Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Chicken Curry Salad

It’s spring, and it actually feels like it! Time for spring chickens and picnics. They come together perfectly in chicken curry salad. I can make a batch of chicken curry salad and leave it in the fridge for four or five days to use in a variety of meal: chicken curry salad sandwich on homemade bread, open-faced grilled chicken curry salad sandwich on homemade bread; chicken curry salad on a bed of fresh lettuce... Chicken curry salad can also be made in a wonderful series of variations to fit whatever I happen to have on hand. The two variations here should give a sense of what you can play with. The key is to have chicken, curry, some kind of dairy to hold it all together, some crunchy fresh veggies, and some kind of dried fruit.

Spring Chicken Curry Salad I
Serves 4

1 lb chicken. If you’ve made any kind of chicken and have leftovers, use them for this! Otherwise, boil 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts in a medium pot of water with salt and pepper for about 30 minutes. Shred the chicken.
1 watermellon radish, chopped small
1 chioga beet, chopped into small cubes
4 stalks celery, chopped into small cubes
1 bunch green onions, whites and greens, chopped
2 carrotts, chopped into small cubes
½ cup dried prunes, chopped into small cubes
½ cup sour cream
1 T. red curry paste
1 tsp. yellow curry powder
½ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground pepper

Stir everything together well in a big bowl.

Spring Chicken Curry Salad II
Serves 4

1 lb chicken. If you’ve made any kind of chicken and have leftovers, use them for this! Otherwise, boil 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts in a medium pot of water with salt and pepper for about 30 minutes. Shred the chicken.
1 fennel root, diced
1 bunch chives, chopped
1/2 onion, diced small
¼ cup raisins
½ cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup chopped dried prunes
½ small cabbage, chopped
4 carrots, diced small
2 stalks celery, chopped
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup plain yoghurt
2 T curry powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper

Stir everything together well in a big bowl.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Odd Bits

When you get a whole lamb from a local farmer, you get the whole thing.  All the parts.  There are all sorts of long and involved dishes that feature hearts and kidneys pretty much intact, with all of their organ-ness carefully preserved.  But those recipes are usually for beef "bit parts" as they're called, or else for high volumes of smaller animal organs.  Lamb heart and kidneys are pretty small.  Over the summer my mom and I tried following a few "variety meats," as they're also called, recipes with her lamb heart, kidneys, and tongue and found it was a tremendous amount of work for very little food and quite frankly it wasn't that good.  Is it important to look at hearts and kidneys sitting on a platter looking like hearts and kidneys in order to really acknowledge that you've been eating an animal that was once alive?  Honestly, I don't think so.  It's pretty clear when you get a box full of all the labeled parts of an animal.  I'm glad I showed that to my son.  I'm glad he feels comfortable saying thanks to the animal that we're eating as a manner of Grace.  Neither of us needs to eat heart-shaped-heart to drive that home.  Plus, if we give up on the idea and the work it takes to make it happen, we get to make heart and liver that are tender and delicious and get fruits and veggies into us all at once!

Apples, Mushrooms and Bit Parts

1 onion, halved and sliced
1 lamb heart, sliced into 1/2" thick slices
2 lamb kidneys, sliced into 1/2" thick slices
2 cups frozen sliced apples
2 cups sliced mushrooms (if dried, soak in warm water for 30 min before using)
1 T olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

In a large pan over medium-high heat, saute onion in olive oil until translucent.  Stir in apples and mushrooms.  Push onion-apple-mushroom mixture to the side.  Brown the heart and kidneys on both sides.  Stir the whole mixture together.  Add salt and pepper.  Reduce temperature to medium-low and saute, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes.

Green Beans and Cranberries are the perfect complement

2 pieces of bacon, chopped
2 cups frozen or fresh french cut green beans (as you pick or purchase geeen beans in the summer, blanche them in small batches and once they are blanched run them through a food processor on the slice blade for a quick and surprisingly nice french cut)
3/4 cup frozen or fresh cranberries
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Cook bacon until just crispy.  Remove from pan.  In the bacon fat, saute green beans and cranberries with salt and pepper until cranberries burst, about 10 minutes.  Toss bacon back in.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

As soon as Spring is in the air, I want it all: shorts, school vacation, and fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere!  I'm slowly (15 years and counting) learning the New England patience captured in my neighbors' regular response to my eager pronouncements of Spring's arrival: "well, we'll see."  But I've also finally learned to set myself up so that I don't have to wait for blossoms and bees and all that follows to have fresh fruit in the Spring.  The trick?  Freeze, freeze, freeze it when it's fresh and juicy.  This past year, I froze enough.  Two huge freezer bags of blueberries.  Three big freezer bags of peeled, sliced apples.  Three big freezer bags of peeled, sliced peaches.  One big freezer bag of washed, chopped rhubarb.  One big freezer bag of blackberries.  One big freezer bag of raspberries.  One big freezer bag of trimmed strawberries.  It's so much, in fact, that I'm feeling a little pressure to get through it all before Spring actually arrives for good with the next crop.  Nice pressure to have to deal with. 

Without a question, the best thing we can ever do with frozen berries are hand pies, which we do in all sorts of variations.  The most recent one is in our Somerville Journal column for this week.  But variety is good, especially when searching for it gets us to come up with my new favorite: puff pastry with peach delight.  We didn't invent the puff pastry recipe.  We used The Gourmet Cookbook.  We had no idea puff pastry could be fast (as far as actual work time goes, you do need to start 4 hours before you want to put it together) or easy.  With the Gourmet recipe, it's both. 

Quick Puff Pastry Dough Recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook

2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unstaled butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus 3 T butter cut into very thin slices
4-6 T ice water

Whisk together flour and salt in a large bowl.  Blend half of the butter cubes into flour with two knives or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Blend in remaining butter cubes in same manner until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-sized) lumps of butter.  Drizzle 4 T ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with fork until incorporated.  Squeeze a small handful of dough: if it doesn't hold together, add more ice water 1/2 T at a time, stirring until just incorporated.  Do not overowrk dough, or pastry will be tough.  Gather dough into a ball, then flatten into a five-inch square on a sheet of wax paper.  Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Roll dough out on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 13-by-11-inch rectangle.  Position dough with a short side nearest you and place butter slices evenly over it.  Fold dough into thirds like a letter, bottom third up and top third down.  Turn dough so a short side is nearest you and roll it out into a 13-by-11-inch rectangle again, then fold into thirds once more.  Brush off any excess flour, wrap dough in plastic wrap, and refirgerate for at least 3 hours, and up to 1 day (or frozen for up to 1 month).

While the pastry is chilling, make the filling
2 cups frozen, sliced peaches (you could use fresh as well)
1/4 cup sugar

Put peaches and sugar into a saucepan.  Bring to a simmer.  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until peaches are falling apart and mixture is like a thick syrup, 30-45 minutes.  Mash any peaches that are still intact, using a wooden spoon, so that you have the consistency of chunky salsa. 

Preheat oven to 350.

Remove the pastry from fridge and roll out, on a floured surface, to about an 11x13 rectangle.  Cut in half and then cut again into thirds.  You're cutting out the tops and bottoms of your pastries.  That means you want six nicely matched pairs, twelve pieces in total. 

Put one piece of dough onto a baking pan.  Spoon one sixth of the filling into the center of one piece of dough.  Place its matching piece of dough on top and press down all around with your fingers to make a secure pocket for the filling.  Repeat until done. 

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Poles of Decandence

fantasically delicious
terrifyingly dangerous
supremely healthy
ridiculously expensive 

Well, only terrifyingly dangerous if your raw fish source is sketchy, but we have New Deal Fish Market (can you tell we love this place?) just outside Inman Square, which has just about the most perfect health and safety record around.  And only ridiculously expensive if you get it in a restaurant.  In fact, we just made sushi for 6 for $60.  When you pay way more in a restaurant you get a perfection to the slicing and rolling that does require years of training, but after just a few grossly overstuffed and mangled trial runs, it's easy to make quite decent looking and totally great tasting sushi at home. (If you've been following this blog for a while, you've seen a version of this crop up about once a year.) And like a lot of our favorite recipes, sushi can be made with whatever combination of fish and veggies happen to be available.  Ok, you need a few things that are from quite far out of town: sushi rice, nori, and avocado.  But for the rest, you can go as local or as far afield as suits your needs.  This time for us the local focus was the scallops and salmon, the scallions that are already shooting up in our gardens, and some peaches frozen last summer.

Sushi for 6 for $60
6 scallops
1 lb salmon
1/2 lb tuna
1/3 lb himachi
1 green pepper
2 avocadoes
1 cucumber
1 carrott
5 scallions
1 peach
10 chives
8-10 servings sushi rice, made according to package
1 package (8-10 sheets) nori
2 tsp. hot sauce (red's, tapatio, or your homemade favorite!)

Make the rice and when it is completely cooked according to package instructions, stir in mirin until the rice is slightly loose but still sticky. Spread it out on a tray to cool.

Cut all vegetables into long, thin sticks.

Slice fish, against grain, into 1/4 inch thick slices. If you are going to have sashimi, too, leave some as is. Otherwise, cut slices into strips for rolls. The rolls can take odd and end pieces, so use the nicest cuts for the sashimi.

To make spicy tuna, take about 1/2 cup of the tuna ends or pieces that are most awkawardly cut and mince them.  Stir in 2 tsp. hot sauce.

Have a bowl of water and a tea towel at hand for rinsing sticky hands.
Have serving platters ready to put prepared sushi onto.

Have a sharp knife ready.

When everything is cut and laid out in front of you, you are ready to begin filling.
Place a half sheet of nori in front of you. Imagine the nori in divided into 2 halves, top to bottom. With your hands, pick up ~ 1/4 cup rice and evenly spread it on the bottom half of the nori, leaving a one inch strip of nori at the very bottom uncovered. You may need a bit more rice. When it is evenly spread, gently but firmly press down all over rice to flatten it to the nori.

Place whatever fish/vegetable combination you desire in the middle third of the rice strip. Avoid overstuffing, as it will make rolling difficult. You may want to rinse your fingers if they are sticky from the rice.

Now you are ready to roll.
Gently roll the bottom edge away from you, towards the top, holding ingredients in as you go. If you have not overstuffed, the un-riced edge on the bottom should meet the un-riced edge at the top and will seal well. If it is too full and you can't get the edges to meet, remove some of the ingredients inside. If the nori won't stick to itself, dampen your fingers slightly with water and use the water as glue.

When it is completely rolled and staying together, take a very sharp knife and slice the roll, lengthwise, into 6 to 8 pieces, each around one inch wide and place on a platter. If you are serving small children, you can cut them slightly thinner, as thicker rolls are difficult for little mouthes. Serve with wasabi, tamari, and ginger.

Continue above directions until you have as many rolls as you want. We have been enjoying taking the leftover odds and ends of vegetables and fish and making a poke (sort of a salsa-like, salad-esque fish and vegetable mix). It's delicious and a nice addition to the meal.


Cube all leftover vegetables and fish from above and use the dressing below, or if starting from scratch, use the following:

1 peach (or mango)
1/2 avocado
1 cup sushi-grade, raw fish in any combination
7 sprigs cilantro, chopped


2 teas. toasted sesame oil
2 teas. tamari
2 teas. lemon juice
Chop peach, avocado, and fish (or other vegetables) into 1/4 to 1/3 inch cubes. Place in a bowl. Add dressing, stir gently, and serve.