mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Category: Uncategorized

sheet pan roast chicken & vegetables. . .

DSCN8573.jpgWishing to expand my usual suspects for dinner meals, I’m trying out another recipe from the NYTimes – this one of roasted chicken, sweet potatoes and other vegetables garnished with a fresh lemon vinaigrette before serving.

Although the recipe calls for chicken breasts, I opted for chicken thighs, bone-in and with the skin on. We’re not fans of white meat and the flavor of roast chicken seems richer with the chicken intact. I do, however, make two deep cuts along each thigh bone and flatten the chicken to ensure it’s cooked through.

After rinsing and drying the chicken pieces with a paper towel, I peeled leftover parsnips and two sweet potatoes, cut up to cook along with the poultry. I also cut up a vidalia onion and added some leftover asparagus to the sheet pan melange.

Into a 425 heated oven, this dish cooked beautifully. On the side, I mixed up a vinaigrette of fresh Meyer Lemon juice, Japanese seasoned Marukan vinegar, a dollop of honey and grated fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

As suggested, I served the cooked vegetables and roasted chicken with a slight glaze of the vinaigrette. Although I was a little dubious about adding the vinaigrette, it was surprisingly tasty. A couple of rolls filled out our meal.

A nice variation that I’ll make again!

fresh tomato and spinach spaghetti . . .

DSCN8569.jpgDSCN8564.jpgDSCN8571.jpgIt’s Sunday and we’re between Wild Card football games. I find the games a welcome diversion from whatever happens to be coming out of Washington constantly. Anyhow, I saw this recipe on the NYTimes website and thought I’d try it out for two of us.  While the Baltimore Ravens were losing, I read many of the comments attached to the recipe and adapted the recipe accordingly.

At the store, instead of cherry or grape tomatoes, I bought medium size tomatoes and used four of them for my dish. I cracked a large clove of garlic, smashed it and heated it up in a rounded deep skillet filled with a little olive oil. I cut up the tomatoes after rinsing them off – and put them into the pot. As they became fragrant, I smushed them down with a spatula and added a scant teaspoon of sugar. I have found that adding a little sugar to fresh tomato softens the acidity and brings the sweet tomato flavor to the fore. I let this cook down until closer to dinnertime.

When almost ready, I zested two Meyer Lemons and added the zest to the tomato mixture. From the pantry, I added about a half teaspoon of dried basil ad the same amount of crushed red pepper.

I broke up some thin spaghetti from the box and put them into the pot while water was coming to a boil in my electric tea kettle. I added a cup and a half a of hot water to the pot and turned the heat to medium high, stirring the fragrant, bright tomato pasta mixture.

It took about ten minutes to cook al dente while stirring occasionally (I usually cook thin spaghetti for 9 minutes most of the time.) Just when it was almost cooked, I stirred in half a bag of tender baby spinach and folded it into the pasta dish. Served in our ancient Chinese pottery dishes, we liberally grated fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese on top.

This could be considered a pasta primavera type of dish since the ingredients are all vegetables. It’s a sister dish to the one I sometimes make with sauteed zucchini and fresh mushrooms with some Ragu marinara sauce with the spaghetti. In any case, it’s a nice contrast to spaghetti and meatballs – and very convenient to put together if you have enough tomatoes on hand. The lemon zest brings a brightness to the dish – and to me, is an essential ingredient to this recipe.

Bon Appetit!

Footnote: We just finished our supper and this recipe is a KEEPER!! Tasty and light – very satisfying to make and to eat!

roast chicken legs, yellow squash with bacon/onion and jasmine rice. . .

DSCN8562.jpgIt’s Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019 and we’re having chicken for dinner. I like to buy two small chicken legs at Whole Foods and cook them Asian style. First, I make a marinade in a small saucepan on the stove: Ohsahwa soy sauce, mirin, cooking sherry and a little sugar which comes to a boil and rests on the stove until cool. Sometimes, I add a few ice cubes to the marinade to dilute and cool it off at the same time.

In a bowl large enough to hold the chicken legs, I sprinkle the legs with Lawry’s garlic salt and then pour the marinade over them. I turn them after about an hour. I marinate the chicken mid-afternoon and when it’s close to dinnertime, I heat up a grill pan (or a smooth skillet) with a little vegetable oil – not too much as it will spit and spatter. Turn on the exhaust fan over the stove and brown the legs in the skillet on both sides until golden. Let the chicken rest while you preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Roast the par-grilled legs in the oven until cooked (about a half an hour or until it reads 165 degrees on an instant thermometer.) Meanwhile, start some jasmine rice in a rice cooker – 2 parts water to rice. Peel three yellow squashes and split in half, then slice thinly. In another skillet, brown some sliced bacon and onion, adding the squash pieces. Stir until the squash is cooked through, adding a little water during cooking. Drain any excess fat.

Serve the Jasmine rice, roast chicken legs and squash on a dinner plate. Bon Appetit! Tastes good with Miller Lite beer (very cold.) Happy 2nd day of 2019!

 

Gabrielle Hamilton’s New Year’s Day meal of Steak Tartare & Pommes Anna

01pommes-anna-articleLargeNew Year’s Day, 2019.

Gabrielle Hamilton writes about making Steak Tartare and Pommes Anna for a meal to start the year. Yum! Can’t think of anything more appetizing for me!

 

 

Postscript: My steak tartare was very tasty. I used a tried and true recipe from years past: freshly ground beef (85%); chopped anchovies, garlic salt, cracked pepper, Worcestershire sauce, fresh egg yolk, chopped red onion. Mixed well with more cracked pepper on top when served on Pepperidge Farm thinly sliced white toast.

The Pommes Anna were crispy on the outside but not as tasty inside as my own pan-fried skillet potatoes (cut on the large blade of a box grater, cooked and crispy on all side with some judicious turning in the skillet.

I’m glad that I came across Gabrielle Hamilton’s suggestion for this menu to enjoy on New Year’s Day. Happy 2019! Will repeat again next year!

Medjool dates stuffed with Boursin cheese!

DSCN8553It’s the day of New Year’s Eve and it’s not too late to make an elegant, delicious treat to serve with chilled champagne or prosecco. I first tasted these at a piano party and found them so delicious that I think I ate half of them on the plate!

I haven’t had them since, but saw some beautiful Medjool dates at Trader Joe’s this morning – and I already had some unopened Boursin cheese in the fridge at home. These dates have the pits in so when you slice them lengthwise, they are easy to remove. Then just cup the date and fill it with Boursin cheese. It spreads easier if it is at room temperature rather than cold and crumbly from the fridge.

That’s it! I’ve also seen recipes where a pecan half is placed on top of the cheese, or some prosciutto ham wrapped around it – but I’m not sure that would make it more tasty, just more involved.

Happy New Year – and here’s to enjoying the thought of a clean slate starting tomorrow!

 

 

Christmas Cinnamon Rolls! . . .

10427310_10205908105647846_4735637580089982649_n-1

IMG_2909.jpgThe reason these homemade cinnamon rolls are called Christmas – is that I have been making and serving them on Christmas morning for decades – while the girls were growing up and now when they come to visit on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

I usually make the refrigerated dough ahead of time and set up them up in rolls early on Christmas morning where they will rise and then be baked to eat hot out of the oven while we open presents, drink coffee and inhale the warm rolls. Afterwards, we’ll have a brunch of Eggs Benedict with hollandaise sauce on top.

But back to the cinnamon rolls. This is a basic refrigerator roll recipe from my red Betty Crocker cookbook that I bought in the !960’s when I was first married. It is now taped together with scotch tape across the spine and held together with two rubber bands so that the cover stays on.

DSCN8549.jpgI just made the dough so here’s the ingredients below. The most important caveat is to mix and handle the dough GENTLY throughout the process. The less the dough is kneaded and handled, the more tender the rolls will be. This is why I don’t use a mixer but just a large spoon and rubber spatula.

1 3/4 cup warm water

2 packets of Fleischmann’s dry yeast dissolved in the water

1/4 cup melted unsalted butter

1/2 cup sugar (I use raw, turbinado sugar)

1 Tablespoon salt (Maldon sea salt)

1 extra large egg

Mix all of the above ingredients until smooth without beating or mixing too hard. You want to handle the dough gently throughout so that it will be tender to the bite and rise up easily.

To the wet mixture, add 6 cups of flour. I aereate the flour (King Arthur) before putting it into a one cup measure. If the flour is packed down, you’ll be adding more flour than called for.

I stir in 2 cups of flour at a time with a mixing spoon and then use my clean hands to knead the dough gently to incorporate all the loose flour and crumbs at the end. It should feel resilient and smooth – and don’t worry, the loose flour and crumbs will fold in as you knead it gently.

I then put the dough into a big mixing bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, refrigerating it until I’m ready to set up the rolls.

10926389_10205908042206260_5228618066580393084_nSETTING UP THE ROLLS:

Divide the dough in half and save the other half in the fridge for another time, or use it if you’re making the rolls for a large crowd.

On parchment paper, sprinkle some loose flour but not too much. Knead the dough on the floured board so that it doesn’t stick. If it’s very sticky, add a little more flour and incorporate.

Melt half a stick of unsalted butter and roll the dough out to about a third of an inch thick. Spread the melted butter on the dough. Mix together ground cinnamon and sugar – and spread it evenly (slightly thickly) on the dough.

Roll it up from lengthwise edge and pinch the roll together. Pat it and then cut the roll into cinnamon roll size – and place in a buttered baking pan with sides. The rolls should not be touching because they will rise again and fill in the spaces when risen.

Cover with a clean dishcloth or plastic wrap until they are risen. Usually takes about an hour. I sometimes preheat the oven to 200 and TURN IT OFF. Then, put the rolls in the oven to rise with the oven door open.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and slide the rolls in. Watch them as they bake about 12-15 minutes until they are golden brown on the top and the rolls are cooked. Set them out on a plate and let the folks pull them apart onto their paper Christmas plates ready for serving.

10888420_10205908097767649_5998181214209829943_nMerry Christmas! My granddaughter, Anna, loves these cinnamon rolls and is capable of eating quite a number of them while they’re still warm!

10906182_10205908092527518_2921969358281817782_n.jpg

 

 

 

Veggie Spaghetti! . . .

DSCN8524

Today, I looked for some ground beef to make spaghetti and meatballs for dinner tonight. Lately, the packaged meat at a number of nearby grocery stores has either been overpriced or not very appetizing. I circled my cart around and bought some thickly sliced fresh mushrooms and one zucchini. DSCN8522

Our dinner would be sauteed zucchini and mushrooms with olive oil and a chopped shallot. When the vegetables were cooked, I added half a jar of our favorite spaghetti sauce made by Ragu, and warmed it up with a sprinkle with some dried basil.

In another pot, I boiled water and cooked thin spaghetti until slightly more tender than al dente – and drained it well. I plated our pasta bowls with the hot pasta and scooped warm sauce and vegetables on top. I had also bought a nice chunk of authentic Parmesan cheese, nibbling a little of it while the spaghetti cooked.

With our simple supper, we had some snowflake rolls and butter along with the pasta. Tasty and satisfying!

 

rosemary shortbread! . . .

DSCN8490

During the holidays, one of the easiest things to make – and also one of the treats everyone likes most (a good combination!) is rosemary shortbread. There’s only one caveat and that is to prick the shortbread when it goes in the oven – and again when it comes out – and especially to cut it into squares before it cools. Otherwise, it’s almost impossible to cut later when it has cooled.

Here’s my recipe derived mostly from Melissa Clark:

  1. Cut two sticks of unsalted butter into 1 inch pieces when it’s cold – place the pieces into a food processor bowl.
  2. Add 2 cups of flour (I aerate the flour before dipping it into a measure so as not to compact and add too much flour.) The proportion of butter to flour is delicate and accounts for the tender bite of these cookies.
  3. Add 2/3 cup of turbinado sugar
  4. Add a large pinch of salt (I use Maldon sea salt)
  5. Add a teaspoon or two of very good honey. I was given s jar of local Carlisle honey and I drizzle that into the food processor bowl.

Process using short spurts until the dough is almost together – do not overprocess it.

I use a 9 inch pie pan and spray it with Pam beforehand. Then, I put the dough into the pan and press it down with a large spoon. Prick it in intervals with a fork. If it doesn’t hold together to do that, then wait until it is baked and do it then.

Bake in preheated 325-degree oven for 50 minutes or until golden brown. I turn it partway through so that the edges brown evenly. Take the shortbread out, prick with a fork and when slightly cooled, cut into serving pieces with a sharp knife.

It freezes beautifully, and it’s so handy to have some around when drinking Constant Comment or Lapsang Souchang tea in the afternoons.

Enjoy! And happy holidays too!

roast chestnut stuffing! . . .and homemade turkey gravy

DSCN8433

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s vey cold here in New England – 7 degrees and sunny! Hope those high school football games carry on in the frigid weather!

Our Thanksgiving turkey has been dressed every year with a roast chestnut stuffing. I usually start roasting and peeling chestnuts a few weeks ahead of time and store the sweet meats in the freezer. This year, we have a hearty bounty of them and I heated them up in a little butter before putting them in the dressing. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

I usually put together the dressing by mid-morning so that it has a chance to cool completely before stuffing the bird when it goes in the oven early afternoon. There’s no rushing this timing so it kicks off the day’s cooking along with reheating a large pot of turkey stock that I started yesterday (more about that later.)

ROAST CHESTNUT STUFFING:

  1. In order to shell the chestnuts, I use a chestnut cutter (yes!) and split the peel of the chestnut all the way around from head to head. Then, I heat the slitted chestnuts until the water boils and let the chestnuts sit in the hot water for about 15-20 minutes. This step is essential for the hot water to enter the shell and to separate the inner skin from the meat inside. Then, I heat the oven to 425 degrees and roast the soaked chestnuts for 20 minutes or so. Usually, this yields a harvest of about 80% of the chestnuts from their shells. The other 20% either sticks to the skin or may be inedible. I do this numerous times (usually while watching football games on TV) before the holiday with chestnuts that I try out at 3 or 4 different stores. The chestnuts can cost anywhere from $7.95 a pound (Whole Foods and Shaws) to $4.95 at Market Basket. The ones from Market Basket, though cheaper had a higher attrition rate than the others. The ones I bought from Stop and Shop for $5.95 a pound worked out the best. The cost increases but is well worth it! Even the crumbly bits are good because they add so much flavor to the crumbs and vegetables.
  2. In a large pan, I melted half a stick of butter (YAY for BUTTER!! – at least for today) and warmed up the defrosted chestnuts.
  3. Took them out of the pan and melted 2/3rds of a stick of butter and one whole vidalia onion, chopped up, hearts of celery and the tender leaves inside and Bell’s Seasoning – a healthy sprinkle on top of the mixed vegetables. Cook until slightly softened.
  4. Add one bag of Pepperide Farm herb stuffing crumbs. Mix in gently and sprinkle with chicken broth to moisten it (being careful not to add too much or the stuffing will be a sticky blob rather than crumbling deliciousness.)
  5. Sprinkle more Bell’s Seasoning across this mixture – I even opened a new box rather than using what I had left over from last Thanksgiving!
  6. Add a large handful of fresh chopped parsley and mix in gently.
  7. Lastly, add the warmed chestnuts and fold into the stuffing. Sprinkle on a little more chicken broth if too dry. Do less than more.
  8. Let the dressing cool. Use part of it to stuff the cavities of the turkey and the neck area; secure with poultry pins (that I can never find when I need them!)

This chestnut stuffing is divine by itself. But when there’s homemade turkey gravy made from long-simmering stock, you don’t even need a turkey to make people happy (my youngest daughter related this to me once upon a time!) This recipe for stock may sound over the top, but believe me, no matter how much you make, there’s never enough. Plus, if the turkey gravy is this delicious, it makes EVERYTHING on your plate taste good. So here goes:

TURKEY STOCK GRAVY:

  1. I buy a pack of fresh turkey wings and roast them at 400 degrees for an hour.
  2. Then, I lightly brown onion and celery in a large soup pot, cut the roasted wings apart and add them to the pot. I use 2/3rds chicken broth and 1/3 water in the stock.
  3. Let it simmer slowly with the lid off to cook down a bit and then with the lid on.
  4. I store the stock in my pantry overnight which is as cold as a refrigerator.
  5. On Thanksgiving day, I degrease the fat from the top of the stock when it’s still cold. Then, simmer some more, adding the neck and giblets from the turkey when I’ve opened it up to rinse and dry it. I also pan fry the neck and giblets in some butter before adding to the cooked stock.
  6. Let the whole thing simmer until you’re ready to turn it to gravy. Hours rather than minutes. . .
  7. Remove and strain everything out of the stock and retain the stock in  separate bowl.
  8. In the stockpot, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of flour, whisking well. Add a small amount of stock into the roue and whisk some more. Gradually, whisk in the rest of the strained stock. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. If the gravy is not thick enough, take some stock out, add a little more flour and mix well, then add back to the stock.
  9. Every year, I’m hunting around for something to serve the gravy from. I have never liked serving it from a big soup bowl so this year, I found a gravy boat (a small tureen, actually) and am all set!

il_570xN.1650480049_mpnl

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. We have much to be grateful for and sometimes lose sight of how much, given the toxic political environment we’re held hostage to. But, we are grateful nonetheless.

Cheers!

 

 

great northern beans casserole. . .

DSCN8401i’m a loyal reader of NYTimes recipes and enjoy perusing them for their attempts to attract a population who seem to eat in trends: cauliflower rice, spiralized vegetables,  lots of cumin, curry and Middle Eastern spices.

My taste leans more towards plain food that tastes delicious because of quality ingredients and slow cooking. This recipe for a cheesy bean casserole hit the spot. I went out on a chilly, rainy morning and bought a sack of Great Northern white beans, sun-dried tomato paste in a tube and a plump head of garlic. When I got home, I heated up a kettle of water and poured it over the dried beans to soak until the afternoon.DSCN8394

After lunch, I drained the beans of its soaking water, added fresh cold water and brought it to a simmer until the beans were cooked through. Then, I drained them again. To prepare the casserole, I heated up some olive oil, added three large cloves of roughly chopped garlic, and a few hefty squirts of the sun-dried tomato paste. It smelled divine. What WOULDN’T be good, cooked in this melange of ingredients? I added the soaked, cooked, drained beans and extra boiling water.

I transferred the beans into a favorite heavy, enameled pan and sprinkled fresh mozzarella on the top. Into a hot oven (375 degrees,) I cooked the beans until golden brown – about a 15 minutes. Just before serving, With a couple of toasted onion bagels, the pot of beans was just right for a chilly, wet, grey day here in New England.

Isn’t it amazing how food like this can lift your spirits? YUM!

Afternote:  The beans were subtle and tasty (e.g., “kind of plain.”)  I’m planning to freeze the leftovers to heat up as a side dish to go with kielbasa or chicken wings!

DSCN8404