Sunday, October 12, 2008

Life is Good. Harvest.

Iowa has been fortunate enough to be experiencing a true Indian summer. It's been very cold in the morning, but rising to the mid 60's during the day.
I'm constantly drawn outside. Despite the encroaching dawn and dusk, I've been squeezing as much outside-time as possible these last few days.
These efforts include revitalizing trips to the farmer's market, where more and more delicious eats appear every time I go. Before I share my haul with you, a visit from the nephew. He has finally become really fun to have over. He's older and better behaved than he was a year ago, and he's become so sweet.

He likes to play Gone Fishing with Uncle Timmy.

This is his monster that lives at my house. He's sleeping.

Playing at the park around the corner.

Ice cream in a cone, of course.

Breakfast at Deluxe.

Two cool dudes in jammies.

Thank goodness for living in farm country. I got this entire spread for around $20, and I purchased everything from the person who grew it. There's some standard stuff like the red peppers, sweet white onions, and cherry tomatoes. I also got some slightly unusual stuff, including tomatillos and celeriac. The award for most adorable easily goes to those little carrots. So CUTE.

(Doesn't celeriac look like a human heart?)

So, what did I make of this pile of fresh vegetable goodness?


Chicken Tomatillo Soup

This idea is outright stolen from New Pioneer Coop

start with three chicken breasts. Shred em. (you've seen these guys, right?)

(It is possible to have browning this nice and a thoroughly cooked breast, with the right technique)

In the pan you browned the chicken in, sauté 2 cups tomatillos and 1 small onion.

Once these are translucent, deglaze with 1/3 c. dry white wine. Add a few cups of chicken stock, some lime juice, and two cans of coconut milk.

**DO NOT buy your coconut milk in the organic section of your grocery store. Go to an Asian grocer, or look in the Asian section of your mega mart. The coconut milk from the organic section of my Hy Vee is around $1.75. This coconut milk was 70 cents.**

This stuff is the nectar of the gods. It is SO high in fat, but its taste is remarkable. It pairs extremely well with herbs, especially basil, meats, and vegetables. (Think CURRY) I really can't get enough of it. The tart green tomatillos and bright lime juice really perk up the rich coconut milk.

Reduce to the consistency you want, toss in the chicken, top with some basil, and eat.

The only shot I've got is of the soup cooking away behind tomorrow's post, Pumpkin Risotto. :)

Next up, those purty baby carrots.

All peeled.

Glazed Baby Carrots

This would work equally well with those pre-peeled baby carrots.

A glaze is really just a thin syrup, i.e. mostly melted sugar.

I've really been in the fall mindset lately, so these spices have been on my mind: cloves (LOTS), cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, and ginger. A sweet spiced glaze is a great treatment for sweet savory baby carrots. Grinding the spices just before cooking really improves their flavor. And yes, all spice is actually a berry. It just tastes like a mix of spices. mmmmmm.....

Melt 6 tbsp. of butter in a pan.
Add 1/3 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. each cloves, fresh cinnamon, fresh nutmeg, fresh ground all spice, and ground ginger.

Cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until the carrots are beginning to soften.

Uncover and reduce the glaze until it just coats the carrots. Yum.

The story of the rest of that haul, and that of a pie pumpkin, is soon to come. :)
Get outside and enjoy the sunshine!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Curried Chicken Salad

Greetings, readers!
I don't know how it happened, but fall is upon us. I lift my head from working on the kitchen and it's freezing outside! As the weather cools, I find myself craving more substantial, hearty meals. While airy, light foods perfectly satisfy my hunger in the summer, fall and winter appetites require richer, more filling foods.
Having a consistent work schedule, I am focusing my culinary efforts into meals I can prepare ahead of time and bring with me to work.
Curried chicken salad is a perfect make-ahead lunch that is substantial, but, at the same time, gets lightness from the crispy rich texture and interplay of flavors. A perfect fall lunch with wheat crackers or on bread. We had some with pita.

In this entry, my huge prep bowl is the featured vessel for the construction of the salad. I got it at my local restaurant supply store and use it all the time. It's made of stainless steel and has a very wide surface, so it's perfect for mixing by hand.

Curried Chicken Salad

Begin by frying up

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, seasoned with salt and pepper

(I use these. I put them in a pan with oil, and add a little liquid while keeping them covered so they finish cooking before they burn on the surface.)

in a large bowl, combine

1 c. quartered grapes

1 c. celery, minced

1 c. apple, peeled and minced.

I got these great little brioche tins for 10 cents each. I use them for holding all kinds of little things, from prepped veggies to dips and dressings.

I used Honeycrisp apples. Use anything crunchy and sweet. Showing off my peeling skills....

Combine the apples, celery, and the shredded chicken.

Then add

4 oz. sliced almonds
1/2 c. vegenaise
1-3 tsp. curry powder or paste

I love mayo in any form, so when I met Vegenise I was skeptical. As you may have guessed, it is egg-less mayonnaise. I thought to myself, "Isn't the egg essential to that rich mayo taste?" Apparently not. By no stretch, Vegenaise is better than any mayo I've ever found on a shelf in a jar. (My homemade mayo is a different story....) This stuff is insanely flavorful and rich. Try it. You'll never go back.

We used yellow curry paste for this recipe. I didn't use much because I wanted the flavors to be very mild, but a couple teaspoons will give a noticeable heat. Making your own curry powder is always best, but, you know.

Mix this all together, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve at room temperature.

I'm contemplating pumpkins this week, so hopefully we'll have a hearty soup sometime soon!
Take care, dear readers, and relish this transition season. It won't last long!
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