Tag Archives: lemon

plenty: multi-vegetable paella

To celebrate my new job(!!), my in-laws took Andrew and I to one of my absolute favorite restaurants, Jose Andres’ Jaleo. This is how I finished a memorable night of tapas:

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Back in our apartment days/my unemployed-days, I often stayed up to watch Chef Andres’ PBS show Made In Spain. His dishes looked remarkable, and I was especially envious of his children digging their forks into the paella he made on their backyard grill. Unfortunately for me, his paella consisted of many meat-lover’s ingredients, assuring me I might go my entire life without experiencing paella. Paella, meaning “frying pan”, is a saffron-flavored Spanish dish made with varying combinations of rice, vegetables, meat, chicken, and seafood. Those last three key ingredients just don’t fit in to my picky palate.

Then I bought this beautiful book last year that has rocked my kitchen over and over and over. To continue my series featuring the brilliant cookbook Plenty, I’m first going to tease you with this upcoming pistachio couscous recipe from said Cookbook-That-Delivers-Every-Time (then we’ll talk paella).

I did not have paella rice (though I realized yesterday I had risotto rice hiding in my pantry all along. Out of complete desperation I used long-grain white rice (you could use jasmine or basmati, though basmati has a strong flavor). I know using long-grain white rice means my chances of shaking hands with Chef Andres are now as slim as ever, surely I have embarrassed the entire country of Spain. But people: this is still the best damn rice you’ll have in your life, so don’t let a little grain get you down. Yes there are numerous ingredients, but this is very, very special. Bring this one out for company.

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Multi-Vegetable Paella

from Plenty, serves 6

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, cut into strips

1/2 fennel bulb, cut into strips

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 bay leaves

1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

1/2 tsp. ground turmeric

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 cup short-grain paella rice (however, I used jasmine)

6  1/2 tablespoons sherry (I used sherry vinegar)

1 tsp. saffron threads

2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock

3/4 cup fava beans (fresh or frozen)

12 plum tomatoes, halved

5 small artichokes in oil from a jar, drained and quartered

15 pitted kalamata olives, crushed or halved

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

4 lemon wedges

Saute the veggies.

Heat up the olive oil in a paella pan, or a large shallow skillet, and gently soften the onion for 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and fennel and continue to cook on medium heat for about 6 minutes, or until soft and golden. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Add the spices and cook the rice.

Add the bay leaves, paprika, turmeric, and cayenne to the vegetables, and stir well. Then add the rice and stir thoroughly for 2 minutes before adding the sherry and saffron. Boil down for a minute, then add the stock and ⅓ teaspoon salt. Reduce the heat to the minimum and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Do not cover the pan, and don’t stir the rice during the cooking.

(I omitted this step:) Meanwhile, pour plenty of boiling water over the fava beans in a bowl and leave for a minute, then drain well and leave to cool down. Now squeeze each bean gently to remove the skin and discard it.

Steam the vegetables.

Remove the paella pan from the heat. Taste and add more salt if needed, but without stirring the rice and vegetables much. Scatter the tomatoes, artichokes, and fava beans over the rice, and cover the pan tightly with foil. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Take off the foil with gusto to reveal this exquisite presentation. Scatter the olives on top of the paella and sprinkle with parsley. Remove the bay leaves and serve with wedges of lemon.

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Andrew and I haven’t been to Spain—yet—but this dish provided a divine cultural experience. We have been traveling abroad recently, more on that next time 😉

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origanum majorana

Marjoram sounds like the name of a homely, studious girl in your mother’s eighth grade biology class.  I don’t know about you, but the scientific classification for the herb Marjoram, origanum majorana, sounds like a naughty phrase from the boy’s locker room. Utter its cousin, origanum vulgare, and it’s study hall for you.

However you like to address fresh herbs, I have a spunky friend for your new pal Marjoram. Oregano is her sneak-out-the-window older sister, so the same flavor rules apply. If you’ve visited A Pear to Remember before, cue palm-to-forehead smack as I gush over eggplant and feta YES SERIOUSLY AGAIN. (I find affordable, abundant varieties of eggplant at Korean/Latino grocers, discussed here).

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Andrew is a newly inducted member of the eggplant fan club and still weary of initiation rituals. When it’s not breaded or covered in cheese, eggplant in-the-nude lingers suspiciously longer on his fork on the slow ascend to his mouth. He liked this salad. Really, genuinely liked this salad. I like to think the Andrew-Stamp resides in the same circle of Kid’s Approval since, let’s face it, men aren’t always so excited about new veggies.

If you thought eggplant was only for Italian food, well, obviously you’re new here. Even if you’ve cooked it twelve ways, here’s a strikingly simple Middle Eastern salad for your expanding culinary repertoire.

Spinach Salad with Grilled Eggplant and Feta

from Gourmet, June 2009

serves 4 as a main dish, 8 as a side

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon minced garlic (I’ve got a sexy Brit to show you how)

2 teaspoons chopped marjoram or oregano

1 (1 1/4-pounds) eggplant, trimmed and cut into 8 (1-inch-thick) rounds (here’s how)

10 ounces baby spinach

1 cup crumbled feta (1/4 pound)

1/4 cup pine nuts (1 ounce), lightly toasted

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over hot charcoal (high heat for gas); we use this stovetop fellow year round. Whisk together oil, lemon juice, garlic, marjoram, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl.

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Brush both sides of eggplant slices with some of dressing. Season with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper—you know, pinch it, don’t fret over measures. Oil grill rack, then grill eggplant, covered only if using a gas grill, turning occasionally, until tender, 12 to 15 minutes total. Cut into pieces.

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Toss spinach with enough dressing to coat and season with salt and pepper. Add eggplant, feta, and pine nuts and toss again.

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Serve atop fluffy couscous and sprinkle with some baby tomatoes. I imagine this salad would gladly accept an invitation from my juicy roast chicken to get together after school and “study”.

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the can-can gratin

My food snobbery diminishes by the day. I like to think.

In the past eight months, I visited six food banks—even as recent as yesterday. I’m learning how they operate, feed, support, and educate the hungry working poor they serve. In two weeks, I get to demo “creative cooking with canned spinach” at an incredible food bank in Maryland with a strong Nutrition Education emphasis. It has me thinking about canned food—where and how it has a place in the American diet.

In my blog profile, I reference my soggy canned corn/green bean childhood. (Allow me to mention here that I was raised in a loving, stable, incredible family and blessed to have canned vegetables as my main complaint). Indeed, my fresh-food-filled adulthood has thus far proven crunchy and delightful. I love witnessing how many food banks are providing seasonal produce to their clients when there are abundant markets. They wisely save canned products for colder seasons. Some local food banks are even sorting canned produce by nutrient priority: orange vegetables, beans, low-sugar fruit, low-sodium soup.

Canned vegetables are not ideal: fresh and frozen are more nutrient-dense and contain less sodium. However, my feelings here resemble my feelings toward the organic-local movement. That’s great if you have access to fresh, local, organic foods. That’s seriously awesome you can afford it. I, in fact, envy this privilege—my farmer’s market has been beyond our budget for the past two years. Hunger is a real and prevalent problem for more Americans than we imagine. Yes, canned vegetables are more susceptible to BPA and sodium. But for thousands of families living within ten miles of me, rent payments and medical bills take precedence over seemingly invisible issues like BPA.

It’s important to note that I don’t believe for a minute economically disadvantaged families should have to choose between nutrition and every other financial matter. I find it appalling it’s often acceptable to donate our leftovers and junk food to “the poor”.

As I am turning my own home into a novice test-kitchen for interesting and healthy canned-food recipes, it only seems appropriate to revisit this dreamy artichoke gratin I made in Brennan and Alejandro’s kitchen. Oh yes, a gratin—pronounced gre-tan—from a can.

Artichoke Gratin

from Plenty, serves 4-6

2 pounds frozen artichoke hearts (sold out, so I used 32 oz. canned in water, rinsed well)
4 lemons, grate zest and reserve juice
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons thyme, chopped (the thyme is crucial!)
6 tablespoons flat-leafed parsley, chopped (I omitted the parsley)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (lower fat is great)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup ricotta
6 tablespoons parmesan, grated 

Place frozen artichoke hearts in a large pot and cover with water. Add the lemon juice to the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until tender. If using canned artichokes, no need to boil just rinse well. Drain.

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While artichokes are cooking, heat saute pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Add onions and some salt and pepper. Saute 15 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Add cooked onions and artichoke hearts to a bowl and mix with lemon zest, thyme and parsley. Add salt and pepper as needed.

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and then add the flour. Stir mixture constantly for 2 minutes. Add milk slowly, whisking as you pour. Add salt and whisk on low heat for 10 minutes or until sauce is thick and creamy. When the sauce coats the back of a spoon, it’s good to go—give it a taste (I like to add an extra tablespoon of parmesan into the sauce at this point).

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Mix bechamel—the groovy french word for the white sauce you just made—with the artichoke mixture.

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Lightly grease a medium-sized casserole dish and pour in mixture. Make small holes in mix and drop in teaspoons of ricotta. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

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Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees and remove foil. Top gratin with Parmesan. Continue baking for 20 minutes or until golden brown and bechamel bubbles. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve warm. Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

The thyme is a surprising match to the artichokes—and believe me canned vegetables deserve to be featured in such a decadent meatless entrée. Even Andrew and Alejandro—carnivores of carnivores—scarfed up spoonfuls. The best part? Company in the kitchen.

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For more recipes from the cookbook Plenty, check out this zucchini pasta and this unforgettable yogurt-pomegranate eggplant.

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radical radishes

“What do I know of man’s destiny? I could tell you more about radishes.” —Samuel Beckett.

Despite abundant radishes atop this blog page, I never before enjoyed these reddish roots (beyond their photogenic appeal). Oh but my destiny was to find a simple recipe where they would shine!

Friends, those of you popping over here for the convenient, 10-minute dump-and-stir recipe will quickly click over to my prior post. And those Tuscan beans are true winners. Oh but here, my adventurous home cooks, my “I’ve never tried quinoa and it’s about dang time” flavor-seeking readers, HERE is a truly delicious undertaking.

My love for feta cannot be overstated. I think there is surely no more delicious combination to enjoy feta (God bless Gourmet for tossing feta with only brown butter and egg noodles)… and then here is this crunchy, fresh, tangy salad you must double because a One Night Only performance does not satisfy. And it’s charming served cold.

The recipe truly works as written, despite my skepticism about steaming multiple grains. But I am certain this recipe would not be diminished by using couscous or quinoa alone, as the dressing and veggies pack the [tastebud] punch.

Note: I just scooped a bit of bulgur from the grocer’s bulk bin, don’t worry about purchasing large containers of multiple grains if you’re trying them for the first time. I do not typically enjoy olives, but a few silky oil-cured babies from the olive bar were lovely to savor with the minty lemon dressing. I also added more olives and more radishes when I fell in love on the first bite.

Quinoa and Bulgur Salad with Feta

from Gourmet, October 2005 serves four

active time: 20 min total time: 40 min

1/3 cup quinoa, rinsed well

4 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/3 cup medium bulgur

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp chopped fresh mint (or ¾ tsp dried mint, crumbled)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

4 oil-cured (or brine Kalamata) black olives, pitted and cut into slivers

2 radishes, quartered and thinly sliced

2 oz feta, coarsely crumbled (1/2 cup)

2 cups baby spinach, (or shredded Bibb lettuce)

Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a sieve between changes of water. Stir together quinoa, 4 cups water, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan, and simmer, uncovered, until quinoa is just tender and germ starts to separate from grain, about 20 minutes. Drain well in sieve, then transfer to a medium bowl.

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While quinoa is simmering, cover bulgur with warm water by 2 inches and soak until tender and chewy, about 10 minutes. Drain well in a sieve, then stir into drained quinoa. Cool grains completely, about 20 minutes.

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While grains cool, stir together oil, lemon juice, mint, pepper, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and let stand 15 minutes, then stir into grains along with olives, radishes, feta. Serve over lettuce (and keep the spinach / lettuce separate for leftovers).

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Cooks’ note: Grains can be made ahead and kept, chilled and covered, 1 day. Bring to room temperature while dressing stands.

Hooked on quinoa? Try this very different, equally surprising grain salad…

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plenty: color splash

The long blank wall behind the couch has had me stumped for the 11 months Andrew and I have lived in our suburban condo. Of course we all find things when we’re not looking (like yesterday when I hunted 10 minutes for my ipod that was smack in the middle of the empty kitchen table). I spent last week catching up Mom and Pops in Delaware, and the hot weather had us exploring air-conditioned antique stores throughout the week—the very place I found Mastisse’s “The Parakeet and the Mermaid”, framed decades ago in Belvedere Square where the hubs and I spent much time in Baltimore. The print is my perfect mix of sophisticated and quirky. Hello, wall funk.

Matisse, Parakeet and the Mermaid, Living Room

Pasta is another blank canvas enriched by bright color, and plenty of it. It’s the perfect excuse to return to our Plenty reader’s series, where I interpret select recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s enchanting new cookbook.

The printed recipe calls for deep-frying zucchini and whipping up a homemade herb puree. Time limitations and nutrition concerns had me adapting this recipe to a faster, lower-fat version well worth sharing with friends this summer.

plenty, yotam ottolenghi, pasta and friend zucchini salad, crate and barrel bowl, sweedish

Please, if you can, pick up some beautiful buffalo mozzarella (in brine) for this one—it’s where the magic resides. I accidentally grabbed Burrata mozzarella, which has a creamy center, and is easily the last cheese I ever need eat on this good earth.

Pasta and (Not) Fried Zucchini Salad

from Plenty, serves four

3 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices (a mandolin makes this a breeze)

1  1/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

3/4 cup frozen edamame

1 cup basil, shredded coarsely

1/4 cup pesto (I used storebought)

9 oz. strozzapreti or penne (I used rotelli)

grated zest of 1 lemon

7 oz. buffalo mozzarella, torn by hands into chunks

1  1/2 tbsp. small capers (optional)

1 cup heirloom baby tomatoes (my addition)

squash, yellow squash, mandolin, crate and barrel cutting board

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat a grill (or stovetop grill pan) to medium high—heat a cast iron/heavy skillet over high heat if you do not have a grill. Using a pastry brush, brush both sides of the zucchini slices with vegetable/canola oil. Grill the thin zucchini slices two minutes on each side, or until charred and slightly tender. Transfer the grilled zucchini to your serving bowl, pour over the red wine vinegar, stir, and set aside.

staub, staub grill, french blue, grill pan, zucchini

Blanch the edamame for 3 minutes in boiling water; drain and toss into the zucchini and vinegar bowl. (I only had frozen shelled edamame, so I blanched, cooled, and then popped the beans out of the pods into the zucchini).

Cook the pasta until al dente; drain and rinse under cold water. Add the pasta to the zucchini, vinegar and edamame; add the pesto, lemon zest, capers, tomatoes (if using), and mozzarella. Stir gently together, then taste and season with  coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Before serving, stir in the torn basil.

basil, plenty cookbook, mozzarella, zucchini, pasta saladStick around and check out another of Yotam Ottolenghi’s exquisite recipes: Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce. You’ve never seen anything like it.

What is the best cookbook on your shelf?

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is it a brie day or bulgar day?

When I’m not shoveling in pastry-wrapped brie, I try to plan healthy meals for Andrew and I. With our Charleston trip just a week away (and belly-aching memories of monstrous pancakes from last year’s visit), we’re trying to eat light before a week of Southern cuisine. After 350 days, I think I am ready to look at biscuits again.

I love the search engine on Epicurious.com, which provided an abundance of quick, easy and healthy recipes. I chose an herb-packed grain salad to accompany a different take on green beans. With almonds and lemons on hand, edamame in the freezer, and a healthy mint plant on my windowsill, the meal was budget-friendly with ample leftovers.

I grabbed bulgur, a whole grain, in the bulk bin for less than $2 and was pleasantly surprised to find it tastes fluffier than couscous and not at all bland like whole wheat pastas. It tastes buttery.

The following recipes—marrying here for a substantial meal—are adapted from the September 2009 issue of Gourmet magazine. Oh, and you need to be open to cilantro.

Bulgur with Herbs

1 cup bulgur wheat

2 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1 cup chopped scallions (from 1 bunch)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup chopped mint

1 tablespoon store-bought roasted-almond oil or olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus 1/2 tsp. lemon zest

In a medium pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Stir in the cup of bulgur, and cover, allowing the bulgur to simmer on low heat. Stir occasionally and cook about 20 minutes until the bulgur has expanded. Fluff gently with a fork. Drain any excess water.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a small heavy skillet over medium heat until hot, then cook almonds, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute.

Return drained bulgur to serving bowl and stir in scallions, herbs, lemon zest and juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and almonds (with oil).

Season with salt and more lemon juice if desired. Serve at room temperature. Oh how crunchy and loaded with lemony flavor!

Bevy of Beans and Basil

3/4 frozen edamame, thawed (soybeans; shelled saves time)

3/4 pound young fresh Romano beans (Italian flat beans), stemmed and cut diagonally into 1 1/2-to 2-inch pieces (I omitted)

1/2 pound green or wax beans, trimmed and halved crosswise

1/4 cup packed basil leaves

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons water

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

2 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil; add thawed edamame for about two minutes, remove with slotted spoon and transfer to serving bowl. Cook Romano beans (if using) in same pot of boiling water, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a bowl.

Cook green beans in same pot until just tender, 6 to 7 minutes and add to other beans.

Cut basil into very thin shreds. Cook garlic in oil with a rounded 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 1 minute.

Add beans, water, zest and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Stir in basil and 2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice and remove from heat. Season with salt and additional lemon juice if desired.

Serve beans warm or at room temperature.

It’s a record-hot spring already in Virginia, this is perfect picnic food!

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cheap eats

For over twenty years I was the vegetarian who didn’t like beans. It was a texture and taste thing, mostly a texture thing. So I found ways to disguise them: crunchy, roasted chickpeas became a favorite snack, followed by white bean dip.

As it’s important to vegetarians to consider iron-rich foods, I have been on a quest for more enjoyable bean recipes. I have two stellar recipes to share—the Tuscan Beans in next week’s post is unforgettable. Both are best enjoyed with fresh grilled bread, which makes such inexpensive dishes a dash more decadent. This lunch manages to be an elegant 5-minute meal as simple as it gets: bread and beans.

Mixed Bean and Parsley Salad

from Cooking After Five, serves 4, or 2 with leftovers


2 cans chickpeas, drained

2 cans canellini beans, drained

1 cup parsley, lightly packed, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced (on your microplane)

Juice of 1 lemon

Extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, combine beans, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and a couple splashes of extra-virgin olive oil. Toss to combine and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Grate enough cheese so it looks like a mound of snow, about 1/2 cup, then toss. Taste. Serve with grilled bread.

For grilled bread:

Slice a fresh loaf (cheese or herbed bread is extra fun)  into one-inch pieces. Brush both sides lightly with olive oil and grill over medium heat. If you don’t have a grill, place the oiled slices on a flat baking sheet and grill under the broiler until golden brown. With tongs, turn the slices and brown the second side. For fun, rub a halved garlic clove over each hot slice—it adds a special, tangy touch.

Note: Parsley has a grassy flavor not everyone prefers. Chives, basil, or a combination of fresh herbs would be a fantastic substitute for the parsley here. Basil and white beans are a wonderful combination.

Click here for my other favorite recipes featuring garbanzo beans.

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hungry husband 101

This is the story of one hungry carnivore, his vegetarian chef, and $70 to feed the couple for one week.

The dilemma: packaged chicken tenders and thighs suffer neglect in our freezer, and are often frost-bitten within the month. Hence, we regularly throw away $5 of the $7 spent on pre-cut chicken parts (leaving less room in the fridge for useful things like asparagus and potstickers).  The other problem: meat-eating hubby does not prefer to partake in the post-work cooking hour his wife so enjoys.

This is a week of particular budgeting, and meals that work with ingredients in the fridge (always an effective method for a frugal menu): tacos, spaghetti, bok choy with potstickers, and tuscan white beans with grilled bread. The common denominator: these all work with chicken. And Chicken is Andrew’s middle name.

With my birthday dutch oven in mind, I picked up a 5 lb. chicken at Trader Joes for $6.17. That’s less than (quality) chicken breasts alone.

Now, I created A Pear to Remember to be a place for accessible cooking, and I realize many cooks do not own a dutch oven. Well let me tell you that I made my very first roast chicken in a 9 x 13-inch ceramic casserole, and it worked out just lovely (read more about Tweety McCluck, and my adoption story, here). Do not allow the lack of a handsome green pot (known affectionately here as Monsieur Pesto) to hinder you from conquering a little chicken.

On a personal note, there is something wholly satisfying about preparing and presenting a juicy, golden bird to the chicken lover(s) in your life. This recipe produces a truly succulent, flavor-packed entrée to last throughout the week. And the house will smell fantastic.

Poulet en Cocotte

“Chicken in a Pot”

adapted slightly from February 2008’s Cook’s Illustrated

1 whole roasting chicken (about 5 lbs.), giblets removed and discarded, wings tucked under  back

2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt

1/4 teaspoon black  pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, sliced into wedges

6 medium garlic cloves, peeled

1 bay leaf 

1 medium spring of rosemary

1/2-1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees.  Pat  chicken dry with paper towel and season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking.  Add chicken breast-side down;  scatter onion, garlic, bay leaf and rosemary around chicken.

Cook until  breast is lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Using a wooden spoon inserted into cavity of bird flip chicken breast side up and cook until chicken and vegetables are well browned, 6  to 8 minutes.

Remove Dutch oven from heat and cover tightly with lid.

Transfer pot to oven and cook until an instant read thermometer registers 160  degrees when inserted in the thickest part of the breast and 175 degrees in the  thickest part of the thigh, 80 to 110 minutes. Clear juices from the thigh are also a simple indicator of doneness.

Transfer chicken to carving board, tent with foil and rest 20 minutes. Actually, I placed the chicken on a large serving platter with a lip to catch the juices, and moved it to the cutting board just before carving. This is a handy time to watch a video on carving a chicken, in case you also needed a little guidance (I found this one incredibly helpful).

At this point, I let the chicken cool and packed it all in one container for Andrew to enjoy throughout the week. Okay, let’s be real: I first took photos while Andrew pulled bits from the carcass. Two thumbs up from a very happy husband.

If you are interested in serving it right away, you can continue with the following: Strain the chicken juices from pot through a fine-mesh strainer into fat separator, pressing on  solids to extract liquid; discard solids (you should have about 3/4 cup juices).  Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then pour into saucepan and set over low  heat.  Carve chicken, adding any accumulated juices to saucepan.  Stir lemon juice into jus to taste (jus: a sauce from natural juices; pronounced zhoo). Serve the chicken, passing jus at table.

Not to brag, but for a vegetarian carving a chicken for the first time, I was pretty dang thrilled the cuts resembled recognizable pieces of meat.

And the onions? Beauty incarnate.

See more of my food budget and shopping tips here.

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the perfect party dish

I cannot describe how grateful I am for the women with whom I share a classroom. Besides that we get along splendidly, we linger daily—after the students have been bussed away—to talk and talk and talk food. Yesterday, Brennan and I shared an intense conversation about feta that left us both breathless… and running to the grocery store. And then calling each other from the feta aisle. I’m serious. My week is building towards a feta-jalepeno puree.

While I was planning my birthday bash menu, I wanted a budget buffet of unique, memorable food. I knew this would involve feta. Affordable proteins (shrimp, chickpeas), a three-course dinner with simple hors d’oeuvre, and filling starch allowed me to

feed 17 people

for less than $100

with enough leftovers to act as party favors.

My sister-in-law brought cake, guests contributed their favorite beverages. Entertaining demystified. We don’t have a microwave, so I needed a dish without need for reheating and attention during the party. We’ll talk about the rest of the menu another time. My absolute favorite dish of the night without further adieu:

Roasted Shrimp and Orzo

from Ina Garten, serves 6

Kosher salt

Good olive oil

3/4 pound orzo pasta (rice-shaped pasta)

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)

Freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds (16 to 18 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts

1 cup chopped fresh dill (I used generous pinches of dried dill)

1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (fresh is crucial here)

1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced

1/2 cup small-diced red onion

3/4 pound good feta cheese, large diced (I used Dodoni; definitely use imported)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill a large pot with water, add the orzo and simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it’s cooked al dente. Drain and pour into a very large bowl (or ceramic casserole, whatever you will use for serving). Whisk together the lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Pour over the hot pasta and stir well.

Meanwhile, place the shrimp on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and spread out in a single layer. Roast for 5 to 6 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through. Don’t overcook!

To avoid watery cucumbers: slice the cucumbers in half both directions. Drag a small spoon through the seeds and discard. Slice the hollowed halves lengthwise, and dice.

Add the shrimp to the orzo and then add the scallions, dill, parsley, cucumber, onion, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss well. Add the feta and stir carefully. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or refrigerate overnight. If refrigerated, taste again for seasonings and bring back to room temperature before serving.

The second day, I tossed in a little more olive oil and freshly ground pepper before serving. Taste first! This is just as lovely without the shrimp, for finicky vegetarians like me.
 j
Yes, this is an affordable, easy and guaranteed dish for entertaining, but just as lovely weeknight with a platter of pita and olives. Enjoy them, as we did, with homemade foolproof-falafel!The leftovers are even better.

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Filed under budget, dinners, health, lickety-quick

pears well with meals

I promise you would not need a fancy-schmancy pot to make the following, but it adds a little fun if you do. Allow me to introduce my birthday and Christmas surprises, Mademoiselle Plum and Monsieur Pesto:

 

I grew up on applesauce, and that’s not a criticism. Sometimes on our drives home from Grammy and Pop-pop’s house, we stopped at Catoctin Orchards for jars of cider, applesauce, and other fresh goodies. I’ve had a thing for homemade applesauce ever since.

Tried the peel, slice, core, simmer with juice technique—it’s a long wait. If you have a casserole dish with a tight lid, this apple-pear sauce will make itself. With a friend and two peelers, this is especially fun.

A quiet New Year’s Eve with close friends just screamed for roasted pear sauce, and here it is, dear readers, a side dish for the years to come. Because this is ideal for breakfast, dessert, and an accompaniment to of each course, double the recipe below, as we did.

Roasted Apple and Pear Sauce

from Ina Garten, makes 2 quarts

zest and juice of 2 large navel oranges

zest and juice of 1 lemon

3 lbs. sweet red apples (8 apples, any kind will really do)

3 lbs. ripe Bosc pears (7 pears; do use Bosc)

1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

peel leisurely at the kitchen table with a friend, you would never believe this is work

Place the zest and juice of the oranges and lemon in a nonreactive Dutch oven (or large covered casserole). Peel, quarter, and core the apples and pears and toss them in the juice. Lindsey’s note: I core the apples very quickly by peeling, quartering through the stem, and—with the quarter flat on the board—making a diagonal slice just beyond the seeds and stem. This preps the fruit in one swift step.

Add the brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon and cover the pot.

Bake for about an hour and a half, until the apples and pears are tender. Mix with a whisk until smooth, but still a little chunky. Serve warm or at room temperature. Or eat right from the fridge.

this pear sauce isn't so bad with beef brisket, grilled haricots vert, and potato-brie gratin

 

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Filed under dessert, dinners, health, here to share, the basics