November – Palm Tree Leeks

November – Palm Tree Leeks

I’ve never been impressed by leeks unless they are in a potato leek soup. Generally, give me onions or scallions or shallots. That is until I saw this unusual recipe in Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over by Alison Roman. Alison is a regular contributor to the NT Times food section and this is her first cookbook. She shared my opinion, having ignored them for years.

She says “Here, leeks sizzle in a spicy olive oil mixture, the wild tendrilly ends crisping up like they have been deep fried, looking like an extremely festive and delicious party decoration. The pale green centers become creamy and tender.”

This is preparing leeks in an entirely different way! In a way it’s like roasting kale, who would have believed you could take this vegetable and turn it into delicious chips even the youngest child would love. Even better, they look like palm trees which is really a hoot.

Spicy Caramelized Leeks with Fresh Lemon

Spicy Caramelized Leeks with Fresh Lemon

Ingredients:

  • 4 large leeks, dark green parts removed, washed and halved lengthwise with roots still intact
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons harissa paste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 fresh lemon, seeds removed and finely chopped (I used a preserved lemon, white center removed and rind scraped, then the rind finely chopped)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F
  2. Pace the leeks cut side down and, without cutting through to the root, slice them lengthwise into 1/4 inch strips. They will look like a palm fan. Place the leeks on a parchment lined half sheet pan or baking dish.
  3. Whisk the olive oil and harissa paste together, then massage into the leeks, getting into all their layers. Season with salt and pepper and lay them straight-ish.
  4. Roast, without disturbing too much until they start to fry and sizzle and brown at the ends about 20-25 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Top with the lemon and flaky salt before serving.
Leeks

Palm Frond Leeks

Roasted Leeks

Roasted Leeks

You can roast these several hours ahead of time, they won’t loose their crispness. Cover them at room temperature. There is no need to reheat them unless you want to.

Crispy Leeks

Crispy Leeks

This is such an interesting twist on preparing an often ignored vegetable that I think the folks over at Fiesta Friday #302 will enjoy it. Fiesta Friday is a virtual blogging party hosted each week by Angie, this week it is co-hosted by none other than myself. Please do click on the link to read blogs from around the world of food, crafts, and travel.

 

November – A Simple Way to Cook Chicken Thighs

November – A Simple Way to Cook Chicken Thighs

You may be aware that the end of October brought a five day power shutdown to over 2,000,000 people in Northern California, including us. This was a preemptive attempt by PG&E to prevent wildfires; the winds were high and humidity low, and our winter rains are very late. We are lucky since we have a generator and a large propane tank, but we still try to conserve energy. We are never exactly sure how long the shutdown will last.  When the power is out due to the threat of high winds and fire, we try and conserve propane as much as possible.

Cook Something from Canal House, hirsheimer & hamilton

One way to conserve power is to avoid the use of my oven, it’s my normal way of cooking chicken thighs but an electric oven uses a lot of energy. I was reading Canal House’s newest cookbook, “Cook Something, recipes to rely on”, and found the pages How We Cook Chicken Thighs…timely, yes? How do they cook chicken thighs? They cook them the same way they cook a duck breast, skin side down in a heavy skillet with no additional fat. I’ve often browned chicken thighs in a skillet before braising them, but this method was not my usual. There were only 2 ingredients, chicken and 1/2 of a preserved lemon. Wow!

 

Chicken Thighs with Preserved Lemon

CHICKEN THIGHS WITH PRESERVED LEMON

  • 6 whole chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • finely chopped rind of 1/2 preserved lemon 
  • fresh lemon, quartered for serving – optional
  • chopped parsley or cilantro for garnish – optional

Method:

  1. Trim any excess fat and skin from the chicken thighs
  2. Season them with salt and freshly ground pepper
  3. Arrange them skin side down in a heavy cast iron or nonstick skillet (cold skillet, no oil)
  4. Turn the heat to medium and cook them, without moving them, until the fat is rendered and skin crisp, about 30 minutes. You might need to adjust the heat if they are browning too quickly.
  5. Remove the core of the preserved lemon and scrape off any white from the inside of the rind, then chop the rind finely
  6. Turn the thighs over and stir in the finely chopped preserved lemon
  7. Continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes until they are cooked through and the juices run clear when pierced.
  8. Serve the thighs with some of the pan drippings, fresh lemon and herb garnish.

I found the pan drippings made a wonderful warm salad dressing with some additional lemon juice.

The thighs were juicy and delicious.

Chicken Thighs with Preserved Lemon

If you have never made preserved lemons, I encourage you to try it. They are simple, only taking a little time. And, they are a wonderful ingredient to add tartness in many dishes. I promise they will become a pantry staple. I have even seen them chopped finely and added to avocado toast. Follow the link above if you would like directions.

I think the folks over at Fiesta Friday might like them. Fiesta Friday is hosted by Angie, it’s a collection of blogs about food, decorating, travel, and crafts. Click on the link to read all the amazing things going on in the blogosphere at Fiesta Friday #301, the co-host this week is Antonia @ Zoale.com.

June – Perfect Roast Chicken

June – Perfect Roast Chicken

In her classic book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (vol. 1), Julia Child states “You can always judge the quality of a cook or restaurant by roast chicken.” Roasting a chicken is certainly an important skill to master. Your own home cooked roast chicken will be miles better than any supermarket or deli chicken.

Julia’s method results in an excellent roast chicken. However it requires turning the chicken 4 times and basting every 10 minutes. Just reading the directions can be off putting. My own method doesn’t require any basting at all and only 1 turn. It results in crisp skin and juicy meat. I don’t truss because tying the legs close to the breast results in undercooked thigh or overcooked breast meat.

Here is the trick. I take advantage of the newest information on brining, and borrow a technique often used when roasting duck. I pre-salt the chicken and let it sit in the fridge (uncovered and breast up) for several hours or overnight. That’s the only preplanning that is required.

The perfect roast chicken starts with the quality of the chicken. Buy the best you can afford, preferably free range organic and air chilled. Water bath chilling results in the bird absorbing a lot of that soaking water. I also prefer the air chilled for food safety reasons, dozens of birds are not sitting in a vat of water. If one of the birds is contaminated it increases the chances that all will be contaminated as well.

The Perfect Roast Chicken

These are general directions.

Adjust the cooking time according to the weight of your chicken. I find it is done when the leg moves easily in the socket when jiggled. For a 4-5 pound chicken that will be somewhere between 50 and 70 minutes. There will be some personal preference determining the time. I don’t mind if the white meat has a very slight pink tinge, you may want to cook your own longer. Your oven temperature will also play a part. My oven runs hot, your own may run cool. It’s best to know those things, check your own with an oven thermometer. They are cheap and it will save you a lot of grief in the long run.

You can use an instant read thermometer for more precise measurements of doneness. Insert it into the thickest part of the thigh without hitting the bone. The FDA recommends cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. I take mine out just before it reaches that temperature. The bird will continue to cook with the residual heat after it comes out of the oven. Allow it to sit on your carving board or platter for 15 minutes, that allows the juices to settle back into the meat.

Salted Chicken on a Rack Ready for the Fridge

Salted Chicken Ready for the Fridge

So here we go…

There are two methods for brining a bird. The first, and older method, is to submerge it in a salt water solution. The second is a dry brine, simply rub the chicken inside and out with a generous amount of kosher salt. I don’t use method the first method anymore, I am not partial to a vat of salty water taking up space in my fridge (a spill will create a big mess…I’ve been there). In addition, a water chilled bird is what I am trying to get away from. I want to intensify flavors, not dilute them.

Dry brining intensifies flavors and will give you crisp skin. I use kosher salt because it doesn’t contain any additives and has a clean flavor.

Remove the chicken from its wrapping and dry it with paper towels. The latest food safety recommendations are to not rinse it. Rub it generously with kosher salt, both inside and out. Put it on a rack in baking dish, breast side up, and place it in the fridge for at least an hour. If you have 24 hours you will be amazed at the result. Don’t go longer than 24 unless you are brining a turkey.

Take the chicken out of the fridge while you preheat your oven to 425 degrees F (218 degrees C). I don’t use the convection fan. Rub your chicken with olive oil and any flavorings you may want (I don’t worry about the salt). I have used my confit lemon oil and lemon slices with herbs to Provence (the aroma as it roasts is incredible), paprika, chili powder, roasted fennel spice, zatar, fresh herbs, etc. You can let your imagination run wild. But you will find this chicken is delicious with only a simple coating of olive oil.

Poke a few holes in a whole lemon and place that inside the chicken. You could also add a few sprigs of whatever fresh herb you have handy. The lemon adds additional flavor. You could even use an orange or a couple of limes (especially nice if you are giving the chicken a Mexican vibe).

Line your roasting pan with foil to make clean up easier. Rub a rack (V shaped if you have one) with oil and place the chicken breast down on the rack. Once your oven has reached 425 degrees F, place the chicken in the middle of the oven and roast for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove it from the oven and turn it breast side up, roast for an additional 25 minutes or until done.

Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Perfect Roast Chicken

Perfect Roast Chicken

Look at how moist and juicy! And the skin is super crisp.

I often serve the chicken with a simple salad, I pour some of those chicken juices over the salad as a dressing with an additional squeeze of lemon juice. The fresh salad below had sliced peaches and red onion as well as some avocado. The combination was delightful.

Perfect Roast Chicken

Perfect Roast Chicken Thigh

Perfect Roast Chicken

I’m taking this to Fiesta Friday to share with Angie and the gang. It’s Fiesta #279 and I am a co-host along with Jenny from Apply to Face Blog.

Click on the links to join the party or check out all the blogs about food, the garden, and crafts. You can also add your own link.

Thank you so much for visiting and I would love to hear your comments.

 

May – Broccoli Salad to Bridge the Seasons

May – Broccoli Salad to Bridge the Seasons

It’s spring, but the weather here does not exactly match the season. It’s cool and overcast most days. But it’s impossible to resist the call of the BBQ and eating outside. The question is what to serve, do you have some favorite BBQ sides? Fresh summer tomatoes are still months away. A salad that bridges the seasons is needed. This broccoli salad is perfect. Roasted riced broccoli, crisped on the edges, is the main component. Add in pine nuts, garlic, lemon, dates, red onion, and sheep’s milk feta for additional flavor and deliciousness. It’s briny, crunchy, sweet, and tart. All in a single bite! I find raw broccoli a chore to chew, roasting softens it a little. I found that roasting also adds an additional toasty element. The broccoli chars slightly and crisps at the edges of the sheet pan.

Broccoli Salad

Many groceries carry riced broccoli but I don’t recommend it for this recipe. The commercially available riced mixes contain a large percentage of stem. You want the florets only for this recipe. It only takes a minute to rice the heads in a food processor. Purchase a large head and save the stems for another recipe. Try this garbanzo bean free recipe for broccoli stem hummus. Doesn’t that sound interesting? And a wonderful alternative for anyone watching their carbs.

Riced Broccoli Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of broccoli, florets only, very finely chopped in the food processor
  • 1 cup raw pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive or avocado oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Zest of 1 lemon, organic if possible
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or shredded on microplane
  • 4 dates – pitted and chopped into raisin sized pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 ox of feta cheese, crumbled or cut into small cubes
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 additional tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, 220 degrees C
  2. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper
  3. In a large bowl combine the broccoli, pine nuts, olive or avocado oil, zest of 1 lemon, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands and spread on the parchment lined sheet pan.
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes until the broccoli and pine nuts are starting to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  5. Add the broccoli to a large salad bowl. Toss with the lemon juice, wine vinegar and olive oil. Taste for salt and add as needed.
  6. Add the red onion, dates and feta. Mix again.

You can either serve this salad immediately or chill for up to 2 days. It’s a great do-ahead salad that won’t wilt once the weather warms. Also, without mayonnaise, it’s good for picnics.

Riced Broccoli Salad

 

 

 

May – Middle Eastern Herb and Cauliflower Salad

May – Middle Eastern Herb and Cauliflower Salad

What is that grain in the salad? Is it rice, is it cracked wheat, is it couscous? Nope, none of that. This salad is grain and gluten free. It’s my favorite substitution, cauliflower! And this salad is wonderfully delicious as well as healthy; it’s full of chopped herbs plus cherry tomatoes and toasted almonds with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. It keeps well so you can make it ahead.

I can find already riced cauliflower in the grocery store, both Trader Joe’s and Safeway carry it. But it is easy to make at home in your food processor if you need to start from scratch (or have cauliflower growing in your garden…lucky you). I don’t recommend using the packaged already riced cauliflower if you are making mock mashed potatoes I think it has a high percentage of stem. It won’t result in a creamy rich amazing mashed potato substitute. You need to have mostly florets for that recipe. But, it is perfect for use in this recipe. The kernels hold their shape and crunch once cooked.

I roasted the cauliflower for extra flavor before mixing it with the other ingredients.

Middle Eastern Herb and Cauliflower Salad

If you are starting with a head of cauliflower, slice the head in half and remove the tough core. Roughly chop the florets. Working in batches, add the cauliflower to your food processor and pulse until the consistency of ‘rice’. Transfer to a large bowl.

Ingredients:

Cauliflower:

  • I head of cauliflower or a package of pre-riced cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons of fruity olive oil
  • Zest of 1 lemon, preferably organic
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad:

  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup of coarsely chopped flat leaved parsley
  • 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup of coarsely chopped mint
  • 4 scallions white and light green, chopped
  • 1-2 lemons, juiced to make about 1/4 cup of juice
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 3/4 cup of sliced almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the riced cauliflower in a large bowl and add the olive oil, lemon zest and salt and pepper. Mix well.
  3. Spread the cauliflower on the baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes until tender and browning around the edges. You may need to leave it for a few additional minutes but check it so it doesn’t burn. Remove the sheet from the oven and let cool on the parchment paper.
  4. Spread the almonds on a small baking sheet and toast in the same oven for about 5 minutes, again check constantly as they will turn from nicely toasted to burnt in seconds. Remove and cool.
  5. While the cauliflower is cooking you can make the herb salad. Combine all the ingredients for the salad in a bowl and let the herbs and tomatoes marinate until the cauliflower is cool.
  6. Once cool, add the cauliflower to the bowl with the salad and mix well. The parchment paper works well as you can just lift it off the baking sheet. Taste to see if you need to add any additional lemon juice or salt or pepper.
  7. Chill until ready to serve, garnished with the toasted sliced almonds.

I found this salad kept well and was still good the next day for lunch.

You could turn this into an entire meal by adding some sliced feta or leftover chicken to the salad. It would be an excellent side with lamb chops or kebobs.

Middle Eastern Cauliflower and Herb Salad

I’m taking this to share with fellow bloggers at Fiesta Friday #274, over at Angie’s place (where she is feeling the need for spring cleaning). Please click over to meet other food, garden and craft bloggers. And guess what, I am co-hosting with Antonia @ Zoale.com

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!