Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A little bit of feelgood goes a long way...

Not knowing what I where I was headed when I started this, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly it all came together (40 min?) and how very nicely it turned out.  Here we have a low-fat, high protein, good-for-you-in-practically-every-way kind of dish, a simple dinner and/or lunch that will make your life easier, and possibly better.  Try it, you’ll like it!

Um Yum Salad

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Lime, Shoyu, Sugar, Sriracha sauce
Sesame oil, Peanut oil
Salt, Pepper, Garlic, Ginger
Red cabbage, Celery, Carrot, Onion
Water chestnuts
Sesame seeds

Pre-heat the oven to the standard 375 or so.  Into a measuring cup or small bowl, juice half a lime.  A nifty hinged citrus press which is a perfect match to your bright green tiny casserole cum garlic keeper (thank you very much… Love it!) will do the job quite nicely, or just squeeze it through your hand or whatever method you normally use.  Being fortunate enough to live within walking distance of all kinds of organic produce, and having acquired a taste for the real thing, and also rarely if ever having used an entire bottle before it went ‘sour’, I no longer opt for citrus juice concentrates, but do so if you must… Add 2 tbsp of shoyu, a tsp or two of agave syrup or sugar, and a good squirt of sriracha sauce.  Stir, taste, set aside.

Pour a bit of sesame oil in a mid-sized oven-safe skillet, along with a good douse of peanut (or canola) oil.  Heat the oil and then throw in two chicken breasts, and sear them over high heat, with a good turn of salt and white pepper (or black) on each side.  A note of caution here: I would strongly recommend NOT using your new “highly heat resistant” plastic spatula to flip them (with all due respect and gratitude to The Giver, this is one reason why I eschew plastic cookware… user error, perhaps, but still.  High heat does seem to imply cooking.).  Once the breasts have browned nicely, stir a generous tbsp each of minced ginger and garlic into the oil, and cook for a minute or two, just enough to bring out some flavor.  Add the sauce, cover, and put in the oven to finish cooking.  (Or you could reduce the heat to low and leave on the stovetop, just be careful not to burn.)

Rinse a cup of quinoa and put it in a small saucepan with 2 cups of water.  Bring this to a low boil.  Meanwhile, slice up the following into bite-size pieces of your desired dimensions and place in large mixing bowl: 2 cups red cabbage, 1 stalk celery, 1 cup carrot (been really loving those Nantes from the co-op this winter, so light and sweet), the better part of a can of water chestnuts (or just eat a few and put all the rest in there), a tbsp or two of finely sliced red onion (scallions would probably be a better choice if you have some but, you know, use whatever you have), and a tbsp of skillet-toasted sesame seeds (I used black, for color and texture, but the regular unhulled variety would be just fine.  Not sure I’ve ever toasted the hulled whitish kind, but I suppose you can…?).  Stir this up.

Check the quinoa; it should be about done by now.  So should the chicken.  Mine wasn’t completely thawed to begin with, but it was easily done in the time it took to chop veg, and quite juicy.  I didn’t have a plan for the liquid, so decided to dice the chicken in its pan and let the chunks soak in the sauce for a couple minutes while the quinoa finished cooking;  it was a good idea, so do that.  When the quinoa’s done, dump it onto the veg, add the chicken and sauce and stir it all together.  The heat will par-cook the vegetables ever-so-slightly—just right.  Let that sit while you cut a good handful of fresh cilantro, 2 or 3 tbsp—some stems are welcome and thinly sliced is nice, no need to chop it up too much (incidentally, a kick-ass Kyocera ceramic knife, also a lovely gift, will take care of that with ease).  Toss, taste, adjust seasonings (shoyu, lime?) as necessary (not).  Serve at room temp. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Reboiled refined

Here’s a recipe my younger sister shared with me recently, one of my new faves.  It’s a perfect way to bulk up on greens and satisfy your winter carb cravings at the same time—with a little protein thrown in, for good measure:  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/ribollita-reboiled-italian-cabbage-soup/detail.aspx 

I made a smaller (1/3), ‘shorthand’ version of this the other night using canned beans because I didn’t have any dry ones on hand, or the hours to cook them.  It only took around an hour, and worked out splendidly: 

Start with the mirepoix, sauté for 2 mins, add a bit of salt and saute 2-3 mins more.  Add the garlic and cabbage, sauté for 5 mins, followed by the kale and chard (I used collards because like them better, and that’s what I had in the fridge) along with fresh minced sage (it's amazing how long sage will last, frozen in your winter herb garden).  Stir as needed until the greens start to cook down—no need to overcook them.  

(At this point I added a whole lot of freshly ground white pepper before I saw what I was doing and remembered that the black pepper is now in my new mill, so I followed that up with a bunch of black pepper and what seemed at the time like possibly way too much salt.) Season generously with pepper and salt.  

Add the chicken broth and tomatoes (for my 1/3 version, I used a pint each of homemade broth and frozen Hillbillys, both relatively un-salty—something to keep in mind if using canned), along with the potatoes and bay leaf.  Stir, cover and let the whole thing simmer over medium heat until the potatoes are just tender, then stir in the canned beans and simmer for 5-10 minutes longer, until the potatoes are just done.

Although it’s pretty good without them, the bread and cheese really do make this soup.  I just happened to have half a New French baguette in the freezer, so I warmed it in the oven, sliced and tore it into 1-inch or smaller hunks, stirred them into the soup and let it sit overnight.  It turned out perfectly; the chewy crumb and extra crust held the soggy bread together nicely and added a pleasant, almost satiny body to the soup, now more of a stew.  Be sure to use good shredded (not grated) parmesan, and let your bowl cool for a bit before you stir it in.  Red wine and dark chocolate are nice accompaniments.

(Incidentally, at no point did I actually re-boil the soup, but if you were going to serve it as a meal rather than a workweek of leftovers, you'd probably want to do that.  Otherwise, expect it to keep in the fridge and reheat well in the microwave for about 3-4 days.)

Simple and sumptuous…   Buon appetito!

Friday, January 20, 2012

oh JOY,

there's snow underfoot!!

and squeak!

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Is there anything I care to say today, this wickedly cold winter's day?


So far it's been such a mildly fucked up winter here that I haven't had to worry all that much about how my flowers might be holding up out there...all those lovely life-filled bulbs I planted in the warmth of the Fall, with sweet anticipation of a long-awaited Spring... I'm a little worried now that I might not have buried them deep enough to withstand the cold with no protection, but I imagine they're doing just fine, and the winter's passing quickly, without the grace of snow.... It hardly feels right, but without a pair of skis on her feet, or a snowflake in her eye, what's a woman to do?  Get out the seed catalogs and paint the living room, that's what.  Warm dirty days will be here soon enough.  Best be getting ready.

Fire something up and keep those f-f-f-fingers warm, friends.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Winter Pick Up

Salad of:
Romaine, leaves and hearts
Grapefruit, pink or red and sweet
Bleu cheese (MN or WI)
Beets, pickled, or simply cooked
Pistachios, shelled and split 

Dressed with:
Stoneground brown mustard
Sweet white miso
Virgin olive oil
Basalmic vinegar
Agave syrup (optional) 

Followed by:
Sage mead 

& then:
Savory meatloaf, cool and thick
Wild rice, simmered in vegetable bouillon and tossed with squash seeds roasted in olive oil, dried currants, chopped walnuts, mild celery, goji berries, yellow onion, white pepper, salt, dried nettles and thyme. 

Dessert being:
Werthers & Surly Bender

Endless variations...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

To the New Year

We stopped...listening.
Seven sisters chasing the moon, the ox close behind;
Orion's following, arrows slung.

A thousand dragons envisioned tonight, 
and the moment I saw would be tattooed on my face: 
a tiny red star, above the left brow.

Taurus' horns never shone so bright. 

I'll follow your lead, he said, yet
it was he who led, and glanced over our shoulders as we crossed.
In one year he'll leave the army.

Congratulations to that, said I.
Of course there's no going back; we turn, and make our way,
in love, for the snows to come.

Namaste, miigwich, and peace.