Cooking Eating Dining Sharing

Monday, February 15, 2010

Spring is in the Air

With spring almost here, my mood is starting to perk up, my legs are moving again and my mind is starting to clear out all the webs of winter.  This bay area warm spell is just what the doctor ordered.  With warmer weather, you can be sure that spring vegetables and herbs are not far behind.  I have been eating out so much lately that last night's dinner was a nice reprieve from the expense and the sometimes large portions, salty and seasoned food in favor of my lighter, less complicated meals that I usually prepare.   Plus, I love leftovers* and figuring out what to do with them.

Last night's dinner consisted of early spring asparagus,  Sardinian Fregula Sarda (oven toasted small semolina pasta ~ I used the La Casa Del Grano brand: with beet greens, leeks and garlic that were sauteed in a large saute pan, then I added the pasta, almost like a risotto.  I added liquid and let it soak up all of the juice until the pasta was completely cooked.  Roasted Lemon Chicken was laid atop and some of the pan juices were ladeled over.  A fresh salad of chiogga beets and crunchy Persian cucumbers lightened the palate at the end of the meal.  My friend Lori made the most beautiful chocolate cake in the shape of a heart.  Gloria Ferrer Rose Brut, a Gundlach Bundschu Gerwirtztraminer, a 2006 JC Cellars Broken Compass and for dessert a sparkling wine from Spain, Moscato d'Asti, all complimentary and flowing fervently.   It was one of the best meals that I have had all week, complimented by the great company.  Sometimes our own cooking is our best defense against the winter blahs.   Happy Cooking!  

Sunday Night Roasted Lemon Chicken
I have lost track of how long I have been making this simple Chicken dinner, but I know when my kids come home from college, they are so happy to have it.  It is their comfort food.  It is ours too.  My husband prefers it to Zuni Cafe's Chicken under a Brick and that is the basis for a good marriage.  

1 Whole Fryer, preferrably free range
2 whole lemons
Salt and pepper

With a baking sheet, rinse the chicken and then pat dry.  Take the two lemons and cut off the ends, then piercing the lemons about 5 or 6 times with a sharp knife.  Put them both in the cavity of the chicken.  Tie the legs together with cooking twine.  Tuck the wings back against the sides of the chicken.

Salt and pepper the breast and back sides liberally.    Very liberally.   Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the chicken.   Serve with potatoes, over greens, or with risotto or fregola pasta.

Sauteed Leeks and Beet Greens with Sa Fregula Sarda
I made this up on the spot.  It has a similar consistency to Israeli Couscous.  Enjoy!

Mix together the vinaigrette ingredients and let the shallot and fennel marinate in the vinaigrette.  Let sit until you are ready to assemble the beets and cucumbers.  When ready, gently toss the cucumbers with the vinaigrette.  Lay the beets on a platter and slowly pour the mixture into the middle of the beets and drizzle the rest of the liquid over the beets.  Serve.  (See Picture)
1/2 package Sa Fregula Sarda
Leeks 2 finely chopped
Fennel 1/2 head, finely chopped
Garlic 3 small cloves
Beet Greens, 2 bunches from tops of beets, washed and finely chopped
Chicken or Vegetable Stock 2-4 cups
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the leeks, fennel and garlic until soft, then add the beet greens.  When cooked down for ten minutes, add the Sa Fregula Sarda and then add one cup of stock at a time until the pasta is cooked through, but still al dente, approximately 15-20 minutes.  Stir frequently so the pasta doesn’t stick to the pan.  You should have no liquid left when finished.  If you like, set the roasted chicken over the Sa Fregula Sarda dish and carve.   The juice from the chicken will run into the pasta and add a nice flavor.

Serves 4-6

Thinly Sliced Beets and Persian Cucumber Salad
3 beets, cooked and thinly sliced
3 Persian or other crunchy cucumbers, thinly slices

1/2 fennel
1 shallot
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/8 cup sherry, white wine or white balsamic vinegar
1/2 Meyer lemon, juice of
2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper

To cook the beets, either roast, boil or steam them.  Cook for 20-30 minutes.  Let cool completely.  Slice the cucumbers very thin. 

*Leftovers.  A chicken carcus is perfect for throwing in a pot with an onion, celery rib, garlic, herbs, leeks, or whatever is on hand.   Simmer for an hour and then strain out all of the overcooked vegetables and alliums.  Use the stock immediately for soup or risotto or freeze it for later use.  Mark with the date in permanent marker so you know when you made it.  It will last for one month in the freezer.  With the leftover fregola pasta, I am very tempted to heat it up in a skillet and then throw a couple of eggs over the top and then either mix it together, or let the eggs cook on top.  Cover the skillet and let the eggs cook a bit on top.  Uncover before they cooke entirely so that when you break into them, they will run all over your Sa Fregula Sarda dish.  Yum.

Brazilian Chocolate Cake

From the Green’s Cookbook by Deborah Madison 

3 oz. Semisweet chocolate
1 oz. Unsweetened chocolate
1 cup, plus 2 TBS hot strong coffee
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups sifted flour or cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Use an 8-inch tube or bundt pan.  Heat the chocolate with 2 TBS of the coffee in a double boiler or a microwave on low.  Set aside. 

Cream the butter, then gradually add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light.  Add the eggs one at a time; then stir in the vanilla and melted chocolate.  Sift the flour and measure 2 cups; then resift it with the baking soda and salt.  Gently stir into the batter, alternating it with the rest of the coffee until it is all incorporated.  Pour the batter into the tube or bundt pan, and bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let rest 5-10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.

Chocolate Icing

This cake recipe is divine and perfect for a special occasion. 

3 oz. Semisweet chocolate
3 TBS water or strong coffee
1 tsp vanilla
6 TBS butter

Put the Chocolate and the coffee in a small saucepan and heat slowly, stirring constantly until the chocolate has melted.  Remove it from heat  and stir in the vanilla, then gradually add the butter, stirring continually.  When the icing has cooled it will thicken.  Gently pour over the top and spread with a stiff spatula or a frosting spreader.  Makes one  8-inch Bundt cake.


Tricia O'Brien said...

Sorry about the technical difficulties I was having with my photos....please let me know what you are cooking!

Tricia O'Brien said...

Leave comments for me.

Anonymous said...

lovely post, great pics especially of trees.
hope you all are well. xolaura

Anonymous said...

Hi Tricia!!!

This is wonderful! My mouth is watering and these recipes and pictures are v. inspiring! Ann Arbor has a great farmer's market so as soon as the ground thaws (like, in August,say...) (heh heh)... I'll be able to try these recipes out! :)

Thank you for sharing!

Lots of love to you,


susan said...

I love your suggestion for using fregola. It sounds wonderful. I plan to try it this weekend. thanks. Susan

Beatrice said...

This sounds good -- I love the combination of coffee and chocolate!

powderate said...

I love ferments and pickles and always on lookout for more ideas... so I welcome the Persian cucumber salad look enlivening and fresh! thanks.