Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chicken chop suey

The weather is starting to warm up around here and for me that means that I start to want lighter dinners. As I mentioned in my last post, it's a difficult time of year for cooking -- no fresh local vegetables available yet and most of our preserved goods from last year's harvest are gone. We did start some seeds this past weekend as well as potted a few new herbs. We don't have room for a large garden, but we are doing radishes, lettuces, green beans, tomatoes, and a bunch of herbs in containers. I can't wait for the radishes to come up. We found heirloom French breakfast radishes and I'm hoping they are cute and tasty! They should be ready to harvest in just over 20 days.

But, back to this meal. I've made this dish inspired by a similar recipe at Brooklyn Farm Girl a couple of times now and we really like it. This time I used a green pepper, but last time I used some baby bok choy in its place - both were good. You can use both or pack as many veggies into this stir-fry as you want. Chinese cabbage, bamboo shoots, and bean sprouts would all be good in this, too. Stir-fry is one of my favorite warm-weather weeknight meals. They are a cinch to put together and they are so versatile. Plus I love making a healthier and cheaper version of take-out foods at home. This dish will serve four people.

Chicken chop suey
about 1-1/4 lbs. boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup soy sauce, preferably fermented (or low sodium)
2 heaped tablespoons honey
3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
2 heaped teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water 
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or other cooking oil)
1 green bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 ribs celery, cut into bit-sized pieces
5 scallions, greens and white sliced and separated
about 4 oz. shittake mushroom caps, sliced
1 can (8 oz.) sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 cup white rice, cooked to package directions, for serving

Place the chicken in a bowl and set aside. In a liquid measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, and garlic until well-combined. Pour about 2 tablespoons onto the chicken. Then whisk the cornstarch into the remaining sauce along with 1/2 cup of water and set aside.

After all your vegetables are prepped, heat the oil in a wok or other large skillet. When hot, add the chicken and toss frequently until it is almost cooked through. Toss in the pepper and celery and cook, stirring often, for about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the scallion whites, mushrooms, and water chestnuts. 

Stir in the sauce and let it start to bubble. Then, reduce the heat to low. Continue to stir and cooks while the sauce thickens, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the scallion greens and serve immediately with white rice. 

What was I cooking one year ago?: stir-fried squid with baby bok choy
Two years ago?: carrot cake pancakes
Three?: Brazilian shrimp stew
4?: Shepherd's pie

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lemon buttermilk pie

In this household, we love pie. As a kid, I much preferred cake, but now I'll take a slice of homemade pie over most other desserts - I especially like custard and cream pies... This lemon buttermilk pie was inspired by a post at The Merry Gourmet - it was one of those pies that as soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to make (and eat) it. This time of year I find myself often feeling rather uninspired when it comes to cooking. There's no fresh seasonal foods available yet, and I have used up most of my winter stash. Plus the weather varies from warm to cold almost every day, making it difficult to plan meals that fit the season. While not really local, you can still find good citrus this time of year, so I was feeling pretty excited about this lemony pie (lemon is one of my most favorite dessert flavors). Plus we had a bunch of farm fresh eggs, which make up a lot of the filling.

My little pie making helper (though she's a little blurry - I had to be quick!)

Lemon buttermilk pie
1 recipe for a single pie crust 
3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
scant 1 cup of granulated sugar, preferably unbleached
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of one lemon
icing sugar for dusting, optional 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Roll out your dough to about 11 inches round. Gently place in a 9-inch pie pan and fold over and crimp the edges. Place in the refrigerator until the filling is ready.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and yolk, sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Then add in the butter, buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon juice and zest and whisk until thoroughly combined. 

Pour the filling into the crust. Gently rap the pie plate on the counter to remove bubbles. Bake for about 55-60 minutes, until the crust is golden and the filling is set. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Serve at room temperature or chilled. Top with a dusting of icing sugar, if desired. 

What was I cooking one year ago?: rabbit cacciatore
Two years ago?: pasta with leeks and oyster mushrooms
Three?: maple oatmeal streusel muffins
4?: baked eggs in portobello mushroom caps

Monday, April 7, 2014

Chicken liver pate

In my quest to do more "head-to-tail" eating, here is my first offal recipe. This was my first time not only making, but also eating chicken liver pate. I first tried chicken livers fried up with onions a couple years ago and, well, I was not a fan. So, I was a bit apprehensive to make pate. I recently tried liver dumpling soup (made with beef liver) and liked it - so I was feeling a bit brave. I know people tend to think that liver is unhealthy, but that isn't the case as long as you are eating livers from healthy, pastured, and properly raised animals. Since we have started buying meat in bulk from local farmers, we have been trying to create ways to try and hopefully enjoy these parts that many people often don't request from the butcher (or may even throw away). These livers came from Green Heron Growers.

So what was the verdict? I thought the pate was good. It wasn't too strong of a flavor and the texture was really nice spread on the baguette. We served our pate with some dill pickles and capers as well as some lingonberry jam. I took turns topping my pate with a few capers or a smear of lingonberries (you could use cranberry or currant jam/jelly) and found that they both provided a nice flavor balance to the pate. It also paired nicely with some of our crabapple mostarda. I'm feeling more confident now to try more offal recipes in the future!

Chicken liver pate
1 lb. organic, pastured chicken livers, trimmed
1 to 1-1/2 cups milk
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2-1/2 teaspoons white wine or champagne vinegar
1/3 cup extra dry vermouth 
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Place the chicken livers in a shallow bowl and cover with the milk. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour. Then drain through a fine-mesh strainer and gently rinse in cold water.

In a skillet, heat two tablespoons of butter over medium heat and add the shallots, garlic, and livers along with the thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the shallots are softened and the livers are cooked through. Then add the vinegar and vermouth to deglaze the pan. Stir well and continue to cook until the liquid is almost all absorbed.

Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. When cooled, pour everything into the food processor. Add the nutmeg and remaining 3 tablespoons of butter cut into cubes. Puree until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Transfer to a serving bowl or ramekin and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until cold.

Serve with toasted baguette, crackers, vegetables, capers, jam, etc. 

What was I cooking one year ago?: Mongolian beef and vegetable stir-fry
Two years ago?: maple-pecan scones
Three?: chipotle-maple glazed pork with with roasted squash and kale
4?: chocolate peanut butter tart

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Quick pickled red onions

Quick pickled red onions are something that came into my life only within the past couple of years. Now, I'm kind of addicted to their sweet and vinegary crunch whenever we are having tacos, burritos, etc. I love their hot pink color and have found that they add a wonderful brightness to meat-heavy dishes like these fabulous carnitas. I like to make chicken tacos topped with these onions, avocado, sour cream, cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. 

People make pickled red onions with different spices and vinegars - there's not one right way to make them, in my opinion. This recipe is how I have found that we like them best and I'm surprised that I haven't shared them on the blog before now. I like to make them the day before so they are cold and crunchy against warm taco toppings, but sometimes I forget and make them at the last minute and we eat them still warm.... that's okay, too. Just as long as you make some.

Quick pickled red onions
1 large red onion, peeled, halved, and sliced (about 1/4-inch thickness)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar, preferably unbleached cane sugar
2 dried bay leaves, broken in half
4 cloves
6 black peppercorns
pinch of red pepper flakes, optional 

Add all of the ingredients to a small skillet and warm over medium heat. Stir well to dissolve the salt and sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Taste and adjust the vinegar, salt, and/or sugar to achieve your preferred taste balance.

Cook until the onions just begin to turn translucent. Turn off the heat and let cool. Transfer everything to a container, seal, and refrigerate until serving. The onions will keep for a couple of weeks (keep submerged in the brine) in the refrigerator.

What was I cooking one year ago?: warm beets with horseradish and dill sour cream
Two years ago?: chocolate and cherry steel cut oats
Three?: lemon and thyme braised baby artichokes
4?: fish tacos

Monday, March 24, 2014

Grandma's oatmeal raisin cookies

Family recipes are always special. This recipe come from my husband's paternal grandmother. I've heard many stories about what a wonderful baker she was. Unfortunately, I was not ever able to try any of her baking as she was no longer able to bake when I came into the picture. She passed away last year. This is the first recipe of hers that I've tried. Luckily, she wrote down a lot of her recipes so they can be shared and passed on with others. Plus, making recipes from your family brings back memories and stories you can share. This recipe made my favorite kind of oatmeal raisin cookies - soft, fluffy, and moist. The only things I changed from Grandma's recipe was that I used butter instead of shortening (we all know that we don't eat shortening around here) and I did cut down the sugar a touch. This recipe makes a lot of cookies. There was no yield written on the recipe, but I ended up with about 3-1/2 dozen cookies. 

Grandma B's oatmeal raisin cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and buttermilk and cream until combined. Stir in the oats. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, salt, and flour. Then slowly add to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. When almost combined, stir in the raisins.

Roll the dough about 1-1/2 tablespoons at a time and then place about 1-inch apart on the baking sheets. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, until the bottoms and sides are lightly golden.

Cool on a rack and repeat until all the dough has been used. Store in an airtight container once fully cooled.

What was I cooking one year ago?: Guinness chocolate cake
Two years ago?: Mexican spiced bean and egg breakfast stacks
Three?: tarragon chicken
4?: fish tacos