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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Have I Gone Plum Crazy?

Plums are the king of stone fruits.

I know it's kind of weird for me to say that.  How often do I mention plums on this blog?  I'm not sure I ever have.  I don't make posts that wax poetic on the tastiness of plums.  Until today I never posted a plum recipe.

For me plums have always sat quietly in the background.  While I have sat at my keyboard banging out recipes for sauces with peaches and brandy and ginger or baked numerous cherry pies and doused chicken cutlets and pork chops with cherry sauces, I was probably snacking on a plum.

Plums are very reliable and easy to eat.  The problem with peaches is that I can go to the farm market in the summer, purchase some beautiful ripe peaches, and bite into one expecting it to be divine - then be brutally disappointed to find out it's mealy or flavorless.  There is a little potential heartache in every peach.  Cherries, while delicious, are a little tough to eat.  In order to get your fill of cherries, you must each many of them.  That leaves you with the tedious process of the eat-spit-eat-spit-eat-spit routine that requires you to be vigilant about where those pits go.  As for apricots, I never liked their texture.  In a strange reversal of preferences, I only eat them dried.

While many plums are better than others, plums generally disappoint me far less than peaches.  As long as a plum decently ripe, I know I can expect a sweet bite into soft flesh against the contrast of the taught and tangy skin.  It's easy to eat around the pit in a larger plum and in the smaller ones, where you can devour them in a bite or two, you don't need to eat 20 (well, maybe I could) so it lacks the needs to constantly spit out pits that you have with cherries.

Childhood memory:  There was once a box of tiny plums in the house that I addicitvely attacked one night as a child.  I can still remember as I ate plum after plum my mother warning me, "You're going to get the runs."  Her warning was a mixture of amusement and fear.  They were plums, not prunes (remember I only do apricots dried).  While her prediction didn't come completely true, I'm not sure my stomach was all too happy with the plum onslaught.  Lesson learned.

It seems strange that I would never think to cook with plums.  I don't make plum cakes or plum jam or plum sauces.  This week I decided to remedy that.

I took my plums to the savory side and made a plum sauce for duck by roasting my plums with balsamic vinegar and rosemary with just a touch of honey.   It could have been sweeter.  Maybe more honey the next time.

Maybe next I should go to the sweet side and try a plum cake.  I know Sir Pickypants, hater of stone fruits except cherry pie, won't like it, but that means more for me.   I did make him at least taste the plums.  He ate everything I gave him (just a spoonful) but he didn't ask for more.



I served it over roast duck breast.  I was thinking of making this a duck recipe, but it's not much of a duck recipe.  Get a whole duck breast. Rub it with salt, pepper, and dried sage.   Cut slits in the skin.  Cook over low heat in a pan slowly, about 20 minutes occasionally removing some of the fat from the pan.  (You will save that fat if you know what's good for you.)  When skin is crispy, flip over and brown the other side for about 5 minutes.  Place in a 400 degree oven and roast an additional 15 minutes.  Let it rest a few minutes.  Slice and serve.

I had extra sauce and I intend to try it on pork chops next.

Roasted Balsamic Plum Sauce

Ingredients

  • 6-8 large black plums, pitted and cut into quarters
  • 2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp honey


Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine all ingredients except plums in a bowl, whisking until well combined.  Toss plum quarters in the mixture.  Place on cookie sheet and roast 10 minutes or until plums are soft.

Remove from oven.  Chop into smaller pieces and toss with pan juices. Serve with duck, pork, chicken, or whatever other protein think would taste good with it.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Meshugge Shiksa Strikes Again

How Meshugge is this shiksa?  I waited four days after Rosh Hoshanna to make a New Year dish and then waited another week to post it.

Most of the elements in my New Year Chicken will look familiar.  The ingredients are mostly the same.  This time around rather than do a quick-cooking sautéed dish, I did a long-cooking rice dish, inspired by an Arroz con Pollo recipe that came to my inbox via the multitude of food-related spam if receive daily. This is the slow-cooked comfort food version of the former dish.  My current chicken recipe consisted of cooking the chicken with the rice and then giving it a quick blast in the broiler to make the chicken crispy.  Then I sprinkled some almonds over the top for additional crunch.
 

My flavorings were very traditional for this time of year.  Everything was mostly sweet rather than savory or spicy.  I used wine, honey, caramelized onion, and dried apricots.  When you cook them in a dish this long they become nice and soft and almost impart a bit of tanginess.

I hope everyone who celebrated the High Holy Holidays this year had a joyous new year and an easy fast.

I will continue to be MIA a bit longer as I am returning to the stage this week (long overdue) as my theater group is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a retrospective concert.  I'll be singing wearing an electric bra!

I use brown rice for this.  If you prefer white, cut your cooking time down to 25 minutes.

New & Improved Meshugge Shiksa's New Year Chicken

Ingredients
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • 6-8 bone-in chicken pieces of your choice
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • About a half a cup of whole, roasted almonds
Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large pan, heat olive oil over low heat.  Add onions and stir to coat.  Cook about 20 minutes, until they are soft and take on some color.  Remove from pan.  Bring heat to medium.

Place the chicken in the pan.  Brown chicken well on both sides - about 5-10 minutes per side.  Remove.

Add onions, broth, wine and honey.  Stir in rice and apricots.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and add chicken back to the pan.  Place in the oven and cook an additional 45 minutes or until rice is tender.

Set oven to broil.  Broil for an additional 3 minutes or until skin is crispy.  Remove from pan and sprinkle almonds over the top.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It's Still Summer at the Market!

Hello Muffins.  Did everyone have a fun Labor Day?  I know I did.  I spent the weekend at a Bed & Breakfast, rode my ponies all weekend, had dinner at my favorite restaurant, The Iron Forge Inn, and even spent part of the day at the Renaissance Faire.

So now they tell me summer is over.  I was always told in school that the end of summer is marked by the autumnal equinox, not Labor Day.  For the next three weeks the days will still be longer than the nights, the weather will still have a good chance at staying warm, and, most of all, the farmer's markets will still have some of their bounty.

I know I haven't been posting many recipes this summer.  I suppose that's because so much of what I have been cooking has been simple recipes that let those farm-fresh ingredients speak for themselves.  It's stuff that I suppose is worth sharing, but at the same time, does anyone need a recipe for any of it?  That's why despite my commitment to more healthful eating, the recipes you are seeing here most often are the things I make for special treats and not regular meals.

I did some clever stuff this week, so I thought it was time to share.

When my husband told me yet again that he wanted turkey burgers for dinner, I decided right away to make yet another variation on ground turkey.  I saw a recipe online somewhere (and I lost the link and can't remember what the recipe was called, so I'm sorry I can't give full credit) for turkey burgers with zucchini and corn.  Burgers are kind of delicate for large loads of vegetables, so I made a turkey meat loaf.

This was made from:

2 pounds ground turkey
2 medium zucchini, shredded
1 large onion, diced
Kernels cut from one ear of corn
5 basil leaves, torn
1/2 cup almond flour (bread crumbs are fine if you prefer)
1 egg

I sauteed all of the vegetables and basil  in a little olive oil and then mixed it in with the turkey, almond flour, and egg.  It went into the oven for an hour at 400 degrees.

It's nice with a side of buttery cauliflower puree.

I have not been into doing decent photographs lately.

A few days later I was craving Mexican, but not the heavy, deep-fried, cheese-filled glop that normally tempts my taste buds. I wanted something more in line with my eating plan. but had some spicy Mexican flavors.

I came up with Un-Tacos.  In other words I made some taco filling, but piled it all on large leaves of butter lettuce that could be eaten with a knife and fork, or rolled up (a bit messily) as if it were a true taco.

What went into my Un-Tacos?  First I roasted some chicken breasts after sprinkling them with salt, pepper, cumin, ancho chili powder, and ground coriander.

I rinsed and drained a can of black beans and mixed them with chopped avocado and chopped bell pepper.

This was laid on the lettuce leaves and then covered with homemade salsa. It was the perfect way to use the last of the summer tomoates.  I will provide my recipe, although it's crazy basic.  You really don't need one.

Summer is fading fast, but I'm happy I can still enjoy the bounty.

Homemade Salsa

Ingredients
  • 1 bowl of cold salt water
  • 1 Tbl vinegar
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp salt
  •  3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, cored, seeded and chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 Tbl cilantro
Place onion in salt water and vinegar for about a half an hour.  This will take the bite out of the raw onion.

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until everything is a slightly chunky liquid.  Serve with just about anything but dessert!