Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chicken and Saffron Rice

Summer is finally here! This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market you can look forward to the following offerings from Sweetwater Farm and Fair Valley Farm:

squash blossoms, baby squash,
zucchini, and a few tomatoes (try ladybugs on a log)
nappa cabbage (makes some Pad Thai)
lemon drop hot peppers and Italian parsley (try in a mixed grain salad)
fava beans and sugar snap peas
cucumbers and carrots (make some fresh spring rolls)
spring onions, garlic scapes, and fresh spring garlic (delicious roasted with pesto)
kohlrabi, beets, and broccoli (try roasted in a salad
kale, chard, collards, braising greens mix, lettuce, and salad mix
dried beans and grains from Camus Country Mill
jams, salsa, and pickles from Sweet Creek Foods
pastured chickens (try this chicken and saffron rice)

One of my all time favorite dishes is paella, fragrant saffron rice packed with seafood, sausage, and poultry, which I'll only make for special occasions. But this chicken and rice recipe from Mark Bittman inspired me to make a simple weeknight version with ingredients from the Fairmount Farmers Market. Now that we've been purchasing Fair Valley Farm chickens for a while, I've gotten better at breaking down a whole chicken, which opens up all sorts of weeknight recipes (especially if you do your butchering the night before). I simply embellished Bittman's recipe with a couple of slices of bacon for a hint of smokey pork and used rehydrated sun dried tomatoes in the broth. Sweetwater Farm's fresh spring onions were the start of the rice dish, and their plump sugar snap peas finished it off. 

Chicken and Saffron Rice
adapted from Mark Bittman

1 whole chicken (about 3 lbs) cut up into pieces
2 slices of bacon
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 small onions
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 cups rice such as arborio or jasmine
1/2 cup white wine or white vermouth
3 cups boiling water
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes (not in oil)
1 pinch saffron threads
1 cup sugar snap peas (or use 1 cup frozen peas) 
salt and pepper to taste
lemon wedges for serving

1. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator to start to warm to room temperature. Cut up the onion into a fine dice and mince the garlic. Prepare a simple stock by chopping the sun dried tomatoes into small pieces and covering them with 3 cups of boiling water.

2. Place a large skillet that has a well-fitting lid over medium heat and lay the bacon slices in it. Cook the bacon on each side, and then transfer to a plate. Cut the strips into 1/4 inch pieces (I like to use kitchen shears for this) and reserve. 

3. Return the pan to a medium-high heat and if necessary add a little olive oil to the rendered bacon fat so that the bottom of the pan is generously covered. Add the chicken, skin side down. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, undisturbed but adjusting the heat so the chicken sizzles but doesn't burn, until the pieces release easily from the pan, 5 to 10 minutes. Then turn and rotate them every few minutes to brown them evenly. As the chicken pieces brown, after another 5 to 10 minutes, remove them from the pan. 

4. Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium and pour or spoon off most of the fat so that only 1 Tbsp remains. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil add the onions to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until they soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook one more minute until fragrant. Now add the rice and cook, stirring, until it is glossy and coated with oil. Add the 1/2 cup of wine or vermouth and scrape the bottom of the pan to dislodge any chicken bits. Crumble in the saffron threads, pour over the sun dried tomato mixture, and season with salt and pepper. 

5. Return the bacon bits and chicken pieces to the pan, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat so it bubbles gently but steadily. Cover the skillet and cook, undisturbed, for 15 to 20 minutes, then check the rice and chicken. The goal is to have the liquid absorbed, the rice tender, and the chicken cooked through. If the rice is dry but nothing is ready, add another ¼ cup water and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. The meat is done when a quick‐read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 155–165°F. When the meat is done, scatter the snap peas over the rice, replace the lid, cook for two more minutes, and then turn off the heat and let sit for an additional 5 minutes. Taste the rice and adjust the seasoning. Serve warm with lemon wedges.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Springtime Spaghetti Carbonara

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market you can look forward to fresh produce from Sweetwater Farm and pasture-raised poultry from Fair Valley Farm including:

kohlrabi (delicious in salads)
fava beans and sugar snap peas (make carbonara)
pattypan squash and zucchini (try tsukemono pickles)
spring onions, fresh spring garlic, and garlic scapes (make some scallion pancakes)
kale, chard, collards, braising greens mix, lettuce, and salad mix (try this sauteed kale)
broccoli, Italian green cauliflower, and beets (make some bright pink beet pasta)
strawberries (try tapioca flamingos)
dried beans and grains from Camus Country Mill (pick up fixings for hot oatmeal)
jams, salsa, and pickles from Sweet Creek Foods
pastured chickens, as well as chicken hearts and livers (try this chicken liver pate)

Spaghetti carbonara was one of the dietary staples of my mother (before she was my mother) and her roommate (my future aunt) when living 
as impoverished students in a Paris garret. The recipe persisted in the family and it was one of the first dishes that both my cousins and my sister and I learned to make. It is appealingly simple: toss hot cooked spaghetti into raw eggs and grated cheese and the pasta strands become coated with a lovely creamy sauce. Then add bacon and possibly some alliums and vegetables. This dish is elevated from subsistence fare if you use top quality bacon (such as my parents sent my husband for his birthday) and increase the vegetables; during my childhood we often had it with onions, bell peppers, and zucchini. Last week I discovered that if you use the freshest spring snap peas and garlic scapes, the dish is transformed into something truly sublime and worthy of the finest dining establishment in Paris. 

Springtime Spaghetti Carbonara
1/2 lb bacon
3/4 lb snap peas
4 garlic scapes
2 eggs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
1 lb spaghetti

1. Set a large pot of salted water to boil.

2. In a large serving bowl, combine the eggs, grated cheese and plenty of black pepper, and mix well.

3. Rinse the snap peas, snap off the stem ends and remove the threads from the top of the pods. Cut the pods along the diagonal into 1/2 inch pieces. Rinse the garlic scapes, trim off the flower ends and slice the stems into 1/4 inch pieces.

4. Cut the bacon strips into 1/2 inch pieces. When the water is close to a boil, start cooking the bacon pieces in a large skillet over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon. Drain off all but 1 or 2 Tbsp of bacon fat, return the pan to the heat source, and toss in the garlic scapes. Cook, stirring for about about one minute, then add the snap peas. Cook for about two minutes, and then add back the bacon pieces to the pan. Cook the mixture for about one more minute until the peas have turned a more brilliant green but still have plenty of crunch. Remove from heat.

5. While the bacon is cooking, throw your spaghetti into the boiling water and cook according to the instructions. Position your colander in the sink and your serving bowl with the egg mixture close by. As soon as the spaghetti is ready, drain it and then quickly toss it into the serving bowl. Use tongs or large serving utensils to toss the hot spaghetti in the egg mixture until the eggs are completely cooked and coat the spaghetti strands. Now toss in the bacon and snap pea topping and toss again. Serve immediately with more grated parmesan cheese and fresh black pepper.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Strawberry and Buttermilk Tapioca Flamingo

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market you can look forward to fresh produce from Sweetwater Farm and pasture-raised poultry from Fair Valley Farm including:

strawberries (try this tapioca flamingo)
fava beans and sugar snap peas (delicious in wheat berry salad)
pattypan squash and zucchini (nice shredded with shallots and herbs)
spring onions, fresh spring garlic, and garlic scapes (make garlic scape pesto pizza)
kale, chard, collards, braising greens mix, lettuce, and salad mix 
potatoes, beets, broccoli, and Italian green cauliflower (nice in packets on the grill)
salsa and pickles from Sweet Creek Foods
pastured chicken (try this recipe with Chinese five spices)

So plan to make a stop at the market part of your Farther's Day festivities, and be sure to pick up a pint of strawberries to celebrate.

Strawberries always strike me as an old fashioned fruit, which inspired me to try this charming 1949 recipe entitled "Tapioca Flamingo" anthologized in Amanda Hesser's tome of New York Times recipes. When I mentioned tapioca to my children, their only association was with bubble tea, a situation I felt needed immediate remedying, because tapioca pudding is really a lovely comfort food, even if you'd never find it on a restaurant dessert menu between chocolate mousse and creme brulee. The original flamingo recipe called for pineapple juice to be gelled with the extracted juices of sugared and macerated strawberries, but flipping ahead half a century I came across a 1996 Molly O'Neil recipe for panna cotta that used buttermilk, which appealed to me more as a tart backdrop for the berries. The flamingos were a big hit with the whole family, light and refreshing, with their lovely pink color and kitschy retro feel.

Strawberry and Buttermilk Tapioca Flamingo
1/2 lb strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
3 scant Tbsp quick-cooking tapioca
pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped

1. Hull and half the strawberries and combine them in a bowl with the sugar. Crush with a fork or potato masher and let stand for about 30 minutes.

2. Set a strainer over a bowl, drain the strawberries, and set aside. You should have about 1/2 cup juice. 

3. In a small saucepan, combine the strawberry juice, a pinch of salt, and the tapioca. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring. Remove from the heat and stir in the buttermilk. Then fold in the drained strawberries well.  

4. Let the pudding cool in a bowl or transfer into 4 parfait glasses or bowls. The mixture will thicken as it cools. Once it reaches room temperature, transfer to the refrigerator to chill. When ready to serve, whip the cream (add a pinch of sugar if you like). Top the pudding with a dollop of whipped cream and serve chilled.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Market Start and Collard Leaf Presents

Time to celebrate: the fourth season of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market starts up this Sunday June 9 from 10 AM - 2 PM on the corner of Agate St. and 19th Ave. You can look forward to fresh produce from Sweetwater Farm and pasture-raised meat and poultry from Fair Valley Farm including:

zucchini and pattypan squash (delicious grilled)
sugar snap peas and fava beans (serve with fresh pasta)
spring onions, spring garlic, and fennel bulbs (try pickled)
kale, chard, collards (try these collard leaf presents)
braising greens mix, lettuce, and salad mix 
Italian green cauliflower and broccoli
potatoes and beets (try this quinoa and beet salad)
and a few early cukes - they won't last long!
also new: salsa and pickles from Sweet Creek Foods
and pastured chicken (try spatchcocked)

A celebration isn't complete without presents, so for the Farmers Market start, I encourage you to wrap up these delicious collard green packets, inspired by a recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy. Hers is a delicately balanced mix of coconut-flavored black rice in collard leaves simmered in ginger-flavored coconut broth, but I employed her approach as an appealing way to repackage leftovers. For the filling, I mixed up black rice with leftover grilled peppers, scallions, and cherry tomatoes, and served them nestled in some leftover Thai sweet meat winter squash curry from the freezer. Unwrapping a side of rice from a brilliant green package made the whole meal feel very festive. In that festive spirit, please come out and celebrate a new season of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market June 9th!

Collard Leaf Presents
adapted from Deborah Madison

for the stuffed collard packets
2 cups cooked black rice
1 cup chopped grilled vegetables, such as spring onions, summer squash, peppers, and tomatoes
1 handful cilantro leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
8 collard leaves 

for the broth
3 cups water
1 large carrot, scrubbed and chopped
1 celery stalk, rinsed and chopped
2 star anise
3 slices of fresh ginger
salt to taste
1/2 cup or more coconut milk

1. To make the filling, combine the rice, grilled vegetables, cilantro leaves, and salt and pepper.

2. Prepare the collard leaves by cutting away the tough base portion of each stem. Bring a large, shallow pan of water to a simmer, add the collards, and cook until tender, about five minutes. Lift them out and set them on the counter with the base of the leaves facing you. 

3. Place about 1/3 cup of the filling on the center of each leaf. Fold the bottom portion of the leaf over the rice, bring the sides tightly over the rice, then tuck the farthest end of the leaf over snuggly to make a package.

4. Prepare the follow broth (or use your favorite coconut curry) for simmering you collard packets. For the broth, combine the water, carrot, celery, star anise, ginger, and salt and simmer, partly covered, for about 30 to 40 minutes until reduced to 1 cup. Strain the broth through a sieve, transfer to a wide pan, and add coconut milk to taste. Set the collard packets, seam sides down, in the pan, cover, and simmer for about five minutes. Serve the collard packets in shallow bowls with the broth.