Monday, September 24, 2012

Meatless Monday - Cannibal Eggplant and Sicilian Caponata

Cannibal Eggplant.  Kind of sounds like Hannibal Lecter and actually has a lot in common.  More on that to come.  In the meantime, see if you can guess which of these is that varietal?

I learned a lot about eggplant during our jaunt at Wild Boar Farms last week.  I knew there were tiny green eggplants, both fat, round and long, thin purple and the white/purple striped ones.  But yellow, orange and various versions of other colored stripes?  And an eggplant with a storied past? 

I had no idea.

Wild Boar has a demo garden for Baker Heirloom Seeds and it was fascinating.  My first encounter was with this strange siting:
They looked like tomatoes or cherry peppers, but didn't have the same kind of leaves as either of these fruits, and they were very hard and dense.  I asked one of the guys on the farm (Brad the owner was away from the tent picking more fruit.) and they said the Baker Seed catalog had been borrowed and not returned so they had no way to identify.  I think I may have discovered they are Black Stem Eggplant which is more of an ornamental eggplant, apparently.

Once I heard there were lots of varieties, I went on a hunt.  Though I picked up the typical kinds to make a caponata, I HAD to pick some of the others just for fun. 

After researching upon arriving back home, I found out the  three yellow ones are a Asian eggplant varietals which I may try in Caponata after tasting.

As for Cannibal Eggplant...It's actually called Cannibal Tomato Eggplant and it's the little red one in the middle of the photo above I believe. To spare those of you who don't want to know the gory details, I'll simply LINK TO the info. Suffice it to say, the name is appropro according to the legend and it is really too bitter to eat.  So it is really only a novelty for most palates, including ours. 

What's Caponata, you've been thinking?

It's our favorite way to eat eggplant--a Sicilian sweet and sour preparation that we eat with crusty bread and cheese for a quick lunch. For dinner, it's takes simple grilled fish up to rock star status.  Picnics get upgraded with paninis of Caponata, fresh Mozzarella, basil and grilled chicken. Finally, you can stir it in with cooked white beans and a can of tuna then serve over arugula or mixed greens for a super quick and light main dish salad.

Easily prepared in about 30 minutes, it will last in the fridge for at least a week but you can also freeze it if you have an overabundance of eggplant and want to make several batches. 

Ready to find out how to make it?  After you do, let me know how you enjoy eating it the best...

Sicilian Caponata -- My Way
1 large or 2 medium eggplant (about 2 lbs)
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped onion

red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt or as needed to taste
2 tbsp tomato paste or 1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 tbsp organic sugar or 1 1/2 tbsp agave nectar
2 tbsp balsamic, sherry or red wine vinegar
1/2 cup raisins (I've used both golden and dark)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted, optional

Cut the eggplant into 1/2" chunks. 

In a very large skillet, heat 3 tbsp olive oil with the garlic until the garlic starts to turn slightly golden.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a small strainer over a bowl and add the onion to the pan.  Let it cook for a bit, then remove the onion to the strainer.  Add any drained oil back to the pan. 

Carefully only enough eggplant cover the bottom of the skillet.  

Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt then let it cook undisturbed for a few minutes until you can smell the eggplant getting a little toasty.  Carefully turn it to reveal the golden undersides and salt with another 1/4 tsp salt.  (If you were able to fit all the eggplant at one time into the skillet, adjust the salt as necessary.  You may need a bit more or less.)  When the eggplant has softened a bit stir it and push it to one side of the pan then add the remaining eggplant and remaining oil to make a single layer in the other side of the pan.  (I was able to fit way more than half the first time around so I only needed to use half the pan, but if you have a lot of eggplant left, remove what has already cooked to the strainer with the onion and cook the rest.) Repeat the cooking process with the remaining eggplant.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomato paste and a big pinch of red pepper flakes.  Stir until the tomato paste takes on a darker color and begins to coat the vegetables.

Add the onions and garlic, sugar, vinegar and raisins then stir it all together with a rubber spatula to combine everything well without breaking up the eggplant. (Sorry for the blurry "action" shot.)

Finally, add the pine nuts if using.

I stash mine in 1/2 pint canning jars since tomato paste tends to discolor plastics.  It will keep for a week in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.

Print Page Copyright 2012 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Day at Wild Boar Farms & BLT Piadini


That's how much this incredibly colorful 15-20 lb haul of heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and cucumbers was when we visited Wild Boar Tomato Farm this past weekend.  In. Sane.

That's the beauty of going TO the farm.  Even better than a farmers' market or a CSA box. You cut out any middle man and get Chez Panisse and Michael Pollan worthy produce for pennies!

Brad Gates and his Wild Boar Tomato Farm (so named because of the wild boar that come around occasionally) have been garnering quite the collection of accolades.  Besides being lauded by the mother of Local, Seasonal and Organic cuisine, Alice Waters, and the champion of Eating Real Food, Mr. Pollan, they have been showcased on Martha Stewart's show as well as various documentary films.

Seriously, look at, find a farm near you and Go to It! Any farm that grows food, at least once.  You'll be surprised how your family comes to life when they are away from TVs and video games.  Kids really love nature given the opportunity to experience it. 

The four of us got to go hang out there with the rows of heirloom veggies (note the sign behind Kyle...Baker Creek Seeds Heirloom Demo Garden) and come home with this beautiful and tasty load.

For $10!!  (Yes, I said it again!)

Anyway, I couldn't wait to photograph them so we could dig in.  They were so juicy and ripe, that many of the tiny tomatoes split.  No worries.  They just became an easy pasta sauce after they baked with olive oil, salt and garlic.  The remaining tomatoes were doled out over the week for a tomato salad, a fresh garnish for pasta carbonara one night, and a super colorful pico di gallo for an easy black bean soup (recipe to come). And the last few have been saved for my hubs' favorite summer meal of all time!

BLT Piadinis!

If you haven't  heard of piadinis, it's sort of like a pizza or flatbread with a salad on top.  You fold it like a taco...
And Eat...

BLT Piadinis
I made my pizza dough, just to save money, using the Lighter Whole Wheat recipe from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoe  Francois and Jeff Hertzberg adding rosemary.  Many grocery stores have pizza dough for $1.50 or less per lb which will make 2-3 9" pizza crusts.  This is the next best thing, but using the recipe from this book, you can make enough pizza dough to make 8-10 9" crusts.

2 lb pizza dough

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (yes, fresh...dried really won't taste the same)
1 lb heirloom tomatoes
1/2 cup olive oil (plus some for rolling dough)
4 oz bacon, cooked until crisp, reserve 1 tbsp fat after cooking 
6 cups arugula or mixed greens
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat grill to high.  Or heat a baking stone or two in the oven at 475 degrees.. (Cookie sheet works in a pinch as a sub for the baking stone.)

Divide the pizza dough into tennis ball sized pieces.  Coat them in olive oil on a large cookie sheet (no matter what cooking method you're using) and set aside to rest.

In the meantime, mix the mayonnaise with the fresh basil, a big pinch of salt and a lot of freshly ground pepper.

Cut the tomatoes into bite sized pieces and stir in olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Forming one crust at a time, press and pull into a 9" free-form circle that is no more than 1/4" thick (does not have to be perfect!)  If the dough is hard to work into a circle, let it rest for a bit and start with another one.  Keep working them in rotation if you have to.  We got into a groove after I formed three and we got the first two on the grill.  You can use a clean counter top to form the crusts if you want to form all of them at one time.

For grilling, transfer a crust to the grill and cook for about a minute or until it releases easily using tongs and/or a long spatula.  Flip it and cook for another minute or so until the dough is done all the way through and has grill marks.

For baking, place as many crusts as you can fit at a time with a little room for rising.  Let them bake until cooked all the way through.

Spread each crust with the basil mayo, then top with arugula, bacon and marinated tomatoes.  Drizzle with a very small amount of balsamic vinegar and serve.

Print Page Copyright 2012 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Classic Question & Classic Cookie (Without Gluten)

"Half Empty" or "Half Full"? Which one are you?

Depending on the circumstance, I can be both. 

With this pan of chocolate chip bar cookies, I'm definitely thinking "Half Full"

You see, I made them to accompany the kids' choice of root beer floats after a panini fest we had with friends over the weekend.  Thankfully we were all so content after paninis and floats that even after the whole weekend of nibbling at them, I still had a half a pan left.YEAH!! Little treats for me all week.

Using my everyday gluten free flour mix, it wasn't any more difficult than making regular chocolate chip cookies.  And as you can do with any chocolate chip cookie recipe, I simply spread the whole mix into a bar pan instead of making individual cookies (which with gluten-free doesn't work so well anyway).  They had the texture of brownies (or blondies in this case I guess) at first and would have probably stayed that way if I had taken them out a few minutes earlier than I did.  But even after several days, they are still chewy and great with vanilla ice cream.

I had everything to make them, except I didn't happen to have enough chocolate chips due to a chocolate chips in a hot car episode. Keeping with my CWYG concept, I used what had then made up the rest of the two cups with chopped milk chocolate almond bar.  (Though milk chocolate isn't usually the choice for these cookies, it reminded me of one of my favorite Mrs. Field's cookies from the early days - Milk Chocolate Pecan.)  So use whatever chocolate you have in the house and make these cookies.  If you keep gluten-free flours in your house, chances are you have everything to make my everyday mix. 

Featherlight Flour Mix from The Gluten Free Gourmet Bette Hagman.
2 cups rice flour
2 cups cornstarch
2 cups tapioca starch
2 tbsp potato flour (not potato starch)

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Bar Cookies
2 1/4 cups gluten free flour mix
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp xantham gum
3/4 butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar (I used evaporated cane juice)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9 x 13 pan and set aside.

Mix dry ingredients together in a medium bowl with a whisk. 

Using a mixer, blend the butter with the sugars until creamy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla.  Blend well, the slowly add the dry ingredients, a little at a time on low speed.  Once the dry ingredients are incorporated, stir in the chocolate chips.

Spread evenly into prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the middle is barely firm.

Let cool for a few minutes.
Print Page Copyright 2012 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bean Beauty - Wild Salmon & Mixed Bean Salad

Boasting a questionable reputation (among boys especially), beans are not exactly the glamour girls of the food world.  Cranberry Beans (or Borlotti) may be the exception.

Naturally clad in a cream and fuschia-speckled cloak, the snowy white and hot-pink spotted beans are not only pretty, but they are easy to work with (which actually is the exception among glamour girls, too!).

A surprising bonus to using fresh beans that I've found is that it brings my kids around the table with me (yes, they came to me without asking), chatting about things, life, whatnot, while our hands stay busy separating the beans from their pretty pods. With a teenager, any activity that produces conversation is welcome, but when the activity also produces part of dinner, also...BONUS!

Cooking much quicker to cook than dried, (30 minutes vs. 1 1/2 hours) the beans, pods removed, are becoming part of my freezer stash ready for weeknight meals.  All they need is a couple of smashed garlic cloves, a sprig or two of fresh herbs or a bay leaf and covering with water.  After they start to boil, they can simmer for 20-30 minutes or til they are slightly firm, but creamy on the inside.

Once cooked, they can hang out in the fridge for a few days (3-4) so they are ready to throw into salads or soups.

The best and most authentic way to serve them for a side dish is to, while hot, toss the drained beans with the juice of one lemon, a good teaspoon or more of sea salt, some red pepper flakes and a good dousing of olive oil.Though this is how mine started, I decided using them as a salad component would be a good late summer dinner idea.

Remember the Campout?  I had that grilled salmon available in the fridge so we made a quick salad with the beans along with green beans and greens from our veggie box, some feta and olives and a lemony dressing.

My non-fish eater loved having the beans as his vegetarian protein.  Little did I know how much he loved them until he announced "I LOVE cranberry beans, thank you so much for buying them" on his way inside to  get more after finishing his salad.

Note on buying the beans in pods, you will get about 1-11/2 cups of beans from each pound of beans before removing the pods.  So buy a lot.  And don't buy them in large quantities unless you pick them yourself (like in a large bag or box at a farmstand.) since many times these include premature bean pods as filler which are completely useless.  If you are lucky enough to find fresh beans, take the time to pick them out yourself.

Print Page Copyright 2012 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pesto Tomato Melts - Meatless Monday Quickie!

A visit to a tomato farm over the weekend (more details and photos to come) yielded about 10 pounds of perfectly balanced sweet, acidic goodness!  So two of my last three meals have centered on this lycopene filled fruit!

For meatless Monday, I thought I'd share this super quickie I threw together for lunch but it would make an equally tasty dinner if you add a salad or fruit.

     In keeping with my CWYG concept, I had homemade pesto on hand from garden basil, and I had gluten free bread from this recipe so this is where I started.

    Toast bread lightly, spread with pesto and top with sliced tomato

    Add a few slices of your favorite melting cheese.  I chose marbled jack since it was readily available in my fridge for school lunches, melts well and is close to what I associate with "melty" cheese sandwiches other than the plastic wrapped American stuff. But feel free to use fresh mozzarella (sprinkle tomatoes and mozz with salt before serving) or any other cheese that you have hanging around.

    Broil but watch closely, it will go from barely melted to burnt quickly!  It's ready when the cheese is melted, bubbly and slightly browned in places.  Eat.  NOW!!

    Print Page Copyright 2012 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    Camping 101 & Smoky Potato Frittata

    A couple of weeks ago, the boys acquired a tent and small grill at a friend's garage sale.  Having never been a camping family, we all decided a trial run in the back yard would be a good idea.
    Harry took the whole thing seriously.  After setting up the tent, he nursed the coals til they turned to ash.

    Finally getting the burning embers and gray coals he had watched and waited for, we had a simple grilled dinner of organic turkey hot dogs (not recommending by the way).  After turning marshmallows over the radiating heat til they were perfectly toasty for smores, lots of heat from the coals still remained.  So knowing the effort Harry had put into making the fire, and the extra flavor that comes from charcoal, I decided to rummage through the fridge for a few other items to take advantage of the residual heat. A wild salmon filet for a salad later in the week came first (recipe coming later), then a few ears of corn.  Finally, remembering my brother in law throwing foil-wrapped potatoes into a fireplace once, I did the same with these smoldering coals.

    While we finished out the night helping the boys get everything set for their "campout",  the potatoes cooked to a smoky softness, ready to use for meals throughout the week including a breakfast accompaniment of hashbrowns the next morning, and this quick dinner recipe later in the week.

    Smoky Potato Frittata
    1 tbsp olive oil
    2 russet potatoes, baked
    1/2 yellow onion, chopped
    1/2 red or yellow pepper, chopped
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1/2 tsp smoked paprika
    1 tsp Italian seasoning (ours had fennel and red pepper in it so it had a little pizza flavor)
    1 tsp salt

    2 green onions, sliced thin
    4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
    4 eggs, beaten well with 1/4 cup milk or cream

    Preheat broiler.

    In a large skillet, preferably cast iron, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the potatoes and cook without stirring for a couple of minutes or until they will move easily when nudged with a spatula.  At that point you can flip them all and add the onion and pepper.  Cook again for a few minutes or until the potatoes are brown and the onions and pepper are soft.  Add the garlic, paprika and salt and stir again until everything is well coated with the spices.

    Sprinkle the green onions over the potato mixture.  Whisk the 1/2 of the cheese into the eggs and pour carefully over the potatoes trying to not disturb any of it.  Let it cook for a few minutes until the bottom is slightly set.  Carefully turn the eggs so that the liquid egg mixture can seep to the bottom.  keep doing this until most of the egg mixture is soft-set.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and place under the broiler on the middle or bottom shelf of the oven so that the will cook quickly but not burn.

    Cut into wedges and serve with salad or fruit.  Ours was a salad of shaved radishes, fennel, butter lettuce, with olive oil and lemon juice.

    Print Page Copyright 2012 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

    Tuesday, August 28, 2012

    Creative Ways to Clean Out the Fridge

    Look Familiar?

    At some point during every week, my refrigerator looks like this!

    Stacks of bowls with prepped veggies and leftovers. 

    It's not pretty, but Hey, I'm trying to keep it real from now on, right?

    Possible Solutions?

    There's always the makeshift "potluck" where everyone picks their favorite leftover, nukes it and eats out of the bowl.  But I value a civilized family dinner too much for that, and with one teenage boy and one not too far behind, they will resort to that in due time without my encouragement.

    Dumping it all out?  Sure that's an option. But since a good portion of both my time and money budgets are dedicated to procuring healthy, sustainable and local foods, I REALLY can't stand throwing out food.

    My solution?


    Soup or stew in colder months.  Mostly veggie leftovers become a frittata.  Leftover spaghetti gets turned into sesame noodle salad.  AND with a little time investment for chopping, leftovers can even be transformed into meals that are super fun and customizable for picky eaters.

    Leftovers Turned Pasta Bar

    Pasta Bar
    This is the favorite use of leftovers in our house.  Our most recent pasta bar featured: fresh green beans, roasted corn, grilled squash and red Gypsy peppers from CSA box, roasted chicken, cooked bacon, a few frozen peas, mushrooms, green onions, shallots, and garlic for flavoring.  For the sauce, we had olive oil, white wine and heavy cream, then of course, freshly grated parmesan. 

    Before you start your chopping of leftovers, bring a large pot of water to boil, then boil whatever pasta you have on hand, saving 3-4 cups of pasta water before draining. 

    We keep track of who wants what on our dry erase board on the fridge.  Everyone writes their order on the board, then my hubby (who is the resident Pasta Bar guru.) will set about making each order. Simply wipe out the skillet in between.  

    Equipment Note:  You'll either need a skillet big enough to two servings at a time (if two people want the same items) or a couple of small or medium skillets for individual servings in order to make this go somewhat quickly. 

    General order of cooking:

    Saute the onions and mushrooms first until soft.  Garlic and shallots burn quickly so add them next along with any raw veggies, a few cranks of black pepper, sea salt and a big splash of white wine.  Cook til raw veggies are slightly softened and wine has evaporated then add cooked meat (not bacon, though).  Add cooked veggies, frozen peas (or other frozen veggies) 1/4 cup cream and 1/2 cup of pasta water per serving.  Let cook for a minute then add drained pasta (if it sticks just run a little water over it) and a little more pasta water then stir well.  Add a little cheese to the pan to thicken the sauce a bit and taste for salt and pepper adding more if necessary.  Transfer to a serving plate or shallow bowl.  Garnish with a little bacon, green onions and/or more cheese.

    Salad Bar
    This is an almost weekly staple in our house.  The same ingredients as the pasta bar with hard boiled eggs added to the mix (if none are made, I'm always glad to make them since they are a super quick and protein-filled breakfast) and obviously sans the oil, cream and wine.  We typically have a simple vinaigrette with 1 part acid (lemon juice, vinegar or a mix) with 3 parts olive oil flavored up with a bit of garlic and Dijon mustard, salt and pepper sitting in the fridge.  Then I let everyone have a big plate to make the salad they want.  BONUS!! It requires almost no cooking.

    My kids will eat a giant salad this way and I feel virtuous for getting them to do so! (Check out this post for a "to-go" version of this!)

    Fried Rice
    This is the ultimate leftover-makeover.   The most essential ingredient is cold rice.  It CANNOT be freshly made, or you'll have a sticky, gooey mess. Brown rice works great in this.  It's already a bit more sturdy plus with all the flavors going on, you tend to forget you're eating the healthier version of the rice family.  Any kind of leftover veggies and meats can be used.  If I only have veggies, I'll quickly scramble an egg and fry it in a large thin omelet to cut into strips for our protein. 
     Cooking Order:
    Saute onions and garlic in a little sesame oil then add any raw veggies along with a couple tablespoons of water.  When the water has evaporated and the veggies are soft, add cooked meat and rice and a big drizzle of sesame oil.  Stir fry until hot.  Add some frozen peas if you want and the omelet strips if you chose to make them.  Add any fresh herbs last (cilantro, basil or mint) Season with soy sauce and rice wine vinegar or lime juice. Serve immediately.  I add chile garlic sauce to mine for a little heat, too.
    I'd love to hear of things you do with leftovers. It helps to have an arsenal of ideas to work with.  Thanks for sharing!

    Print Page Copyright 2012 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

    Monday, August 27, 2012

    Meatless Monday - Roasted Corn and Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

    On the table - Caprese Salad, an artfully arranged tray of backyard garden tomatoes and my dish, Roasted Corn and Heirloom Tomato Panzanella. You know it's the height of tomato season when the first three dishes to enter the door of a BYO gathering are centered on the colorful, juicy, umami-filled fruit. The meat eaters were less than excited, but for those of us who wait all year for REAL tomatoes, it was a feast.

    Panzanella is yet another of the many ways Italian Nonnas (AKA grandmothers) use leftover bread.  Primarily it is bread and vegetables tossed with lots of olive oil and a touch of vinegar.  Sometimes the bread is used simply in its ultra stale form; but many interpret this differently by toasting it more in the vein of croutons.  With no appreciation for even slightly soggy bread, I'm definitely in the latter camp. 

    I'm not sure if the Nonnas would scold me or not, but if they don't for that, they might for this...roasted corn.  Corn is not really used in its fresh state in Europe in general, but especially in Italy.  You see it in its dried form as polenta, but rarely anywhere else.  In the US, corn and tomato season are simultaneous so they land together in dishes quite a bit (as in this one) so I guess in the sense of Italians mantra "what grows together goes together", maybe I would be forgiven. 

    My real inspiration to make Panzanella came out of the bounty of my veggie drawer and a last minute menu change.  My last CSA box had 6 ears and after roasting them, I've been throwing corn in almost everything so when I found out the menu for our friends' going away party had changed from everyone bringing appetizers to an actual dinner dish, I improvised.  My heirloom tomato and mozzarella bruschetta morphed into panzanella when I added the corn, some shallots and a little garlic.  And as many other culinary improvs, it was awesome and will be repeated. (Although knowing me, not exactly the same!)

    Feel free to add whatever other late summer veggies may be piling up on your counter along with your tomatoes (And please do not ever put a tomato in the fridge) or in your veggie drawer - squash, cucumbers, peppers.  Let me know how your version turns out. My final result:

    Roasted Corn & Heirloom Tomato Panzanella
    1 baguette, cut into 1" cubes
    garlic powder
    2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, optional but great if you have it
    3 lbs heirloom tomates, assorted sizes and colors
    sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
    extra virgin olive oil
    1 large or two small shallots, minced and soaked in salted warm water
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    2 ears of corn, roasted and cut off the cob
    8 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2" cubes, optional for a vegan dish
    1 small bunch of basil (about 1/2 cup of torn basil or small, whole leaves), reserve a few leaves to garnish
    balsamic or sherry vinegar

    On a large cookie sheet, toss the baguettes with a generous sprinkle of garlic powder (yes, you could use real garlic, but it tends to burn and turn bitter.), the thyme leaves and a lot of olive oil.  Toast in a 375 degree oven until brown on the top side, turn and brown the other side. 

    While the bread is toasting, cut the tomatoes in halves, quarters or lengthwise slices depending on their original size, basically bite-sized pieces.  Toss the tomatoes with 1 1/2 tsp salt, a large drizzle of olive oil and several cranks of black pepper.  Toss well and taste.  Add more salt or pepper if necessary.  The salt will begin to pull the juice out of the tomatoes which is crucial for the right amount of moisture to soften the croutons.

    At this point you can layer everything else (drained shallots, garlic, corn, cheese, basil) except the vinegar in the bowl. Do not toss until close to serving.  (If croutons are super crunchy as ours were, that can be 30 minutes ahead, if they are "airy" or not very crunchy, only 10-15 minutes ahead max.)  When ready to toss, add a couple of tablespoons of vinegar and toss well.  Taste a little of everything and add more olive oil, vinegar, salt or pepper until it tastes good to you. Garnish with reserved basil leaves.

    Print Page Copyright 2012 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

    Thursday, August 23, 2012

    Try, Try Again - Beer Butt Chicken Gone Bad!

    I am a Texan.  Born and raised.

    BUT...I've never had a pair of boots.  Or a cowboy hat.

    I HATE COUNTRY MUSIC!! (Is Lady Antebellum considered country? Please say NO!)

    I just recently started eating barbecued ribs.


    I've refused to make Beer Butt Chicken as it's so delicately called by some in my fair state.

    Why???  Everyone says it's SO good and the best way to grill a chicken.

    It's the name.  Plain and Simple. Really, how much more redneck could it get?

    Then as I was planning dinner, I had a thought.  I had planned to grill a whole chicken anyway, then while searching for something else, I saw a photo that jogged my memory about this odd little method.

    Rather than Beer Butt Chicken, we'll call it Wine Infused Chicken.  It sounds better and since I'm not a beer lover anyway, it will taste better.  I moved FROM Texas to be in Wine Country.  So it only seems right.  I can redeem this recipe somewhat from it's Redneck-ness!

    I did a quick search to see the basic Can method sans the beer since cans of beer NEVER see the interior of our fridge!  (I don't drink it at all and Kyle only drinks a few very dark beers from bottles.)

    My search led me to a new favorite website.  Based on these photos, I thought. "Easy Peasy! I can do this."

    I had several Hansen's soda cans waiting to be taken to a recycling place and always have inexpensive wine, Thank You "Two Buck Chuck"! I went.  I picked fresh herbs from my wine barrel herb garden.

    I chopped them up fine with some dried lemon peel from my huge lemon harvest.

    After adding a little olive oil, minced garlic and red pepper flakes, I massaged my little chicken buddy with all this goodness.

    Then set him atop the can.
    By the way, it's hard not to personify this chicken when he's sitting up so properly.  (And why it's a "him" to me, I don't just is.)

    All went well until I took him to the grill.  (Cue ominous music...)

    Not being a gadget girl, the Beer Can Chicken holder thingy had never grabbed my attention and I certainly wasn't going to go buy it.

    Confidently moving along, I strode out to the grill with the soda can filled with wine and herbs along with my gorgeously slathered chicken.  After setting him on the grill carefully, I turned around to take the cookie sheet that was holding everything over to the patio table. "SSSHHHH!!"  As I turned around half expecting to see my chicken "boy" come to life, I saw the him.  On his side, "Shushing" me.  (Then I realized it actually was the wine spilling out onto the grill grates.)

    Though I knew a flare-up was imminent with the direct contact of chicken skin, I also noticed some rather nice grill marks on the side that hit the grill, so wanting yummy char more than hair at that moment, I flipped it quickly to the other side, while deftly removing the now-empty can, to mark that side. 

    Now...You'll notice no pictures from this point.

    No, it's not because I'm now bald.  (Thankfully)

    No, it's not because of a fear of failure.

    And. No, it's not because I don't want to show mistakes in the kitchen.

    It's simply that necessity kicked in and I had to quickly go to Plan B to feed my hungry family.  (This was a two-fer actually since at about the same moment I was having the chicken crisis, my oldest son was realizing that the project he had completed the day before wasn't going to work for his class and I was able to use my problem solving as an example of moving on, not giving up, "make lemononade" and any other number of additional parental advice theories I could drum up to motivate him to go to his own Plan B.  Which, proudly and thankfully, he did! But my time was spent elsewhere away from the camera.)

    Plan B
    Jack the oven up to 520 degrees.  Cut out the backbone of the chicken with my less-than-refined butchery skills (AKA used kitchen shears and just got 'er done! That's my Texan coming out!).  Flattened it slightly and placed on a rack over a cookie sheet (same one as before). At this high heat for 15-20 minutes, the grill marks were joined by beautiful browned skin, then another 30 minutes at 400 finished the job.

    The Lemonade of Plan B?  Chicken Fat!

    See those little, brown nuggets in the salad?

    Gluten free baguette chunks dredged in chicken fat and baked til crunchy were completely AWE. SOME. .  They actually tasted like...well...Chicken!  Fried chicken that is!  YUM!!!!

    Ok, I guess I have been a bit afraid to let you in on my kitchen disasters.  They have happened over the last two years and I just decided to wait til the next time something awesome came out of my kitchen to blog rather than post them.  My goal, though is to make cooking from real ingredients more approachable, not perfect!


    I pledge to share more and let you in on my good days and bad from here on out.  (It is actually a bit cathartic!) 

    Oh, and if you've successfully made Beer Butt Chicken (especially without the gadgety thing) please pass this info along.  I'd love to try, try again!

    Print Page Copyright 201 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    Have This Baby for Dinner: Gluten Free Dutch Baby with Peaches

    Searching for perfection?

    Look for the hand-painted signs that take you off the two lane winding, country road and onto a very narrow, one-lane road leading up and around a mountain that also happens to be a hiking/biking path.  Turn left at the small Brazelton Ranch sign through the rows of plum trees (actually the Italian Prune varietal of plums destined to become the little SunSweet "Sun-Dried Plums".) and wind around to the farm house.

    Peaches that don't need sugar.  

    Peaches that leave you wishing for a stack of napkins. 
    Or a wetnap. 

    Peaches that make you dream of 100 ways to use the 20 lb box you just bought!

    It's so worth going way off the beaten path.

    Here in Northern CA, stone fruits are still in season.  Every year I wait for Brazelton Ranch's peaches. And every week when I go visit June, the proprietress of the farm, I ask how much longer they will be around.  I always silently mourn the words "this is the last week" because I know it will be 10 more months before I get them again.

    "Who's going to peel all of these?" June asked as she heaved the box out of the makeshift cooler by the card table.  My two boys barely waiting to allow her to put the box down before diving in to choose their first peach, I informed her that with my family, they would most likely be consumed without preserving any of them. 

    I truly love having a conversation with the person who grew my food.  It takes extra time both to get there and to actually exchange words, but food is both culture and community, so it's totally worth it. Especially when my kids can name most of the people who are responsible for what's on our table.

    Back to my prediction.

    Less than a week with 10 lbs gone, I was right.  I haven't even had to think about preserving them.

    Mid-afternoon snacks.  Granola companions.  And for this "Baby" a fantastic topping with a little lemon juice and sugar to just make them syrupy.

    (Oh! Ice Cream.  I'm having a major "Duh" moment.  Why haven't I thought about that before now.  This afternoon, It. Will. Be. Done.)

    So this brings me to today.  It's Monday.  Meatless Monday for me and my fellow carnivores that want to just tip-toe into vegetarianism. Though I'm not a huge fan of Breakfast for Dinner, this protein-filled recipe would be a great option for this weekday dinner "fall-back" or it would be a fabulous and easy dessert following a big salad.

    It is NOT vegan by any means.  (How many eggs??!!)

    BUT it is a great way to incorporate a lot of seasonal fruit into dinner.  No peaches?  Cook the more-seasonal-everywhere-else pears or apples with a little cinnamon, sugar and butter and use that for the topping instead.

    Gluten Free Dutch Baby

    I originally found a GF Dutch Baby (German Pancakes) on this site a couple of years ago.  But after playing with the recipe a bit and making it bigger for my giant eaters, I came up with my own version.

    10 eggs

    1 cup gluten-free flour blend
    1 cup milk (I used almond milk)
    3/4 tsp salt
    1 tbsp vanilla
    4 tbsp softened butter

    Powdered Sugar for sprinkling
    Seasonal fruit and/or maple syrup for topping

    Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

    Liberally coat 2 9" cast iron skillets or glass pie plates with butter.

    In a blender, whirl eggs for a couple of minutes until they are frothy.

    Slowly add in flour blend, salt, milk, vanilla and butter to make a thin batter.  (I simply alternated the flour and milk and then added the vanilla and butter along the way.)

    Divide evenly between the two prepared pans.

    Place in the oven and bake 10-15 minutes or until it is very puffy.

    Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar just before serving.  Top with fruit and/or syrup.

    Print Page Copyright 2012 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

    Copyright 2012 TablaVie Personal Chef Service

    All photos and recipes may not be used without express permission from Christi Flaherty, owner and creator of Cook What You've Got Concept and blog.
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