Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sauteed Purslane and Tomatoes

Purslane is one of those greens that rarely makes it to our plates. And why is that? It's an extremely versatile vegetable, can be eaten in salads or sauteed, and has one of the highest vegetable concentrations of those infallible omega 3's we know and love. I discovered purslane about 3 years ago when I happened upon it at the stand of 4 Sisters Farms.

Slightly sour like sorrel and quite crunchy, I was definitely intrigued. It's rare for me to find a vegetable that hasn't passed my lips so this was a triumph! A triumph that I kept to myself for the next 36 months. I don't know why I never shared this delicious exploit with Gray. I think it goes back to my issue with sharing. Perhaps it's that this new food revelation was just for me. Gray has beer, croissants, pizza, which subsequently means purslane is all mine! (Not that I'm against Gray's indulgences, they just don't work for my delicate system. Can you hear the tears dropping on the keyboard?)

So, last week I bought another beautiful bunch of my favorite secret green and decided it was time to bring my horded treat to our shared dinner table. The dish came together in about 6 minutes flat. Onions from the pantry, a few leftover dry-farmed tomatoes, chopped purslane and that was it. The greens softened just enough while still maintaining their toothiness. I served it with eggs and roasted potatoes (a quick dinner staple) though it would also be an ideal topping for brown rice, quinoa, or French green lentils. Enjoy and happy purslane exploring!

Sautéed Purslane and Tomatoes

1 medium onion, diced
4 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
2 medium tomatoes, cored and finely chopped
1 bunch of purslane, washed and chopped
3 tablespoons of water
sea salt to taste
3-4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

In a saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and saute for 5 minutes, until onions become translucent. Throw in the chopped tomatoes with their juices and cook together another 5 minutes. Add the purslane, water, another pinch of salt and mix thoroughly. Reduce the heat to low, place a lid over the pan and let cook for 7 minutes. Remove the lid and stir the mixture together. Season with salt to taste and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Top with the cilantro and serve. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Herb Roasted Chicken

When I gave up chicken 7 years ago I was sure I'd never go back. Meat isn't good for me anyway, I reasoned. But to tell the truth, I was simply chickened out. At the time, chicken was the only animal protein I ate (having decided years earlier beef was a death sentence.) Being a weight obsessed collegiate, I also dabbled in the "Atkins thing", which meant eating protein, aka CHICKEN, everyday. Each week I bought a bag of frozen Tyson's chicken breasts to pick at over the next 7 days. No wonder I was insane. You can only eat chicken stir-fry so many times before you lose it. And I know you are going to think this is totally "woo woo" but I started acting like a crazy chicken too! I was irritable, easily flustered, and ran around campus frazzled like, you guessed it, a chicken with my head cut off.

It felt really good giving up animal flesh. I felt light and energized in my body and got to tell people, "oh no, I don't eat THAT." It was self-righteous and I liked it! Yet once I started eating meat again I still couldn't stomach chicken. I ate beef, lamb, even goat but there was no way I was headed down the chicken path...until I went to Zuni Cafe. I was having a lovely lunch of local anchovies and salad with Jacqueline (crispy chicken skin girl) when the next table's waiter delivered their order of roasted chicken with Tuscan-style bread salad. I almost blurted out, "Excuse me, that order was actually for me," but instead I bit my tongue and shot our neighbors nasty glances as they inhaled that sumptuous chicken. That was it for me! I was ready for a little chick chick. Of course, it took 6 months and 1 meat book later to actually make chicken but hey, it was worth the wait.

I've made this recipe a few times and it is always a hit. The traditional recipe calls for white white but I prefer using verjus. It's sweet clean flavor does something magical with the natural fat and juices of the chicken. Enjoy!

Herb Roasted Chicken
Recipe adapted from The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Don't be intimidated by his 3 phase roasting technique. It's quite easy and completely worth it!

One 3-4 pound organic roasting chicken
4 tbs. softened organic butter or olive oil
2-3 handfuls of fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme, chives, cilantro etc., chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
Sea salt and pepper
1/2 cup of verjus (if not available use white wine or lemon juice)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the bird from the fridge an hour or two before cooking. Remove any string and place the bird in a baking/roasting dish (I used my le cruset). Spread out its legs away from the body and enlarge the opening of the body with your fingers to allow hot air to circulate inside the bird. (I'm used to this step now but at first it was a little gross.)

Place butter in a bowl and toss in your herbs and salt. Mix well and smear the mixture all over the bird, inside and out. Place the bird in the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes (phase one).

Turn down the oven to 350 degrees, add the verjus to the pan (do not pour over the bird) and cook for another 35-45 minutes (phase two). To test the chicken for doneness, pierce the point where the thigh meets the breast. Juices should run clear.

Open the oven door half way, turn off the heat, and let the bird sit for another 15-20 minutes (phase 3) before carving.

Carve the bird in the pan allowing the pieces to fall into the juice. I served this with a green salad and a giant Acme olive loaf to soak up the juices. So good!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Late Summer Succotash

I can't even say the name of this dish without Gray bursting into giggle hysterics like a 5 year old girl. "You said SUCK-O-TASH....hehehehehe" Ah, my dear immature husband. What am I saying, I think it's pretty funny too. I made the most killer Jamie-version succotash last weekend. My parents were visiting and I wanted to make something special. (I try to make particularly good food when they come up for the ONLY way to my father's heart is through his stomach. He's still talking about the roasted chicken I made on his last visit.) Traditional succotash is simply a butter or lard laden saute of corn and lima beans, though any number of bean varietals will do. I actually bought green beans for the dish but finding them incredibly tough and ultimately inedible, I bequeathed them to the compost pile (quick tip: taste your green beans at the market, before you by them).

This may appear un-American but I'm actually not a huge corn fan. OK, let me re-phrase. Since becoming such an over-used, genetically modified cash crop I've had a hard time stomaching it. You can pretty much guarantee if your corn is not organic, it's genetically modified. I don't want to go off the GMO deep end here but let me just say this. There are a number of reasons to avoid GMO's but my biggest one is that these frankenfoods are new to the food chain. We have no idea what long term effects they may have on our bodies and I'm personally not interested in being a guinea pig. For more information on genetically modified foods check out Responsible Technology. I highly recommend it.

OK, back to my succotash. Since finding delicious organic corn at the farmer's market, I've released my corn hate and generously let it back into my life. And what a happy girl I am! Here is the recipe for my late summer succotash. It's sweet, rich, and makes you thank the farmers and soil for their brilliant effort. Enjoy!

Late Summer Succotash
I used basil as my herb of choice but fresh dill or parsley would be great as well. Play around and discover the version you like best.
Serves 4

1 large red onion, chopped
2 1/2 cups kale, chopped
4 tablespoons ghee (or organic butter), divided
3 ears of corn, kernels cut off with a knife
1/2 cup purple basil, torn
sea salt to taste

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of ghee. Add in the red onion and kale and saute until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Toss in the corn kernels and cook together until kernels are warmed through but maintain their crunch, 6-7 minutes. Add in the remaining ghee and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and top with purple basil. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fish En Papillote with Baja Spices

I know the name sounds fancy but it's simply "fish in parchment". I say that now having made fish en papillote, but before that I was terrified of any recipe requiring parchment paper. For some reason I associated parchment paper with French cooking and French cooking with complex, difficult, and ultimately aggravating recipes. Well, I could not have been more wrong. About this recipe, anyway. Cooking fish in parchment is not only easy, its quick, a cinch to clean, and produces soft, succulent fish. Especially when using a non-oily fish such as snapper, sole, or ocean perch, creating a steam bath promises the fish won't dry out or become tough (two occurrences I've experiences a number of times.)

The beauty of this recipe is you can use any spice combo you like. The spices below are fantastic as is a mixture of turmeric, coriander, fresh ginger and garlic, or lime zest, garlic, cumin and chili flakes. Enjoy!

Fish En Papillote with Baja Spices

1 pound red snapper fillets, rinsed and patted dry (you can also use cod, ocean perch, or any other firm fleshed white fish)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin, ground
1/2 tsp. oregano, fresh or dried
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and get out a large baking dish. Cut two pieces of parchment to fit the baking dish. Mix together garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt in a small bowl. Place one piece of parchment into the dish and lay the fish on the parchment. Sprinkle spices over the fish and cover the fish with the second piece of parchment. Bring the edges of the parchment pieces together and fold under to enclose the fish.

Bake for 15-18 minutes. Be sure to open the package carefully to let the steam escape. Serve with corn tortillas and guacamole or with steamed quinoa and gingered slaw.