Tuesday, February 25, 2014

until we thaw


Twenty-two; counting
Daffodils exposed; bloom
A pot; ladle warmth

Split Pea Soup – yields 3 quarts

1-large onion - diced
1 leek – white portion only, diced
2-tablespoons unsalted butter
1-carrot – peeled and diced
1-parsnip (about ½-pound) peeled and diced
1-turnip (about 3/4-pound) – peel and diced
1-rutabaga (about ½-pound) peeled and diced
1 celery root (about 1-pound) peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves – chopped
1-pound ham hock or short ribs
4 bay leaves

2-cups split peas
1-quart vegetable or chicken stock
2-tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat an 8-quart pot over a medium flame, and add the onion, leek and butter. Cook the onion mixture until it starts to brown. Then stir in the carrot, parsnip, turnip, rutabaga, celery root and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes. Mix in in the ham hock, bay leaves, split peas and stock plus 2-cups of water. Bring to the boil, and then reduce the flame to a simmer. Cook, covered, for about a 1-1/2 hours. Then add in the dill, and season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Freeze, thaw, cook

And, another snow day has been called. Kids may get another day of sledging and making snow people but come June when school is suppose to let out for summer holiday….fortunately, for me those days are a very distant memory, and another storm bearing down on a region so poorly equipped to negotiate it is just an annoyance though admittedly, it’s awfully pretty when viewed from the window. I secured provisions in preparation, and got to clients before the roads started to ice-over.

The climatic schizophrenia we are experiencing is leaving me insecure when to start setting my seeds for spring/summer. Usually by mid-February I would be setting up my germinating table though right now it does not seem like a good idea.  I know the season will change, just when? I was in shirtsleeves a few days ago and will be again, in a few days hence can I believe it will stick?

My mind works in a twisted, curious way for as I pondered my garden a part of my mind drifted to the bags of seeds in my freezer. Not the ones that are destined for moist earth (they are stored in the refrigerator), rather all my spices and I figured I could work with some seeds today. As is typical I have a collection of thirty plus spices in my kitchen, primarily stored in the freezer to fully extend the life of its potency and mostly bought whole. A Caribbean, Mediterranean, Indian or Thai dish is an easy seasoning away. This winter has produced plenty of snow as well as pots of soups, stews and hot toddies, and I have visited every one of my mother’s comforting winter recipes to exhaustion. Playing in the snow does not leave me exhilarated but concocting an aromatic brew has never ceased to bring out a gleeful cry. 

Curried Chicken – yields 4 to 6
2½-pounds chicken thigh meat
3-tablespoons mild curry powder (recipe follows)
3 stems curry leaves
¼-cup chopped cilantro stems
2 large onions - chopped
4 celery stalks – chopped
1-can (15 ounces) coconut milk
1¼-chopped pumpkin
Salt to taste
½-cup chopped cilantro leaves

Heat a 6-quart pot over a high flame and add the chicken (you will most likely want to do this two batches). Brown the chicken on both sides -- making sure the skin side is very crisp. After the chicken has been browned transfer to a plate and hold. Drain off the fat in the pot that was released from the chicken.

Return the pot to the flame, and add the curry powder and curry leaves stirring for about 30 seconds. Then mix in the onion, celery and cilantro making sure the vegetables gets coated with the curry powder. Return the chicken to the pot, and pour over the coconut as well as 1-cup of water. Bring to the boil, and then lower the flame to low. Cover, and cook for 1½-hours.

Add in the pumpkin, and season with salt. Cover and cook an additional 30 minutes. Mix in the cilantro, and serve.

Mild Curry  – yields approx. ¼-cup
1 tablespoon ground dried ginger
2 to 3 dried chili peppers
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
1½ tablespoons whole coriander seed
5 whole black cardamom pods
2” cinnamon stick
½-teaspoon whole mace
7 whole clove
2 whole star anise
1 tablespoon turmeric
1teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Place all ingredients in a spice grinder and process to a fine powder.