Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Best BBQ Chicken Ever

Every get-together of my extended family is not without a reference to the storied BBQ chicken my grandfather used to make. Turns out the story is a bit of a fish tale and over the years they have come to admit that it wasn't really the best BBQ chicken, often dry and overcooked, but it was more the memory of the family dinnertime that sparked the nostalgia of "Dad's BBQ Chicken." Family history aside, I have never been very impressed at my own BBQ chicken--it is never flavorful enough, often over or undercooked, and generally just "OK." Never again. I have discovered the two great secrets of excellent BBQ chicken, and really, it applies to roast/baked chicken and other cuts of meat as well. And it's not exactly a secret, just one of those techniques that I never felt was necessary (I am admittedly a very lazy cook!). The main secret is: BRINING.

Brining the meat, as you can read the details of here, is a process that infuses the meat with flavor and helps it retain natural (and added) juices during cooking. Like a marinade, you can add any number of desired flavorings to the brine solution, such as herbs and spices, fruits or vegetables, and other seasonings such as liquid smoke or chili-garlic sauce. The possibilities are endless, but you can also opt for a plain and simple sugar-salt solution. The linked page above gives you the techniques, so I won't reiterate them here, but only emphasize how beneficial it is to follow this process to producing a high-quality slab of grilled meat. Once your chicken has been brined, you can slather on a desired BBQ (or other) sauce if desired before you grill it.

The other lesson I'm quickly learning about BBQ is that a low, low temperature is essential when cooking chicken on the grill. I have a thermometer on my grill, and shoot for around 250-300 degrees Farenheit. Too high of heat obviously burns the outside of the chicken before the inside is done, especially if you are cooking on-the-bone chicken.

I hope these tips help! Happy Grilling!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

101 Ways with Greens (**Updated!**)

The list below was conceived after receiving a CSA share that consisted exclusively of various green, leafy vegetables. The ideas/recipes below are intended to help give anyone looking for inspiration some new ways to prepare these bounteous vegetables. Some things I had in mind as I was compiling and updating the list:

  • I have not included any recipes for salad greens primarily because I don’t think people have too much trouble coming up with what to do with them (greens + veggies/fruit + nuts/cheese + dressing = salad), and have instead focused on the other leafy vegetables we often get.
  • By-and-large, I have also not included recipes for stir-fries or soups unless they struck me as somewhat unique, primarily because soups and stir-fries are standard fare that just about everyone has in their repertoire already when it comes to these veggies. As a result, I have also not included recipes exclusively for bok choy or cabbage.
  • While some of the recipes below call for spinach, I attempted to locate recipes that did not (but keep in mind that any recipe that calls for spinach can safely substitute any of the “mild” greens, and sometimes even “bitter” greens or kale).
  • This list is organized by type of green most suitable for the dish, but you can also often mix different kinds together or experiment by swapping something completely different altogether.
    K = Kale: There are several types of kale, all of which are primarily interchangeable, and some recipes in this category may also be suited to Collard Greens since they are sturdy like Kale
    B = Bitter Greens: Mustard greens, Turnip greens, Radish greens, Rapini/Broccoli Rabe, Arugula/Rocket (though it is recommended to include this only in part), Dandelion greens, Sorrel, Endive/Chicory, Watercress, Escarole, Quelites/Lamb’s Quarters, Nettles
    M = Mild Greens: Spinach, Swiss Chard, Beet greens, Amaranth, Tat soi, Kohlrabi greens
1Ugali and Sukuma (Kenyan grits and greens)KBM
2Greens prepared as for Sukuma served over mashed beans, potatoes or sweet potatoesKBM
3Good ol'fashioned greens and salt pork with or without cornmeal dumplings (can also be prepared with bacon or ham hock)BM
4Korean style greens (blanched and tossed with garlic, sesame oil, rice vinegar and sesame seeds, served warm or cold)BM
5Cooked or raw as a filling for sushi (plain or seasoned as above)KBM
6As an addition to Egg Foo YungKBM
7Gormeh Sabzi (Persian vegetable stew with beans and lamb)KBM
8Pesto-style Pizza/Pasta sauceBM
9Pumpkin-Greens Pasta sauceBM
10Saag Paneer (Indian style curried greens with cottage cheese)BM
11Middle Eastern Greens SoupBM
12Crispy sweet and salty Kale chips; for variety, slice into wide ribbons before baking or crumble on top of soup, pasta, etc.K
13Batter-fried kaleK
14Zuppa Toscana (Tuscan-style potato-kale soup; sub garbanzos for a vegetarian version, but be sure to add some crushed fennel seeds for extra flavor!)KBM
15Minestrone SoupKBM
16Braised Greens with Pinenuts and RaisinsKM
17Braised Greens with Bulgur and Dates (or substitute quinoa and other dried fruit like cranberries or apricots)KM
18As part of a quiche or frittata (or try this variation for something different)KBM
19Stir-fried with sesame oil, lots of ginger and garlic, and sweet soy sauce or oyster sauceKBM
20Braised or blanched and served over soba noodles with Thai peanut sauceKBM
21Butternut Squash and Kale TartKM
22Kale and Ricotta Salad (or sub feta for ricotta salata)K
23Kale with Shrimp and Pomegranate PastaKM
24Sauté greens with onion and ham/bacon, stir in some sour cream and mustard and spoon over poached eggs & toast, pasta, rice or potatoesKBM
25Stracciatella (Italian greens and egg soup)BM
26Creamed greensKBM
27Mchicha (East African stewed greens with curry, coconut milk and peanut butter)KBM
28Baked into a Collard Greens CakeM
29Thai-style greens in coconut milk (sub shrimp, crab or tofu for eggs) or coconut milk soupKBM
30In Miso Soup (with tofu and shitakes)KBM
31Braised with chiles, garlic and cumin as a filling for tacos, enchiladas or burritos (coupled with sweet potatoes and beans or zucchini for a lighter version)KBM
32Braised with mushrooms or toasted nuts, dill weed, lemon zest and garlic or leek as a filling for baked chicken or fish filletsKBM
33Greens PattiesKBM
34Green crepes (add finely minced cooked greens to crepe batter and fill with mushroom, seafood, or other filling)KBM
35Koftas (Indian fried "meatballs")KBM
36Mixed into meatloaf with feta and sun-dried tomatoesKBM
37Chopped, sautéed and mixed with bacon and crushed red pepper into cornbread batterKBM
38Sautéed with lemon, basil, garlic and butternut squash over pasta, topped with romano or fetaKBM
39Blanched and tossed with carrots and radiccio and honey vinaigretteKBM
40Sautéed and tossed with spaghetti squash, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic and Parmesan cheese OR tossed with spaghetti squash, bacon, sunflower seeds and vinaigrette, served cold or warmKBM
41Pickled or fermented as a condiment for curries and other Southeast Asian foodsKBM
42Raw greens, chopped, tossed with garlic mayonnaiseKBM
43Shredded with carrots, potatoes, rutabagas or other veggies, mixed with egg and bread crumbs for veggie pancakesKBM
44Sautéed with beans and lots of garlic (easily made into a soup)KBM
45Finely minced with beans and seasonings for bruschetta/relishKBM
46Made into pesto and mixed with mayonnaise for sandwich spreadBM
47Chopped and added (cooked or raw) to tuna or chicken saladKBM
48Large leaves can be blanched or steamed and stuffed as for cabbage rolls, spring rolls, dolmas etc. (best with chard, collards, kale)KBM
49In French-style lamb stew with turnips and carrotsKBM
50Braised with lots of garlic, olive oil, lemon, mint and garbanzo, fava or navy beans and served over cous-cous or polentaKBM
51Stewed with turnips and Indian-style spicesKBM
52Mustard greens slaw with cabbage and vinaigretteKBM
53Chopped and cooked and mixed with mashed potatoes, sharp cheddar cheese and garlic or chivesKBM
54Pureed with garlic, onions, potatoes and zucchini into a creamy green soupKBM
55Dutch-style hashed kale with potatoes and sausageKBM
56Cheese-Egg-Greens mixture layered with phyllo sheets like lasagneBM
57Stuffed into wraps or "Skinny Omelets"KBM
58Spanish style tortilla with potatoes and greensKBM
59Kugel-style with pasta and eggs (but I would put cottage cheese in it too!)KBM
60Hazelnut and Chard Ravioli SaladKM
61Mixed with Pancetta or Bacon and used as a stuffing for mushroomsKBM
62Pizzocheri (traditionally made with cabbage, can also be tasty made with leafy greens)KBM
63Herb Jam with Olives and LemonKBM
64Rapini Panini with provolone and red pepper pasteKBM
65Corn, Chard, and Quince Soup (substitute apples or pears for the quince)KBM
66Greens with Sour CherriesKBM
67Blanched Greens with Lemon and Olive Oil (served cold)KBM
68Braised Greens with Red WineKBM
69Greek Greens Pie (similar to Spanikopita)KBM
70Stewed with Mushrooms and Pancetta, served over PolentaKBM
71Gratin with vegan Bechamel Sauce or with Kale, or with Sweet PotatoesKBM
72Empanadas filled with beets, goat cheese and greensKBM
73Greens, Cheese & Wheat Berry PieKBM
74Kale with Hazelnut GremolataKB
75Eggs Florentine (substitute Chard, Arugula, or other greens for the spinach or make it into a casserole)KBM
76In BouillabaseKBM
77Toss washed, slivered greens with minced garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper--especially good with young (tender) KaleKBM
78Pork and Pumpkin Stew with GreensKBM
79Spicy Stir-Fried Chicken with Greens and PeanutsKBM
80Greens Soup with GingerKBM
81Arugula Pesto with Wheat BerriesKBM
82Ali Baba's Muffins (a savory treat using stinging nettles which are easily substituted by other greens)KBM
83Greek style chard fritters with cinnamon (Scroll down to find recipe)KBM
84Greens and Artichoke StewKBM
85Greens and Gruyere Panade (similar to bread stuffing)KBM
86Creamy Sorrel Sauce for topping meat, seafood or vegies) (scroll down)B
87Greens and Goat Cheese Egg Tart (scroll down)KBM
88Cold Sorrel SoupBM
89Curried Red Lentil, Garbanzo Bean and Greens Stew or this version with sweet potatoesKBM
90Green gnocchi with greensBM
91Honey-Curried Kale and OnionsK
92Ragout with Pumpkin, Beans and KaleKBM
93Egg Strata of Cornbread and GreensKBM
94Creamed eggs (or tofu) with greensBM
95Savory bread pudding with squash and greensKBM
96Braised greens with lime, dill and beansKBM
97Baked with pasta, squash, and olivesKBM
98In regular or barley or squash or shitake risottoKBM
99Sautéed with potatoes and bleu cheeseKBM
100Sautéed with grapefruit vinaigrette and figsKBM
101Raw greens and cranberries turn into a fascinating “Santa SalsaM

Tips for cooking with greens:

  • More often than not, or unless you’re cooking greens until they fall apart, it’s better to err on the side of chopping/slicing the greens thinly. The more work the knife does, the less your teeth have to!
  • To remove the stems from greens like chard, kale or collards, two methods work the best:
  1. Fold the leaf along the rib/stem and carefully slice the rib out.
  2. Hold the leaf by the rib/stem and with a sharp paring knife held flat along the stem, cut the leaf away from the stem (similar to a “whittling” action as if you’re sharpening a stick with a knife)
  • To keep greens vibrant in color, do not overcook, and it also helps to add a pinch of baking soda while cooking.
  • If you cook in cast iron, be aware that the oxalic acid in the greens will react with the iron and may turn your greens a darker than desirable color; it can also make them a bit more bitter, so the best solution is a hot pan and a quick sauté whenever possible.
  • If your greens are extra bitter to begin with, you can blanch them in salted water, drain, rinse and gently squeeze to expel the water before you prepare it as directed in the recipe.
  • Young, tender greens are better suited to raw or lightly-cooked uses and stems can also be eaten. Larger stems should be removed and either discarded or cooked separately (a longer time is needed to make them tender, but beware some stems are simply too woody/fibrous to be eaten at all)
  • Collard greens, kale and other sturdy varieties hold up well to long cooking times, and if they’re particularly mature may require extensive simmering.
  • If baking with greens (casseroles, lasagna, bread, etc) it’s usually recommended to cook them first and squeeze as much liquid out as you can, otherwise it can affect the consistency of the final product.

Washing and Storing:

  • It is recommended NOT to wash greens before storing them as it contributes to quicker spoilage and vitamin loss. I have read, however, that you can add a capful of hydrogen peroxide to your wash basin to help offset this.
  • The best method for washing greens is to fill your sink with water and soak the leaves briefly. Make sure they are separated from each other as much as possible, not all bunched together, and swish them around gently to loosen any dirt, etc. Some greens may take two or more washings depending on the amount of dirt. If there are a lot of bugs/aphids, sometimes the sink sprayer is a good tool to use, but be careful not to bruise your greens.
  • Store greens in plastic bags, loosely sealed, or in fabric bags. If washing greens (including salad greens) or using them raw, wash the greens in clear water and use a fabric bag (a cotton pillowcase works well) to “drain” them: load up the bag with loosely packed greens and take it outside and spin it or “fling” it rapidly so as to drive the water off of the leaves. This is a great substitute for a salad spinner and takes up virtually no room in your cupboards! Then you can use the same bag for storing them. If you keep the bag damp, the greens will last a long time; I use a terrycloth bag as it retains moisture longer. This method works for fresh herbs as well.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Light Chicken Salad with Autumn Fruits & Nuts

While I enjoy your standard mayo-drenched chicken salad as much as the next person, I have a tendency not to prepare mine with mayo but with plain yogurt instead (or sometimes a combination of the two). This salad can easily be adapted to whatever fruits and nuts you have on hand.
  • 6-8 oz leftover cooked chicken or turkey, diced or shredded
  • 1 Fuyu persimmon, cored and chopped (substitute apple or pear)
  • 1/2 cup cranberry relish/sauce (not the jellied kind, but with whole cranberries, or sub 1/3 cup dried cranberries soaked in 3 Tbs warm orange or apple juice until plumped)
  • 1/4 cup lightly toasted almond slivers, pistachios or cashews
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp fine prepared mustard
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger or 1/4 tsp dried ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and serve on rolls, sandwich bread or in butter lettuce leaves.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Persian-Style Jeweled Rice

The Persian way of cooking rice (Polow) differs fairly significantly from the standard American way (or any other way I'm familiar with), and as it turns out, there are variations among Persian cooks as to how to prepare the rice foundation. . It is a two-step process at a minimum, but the resulting texture and other attributes are worth the effortThis pretty variation of polow is a stunning addition to either a holiday table or humble dinner.

  • 2 cups Basmati rice*
  • 1 medium pomegranate (or substitute dried cranberries, soaked in the orange juice while the rice is cooking)
  • 2 medium oranges
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
  • Pinch saffron threads
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • Dash turmeric powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large-ish or 2 small-ish potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (optional)

Section oranges, reserving any juices. Remove arils (seeds) from pomegranates, reserving any juices. Toast pistachios gently in a skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until just fragrant. Combine orange sections, pomegranate arils, pistachios and any reserved fruit juices with a pinch of saffron threads. Add coriander, parsley, turmeric, salt and pepper and stir until combined. Set aside, but keep at room temperature.

Start the rice by rinsing until the water runs (mostly) clear; just pour the rice into the pot you will cook it in, draw enough water to cover, swish the rice around, drain and repeat 3-4 times. This process rinses the excess starch away from the rice which will make it fluffy instead of gluey. Next, cover the rice with 2 inches of water and add 1 Tbs. salt (yes, one TABLEspoon). Bring the rice to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 8-10 minutes; the center of the rice grains should still be a little crunchy as the rice is only partially cooked at this point. Remove from heat and drain rice. Rinse well to rinse the salt off and drain again. Wipe out the pot and pour enough olive or vegetable oil in the bottom of the pan to a depth of not quite 1/4-inch. Place the potato slices in a single layer across the bottom and pour the drained rice back into the pot (you can opt not to use the potatoes here and you will just end up with a layer of crispy rice). Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes (it is often recommended to place a paper towel or dishtowel between the pot and the lid to prevent any water from dripping back into the pot); reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes, until rice is tender. Spoon the rice into a serving bowl or platter, trying to avoid the bottom layer of now-crispy potatoes and rice. This layer is the highly sought-after delicacy called 'tadiq' and should be served on a separate dish. Spoon the fruit-nut mixture onto the rice, adding a little juice as you go--you may not need to add it all--and stir gently to combine.

*Traditionally Persian polow is made with white Basmati rice. To substitute brown Basmati rice, extend first cooking time to 35 minutes and second cooking time to 20-25 minutes.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Eggplant Preserved in Oil

Eggplant ready to be preserved in olive oil and spices.

I have made this recipe several times and L-O-V-E it. It's a *bit* of trouble, but mostly passive waiting time, and is a great way to use up quite a bit of eggplant in one fell swoop (read: eggplants for $1 each at the farmer's market and I couldn't resist)...and you also get a bonus out of this recipe: flavored dipping oil (due to the large quantity of olive oil required). The finished product makes an excellent pizza topping, pasta or salad add-in, or can simply be placed on top of toasted bruschetta (with a little goat cheese, too). You can also mash or puree the eggplant and some of the oil and additional salt and pepper together to make a quick dip. I suggest dried herbs and garlic as fresh ones can often lead to premature spoilage; feel free to adjust the herbs/spices to suit your taste. It is also very important to make sure as much excess water is expressed from the eggplant (NOTE: if you decide to roast or broil the eggplant, don't let the "dry" appearance fool you...let cool and squeeze with a clean towel.) I have had jars of this last over a year, but I suggest 3-6 months in a cool, dark place for optimum quality.
  • 4 lbs eggplant
  • 6 Tbs cider, wine or balsamic vinegar*
  • 2-4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • Salt
  • Olive Oil (approx 4 cups)
Trim eggplant of stem and blossom end and rinse well; you can peel the skin off at this point, but the end product will be much softer and probably even disintegrate quite a bit--the skin actually becomes rather soft so I always leave it on. Slice or cube (I prefer slices as they can be left whole or chopped up later on). Layer in a large bowl or pan, and sprinkle layers liberally with salt. Let sit at least 2 hours or overnight. Blanch eggplant for 2-3 minutes in boiling water (alternatively, roast or broil at 450 deg. F for 6-8 minutes on each side, careful not to burn). Drain in colander and press or squeeze out as much excess moisture as possible. One good way to do this is set a plate on top of the eggplant and weight it down with something heavy, a stack of bowls, a jug of juice, but also press down on it; alternatively, squeeze COOLED eggplant pieces in a clean tea towel (not your nicest one, though, as it will stain).

*This is merely a flavor preference, although the balsamic will definitely darken the final product more than the other options.

In a large bowl, combine vinegar and spices. Toss drained eggplant pieces in vinegar mixture to coat. Spoon into sterilized jars (do not pack!), leaving 1/2-inch headspace (note: these do NOT have to be sealing canning jars). Pour olive oil over eggplant to cover by 1/4-inch. Carefully slide a butter knife along the edges of the jars, pressing inward gently, to release any air bubbles.
After eggplant has cooled, place lids on jars and leave jars in the sun for 10-12 days, shaking gently each day to distribute the flavorings.
Finished prodcut used as a pizza topping with artichoke hearts and onions.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Summer Tomato-Cucumber Salad with a Twist

This salad (or some incarnation of it) is pretty standard fare in the summer, what with our easy access to farm fresh heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers, not to mention local feta cheese. Sometimes it is as simple as this, other times fresh herbs (parsley, thyme), garlic or onions or shallots, olives, marinated peppers or artichoke hearts, slivered almonds or pistachios, orzo or quinoa or wheat berries accompany the vegetables. Add some salt and cracked black pepper, a splash of olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar and it's delicious. Sometimes I substitute lemon juice for the vinegar, but I've never tried it with lime juice until now. Let me tell you, it elevates this salad to a whole other level. The lime juice really brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes, not to mention the fact that lime juice is a pretty standard mate to cucumbers.

Since this recipe (like any salad recipe) is so open to interpretation, there is no recipe, only inspiration. Serve with crusty bread or pitas for a light summer meal.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Frangipane French Toast

OK, so this morning I didn't actually cook this for breakfast because my girls made me breakfast-in-bed! But this would be a great treat for Mother's Day (or any day)! I love stuffed french toast. Usually we use cream cheese mixed with a bit of orange marmalade or chopped apricots, cranberries, or something along those lines, but I also love frangipane--that luscious rich mixture of almond meal, butter, sugar and cream (although it can be made from other nuts as well). It suited the sweet Challah bread we used for the french toast amazingly well.

  • 1/2 cup finely ground almonds or almond meal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup softened butter (please do not use margarine!)
  • 2 Tbs. half and half or cream*
Note: you can substitute 6 oz. of sweetened almond paste for the almonds and sugar if desired. You can also use this recipe, plus one egg, for a filling for tarts, sweet rolls and other BAKED goods. I have left the egg out here due to the fact that the filling does not get cooked, only warmed through; plus it would be too runny for this purpose if it had the egg.
*If you don't have or don't want to open a whole container of cream for 2 Tbs. worth, you can substitute rum, brandy, cointreau, Gran Marnier, or other liquer of choice. You could probably even use a spoonful of yogurt or apple juice if liquer for breakfast isn't your thing...

For the French Toast Batter:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
Slice sweet Challah or Brioche bread into thick slices (1-inch PLUS). Slice each piece again as if making two thin slices from one thick one, but do not go all the way through the bread--leave about 1/2-inch from the bottom unsliced--you are essentially making a little pocket to fill with the frangipane (see below).

In a wide bowl, beat egg, milk and flavoring until uniform in color. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. Butter or oil skillet/griddle if necessary. Dip stuffed french toast slices into egg mixture, coating both sides. Cook until browned on both sides, 3-4 minutes each (longer cooking time than regular french toast is needed so as to warm the filling). Remove to low oven to keep warm (if you can resist eating them out of hand!). Serve topped with desired fruit topping or syrup (our favorites: apple, pear, or blueberry) or simply dusted with powdered sugar.