Archive for March, 2014

No-Excuses Chicken Stock

chicken stock

Here are four reasons why you should make homemade chicken stock:

Number 1: It gives you an excuse to roast a chicken. (As if you needed an excuse)

Number 2: It will make your home smell delicious. Like, crazy, out-of-this-world, how-did-s/he-do-that delicious.

Number 3: Chicken stock from a box/can is kind of scary, when you think about it. Whatever science goes into making a byproduct of meat a non-perishable is something I want nothing to do with. That’s just gross.

Number 4: It is extremely useful in soups, pastas, sides, mains.  You name it; chicken stock will make it better.

homemade stock

In other words, you have no good reason not to make this stuff (unless you’re a vegetarian, in which case you get a pass). It’s a great way to make total use of a roasted chicken. Plus, it’s very easy to save for future use. Just pour the stock into Ziploc bags and freeze! Voila – chicken stock at the ready whenever you need it. Oh man, I’m turning into my grandma. I think I’m okay with it, though.

chicken stock recipe

Ingredients (makes approx. 4 cups stock)

  • 1 chicken carcass
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves, dried or fresh
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 2 teaspoons coarse ground pepper

1. Bring 3 quarts of water and some sea salt to a boil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot.
2. While water is heating, slice onions into thick rings and break carrots and celery into pieces.
3. Place all ingredients in boiling water and reduce to a simmer.
4. Continue simmering, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours. Taste for saltiness, and add more if necessary. Stock should reduce by about 1/3.
5. Using a fine mesh strainer and ladle, transfer stock to a large container. You may need to do this more than once, depending on how fine your mesh is.
6. Refrigerate or divide into Ziploc bags and freeze.

pantry raid

Lemony Pepper Salmon + A Taste of Iceland

France, Italy, Japan…these are countries known for their food. But, Iceland? It had honestly never even crossed my mind. That is, until I stepped foot in Rialto, a restaurant located in Boston’s Harvard Square.

Rialto is an Italian restaurant, but that night we took our taste buds on a trip to Iceland. Iceland Naturally, an organization that seeks to encourage tourism, recently hosted Taste of Iceland, an annual festival that brings the country’s food, music, booze, and culture right to Boston. Lucky me!

I was invited to attend the media tasting event for the special Icelandic popup menu at Rialto, where we were treated to passed bites of fishy yumminess. Before digging in, guest chef Hákon Már Örvarsson explained that many of the ingredients where flown in from Iceland, just the day before.

rialto restaurant

I was a bit wary at first, as I’d been told that Iceland’s delicacy is fermented shark, but one bite of the deep fried cod balls and I was a changed woman. The outside was super crispy and the inside had a nice creamy texture. The cured salmon with lemon-sour cream and lumpfish caviar was another favorite. The group I was chatting with made sure to flag it down whenever a fresh tray was in sight.

I also sampled the Arctic Char, which was cold-smoked and then gently cooked. It was so tender and flaky that I could hardly believe it. Note to self: Keep an eye out for Arctic Char and learn about cold-smoking.

Icelandic cured salmon

The meal ended with a Skyr tart. Skyr is an Icelandic dairy product with a similar taste to Greek yogurt. It’s been a staple there since the Vikings invented it. Bet you didn’t know that Vikings knew much about cooking! The tart was chilled, had a crispy oat crust, and was topped with cinnamon flavored poached rhubarb. Second note to self: poach rhubarb.

Overall, it was a delicious fish-infused meal. I was hoping to pick Chef Örvarsson’s brain for some Icelandic cooking tips, but was dissuaded by his mention of “moss dust” which, he assured me, I could find at a grocery store. I’m not so sure. He did tell me about The Miðfjarðara, which is one of the best salmon rivers in Iceland.  Chef  Örvarsson is now the chef at Laxahvammur, an esteemed lodge alongside the river.

Now, I’m no Chef Örvarsson, but I do make a good piece of salmon. It’s simple. Much much simpler than anything I had the pleasure of tasting at Rialto, but good salmon doesn’t need much dressing up. I hope to one day taste Nordic cuisine in Iceland, but until then, I’ll be munching on this Lemony Pepper Salmon.

P.S. I recommend listening to Retro Stefson and Sin Fang while you cook (or anytime). Not only were they a hilarious bunch, but their music is fun, too!

P.P.S. I have no idea what the above tweet means…

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 lb. fresh salmon fillets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • Black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375o.
2. Rinse salmon, pat dry and place, skin side down, in a cast iron skillet.
3. Pour olive oil over fish and use your fingers or a brush to coat. Squeeze half the lemon over the fish and sprinkle with the black pepper.
4. Cover skillet with tinfoil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until inside of fillet is opaque.

Dark Chocolate Speckled Banana “Ice Cream”

banana ice cream

I am not a vegan for many reasons, but the one that takes the cake (with buttercream frosting, I might add), is ice cream. Honestly, I can’t imagine life without the stuff. Without it, I am nothing, and this is no exaggeration. And by nothing, I mean that all of my body fat is probably a result of the copious amounts of ice cream I consume on the regular.

So, when I heard that people were making “ice cream” out of frozen bananas, I wanted nothing – I repeat nothing – to do with it. Why mess with a good thing, #amiright? Sure, all the Instagram photos looked good, and I even thought of giving it a try when my first ever camp counselor, Gabi Moskowitz (who now has a TV show based off of her life – WOAH!!!) wrote about it on her blog,  BrokeAss Gourmet. But even she couldn’t convince me to tempt fate with “healthy” “vegan” “ice cream.”

It wasn’t until I had two very ripe bananas just a day from the fruit fly’s wrath that I decided to think about giving this thing a try. I broke the ‘naners into pieces and popped them in the freezer, where they would remain until last night, when I had an ice cream hankering like no other and none of the sweet stuff in the ice box. The time had come.

Well, I’m still no vegan, but this Dark Chocolate Speckled Banana “Ice Cream” forced me to at least consider it. My jaw literally dropped in disbelief when I saw those slightly freezer burned hunks of ripe banana transform into a creamy, fluffy, too-good-to-be-true ICE CREAM before my very eyes.

healthy banana ice cream

The point is, I have officially hopped on the faux ice cream bandwagon, and you should, too. Bananas are great for you (much better than Ben & Jerry’s, unfortunately) and if you own a food processor, this stuff is too easy to make to not give it a shot.

Next time, I plan on dropping in a dollop of all-natural peanut butter (another food that magically transforms into creamy goodness when blended). I might also try topping it (sans chocolate) with fresh fruit and granola for a morning parfait. The options are plentiful, and I’d bet very delicious.

My next quest is to figure out a healthy alternative to my other favorite food group, steak. And don’t say “tofu,” vegans. Don’t you dare say “tofu.”

vegan ice cream recipe

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 1 ½ to 2 ripe bananas
  • 4 pieces of dark chocolate

1. Break bananas into pieces and freeze in a baggie.
2. Once frozen, place in a food processer and blend until all the chunks are gone and bananas have transformed into a light, fluffy texture. You may need to use a spatula or spoon to push larger chunks toward the blade.
3. Break chocolate into small pieces and add to processor. Blend until finely ground and incorporated.
4. Eat immediately or freeze for a firmer texture.

 

Swiss Chard Mélange + VT Life Lessons

swiss chard melange

Spring Break is usually a week of reckless behavior and liver abuse at the beach/in a pool/atop a roof, wearing no more than a bikini and, maybe, a crop top. That is, unless you’re me.

I spent my break in tropical Burlington, VT.  And yes, this was by choice. I figured that I might not be sticking around New England for much longer, so I took some time to check out a town that’s been on my to-do list for some time now.

I didn’t exactly return home with a sunburn or a damaged liver, but I did bring back some important life lessons:

1. Everything tastes better with maple, especially lattes. The Chubby Muffin is a cute little café serving up sweet and savory pastries and strong coffee. I tried mine with maple syrup instead of sugar and boy, was I impressed. Later, at Muddy Waters, a café that feels more like a forest bungalow, I indulged in the Maple Latte. Maple syrup is steamed with the milk and then added to bold espresso for a mug of sweet, sweet perfection.

2. The world’s smartest (and dumbest) people work at Ben & Jerry’s. It wouldn’t be a trip to Vermont without a visit to the Ben & Jerry’s factory. We took a tour with other likeminded sweet tooths (mostly under the age of ten) and saw behind the scenes. While looking down over the factory, we witnessed a huge spill that resulted in what looked like gallons of cream covering the entire factory floor. This was easily forgotten  with the help of the banana & cinnamon ice cream with chocolate chunks and caramel swirl that we sampled at the tour’s end. I’d like to hug the genius who came up with this combo.

ben and jerrys factory  secret ben and jerrys flavorben and jerrys

3. Beer is awesome. Okay, I already knew that, but Vermont beer is really awesome. I tried Switchback at Radio Bean, a funky venue/bar where I witnessed a 16-person band lie on the floor mid-performance. We also visited the Magic Hat brewery, where I sampled the Belgo Sutra, a dark Belgian Quad brewed with figs and dates. Yes, I said figs and dates.

magic hatradio bean

4. Cheddar should only be consumed after two years of aging. Shelburne Farms is a popular Burlington destination during the warmer months. Though it’s not open to the public at the moment, I did get to chat with a Shelburne cheese maker, who was slicing samples inside Burlington’s food co-op. I took home a hunk of 2 year aged cheddar that has changed me forever.

5. Swiss chard needs to become a staple in my diet. I’ve always been on Team Kale, but I couldn’t pass up the local Swiss Chard on sale at the co-op. And, just like that, I’ve officially converted to the dark (and leafy green) side. I whipped up the below recipe with my Burlington souvenir. It was the perfect healthy meal after a weekend of beer and Lake Champlain Chocolate.

sauteed swiss chard

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups sliced/torn Swiss chard
  • 1 thick cross section of a large yellow onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 pre-cooked chicken sausage, sliced (Trader Joe’s does it best)
  • ½ cup yellow quinoa
  • 2 eggs
  • White vinegar
  • Black pepper

1. Place quinoa and one cup of water in a small pot over medium heat. Simmer until all the water has absorbed, about 15 minutes.
2. Boil some water in another pot.
3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and sauté until just beginning to brown. Add sausage and cook until crispy on the edges. Add chard and sauté for about two minutes, until greens are soft and wilted.
4. Turn heat off and add quinoa to skillet, folding to combine.
5. Add a bit of vinegar to the pot of boiling water and poach each egg individually.
6. Serve in a bowl, topped with poached egg and freshly ground black pepper.

Turkey Quinoa Burgers

turkey burger recipe

I really don’t have much of a story to share about these burgers, other than that I made them and they were really friggin’ good.

My favorite form of procrastination is browsing food blogs for culinary inspiration. The other day I stumbled upon a recipe that looked a little something like this one, only a lot less awesome. It was actually a pretty weird recipe, but I liked the idea of putting quinoa in turkey burgers, so I ran with that.

quinoa fritters

The result was these really flavorful and juicy burgers. With garlic, scallions, sesame oil, and red pepper, there’s no dearth of flavor here. The quinoa makes for a nice crunch on the outside, and a moist inside. Egg, quinoa, and lean turkey make this a protein packed meal, especially if you opt for low fat turkey white meat.

pantry raid

Like I said, not much to say here, other than that you should hurry up and give this recipe a try. You’ll never go back to plain old turkey burgers again.

Ingredients (makes 4 medium-size burgers)

  • ½ cup uncooked white quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ pound ground turkey white meat
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 scallions
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons Canola or grape seed oil
  • 4 slices of your favorite cheese (optional)

1. Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a small pot. Once boiling, turn heat down to a simmer and cook until all the water is absorbed.
2. While quinoa is cooking, slice scallions and finely chop garlic.
3. Once quinoa is cooked, let cool for five minutes. Then combine quinoa, turkey, garlic, scallions, red pepper flakes, sesame oil, egg, salt, and pepper. It’s easiest to do this using your hands.
4. Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil. Using your hands, create 4 3-inch patties and set aside on tinfoil.
5. In a cast iron or other sturdy skillet, heat canola or grape seed oil until very hot.
6. Cook two burgers at a time, flipping after about four minutes.
7. If desired, add cheese when burgers are almost finished. Cover pan until cheese is melted.
8. Serve on toasted bread with your favorite toppings or plain, alongside a salad.

sienna mintz

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