Dairy Free Saag = less party-favor-ish

As I battle back and forth with my dairy issues, I’ve been craving Indian food. Usually a guaranteed party favor after eating anything with cream in it, I’ve avoided indian cuisine for the most part. There are, however, a bunch of places in Boulder that will substitute coconut milk in their curries which makes me a very happy panda. Saag Paneer is one of my all time fav things so I’ve recreated it subbing out the cream and the cheese. It’s pretty damn good and definitely satisfies the craving.

This version of Saag is definitely the stick to your ribs kind. It’s filling and you could probably use it to glue something together. I like it that way – if you want it ‘looser’, add more liquid and less cashew cream! You could also throw everything into the blender at the end and give it another puree. YOUR WORLD, these are just guidelines.

You’ll need:

  • A big pot. I use my dutch oven – you need something with a lid.
  • A sauté pan
  • A food processor or intensely fine chopping skills
  • A blender
  • A spatula
  • 1 package of tofu – I use a GMO free, firm tofu
  • 1 can of full fat coconut milk
  • 1-2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons Garam Masala
  • 1 knob of ginger, really finely diced or grated with a microplane
  • 3-6 gloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 jalepeno, thai chili or fresno chili, roughly chopped
  • 1 red onion, medium dice
  • About 10 oz of fresh spinach. I buy one of the big tubs and use 3/4 of it or so
  • 2-3 tablespoons cooking fat of your choice, I like to stick with coconut
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews
  • Cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Do this:

  1. Boil some water. Put your cashews in a cereal bowl and cover with the boiling water.
  2. Squeeze the water out of your tofu. Some people put a goddamn weight on top of it and let it rest for 20 minutes. I don’t do that. I squeeze it like a sponge and get on with my life. Get as much water out of it as you can, gently, then cut it into cubes.
  3. Heat a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil in your sauté pan over medium high. Add the tofu to the pan and fry on medium until all sides (or at least 3-4 sides) are golden and delicious. This takes about 15 minutes in total so just keep an eye on it while you do the rest of your business. When it’s done, take it off the heat and set aside.
  4. MEANWHILE…melt some coconut oil in your pan/pot on medium high heat and add cumin seeds once the oil heats up. Let those pop and fry for a few minutes, until fragrant. Add onion to pan and sauté until they begin to caramelize an soften, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, fresh chili and ginger for the last minute.
  5. Set up your food processor and put a few handfuls of spinach in there. Then put a bit of the onion/cumin/garlic/ginger mixture on top, then another layer of spinach. You’re going to pulse all of this together in batches. It usually takes me about 2-3 batches before all of it is combined together. Don’t pulverize your spinach…or do….this is your world! The more you process the spinach, the more it will break down. I like mine right in the middle.
  6. Add the spinach/onion/garlic/ginger magic back to your pot with some more coconut oil and 1 cup of veggie or chicken stock.
  7. Add remaining spices and stir to combine everything together. Add coconut milk and cover, letting everything simmer for about 15-20 minutes on low heat.
  8. While everything is simmering in your pot, add the cashews to your blender with *most* of the liquid they were soaking in. Blend the crap out of it, adding more water when necessary. You’re looking for a smooth consistency, kind of like yogurt or sour cream.
  9. When your cashew cream is all ready, add it to the pot and stir it in. Now you can start adjusting your seasoning! Use full mineral salt and get after it. Throw in your lemon juice and add anything else that might be missing. I often use a bit more garam masala or chili flakes.
  10. When you’ve got it how you want it, add the tofu. Stir everything together one last time, cover and let simmer for 5-10 minutes more on low heat.
  11. Serve with basmati rice and garnish with cilantro!

I don’t have any pictures of this dish because they all kinda look like baby diapers. I’ll see if I can snap one the next time I make this and share it here :D

OKAY I found a picture…and it still looks like a baby diaper. BUT IT TASTES SO GOOD!IMG_4342

Advertisements

Pan Sauce Basics – Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary

Pan sauces are one of those magical things that take a standard dinner to a new level. Although they might sound a little intimidating, they’re really straight forward and are incredibly versatile.

The following recipe is the one I’ve used the most to practice my pan sauce skillz. It’s simple and only requires a few grocery-store-only ingredients that you’ll have to pick up in preparation. It’s also easy to adapt this recipe with different veggies to really make it a one pan dinner. Or lunch. Or breakfast?!

You’ll need:

  • A large, oven safe sauté pan or cast iron skillet
  • Tongs and a wooden spoon/spatula
  • 6-8 bone in, skin on chicken thighs
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 lemons, quartered and seeds removed
  • 8-10 olives (I love cerignola’s so I use those – pits or no pits, your choice!)
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary (thyme works nicely as well)
  • 8-10 baby bella or crimini mushrooms, quartered
    • Optional: 3-4 fingerling potatoes or fingerling sweet potatoes. If you use potatoes, cut back on the mushrooms
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil (or avocado)
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder or organic corn starch (optional – you can thicken simply by reducing)
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Do this:

  • Trim your chicken thighs. I remove some of the extra skin just so I’ve got a nice layer right over the top of the thighs. I may or may not put my leftover skin on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven for 10 minutes at 350….

IMG_3830

  • After trimming them, season the skin side with a few generous sprinkles of salt.
  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and put a rack in the middle of the oven. Be sure there isn’t a rack directly above your chosen rack – you’ll need to fit your pan in there!
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of your chosen oil in your sauté pan on the stove. Get it really hot to the point that it starts smoking. Pour off the oil, wipe down your pan and return it to the stove. You’ve now made your pan non-stick! Feel free to skip the above if you’ve got a non-stick sauté pan big enough for the job :)
  • Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil on medium high heat. Place your chicken thighs in the pan, skin side down and ‘fry’ for 5 minutes. You should have a nice, golden colored, crispy skin under there! If not, give them another minute.
  • Turn the chicken thighs skin side up and move to the perimeter of the pan. Add 1 cup chicken stock, mushrooms, 6 lemon wedges, garlic, potatoes if using and rosemary to the middle of the party. Place the olives amongst the rest of the crowd.

IMG_3968

  • Bring liquid to a boil, remove from stove and put in the oven uncovered for 30 minutes.
  • Transfer pan from the oven to the stove and remove your thighs – I let mine rest on a cutting board. The skin should still be crispy, but the underside should be nice and juicy!
  • If you’re making a slurry to thicken the sauce, add 1 tablespoon arrowroot or corn starch to a small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons COLD water to the slurry and mix with your finger to combine.
  • Remove the rosemary and add remaining 1/4 cup chicken stock and squeeze the two lemon wedges in. Bring to a boil.
  • Slowly drizzle in slurry while whisking constantly. Let things thicken up – make more slurry if you want it thicker and let it boil once all the slurry is in the pan. This will cook the starch and prevent it from tasting like…glue…
    • If you want to skip the slurry altogether, keep reducing the pan sauce and don’t add the remaining 1/4 cup of stock.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add thighs back into pan briefly and voila!

To serve, use your tongs to take out chicken, potatoes, mushrooms and olives. Garnish with a lemon wedge and spoon the pan sauce over the chicken and veggies. Sometimes I’ll throw in a few handfuls of spinach at the last step to get more green in there or simply serve the chicken on a bed of spinach or with a big salad!

And there you have it – perhaps your first pan sauce! Once you’ve done it a few times, it’s easy to start thinking of other ingredients to add in or substitute in. White wine, red wine, lemon juice, beef stock, veggie stock – the list goes on!

Warm Lentil Salad – Goes with Errythang

In November of 2014, I had an allergy test run that told me I was very reactive to eggs, white potatoes and sesame and mildly reactive to rice, corn, dairy (goat, sheep, cow), tapioca and something else I’m forgetting.

Needless to say, that month sucked. I did my very best to eliminate all of those foods for 3 months and then start adding them back in. After a year and a half, I’m able to tolerate eggs in moderation and the rest of that list, too. I’m on the fence about allergy testing in general – I know I feel very good eating a mostly protein, fat and veggie carbs diet but I don’t fall apart having sushi every now and again or eggs once or twice a week.

I DIGRESS. When I wasn’t eating anything fun, I had to get really creative with breakfast. I make this lentil salad at least once a week and serve a couple spoonfuls with just about everything. This recipe is particularly easy because I cook my lentils like pasta – there’s no real risk of messing them up!

You’ll need:

  • A medium sauce pot
  • A sauté pan
  • A small mixing bowl
  • A whisk or fork
  • 4-5 cups of water
  • 1 cup uncooked, dry le puy lentils (otherwise known as green french lentils)
  • 1 small yellow onion, small dice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 medium carrots, small dice
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1-2 tablespoons oil for sautéing (I like coconut or butter works fabulously here!)
  • 4-5 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • A drizzle of honey (optional)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of some kind of mustard (I like stoneground)
  • Salt and pepper

Do this:

  • Boil water in your sauce pot. Once it’s brought to a boil, add salt. Add salt until your water tastes like the ocean. YES I’M SERIOUS! Adding salt now is the only real way to get any flavor into those lentils! As always, full mineral salt is the best option.
  • Add lentils to the pot and reduce heat to a rolling simmer…somewhere between the boil and a simmer! Leave uncovered and cook like pasta for 15-20 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, taste your lentils.
    • If they’re still too undercooked, cook them some more! I’ve had them take up to 25 minutes to really get the texture I like so play around and know you won’t mess them up ;)
    • If the water starts to evaporate, add some more.
    • OPTIONAL: you can add a sprig of rosemary to your lentils while they cook if you really love that rosemary flavor!
  • While lentils are cooking, heat your coconut oil or butter in your sauté pan. Add the sprigs of rosemary and let it bubble about a bit.
  • Add garlic, onions and carrots to the pan and sauté on medium heat for 5-6 minutes or until carrots and onions have softened up a bit – this is totally a preference thing!
    • Sometimes I really crank the heat up and get a little bit of char on the carrots. Also a great alternative fat for sautéing is bacon fat…just sayin’…
  • Remove the mixture from the pan and let cool in a bowl. Take out the rosemary sprigs.
  • Make your vinaigrette by first adding your balsamic to a small mixing bowl. Add the mustard and honey and mix to combine. Slowly begin drizzling the olive oil into the bowl all the while whisking with your fork or whisk to make an emulsion. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
  • When the lentils have cooked to your liking, drain them and let cool a bit.
  • Add onion/carrot/garlic mixture to the lentils and fold gently to combine. Drizzle the vinaigrette and continue folding to incorporate.
    • If you feel you don’t have enough vinaigrette, you can always whip up a little extra :) I like mine dressed pretty lightly, just enough so that the balsamic flavor comes through but doesn’t overpower my mouth!

Boom! There you have it! You can serve these warm or cold. I like to have them in the morning with a green salad and a little leftover chicken or something. I also make some killer noodle bowls and often add the lentils as a component to the dish!

The only photo I have of these lentils is not very illustrative of their amazingness…they’re kind of overpowered by that magnificent New York strip on top aren’t they…

IMG_9075

Crack Soup aka Cartel Caldo

This soup has become one of my weekly staples, especially when it’s cold outside! Even though I tend to be verbose in my explanations, you probably have all the basic ingredients in your fridge & pantry so don’t be intimidated by the scroll factor in this post :D

Why crack soup? I shared this recipe with some of my girlfriends who then made it for their husbands who then took it to work and the entire office deemed it “crack soup”. It is damn good. Okay, here we go!

You’ll need:

  • A crock pot
  • A big wooden spoon or spatula and a slotted spoon or tongs
  • A sauté pan
  • 4-5 cups water or chicken stock if you have it (everything is better with stock!)
  • One whole chicken, no giblets (organic or pastured if you’re feelin’ saucy)
  • One medium red onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons whole cumin (ground will work in a pinch but it’s way better with whole)
  • 1, 15 oz can tomatoes (I like the roasted and diced kind but any will do)
  • 1, 15 oz can black beans (any canned bean would work but I prefer black)
  • 1 jalapeño diced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (I use chipotle or something similar)
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced (optional but adds some really amazing flavor!)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice from two limes
  • 1-2 tablespoons preferred cooking oil (I like avocado or coconut or BUTTER!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Do this: –

  • In your sauté pan, heat oil on medium. Toss in garlic and stir with your wooden spoon/spatula until you can smell the magic. Toss in half of the cumin and lightly toast in the fat with the garlic. Toast until fragrant.
  • Toss in chopped red onion, reduce heat if the smell goes from magic to slightly burny and sauté together for about 5-7 minutes. Add in the last half of your cumin now and incorporate with everything. Take pan off heat.
  • In your crock pot, add water (or stock, or half and half!), canned tomatoes, jalapeño, poblano and chili powder. Stir gently to combine everything.
  • Add onion/garlic/cumin from your pan to the crock pot and stir again.
  • Add the entire chicken to the crock pot and watch your liquid level – you want the liquid to just cover the chicken. If it doesn’t, add a bit more liquid.
  • Turn the crock pot to low and cover.
  • Go about your life for the next 6-8 hours OR overnight. Often I leave mine on for 14-16 hours and it was magical. Hard to screw this one up so don’t fret about the time! If you need to speed it up, put it on high for 3 hours.
    • You are essentially making stock out of the whole soup so the longer you let it mellow out, the better it’s gonna be!

When you’ve deemed the crack soup finished, here’s what to do

  • Carefully remove the chicken from your crock pot with the slotted spoon and/or tongs and put it in a big bowl. Remove any straggling pieces from the crock pot – you don’t want any surprise bones in there! Be careful, that baby is hot!
  • Let the meat cool off for about 10 minutes then use two forks or your tongs (or your hands if you like to get in there and handle it) and separate the meat from the bones. I also remove the skin.
    • If you’re into making stock, save the bones and freeze them!
  • Once you’ve removed the meat, shred it and put it back into the crock pot with everything else.
  • Add the can of beans and the lime juice.
  • Stir everything together gently and season with salt! Keep tasting it until you get it right – for that much liquid, I add at least 1-2 tablespoons of full mineral salt.

I like to serve mine with some fresh cilantro and lime wedges. If I’ve got leftover rice, I’ll throw a little of that in there. I also like to top it with a dollop of cashew sour cream (recipe soon!) or greek yogurt! As always, soups, stews and braises are better the next day ;)

This recipe will feed a shitload of people or YOU for a week!

IMG_3833

Pork Green Chili – I’ll Smother Everything with You

As the weather gets colder, all I want is an endless supply of soupy, stew-y goodness. Preferably with meat, preferably spicy. Pork Green Chili is an obvious win in all afore mentioned categories. You know how some people judge the authenticity of a restaurant based on a certain staple menu item? Pork Green Chili is one of mine for Mexican/Southwestern/New Mexican cuisine. I love that you can eat it like a stew, smother breakfast, lunch or dinner with it, that its good cold or hot, that it gets better as it sits in your fridge and its a huge crowd pleaser for dinner parties or potlucks (except with the vegans…that being said, green chili is really easy to adapt into a vegan/vegetarian version!). I’m also slightly obsessed with the ‘One Pot Meal’ and slow cooking. Here’s what I gathered:

  • A 2-3 pound, bone out pork shoulder roast. You can use rump or boston butt or really whatever is on sale. Bone in is great for adding flavor but kind of a pain in the ass to deal with
  • 5-6 cups chicken stock/bone broth. If you’ve got pork stock in the freezer, great time to use it! Remember that the more flavorful the cooking liquid you use, the better your final product will taste. Water is not a great option – veggie stock at the least people!
  • Coconut Oil
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, medium dice
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 3-6 teaspoons cayenne/chipotle/chili powder (just adjust according to your taste – start with 3 in the beginning, then add more toward the end if desired)
  • 2 jalepeños, seeds removed, roughly diced
  • Juice from 2-3 limes
  • Sea Salt
  • Cilantro – as much or as little as you want!
  • About a pound of green chili peppers, medium dice, seeds and ribs removed from fresh chills, tops removed from roasted – I had about 8, 6″ Anaheim Peppers from my moms garden and also bought 3/4 pound of roasted, Hatch green chili’s at Whole Foods. The pre-roasted chills are AMAZING and make your life so much easier – 3/4 lb cost me $3.75 so it is completely worth it to just go out and buy them. If you can’t find pre-roasted, raw Poblanos, Tomatillos and Anaheims are great alternatives. You can also find canned, ‘fire roasted’ chilis in any grocery store although they are significantly more expensive that way. Mercado on Pecos and the Safeway on 20th and Park Ave always have a great selection of peppers. Unless it’s Hatch Pepper season, I usually do half ‘raw’ and half ‘roasted’.
  • NOTE: If you are using the store bought roasted chilis, you will need to remove as much of the black char as you can – DON’T RUN THEM UNDER WATER TO DO THIS! You will be sacrificing a ton of that roasted flavor. If you put the chilis in the fridge overnight, cleaning them won’t be that difficult. Just be gentle and patient. If you don’t get everything that’s fine, just try to get the majority of the black char off the chilis before putting them in the pot.Image

How to make Pork Green Chili Magic:

  1. Get a large pot with a lid – I use an 8 qt stock pot, I like it because I can get a lot of liquid in there and it covers my roast better than my Le Cruset which is much wider.
  2. Get some coconut oil in the bottom of the pot – be liberal. While your oil is heating on med/high heat, pat your pork roast dry with a paper towel and liberally salt all sides (if the roast is in one of those mesh girdles, just leave it in there for now. It helps keep the meat in one form and helps with even cooking).Image
  3. Put your roast in the hot pan – you should hear lots of sizzling here. Sear each side of the roast for 2-3 minutes – keep rotating the roast to get a nice sear on all sides. Pull it out when you’ve done this and set on a plate – you should see lots of beautiful brown caramelized bits.
  4. Now toss your diced onion and jalapeño into the pan with a ladle full of chicken stock – lots of sizzle – deglaze the pot with your stock and onions.
  5. Now its time for your raw chilis – throw them into the pot and let them cook for a few minutes, then add your roasted chilis. This is what mine looked like right before adding.Image
  6. Add your chicken stock, garlic and bay leaves and bring to a simmer.
  7. Once everything is hot (but not boiling), move your pot to a smaller burner if necessary. Then put your pork roast back into the pot. Add more liquid here if the roast isn’t covered. If you’re out of chicken stock at this point that’s fine, just use water and add in some extra garlic ;)
  8. Put the lid on and turn burner to its lowest setting.
  9. Set the timer for 8 hours. Yep, that is correct. You can also do this in a crock pot but I’d recommend searing the pork roast first!
  10. Go live life. Or clean your house. Or play Borderlands 2.
  11. After 8 hours has passed, your house will smell amazing and it will be time to remove the roast from the pot. Take it out, let it sit on a plate.
  12. Once roast is removed from pot, crank the heat and let the liquid begin to reduce. Add cilantro at this point if you’d like, or just save for garnish.
  13. When your roast has cooled a bit, take off its girdle and start pulling it apart. Depending on the cut you got, there could be some large fat caps – take these out (sometimes a pairing knife is handy for this) and start pulling the meat apart. This should be really easy because you braised it for 8 hours. I shred my pork into strips and then run a knife through it to cut it into small pieces.
  14. After the pork is broken down, get a pan and put the pork in it – ladle some of the liquid from the pot (that is still reducing) over the pork and put the lid on it – this will prevent the pork from drying out while you continue to reduce the chili.
  15. Let the liquid reduce by at least half. At this point, start adjusting the flavor with salt, lime juice and more cayenne/chipotle/chili powder. You’ll be surprised at how much salt you’ll use – don’t worry, just use good quality sea salt! You can continue to reduce if you want a thicker sauce, or use some arrowroot to thicken a bit more.
  16. Once you’ve got the flavors right, turn off the heat and blend the sauce with an immersion blender/food processor/blender.
  17. Add the pork (and excess liquid) to the now blended chili and stir to combine.

Finished! I know it was a process but really, its pretty fool proof. There are a lot of steps but its basically sear, braise, reduce, season, blend, serve. I like to eat a bowl right away and garnish it with some cilantro, tomatoes and avocado. The next morning I smother my eggs with it and then eat more at lunch. This recipe makes about 2-3 quarts so A LOT of chili – reducing the recipe is perfectly okay but kind of tough if you are roasting a whole pork shoulder. It freezes fabulously and friends always love getting a little container of it so never fear that it will go to waste! It keeps in the fridge for at least a week if not longer.

Chicken with Olives, Currants and Cinnamon

This is a recipe I’ve adapted from my dear friend Eileen. She learned how to make it at a cooking class in Italy if I remember correctly and it has been one of her staple ‘friends over for dinner’ meals for years. The first time she made it for me I loved it and have just tweaked it a bit since then. This is a great dish for fall and is even better the next day for lunch as leftovers. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A large sauté pan with a lid – the one I use is a 5.5 quart and is about 3-4 inches tall.
  • A baking sheet or some similar oven-ish tray lined with tinfoil.
  • Coconut Oil.
  • A white or yellow onion, medium dice.
  • 4-6 skin on chicken legs (6 fit perfectly into my sauté pan) or legs and thighs. Just don’t use chicken breast for god’s sake.
  • Olives – I go to Whole Foods and cruise the olive bar – I get the pitted greek olive mix which has green olives, kalamata olives and black olives. You can really use whatever you’d like here but choose something a little tastier than plain old black olives from a can. I usually buy about a half pint (~$5 worth).
  • Currants/raisins, about 1/2 cup. You can get these in bulk from most grocery stores/natural markets. Currants are a bit more pricey so raisins will do just fine here (get good quality ones that only have one ingredient…like ‘dried grapes’ PERIOD.).
  • Chicken Stock – you’ll need 5-6 cups depending on how much chicken you’ve got in the pan. 
  • Bay Leaves, 2-3.
  • Cinnamon – as much or as little as you like – I add a couple of shakes from my spice jar or 2-3 teaspoons.
  • Dried thyme – again, as much or as little as you’d like – I add about 2 teaspoons.
  • Garlic to taste – I get the glass jars of pre-minced organic garlic and just throw in a teaspoon or two.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.

Really not that many ingredients – the only thing I usually have to consciously buy if I know I want to make this meal is the olives but more often than not I’ve got a container or two in the fridge. They keep really well so you can have them in the fridge for a few weeks. Here’s what to do:

  1. Get your oil in the pan and heat it up. I use enough to cover the bottom of the pan. 
  2. Pat your chicken legs dry and lay them skin side up in the pan, you should be hearing lots of sizzle.
  3. Sprinkle some salt on them and let them sear off for 3-4 minutes, then flip them and do the same thing here on this side
  4. Remove all chicken from your pan and place in a bowl off to the side.
  5. Toss in your diced onion and let it sizzle, deglaze the pan with a little bit of your chicken stock.
  6. Add the remaining chicken stock and let it heat up – you can crank the heat here. Once its just starting to simmer, put your chicken legs back in, skin side up. Here’s where you’ll need to assess the liquid levels. You want your chicken legs mostly submerged so add a bit more stock if necessary.
  7. Add your olives, currants/raisins, bay leaves, cinnamon, garlic, thyme and freshly ground black pepper.
  8. PUT THE LID ON, lower the heat to LOW and set the timer for 20 minutes. Also, turn your oven on to 375 and get your baking sheet/oven-ish tray thing in the oven as well. Go play video games.
  9. After 20 minutes, take the lid off and revel in the glorious aroma. Take your chicken out of the pan and place in the same bowl you had before. 
  10. Crank the heat (med-high) on the stove and let the liquid reduce. Meanwhile, take your baking sheet out of the oven with some mitts and put your chicken, skin side up, on the pan. You should hear some more lovely sizzling noises which basically means those parts are going to be browned and crispy. Yay.
  11. Place your chicken in the oven and set the timer again for 10 minutes. Go play video games. 
  12. Come back, check your liquid – give it a stir – it should be reduced by about half if not more at this point. Check your seasonings – add salt (note that if you add salt BEFORE, it can get really salty as it reduces, I try to salt toward the end of the reduction process to avoid killing all other flavors) and maybe turn down the heat. This really depends on if you want it more of a soupy sauce or a sauce, sauce…just keep an eye on it at this point if you continue to reduce, stirring occasionally.
  13. Check your chicken – has the skin started to brown? Good! If not, switch from bake to low broil – let those leggies roast a bit longer as you get your plates together.
  14. When you are satisfied with the chicken and your sauce, pull the chicken, plate, smother with sauce and enjoy!

Wow, that looks like a lot of steps. I promise you it’s worth it, especially if you like savory and sweet. The currants/raisins give it a subtle sweetness but the salty olives really equal that out. I used to serve this with israeli couscous but sadly, those days are over. I make a big salad with just olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper or serve it with some sliced tomatoes, sautéed green beans or nothing. It is excellent on its own!Image

Homemade Chicken(or pork, or lamb…or beef…or a combo!) Stock! DO IT!

One of my very favorite things to do on a lazy Sunday is make stock. Something about it just feels right. Plus, there’s nothing better than leaving the house for a bit, then coming home to the smell of gently simmering meat bones, herbs and onions. It is magic. I have a bit of a system for stock – I eat a lot of meat on the bone at home (I’ve even taken bones home from restaurants…it’s a little creepy but I find that the waiter who just served me an $80 bone-in ribeye gets me). So I set up a couple of bags in the freezer that we affectionately call “The Boneyard”. I also buy whole chickens, butcher them and save the carcass (which has lots of yummy fat and bones) in the freezer. When I’m ready to make stock, I just take out a freezer bag and I’m ready to go.

Here’s my ‘recipe’ – keep in mind this is completely arbitrary and you can really throw in whatever you have in your fridge in terms of veggies, herbs and spices. Traditionally speaking, stock is meant to be a neutral flavor that can be built upon so I don’t use salt or throw in something like jalapeños – but you could if you wanted to.

  • As much chicken, pork, beef or lamb bones/carcasses as can fit in my 8 quart stock pot. This is usually about two carcasses and a few handfuls of bones.
    • I find that chicken and pork go really nicely together as do beef and lamb. I’ve also thrown all four into a pot and the result is amazing. Using just one type of animal bone will give you a more neutral, even flavor. As you combine more types, the flavor changes.
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3-4 stalks of celery, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 1 red, white or yellow onion, roughly diced
  • A few knobs of garlic, peeled but whole
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 5-6 whole cloves
  • A shake of whole black peppercorns
  • Any fresh/wilting herbs in my fridge – I particularly LOVE using dill
  • Enough water to cover everything.

Got it? Sweet! The thing to remember is that making chicken stock takes about 6 hours. That being said, you don’t need to babysit it at all, you just need to let it do its thing.

  1. Get your chicken bones in your pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. It will look like the picture right below step 2.
  2. Now you need to skim that stuff off – take a metal spoon and skim all the white/grey crap off the top. Spend about 5 minutes continuously skimming the stuff that rises to the surface once boiling.
  3. Once you’ve skimmed to your satisfaction, add in your mire poix (i.e., carrots, onions and celery), bay leaves, peppercorns etc. Should look a little like this:
  4. Turn your heat ALL THE WAY DOWN. You may even need to move your pot to a back burner with a lower flame/smaller diameter. The goal is to keep it at a very, very slow simmer with bubbles breaking the surface every 45 seconds or so (no need to sit there with a stopwatch, just don’t let it bubble or boil).
  5. Stir occasionally if you remember, if not, come back in about 6 hours. Worth mentioning that I’ll make up a batch in the morning and let it go ALL DAY. Alternatively, I’ll throw it on overnight and it’ll be ready in the morning. BEST!
  6. Strain everything off. Keep the magical liquid and put the rest in the compost pile or in the trash.
  7. Let cool and refrigerate/freeze!

And there you have it: Stock 101. Another variation that creates more flavor is roasting the bones/carcasses in the oven at around 375 for 20-30 minutes. My mama does this and it produces a lovely, darker stock (darker because of the yummy roasted goodness you created in the oven). This recipe makes about 6 quarts of stock. When you put it in the fridge, it will coagulate some because you have a lot of awesome fat and marrow-ish-stuff in there. By NOT straining off the fat or skimming after its been refrigerated, you’re getting a lot more bang for your buck a.k.a. bone broth. I often just warm up a bowl of stock, season a bit with salt and pepper and sip away.

My stock usually looks like jello once it has been cooled all the way down in the refrigerator. This is my jam – I get that not everyone is into it and that moms have been skimming the fat off their chicken stock for decades. If you must skim, go for it. If the gelatinous quality of the stock freaks you out, use less bones and remove all the small bits of skin. Or just buy some in a box ;)

Tomato Soup – Paleo Style

Here’s a really simple way to make this awesome fall comfort food without the dairy! Basically you need tomatoes, coconut milk, onions, garlic, coconut oil, olive oil, salt, pepper and basil. Oh, and an immersion blender/food processor or blender!

  • 1-2, 28 oz. cans of Muir Glen tomato product (you can use diced, diced with basil, whole, whole roasted – let your tummy be your guide!) OR fresh tomatoes – we are rapidly approaching the end of tomato season so your best bet will probably be canned and there are a lot of high quality options out there.
  • 1 small can tomato paste (also optional but really creates that robust tomato flavor)
  • A yellow or white onion, medium dice
  • A couple of whacks of garlic, depending on what you like – you can put it in whole or mince it.
  • 1 can of whole fat coconut milk – none of that ‘light’ junk here please.
  • Some fresh basil
  • Some chicken stock (this is optional and just adds more flavor – you can do water instead or skip it altogether)
  • Coconut oil
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil for finishing.

Voila! Easy right? I almost always have 8 out of the 9 ingredients in my cupboards so tomato soup abounds in my house. Now for the how-to:

  1. Get a pot. Lid optional. Depending on how much I’m going to make, I use a 2 quart saucepan or my big Le Cruset.
  2. Heat a couple tablespoons of coconut oil over medium heat. Then add your diced onions – you should hear sizzle.
  3. Add your garlic – be careful not to burn.
  4. Add your chicken stock if you’ve got it
  5. Add your tomato product – all of it.
  6. Bring to a simmer and let everything cook together for 10 minutes or so. Leave the lid off so the flavors concentrate.
  7. Pull off the heat and blend with any of the above mentioned kitchen tools.
  8. Put back on the stove top, low heat.
  9. Add your coconut milk and stir to incorporate.
  10. Salt and pepper to taste
  11. Serve with chiffonade basil and a swirl of olive oil!

And as with most things cooked in a big pot, this soup will just get better the next day! Sorry folks, no picture :( will upload one the next time I make this at home.

To Braise or not to Braise – Such a Silly Question

The answer is clearly to braise. To get all technical, braising is a moist heat cooking method which means your product is cooked with liquid. Braising is unique in that you must sear your ingredient first, before adding liquid and cooking, covered on low heat. When braising meats, the end result is usually that ‘fall-off-the-bone’ quality that we all love so much. What kind of meat should you braise? Tougher cuts like pork shoulder, chuck, round and short ribs i.e. the really inexpensive cuts!!! Another great thing about braising is that it’s extremely low maintenance with lots of room for error. You can also braise vegetables by grilling or searing them first and cooking them covered, on low heat with liquid. Braised fennel is one of my favorite things.

The season has officially changed in Colorado – fall is here with winter closely following which means I’ll be braising…a lot. One of my favorite things to make is tomato sauce. Mi mama has been making amazing ragu since I was little and between her recipe and a few new techniques I’ve learned in school, I’ve been living the good life with bowls of pasta covered in rich, flavorful ragu. In Italy, ragu is simply a meat based sauce simmered for a long time – think bolognese, or as Americans call it – meat sauce. Yes, meat sauce but not a can of crappy tomato sauce with some ground beef added.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Meat. Or not. If you are a vegan. Don’t braise tofu though, that’d just be silly. Get yourself a nice bottle of wine instead. I digress. I use beef chuck in my recipe so start with a pound or two of that.
  • Sofrito (or mire poix) – I always use yellow onion and garlic. Celery and carrots can certainly go here but I don’t usually include them.
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Good quality salt, full mineral is best (even though some chefs would have an opinion about that…)
  • Tomatoes. This is a big deal. The quality of your ragu depends on the quality of your ingredients. There aren’t fresh tomatoes anymore in Colorado, not good ones at least. Muir Glen has fantastic canned tomato products – everything is organic, they have paste, sauce, diced, whole, peeled, crushed. You name it. There are also some italian brands available at specialty stores. Whole Foods regularly runs sales on Muir Glen products so I just buy up a bunch and have them in my pantry. For this recipe, I use 1-2, 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes and sometimes I’ll throw in 1 5 oz can of paste (this depends on how many pounds of meat I have).
  • Red Wine. This makes a huge difference. Get a nicer bottle of something, you’ll be happy you did! (Skip this if making Paleo/WLC style!)
  • A nice pot. I use my Le Cruset for ragu and it is just perfect. Your pot must have a lid!!
Here’s what you’ll do:
  • Dice your onion. I usually aim for small – medium dice but you’re cooking this for hours so it’s going to break down a lot.
  • Get your pot hot. Get a little oil in there – use something with a higher smoke point as you are going to sear the meat. I use coconut oil.
  • Season your meat. Don’t be shy. Get a lot of salt on that puppy.
  • Sear every possible side of your meat. Get a nice, golden brown color all up on that thing. You should hear the sear throughout this whole process. Adjust your heat properly to maintain optimum sear-age. Remove when it’s all pretty.
  • Throw in your onions and move them around a bit, you should still be hearing lots of beautiful sizzling noises.
  • Pour in some red wine – again, a symphony of sound should be emanating from your kitchen. There should be enough wine so that upon contact you can see the evaporation but when it settles, there should still be wine in the pot. Add a little more if necessary and deglaze the pan with the wine and onions.
  • Add some garlic. Add some more.
  • Add some red pepper flakes – if you want a spicier sauce, add them when you first add the onions, before the wine.
  • Turn the heat down to low.
  • Add your tomato products.
  • Put your meat back in and see how it looks. It’s important that your meat is covered with liquid – if it’s not, the top will dry out during the cooking process. This is why I said 1-2 cans of tomatoes – if its not covered, add some more. Or hey, add some more wine or stock or even water. Obviously the more flavor the liquid has, the more flavor your sauce will have.
  • Once you’ve got everything in the pot, put the lid on. Make sure the heat is on low!!! If it gets too hot, the meat will be tough no matter how long you cook it.
  • Simmer on low heat for at least 3 hours, I leave mine on for 5 or 6 sometimes, it just depends on how much time I have or what I have going on that day. Check it occasionally to see how it’s tasting, adjust seasonings as needed.
  • When it’s ready (knob off a piece of meat and see if its to your liking), take the meat out with tongs and put it on a cutting board.
  • Crank the heat on the sauce (that now has no meat in it) to reduce it and concentrate the flavors. I add more red wine at this point. Be careful not to burn the sauce – stir it often. This usually takes me about 10-15 minutes to get it to the point/flavor I want.
  • While the sauce is reducing a bit, go through your meat and remove any elastin that hasn’t broken down – these will be big, obvious chunks of connective tissue. Not so nice in the mouth. They should come off the meat easily, if its a tug of war battle, your meat needs to cook longer or you’ve screwed the pooch and cooked it too long. If this is the case, dice it up into smaller pieces.
  • I use an immersion blender at this point and blend my sauce. It’s all about preference though.
  • You can leave your meat whole or shred it.
  • Make some pasta (zucchini pasta, squash pasta etc) or don’t! I LOVE eating this in a bowl with a big huge arugula salad on the side. AND it just gets better after sitting in the fridge for a few days.
  • Mangia!

The pot, The sauce (after cooking for 5 hours and meat is removed)

Braising is the best.

Zucchini – No Frills Here

I love all vegetables. There are few, however, that do not usually inspire me and zucchini has been in this category for many years. A few months ago, I went to Potager Restaurant for date night – I had the pleasure of chatting with Chef Chris over a coffee or two at Crema Coffeehouse and was really excited to try this ‘farm-to-table’ staple in Denver. Each week, Potager staff heads out to various local farms to get the freshest ingredients possible – the results are fantastic.

We had a beautiful meal, there were grilled Palisade peaches with homemade burrata, grass-fed local beef sirloin with a green chili hash and one of the best chocolate puddings I’ve had in recent memory. But the star of the entire meal? A beautifully simple zucchini carpaccio with basil, mint and toasted almonds. I had a new obsession…zucchini, who would’ve thought. In the past few weeks, I’ve tried multiple approaches to recreate Potager’s masterpiece. I haven’t quite nailed it but in experimenting, I’ve found a few close seconds that I thought I’d share (it helped that we’ve had nothing but zucchini at school for the past few weeks!)

Zucchini ribbons with toasted almonds and parmigiano

This was one of my first tries. I had about 3 zucchini that I washed and cut on a mandolin. I added some olive oil, salt and lemon juice. Toasted some almonds, added some mint and basil and topped with a nice chunk of parmigiano. It was really lovely!

Take #2 Zucchini rounds with lemon vinaigrette and pine nuts

I decided on rounds this time – less precarious on the mandolin, that’s for sure. I made a simple lemon & olive oil dressing with some garlic and lemon zest. Toasted some pine nuts and topped with a little more zest. It was delicious – refreshing and light – farm to table at its best.

Apologies for lack of posts! Life has a way of taking over sometimes :)