Recently in Chicken Category
Quinoa started appearing in the Bon Appetit test kitchen during my last year or two at the magazine. I could see it was gaining in popularity, but I just didn’t like it much. I preferred orzo, couscous, and bulgur wheat. That was before my childhood celiac disease resurfaced and I had to give up all wheat products.
I decided to try quinoa again as I started focusing on satisfying, naturally gluten-free foods for my new diet. At first I was happy depending on potatoes, polenta, and brown Jasmine and basmati
rice as staples, but I wanted more variety. I am happy I chose to play around with quinoa. Not only is it super nutritious
, I found an easy technique to make it super delicious too, and it is a featured ingredient in my new book, Weeknight Gluten Free
Steve returned from a business trip to Washington DC with the tenacious flu that is going around this year. He’d been sick for over a week and wasn’t getting better. I made a big pot of chicken pho for dinner- a fragrant, spicy, fresh herb crowned, Vietnamese noodle soup- and his health was restored by the next day. I ended up with the same malady right before Christmas, and had the worst time shaking it. So, I cooked another big pot of chicken pho last night, and here I am back to blogging. What a relief to feel well.
Pho became our favorite comfort food during a family trip to Vietnam 3 years ago. Ever since, I have made it frequently in winter, and always when one of us is sick. Happily, it is naturally gluten free, relying on rice stick noodles rather than wheat pasta, and Asian fish sauce rather than gluten containing soy sauce. You will need to read labels for a couple of ingredients: prepared chicken broth and Hoisin
sauce. I rely on Trader Joe’s Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth
or Swanson’s Natural Goodness chicken broth
and Dynasty Hoisin Sauce
One of the biggest challenges on Thanksgiving day is producing a silky, deeply flavored gravy amidst the chaos of final preparations- pulling the turkey and dressing out of the oven, mashing potatoes, putting the finishing touches on vegetable dishes, and garnishing the turkey platter. To avoid this chaos, I decided to create a make-ahead gravy with all the good tastes of the traditionally prepared sauce, and I am thrilled with the results
Both a cousin and a sister-in-law stick to gluten-free diets, so I added gluten-free constraints to the challenge of formulating the perfect gravy, but, the recipe is also great with more customary wheat flour too.
The crucial step to this sauce is cooking up a rich turkey stock at least 1 day before the feast. I purchase extra turkey necks, brown them in a Dutch oven, cover with water, and let the brew bubble for a few hours. Meanwhile I am blanching green beans, simmering the cranberry sauce, and cutting up carrot and celery sticks to use as dippers for the butternut squash hummus I will put out as a starter on Thanksgiving (look for that recipe tomorrow).
When the cool wind started roaring around our new hilltop home last week, I got out a heavy saucepan, and stirred up a batch of herb-scented polenta to warm us up. The simmering potion took the chill off the house too.
I keep a package of Bob’s Red Mill medium grind cornmeal (available at many grocery stores) in the cupboard at all times; that along with other staples- a bit of onion, scallion or shallot, a handful of fresh herbs, and a little grated cheese, are all the ingredients needed to transform cornmeal into a creamy polenta.
There is one step in the preparation that requires attention- adding the grains of corn to the boiling liquid in such a way as to avoid clumps. The technique is simple: scoop up about ¼ cup of the cornmeal at a time, and sprinkle it from the measuring cup into the bubbling water, whisking all the time.
I’m happy to announce that my new cookbook, Weeknight Fresh and Fast, is now available. It can be found exclusively at Williams-Sonoma stores this month and February, and then in March it will also be in bookstores. It can be preordered on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, for March shipment.
The recipes are inspired by my weekly trips to farmers' markets, and reflect the way I cook at home: lots of fresh veggies, small amounts of olive oil, vivid flavor. Many of the recipes are for complete meals, or I offer suggestions for quick ways to round out the plate. I had great fun creating the food for the book, and we ate well during the months I worked on it.
As a preview, here is a recipe for a robust chicken braise. It makes a perfect dinner during the cold snap we are experiencing. I created the dish last winter, with produce I found at the Topanga farmers’ market. Of course, the squash and turnips are also available at every grocery store. I spooned the lusty chicken and vegetables over rice, and then enjoyed the leftovers on another night with crusty bread, to soak up the richly flavored juices.
My friend Karen joined me for her first visit to the 4-month-old farmers’ market in Topanga Canyon on Friday. I introduced her to the growers, and encouraged her to select produce for the week by loading up my shopping cart with multihued bell peppers, shiny red lipstick peppers, broccoli rabe, shelled tender lima beans, tiny fingerling potatoes, huge Macarthur avocados, lemons and limes, dark purple cherry tomatoes, a salad mix loaded with baby herbs, and end of the summer peaches.
As we walked to our cars, Karen commented that I had bought a lot of vegetables for just two people. I did, and always do. I am so tempted by the just picked produce, I add more and more to my cart, as ideas for how to prepare my finds dance in my head, and our meals are more interesting, and healthier to boot.
Last weekend I went peach picking near Fresno, and returned home with cases of fragrant Elbertas
. These beauties taste like summer, the way peaches are meant to taste- sweet, floral, juicy. These are heirloom peaches, with an authentic old fashioned flavor.
Mas Masumoto, peach farmer and author of several books including the award winning Epitaph for a Peach
, dreamt up a peach tree adoption program
to share his fine crop with heirloom buffs. Folks who demonstrate their intent to treat his exquisite fruit with deference assume financial responsibility for the trees early in the year, Mas tends the orchard- strictly organically and with love, participants get to harvest the peaches when they are ripe.
Sunday was chilly and rainy; I was cold and wanted to warm up the house, and nothing cozies up a house better than a roasting chicken. Coincidentally, there was a big, chubby organic chicken in my fridge. I hadn’t been able to resist it at Trader Joe’s, especially for only $2.69 a pound. I used to recoil at the premium price of organic poultry, but my reaction changed once I cooked a Rosie chicken (certified organic, free range chicken from Petaluma Poultry- link), and tasted the difference a good upbringing makes. I moved on to organic chickens I found at the Calabasas and Santa Monica farmers markets, from Happy Farms (link). Organic birds have good old fashioned flavor, and I treat them as the celebration food roast chicken once was- perfect for a Sunday supper, plus a couple of bonus meals during the week.