Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Simple and Satisfying: Baked Chicken with Vegetables

Chicken Baked with Vegetables is the perfect example of how to use what you have to make something delicious, and also illustrates that you do not need a recipe to come up with a quick, delicious dinner.

My project to cook more vegetables fell by the wayside a little just before the holidays, and I was having some trouble getting back into the habit of having them on a regular basis.  I decided it was time to get back on track with that, so last week I made a point of buying a broad range of produce so I would have no excuse to get cooking.

I bought:
a fennel bulb
organic yellow pepper (on sale)
organic orange pepper (on sale)
chayote (reduced for quick sale)
I already had onion and garlic on hand.  I had a vague idea of roasting the vegetables but was having some trouble coming up with a method.  Saturday morning I finally had the brainstorm to cook the vegetables with chicken, so I went down to the Apple Market and bought four leg quarters.  Once I had the chicken, everything fell into place.

I will post a recipe for this, but it should be looked at as more of a template than an item-by-item list of ingredients.  I used the crushed tomatoes because I had some leftover from a previous dish.  If I did not have them, I would not have used them and might have added some broth or a little more olive oil.  If I did not have the fresh dill I would have added dried basil or marjoram to the thyme.  If I did not have the fennel and the peppers I would have used potatoes and carrots. If I didn't have the chicken I would have cooked the vegetables alone and served them alongside whatever meat I was using, and if I didn't have any meat I would add some legumes and serve it with brown rice or pasta to make a complete protein.

I purposely used a large amount of vegetables in comparison to the chicken.  That satisfies my goal of eating more vegetables and keeps this dish relatively low in calories and high in fiber.  It  couldn't be any easier and the possibilities are endless.  Give it a try and you'll see what I mean.

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Makes 4 servings

4 chicken leg quarters
1 head of garlic's worth of cloves, peeled
1 large onion, cut into 8 pieces
1 fennel bulb, cut into large pieces
2 chayote squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, and sliced 3/4-inch thick
1 yellow pepper, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 orange pepepr, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup fresh chopped dill
kosher salt and freshly grated black pepper
1-1/2 cups crushed tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F.

Arrange the vegetables in a 13" by 9" baking dish.  Season to taste with the salt and pepper, then crumble the dried thyme on top.  Sprinkle the olive oil over the vegetables.

Lay the chicken quarters over the vegetables, then season with the salt and pepper.  Pour the crushed tomatoes over the chicken, then sprinkle the chopped dill over the tomatoes.

Cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and cook another 40 to 45 minutes uncovered, until the skin is crispy and the juices from the chicken run clear.


Exported from Home Cookin 7.47 (www.mountain-software.com)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Chickpea Soup with Tahini

A few months ago I came across a recipe in an Italian cooking magazine for Chickpea Soup with rosemary.  I decided to make it and, while it was good, it was not great.  I have this recipe for Chickpeas Simmered with Tomatoes and Rosemary that I like much more than I liked the soup, so I could see no need to ever make it again.

However, I did really like the texture of the soup.  A lot.  So much so, in fact, that I started to think about other flavor profiles that might complement the nuttiness of the chickpeas.  And it was hardly a stretch at all to come up with the idea of using tahini and lemon juice and making hummus soup.

When I first started to make hummus, I experimented with different seasonings - cumin, turmeric, even ginger.  But the recipe I found that worked the best works along the same principles as my preferred way of making guacamole:  keep it simple and let the flavor of the main ingredient shine.  The hummus recipe I finally settled on has chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice and tahini.  Salt and pepper to taste and a finish of extra virgin olive oil.  I decided to follow the same theme of simplicity for the soup, with a few exceptions.  I knew the soup would need a garnish that would provide some color, extra flavor and texture.  Gremolata, while not middle eastern, has the same flavor profile as tabbouli minus the bulgur and tomatoes so I was confident that it would complement the chickpeas.  Toasted sesame seeds would add a little texture and nuttiness.

It worked out quite well.  I found that an extra teaspoon of lemon juice and just a dollop of cream (really, a teaspoon is enough) stirred in just before I add the garnishes adds an extra bit of brightness.

This would make a great first course for a middle-eastern themed dinner, served with toasted pita points.  It also makes for a nice lunch. 

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Makes 4 servings

3 cups cooked chickpeas, with 1 cup of the cooking liquid*
2 Tbsp tahini
juice of 1 lemon
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
gremolata, cream and toasted sesame seeds for garnish

*use organic chickpeas so you can use the cooking liquid

Heat the chickpeas with enough of the cooking liquid to cover over medium heat in a 3-quart saucepan.  Remove from the heat and puree, using either an immersion blender or a counter-top blender.   Return to the pan and return the pan to the heat.  Add the rest of the cooking liquid and cook over medium-low heat until the soup is heated through.  If the soup is too thick, add hot water as needed.

When the soup is hot, add the tahini and the lemon juice and season to taste with the salt and pepper.  Serve warm, garnished with a teaspoon of cream, about a tablespoon of gremolata, and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.


Exported from Home Cookin 7.47 (www.mountain-software.com)

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Baking Class: Brown Sugar Chocolate Chunk Supreme Cookies

I have not been baking much these days.  I am consciously avoiding sugar so I am not too eager to have a lot of sweets hanging around the house.  Many of my co-workers are also avoiding sweets, so I don't want to sabotage them by bringing what I don't want to eat to work with me.

But I am still interested in baking and do not plan to give it up entirely!  I made an exception over the holidays and made a few batches of cookies.  But since I am baking so seldom now, I decided not to make all of my usual holiday treats.  I did prepare a batch of my Mexican Wine Cookies, as the holidays would simply not be the holidays for me without them.

But for the rest, I wanted to try some new recipes that I had been looking at for a while.  One of them was these wonderful Molasses Spice Cookies that have come closest to the Archway Cookie I have been trying to replicate for the past few years.  To say that I was pleased with how those came out would be quite the understatement.  They were soft and moist and full of that rich molasses flavor that makes them so distinctive.

The other cookies I decided to try were these Brown Sugar Chocolate Chunk Supreme Cookies.  One of the main reasons I chose this recipe is because I have quite a few packages of dark, semi-sweet and white chocolate that I bought not long before I decided not to eat sugar and they have been sitting on my pantry shelf growing dust for the past year.  This recipe calls for both dark and white chocolate chips and that seemed to me to be a great way to put them to use.

This recipe is similar to the chocolate chip cookies which most of us grew up eating, with a few key differences.  The main difference is that there is no granulated sugar in this recipe.  Instead, it uses both light and dark brown sugar.  There is a higher butter to flour ratio as well, and it uses both baking powder and baking soda.

The end result is delicious.  The cookies are light and crumbly.  They do not have that chewy consistency that is so characteristic of chocolate chip cookies, which might be a deal breaker for traditionalists, but what is lacking in texture is more than made up in flavor to me.  They make for a lovely treat and a nice departure from the usual when you are looking for something special.

Home Cookin Chapter: Cookies

Makes 35 to 40 3-inch cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp taking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/4 cups unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1-1/2 tsps vanilla extract
5 ozs imported bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped moderately fine
3 ozs imported white chocolate, chopped moderately fine

Preheat the oven to 375 deg. F.  Line several baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Thoroughly stir together flour, bakig powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.  Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until lightened.  Add the light and dark brown sugars, and beat until fluffy and smooth.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Beat in the dry ingredients.  Add bittersweet chocolate and white chocolate and stir until distributed throughout.

Drop dough onto baking sweets by heaping teaspoonfuls about 2-1/2 inches apart.  Place in center of the oven and bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.  Reverse baking sheets from front to back about halfway through baking to ensure even browning.  Be very careful not to overbake.  Remove from oven and let stand for 2 or 3 minutes.  Using a spatula, tranfer cookies to wire racks to cool.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 or 4 days.  Freeze for longer storage.

from The International Cookie Cookbook, by Nancy Baggett (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1988)

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (www.mountain-software.com)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...