Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Harvest Vegetable Soup

 cimg1126

It’s Day Four of the One Week, One Chicken Challenge. This is my first recipe with my awesome, organic homemade chicken stock. It’s pretty basic, but tastes amazing, and it’s in perfect time for the cold-front that blew in today. 

Harvest Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

2-3 cups assorted autumn vegetables, chopped and cubed. (I used beets, pumpkin, zucchini, and yellow squash. Look for what’s in season in your area.)

2 Tbsp olive oil

4 cups chicken stock

1 cup rice, cooked and drained. 

1 Tbsp fresh or 1 tsp dried rosemary

salt and black pepper, to taste

Sautee fresh veggies over medium heat 5-7 minutes, until they begin to soften slightly. For my recipe, I also used what was left of the beets, potatoes, and pumpkins that I roasted with the chicken on Day One. I also chopped up and added a zucchini, a yellow squash, and an onion. Be sparing with the amount of oil you use to sautee the vegetables. There is some fat already in the stock itself, and you don’t want your soup to end up too oily. 

Once the vegetables are just a bit soft, combine them with your chicken broth in a large stew pot. Add rosemary, salt, and pepper, and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and allow to simmer 15-30 minutes, until the vegetables are as soft as you like them. Add cooked rice to soup, simmer five additional minutes, and serve.

chicken-bonesWell, I am sorry to say I am a bit off-course; a minor family medical matter took me out of town for a few days, so I only got as far as roasting (and eating) my chicken before I had to throw it in the refridgerator and take off. I’m back now, though, and will pick up the threads. 

Night One: Roasted Chicken with Autumn Vegetables. They say no two cooks roast a bird the same way; there are many excellent ways to achieve a good roast chicken. I am of the school that says you preheat the oven to a rather high temperature (say, 450 degrees) meanwhile seasoning the bird’s cavity with salt and garlic. Unlike some cooks, I don’t truss the drumsticks together, and haven’t noticed that this dries the bird out unduly, as some fear it does. I do salt the top of the chicken generously on the outside, so that the salt forms a bit of a crust on the skin. This make for a nice crispy skin. I arrange the chicken in a large baking dish and then chop a selection of veggies to arrange around it. For my roast, I used early-season beets and potatoes with late-season yellow squash and bell pepper. I also sliced and pared some chunks of pumpking left over from my Halloween jack-o-lantern. (I can’t bear to waste a good vegetable!) I pour a bit of olive oil over the veggies, stir them around to make sure they are coated, and arrange them around the chicken. Then I pop the whole thing into the oven. I roast at 450 degrees for about twenty minutes, then turn the oven down to 375 and roast for another 40 minutes or so. Total roasting time should equal about 20 minutes per pound of bird. (A 3 lb chicken takes 60 minutes, a 4 lb chicken takes 80 minutes, etc.) You can check for doneness with a meat thermometer (should read 160-165 degrees) or I like to insert a skewer or thin knife blade into the thickest part of the drumstick; juices should run clear. If they are pink, continue cooking. After the chicken is done and comes out of the oven, I let it “rest” for 10-15 minutes — slice it any sooner and you will lose some of the juiciness. 

My chicken turned out a beauty. I am so sorry I didn’t take a picture, but it was dark when I got finished and I was hungry. For those of you who do not know what roast chicken looks like, it looks like this: roast_chicken_narrowweb__300x3890

Day Two: Cold Pasta and Chicken Salad. This is an easy one — it took me about fifteen minutes to throw it together after I got home from the airport. Boil some pasta. Chop some of those lovely late tomatoes. Some black olives from a can. All the white meat that was left on the chicken bones. Toss together with a little bit of olive oil and salt, and some rosemary or sage of you have it. Done. 

cimg1115Day Three: Making Soup Stock. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, this is the fun part! If you do it first thing in the morning, you will have chicken stock by dinnertime. Simply pull apart and dismantle the chicken bones. Put everything — bones, skin, fat, the whole enchilada — into a large soup pot. Add enough water to just cover everything, and bring to a boil on the stove, then reduce heat immediately. This is also an excellent time to add garlic, salt, and pepper. Some people simmer vegetables in their stock, too, although I myself prefer to add my veggies at a later stage. 

Since I work from home, I can simmer the pot for the rest of the day, and have lovely fresh chicken stock to use in any recipe that suits my whim by supper time. For those who don’t have this luxury, just throw the bones and water into a crockpot or slow cooker and leave on the lowest setting while you go about the normal course of your day. When you get home, your stock will be ready for you. 

You can make a lot of broth from a single set of bones. I will usually reboil the bones again the second day to make a second, just-as-delicious, batch of stock. If it’s a big bird — say, over 4 lbs., I might boil as many as three times. As long as the stock keeps tasting rich, I’ll keep going. And then….oh man, I love soup. Recipes to follow.

Market Day, November 8

cimg10952A little chillier this morning. It’s starting to definitely feel like fall, but I’m amazed to see how many end-of-season summer vegetables are still available at the Farmer’s Market — summer squash, peppers, even tomatoes — along with more wintery stock like turnips and kale. 

I got some broccoli and some lovely beets, and then couldn’t resist getting zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes, knowing they’re going to disappear soon. (I also splurged on a banana and chocolate chip scone from the folks at Living Arts Bakery, who keep a stand at the market. It was really, really, really, really good.) 

Later in the afternoon I went by Wheatsville Co-op for a whole, organic chicken from Dewberry Farms . At $4.99 per pound, it’s not the cheapest chicken around (not when compared to standard grocery store chicken, I mean) but I have a special purpose for this one. I’m planning on picking the bones bare and broiling them for broth, which will let me eat this one chicken for the rest of the week. I was doing this with conventional chicken for a little while, until I remembered my friend Dan, whose parents raised factory chickens for one of the big producers, telling me there’s arsenic in the feed. Upon research, it turns out it’s not well understood how much arsenic ends up in the chicken meat most of us eat. I do know that arsenic accumulates in bone and hair tissue over time — famously, it was arsenic levels in Napleon’s bones that started the rumors that he might have been poisoned. I don’t know that all of this means anything, but on second thoughts, I’d rather not boil the bones of an animal fed on any level of arsenic at all, “non-toxic” not not. So, I stopped making broth. 

That was a pity, though, because boiling the bones let’s you eat a single chicken for days. It’s unbelievable to me how much protein gets thrown away on the average set of chicken bones. Loads and loads of gristle and fat and marrow and sinew. A lot of us don’t like to eat these things because the textures are unfamiliar — we like that certain “crunch” of muscle tissue that means white-meat-chicken-good to our minds. The other stuff is weird and hard to chew. It all tastes great, though, and if you throw it in a crockpot (or a stew pot over very, very low heat) you can make a lovely soup out of it for days. 

With my lovely new arsenic-free chicken, I am setting a challenge for myself: I am going to eat that chicken, in one form or another, every night this week. I call it One Chicken, One Week, Once Chance for Glory.

These green bell peppers came from the Farmer’s Market last Saturday. They were lovely and fresh, and two for a dollar, which is a better price than you can get on bell peppers at the conventional grocery stores right now. Of course, these are a little smaller than the conventionally grown mono-peppers you get at the grocery store, but they make up for it by having a much more distinctive flavor. Conventionally grown peppers can taste a bit watered-down, but these have a dense, sharp pepperiness. 

They were lovely to eat raw, but then we had a cold front a few days ago, and I started digging out my sweaters and thinking about winter-y food. Does everyone associate food so sharply with certain times of year? I’m convinced that some foods are only meant for certain seasons.

To me, stuffed peppers are only for fall. I guess because you have to bake them for a long time. Running the oven in summer in Texas is unconscionable; it heats the kitchen up too much. There’s just a few weeks in the year when you can both get peppers and bake them, and that time is now.

So, last night I made a ground-beef version for my boyfriend and a meatless version for me. For the record, I am not a vegetarian. I grew up on a farm, where killing and eatings things is just part of life. That said, I am picky about what meat I will eat. Gigantic feed-and-slaughter operations are a little horrifying to me on a number of levels that I won’t let myself totally dwell on right now BECAUSE

…finding sources of meat I can stand to eat, on my budget, does present a challenge. Back when I had a job, I bought meat only if I could be reasonably assured it was the fresh, local, free of weird drugs, and preferably from one of the small, hand-raised artisanal herds like my family’s operation. That kind of meat is lovely, and it’s more expensive. 

C. has adapted better to eating cheap meat. He doesn’t mind bringing it home and nursing it with lots of love and garlic. Me, I’d rather just have something else that’s equally delicious. Thus Stuffed Peppers with Ground Beef and Stuffed Peppers with Yam and Onion. 

(Actually there’s onion in both. I just added it to the name of mine to make it sound more delicious.)

Stuffed Peppers with Ground Beef Filling

Ingredients:

4 large-ish green bell peppers

1 lb ground beef

1 c. brown rice, cooked and drained

1 large onion

2-3 lobes of garlic

salt and pepper, to taste

rosemary (optional)

Cut tops off peppers and remove seeds and membranes. Place in small or medium high-sided baking dish and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat until hot. Sauté onion for about 5 minutes, until tender. Add crushed tomatoes, minced or crushed garlic, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until onion begins to appear transparent. 

In mixing bowl, combine ground beef, cooked rice, and about 1/2 c. of tomato mixture until ingredients are well-mixed.  Stuffed de-seeded peppers with the seasoned ground beef, and pour remaining tomato mixture over and around peppers in baking dish. Bake 50- 60 minutes. 

Stuffed Peppers with Sweet Potato Filling

Follow directions above, but do not add ground beef to tomato/onion mix. Instead, dice two medium-large sweet potatoes into small cubes. Steam or boil until cubes are quite soft. In mixing bowl, combine sweet potato with rice and 1/2 cup tomato mixture. 

Stuff peppers and bake as in previous recipe.

(I am not sure these really photographed well. Stuffed peppers is a homely, not a glamorous dish. But delicious!)

Farmer's Butternut Squash Soup

I guess what makes this soup “farmer-y” is that I don’t use a food processor to mush up the squash. Instead, I leave it chunky, in the original cubes it is diced into before cooking. This eliminates a step, and a piece of kitchen machinery. Plus, I just like the soup better chunky. I like to chew my food. 

Ingredients:

2 c. butternut squash, diced and peeled.

1 c. white or yellow onion, chopped small

1/2 c. sweet peppers, chopped small

Several lobes of fresh garlic, perhaps 1-2 Tbsp.

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Fresh sage (optional)

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

Preparation:

First, you have to peel and dice the squash, which is the most labor intensive part of this otherwise super-simple recipe. Butternut squash is definitely a vegetable that makes you work for its love. I suggest chopping the squash into several cross sections along its length, peeling each, and then dicing as you would an onion or a potato. The cubes should be quite small, perhaps 1/2 inch square, so as to cook through quickly and thoroughly. 

Now dice the onion into smallish pieces.  In a large saucepan or wok, sautee the onion and squash together over medium heat until squash is soft and onion takes on a transparent appearance. Cover with water until squash and onion are just submerged, and bring to a boil before turning heat down to a simmer. 

Slice sweet peppers very fine and add to simmering pot. Dice garlic or put through a garlic press and add. Season pot with with salt and pepper to taste. I also love the savory base note of sage here, and a little bit of cayenne to warm things up. 

Simmer ingredient together at least 25 minutes, adding more water if necessary. You can simmer much longer if you like, while you go and do something else, as long as the heat is low and you check the pot occasionally to make sure things are still going nicely. 

If you like, you can use a potato masher or pastry cutter to mush the squash up a bit for a less chunky soup. Serve when hungry. Garnish with fresh sage for a fancy touch. Makes enough for 4-6. (Or fewer, with plenty left over for lunch the next day.)

market day: October 26

Sage and mint, in their new home on my porch

Fall is an iffy thing in Texas. Yesterday afternoon temperatures topped 90 degrees, but a cold front blew in last night and this morning I wore a coat. At the Austin Farmer’s Market on Saturday the available veggies said it was somewhere between late summer and mid-autumn. Still a few summer squash around, and plenty of okra and peppers, but melons and tomatoes were scarce, with a variety of winter squash in their place. 

I gave myself $20 to buy produce for the week, and immediately spent $4 on small sage and mint plants to repot at home. I haven’t had any fresh herb plants since I let my last mint plants get killed by front last fall. :(

Hopefully this year I will be more responsible about protecting my crops.  

Look at them. They want to be soup. You can tell.

 

Several stalls had early butternut squash, mostly around $3/lb. A little pricy, and hopefully that will come down during the season, but I couldn’t resist getting a few. Soup time!

 

 

 

 

Mmmm. Iron absorption.

Also snagged some early broccoli, for which the peak season is just beginning. I love broccoli for it’s high iron content (I tend to get anemic, especially in the winter for some reason) and for its Vitamin C, which aids iron absorption by the body. I usually just eat it steamed or raw, but I know there have to be some neat recipes out there I could tap into. 

 

Late summer sweet peppers (banana, pimento, and bell) and some early pears rounded out my shopping expedition. Should be a yummy week!

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.