Sunday, April 28, 2013

Chicken Chicken Chicken

I once heard someone describe eternity as a ham and two people. For many, a roasting chicken and one person would be an eternity, but for me it's a joy. I seldom buy chicken pieces because I really like the variations I can make using leftovers from a roaster.

First, I enjoy the roast itself. If I'm making it for myself, I usually don't make gravy. I enjoy the juicy meat with a sweet potato or double-baked white potato, and have a simple salad on the side. Then, depending on the weather and my mood, I usually make at least two of the following dishes:
  • creamed chicken and mushrooms
  • chicken club sandwiches
  • chicken panini with artichokes, red peppers, and some sort of cheese
  • curried chicken salad with cashews and apricots
  • Cobb salad
After that, I finish up by making a rich chicken soup. I make a stock using the chicken, onion, celery, and carrots. After that cooks for a while, I strain the broth, pick all the chicken off the bones and throw the meat back in the broth. I throw out the exhausted veggies. Then I neatly chop another onion, more celery and carrots, and a parsnip if I have one. I put those in the soup and let it all cook together for a while longer.

Now I add salt and pepper. Shortly before serving, I throw in some chopped parsley and a handful of noodles. I usually don't eat the soup right away. Instead, I freeze it in small batches. It's very flavorful and probably healthful. Makes a perfect quick meal on those days I have no urge to cook.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Color & Texture

Yesterday I made more potato salad than I planned. The potatoes were larger than I first thought. I figured it would be a nice warm weather treat. (The day was unaccountably cold and raw, but I tried to ignore that detail.) I had some for last night's dinner and this afternoon's lunch, but I craved something colorful and crunchy to serve with it. So I made a chopped salad, and since many summer vegetables are not yet ripe, I made a few substitutions.

I wanted a Mexican flavor, so I loosely based my recipe on the corn and black bean salads I make when corn is in season. I didn't have fresh corn, so I used canned. I didn't have black beans, so I used kidney. Then I added a whole lot of chopped onions, green peppers, grape tomatoes, and cilantro. I made a dressing by whisking together lime juice, olive oil, cumin, chipotle, garlic, salt and pepper, a splash of balsamic vinegar,  and a dash of hot sauce. I mixed it all together and let it chill for a few hours. It was delicious.

Although I love green salads, I enjoy other types as well. I often chop up vegetables and throw them together with some sort of dressing. The secret to these chopped salads, I think, is to mix colors, tastes, and textures. So rather than thinking of specific foods, I think crunchy, tangy, smooth, chewy, or bland. I try to mix and match. So I might mix bland cucumbers with tangy garlic and yogurt, or sweet corn with spicy dressing, or sweet watermelon with sharp onions and salty feta, or chopped tomatoes with black kalamata olives.

Not only do I get a variety of vegetables that way, but I also get to decorate my plate.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spring Spritzer

Cranberry-Orange Spritzer

Usually when I think of spring drinks, I think of lemonade or orangeade. Maybe even iced tea. I'm not usually a consumer of hard liquor. Or so I thought....

Today I was helping a friend by taking pictures of the new drinks that she was offering in her restaurant. Most looked lovely but had too much alcohol for my tastes. But this one was perfect. I'm not even sure what was in it, although I was told it contained a lemon vodka, and judging by its name also contained cranberry juice and a hint of orange.  It was light, refreshing, and incredibly tasty. I know the world is mad for cocktails and mixed drinks right now; if this is a sample of what the new drinks are like, I can understand their popularity.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Lighter Lunches: Fruit & Cheese

When New England enjoys its first warm days, I happily anticipate the foods of summer that will soon arrive. However, in the meantime I start changing my diet by fixing myself lighter meals. One of my favorites is fruit and cheese, paired with some sort of substantial bread.

Today, I had a juicy pear, sliced, made into a sandwich on French bread with melted brie. For eye appeal and crunch, I added a handful of fresh watercress. It made a perfect spring meal.

Pears and brie are just one of several well-known combinations. Apples and cheddar are another. But have you ever tried melon and goat cheese? How about figs and goat cheese, with a dab of honey thrown in? Strawberries, grapes, and peaches also pair up well with mild cheeses.

To really enjoy the combined flavors and textures, make sure that your cheese is at room temperature and your fruit just slightly chilled. Serve on a bread with some substance, otherwise the juice from the fruit will turn your bread to mush.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Kosher Coke

photo by Mark H. Anbinder on flickr
Live and learn.

Passover is finished, and only today do I learn that the Coca-Cola company makes kosher Coke.  Although I'm a seltzer gal myself, as opposed to sweetened drinks, other family members drink Coke and I usually have some on hand. When I was growing up, soft drinks were often served at various relatives' homes, and I never gave it a second thought. Modern Coke, though, is different from the drinks I grew up with.

In 1985, Coke changed its formula and replaced sugar with high fructose corn syrup. Most other soft drink manufacturers followed suit. Certain Coke fans were upset, but not as upset as observant Jews, who were now unable to drink Coke during Passover. At this holiday, certain cereals and grains are forbidden, including corn and thus corn syrup. So Coke was out.

Enter Rabbi Tobias Geffen, a Lithuanian-born Orthodox rabbi living in Atlanta, where huge quantities of Coke are bottled. To make a long story short, Geffen persuaded officials at the Coca-Cola company to create a kosher form of the popular beverage. They did, and you might still find some on the shelves this week. You can distinguish kosher Coke by its bright yellow bottle cap (it is almost exclusively found in bottles).

However, be warned that kosher Coke is available mainly in large cities, such as New York and Boston. This year, it is not available at all in California.