In My Kitchen – March 2021

In My Kitchen – March 2021

It’s the In My Kitchen time of the month. Known as IMK, this is a collection of posts from bloggers around the world detailing what is new in their kitchen. You will read about new ingredients, techniques, appliances, kitchen upgrades and gadgets. I’ve been part of the party for several years and have learned a lot. So come on over to Sherry’s Pickings (she hosts it) and read all about our kitchen adventures.

So, what’s new in my kitchen?

The kitchen in Oakland got some nifty new mats. These are waterproof, vinyl and padded for comfort.

Kitchen mats

Kitchen mats

I love the patterns and they make cleaning up spills a cinch. I purchased them through the Food 52 website, they have lots of designs available. Note: I do not receive renumeration from any product recommendation.

Also from Food 52 I purchased a small cast iron spice grinder.

 

I find that purchased ground spices lose their aroma and flavor very quickly. And when I grind them in my mortar and pestle they tend to fly out and land all over the place, including the floor and even in my hair. This small grinder allows me to grind just the amount I need for a recipe, and keeps everything where I want it…not the floor and certainly not on me.

In My Kitchen I have a couple of new cookbooks. These are vegetarian and vegan, which I am not. However, the recipes are wonderful and creative. Many of us are pursuing a more plant based diet and I recommend both of them.

First Mess is vegan, but you certainly wouldn’t feel deprived eating anything you created from this book. The pictures made my mouth water.

Description from Amazon: “Home cooks head to The First Mess for Laura Wright’s simple-to-prepare seasonal vegan recipes but stay for her beautiful photographs and enchanting storytelling. In her debut cookbook, Wright presents a visually stunning collection of heirloom-quality recipes highlighting the beauty of the seasons. Her 125 produce-forward recipes showcase the best each season has to offer and, as a whole, demonstrate that plant-based wellness is both accessible and delicious.”

Start Simple is vegetarian and also very creative.

Description from Amazon: “From veteran food writer, recipe developer, and creator of the James Beard Award-winning Jarry magazine comes an innovative approach to vegetarian cooking.

What have I got to eat? It’s a question we ask every time we open up the refrigerator or pantry door. It might be eggs, some cheese, and half a loaf of bread, or a box of wilting greens, garlic, and some sweet potatoes. Though these ingredients may not seem like much to make a delicious meal, recipe developer and author Lukas Volger knows it’s all you need. In Start Simple he offers a radically new, uncomplicated, and creative approach to cooking that allows you to use what you already have on hand to make great meals you didn’t think were possible.”

I am looking forward to cooking from them both and sharing my favorites with you.

I’ve been playing around with the air fryer that I received for Christmas. Vegetables cooked in it have been a big hit. There isn’t any vegetable that I don’t enjoy roasted, now I don’t have to turn on the oven for a small batch. So far the biggest successes have been with Brussels sprouts, delicata squash, and mushrooms.

You will find the recipe for the mushrooms here. Both the squash and the Brussels sprouts were cooked at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes with a shake in the middle. Cutting the delicata into slightly thicker slices seemed to work the best. The middle was meltingly soft but the outside was delightfully charred. When in season, delicata squash is my favorite of the winter squashes because the peal is edible. I love tossing them in a salad along with crunchy nuts, sharp red onion, arugula and a mustardy dressing…cubes of sharp cheddar cheese optional.

In the air fryer, I have also cooked a pork tenderloin and chicken cutlets. I’ll post the chicken cutlet in the next few days. The pork tenderloin was very successful. Bone in chicken thighs were less successful, but a bone in chicken breast turned out juicy and delicious.

The chicken cutlets I used boneless and skinless breasts, cut in half horizontally, then breaded and cooked in the air fryer with only a few drops of oil. Stay tuned for the recipe, it still needs a little fine tuning.

Air fryer chicken cutlets

Air fryer chicken cutlets

I’ve been having fun with it, I only wish it didn’t take up so much space on the counter.

In My Kitchen I have a batch of moonlight cherry tomatoes. This year I have found the cherry tomatoes in the grocery store lacking in flavor. I don’t remember this being the case last year but it certainly seems to be this year. Have any of you readers found the same thing? Anyway, I decided to try an idea from the barefoot contessa to concentrate the flavors by roasting them overnight. It’s an easy recipe…preheat your oven to 450 degrees F, cut the cherry tomatoes in half, lay them cut side up on a parchment or foil covered sheet pan, sprinkle with a little salt and olive oil (my mother used to add a tiny drop of brandy). Put the sheet in the oven, turn off the heat, and leave them overnight. That’s why they are called moonlight tomatoes. It did help concentrate and sweeten the tomatoes, they were excellent stirred into scrambled eggs the next morning.

Moonlight cherry tomatoes

Moonlight cherry tomatoes

And finally, in my kitchen I always have my trusty sidekicks. Although their attention is completely self serving, they hope I will be clumsy and drop a tidbit.

Casey

Casey – are you going to share a slice of that pork with me?

Quinn

Quinn – play fair, you can’t give my sister something and not share with me!

What’s happening in your kitchen this month?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February – Air Fryer Mushrooms

February – Air Fryer Mushrooms

Using the air fryer to cook mushrooms has been a revelation. Why, you might ask? Easy, hands off, lower in fat, and delicious…I will answer. I used a mixture of brown crimini with a package of organic ‘Chef’s Sampler’ mushrooms. But you can use the commonly available white mushrooms as well. The ‘Chef’s Sampler’ is a mix of Alba Clamshell, Forest Nameko, Velvet Pioppini and Maitake Frondosa.

Mixed Mushrooms

Mixed Mushrooms

The small clustered mushrooms turn crispy as if they were deep fried. The volume will reduce significantly so use more than you think you will need.

Ingredients: (2 servings)

  • 4 – 6 cups of mixed mushrooms, wiped with a damp cloth if dirty. Cut the larger ones in half.
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt

Method:

  1. Toss the mushrooms with the tablespoon of olive oil and the kosher salt
  2. Cook in the air fryer at 370 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes, shaking at the half way point

That’s all.

Air Fryer Mixed Mushrooms

Air Fryer Mixed Mushrooms

Sautéing them in a pan will use much more oil or butter, and requires your attention. Try this method if you have an air fryer, I think you will find it delicious.

May 2020 to March 2021- Some Thoughts in the Time of Covid-19

May 2020 to March 2021- Some Thoughts in the Time of Covid-19

I wrote this in May of 2020 at the beginning of what has turned out to be almost 12 months of dealing with the pandemic caused by Covid-19. At the time we were in strict lock-downs in California. I didn’t publish it and just reread it in my draft post folder. I’m not sure why I didn’t publish it. Maybe because we were all dealing with way too much at the time, and it’s not in keeping with the usual style of my blog. But reading it now I realize that I still have many of the same thoughts, feelings and hope for the future. Now that the vaccine roll out has started I pray that we remember some of the lessons learned over the past year.

May 2020…

“Times of scarcity need to be met with generosity, times of fear with comfort, times of uncertainty with presence. When we care for those around us, we create a field of love.”

Thomas Hubl.

Hello out there. How are you doing? We are now in the 7th week of California’s shelter-in-place and social distancing requirements. I am feeling, as I am sure you are as well, a little stir crazy. I miss my friends and our easy social gatherings. I miss the company and passion of my fellow gardeners. The remainder of our current County Master Gardener class, of which I am one of the hosts, is on Zoom. It’s not the same. I miss volunteering at the Botanical Gardens. I miss my bookclubs. I miss cooking for friends and our impromptu dinners. I know it has been even more difficult for many of you who are trying to balance work, children, home schooling, meals, and some space for yourself.

Maybe you are not missing commuting, or traffic, or the hectic round of activities that fill your days and those of your children. I hope you are finding new passions and avenues to express yourself.

What do you think back to normal will look like? What are you going to do when things open up a little? I am not sure I will return to a ‘normal’ (meaning the way things were) way of life before a vaccine is available. I won’t feel comfortable going to movies or restaurants or large gatherings. Here in Fort Bragg our ‘normal’ summer events have all been cancelled. There will be no film festival or music festival this year, the theater company cancelled the rest of the season, I doubt we will hold the regular 4th of July celebration… it goes on and on. A disaster for a small coastal town that depends on tourism.

When this is all over, the world and my community will not look the same. Maybe we should spend some time considering what we want to keep and what we should drop. It’s time for a reset.

Here are some things I hope will be part of the new normal.

The new normal may contain a greater sense of community. See this happy tear jerking article about a wedding in Washington Square. If that type of thing continues, our lives will be enriched. None of us stand alone.

Maybe the new normal will have a different attitude towards health care. Would you want the person standing next to you in the grocery store, or the wait person serving you at a restaurant to be without healthcare because they couldn’t afford it? Would you want them to be out and about because they had to be, even though they might be sick? Because they couldn’t afford to see a Dr. or they couldn’t afford to get a flu shot? This is only the first global pandemic, there very well could be more.

While I am on healthcare, maybe medical school could be less expensive. We don’t have enough internists or GPs because students need the extra income from specialties to repay loans. Maybe tuition could be forgiven if a Dr. will spend time in a small rural hospital. Rural communities have problems recruiting physicians because they can’t pay enough to cover their medical school costs. These folks are our heroes. They shouldn’t spend a good part of their lives in debt.

Maybe the new normal will bring a new appreciation for our teachers. Those of you home schooling right now are realizing how difficult a job it is.

Maybe the new normal will mean universal affordable access to broadband and the internet. This is a subject I feel strongly about, I even wrote a letter to the NY Times, a personal first. The major cable companies have ignored rural or low income communities and our government has done nothing to help; it’s criminal. If you don’t have internet because it isn’t available in your area, or the internet speed is inadequate, or it’s too expensive for your income, you are out of luck. The kids can’t access school, you can’t work remotely, Zoom conferences aren’t possible, no streaming Netflix, and forget about having virtual cocktail parties with friends. Even reading the news is difficult because many newspapers don’t deliver anymore, and you can’t read them on line. Which means you aren’t educated and you can’t be part of your larger community or the world.

My new normal will contain a large dose of gratitude and appreciation. Gratitude that we are still here and appreciation for many things we took for granted.

What about you?

 

 

February – Spicy White Bean Soup with Chicken

February – Spicy White Bean Soup with Chicken

Melissa Clark of the NY Times calls this recipe “a poem in a bowl”. I must agree that it is certainly delicious and a little different. It gets it’s spiciness from fresh ginger, red-pepper flakes, and cumin. A squeeze of lemon at the end adds a welcome freshness.

Spicy White Bean Soup with Chicken

Spicy White Bean Soup with Chicken

If you have home made chicken stock in your freezer, this is the place to use it. If not, a good quality boxed stock will substitute. To make this vegetarian, use vegetable stock and leave out the chicken. It’s still very healthy with all those beans and veggies.

I modified her recipe slightly as I didn’t have ground turkey or chicken or hand. What I did have is a package of boneless and skinless chicken breasts which I cut into cubes about the same size as the beans. Ms. Clark also suggests sturdy greens such as collards, kale, mustard greens or collard greens. Since I don’t currently have any of those growing in the garden, I substituted chard leaves. I think baby spinach added at the last minute would be just as good. It should still be bright green but a little wilted. I also added a chopped parsnip along with the carrots (not part of the original) just because I love them and there was one languishing in the vegetable crisper.

Spicy White Bean Soup with Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 large parsnip, diced
  • 1 bunch of sturdy greens
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1 lb. of cubed boneless chicken, breast or thighs, cubed
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 quart of chicken stock
  • 1 can of white kidney beans
  • 1 can of cannelloni beans
  • 1 cup chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, mint, basil, chives or a combination of them
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Method:

  1. Heat a large pot over medium heat for a minute to warm it up. Add the olive oil and heat slightly until warm. Add the onion, carrot and parsnip. Saute until softening and turning golden brown at the edges. Add a bit of water if things start to burn.
  2. Meanwhile rinse the greens, remove the large ribs and tear or chop into bite-sized pieces.
  3. When the onion is golden, add the tomato paste, the cumin and red pepper flakes to the pot. Saute until the paste darkens, about 1 minute. Add the chicken, garlic, ginger and salt. Saute until the chicken starts to brown in spots.
  4. Add the stock and beans. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until the soup looks thick and flavorful, about 15 to 25 minutes. You can mash some of the beans into the soup if you want it to be thicker, leave them whole for a brothier soup.
  5. Add the greens to the pot and simmer until soft. The time will depend on the toughness of the leaves.
  6. Add a little water if the broth gets too thick and reduced.
  7. Stir the herbs and lemon juice into the pot. Taste and add more salt, cumin or lemon juice if needed.
  8. Serve topped with a drizzle of more olive oil and red pepper flakes, if desired.
Spicy White Bean Soup with Chicken

Spicy White Bean Soup with Chicken

I’m taking this soup to the celebration at Angie’s for Fiesta Friday #369. I think it will be welcome with the cold winter weather in mush of the U.S. right now. Click on the link to see all the wonderful posts collected to party on with Angie at the Fiesta.

You’ll also find this and other posts with ideas for Sunday Soup-like dishes at Kahakai Kitchen: Souper Sunday.

Come on over and check them out.

Souper Sundays

This recipe would be suitable for phase 1 of the 30 day metabolic diet.

February – Roast Celeriac

February – Roast Celeriac

Lately I have been reading a lot about celeriac. Many folks have never even heard of this vegetable. Have you noticed it in the grocery store? It’s quite an off putting (and slightly ugly) vegetable. In his cookbook Simple Yotam Ottolenghi suggests roasting it whole…who ever would have thought of it!? When I have cooked it before, it was boiled and mashed along with potatoes. It’s a wonderful combination, probably more common in France. But never would I have considered roasting it whole. As it turns out, it’s delicious and easy, only requiring a bit of time.

Celeriac

Celeriac

Celeriac has green leaves and stalks that grow above ground and roots with a rough, brown skin that grow underground. While farmers grow celery for its edible leaves and stalks, they grow celeriac for its roots.

Some people refer to celeriac as celery root, but it is not actually the root of a celery stalk. It belongs to the same plant family as carrots and is related to celery, parsley, and parsnips. Inside, the root is pale and resembles a potato or turnip. Its flavor is similar to that of celery and parsley. You can eat washed and peeled celeriac raw as well as cooked. I am a big fan of parsnips so I was game.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup of raw celeriac provides:

Celeriac is a concentrated source of many nutrients, including:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin K
  • vitamin B-6
  • potassium
  • phosphorus
  • fiber

But it’s particularly high in vitamins C and K. With only 5.9 grams of carbs per 3.5 ounces of cooked vegetable, celeriac is a healthier, lower-carb alternative to potatoes. 

This recipe is simple but requires a three hour cooking time, so plan ahead.

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 2 large celery roots, hairy roots trimmed but there is no need to peel it
  • 1- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin seeds, lightly crushed (Yotam uses coriander seeds)
  • flaked sea salt
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges for serving

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F
  2. Pierce the celery root with a small knife, all over, about 20 times per root. Place in a baking dish and rub with the oil, seeds and about 2 teaspoons of flaked salt.
  3. Roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until the celery root is very soft and brown on the outside
  4. Cut into wedges and serve with a wedge of lemon, a sprinkle of sea salt, and a drizzle of oil if desired.
Roast Celery Root or Celeriac

Roast Celery Root or Celeriac

Cut open the celery root was soft, with the texture of a sweet potato and with a mild flavor reminiscent of that of celery hearts and parsley.

Roast Celery Root or Celeriac

Roast Celery Root or Celeriac

Try this, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. It’s fun to be introduced to a brand new vegetable.