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Archive for the ‘Poultry’ Category

I love summer meals. Cool, refreshing, and nonchalant; celebrating the spontaneous combination of any variety of flavors without a clash because everything is fresh, fresh, fresh.  Tonight in Vermont, I threw together a meal every ingredient of which was local, (with the allowable exceptions of a lemon, an orange, Kalamata olives, some Spanish olive oil, salt and pepper, and a pinch each of cumin and coriander–Mediterranean items that don’t grow in these here parts).


Here are the elements of the meal:

> a cold bean salad with two varieties of heirloom beans grown by Killdeer Farm, here in Norwich, fennel, orange segments, radicchio, olive oil, and herbs from my mom’s herb garden.

> panzanella: tomatoes, a stale baguette, fresh mozzarella, garlic, chives, olives, backyard basil.

> cold grilled chicken.

> corn on the cob, picked this morning and as sweet as dessert.

> grilled heirloom eggplant, summer squash, and zucchini from the neighbors’ garden.

> a Lebanese-style yogurt sauce for the grilled veggies and chicken.

> (and for Jack, the above, plus Vermont cheddar, a glass of Strafford Creamery milk, and local carrots and sugar snap peas.)

The best supporting actor award in this meal goes to the yogurt sauce, which I hadn’t made before, but which will now be my default leftover-chicken-jazzer-up.

Lemon-Yogurt Sauce

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 tsp. lemon zest
juice of 1/4 lemon
pinches of salt, ground coriander and ground cumin (best if you use seeds ground with a          mortar and pestle)
4 mint leaves, minced
small bunch chives, minced
1 tbs. parsley, minced

Stir it all up and adjust the seasonings to taste.

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turkey links

A food blog with nothing to say on Thanksgiving?  Sorry to disappoint, dear readers.  Mona and Chris and the RSFP cooked an incredible feast on Thursday.  Alice Waters is visiting the Academy.  I had lunch with her on Wednesday, but on Thursday, we stopped in at the Academy just for the pre-dinner Puccinis (related to Bellinis and Mimosas, but made with freshly squeezed mandarin juice.  Wow!).  But when everyone went in to the dining room, we came back to the apartment to greet our guests, who arrived with flowers and some delicious Barbaresco. Later I braised some chicken and served it with roasted tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes—with some olives and a bit of anchovy in the sauce.  It hasn’t been a very foody weekend, though because Jack has a stomach bug.

But I’ve been enjoying these mouth-watering blogs over the past few days:

Smitten Kitchen

Tribeca Yummy Mummy

Still Life with Whisk

and especially this one by Maira Kalman.

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This past Saturday, we hosted our first dinner party here at our Rome apartment.  The guests were six parents and five children under age six.  It was a swirling whirl of activity, with chair and table shortages, and yet we broke only one wine glass.

I had planned the menu around several types of abundance and constraint: the produce that is in season at the markets, the number of guests who were omnivores, vegetarians, or plain-pasta-preferring children, and the odd assortment of cookery tools available to me in this lightly furnished apartment. Planning a meal like this has something in common with other types of composition—blank verse or water color, perhaps—in which there are particular forms and materials available, with particular possibilities and limitations.

Is this too cerebral an introduction to something as sensuous as a good meal?  The pleasures in cooking go both ways for me.  But let’s get down to what we had.

Id’ been wanting to cook that Roman cauliflower cousin, variously named broccoflower and broccolo romanesca.  I decided it in the meal for its strange, fractal, architectural beauty.

brocoflower

I had bunches of carrots, which I decided to braise:

carrots

I’d also been passing “the funghi guy” with his mini-truck full of chanterelles and porcini, every day.  The meal would have to include these things.

sizzling porcini

The menu came together, with a few more shopping trips:

For snacking and sipping, we had the following: wine-brined black olives, Jeannie’s treats—mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto on toothpicks with prugne (yes, prunes, or, dried plums, if you prefer)—and a deliciously crisp local organic white wine that Marjorie brought.

Next, came the kids’ meal: pasta with red sauce.  Really, why fancy it up with any other name?  They did have freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, those lucky little blondies.  (Don’t worry—they’re drinking water, not that prosecco, which we drank):

kids meal

After clearing the kids’ dishes, I served up the main meal:  chicken legs braised in Sardinian white wine with porcini, polenta, braised carrots tossed with parm, and broccolo romanesco roasted with bread crumbs and fennel.  The only contorni (vegetable side dish) I managed to photograph was the cauliflower.  (It was delicious! I had some for lunch today, with some of the leftover chicken.  Maybe even better as a leftover.)

roast romanesca

There were so many conversations going on, many of which I barely dipped into, because I was busy talking with Jeannie and Marjorie about food and Rome.  Both of these new friends are passionate devotees of good, whole, local, organic food.  Jeannie is a journalist currently working on a book about food, and Marjorie owns a tourism business—called Insider’s Italy—that focuses on sustainable travel and food-related adventures in Italy.  Her newly created trip, “Farm to Fork,” is absolutely inspired.  Not only does the tour take families to the best markets in Rome for sustainably produced Italian specialties, but it also takes them back in history to the Roman markets of 2000 years ago, and is carbon-conscientious.  (You must check out their website.)

We had set the kids up with a movie, before we started eating.  They entered an instant collective trance:

movie

We grown-ups were happily eating and talking, and almost didn’t notice that the silence behind the closed bedroom door had ballooned into a hurricane level of noise.  Uh oh.

Cookie time.  I’d bought thirty of those chewy/crunchy amaretti from the bread place on Quattro Venti. It was a fun night.

Roasted Broccolo Romanesca

2 heads broccolo romanesca, broken into its “trees”
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 shallots, broken up
assorted dried or fresh herbs
1 fennel bulb, sliced
home-made rough-crushed breadcrumbs
plenty of olive oil, salt, and pepper

Combine these ingredients—reserving the breadcrumbs until later—on a pan.  Roast in a preheated oven (400-450) for 15-20 minutes.  Sprinkle with the olive-oil tossed breadcrumbs, and roast for another 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm or room temp.

Braised Carrots
based on Marcella Hazan’s recipe

8-10 large carrots
salt & pepper
1 tbs. sugar
2 tbs. butter
1/2 c. grated parmigiano-reggiano

Slice carrots into thin discs and spread in an even layer in your largest skillet. Just cover with water, sprinkle in the salt, pepper, sugar, and butter. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the carrots are wrinkly and almost browning.  If the water runs out, add a bit more, tiny bit by tiny bit.  Take off the heat and stir in the parm.  Serve immediately.

Chicken Legs Braised with Porcini

4-6 chicken legs
plenty of stock and white wine
3 garlic cloves
3 shallots
dried or fresh porcini
dried or fresh thyme
butter & olive oil

Brown the chicken legs in butter and olive oil over moderate heat until skin is crispy on both sides.  Add the smashed garlic and sliced shallot to the pan to brown a bit.  Pour in a combination of half wine/half stock just to cover the chicken.  Add porcini and thyme, salt and pepper.  Simmer for 30-45 minutes, until chicken is tender and almost falling off the bone.  If you want to, reduce some of the braising liquid with some butter for a richer sauce.

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I said I’d do a bit more on roasted fowls as a follow-up to that Moby-Dick passage.  Instead, last night, I braised chicken legs with Moroccan spices, and stirred it all up with some roasted eggplant.

We’re in Brookline for a few days, before we take off for Rome (tomorrow!), so I went to Whole Foods for the ingredients.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a Whole Foods, mainly because of where we’ve been living, and re-entering that hate-to-love-it-love-to-hate-it temple of food was an interesting experience of thrilled disappointment.  I know this is the classic complaint against Whole Foods, but I’ll voice it again anyway: Where is all the local food? Why is all the produce from California when Massachusetts farmers’ markets are bursting with bounty right now?  I know, it’s the logic of industrial organics, the economics of scale.  But I was still disappointed.

Anyway, I shopped as locally as I could for the basic recipe I had in mind.  The spices and herbs were already at the house.  I needed just a few organic chicken legs, two eggplants, and some Israeli cous cous.  Here’s what I made:

moroccan chix

Moroccan Chicken
serves 4-8, depending

1 onion, chopped
4 chicken legs
2 eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 c. olive oil
1/3 c. honey
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1 tbs. salt
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 lg. can whole peeled tomatoes
2 tbs. chopped fresh marjoram

The chicken tastes best if you start the day before, and marinate it over night.

With a mortar and pestle, crush caraway seeds, salt, and garlic together, then combine in a large bowl with lemon juice, honey, and olive oil.  With mortar and pestle, crush the other seeds, then add all the spices to the lemon-honey mixture.  Put the chicken in this marinade, coat all over, and refrigerate over night.

Preheat oven to 400. Toss cubed eggplant in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast for 20-30 minutes.  Meanwhile, saute onion in a dutch oven, add the tomatoes, add the chicken, and braise for 40 minutes or so.  Before serving, over cous cous, stir in the eggplant and let it all sit and blend for a few minutes.

(Take the spice amounts as rough measurements, and season to your taste. i.e. Add more cumin!)

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You don’t really think “food writing” when you think of Moby-Dick.  Has blubber had a comeback in the foodie kitchen as lard has?

No, but here’s a statement about food from the whale-obsessed narrator.  He’s explaining why he goes to sea as a sailor instead of as a cook:

…somehow I never fancied broiling fowls;—though once broiled, judiciously buttered, and judgmatically salted and peppered, there is no one who will speak more respectfully, not to say reverentially, of a broiled fowl than I will.  It is out of the idolatrous dotings of the old Egyptians upon broiled ibis and roasted river horse, that you see the mummies of those creatures in their huge bake-houses, the pyramids.

I love the historically-incorporative tangential prose of this passage.  Even more, though, I love the enthusiasm of appetite that is balanced with the sense of taste as judgment.  Reverence, judiciousness, cookery.  These three should go together.

When we were on the Cape, Curtis cooked up some scrumptious, judgmatically salted and peppered broiled fowls.  In other words, chicken on the grill.  He brined and butterflied two fryers, preheated the gas grill to 450 or so, and broiled those fowls for 45 minutes.  Moistness of meat! Crispness of skin! I was reverential.

More on how to achieve this effect, coming soon.

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