The Broccoli of Our Discontent, Part II (and Part III)

Just a quick update to let you know that I have found one other good broccoli recipe and one less-than-stellar one (at least as far as our resident six-year-old’s palate is concerned).

First, the good stuff: I enjoy cooking from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, although Suzanne Goin does tend to say things like, “This recipe is best when it’s prepared with habdaboop, a product only available two weeks a year from the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. If you can’t find habdaboop, you can substitute plain olive tapenade.” Um, OK.

Anyway, good old Suzanne has a recipe called “James’s broccoli with burrata, pine nuts, and warm anchovy vinaigrette” that I modified just slightly (couldn’t get my hands on the burrata, so I substituted plain fresh mozzarella; also used GF breadcrumbs). My family ate it up, although my daughter did not go back for a second helping. Basically, cheese is a good reason to eat broccoli, but only bacon can make it worthwhile to eat more broccoli. I don’t want to plagiarize Suzanne, but I will tell you that this dish is menu 26, so you can stop by your local Barnes & Noble and flip to that menu to see if it’s worthwhile to buy the book. Suzanne’s tone can be off-putting, but most of the recipes are actually quite accessible to a home cook of even my own modest skills.

The third broccoli recipe I tried — I made a “bulk” order of broccoli from Pure Sprouts, our local organic delivery service, so I had quite a bit of broccoli to prepare last week — came from Taste of Home. No, it’s not the egg one I mentioned earlier, but it does have eggs in it. Lots of eggs, in fact. It’s a frittata. Again, I won’t plagiarize, but you can find the book at a local bookseller and check out the recipe. I recommend the cookbook to beginners or people who only make their own regional recipes and want to try some other (American) regions’ cooking for a change. Nothing in the book is earth-shattering, but it does give step-by-step instructions for things as basic (but new to beginners) as carving a turkey or making a pie crust. Anyway, the frittata was fine with the adults in our house, but I think it was too much egg for Junior. (She asks me, “Can you just add in that it was ‘chew-forever’?”) Maybe she would have liked it better if I had added bacon? 😉 Onward…

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Quick Chicken Skillet Meal

The forecast calls for a high of around 93 degrees Fahrenheit today in our area, so I definitely didn’t want to be standing over a hot stove for a long time to make lunch. Here’s what I did instead:

Melt six or seven tablespoons of Simply Ghee in a skillet over medium heat. Slice up three large pearl onions — I get mine from a Lancaster County organic farmer via Pure Sprouts — and separate them into rings. Place the rings in the skillet, give them a quick stir, lower the heat to medium-low, and cover the skillet.

While the onions are cooking, cut one pound of chicken breast into bite-sized pieces. Add them to the skillet and re-cover it, raising the heat just a bit. Simmer the chicken until it’s cooked all the way through, which you can check with a meat thermometer or by slicing the biggest piece in half.

While the chicken is simmering, wash and slice one package of shiitake mushrooms (3.5 ounces, about eight mushrooms). When the chicken is completely cooked, add the mushrooms to the skillet, leave the cover off, and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook the whole mixture together while stirring it. When the mushrooms have cooked nicely, remove everything (except the melted ghee) with a slotted spoon to a serving dish, mix in 1/2 cup of cashews, and cover the dish to keep it warm.

Add two tablespoons of cornstarch to the melted ghee and whisk it in over low heat. Add 3/4 cup of water and continue to whisk as you raise the heat to medium. Whisk until the sauce thickens, then add salt and pepper to taste, pour it over the chicken mixture, and serve the dish immediately.

GF Pizza Foray

My general rule for cooking gluten-free is to seek out recipes that were never intended for wheat or other gluten-containing grains. For example, I love Asian recipes that feature rice, or Mexican recipes with corn tortillas. However, there are some traditionally wheat-based dishes that are just too much a part of our culture for me to ignore them — like chocolate chip cookies — so I make them with an “alternative flour,” as my dad calls it. You can use the classic chocolate chip cookie recipe very nicely with amaranth flour instead (plus two teaspoons of xanthan gum), for example.

Now, the pizza: I am not a gluten-free pro, because GF is not a necessity in our house, but more of a lifestyle choice. Therefore, making GF pizza crust is somewhat hit-and-miss for me, and has included the panicked addition of lots of extra flour — not exactly a relaxing evening in the kitchen. Imagine my happiness at finding a tasty GF pizza crust in the freezer case at Giant! I forget the brand, but based on the ingredients, the maker appears to have used a variant of this recipe. Whipping up a tasty pizza was pretty easy, with the crust already made.

First, pre-heated the oven to 375 degrees. Then I pan-fried some bacon and set it on a paper towel to dry. We get our pastured bacon from Stryker Farms, via Pure Sprouts organic delivery. I am incredibly happy with their quality, selection, and service. We get most of our groceries via Pure Sprouts. If you’re in eastern Pennsylvania (Northampton County and the surrounding area), check them out!

Next, I put the crust on a pizza stone, and poured half a bottle of strained tomatoes on top. After smoothing out the tomato sauce, I covered the pizza with three cheeses I had grated: Kerrygold Vintage Dubliner, Parmesano Reggiano (the real deal, from Italy, via Wegmans), and Jarlsberg. Then I sliced up a couple of onions, separated the rings, and spread them over the cheese. Finally, I topped it all with the pieces of bacon and put it in the oven for 12 minutes. Amazingly tasty. I could have eaten the whole thing, but my husband and our daughter wanted some, too 😉

Chicky-pum-pum Dumplings

My not-quite-six-year-old daughter made up the name. I can’t explain it. You will like this dish, though!

To make the chicky-pum-pum:

Cut one pound of chicken breasts into tiny pieces (smaller than bite-sized — you’re going to use these to stuff the dumplings, so make them about one centimeter by one centimeter by one centimeter) and toss them into a skillet with sesame oil over medium heat. As you add the chicken, keep scraping / stirring with a fork. When the chicken is completely cooked, add a nice shake of tamari. Then shred some carrots into the skillet with a vegetable peeler. Shake ginger, minced onion, salt, and pepper over the whole thing, and stir it all together until it’s well mixed. Turn off the heat and cover the skillet to keep it all warm while you make the wrappers.

To make the dumplings: In a large bowl, mix one cup of gluten-free baking mix, one cup of tapioca starch, and two teaspoons of xanthan gum with a fork. Add two tablespoons of olive oil and 3/4 cup of water, and stir some more. Knead the dough with your hands until it coheres into a ball. It should not be too squishy or too wet — if it is, add a bit more flour. Pull off small handfuls of the dough, one at a time, and flatten them into pancakes. You’ll want to make them as flat as possible without tearing them. Spoon a bit of chicky-pum-pum onto each pancake, pull up the sides, and pinch the sides closed along the top and down to each end. You should be able to make 12 to 14 dumplings from your dough. Now it’s time to fry them; feel free to use the skillet in which you cooked the chicky-pum-pum. Pour enough sesame oil into the skillet to cover the bottom. Set the dumplings into the skillet — you may need to do this in two batches — and cook them over medium heat until the bottoms brown. Then add 1/2 cup of water EXTREMELY CAREFULLY (because pouring water into hot oil can cause nasty splatters, which can burn) and cover the skillet. Cook the dumplings for another five to ten minutes, at which point they will be cooked all the way through, but not burned. Use a spatula to remove them from the skillet to a paper towel-lined plate. Enjoy!

My daughter made this recipe up yesterday — well, I had to do a bit of dumpling-making research on my own — and I tried it this evening with a side of steamed broccoli. All three of us were pleasantly surprised by how well it turned out. I think I’ll let her develop the recipes from now on! 🙂

One note: when you’re cutting the chicken, it really helps to have this awesome knife (or one like it).

Warm Chicken Salad

Tomorrow, I’ll be eating next to nothing, but tonight, my daughter made up a great Holy Thursday dinner recipe, which worked out very well. Here goes:

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Put half a stick of butter (4 oz) into a skillet and turn the burner on low. Cut 1.5 pounds of chicken breast into bite-sized pieces and add them to the skillet. Cook them until they’re done. (I like to slice a few in half to be sure no pink is left, but you can also scoop one out of the pan and use a meat thermometer.) Add one package of frozen corn and 1 to 2 cups of water. Stir it all together, cover the skillet, and cook until the corn is done (roughly 5 minutes more). Then add 1 cup of fresh peas, cleaned and rinsed. Stir again and cook for 5 more minutes. With a slotted spoon, scoop the contents of the skillet into an oven-proof bowl and put the bowl in the oven to keep warm.

Pour 1 cup of sauvignon blanc into the skillet, stir it all together, and increase the burner to bring the liquid to a boil. Let it boil for several minutes, whisking steadily until it thickens. Pour the thickened sauce into a gravy boat and serve it alongside your bowl of warm chicken salad. Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are not casein-free, dairy-free, or vegan, but they are gluten-free.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Soften 16 ounces (two sticks, usually) of grass-fed butter. (I like Organic Valley, Natural by Nature, and Kerrygold). In an electric mixer, cream the butter and 1.5 cups of organic sucanat. Beat in two eggs.

In a separate bowl, sift together 2.25 cups of organic amaranth flour (I LOVE Bob’s Red Mill), 1 teaspoon of baking soda (Bob’s again), and 2 teaspoons of xanthan gum (again, Bob’s). Add these sifted dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix it all together until it’s completely combined. Turn the mixer down to a very low speed and empty in a bag of SunSpire organic chocolate chips. (You can also do this last step by hand, with a large spoon.)

Scoop rounded tablespoonfuls of batter onto a cookie sheet. (I like to line the cookie sheet with parchment paper, because aluminum is fairly food-reactive.) Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, but make sure they look done before you take them out of the oven. Remove them from the cookie sheet and let them cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

Asian Chicken

This recipe is an extremely modified version of Peking Duck. It’s simple to make and quite tasty.

In a six-cup Pyrex dish, mix 1/4 cup sesame oil, 1/4 cup tamari, and 1/3 cup honey with a whisk (or a “whisky,” as my daughter says) until completely blended.

Cut two pounds of chicken breast into strips; place the strips into the Pyrex dish. Stir with a spoon to ensure that each piece of chicken is coated with the sauce. Put the lid on the Pyrex dish and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for two hours.

When the chicken has been marinated for two hours, heat a large skillet over high heat. Add a large splash of sesame oil and heat for about a minute, then add the chicken strips to the skillet and fry them (in batches, if necessary). Discard the marinade.

When the chicken is cooked, serve it with rice, noodles, or any side dish that suits your fancy.

Happy Hanukkah!

It’s the second night of the festival of lights, and I wanted to share my latke recipe. It’s good for one meal plus leftovers for three people (at least, when one of the people is yours truly). It’s also gluten-free and dairy-free. (You can make it corn-free if you substitute tapioca powder for the cornstarch.)

Peel and shred three large or four medium potatoes. You can do the shredding with a food processor, but I like to use one of those fancy Swiss peelers. Place the shredded potatoes in a bowl of cold water, then drain them in a cheesecloth-lined colander. Heat sunflower oil in a deep frying pan according to the pan’s instructions. Mix together in a large bowl the shredded potatoes, three eggs, 1/2 cup of cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 good shakes of black pepper, and 2 heaping tablespoons of dried minced onions. (A purist will use 1/2 cup of shredded onions instead of the dried minced onions, but I never plan ahead enough to buy the onions. I don’t know why.)

Form the mixture into patties and fry a few at a time in the basket of the deep fryer, about three minutes per side, but use your judgment. They should turn golden, but not get too brown. Set each batch on a paper towel-lined plate to drain, and enjoy! I believe the traditional topping is applesauce, but some people like maple syrup instead.

Salmon Plate

My daughter created this recipe. although I did all the oven-related and sharp item-related work 😉 This is a hearty, savory meal that’s just perfect for cold fall and winter evenings.

Ahead of time, make the mashed potatoes: clean, peel, and cut 1 pound of potatoes into small pieces. Put the pieces in a pot, cover them with water, put a lid on the pot, and heat the potatoes and water on “high” until the water begins to boil. Remove the lid (with a pot holder), reduce the heat a bit (so it’s still boiling, but not overflowing), and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and drain the potatoes (using a pot holder — be careful when handling any hot pot), then add five tablespoons of butter and a shake of Himalasalt, and mash them so they’re smooth and fluffy. Put them in a Pyrex dish, cover the dish with foil, and put it into the oven. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees.

Now start the salmon: put as many pieces of salmon filet as you have guests (one filet per person, in other words) into a Pyrex dish, and put the dish (uncovered) into the oven. You’ll want the salmon to cook between 15 and 30 minutes — it depends on how thick the filets are, so you’ll have to experiment with baking salmon before trying this recipe to be sure you get it right.

Around 20 minutes before the salmon is schedule to be done, start boiling water in a pot. When the water boils, drop in 1 cup of Ancient Harvest quinoa pasta (I like the “pagoda” shapes) and cook for nine minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, melt five tablespoons of butter in a shallow pan. Add three tablespoons of corn starch (or tapioca flour, if you are sensitive to corn), a shake of Himalasalt, and a shake of pepper, and whisk it all together. Add 1.5 cups of milk, raise the temperature, and bring the mixture to a boil while whisking it to keep it smooth and thicken it. Add 6 ounces of shredded cheese (any flavorful, melty cheese will work — I like Emmi cave-aged Gruyere, Kerrygold, smoked Dutch Gouda, and raw milk Amish farmer’s cheese … which is why my wallet is always empty when I leave Wegman’s) and keep whisking. When the salmon, the pasta, and the cheese sauce are ready, drain the pasta, and prepare to assemble the salmon plate:

Place a generous helping of mashed potatoes in the center of each plate. Surround the mashed potatoes with a decorative rim of pasta. Place a salmon filet on top of the mashed potatoes. Pour (or drizzle, if you’re less of a cheese addict than I am) cheese sauce over everything and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Not exactly Polish…

I’ve mentioned my quest for gluten-free Polish recipes, and although this isn’t Polish, it’s Ukrainian, so it celebrates vegetables from the same region, very broadly speaking. My neighborhood did not lose power during Hurricane Sandy, so last night for dinner (and again today for lunch), my family enjoyed hearty bowls of borscht.

This part takes forever: scrub and peel about two pounds of beets. Then shred the beets. I think you can use a food processor for this, but I did it with one of those fancy Swiss peelers. It took forever, and the fingertips of my left hand are still stained red/brown, but I felt that it made my borscht more authentic.

Peel, then shred, two large onions. I didn’t have fresh onions, so I used one large head of fennel, and then added dried minced onions to the pot.

Put the shredded beets and onions (or fennel) into a large Dutch oven or stock pot and cover them with approximately four cups of water (or chicken or vegetable stock, if you have it). (Since I didn’t have stock, I added a bit of butter and all-purpose seasoning when I added the water.) Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat, put the lid on, and simmer the mixture for half an hour.

After 30 minutes of simmering, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and some salt and pepper (to taste); stir it all together and let it simmer another 10 minutes. Serve in bowls, topped with a dollop of sour cream (or whole-milk yogurt, which is what I used) and a dash of dried dill weed. Enjoy!