Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Roasted Chicken with Fennel

I'm participating in the VegOut! campaign from Recipe for Success. It's a positive way to say "Eat Your Veggies!" Try a bunch of different vegetables - the goal is 30 veggies in 30 days - and see how you like them. Find some new ones you may not have known you liked and just eat more of them. Americans don't eat a lot of vegetables. Research shows that eating them is good for your health. You may be surprised to learn that you don't need to eat a lot of them - a meta-analysis showed that 4 servings a day is the sweet spot. Less than 4 is sub-optimal but more than 4 didn't seem to confer any greater health. So, get to 4. It's not that hard to eat that many. Stick to ones you like, nothing wrong with that. But, eat more of them!

This recipe uses a somewhat unusual vegetable: fennel. Fennel has a subtle licorice taste. You can eat it cooked or raw. It's used a lot in Italian cuisine where it goes by the charming name of Finocchio.

Note: This dish needs to marinate overnight for the full development of flavor.

Chicken Roasted with Ginger, Fennel, and Tomatoes
(serves 4-6)

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons grated ginger
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed (see Note)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

4 - 6 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on (about 2 pounds)
1 head of garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 head of fennel, cored and sliced thinly
1 large onion, thickly sliced
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup dry white wine or vermouth
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and black pepper

Combine all the rub ingredients in a small bowl. Rub the chicken thighs with this, making sure you get most of it between the skin and the flesh of each thigh. Place the thighs in a large (big enough to hold the chicken and all the vegetables which you'll add later) glass or ceramic baking and marinate, covered, in the fridge overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Scatter the garlic, fennel, onion, and tomatoes around the chicken. Pour in the wine, drizzle the oil on the veggies, and season the whole thing with more salt and black pepper. Cover with foil. Bake for 1 ½ hours until chicken is completely cooked. Remove the foil and increase the oven temperature to 450°F. Put the chicken back in the oven and roast at this higher temperature until the skin gets browned and crispy. Serve over rice or roasted potatoes.

Note: To crush fennel seeds, smash them with the flat bottom of a skillet.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Meatless Monday: Cauliflower Marranca

It's not particularly photogenic, but it tastes really good!
A recipe from the original Moosewood Cookbook. Made a few changes - added tomatoes, used quinoa, measured the added fat, and added the crunchy topping. I'm not against fat but it does carry a heavy caloric punch. You need some to carry flavor and give richness but I see no point in gilding the lily, as my mom would say. The original gave no amounts for the fat (butter in the original) at all.

This is a good recipe to use up bits of cheese. Two cups is enough, but you can add a bit more, if you want to use up what you've got.

Cauliflower Marranca
(serves 6-8)

non-stick cooking spray
1 pound mushrooms, chopped or sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ½ Tablespoons oil, divided
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
½ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets and core cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
black pepper
1 Tablespoon fresh or frozen chopped basil
3 cups cooked quinoa or brown rice
2 - 2 ¾ cups grated cheese (jack, mozzarella, cheddar, manchego)
¼ cup dry bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Heat 1 ½ Tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and onion. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice, and the oregano. Cook until most of the liquid evaporates. Add ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Pour all this into a large bowl.

Wipe out the pan, add 1 ½ Tablespoon oil, and heat over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds, then add the cauliflower and 2 Tablespoons water. Cover tightly and reduce the heat to medium. Steam cauliflower until tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into bowl with mushrooms. Add chopped basil, cooked quinoa/rice, and cheese. Taste and add additional salt and pepper, if needed.

Pour into the prepared dish, cover, and bake for 25 minutes (35 minutes if the grain is cold). Combine the bread crumbs with ½ Tablespoon oil and mix until all the crumbs are moistened. Raise the temperature of the oven to 425°F. Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the top of the casserole. Return to the oven, uncovered, to bake until top is browned and crunchy, about 10 minutes.

Let sit for 5-10 minutes. It is very hot right out of the oven and it's easier to serve if allowed to set up.

Best if reheated in the oven to keep the topping crunchy but it reheats OK in the microwave too.

Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen, Ten Speed Press, 1977.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Pasta with Spinach, Chickpeas, and Sausage

This is a not-quite-meatless dish. A little bit of meat, in this case some sausage, can add a big dose of flavor. The dish is hearty because of the pasta and the chickpeas, not because of a large portion of meat. Many of us don't want to give up the flavor of meat. Using just a little bit gives the flavor satisfaction at a lower cost and higher sustainability. You win and the planet wins.

Pasta with Spinach, Chickpeas, and Sausage
(serves 4)

2 Tablespoons olive oil + more for garnish
2 cloves garlic, minced
about ⅓ pound flavorful sausage, such as basil or Italian
5 oz. fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
2 15 oz. cans of chickpeas
2 Tablespoons minced fresh sage
10 oz. dried orecchiette pasta or some similar frilly shape
black pepper
grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of salted water to boil.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until no longer pink and starting to brown. While the sausage is cooking, drain the chickpeas, reserving 1 cup of the liquid.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the chickpeas, sage, reserved liquid, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook this while you cook the pasta, which will take about 10-12 minutes. When the pasta is done, drain, and add to the chickpeas. Stir in more salt if needed and cook for another minute. To serve, garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, black pepper, and some grated Parmesan cheese.

Adapted from Fagioli: The Bean Cuisine of Italy by Judith Barrett, Rodale, 2004.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Spring Greens season is here - make some Saag

Spinach is one of the first greens to pop up in the garden in the spring. Amazingly, spinach can germinate in cold soils, as cold as 33 °F! I usually plant spinach in the fall, when it germinates easily in the warm soil. When the cold weather comes, it hibernates for the winter. As soon as the soil warms up again in the spring, it's off and running. That makes spinach the very first green to make it to my table.

I posted this recipe for Saag Paneer, which is Indian Greens with Cheese (or tofu if you prefer - it's easier to find than the fresh cheese and much cheaper). The original recipe called for frozen spinach, which is inexpensive and available year-round. But, this being the start of spring greens, you can make it with fresh spinach. Substitute 2 bunches of coarsely chopped fresh spinach for the frozen spinach and make the original recipe as written.

If you do use fresh garden or farmers' market spinach, make sure you wash it well (the process is described in this recipe for sautéed kale) because it holds onto sand and gritty greens is way icky.

Nowadays, you can also get bags of triple-washed fresh spinach, which is a great leap forward for spinach. You'll need a big bag of spinach for this, 20-24 oz. worth.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Oatmeal Snickerdoodles

Here we combine three excellent cookies into one: oatmeal, snickerdoodle, chocolate chip. How can you go wrong with that? These are crunchy, not chewy cookies, with a bit of chocolate and cinnamon. I think they are what happens when you cross Mexico chocolate* with New England home-style.

If you have an electric mixer, these are very easy cookies to make.

Oatmeal Snickerdoodles
(makes about 50 cookies)

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda (½ teaspoon at sea level)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓ cup sugar (⅜ cup at sea level)
⅓ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed (⅜ cup at sea level)
1 egg, at room temperature
¾ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
⅓ cup chocolate chips

Adjust the racks in your oven to ⅓ and ⅔. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with aluminum foil.

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, mix together butter and the sugars in a large bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until well combined. On low speed, gradually mix in the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl, then mixing slowly again just to combine. Stir in the oatmeal and chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the foil, leaving 2" between cookies - they will spread. You will only be able to fit ½ the dough on 2 sheets, so you'll be baking these in 2 rounds. Place the cookie sheets in the oven and bake for 11-12 minutes until just lightly browned. Do not overbake. When done, slide off the foil and cookies onto 2 racks and let them cool for 5 minutes before trying to remove them. Let the cookie sheets cool to room temperature. Line with foil again and repeat portioning and baking with remaining dough. Store cookies in an airtight container to keep them crispy.

Adapted from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies by Maida Heatter, Alfred A. Knopf, 1977.

*Mexican chocolate is often flavored with cinnamon.