Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Butterflied Grilled Chicken

I have always considered myself to have good mechanical skills.  I learned to take apart and grease a sewing machine when I was a kid.  I can read schematics, put together Ikea furniture.  I spent a couple years of my engineering career working on precision molds and die-sets.  But when it comes to working on things that really get your hands dirty, like cars or bikes, I have virtually no experience. There was always a brother, or husband, or mechanic who did these things. I never doubted I could do them, but self confidence only goes so far.  I recently bought a bike off of Craigslist.  I spent $45. It pretty much worked, except the front wheel didn't spin freely.  I did a little googling and determined the front hub needed to be repacked.  Then some more googling for video's on how to repack the front hub, which all looked doable.  My biggest fear is that the bolt to get the wheel off would be rusted on, but it came right off. More YouTube video's searched to figure out out to release the brake to get the wheel off.  Everything came apart as described, the bearings were in good shape, a little bit of cussing to get the ball bearings back, a short phone consult with my husband about grease, it went back together and it works!  The moral of this story is that You Tube is an amazing learning tool.  You can learn things that maybe you are too embarrassed to admit you don't know or don't have anyone around to show you.  And I'm telling you this story because there are lots of cooking techniques you can learn from YouTube.  Like how to butterfly a chicken.  

This recipe is a riff on "chicken under a brick" recipe, I have just skipped the brick.  It still comes out great. And I have included the instructions to put orange slices under the breast, but half the time I forget to do it, and the chicken still comes out good.   And most the time, I don't have all three citrus types around, so I will just use two kinds (although one is *always* lemon).



Grilled Citrus Chicken

1 large orange
Juice from 1 lemon
Juice from 1 lime  
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon paprika or ½ teaspoon mild chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt

1 whole chicken, preferably 4 pounds, but this works for a typical 5 or 5 ½ lb bird.

Cut 6 thin slices from the orange.  Put into the refrigerator for later.  Make the marinade:  Juice the rest of the orange into a small bowl.  Add the other juices, oil, garlic, herbs and spices and stir. 

Butterfly the chicken:  With the breast side down, grab the chicken tail (aka the Pope’s Nose).  With scissors, cut up the side of the backbone.  It’s easy until you get to the shoulder bone, find the joint to get through.  Repeat on the other side of the backbone.    Now, cut out the breast bone. This is trickier, and not absolutely necessary.  Use a small knife to cut the cartilage at the top of breast bone, then use your fingers to pull out (check out the video to see how this is done).  If you are so inclined, put the backbone, neck, and giblets into a freezer bag and save to make broth at some later date. Remove the big chucks of fat (and if you are a real fanatic, you can render these down to make schmaltz). 

Put the chicken in a gallon zip-loc bag, add the marinade and distribute to cover all around.  Let chill for 2 – 5 hours. 

Start your grill; get to about medium (350 - 400F). Pull the chicken out of the bag, Carefully loosen the skin on the breast and insert an orange slice or two between the breast and skin.  Do the same on the thighs.  When the grill is hot, oil the grill racks (I like to put oil on a paper towel, then using tongs, rub the oily towel on the grill), then put on the chicken on the grill skin side down.  Turn the burners down to low (goal to maintain about a 350F or so, and not catch the bird on fire).  Cook for 15 or 20 minutes, until the skin is nice and brown.  Using a spatula and tongs, carefully flip over.  Cook for another 20 to 35 minutes until done (this is about 155 – 160F in the thickest parts of the bird). Let rest for 10 minutes or so, then carve and eat.




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bacon, Corn, and Chili Soup

I am not big on planning my meals ahead.  I go to the farmers market and buy what looks good, and generally figure out day by day what I'm going to cook.  I've written about this before, but one of the tricks to making this work is knowing good substitutions.  This week I had corn from the farmers market we had not managed to eat.  Soup sounded good (apologies to my friends in Phoenix, but "summer soup" is not an oxymoron in Coronado). I almost always have bacon in the freezer (you can just cut pieces off the frozen chunk, start cooking it slowly to thaw), and an onion,  But I did not have any milk or jalapeno peppers to make the corn soup I wanted. I did have coconut milk, and chipotle chili flakes. So I thinned the coconut milk with water (its very rich, more so than even half and half), used the chili flakes, and it came out very nice. 

There is a level of confidence and experience needed to pull off substitutions.  Google is also a good help for some things.  I find that onions, shallots, and leeks are pretty interchangeable, buttermilk can be faked with yogurt or milk with lemon juice or vinegar added.  Red peppers can substitute for tomatoes (for some dishes, its best to roast the peppers first).  I try to think through -- what will the texture / moisture or fat level / heat level / sweetness / color be like?  How different will the flavor be, and will the different flavor be different good or different in a bad way? Then just taste as you go along.  And remember that salt, acid (like lemon juice) and hot sauce can fix a lot of things that aren't quite right.

And now I have half a can of coconut milk to use up.  I have rum, but not any pineapple juice...

Bacon, Corn, and Chili Soup 

Serves 2 as main or 4 as appetizer

1 teaspoon olive oil
4 slices (about 4 oz) bacon, cut in ½ inch pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 jalapeno chilies, minced or ¼ - ½ teaspoon chipotle chili flakes
Salt – about a ½ teaspoon or so to start
4 ears of corn, cut from the cob (or 4 cups of thawed, frozen corn)
1 cup of water
1 cup of milk
Black pepper, 3 or 4 good grinds
Hot sauce
Avocado or sour cream or yogurt to garnish, maybe a squeeze of lime
Chives or cilantro to garnish

In medium pot, cook the bacon in olive oil until crisp.  Remove bacon (but not the grease) from pan.  Add onions, garlic, and chilies to pan along with some salt.  Sauté until soft, 5 to 10 minutes.   Add corn from 3 of the ears along with the water, and cook for 5 minutes at a gentle boil.   Remove from heat, add milk, and blend with an immersion blender (or food processor if you like to do dishes).   Just blend a bit, still want some texture.

Add remaining corn and pepper.  Taste… add more salt and/or hot sauce as needed.  Heat back up to steaming (don’t boil) and serve with garnishes and reserved bacon.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cucumber Salad


Summer is here, and my last post was around New Year's.  I have a bunch of really good excuses for having gone 6 months without a blog post.  The best excuse is moving my home from Phoenix to Coronado.  The second best excuse is moving my blog from GoDaddy to Blogger.  Both have been a pain in the you know what.  And both have been a bit of a trip down memory lane.  I was in the Phoenix house for 13 years, and have been doing the blog for 7 years.

For both moves, I had to decide what to take, and what to not.  Some things are good to let go, some things need to go, just make space, and make life easier.  One thing that I am losing on the blog move are the comments.  I do have them all backed up, but don't know how to put them back into the blog.  But all of the recipe posts (along with travel and pottery related posts) are still here, and you can still link to them from the firecooked.com food page.  At least I think that everything is linked... let me know if there is a broken link!  Also... If you want to get emails when I do a new post (hopefully won't be another 6 months!), you need to re-signup. 

We are getting good cucumbers at the farmers market now.  Here is an easy salad that goes great with a summer dinner.  

Cucumber Salad

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dry)
   note... I have been using garlic chives, since that's what I have in the garden.  
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper  (or black, just not as pretty)
3 medium cucumbers, peeled and very thinly sliced

Whisk vinegar, water, sugar, dill, salt, and pepper in medium bowl until sugar is dissolved.  Add cucumbers; toss to coat.   Refrigerate, covered, tossing occasionally, at least 4 hours (or 1 or 2 hours if you plan like me) before serving.



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!!!


I love the holidays, and the special foods that I only eat once a year (sugar cookies!!) but I’m ready to get back to normal eating. I thought I would share a recipe that I think of as a holiday recipe, but really it’s a good winter recipe, especially for those of us that live where warm beach days are a possible in the winter.   The directions below give a really nice presentation, but don't let that stop you from roasting some extra squash and throwing this together for lunch.  I also suspect that dried cranberries or cherries would be a good stand-in for the pomegranate seeds.


Winter Squash Salad

½ cup pecan halves
1 medium butternut squash
Olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (optional)
½ cup pomegranate arils
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
Salt, Pepper
Baby arugula (3 – 5 ounces)

Heat oven to 425F (use convention roast if you have it).

Toast the pecans (ok if oven is not to temperature) on a pan lined with foil. They will cook quick: 3 to 5 minutes if oven is hot. Watch closely! Let cool then wrap in the foil.

Peel and cube the butternut squash. Microwaving the whole squash for a couple of minutes will make this easier. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan, put the squash on the paper. Drizzle with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with a bit of salt and toss with your hands. Roast until cubes are soft with some brown spots. This should take 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the cubes and whether you are using convection or not. Sprinkle with thyme when they come out of the oven. Let cool.

If you have a whole pomegranate, here’s a trick to seed

Make the sherry vinaigrette: put mustard, sherry, about a ¼ teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper in a container. Using an immersion blender (or whisk), slowly add the olive oil. You won’t need all of this.

If doing ahead, put everything into baggies and/or containers and refrigerate. Will hold for a couple of days. Let everything come to room temperature when you are ready to make the salad.

Assembly: put a base of arugula on a platter, dress with a bit of vinaigrette (easiest to use your hands for this). Dress the squash with more vinaigrette (easiest if squash is in a baggie, just add ~ ¼ cup and work it around)… taste to get the right amount. Put the squash over the arugula. Top with the pomegranate seeds and pecans.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Traditional Norman Thanksgiving


The essential foods:  Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and wine. Of course there is pumpkin pie for dessert. Plus some random vegetable (because some of us don't count green bean casserole as a vegetable), and most years, some type of roll. We all do some parts ahead of time, then at the end its 3 or 4 cooks in the kitchen, mashing potatoes, making gravy, getting out serving dishes, doing the vegetables.  If I had to pick one thing to be most thankful for, it's having a family that has fun doing this together.

This year, the random vegetable was carrots. I gotta say, it went over way better than the Brussels sprouts I did a couple of years ago. It is based on a recipe from November 2009 Gourmet but of course I didn't exactly follow it, so I promised to write it down. The original recipe called for a lot more sage, so feel free to be heavy handed with it if you really like sage.  And while this went really well with turkey, it doesn't need to be saved for a holiday dinner.

Holiday Carrots

6 – 8 servings

2 pounds carrots, quartered and cut in 2-3 inch lengths
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons butter
6 ounces chopped shallots (about 4), diced
Salt (about ¼ teaspoon), Pepper (about ½ teaspoon)
1 heaping tablespoon chopped sage
1 heaping teaspoon chopped thyme

Cook carrots in stock until just tender, about 15 minutes. Do ahead: Set aside to cool, then store in refrigerator until ready to finish. If not doing ahead, cook the carrots in a 12 inch skillet, when done put in the serving bowl and set aside.

To finish: melt butter in 12 inch skillet, add shallots, salt and pepper then sauté until shallots are translucent (5 to 10 minutes). Add the broth from the carrots, and let reduce until just a little liquid is left. Add the herbs, then the carrots. Cook until the carrots are heated through (1 to 10 minutes depending on the starting temperature of the carrots.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Discovering a classic....


I have discovered an old classic this summer: Ratatouille.  I find myself making it almost every week.  A full five years after the movie came out. A movie that touted not eating garbage (and yes, one of my favorite movies of all time).   Many ratatouille recipes call for peeling tomatoes, salting eggplant, roasting and peeling peppers and making enough for a small army, with an extended baking time. Which seems to be a lot of work, especially since I’m the usually the only one around that wants a dish with eggplant and tomatoes. So I have been making a less refined version, just chopping and sautéing. Yes, you have bits of tomato peel, but this is something I will make for just me when I’m home alone. I’m not too exact on amounts, using what looked best at the farmers market... or what needs to be eaten now. Sometimes I’ll use cherry tomatoes, last time I only had one tiny zucchini. Time before, I used some yellow summer squash. Sometimes I'll add a few mushrooms, or some fresh corn.  It’s all good. I do typically use the skinny Japanese eggplant, because the skins are more tender and they are less seedy. And while I say this serves 2, I can easily finish off most of this recipe all myself. And after making this about 4 times, I’m thinking maybe I do need to make a big batch and freeze some, for the days when zucchini and eggplant and tomatoes won’t be so plentiful at the farmers market. And someday for friends, I might have to try this version from the new French Market Cookbook, no matter how much trouble it is!

Ratatouille
Serves 2

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
½ onion
2 small zucchini
1 small bell pepper (preferably red or yellow)
2 Japanese eggplant
1 large tomato
1 – 2 cloves of garlic
Salt, pepper
Herbs… Basil, oregano, parsley (whatever you happen to have and like)

Have all vegetables out and washed. Put a 10” sauté pan on to heat over medium heat and put in a good film of olive oil. Start chopping vegetables in large dice (about ½ inch to 1 inch chunks) and add to pan as they are cut. Mince the garlic and add. Add a big pinch of salt (maybe as much as a ½ teaspoon) and a good grind of pepper. Turn burner to low or medium low, and let simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Finish with fresh herbs.

Serving suggestions:


As a side for grilled meat. Or a grilled cheese sandwich.
Add some cooked chickpeas for a one-dish meal.
Over polenta with cheese on top.
Brown chicken thighs, then add and cook with vegetables, like this
Chop vegetables a bit finer and put over pasta, like this
Spread or dip… puree with some mustard, balsamic, hot sauce. like this

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Let them eat cake!


My mom asked me a while back, is a little sugar bad for you? My opinion… a little sugar is OK. The problem is that it’s too easy to eat a lot of sugar, and not even realize it. In the US, the average adult gets 13% of their calories from sugar, kids get 16%. How can this be?

Here's how:  Chris (yes, I'm making this all up), is an engineer, trying to be healthy and train for a ½ marathon. Chris works long days, but makes a point to avoid the free soda’s at work, donuts and other sweets that show up in meetings, and hits the gym after work at least 3 days a week. A typical day … Breakfast was a bowl of granola (and since granola is pretty dense, only a ½ cup, way less than the normal serving size of normal cereal), a ½ cup of blueberries and vanilla soy milk. And coffee, black. Lunch was brought in to a meeting at work (budgets are tight, so it was from Subway), so she had a Black Forest Ham Sandwich plus Sunchips. Chris was good and didn’t have a brownie or a Coke, but instead an apple brought from home for dessert. Mid-afternoon (knowing it would be well after 5 before getting to the gym), she had a strawberry yogurt, one of the "healthy" snacks from the vending machine.  On the way home after the gym (now 7pm) Chris thought Chinese food would be good as she hadn’t had much in the way of vegetables, so a quick stop at Pei Wei was made for chicken lettuce wraps and Kung Pao chicken. It was a big serving, so she only had about ¾ of it. Not a bad day, right? Total calories for the day was about 2200 (about right for her size and activity level). But (and this could mean a big gut), the added sugar this one day is about 90 grams.. that’s almost ½ a cup of white sugar.  This is not counting the sugar in the fruit, or the lactose sugar in the milk.  It comes to about 16% of the total calories. This is not a little sugar, and this is avoiding some big and easy adders (had she had the coke and brownie, that could have doubled the amount of sugar for the day. And while there is on-going debate on the role of saturated fats, meats, salt, and fewer vegetables in our diets, every study about “modern” diets includes shows that huge additions of simple refined carbohydrates like sugar is the constant factor in increased rates of tooth decay, diabetes, and heart disease.  National Geographic has recently done a great article on sugar, here's the link.

Unfortunately, it’s a lot of work to get food that is low in sugar. You need to read labels, check restaurant web sites or use other calorie counters (I used MyFitnessPal to get these numbers for the about story). It’s helpful to cook food yourself so you know what is going into it. You need to ignore the advertising that makes sugar filled foods sound healthy.

I cook most of my food, and carefully watch things like bread and make sure I buy “unsweetened” versions of things like yogurt and soy milk. But I don’t completely shun sugar, because I think a little is OK, at least for me. Most days it’s a little granola on my morning yogurt, and often a square of dark chocolate for dessert. And once in a while, I’ll go all out and make cake!

This is my current favorite cake… Lemon Olive Oil Pound Cake. It’s inspired by a recipe in Olive and Oranges, by Sara Jenkins and Mindy Fox (a pretty fabulous cookbook). I like this because its simple and I almost always have the ingredients around to make it. Although I don’t normally have crème fraiche around, I do recommend getting some (Trader Joes has it) for serving. And only 2 tablespoons of added sugar per serving.

Lemon Olive Oil Pound Cake

Serves 8

1 cup flour
½ cup white whole wheat flour (or just use more regular flour)
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup of sugar
¾ cup plain low-fat yogurt
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
¾ cups extra virgin olive oil

For serving (optional)
Crème Fraiche
Fresh berries (add a teaspoon of sugar and let sit for an hour or so to help release the juices)

Heat oven to 325F (or 300F convection bake). Very lightly oil a 9” cake pan (or 9” deep dish pie pan). Cut a round of parchment paper to fit into the bottom, stick it down with the oil, and add a touch more oil to the top.

Mix together the dry ingredients in a small bowl.

Beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl on high speed for 5 minutes. The mixture will get pale and thick. Add yogurt and zest, mix until blended. Then add oil in a steady stream with the mixer on medium speed. Add dry ingredients and mix on low until just blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, cake should be golden and center springs back to the touch. Let cool for a couple of minutes in the pan, then put on rack to cool completely.

Serving suggestion… Top with a smear of crème fraiche and a spoonful of berries.