Thursday, March 4, 2010

End of Winter Comfort Food

We are so fortunate here in coastal California to have a year round growing season. While the rest of the country is buried under a couple feet of snow, we can usually find something green and edible sprouting up in the garden. Currently, our CSA is providing us with loads of leeks, beets, carrots, cabbage, greens, broccoli, winter squash, and cauliflower. The Disgruntled Farmhand and daughter turn their noses up at over half these items. I'm sure many of you out there are all too familiar with the challenges of feeding picky eaters so I thought I'd send along a few tasty recipes that go over well at Itty Bitty.

A Wonderful Winter Salad


I came up with this salad with the need to clear out some of the veggies that were piling up in the fridge. This was a great way to get some cabbage into the more finicky folks around here and to add some dazzling color to the table.

ingredients:

  • orange beets
  • carrots
  • purple cabbage
  • apples
  • pecans
  • maple syrup
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper
  • feta (optional)
Peel and shred beets, carrots, and apple. Thinly slice cabbage. Toss with good quality olive oil, balsamic, salt, and pepper to taste. While flavors mingle in salad, cover pecans with maple syrup and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Top salad with pecans. For a bit of decadence, add some feta cheese.

Roasted Chicken Soup with Leeks


Have you been tossing out your roast chicken carcasses? Shame on you if you have. Nothing beats a stock made from one when it comes to depth of flavor. (Handy tip: if you don't have time to make stock, throw the carcass in the freezer. Having a stock making day is a fantastic time saver for those of us who prefer homemade stock.)

But the real secret to this recipe is the way the leeks are prepared. My dear friend Joe Evans, a former cook at Chez Panisse, taught me how to properly cook leeks. Prior to this lesson, I consistently charred my leeks to the point of being inedible. It would always happen so fast, regardless of how high I set the flame. Joe explained to me that leeks are very fibrous and need time to break down. He suggested sauteing them covered, using half butter and half water for approximately 15-30 minutes under a low flame. This gives them an abundant amount of time to lose their woodiness and caramelize.

ingredients:
  • carcass of leftover roast chicken
  • a couple leeks
  • carrots
  • celery (optional)
  • potatoes (optional)
  • greens of some sort (optional)
  • 2/3 cup of rice
  • butter
  • seasoning salt (I use something like Lawry's or my own mixture that resembles it.)
  • pepper
Cover chicken carcass with plenty of water. Simmer on stove top or roast in a 350 degree oven for a couple hours. I often leave it in the oven for several hours. Don't worry about what types of seasoning you used on the roast chicken; they will add to the soup flavor. Strain broth from carcass and pick out usable meat. Toss meat back in with the broth. Bring soup base back up to a simmer and add rice, carrots, and any other veggies that you think might be tasty such as celery, potatoes, or some types of greens (note: add greens at the end with leeks). I usually add baby bok choy as we get a lot of it from our CSA and no one here, except me, will eat it cooked any other way. Add salt and pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until rice is done. Meanwhile, melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a saute pan, add leeks, and top with a bit of water. Cover and simmer for 15-30 minutes, checking frequently to make sure there is enough water to prevent burning. When leeks are fully soft, add to soup with chopped greens during the last five minutes of simmering. Serve with crusty homemade bread.

Squash with California Chile Sauce


The DF detests squash. There's something about the texture that sends him running for the hills whenever there's even a mention of the gourd. But this recipe has completely reformed his squash hating ways. My brother tells me that if I figure out a way to bottle the sauce, I'll be a millionaire. Seriously, you're gonna kiss my ass for sharing this with you. If for some reason you find it completely repugnant, I'll give you your money back. Disclaimer: no guarantees for squash haters. I may have converted mine, but I refuse to be responsible for yours.

ingredients:

  • winter squash - Delicata or butternut make a good choice, but you could use any kind you have laying around.
  • butter
  • California chile powder (This is a mild chile. You can find it at any Latin grocery. Feel free to go with a chile that has a bit more heat. I just prefer this one because I'm sensitive the super hot spicy stuff.)
  • lime
  • salt or garlic salt
Cut squash in half and roast, face down, on a baking pan with a touch of water at 350 until soft. Prepare sauce by melting about 4 tablespoons of butter. Add chile powder, at least a tablespoon or more, and salt to taste. I make it a deep brick red color. Juice one lime and stir into sauce. You can either pour the sauce over the squash left in their skins or remove squash meat, mash, and smother in sauce.

P.S. Let me know if you like the recipes. I'm thinking about trying to post the best of my kitchen experiments on a monthly basis. What do you think?

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