Saturday, July 27, 2013

A care package arrives at A Treat Grows in Brooklyn!

Do you remember back at the beginning of the summer when I was fantastizing about slushy, frozen fruit drinks and contemplating buying a set of stainless steel drinking straws? Well, a magical care package arrived in the mail the other day from a loyal fan of the blog*, containing nothing less than........8 stainless steel drinking straws! 

Obviously, I had to pull out the blender immediately and whip up something slushy.

( *okay, in the interest of full disclosure, that loyal fan was my mother.)

I chose slushy watermelon limeade, a thing that is almost as easy to make as it is to drink, and a cartoonishly pink color that can't fail to make you smile.

Frozen Watermelon Limeade

1 quarter of a whole watermelon
5 limes
1/2 cup sugar (or sweetener of choice, honey or agave nectar would also work here)

With a spoon, scoop the flesh from the watermelon into a freezer-proof container with a lid (i.e. tupperware, a lidded glass or ceramic bowl, etc). Roll each whole lime on the cutting board to release juices, then cut in half and squeeze each directly over the watermelon pieces. Sprinkle with sugar, stir well to combine all ingredients, place lid on container and freeze. Place desired amount of frozen fruit mixture in blender, process until slushy. Pour into tall glass, admire the deeply pink color, then drink through a very classy metal straw. Tiny paper umbrella (and rum) optional. :)

It's now almost August, and I feel like I'm going to survive summer! The end, even if a few months off, is in sight. And in the meantime there are icy slushes to drink, and popsicles to eat (more on that later). I may be counting the days until fall, but they're getting fewer and fewer. Now if you'll excuse me, there's something frozen somewhere that needs drinking.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Kitchen martyrs are made, not born.

Greetings from the place on the bed where I am stretched out in this damp heat, lying almost perfectly still and trying to move nothing but my eyeballs and typing fingers. July has only just begun, and it's getting to me. I'm going to be lying in this spot for a while, possibly until October....unless someone wants to pick me up by the scruff and hold me in the blasting spray of an open fire hydrant like the pup in this photo (and I promise you, I wouldn't even struggle).

Obviously, the perfect things to make in weather like this are those that require no heat at all, cooling things like slaws and yogurt dips and popsicles and fruit slushes. Or tomato salad, with the first tomatoes of the season just starting to appear, which is a thing that I could happily eat all summer long. Dishes that require nothing more of you than just a little peeling, slicing and tossing, perhaps a few hours' worth of chilling. What could be simpler?

But when you get tired of endless salads and can't justify another dinner of popsicles (although I usually can find a way), there is another way to go. A less obvious path. The path of the hero, of the kitchen martyr. It's going to require courage and sacrifice, because you're going to need to blast the kitchen with heat for a few hours for the greater good. But when it's over, you'll have ready-made deliciousness for the rest of the week, with no need to even glance in the direction of the oven or stove. Are you up to the challenge?

Very well then. Kitchen martyr, may I present you with the following options: Herb Roasted Whole Chicken, and Southwestern Turkey Chili with Vegetables.

Herb Roasted Whole Chicken

Herb-roasted chicken with parsnip-sweet potato
latkes & Greek yogurt with garlic & parsley, on a
bed of farmer's market microgreens lightly
sprinkled with lemon.

A lot of people are scared to roast whole chickens: it's 'time-consuming' (it's not), it's intimidating (I think it reminds them of turkeys at Thanksgiving), and it's unnecessary when you can just chuck some breasts under the broiler, right (well, right, except you'd be missing out on some of the most delicious chunks of the bird--namely the thighs, the fantastic crispy skin, and my favorite bits, the 'oysters')? These people are fools. But not you! You're a kitchen martyr. Onward, chicken soldier.

1 whole chicken (sizes will vary, average size about 4 lbs)
1/2 lemon (in this case, I used the other half to make a lemon vinaigrette for the salad I was serving the chicken with)
1 onion, sliced in half: Keep one half the way it is, very roughly chop the other into 1" pieces
3 sprigs each (or more! You're stuffing a chicken, go crazy man!) of Italian flat-leaf parsley, rosemary and thyme
1 teaspoon each of parsley, rosemary & thyme, very finely chopped
3 tablespoons of butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon honey
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Place chopped half of onion in the bottom of a roasting pan. Dry chicken thoroughly, inside and out, with paper towels or a very clean kitchen towel (cannot stress enough the importance of this drying step, at least when trying to achieve perfectly golden, crackling, crisp roasted chicken skin. What's that? You like soggy, lifeless, steamed chicken skin? Then by all means, disregard this step. Everyone else: PAY ATTENTION). Season inside and out with salt & pepper, rubbing it into the skin. Place chicken breast side up in roasting pan, right on top of the bed of onions.

Stuff 1/2 lemon and 1/2 (the unchopped half) onion inside chicken cavity. Poke the whole sprigs of herbs in there as well, then truss your chicken (Don't be scared. Trussing is fun! Once you've mastered it, you may find yourself trussing things recreationally! Small family dogs, beware. If you're nervous, Julia Child is pretty much the gold standard, and Michael Ruhlman has some ideas, as well). Set chicken aside, combine softened butter in a small bowl with finely chopped herbs, honey, and a small amount of salt & pepper to taste, stir well to combine.

Gently lift the chicken skin at the edges of the bird and smush about a tablespoon of the herb butter under there, working it under the skin that sits on top of the chicken breasts. This is going to melt and flavor the meat so that your chicken tastes like heaven. Take the remaining two tablespoons and rub it all over chicken, working it slightly into the skin. Place roasting pan in oven.

Roast chicken at 375 for 30 minutes, then rotate roasting pan 180 degrees and crank the heat up to 450, cook for another 25 minutes (or until skin is crackly and brown, and juices from chicken run clear when the meatiest part of the thigh is stuck with a fork or the tip of a small knife). Remove from oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes (to cool & allow delicious juices to re-circulate inside the bird), then carve & serve with a little bit of the crispy skin for everyone, a little drizzle of buttery pan juices and some of those roasted onions from the bottom of the pan. Heaven. :)

Southwestern Turkey Chili with Vegetables

1 lb. ground turkey
2 tablespoons olive oil (or cooking oil of preference)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2" pieces)
2-3 cloves of garlic (equivalent to about a tablespoon, finely minced)
1 red bell pepper, chopped (about 1/2" pieces)
about 5-6 stalks of celery (I like to use the very inner stalks, known as the 'heart', and keep the tender bright green leaves as well), chopped (about 1/2" pieces)
1 quart of chicken stock
1 can red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes (I have also used crushed)
juice of 3 limes
salt & pepper
grated cheese (I usually use Monterey or colby jack)
cilantro, finely chopped

In a large pot, heat chicken stock, tomatoes, and both cans of beans over medium heat. In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil over medium high heat, add onion & saute until softened and just beginning to brown. Add ground turkey and brown the meat & onions together until meat is fully cooked. Add cumin, chili powder and minced garlic, cook for 1 more minute then add mixture to the pot containing stock, tomatoes & beans. Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Add red bell pepper & celery, cover pot & simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Add lime juice, salt & pepper to taste. Remove from heat and ladle into bowls, garnishing with grated cheese and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro. It's also fantastic a little extra kick of hot sauce, and with tortilla chips or fresh tortillas on the side, if you happen to have any of those. Enjoy your leftover for days & days & days (this also freezes & reheats well)!!