MothersDayDinner

Love Your Mother: Lamb, Carrots and Fava Salad - may 11, 2011

This year I made my desires for Mother's Day known well in advance: no gifts, just a day at home in the garden and a big dinner, cooked as a family.  It was delicious, and I got gifts anyway - three of Andy Goldsworthy's books, much loved by my kids after we watched his Rivers and Tides together a week or two back.

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WinterCSA
 
Community Supported Agriculture, Farm Shares and Spring Soup - april 20, 2011

Spring is here again!  The plum trees have bloomed, asparagus is in the stores, the end of the school year is fast approaching and I am officially another year older. These are the usual markers of my favorite season beginning, or as is often the case, being halfway over by the time I get around to giving it my full attention.

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SesameTofu

Sesame Ginger Tofu with Greens - june 3, 2010

This is another old favorite from Deborah Madison that my husband and I have been making for years. We've tried many variations of the sauce, and often I'll make it without marinating the tofu ahead of time, simply because I don't get around to mixing it up before I need to cook dinner. Even then it is delicious. Often it serves as an end of the week produce clean up, just about any vegetable can go in, clearing out the fridge for our incoming Eatwell box. I've made it with pretty much every sort of green we've had - stir fry mix, spinach, chard, kale, mustard (one of my favorites, with a simplified marinade). It is good with turnips, broccoli, cauliflower, always snap peas if we have them and sometimes carrots, though I can usually find a better use for those.

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ChickenSalad

Lemon Chicken Salad - may 6, 2010

 To come clean, lemon chicken salad makes our dinner sound more special than it actually was. Ina Garten's recipe in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook calls for grilled lemon chicken, which I'm sure is delicious, but was just not in the cards tonight. I used the remainder of our roast chicken from earlier this week, and while slicing it up, marinating it and then cooking it again on the grill was enticing, it was also too ridiculous. 

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AsparagusAndSnappeas  I have to say that the Easter Bunny has a tough job - hauling all that candy around, hiding all those eggs, I'm shocked he hasn't run out of creativity and taken the holiday off yet.  But I see that Paas has taken some sort of road out because this year there were only five colors in our box.  Pink, orange, yellow, blue, green. No purple.  No turquoise, or whatever that other one usually is.  But lots of Cars stickers - and three plastic egg wraps.  I guess that is supposed to take the place of the two missing colors.

Its a good thing our bunny took the high road in terms of candy this year, and shopped at Miette, the best candy store in the country.  Walking into the Hayes Valley Miette is like going back it time, to some magical candy store I never had as a child. I love it.  

The candy store I do remember from my childhood was up at the corner of my block and the cross street that would take us to school.  It was called Prospectors because it was on Prospect street.  They stocked ice cream bars and Bottle Caps, Twinkies and Snoballs and those weird snacks with Andy Capp on the bag that only highschoolers ate.  But the best treat of all - Wacky Packs.  And how wonderful if you spent 20¢ and ended up with one of the rare ones - like Hipton Tea Bags or Kook Aid.   I always seemed to have multiple copies of Chock Full o Nuts and Bolts or one of the cigarette spoofs, which my mother would confiscate.

Anyway, all this bunny prep necessitated an easy dinner - and it was.  The kids wouldn't eat the salad, but the pitas and chicken disappeared, which is good enough for me.

Grilled Chicken Pita Salad (adapted from Sunset Magazine April 2010):

2 chicken breasts

1 bunch asparagus

handful of snap peas (if you have them in your garden)

lettuce for four (one big head or a similar sized bag of mesclun)

2-4 pitas, sliced into 8 wedges each

3 Tablespoons olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

salt and pepper

Cook the chicken breasts on the grill.  Because grills are so different, its hard to estimate when yours will be done.  To test for doneness, cut into the thickest part of the breast.  If it is opaque and releases only clear juices, it is done.  If you don't feel like grilling, use a grill pan on the stove or just pan fry them in a bit of olive oil over medium heat.

Wash and dry the salad.  Bring a pot of water big enough for the asparagus to fit in to boil.  Wash and trim the ends of the asparagus, wash the snap peas, pull off any leafy bits you don't want to eat.  When the water is boiling, drop the asparagus and snap peas in for a minute, then drain them into a colander in the sink.  Brush the sliced pitas with olive oil, sprinkle salt on top and toast them, either in a toaster oven or regular oven, set to 450˚ or so.  Keep a close eye on them so that they don't burn. When the chicken is done, slice it.

In a small jar, put two Tablespoons of the olive oil, all of the lemon juice and some salt and pepper. Put the lid on and shake it up. Put the salad greens in a large bowl, shake the dressing again and just before serving, pour it over the top.  Toss the salad, then divide it into bowls.  Also divide up the asparagus, peas, pitas and chicken into each bowl.  Serve right away and eat!

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ChickenTagine 

Mmmm...spicy peas. 

How exciting that the San Francisco Chronicle answered my quest for a homemade energy bar in their Sunday food section this weekend!  Thanks Mr. Hearst, I promise I'll stop threatening to cancel my subscription whenever your delivery boy throws the paper through our window.  I'll test the Cherry Chocolate Energy Bar recipe out later this week.

Yesterday we dined at my friend Laure's house.  She served a delicious salt cod dinner and we brought a pea and asparagus salad from a recipe in the latest Canal House Cooking. I'll have to make the salad again soon, it was really tasty.  

Tonight I made a tagine with chicken and sweet potatoes. My Moroccan friend Khadesia showed me how to cook this, so its really her recipe. She usually makes it with frozen peas, but today I picked my first harvest of snap peas from our garden, so I'm putting those in at the last minute instead.  The best part of this dinner are the sweet potatoes.  They cook on top of the chicken, so basically are steamed over spices.

Today was a great day in the garden.  First of all, we finished planting the strawberries.  Sixteen of them (a few are leftovers from last year) in a terraced rock garden that should get enough sun, if I can find an arborist to lop a couple branches off our ancient apple tree.  I'm determined to have great berries this year so that my kids can feed themselves (I'm also planting a dozen raspberries). I'm debating whether or not to mulch with black plastic, then coconut hulls or straw on top. I'd love to hear about your strawberries, if you have any.

As for the peas, they have been growing like crazy over the sides of our deck.  I have to reel in the vines that hang down over the railing to pick the peas, as though I'm bringing in lobster traps.  Unfortunately all our pea plants have powdery mildew right now, so I'm planning to pull them as soon as their current flowers have turned into peas and are ready to eat. The mildew seems to start at ground level and then travel outward, so the newest growth is fine, while the part in the pot look horrible.  From now on I'll be more careful to buy only mildew resistant seeds. 

Now, back to the tagine.  One of the spices I use is a bit of a mystery to me - it is on the far right of today's photo. My friend Laure brought it to me from Cambodia.  It is labeled Imit or maybe 1mit.  It calls itself Khmer Safran and has a picture of a rootish thing, that looks like what turmeric comes from, basically an orange piece of ginger.  Khadesia called it "colorant", which appears to be a typical ingredient in a moroccan tagine, but she said it is not the same as turmeric.  My friend Laure told me it was "safran" and left it at that. I think it smells similar to turmeric. Wikipedia tells me that turmeric has been called Indian saffron in the past and used as a replacement for saffron (the kind from a crocus), so maybe that is why what appears to be turmeric is labeled safran. Go figure.  I'll  list it on the ingredient list, but good luck finding it.  Your tagine will probably be fine without it.  

You will need, however, the proper cooking vessel - a tagine. My favorite is the Emile Henry version, in red. Its kind of pricey.  I served this with cous-cous, which I made really quickly in a regular old pot. Khadesia tells me that to make couscous you need a couscoussiere to cook it properly, and would probably be horrified to see my instructions below.

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Khadesia's Chicken Tagine:

1 chicken, cut into parts

4 medium sweet potatoes

1/2 cup peas (or snap peas)

2 slices preserved lemon

1/2 bunch cilantro

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 largish pinches saffron threads

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon colorant (safran)

salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a tagine - be careful not to turn the heat up too high (I use a medium low setting) because you can crack the tagine .  The temperature is about right before you hear a lot of sizzling. Sprinkle a little salt on the chicken, then arrange it in a single layer in the tagine. Add the preserved lemon to the chicken - on top is fine. Sprinkle half the spices (1 pinch saffron, 1/2 t coriander, turmeric, paprika and colorant) on top of the chicken, salt and pepper it and add half the cilantro. Put the lid on the tagine and cook over  for about twenty minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, wash, peel and slice the sweet potatoes into long slices (I usually cut them in half, then half the halves longways).  Wash the peas.  When twenty minutes have passed, flip the chicken over, then sprinkle the remainder of the spices and cilantro on top. Lay the sweet potatoes on top of the chicken.  Cover and cook for another twenty to thirty minutes.  For the last few minutes, add the peas.

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cous-cous:

1 cup cous-cous

2 cups boiling water

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt

Bring the water to a boil in a teakettle or separate pot and keep it simmering.  Heat the oil in a large skillet (or low sided pot), then add the cous-cous and stir it around for a couple minutes until it browns just a little bit. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt and remove the skillet from heat.  Pour in the water, it will bubble up and make some noise.  Quickly stir it one time, then cover the skillet with a lid and let it sit for ten minutes. Fluff the cous-cous before serving.

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Salad Niçoise

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