaining butter and orange zest to the pan, baste the chops, and turn them over.

Pour the marsala into the pan and let bubble for a few seconds. Add the orange juice and bring to a simmer. Arrange the rhubarb around the pork and drizzle it  with maple syrup. On low heat, cook 5 minutes or until pork is no longer pink inside and rhubarb is soft but still holding its shape. Turn the pork once without stirring. Using a slotted spatula, remove pork and rhubarb from the pan and arrange on two warmed dinner plates. Increase the heat under the pan and simmer the sauce until thickened and slightly syrupy. Pour over the pork and serve, perhaps with mashed celeriac and garlicky braised greens.

Shaker Maple Sweet Potato Souffle 
Another traditional recipe from the community with a little flavor add from me.
Serves 4-6

4 med sweet potatoes (not yams)
1/2 c maple syrup
2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
6 egg whites 

Wash the potatoes and pierce them 2 or 3 times with a fork. Bake at 500º 45 minutes. Cool. Reduce oven to 400º. Butter a small baking pan.
Peel and put the potatoes in a food processor with the maple syrup, salt, pepper, and spices. Whiz into a smooth puree. In a separate large bowl, whip or beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold them into the sweet potato puree. Put the mixture evenly into the buttered baking dish, leveling the top. Bake at 400º 30 minutes. Serve warm.



Monday, March 26, 2018

Bring Spring to the table

Eggs and lamb are the traditional table signs of spring, clear signals of new life. So along with Spring green, here are a few ways--some flour free-- to celebrate traditional rebirth rites of Spring: Easter and Passover with enough color for Hindu Holi. Coming next: Make it with maple--syrup, because now is the tapping time when it's fresh. Many farms have been open to the public to see the process.

Smoked Salmon Stuffed Eggs
Flour free, gluten free fabulously fancy first course or brunch buffet item or cocktail companion that's ridiculously easy to whip up and memorably tasty.

8 eggs (1 per person)
4-5 scallions, trimmed and minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
2 tsp drained capers
3 slices smoked salmon cut into bits
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
½-1 tsp prepared horseradish, depending on your taste
¼ c whipped cream cheese, crème fraiche or sour cream
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste
pinch of paprika

Boil the eggs 10-12 minutes. Drain, cool and carefully peel. Cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the yolks. Put them in a food processor, chopper, blender or mixing bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients EXCEPT for a bit of the dill or chives held out for garnish. Process into a smooth pate/puree.
  Fill the egg whites with the pate and cover the white edges entirely so nothing shows but the filling. Arrange the eggs on a serving platter and garnish with a pinch of paprika and sprinkle of chives or dill. For color intersperse cherry tomatoes or olives or both. NOTE: The purple in the photo is chive flowers.

Spanish Meatless Soup of Chickpeas, spinach and hard boiled egg
This sort of hearty soup, meat and fish-free, has traditionally been served during Lent, right up to Easter Day, and on meatless Fridays in the very Catholic country of Spain. It's part of my growing can of chickpeas collection.

Serves 6

6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (1/4 c + 2 tbsp)
4 slices (1/4 pound) French bread
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped or ½ c boxed chopped tomatoes
2 tsp paprika
2 c cooked canned chickpeas, rinsed
1 lb baby spinach washed well and coarsely chopped
1 lb boiling potatoes peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
½ c dry white wine
2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 c water or vegetable broth for richer soup
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tbsp pine nuts
¼ c finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Pinch of saffron
1 large hard-boiled egg, chopped

In a soup pot or flameproof casserole, heat ¼ c olive oil over medium heat, then cook the bread until golden brown and crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove bread, rip into smaller pieces, and douse with the vinegar.
To the same pot, add 2 tbsp olive oil, heat, then add onions, tomatoes and paprika. Over medium/low heat cook into a thick sauce, 10 - 12 minutes.
Add the chickpeas, spinach, potatoes, wine, salt, pepper, and water/broth. Turn the heat to high, and once the spinach wilts and the broth is beginning to boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, 10-15 minutes.
Add the garlic, pine nuts, parsley, fried bread and saffron and blend. Remove from heat and top with the hard-boiled egg. Let the soup rest 10 minutes before serving.

Keftiki, Greek roasted lamb and potatoes

You start this the night before to get the lamb marinated and you have to cook it half the day, but not tend to it at all while it's in the oven. So it isn't complicated or very very time consuming. This is a real meat and potatoes way to show off Spring lamb--if you can't get Spring vegetables. 
serves 8

6 garlic cloves
1 tbsp dried oregano leaves
1 tbsp rosemary leaves
3 lemons, zest of one, juice from two
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ c olive oil
4½-5 lb leg of lamb
2¼ lbs waxy potatoes (In Europe favored type is yellow flesh Desiree)
2 lg red onions, peeled and cut half, then half again (wedges)
5 bay leaves
Optional yogurt sauce below

Crush together the garlic cloves and 1 tsp salt using a pestle and mortar or small chopper. Add the herbs, lemon zest, cinnamon, a few grinds of fresh black pepper and blend. Stir in 2 tbsp of olive oil.
Using a sharp knife, create 2-3” deep holes all over the lamb, and rub in this paste, pushing it down. Wrap the lamb tightly in tin foil or a food bag or plastic container. Before closing it up, pour the lemon juice all over the lamb. Tighten the enclosure, put it in the fridge and let the lamb marinate overnight.

The next day, an hour before you want to cook it, take the lamb out of the fridge. Heat oven to 325º.
Line the base of a large lidded heavy oven proof casserole dish (or line a roasting pan with two layers of parchment paper large enough to fold together over the top of both sides – you’ll probably need two pieces at right angles). Peel potatoes and cut in wedges. Line the bottom of the cooking vessel with the cut potatoes and onion. Sprinkle a bit of sea salt and the last of the olive oil over them. Pour any juice around the lamb into the pan. Place the lamb itself on top. Add 1 c water and seal the lamb in by folding up the parchment or by closing the lid on the casserole (to make sure it is really tight you can slide a piece of moist parchment on top of the pot before putting the lid down). Roast 4 ½-5 hours. The lamb should be very tender.

Remove pan from the oven. Raise the oven temperature to 400º. Unwrap or uncover the lamb (scrunch down the parchment on each side) and baste the lamb with the juices in the bottom. Return to the oven for 20 minutes to brown. Remove the lamb from the pan, wrap in foil and let it rest. Remove bay leaves and discard them.
Stir the onions and potatoes to flip and return the pan to the oven 15 minutes so they brown. Remove and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

While the potatoes brown, you can make the optional yogurt sauce:
1 c thick Greek yogurt (plain)
2 tbsp lemon juice freshly squeezed
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ c chopped fresh mint leaves
Whisk everything together and pour into a gravy or spouted serving bowl.

To Serve: slice the lamb and lay on a serving platter with the roasted potatoes and onions. Pour the pan juices on top. Serve with yogurt on the side.

Creamy Rice pudding with lemon
This is one of my oldest most beloved recipes and it's served with a twist that's perfect for Easter egg celebrating. sorry no photo: I was making this long before cameras were a necessary kitchen tool and didn't have time to get a batch for this post.
serves 6

1/2 c white rice
1/2 c dark raisins
1 qt milk (obviously whole milk will make a richer pudding but it's your choice here)
4 egg yolks (save the whites for something else like meringue cookies or omelet)
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/4 c powdered/confectioner's sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 lemon, zest of it all
1/4 tsp ground nutmegish: 8 canned apricot or peach halves very well drained and dried1 c fr
1 tsp vanilla extract
to garnish: 8 canned apricot or peach halves very well drained and dried
1 c freshly whipped cream

In a small saucepan with 1/2 c water, parboil the rice and raisins 5 minutes. Drain.
In a med/lg heavy pot, scald the milk. (This means heat it quickly just until it starts to bubble at the edges and a skin forms.) Add the rice and raisins. Over low heat cook 45 minutes stirring occasionally to nothing sticks to the bottom. While that's happening, whisk the granulated sugar and cinnamon into the egg yolks. Put the powdered sugar through a sieve to remove its lumps.
Carefully whisk the egg yokes into the milk mixture followed by the powdered sugar. Stir in the lemon zest and vanilla extract and 1/2 the nutmeg. Cook over low heat stirring constantly until the pudding is thickening significantly. (It will thicken more as it cools.)  Immediately put it into a large shallow serving bowl and level the top. Sprinkle the remaining nutmeg over the top.
To serve: spread a layer of freshly whipped cream across the top and nestle the dried fruit halves cut side down in it to create the look of sunny side up eggs!

Chocolate Dried Fruit Torte
Gluten and flour free and full of beans (chocolate is a bean!). This is ridiculously simple to pull together and ridiculously rich. You can only eat a tiny bit at a time so it goes a long way. It also lasts a long time in the fridge. And what a gift if you're invited to someone else's celebration!

serves 12 with small wedges
¾ c dark chocolate, best quality
½ c unsalted butter (1 stick)
4 eggs
A pinch of salt
½ c dried apricots, chopped
½ c figs, chopped
1/4 c dried cherries
I tbsp orange zest (minced) or 1/2 tsp orange flower water
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 c shredded coconut
Optionally: cocoa powder, to dust before serving

Preheat oven to 350º. Line a    " round baking dish or pie plate with parchment, enough to come up over the sides.
In a double boiler/bain marie, with barely simmering water in the lower pot, over low heat, melt the chocolate and butter slowly. Remove from heat. Whisk in the eggs, then salt, dried fruits, zest and spices. Blend until smooth. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle coconut all over the top.
 Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until it is firm. Leave to cool in the pan. 
Remove from pan by pulling up on the parchment. Slide the torte onto your serving dish and dust with cocoa powder to serve.