Make, Jane, make!: August 2011


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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Recipe Review: The Zuni Cafe's Zucchini Pickles

It is a sheer coincidence that I have tried two recipes from the Zuni Cafe's chef, Judy Rodgers, in the past few weeks. I have never eaten at the cafe nor do I own the cookbook... though now I'm wondering if I should?

Anyway, I was browsing through Martha's (Stewart :P) zucchini recipes when I came across this one, Judy's Zucchini Pickles. Being a pickle lover and a pregnant lady - it caught my eye right away and it seemed easy enough.  Besides, lately it seems to be all pickling, preserving and freezing around here, so I figured it was a foregone conclusion that I try this recipe.

Very easy prepping. Doubled the recipe, but decided for some reason that I would slice by hand instead of dragging out the mandoline... don't know why I did that. Chalk it up to the fact that since I only use the mandoline for massive amounts of julienning or slicing, I've got it stored in the most ridiculous perch above my fridge. Zucchini was a breeze to slice, but the onions could've been sliced thinner.

Used a salad spinner to dry out the veggies after their ice water brining. That got them dry enough, although you can never eliminate the wetness from zucchini!

I didn't have any regular mustard powder, so I had to use some hot Japanese mustard powder instead. Didn't seem to affect the final taste much.

I made two jars of refrigerator pickles as per the recipe's instructions. Then also experimented with stove top processing and canning two more jars. We'll see how the processed jars keep in the cold cellar without actual refrigeration!

The pickles were sweet and sour and with some nice onion tang. We tried them with some prosciutto and provolone paninis. They were wonderful. Love that the turmeric gave the zucchini a slight yellow colour as if they had been grilled.

I also think they'd go great with a hot dog or hamburger. Or just on the side of any meaty dish, kinda like a Korean pickled side dish. In fact, hubby had them tonight along side of some slow-cooker hoisin pork.

These pickles, however, are just a prelude to hubby dearest's super delicious dill pickles that are in the cold cellar waiting for full ripening. He managed to make 8-500ml jars this time around. But I'm optimistic that our cucumber vines may produce again as I see quite a few blooms popping up here and there.

Oh dear, that just reminded me that I forgot to water the vegetable garden and planters today! I've been waiting for rain that never seems to materialize. Those black clouds and weather forecasts always get my hopes up for nothing!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tandoori Style BBQ Chicken

It's been a busy few days over here as summer starts to wind down and we try to fit in as many fun outdoor activities as we can before (gulp) school begins for my firstborn. Time flies when you've got more than one :)

This is a nice recipe I like to make in the summer because it doesn't involve heating up the house and is mostly marinating and grilling. Not much cutting and only medium level prepping. Goes well with Indian sides dishes or just serve it up any way you'd serve a grilled or roasted chicken.

Grab a mini chopper or a sharp knife and chop up equal amounts of ginger and garlic. (If you keep your ginger in the freezer, like myself, you can give it a bit of a nuke to defrost it in a jiffy).

Grab a bowl big enough to hold your whole chicken and combine the garlic, ginger, lime juice, chopped hot peppers (if you want), some yogurt and enough cream to thin out your yogurt if it's especially thick.

Gather up all your spices and add those too, along with some salt. (Had to use these pinch bowls that I received as a gift. I never use them otherwise... usually too lazy to measure things out exactly, and who says there's a problem with too much spice?)

Mix up your marinade and prepare your chicken. You could easily use breasts, thighs, a quartered chicken, or whatever you have on hand. I like to use a spatchcocked chicken because it really keeps the moisture in compared to cut-up pieces of chicken, but cooks a lot faster than an unflattened whole chicken.

It's an easy process, even if you've never attempted it before. The basic idea is to cut out the backbone of the chicken (insert cheesy joke about spineless chickens here) and flatten it all out.

Using either a knife or a pair of kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbone. I find it easiest to start from the neck side and move toward the thighs. The bones here are small and should be very easy to cut through, if you hit the thighs and find some resistance, then push down on each side of the backbone until the thighs pop out of their sockets, and you should be able to find a nice path to cut along between the dislocated thigh joint and backbone.

[Insert another bad joke about this spineless sucker here].

Flip your bird over and tuck the wing tips under the chicken's armpits, this will keep them from sticking out and getting all burnt. Alternately you could cut them off. Press down on the breast with the palm of your hand to crack the wishbone and chest bone, or until the breast seems to flatten out a bit.

Cut some slits into the thickest parts of the meat to let the marinade penetrate and drop the chicken into your prepared tandoori yogurt mix. This part is messy. Using your hands (gloves if you wish) and rub the marinade all over the chicken - skin side, bone side and inside all the slits. Let sit for at least an hour... but the longer, the better.

When you're ready to grill. Heat up the bbq to 400F and plop your chicken on, skin side down first. You don't need to wipe off the yogurt, just give it a slight shake if it's really heavily coated. Cook on the skin side for about 30 minutes then flip it over and cook with the breast up for another 30-40 minutes until your chicken is done. (Test the temp. in the thigh and breast).

Another beauty of spatchcocked chicken is that you can cook it a fairly long time with the bone side down without anything burning. Meaning that you can get perfectly cooked skin and then flip it over and grill as long as necessary to ensure thorough cooking. As you can see with my opening picture, hubby had a little problem with a fire in the grill and the skin got much more black than my usual perfectly crispy reddish brown :P

This time round, we served it with some naan from the supermarket (which freezes incredibly well, by the way), shredded leaf lettuce, diced fresh tomatoes and some pickled radishes. Super yum and fresh.

The whole grilled chicken is really easy to carve or to cut up into pieces. The bone gets really brittle from the grilling, so even a steak knife would probably cut the chicken up into serving sized pieces.

Saved one of the breasts and some leftover thigh for butter chicken the following night.  Equally yummy and much richer! Thought I wouldn't want this again so soon, but now writing this post is making me think about tandoori chicken again. Luckily, it's on the menu for our annual summer bbq in two weeks :)


Tandoori-Style BBQ Chicken (adapted from 1000 Indian Recipes by Neelam Batra)

1 whole chicken (ours are usually about 5 lbs, reduce your amounts accordingly for smaller chickens or pieces)
1 inch piece ginger
7-8 cloves garlic
1-2 serrano peppers, chopped and ribs/seeds removed (or in this case, 1 anaheim chili, chopped)
1 lime, juiced
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1-2 tbsp cream (to thin yogurt if necessary)
1-1/2 tsp garam masala
1-2 tsp ground fenugreek seeds/powder
1 tsp ground cumin
2-3 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric

  • In a bowl large enough to accomodate the chicken, mix together all the marinade ingredients.
  • Prepare the chicken as desired and add to marinade, making sure to rub thoroughly into all surfaces. Let sit for at least an hour or up to overnight.
  • Preheat your grill to 400F.
  • Add the chicken to the preheated grill, skin side down. Shake off excessive amounts of marinade if necessary.
  • Close lid of bbq and grill for 30 minutes, or until skin is charred to your liking.
  • Flip the chicken over so that the breast is facing up and the bone side is down. Cover and grill another 30-45 minutes until the internal temperature is appropriate for the cut of chicken you've prepared.
  • Let the chicken sit for about 5-10 minutes after removing it from the grill.
  • Enjoy!


Friday, August 12, 2011

Recipe Review: The Zuni Cafe's Chard, Onion and Gruyere Panade

So Chowhound my best friend when it comes to looking up foodie-type questions. Recently, I wondered what interesting things people had done with chard? Recipes that really can only be made with chard in order to have the right texture and taste. I found two leads on a Chowhound forum that looked promising: Swiss chard gnocchi and Chard, Onion and Gruyere Panade.

The gnocchi I will definitely try at a later date (if we're lucky enough to receive chard again in our CSA box), but the panade I definitely had to try sooner rather than later. One look at the recipe (bread casserole? caramelized onions? gruyere!?!) had me drooling all over the mouse.

The results were so satisfying. Such simple ingredients and such an amazing result. The chard was perfect in this recipe since it provided far more bite and flavour than spinach would have - its green leafiness held up well to the long bake and was much more pleasing in the end product than mushy spinach would have been. In fact, this is a great way to introduce someone to chard.

The picture I took isn't much to look at, most bread casseroles/puddings usually aren't. But the fact that hubby and I were dangerously close to eating the leftovers straight out of the pot after we'd already stuffed ourselves at dinner, just about says it all.

Here are the comments I received from hubby upon his entering the house, in chronological order:

"What are you making? [sniff of appreciation] It smells cheesy."

"Mmm, look mommy made us something yummy."

"Did you caramelize the onions first?"

"It tastes like the best parts of french onion soup!!" (I opted for more stock in my panade which definitely made it harken back to french onion soup. Next time I may try it firmer and fry the leftovers as suggested by the Zuni Cafe's chef).

And the final comment, amidst mmms and aahs and contented chewing by both parents and children...

"Why have I never eaten this before!?!"


We did have some leftovers which were great nuked the next day. The chewiness in the bread that came from baking was lost, but the flavours and comfort of the meal was not. We had ours served with some baked salmon filets but this could totally stand up to a good hunk of red meat as well. I have a feeling that this is going to be a permanent part of my repertoire.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

In Praise of Raw Foods: Two Days of Refreshing Salads

The best thing about summer is the delight you get from a simple cold salad. All the ingredients are fresh and picked at their peak, making them the perfect candidates for raw consumption.

We received these strikingly purple beans in our CSA box a week or so ago and I've been envisioning them in a salad ever since. I made the mistake of blanching them however and they lost almost all their vivid colour - next time we'll have them completely raw... the kids will just have to learn to live with the tougher texture :)

I julienned the beans and added them to julienned kohlrabi, carrots, apples and radishes for a refreshing coleslaw. The kohlrabi definitely was a nice change to cabbage in this crisp slaw. The flavour was a lot more earthy and the salad a lot more juicy and tender than the usual cabbage based ones.

Side note: quick Coleslaw dressing = apple cider vinegar and sugar in equal amounts, large pinch of celery seeds, mayonnaise to taste and a dash of cream at the end to thin it out.

Day Two brought with it some corn we bought on the side of the road from some young boys and their pickup truck/make-shift tent. Gorgeous, ripe summer corn with super shiny kernels that look like they'd burst if you squeezed them a little too hard. Much of the dozen we bought went onto the grill because we cannot resist corn on the cob with just a touch of butter, salt and pepper... or plain! But a couple of ears went raw into this nice corn salad...

Super sweet and juicy corn, ripe avocado, cucumbers from our garden and perfectly sweet/tart cherry tomatoes from our farmshare - tossed with some lime juice and olive oil. Super simple. This salad was the perfect side to some grilled naan and tandoori chicken that was marinated and spatchcocked for the bbq (I'll post that recipe sometime later... it is soooo good).

It's back to Caesar salads now (with all the Romaine we have :) but these two salads were a nice diversion from the leafy norm.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Baking Zucchini: Martha's Two-Coloured Squash Loaf Cake

What to do with bountiful zucchini? Fritters, breads, muffins, roasted, pickled... the choices are endless. And most can be frozen and saved for a quick reheated treat later in the cold, cold winter. This Two-Colored Squash Loaf Cake recipe from Martha Stewart caught my eye because it didn't skimp on the amount of zucchini and it because included pistachios and fennels seeds among its ingredients. I also liked that it used both colours of this summer squash which really did give it a distinctive flavour.

Okay, so this loaf cake was so moist and delicious that it didn't really need those pats of butter... but it tasted ever so good with them :)
The showstopper was definitely the interesting addition of fennel and pistachio. It gave the cake an almost pistachio kulfi-like taste, which was slightly exotic and not at all overpowering (like I thought two teaspoons of fennel seeds would be). The kids were only mildy interested in this cake, even though it was quite sweet and moist. They don't seem to like when I put large chunks of nuts or the like into their baked goods though... so slightly too large pistachio bits may have been the culprit.

The only caveat I would have for this recipe is that you really need to get the extra water squeezed out of the squash. I don't think tried nearly hard enough (especially since I used some fairly large zucchinis) and I could tell even before baking that my batter seemed very wet and heavy. My cake turned out a little dense in the middle as the extra moisture caused it to fall a bit during the last half of baking. It may have also helped to bake it at a slightly higher temperature than 350F. Ah well, next time...

Nonetheless the cake was yummy and there was none left to freeze (as I had hoped). It was great sliced and toasted the next day as well, since this toasted the pistachios and caramelized any zucchini bits that were poking out. This recipe definitely goes into the bank.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Other Side of My CSA Adventure

You would think that my blog should be overflowing with farm fresh veggies every single day... with the amount of produce we get in our box every week, our fridge is definitely never empty! But here's why I don't blog about everything we get in our Zephyr Organics box.

There's way too much! At first we were just having trouble keeping up with the leafy greens that don't keep as long in the fridge as some of the hardier vegetables, but now the vegetable abundance is starting to take over. So all the extra vegetables are starting to go into the deep freeze. Of course, if I could use all the vegetables fresh from the ground, I would. But since I can't, this is the next best thing.

So far, I've done batches of kale, beans and broccoli, as well as, asparagus and pea soup. I'm so looking forward to opening up these little baggies in the winter and getting a taste of the summer past.

There's a lot of washing, chopping, blanching, ice-bathing and drying involved... but as hubby says, I'm doing the work up front. And when the new baby arrives in the late fall, I'll probably be glad for all the pre-packaged and pre-cut vegetables (that are so much better and GREENER) than the supermarket's freezer aisle can provide.

We are also gearing up to make some pickles: the slightly spicy, garlic-dill variety that my hubby makes so well. My few cucumber vines are producing some nice pickle-sized cukes (which my eldest son loves to pick) and we've been receiving some monstrous concombres with our CSA share as well.

I figure if this season's CSA continues to be as bountiful as it has been and I'm really diligent about freezing and preserving (as opposed to passing stuff off to my parents :), we'll actually get even more bang for our CSA buck. The way I see it, we may even be able to double the amount of weeks that I can abstain from battered and bruised, non-organic, imported from the USA, supermarket produce!

Thank you to the beautiful farmers out there!!!