Friday, October 21, 2011

Indian Inspired Stew with Cilantro Chutney and Brown Basmati

It's havest time and with a crossover of seasons, there are so many veggies to choose from.  To capitalize on this, I decided to create a flavorful stew for my clients and it was so good, I made the same for my own family that night.  The rice and chutney were last minute additions to empty my veggie drawer and make room for my next round of veggies that was coming in the next couple of days.

With carrots, celery, onions, sweet winter squash, potatoes, green beans and chard along with sliced chicken, this stew is packed with vitamins.  The cilantro chutney adds a healthy dose of vitamin C with cilantro and jalapenos.  The spices are warming and healing all at the same time, so no matter if your having an extended Indian summer as we are here in Cali or you have had your first snow, this stew will be fabulous. 

Feel free to add or leave out anything on the list.  This stew will lend itself to turnips, sweet potatoes, celery root, kohlrabi or any other roots.  All greens will work in place of chard and cauliflower would be a perfect sub for green beans.  Sub any peelable winter squash for the Kabocha (butternut is the easiest to peel with a vegi peeler, but you can knife-peel an Acorn or Delicata) Add few chickpeas for additional protein or a lot in place of chicken for a vegetarian version.

Seasonal Veggies - Kabocha squash, chard, organic red potatoes, green beans, organic celery, organic carrots, cilantro, jalapenos

CWYG List Items - canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, coconut milk, chicken broth, olive oil, agave nectar, lemons

Indian Inspired Stew with Cilantro Chutney and Brown Basmati
For a perfectly cooked brown rice, check out this blog. Feel free to substitute 1 tbsp curry powder for all the spices if you don't have the individual spices.

Olive oil

2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp each cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, paprika and dried ginger

12 oz chicken, sliced thin

1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch of chard, leaves and stems separated and both sliced thinly
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 red potatoes, cut into 1/8ths
2 cups peeled and chopped winter squash
1 cup green beans, ends broken off and cut into 2" lengths
2 cups chicken broth

14 oz whole tomatoes
1 cup chickpeas (or 2 cups if not using chicken)
1 cup coconut milk
To serve:   
Cilantro Chutney, recipe follows
Cooked Brown Basmati rice
Plain yogurt

Mix all the sea salt and spices.  Toss the chicken with half the spice mixture.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet.  Saute the chicken until it is no longer pink.  Remove and set aside.  Add onion to the skillet and cook until lightly browned and softened.  Add the garlic and remaining vegetables except sliced chard leaves. 

When vegetables are slightly softened, add the remaining spice blend. Saute until spices are fragrant then add chicken broth.  Bring to a rolling boil then reduce heat to medium high and let cook until the chicken broth has reduced and thickened. 

While the chicken broth is reducing, drain the juice from the tomatoes (reserve to use in another soup, you can freeze it) and then chop the whole tomatoes into small pieces.  Add to the stew along with the reserved chicken and the chickpeas. 

When you can see the broth has thickened, add the coconut milk.  Let cook for another minute or two then taste for seasoning.  Add salt if necessary.

Serve over the rice and serve at the table with small dishes of Cilantro Chutney and plain yogurt.

Cilantro Chutney
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only
1 small bunch mint, leaves only
1 clove garlic
1-2 jalapenos
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp agave nectar
1 tbsp olive oil

Blend everything together and set aside to meld.

Print Page Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Grass-Fed Greek Burgers with Watermelon Radish Tzaziki

It's art on the plate.  A radish.  Not just any radish.Fuschia radiating to light pink framed by chartreuse. It's a Watermelon Radish. It's discoveries like this in the heirloom produce world that cause me to continue to refine my own art (or craft, however you perceive cooking.) 

Usually a colorful surprise in my winter veggie boxes, we received 4 of them along with black radishes a couple of weeks ago.  Being a hearty root, they get a longer than usual stay in my veggie drawer.  The lack of cucumber for tzaziki brought it out of the drawer out last.  

Cut into matchsticks you have a pop of purplish pink.  But shaved on a grater and added to Greek yogurt, you have a pink-hued, flavorful tzaziki that was the perfect topping to cinnamon and oregano spiced, feta- and chard-filled, grass-fed burgers.

A self-proclaimed burger expert, my youngest son says that only burgers cooked in a seasoned cast-iron pan are real burgers.  Grilled burgers don't cut it for him, so with no propane in the grill, I did it his way and I have to say...I agree.  They were juicier and had an awesome flavor from charring on the hot iron surface.  You decide what works, but if you grill, be forewarned that the feta in the burgers can cause a lot of sticking to the grates if they are not well seasoned. 

To complete the burger meal, green beans were our french fries since they were in our veggie box but since this is potato season for most of the rest of the country, you can make quick oven fries by slicing potaoes into sticks then tossing with olive oil, oregano and salt.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until crispy.  (Set the fries on a metal cooling rack over a cookie sheet for the crispiest version.)

You can also serve the burgers on top of spinach or lettuce and make it a low-carb meal.  The juices from the burger actually meld with the tzaziki to make a fabulous dressing.

Let me know how you cooked yours and how they turned out.  If it's your first time to use grass-fed beef, tell me your opinion.  It will be a bit different from conventional corn-fed beef that's widely available.  I'll also be happy to answer any other questions you may have.  Comment below and I'll get back with you or email me.

Seasonal Veggies -  green beans, watermelon radish, garlic, chard, onions, lettuce, Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, potatoes (in lieu of green beans)

CWYG Items - Grass-fed ground beef, olive oil, feta, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, egg

Grass-Fed Greek Burgers with Watermelon Radish Tzaziki

Try to find 100% grass-fed (and finished) beef or buffalo.  It's as lean as chicken and has the same Omega-3/6 ratio as wild salmon (in can eat wild salmon at $10-15/lb or you can eat grass-fed hamburgers at $5-6 a pound and get the same effect on your brain and heart.) plus you get the iron from beef.  If you have pepperoncinis or olives, feel free to add these to burgers or as a topping.

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 head chard, leaves only, finely chopped
1 lb ground beef or buffalo
3 oz feta, crumbled
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp sea salt
To Serve:Watermelon Radish Tzaziki, recipe follows
Romaine lettuce or spinach
Whole Wheat Buns or Pitas, optional
Quick Oven Fries or Green Beans steamed and tossed with olive oil, salt and cherry tomatoes, optional

Heat olive oil in a large skillet.  Saute onion until softened, then add the garlic and chard.  Saute until the chard has totally softened and shrunk.  Squeeze out as much extra liquid as possible.  Transfer the chard to a large bowl and crumble in the ground beef, feta, egg, spices and salt.  Mix well, preferably with your hands.  Form into four patties and set on a plate into the fridge while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Prepare the tzaziki and shred lettuce if using.  Make your side dish now while you're at it and toast your bread, too.

Heat a large skillet or your grill.  Cook the burgers until they register 160 degrees internally.  Place the burgers on top of the buns or lettuce then top with tzaziki.

Watermelon Radish Tzaziki
Since watermelon radishes aren't readily available everywhere, use whatever radishes you can get in your area, or leave it out and make the yogurt topping with herbs and add extra lettuce to your burgers.

If you don't have Greek yogurt, but you do have plain, you can quickly make thickened yogurt that will work just the same.  Simply spread the yogurt into a thin layer on a couple of layers of paper towels on a cookie sheet.  Let stand for 5-10 minutes then scrape off with a spatula.  You will hopefully have very thick yogurt and the paper towel will be soaked with the whey from the yogurt.  Plan to start with twice as much yogurt as you will need.

1/2 cup grated radishes (any variety will work)
3/4 cup Greek-style yogurt (6 oz)
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp garlic, minced
juice of one lemon

Mix everything together and let stand for 15-20 minutes.

Print Page Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Monday, October 17, 2011

Saying GoodBye to the Farm with Fresh Corn Chowder

Saying goodbye is never easy.  I live half a country from my family and no matter how long our stay is when I go home, it's all I can do to hold it together at the airport and not cry.  This weekend my son experienced the same thing.  He's held this bunny at Gibson Canyon Farm since the bunny arrived at only a few weeks old.  He named him Bill and we made at least a weekly trip there to give him a bunny fix.  Every week he asked for the bunny and every week I've had to play bad Mommy and say no.

At the end of last week, in preparation for his half-birthday celebration (What!? Half Birthday!? Cue rolling of eyes, right?  Really it's no big deal, it's just a good reason to buy sugar cereal once a year and enjoy it while watching Saturday morning cartoons as a family. That's it, no party, no cake, no presents, just simple acknowledgement.) he asked if we could go "work" (AKA Mom & Dad work while I hold Bill the Bunny) at the farm. Upon arriving after our sugar rush breakfast, we learned that it was the last week for the farmstand to be open. It didn't hit me until we were about to leave and I saw my youngest holding "his" bunny.  Begging incessantly when he found out the bunny was being given away, I managed to stick to my guns and not leave with the bunny.

But he was truly mourning the thought of having to leave Bill there.

I feel the same when the end of harvest comes and especially when I've become friends with the Sue the "farmer".  (Quotation mark explantation: She's an extremely elegant, beautiful real estate agent that happened to love gardening and animals enough to go for her dream of having a farm!  Not exactly the farmer stereotype.)

In order to hold on to the moment as long as possible, I do a little shopping before leaving.  I round up beautiful, fat, late-harvest white corn, red organic pears and lots of heirloom pumpkins. A complimentary rainbow colored bag of sweet peppers that were past their prime for selling but perfect for roasting joins them.  Then with tomatoes still choosing life, we stretched out our time a bit more by picking as many sugar-sweet Sungolds and Sweet 100's as we could fit in a paper bag.

Finally after almost three hours at the farm, it was officially time to say goodbye.

My own personal sadness was augmented when my son made the mature choice to put the bunny back in the cage. I truly almost lost it.  I knew it had been a tough choice for him to go from defiantly saying "I'm not going to leave without the bunny" a few minutes before to willingly letting him go.  Letting go is something we all have to learn, but always hard just the same.  So hard it was, leaving the farm, Sue, Bill the Bunny and the almost barren fields reminding me that the dark days of winter are just around the corner.

Honoring my friend Sue, and what she has labored to produce, I decide, is the perfect way to weave my sadness into something delicious. Fresh. Corn. Chowder.

Though I've made another version of corn chowder before, this version makes great use of a variety of end-of-season produce while the other is good for winter since it's pantry ingredients.

Go to Local Harvest and find out where farms are near you.  Find out the names of the people growing the produce.  Get to know them.  Buy lots of stuff.  Find out when they open next year and frequent them through all the seasons.  Learn how to use the unusal things that they might grow.  Ask if they have a CSA so you can personally have a stake in the farm.  These farms are our only source of truly safe food.

Find a farm then tell me...What did you make with your harvest?  Email me, comment below or find me on Facebook or Twitter and send pictures, recipes and feedback.

CWYG Stats
Seasonal Ingredients:  Corn, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes
CWYG LIST Ingredients:  Bacon, onions, garlic, masa harina, half & half, cream, chicken stock

Fresh Corn Chowder
4 fat ears of corn, shucked and kernels cut off, cobs reserved for stock
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/4" thick strips
2 small or 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped roasted, peeled and seeded peppers (I used a mix of sweet reds and jalapenos)
1/2 lb yellow potatoes, chopped into 1/4" pieces
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 qts corn stock or chicken stock if no time to make stock
1/4 cup masa harina (corn flour used for tamales)
1/4 cup half & half
3/4 cup cream (or if no half & half use all cream)

To serve:
plain yogurt
chopped tomatoes, or halves tiny tomatoes like I used
chopped cilantro

For Corn Stock:
Place cobs in at least 3 quarts of water along with 1/2 an onion, 2 cloves of garlic and a sprig of thyme.  Bring to a boil, remove any scum and let reduce down to 2 quarts.

For Chowder:
Render fat out of bacon.  When it's crispy, remove to a paper towel. Add onion, peppers and potatoes.  Stir to coat with bacon fat.  Add the garlic and stir again before add the stock all at once.  Bring to a hard boil.  Skim off any scum then let it continue to boil on high until the potatoes are soft. 

Stir the masa harina into the half & half then whisk into the soup.  Reduce heat, add cream then continue to simmer on medium high until thickened.

Serve with a scoop of yogurt and sprinkle with tomatoes and cilantro.

Print Page Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Les Oefs - Eggs Elevated

I have an unadulterated love for France.  When most Americans tend to lean to the "the French are rude" side, I find myself on the defensive.  Every country, just like every individual has faults, but I think the Franco-American relations would do well to live and let live on many accounts.  Now, admittedly, I'm pretty much only concerning myself with dining and cultural elements.

On our trips there, we have been amazed at how many Americans expected the French to accomodate their typical dining habits, rather than simply complying with the French culture.  Hands are always above the table not below.  Coffee is not served with dessert, it's a post-dessert beverage and then only in thimble-sized bracing shots of thick espresso. (YUM!)  You are not entitled to bread before dinner (nor a plate to go with it) in a restaurant.  You simply don't turn up your nose at the sometimes overwhelming "aroma" of the liquidy cheeses oozing at the cheese shops, no matter how stinky they are.  And you don't get eggs for breakfast!

Omelets, quiche, and other egg dishes are served on casual bistro menus as lunch or dinner.  For us, they were the saving grace of traveling with a toddler in this marvelous country.   Harry was perfectly happy tucking into his Gruyere-oozing omelet on our many lunches out while we tried the regional specialties whatever they may have been.  Upon returning, we decided to adopt this at home as well. 

Finally, being outed as a perfect protein and not the cholesterol increasing villain they once were, eggs are my friend with Cook What You've Got.  When I've reached the end of my proteins in my fridge and freezer and shopping is not part of my day, eggs are always there.  No matter what you have in your fridge, eggs will play nice.  Vegetables, bits of meat, any number of cheeses.

But my favorite, and the simplest, way to make them is with brown butter and herbs.  Simply beat 6-8 eggs.  No milk, cream, seasonings.  Nothing but eggs.

In a skillet, melt 2 tbsp butter in a tablespoon of olive oil - this increases the smoking point of the butter - and throw in hearty herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme.   No need to remove the rosemary from the stem.  It will get crispy so you can crumble it over the eggs.  When the herbs are crispy and the butter is turning amber, remove the herbs to a paper towel.  Let the butter brown a few more seconds, then add the eggs. Immediately start stirring to create medium sized "curds". When the eggs are barely cooked through, remove from heat to stop the cooking process but keep stirring.  Before serving, crumble the herbs over the top, then sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked pepper.  At this point in the year, tomatoes are great with this, though we had them, we also had lovely pannetone so we simply toasted it and enjoyed it alongside the eggs.  A light, fruity red wine or buttery Chardonnay would complete your French bistro egg experience.

Print Page Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Monday, October 3, 2011

Chocolate to the Third! - A progressive chocolate tasting

a) NO!
b) Maybe?
c) Okay, twist my arm.
d) None of the above

My answer:  d) None of the above.

I was able to barely contain my YES when the good people at Foodbuzz asked me, as part of the Tastemaker program, if they could send me three Ghirardelli Intense Dark chocolate varieties in exchange for me doing a tasting with various foods and beverages.

The Intense Dark chocolates were new to me, though Ghirardelli has been my mass-produced chocolate of choice for years.  When they first arrived though, I didn't have the greatest expectations.

Chocolate bars from the majority of my experiences are waxy.  Arriving with a completely melted and almost-hot "cold" pack, I had even worse expectations for the Ghirardelli bars.  Wanting to give them the benefit of the doubt, I laid them out carefully on my granite counter waiting for them to be rejuvenated and firmed up by the cool surface. When I could wait no longer, I tried each one solo.  No waxy mouth-feel, melting perfectly on my tongue, I was pleasantly surprised.  The individually wrapped squares that were included in the shipment weren't so lucky.  Fraught with "bloom," no doubt having to do with their encounter with the heat, the squares served their purpose as treats for my kids.   The bars, however proceeded to go on a culinary journey with me.

As usual, I applied the Cook What You've Got philosophy and looked around to see what I had to start the journey.  Tiny, sugar-bomb strawberries still available at local stands here in Northern CA, were sitting sweetly in the fridge.  They and the Twilight Delight (72%) variety chocolate bar were amazing as solo acts, but they paired up to become fabulous when served over leftover crepes from our weekend breakfast.  Transformed into a simple sauce, the intense coffee-like flavor in the Twilight Delight (which I loved) was tempered when melted with equal parts heavy cream. 

Our Midnight Reverie (86%) tasting began with a recommended pairing with gourmet marshmallows.  Short of selling out on my own concept and going to a local boutique and buying gourmet marshmallows, I looked in my pantry and found two store-brand, stale marshmallows.  While I wouldn't recommend that pairing, the chocolate certainly elevated the shoddy mallows.  The chocolate all alone with nothing but a glass of Scott Harvey Syrah was a festival of dark chocolate covered cherry goodness. The final few ounces were chopped and folded into the brownies we made on the fly for our Improv Food & Wine Pairing. Adding just the right note of "darkness," they kept the brownies from being overly sweet.

Sea Salt Soiree was hands down the family favorite.  We got a full bar as well as the aforementioned less fortunate squares.  The boys were just shy of a fist-fight over who would get the last wrapped square. Though we could have joined in, we decided to keep our tasting a little more refined. I vamped on a recommended pairing of candied orange peel or dried cherries by using the only interesting dried fruit I had on hand - candied ginger.  We had a bottle of Cline Family cellars Nancy's Cuvee sparkling wine chilled so we decided to see how all these elements would play together.  The delicious balance of salt, sweet and warm, roasted nuttiness of this chocolate variety was more harmonious with the spice of the sweet ginger than the drier, less sweet sparkling wine.  But always seeking peace in the world, we decided to try them all together.  The salty-sweet chocolate coated ginger bite was amped up by the effervescence of the wine to create a perfect, not-too-sweet ending to the evening.

So thank you Ghirardelli for helping me boost my creativity by using your products and to Foodbuzz for giving me the opportunity to try something new.

Print Page Copyright 2011 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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