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Archive for the ‘Dinner’


Braised Chicken with Fennel & Potatoes 1

Posted on October 05, 2010 by crankycheryl

I was late, late, late to go to our neighbors’ house to watch their kids the other night, but I had a chicken all defrosted and a crisper full of vegetables that needed to be eaten before our next CSA pick-up.

Thank goodness, Molly Stevens’s The Art of Braising has become part of my cooking lexicon, and I knew what I had to do to make a successful braise come together.

So with very little thought, and a great deal of luck that I didn’t lose a fingertip in the chopping, this came together and got into the oven in a little less than half an hour.

Lazy Braised Chicken with Fennel & Potatoes
Serves 4

Preheat oven to 325.

1.  In a dutch oven, or other large pot that can go both on the range and into the oven, melt together until nicely bubbling:

  • 1 T. butter
  • 2 T. olive oil (not extra virgin, which isn’t for cooking)

2.  Generously sprinkle:

  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper – all over
  • 1 5 – 6 lb. chicken

Add to pan, and brown on all sides by leaving the chicken in place for about 5 minutes per side on medium heat.  Don’t wiggle it around too much or you’ll tear the skin and also not get the bronzing that you want.

3.  While the chicken is cooking, prep your vegetables.

Coarsely chop:

  • 1 head fennel  (I use what I call “the cleaver test” to see what’s tender enough to eat.  If my cleaver slices easily through the stalks, I’ll cook with them.  Otherwise save them for stock or compost them.)
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 4 potatoes (I had a mix of white and purple)
  • 1 medium eggplant (I happened to have some around – the dish will be fine without it)

4.  Here’s one of my new favorite time savers for a braise.  Take:

  • 3 cloves of garlic

and leave their skins on and don’t chop.   Put them aside.  You’ll see why in a minute.

5.  When the chicken is browned on all sides, remove to a plate.  Add a little oil if necessary to get a good covering for the bottom of the pan.  Add the vegetables, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.   Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are getting nice and fragrant and starting to wilt.  Add the garlic cloves whole, just tucking them into the vegetables.  The peels have lots of flavor, which they’ll transfer to your braise.  And when you uncover the cloves when you eat, you can just squeeze out the garlic itself, which will have been mellowed by cooking and absorbed all those great flavors.

6.  Add:

  • 1/2 c. dry sherry (or dry white wine)
  • 1/2 c. tomato sauce

Then bring to a boil and let cook for 3 or 4 minutes.  Place the chicken on top, cover with a lid, and place in the middle of the oven.

7.  Cook for about 2 hours, until the juices run clear in the thickest part of the thigh when pierced.   Let the chicken sit for 5 – 10 minutes, then carve and serve with scoops of vegetables.

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Chickpea, Corn & Smoked Cheddar Wraps 0

Posted on September 23, 2010 by crankycheryl

There’s a part of me that loves this time of year as the height of the harvest draws to a close.  The wild ride of summer is a fun romp, sure, but I like the slowdown, how there’s time to stop and appreciate the things that are coming ripe more slowly.  The apples, now.  The tomatoes that have stopped stampeding in from the garden or farmer’s market.  I feel a little less desperate to ENJOY EVERYTHING AT ITS PEAK RIGHT NOW WITH AS LITTLE ADORNMENT AS POSSIBLE!

Phew.

In this very seemly spirit, here’s a yummy vegetarian dinner that makes use of what’s in season in a completely reasonable way.  And you can make it the rest of the year too, with frozen corn and the best tomatoes you can get your hands on.

Around these parts, wraps are one of the few foods that I can make that E. and Z. will both eat in one form or another, and that the grown-ups can actually enjoy.  These were especially successful for Z., who shredded his wrap and made careful little petit fours with avocado slices, caramelized onion, avocado and cheese.

Chickpea, Corn & Smoked Cheddar Wraps
Makes 8 wraps

1.  Have 8 wraps or tortillas warmed and ready, wrapped in a tea towel that’s very slightly damp and in a very low oven.

2.  In a large skillet, heat until rippling:

  • 2 T. olive oil

3.  Add:

  • 1 c. chopped onion (I cut mine fairly fine, you can do yours as you like)
  • 1 c. chopped red pepper
  • 4 purple tomatillos, cut into quarters (optional)

Cook until very soft.

4.  While onion mix is cooking, prepare other ingredients for wraps.  I like to put them all on one large plate for the middle of the table where everyone can help themselves to what they like.

  • 4 oz. smoked cheddar, sliced thinly
  • 1 juicy tomato, cut in half and sliced thinly
  • 2 cups of lettuce, cleaned and torn into small pieces if large
  • 1/2 c. cilantro, cleaned and coarsely chopped

5.  When onion mix is well-cooked, stir in:

  • 2 cups drained cooked or canned chick peas
  • kernels from 4 ears fresh corn

Cook until heated through, then place mix in serving bowl.

6.  Put together wraps with a couple tablespoons of the chickpea mix, and whatever other ingredients you like.

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Maple Cornbread 4

Posted on September 17, 2010 by crankycheryl

I grew up with my mother’s copy of the Vegetarian Epicure, a classic source for soups and breads and vegetarian food from back in the days when no one was scared to cook with a boatload of cheese and butter.

In a pinch the other day, I turned to the newer edition for a cornbread recipe and now have my new favorite.  Moist, very slightly sweet, just the right density, and lovely for your fall go-with-soup needs.  We had it with an impromptu squash soup as a first round, when E. ate no soup, but did help himself to 6 pieces of this, warm and buttered.  It was hard to argue.

Maple-Kissed Buttermilk Cornbread
Adapted from The New Vegetarian Epicure
8 servings

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 12 x 15 baking dish and set aside.

Sift together:

  • 1 cup unbleached white, or white whole-wheat, flour
  • 1 1/2 c. cornmeal (if you’re in Vermont, maybe give Nitty Gritty a whirl)
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 3/4 t. salt

In a separate bowl whisk together:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 c. buttermilk
  • 3 T. maple syrup
  • 2 T. melted butter or olive oil

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir just until the lumps are gone.    Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool for a few minutes, then cut into squares and serve.

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Children of the Corn 4

Posted on August 25, 2010 by crankycheryl

Is it just me?

Wouldn’t you expect that your children and their two friends could stay at the petting zoo and playground for two minutes while you ran to get them a bottle of water since the poor little darlings were thirsty?

And if they had to run wild in the minutes you were gone, surely you’d think they could continue on with the petting zoo animals, or climbing the wooden tractor, or running across the wide, safe, open field.  What child of reading age would cross an acre, pass the “CLOSED” signs, and enter the corn maze?

This place, by the way, is a big old actual maze with paths that swirl around in traditionally confusing and re-doubling ways.  It wasn’t terrifying at 3:00 p.m., but I sure as heck wouldn’t want to be there after sundown.   I’ve seen the horror movies and I know what goes on.

Still, you and your younger child yourselves entered the forbidden rows, yelling for the trespassers and were at last reunited, after telling the offending three children that they were in TROUBLE and had ONE MINUTE to find their way to where you were (because if you tell people to do something impossible while YELLING, the laws of physics will change to accommodate your wishes), and then the farmer showed up to yell at them too.

So there we were with glaring adults and big-eyed children.  I was waiting for the finger-pointing and the meltdown and I was ready to dish out some Very Serious Consequences.  But that was when E. said, “Listen.  It’s my fault.  I went in and they came in to get me out.  I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed.”  The farmer looked at me and I think realized they were in much more trouble on the homefront than they were with the farm.  He asked, “So now you know you did something wrong?  And if I had a cable across that row you wouldn’t have gone in?  We want to make sure you’re safe, you know.”

I don’t know what you would have done but for me it was to give the children a hug.  And then we shared our first cider donuts of the season sitting around a picnic table talking about how to decide what’s allowed and what’s safe, about how smart it was to stay together and keep each other okay.

In the end it was one of those golden moments when our children show us the beautiful people they’re becoming, even if there’s plenty of crazy along the way.

And then we went home to make a dinner of our first 2010 local apples, some good Cabot cheddar, and a pile of crackers, since I had no energy left for cooking.  On the way, E. said, “Mommy, you know it’s not really my fault.  They should have signs showing how to get out of that place!  Can you believe there was only one picture of the whole thing?!”

Indeed.

And now that we’ve recovered I want to share with you this pure summer harvest celebration of a recipe that we enjoyed last week after a much less adventurous visit to our CSA farm.  It was Z.’s idea to mix, “corn … and cheese … and broccoli and water … and I’ll stir it all up!”  I’m sure he was thinking something more mudpie-ish, but to me it sounded like chowder, and that’s what we made.

Cheesy Corn Potato Chowder
About 6 servings

1.  Remove the kernels from:

  • 3 ears fresh corn

and set aside.

2.  Heat until rippling in a large sauce pan:

  • 2 T. butter or olive oil

3.  Adjust heat to medium-low, and add:

  • 2 cups diced potatoes, with peels unless you really hate them
  • 1/2 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion

Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until carrots are softened, and onions are starting to brown gently.

4.  Stir in and mix very well:

  • 1/2 t. salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour (substitute your usual thickener if you’re going for gluten-free)

Then pour in, 1/2 cup at a time, and bring to a simmer while stirring.

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup water

5.  Stir in and cook at a low simmer just until broccoli turns bright green, about 3 minutes:

  • 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese (I use Cabot 50% reduced fat cheddar)
  • 1 cup finely chopped broccoli (or substitute spinach or chopped chard)
  • the reserved corn

Heat through, and serve.

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Czech Plum Dumplings 4

Posted on August 15, 2010 by crankycheryl

The Vermont plums are in, and they are damned good.   So good that I find myself leaving the farmer’s market each week of their short season with far more than I really need or have plans for.  Which was what was happening a couple of weeks ago when I ran into a friend who told me about her old neighbor who made dumplings with the plums that grew in her yard.

Of course the word, “dumplings” piqued my interest.  So with quarts of plums at the ready, I went home to find a recipe.  Here’s what I found, and have so far made two batches – one to freeze for winter, and one we ate fresh with grilled sausage and a great deal of delight.

Plum Dumplings
Adapted from AllRecipes.com
The original recipe’s yield says 25, but 20 seems to be closer to the truth

1.  Peel, quarter, boil until tender and then mash:

  • 2 large or 4 small potatoes

2.  While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the plums.  Slice in half:

  • 25 prune plums (Who knows?  Maybe you’ll get 25 out of the recipe and will actually need each one.  If not, you’ve got sugary sweet plums as a snack, so it’s a low-risk situation.)

Remove each pit, and sprinkle a bit of sugar into the spot where it was.  Place plums in a bowl while you prepare the dough.

3.  Make the dough by sifting together:

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 t. powdered lemon peel
  • pinch ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Make a well in the center and add:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 cup mashed potato

Mix together with a wooden spoon until too hard to stir, and then knead until very smooth.

4.  Flour a cutting board well, and roll out half of the dough to 1/4″ thick.  Use a glass or biscuit cutter to cut out 3″ or 4″ rounds.  (Work fairly quickly so the circles don’t dry out.)  Place one round on the palm of one hand, rub the circle’s outside with a sugared plum to moisten the dough.

Stretch and seal the dough around the plum, trying your best to avoid any holes in the dough.  (If you do end up with a hole, just grab a scrap from the board and patch it.)

Repeat until all dough is used up, gathering and re-rolling as many scraps as you can.  (To freeze at this point, place in a single layer on a well-floured cookie sheet and stick in the freezer until hard, and then put in a container or bag.)

5.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and gently place dumplings in the water and boil for about 10 minutes. (Add about 4 minutes if you cook from frozen.)

6.  In a large sauce pan, melt together over medium-low heat and stir until warm and thick:

  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter
  • 1  c. brown sugar or your favorite jam or marmalade (we were lucky to have some peach butter bubbling away on the stove and so used that)
  • 1/4 c. bread crumbs to thicken if you like.

I’d like to come up with some brilliant summation here, but I’m a bit distracted as I’m here with a 5-year old here who insists it’s my birthday (it’s not) and that I have to go off to a party with Batman, a plastic dinosaur and some wooden milk.  You, on the other hand, should get yourself some plums and eat them in any way you can think of.

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Insalata Caprese – Vegan 0

Posted on August 03, 2010 by crankycheryl

The vegan minister at our church retired recently, and we sent him off in fine Unitarian style with a big potluck picnic, music, bounce castle, and all manner of wholesome fun and well-wishing.

Though I knew most people in attendance are happy omnivores, I couldn’t bring myself to make something that the guest of honor wouldn’t eat.  And a quick review of what was in the fridge turned into this take on the summer classic, which seemed like one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-this-before sorts of dishes once it occurred to me.   There was something especially fab about having it on the church picnic table right next to the genuine orange carrot-Jello mold, which I did indeed help myself to a big day-glo scoop of.

Vegan Insalata Caprese
Serves 8

Prepare tofu:

  • 1 lb. package extra firm (not silken) tofu, pressed, then sliced fairly thickly, and marinated for 1 hour in 1 cup of water with 1/2 t. kosher salt and 2 cloves chopped garlic

While the tofu’s marinating, reduce to 1/3 cup over low simmer:

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar (don’t waste super-high quality stuff on this – run of the mill stuff will be fine)

Pat the tofu dry, then layer it in whatever shape suits you and your serving dish with:

  • 4 ripe tomatoes, sliced into pieces about the size of the tofu
  • 1 cup large basil leaves

Drizzle the vinegar over the top, then top with:

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to tastev

Voila.  Now you’ve made the vegans happy.

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Sweet Summer Salad 0

Posted on July 27, 2010 by crankycheryl

Colorful, easy and refreshing, this is a nice use for all the stuff starting to show up or wind up here in the gardens and CSA shares.

Making it also marked the last use of my favorite bowl, which has finally cracked through to such a degree that liquids seep out.  It’s now on the porch with some straggly hot pepper plants limping over its side.

Sweet Summer Salad
4 servings

  • 4 ears of corn, boiled for 30 seconds (yes, only 30), and kernels cut from the cobs
  • 1 qt. edible pod peas (snow or sugar snaps), strings removed, blanched for 30 seconds

  • 3 cups watermelon, either cubes or balls
  • 1 T. lemon or lime juice
  • 1 t. fish sauce or umeboshi vinegar
  • 1 dash vinegar based hot sauce

Mix it all together and serve cold or at room temperature.

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Stuffed Grape Leaves: Further Encounters with Weed-Eating 2

Posted on June 10, 2010 by crankycheryl

So at last I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and the truth is that I’m liking it so much that I’m a little bit embarrassed.

I was sure that I was going to find it a total snoozer, and roll my eyes at all the stuff I already know.  Like I need to be taught how to eat locally and why it’s a good idea?  But reading it is like talking to another localvore friend, one who’s clever and funny and self-deprecating and good-hearted, and not as “preachy” as I’ve heard the book described.

Maybe that’s why I took it a little personally when I read the passage about how my new BFF’s year of eating locally was going to mean growing food and buying from local farmers.  And ABSOLUTELY NOT going to include gleaning weeds by the roadside because she didn’t want to fit some low-class stereotype.

Ahem.

I like collecting weeds, and I’m okay with knowing that my sons will grow up to be mortified by the habit.  It’s okay because one day they’ll appreciate my boundless creativity and thriftiness.  Of course by then I’ll be dead and my ghost will be hovering over the heads of their wives or husbands saying things like, “Really?  You’re too good for that?  You’re just going to throw out the peel and those greens and not even make soup out of it?  And what the hell is that thing you’re wearing?  You call that a shirt?”

But here and now my target is grape leaves (well, grape leaves plus eight uninterrupted hours of sleep and maybe paying my bills on time for once).  The vines are absolutely everywhere, and I’m gearing up for a big harvest and preservation.

And in the meantime, I’m preparing lots of dolmades with the fresh ones.  They’re a quick snack or meal, taste great, are gluten- and dairy-free, and easily made vegan.  Come on by and join me among the weeds.

Stuffed Grape Leaves
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
About 40 rolls

Pour 2 cups of boiling water over:

  • About 40 large grape leaves (or 2 small jars if you haven’t gotten the fresh wild ones around).

Let sit for 1 hour.

In the meantime mix well together in a large bowl:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb or beef (locally, humanely raised)
  • (if you want a vegetarian version substitute 2 cups dried lentils plus 1/3 cup of water for the meat)
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (your choice – I used oregano and thyme)
  • 1/3 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 T. salt (don’t skimp)
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Line a large saucepan with several leaves.  Then roll the remaining leaves by placing a leaf on a small plate or cutting board, vein-side up and with the stem facing you.  Put a heaping teaspoon of filling about an inch above the leaf’s bottom.  Fold over the left and right sides, then roll from bottom to top and place in the pan with the flap-side down.  Roll the rest of them and place in concentric circles in the pan, building to a second level as necessary.  Save a few smaller grape leaves aside.

Drizzle over the top:

  • 3-4 T. olive oil

Pour in:

  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 2 cups stock/broth or water,

Place remaining grape leaves on top, and cover with a small plate (this will ensure that all the stuffed leaves are sufficiently submerged).  Cover the pan and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the rice and meat/lentils are cooked.  Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature – which is how much Mediterranean food tends to be eaten.

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Roasted Asparagus with Deconstructed Pesto 6

Posted on June 07, 2010 by crankycheryl

Do you know about the excellent local Vermont blog Gruel for Dinner? I don’t know a thing about its author, but I’ve quickly become a fan.  She has great taste, beautiful pictures, and good, funny writing.

I’m also a fan of Mark Bittman.  When GFD posted a link to her take on Mark Bittman’s Asparagus Pesto, and reiterated her position as the founder, officer, and sole member of The Mark Bittman Minimalist Club, I wanted to try the recipe.  I also thought I might be an asset to the MBMC, perhaps as Vice President in Charge of Distraction, for instance.   But since GFD and her commenters agreed that the pesto was an ill-advised treatment of asparagus, this is what I did.

But wait a minute.  First I have to talk about how I’ve spent half a day waffling over whether it’s actually possible to deconstruct pesto.  Does a deconstructed paste mean the pre-ground ingredients, or would it mean a smaller portion of said goo?  Would it be better called “preconstructed pesto” or does that take its name from vaguely pretentious to downright absurd?  I’ll trust you to tell me.

Roasted Asparagus with Whatever
6 servings

Brush:

  • 2 T. olive oil on
  • 2 pounds fresh asparagus spears, trimmed as necessary

Sprinkle on:

  • kosher salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper

Grill or broil for about 5 minutes, just until a bright, vibrant green.  Set aside on a platter.

Lightly toast and then set aside:

  • 1/4 c. pignoli (substitute another nut as you like as they’ve gotten ferociously expensive)

Warm 2 T. olive oil in a small skillet, just until warm, and then add:

  • 1/4 c. fresh slivered basil leaves (save a nice sprig or leaf to garnish if you like)
  • 2 cloves fresh thinly sliced garlic

Heat just until the garlic is a little bit translucent and you can smell the garlic and basil.

Drizzle the oil-garlic-basil mixture over the asparagus.  Top with the pignoli.  Use a cheese slicer (Were you too wondering what that tool’s name was? Why not consult the experts over at – I kid you not – cheeseslicing.com?) to thinly slice:

Place the cheese on top and serve at room temperature.

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Curses! Greek Veggie Burgers 4

Posted on May 05, 2010 by crankycheryl

I don’t know what is happening to me, but I seem to be turning into Cursing Mommy.

We were coming home from Costco the other day, merging onto the highway.  There were three cars driving in our direction, and two of them merged into the passing lane so we could merge in.   I started to get up to speed and steer into the right-hand lane, but saw that car #3 had not yielded.  This is clearly annoying, but really not an unexpectedly big deal, right?

So what happened next is a little confusing.  A word came out of my mouth that I didn’t really know was in my vocabulary, a word so far beyond polite conversation that I can’t write it here.  It was a word that had Z. in an explosion of delight there in  the backseat:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  What’s a dushbag Mommy?!  HAHAHAHAHAHA!  DUSHBAG, DUSHBAG, DUSHBAG!  Mommy said duuuuuushbag.

Proud I was not.

Clearly I have no excuse for what came out of my mouth as I was reading about the recall of all those children’s products and realized I had given the boys the tainted medicine.  Upset, of course, but was it really necessary to provoke E. to ask:

Son of a what, Mommy?

It’s a good thing I’ve got some nice mellow dinners like this one to get myself on an even keel.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Greek Veggie Burgers
yield: about 12

Puree together in a food processor, leaving it just a bit chunky for texture

  • 1 1/2 cups steamed and drained kale or spinach
  • 1/2 c. chopped sauteed mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked or canned chick peas, drained

Place spinach mixture in bowl and stir in:

  • 1 1/2 cups bulgur wheat (3/4 c. dry, soaked in 1 1/4 c. boiling water for 30 minutes)
  • 3/4 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 T. tamari, soy sauce, or Bragg’s
  • 1 t. chopped garlic
  • 1 t. dried lemon peel
  • 1 t. chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 t. dried

Form into patties, then place on baking sheet (give a little space around each, but they won’t expand like baked goods so don’t worry too much).  Bake for 25 minutes, then carefully flip with a spatula and bake for 20 more, until nicely browned.  Serve in whatever burger-y way you like.

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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