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2015 0222 Moroccan chickpea stew 4This is a tribute to my pantry, some refrigerator luck and online recipes. I had seen Melissa Clark’s latest video on the New York Times cooking website, which turned out to be a godsend. Perky, quirky and sometimes smirky, her videos are fun and an easy way for people who don’t cook much to see how easy most dishes are to make. This one – a Moroccan Chickpea Stew — sounds involved but isn’t. Once everything is placed in the pot, the stew happily simmers away on its own.

2015 0222 Moroccan chickpea stewDuring a sudden and severe snowstorm last weekend that made the roads instantly impassable, I headed straight home from the office (yes, the office) without the planned detour to the market. Aargh. I didn’t need anything from the store. The trip was just my way of changing the subject. Instead, I stood in front of my pantry and refrigerator, and there, thankfully, were basically all the ingredients for Melissa’s chickpea stew. This is not so much a lesson in preparedness for me but the realization that something pretty spectacular can come from stuff you probably have lying around, plus a few special items like fennel and chard, but those are interchangeable.

2015 0222 Sauteeing vegetables 2

So what did I need? Onions, ginger and garlic, check. Jalapeno, maybe but substitute chilis dried from last year’s harvest, Spices like turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, cumin and black pepper, always on hand. Tomato paste, if not from an available tube or can, check the freezer for the frozen leftovers from another recipe. Dried chickpeas, check. I typically keep dried legumes and beans on hand and when I make a batch, I freeze the leftovers for a quick start on another dish. You need dried here or they won’t absorb the liquid, and you need to have soaked them overnight or for an hour in boiled water.

2015 Chopped fennel, carrots, chard stemsThen came the challenge of fresh vegetables – carrots, fennel, turnip and chard. Coincidentally, I had these. Normally, I wouldn’t have had chard and would have substituted locally grown low-tunnel spinach. Other vegetable combinations would work, even carrots alone. Finally, the finishing touches: dried apricots and preserved lemons are usually in the pantry and I did have fresh cilantro. Honey would work instead of apricots since they’re there for sweetness. Wow

You basically sauté the aromatics, spices and tomato paste serially in vegetable oil, add the root vegetables and chard stems and sauté. Then add the chickpeas, cover with water, and simmer for a couple of hours. Add the chard or spinach leaves at the end, along with chopped apricots (or honey) and spunky preserved lemon. Serve with chopped fresh cilantro. This was great on top of couscous or bulgur or quinoa or brown rice. The leftovers are going into tomato soup this weekend and it will be great.

2015 0221 Chipotle Beef ChiliYou’re not in Buffalo anymore, they said. Pinch me. You could have fooled me with all this snow on the ground and ice in the trees as we’re pushing toward March. Yes, I ordered peas to plant on St. Patrick’s Day but the thought of spring-anything is still remote. Meanwhile, hearty soups and stews and pots of beans and chili remain satisfying seasonal fare. I made this chili for Super Bowl weekend and thankfully froze some to break out during weekends like this.

It gets its kick from canned chipotle chilis in adobo, one of those versatile pantry staples that I’ve never figured out how to make from scratch. The beef — cut in large chunks to begin with – becomes tender enough to shred at the end. This reminds me of the texture of a pulled pork chili that’s become one of our favorites for large parties, but is much simpler and less time-consuming to make.

Chipotle Beef Chili adapted from a Whole Foods cook-off

1½ lb chuck steak, cut into large chunks (3 x 4 inches or so)

Vegetable oil (such as grapeseed, with a high smoke point and neutral flavor)

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 red peppers, diced (or 1 red and 1 yellow)

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 tbsp chili powder

¼ c chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, chopped

¼ c tomato paste

1 qt (32 oz can) whole tomatoes, roughly chopped, juice reserved

2 c beef, chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade

2-3 3 c cooked black beans (two 14-oz cans, drained)

Salt if needed (if using canned ingredients, you won’t need it)

Garnishes: chopped cilantro, diced red onion, queso fresco

Pat the beef dry. In a large pan over medium-high heat, working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, brown the meat on all sides and set aside in a heavy pot or small Dutch oven that you will use to cook the chili.

Turn down the heat and add the onions and peppers to the pan, cooking gently until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and stir. Add the chili powder and stir. Add the chopped chilis and tomato paste and continue to stir until the mixture is well combined. Add some of the tomatoes and their juice to deglaze the pan and pour the mixture over the pot that contains the meat.

Add the remaining tomatoes and their juice, along with the stock. Cover the pot and simmer on the stovetop (or in a 250-degree oven) for 2-3 hours until the beef is tender and falling apart.

Remove the beef, shred it, and return it to the pot with the black beans. Season with salt and additional adobo sauce to taste. If you’ve used canned tomatoes, stock or beans, you probably won’t need salt. Garnish with cilantro, and other ingredients such as diced red onion, queso fresco, et cetera.

Serves 6-8.

2015 0124 Squash, carrot and orange soup 2I had something else to do when I got the soup mandate. My husband said he was willing to shovel snow from the driveway so that I could go on a mission in my car. The bargain was that a big pot of steaming soup would be ready for him when he came inside, stomping snow all over the kitchen. With roasted winter squash in great supply along with abundant carrots from the fall harvest and oranges from a Christmas bushel, I was all set to make soup in the 30-40 minutes it would take him to clear the way. Game on.

 

2015 0124 Orange peel drying 2Whenever I have unsprayed citrus fruit, or organic fruit from a reliable source, and have plans only for the juice, I wash it well in hot water (to release any wax), strip the peel in one long ribbon (like peeling an apple), and hang it on my pot rack to dry. The peels dry in picturesque curls that I store in airtight containers. I threw one of the peels into the soup pot along with the grated orange zest. The juice was added at the end to give a fresh taste.

 

And then, to make the citrus theme complete, I stirred a teaspoon of orange marmalade into each bowl of soup. My husband was impressed at a quick soup that was both filling and refreshing. And I drove out.

Winter Squash and Carrot Soup with Oranges

3 c roasted squash puree (see below for roasting instructions)

1 small onion, chopped

Vegetable oil or ghee

3 large carrots, peeled and diced

Water

Optional: long strip of fresh or dried orange peel (from 1 orange)

Zest of ½ orange (or a whole orange if you are not using the strip of peel)

Juice of 1 orange

Salt and Korean red pepper flakes to taste

If you don’t have squash puree on hand, roast a winter squash in advance. Cut it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and roast it cut side down on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for about 40 minutes or until tender. Cool slightly and scoop the squash flesh into a bowl.

In a large pot over medium heat, slowly sauté chopped onion in oil or ghee until translucent. Add the carrots and cook for a few minutes to soften slightly.

Add the squash, strip of orange peel if using, and the zest. Add water to cover and simmer over medium or medium-low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the orange peel.

Use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the soup until smooth. Stir in the orange juice. Season to taste.

Garnish with Korean red pepper flakes and a spoonful of orange or mixed citrus marmalade for each bowl.

Serves 6.

2015 0123 Curried squash soup with apple conserveWhat do you do when there are still 25 blue Hubbard squash under your desk? Roast one every weekend and make soup! Remember those cookbooks with names like “365 ways to make hamburger,” or “chicken?” Well, I think I will soon be able to post my 365 ways to cook winter squash. Here, I looked to my pantry for inspiration, finding both some excellent curry powder begging to be used up and a canned apple conserve from the fall.

2015 0123 Curried squash soupThe result is a fragrant, spicy squash soup, made robust with the addition of sweet potato and carrots, and flavored with a spicy curry. Although I like to make my own spice mix, I took the shortcut and used excellent curry powder that I buy in small portions in our local health food store. I make a habit of storing only small quantities of spices bought in bulk since their strength is quick to deteriorate.

2015 0123 Apple raisin conserve

The soup was topped off with apple conserve made with raisins, dried cranberries, port and thyme. I’ve made this several times over the past few years – sometimes with apples and sometimes with pears — and find it to be a versatile condiment in the dead of winter. Traditionally, it would be served alongside a Sunday pork roast. I like it with sweet potatoes and potato pancakes. Here, the dried fruit complements the curry spices of the soup.

Curried Winter Squash Soup

3 c roasted squash puree (see below for roasting instructions)

1 small onion, chopped

Vegetable oil or ghee

1 tbsp curry powder or to taste

1 tsp ground cumin

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed

2 carrots, peeled and diced

Water

Salt and red pepper to taste

If you don’t have squash puree on hand, roast a winter squash in advance. Cut it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and roast it cut side down on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for about 40 minutes or until tender. Cool slightly and scoop the squash flesh into a bowl.

In a large pot over medium heat, slowly sauté chopped onion in oil or ghee until translucent. Add the curry powder and ground cumin and stir to combine well, cooking for a minute or so until fragrant. Do not let it burn.

Add the squash, sweet potato and carrots, and stir well to coat with the curry mixture. Add water to cover and simmer over medium or medium-low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 30-40 minutes.

Use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the soup until smooth.

Garnish with herbs, sautéed cubes of apple or pear or a conserve, a little coconut milk, or a few seeds, or a combination.

Serves 6.

2015 0117 Baked beans and sweet potatoesHistory repeats itself in the kitchen. It’s seasonal of course, whether by dint of climate or the rituals of the year. When I look up a recipe or method that I’ve used before, it’s not unusual to find the reference in the same month or so — but a year or two before. Last year around this time, I was searching for a recipe for New England style baked beans because they suited the season (and were secretly a dry run for a summer picnic). Unctuous with gently stewed bacon and sweet with molasses and maple syrup, those beans are an American classic. They were voluminous, froze well and satisfied our weekly craving for legumes. They were also a hit at the summer party. 

I was ready for a repeat when I came across a variation on baked beans by Martha Rose Shulman, who writes the Recipes for Health column in the New York Times. She combines beautiful red beans with bright golden sweet potatoes, and seasons them with chipotles in adobo sauce smoothed out with a mere tablespoon or so of honey and a similar amount of tomato paste. These beans cooked in less time and were incredibly flavorful. Those who crave the traditional New England variety should be equally satisfied with the more healthful version. This is now my preferred baked bean recipe during sweet potato season.

2015 0117 Rancho Gordo Sangre de Toro beansLike the New England model, these baked beans improved the next day and froze well. Shulman used San Franciscano beans from Rancho Gordo. While those are sometimes available locally, I used a similarly sized and colored dark red Rancho Gordo bean called Sangre de Toro. The “bull’s blood” beans were grown as part of Rancho Gordo’s admirable partnering with Mexican farmers to propagate and preserve a diversity of heritage beans. You could also use pinto beans. The beans need to soak for at least 4 hours or overnight before cooking, so plan accordingly. I halved Shulman’s recipe to serve 4-6.

Baked Beans with Sweet Potatoes and Chipotles adapted from Martha Rose Shulman, NYT

½ lb dried red beans (such as Rancho Gordo San Franciscano or Sangre de Toro) or pinto beans

4 c water

Bay leaf

Olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, seeded and chopped, plus extra sauce to taste

4 tsp tomato paste

1 tbsp honey

1-2 sweet potatoes (3/4-1 lb total), peeled and cut into ¾-inch chunks

Salt

Rinse the beans and pick over to remove any small stones. Soak in 4 c of water in a Dutch oven or heavy pot for 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to cook, add a bay leaf to the beans and water and heat on top of stove over medium heat. Just before the water boils, lower the heat, partially cover the pot, and simmer the beans until just tender, about 1 hour. The beans will continue to cook with other ingredients so they can be slightly on the crisp side but shouldn’t be hard. The dish could be prepared ahead to this point.

Heat the oven to 300 degrees.

Add a glug of olive oil to a small pan and sauté the onion until tender. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the onions, garlic, chopped chipotle, tomato paste and honey to the pot of beans and stir to combine thoroughly. Add the sweet potatoes.

Bake in the oven for approximately 1½ hours or until the beans are very tender and the sweet potatoes are just beginning to fall apart. Check the mixture part way through the cooking period and lower the heat to keep the liquid simmering not boiling. Add salt to taste (it probably doesn’t need any).

Serve warm. The beans improve in flavor the next day and can be frozen. Makes 4-6 servings.

2015 0104  Blood orange and Meyer lemon marmaladeWhen it comes to marmalade, I’m into technique. Every year, I try another method while repeating a few favorites. The difference in method is not so much in the cooking sequence. In most marmalade, cut-up citrus fruit is parboiled in water and left to sit for varying lengths of time before being combined with sugar and boiled until gelled. This might take place in one day or over two or three, with each step allowing pectin to develop and the fruit to liquidize and rehydrate.

The difference is actually in the way the fruit is cut and what parts you use. Basically it’s pith or no pith. Slivers, chunks, or something in between. My typical marmalade separates the peel — including the outer layer or zest and the pith or albedo — from the juicy flesh. I usually use the full peel and cut it in a variety of ways. 

This time, I tried a technique from Kevin West’s Saving the Season, a book that I go back to over and over. He uses a vegetable peeler to remove the zest portion of the peel and cuts off the albedo, discarding it or reserving it for another use. (That’s the bonus — stay tuned.)

2015 0114 Blood orange and lemon peel sliveredI slivered the peel into 1½-inch long pieces, combining the types of citrus fruit. In addition to this combination of blood oranges and Meyer lemon, I also made marmalade in the same manner using grapefruit, two types of lemons and oranges. The technique allowed all of the peel and the fruit to be cooked at the same time. When I take this approach, I typically cook the various fruits separately, which is somewhat time consuming. West calls this recipe “Time to Kill Marmalade” since it goes pretty quickly. The only trick is to keep the peel from getting too tough, either by under-cooking it in the first step or over-cooking it in the second. 

2015 0114 Blood orange and lemon marmalade ready to cookNow for the bonus. West’s method produces a pile of discards: all of the albedo, pieces of outer peel, seeds, the fibrous core of the fruit. While the marmalade ingredients look neatly cut and organized, the by-product is a mess. Just like the apple peelings produced from so many Thanksgiving pies get turned miraculously into jelly, so does this pectin producing pile of scraps. The blood orange and Meyer lemon combo produced a pretty pink jelly, which I seasoned with gin, Campari and red vermouth, in honor of the Negroni cocktail. While the alcohol cooks off immediately, the herbal essence lingers.

Blood Orange and Meyer Lemon Marmalade, adapted from Kevin West, Saving the Season

2 lbs blood oranges

1 lb Meyer lemons

½ lb Eureka lemons (supermarket variety)

3 c water

4 c sugar

Optional: ¼ c honey

Optional: 2 tbsp citron vodka or gin

Scrub the fruit well in cold water or, if it’s been store-bought, plunge it into a large pan of very hot water to release the wax. Dry the fruit and let it sit on the counter undisturbed for a few hours or overnight.

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the colored zest in wide strips, leaving the albedo (white pith) behind. Slice the peel into thin slivers or ¼-inch wide strips. Set aside.

Trim the remaining albedo away from the citrus flesh and reserve it for making jelly or discard. Chop the citrus pulp into ½-inch dice, reserving the seeds and inner core for jelly. (If not making jelly, reserve the seeds for the marmalade.)

Combine the sliced peel, diced pulp and water in a large wide pot, and boil gently for 30 minutes until the peel is tender. Taste it to make sure. Set aside for a few hours or overnight or continue with the recipe.

Prepare jars for water bath canning. Place a saucer in the freezer to test the gel.

Add the sugar, bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce over high heat, stirring regularly, until it tests for gel, about 20 minutes. (A drop placed on the cold saucer should not be runny but rather wrinkle to the touch.)

Stir in the optional honey and/or alcohol and cook for another 30 seconds.

Remove the marmalade from the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes before ladling it into hot prepared jars. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid and let sit for 5 minutes before removing the jars to a counter to sit undisturbed until cool.

Makes 4-5 eight-ounce jars.

 

Citrus Jelly adapted from Kevin West, Saving the Season

1 lb albedo (pith) trimmings, plus cores, seeds, small amounts of exterior peel from the marmalade above

4 c water

2 c sugar (or as needed)

Optional: 1 tbsp each gin, Campari, sweet vermouth to make Negroni Jelly

If canning the jelly, prepare jars for water bath canning. Place a saucer in the freezer to test the gel.

Place the trimmings in a pot with the water and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the trimmings are tender but the albedo is not falling apart (this would make the jelly cloudy).

Strain the contents through a large damp jelly bag, catching the liquid in a bowl.

Measure the liquid and add an equal amount of sugar. Stir to dissolve and bring to a boil, cooking to gel point, about 10 minutes.

Add the alcohol if using and cook 1 minute.

Ladle into hot prepared jars and process in a water bath for 10 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid and let sit for 5 minutes before removing the jars to a counter to sit undisturbed until cool.

Makes 2 eight-ounce jars or 4 four-ounce jars.

2015 0103 Roasted chicken and celery soup with wild riceThere’s something genuinely restorative about chicken soup when you’re sick. It’s not called “Jewish penicillin” for nothing. I made this soup both for the sick one at home but also to urge the sick one afar to make it for himself.

I had already made a robust chicken stock from the bones and clinging meat from a roasted chicken. It had been a particularly flavorful, local and organically raised bird, seasoned with thyme and roasted with two lemons in its cavity (a really good trick for crispy skin and tender meat). In fact, it was so tender that the scraps of meat scarcely needed to be cut for the soup. To make the stock, I cut the carcass into small pieces and covered it in cold water in a deep pot. After it came to a simmer on top of the stove, I added carrot, onion, celery and parsley stems, all of which were peelings and scraps from other ventures. (This is one of the ultimate waste-not-want-not kitchen tasks.) After simmering the stock gently (do not let it boil) for an hour or more, I let it cool and strained off the liquid into a bowl. After the liquid is completely cool, I refrigerated it overnight so that I could skim off the coagulated fat that rises to the surface. Normally, I use some stock right away and freeze the rest, but we needed the home remedy. 

To make the soup, I simmered chopped onions, leeks, celery and celeriac in olive oil, added stock and brought the mixture just to a boil. I added a scant handful of wild rice because I thought its nuttiness would complement the roasted chicken stock. The soup simmered for about 45 minutes, covered, enough time to cook the rice. If I’d used regular rice, it would have cooked in about 20.When the rice is tender, add the chicken meat and cook gently just to heat. Taste for salt and garnish with snipped celery leaves. Good luck if you don’t feel better after eating this for a day or two.

Roasted Chicken and Celery Soup with Wild Rice

½ medium onion, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice

½ medium leeks, white and pale green part only, sliced vertically to lean and then horizontally

¾ c sliced celery, leaves reserved

Optional: ¼- ½ c diced celeriac

Olive oil

4 c chicken stock, preferably from a roasted chicken

Small handful wild rice

½ – ¾ c diced chicken

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped celery leaves

Place the onion, leeks, celery, celeriac and a splash of olive oil in a deep pot and cook gently over medium-low heat until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and turn up the heat, bringing the liquid just to a boil. Add the wild rice, reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot, and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Season to taste and add the diced chicken, cooking until the chicken is heated through. Serve hot garnished with snipped celery leaves.

Serves 4.

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