Piling on the Kudos for Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Braised with Milk and Lemon

Milk Braised Chicken

It’s impossible to resist this recipe. There’s an article over at Kitchn titled the “Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk is Probably The Best Chicken Recipe of All Time“; a good friend (aka the Hungry Dog) — a person I trust 200% in all matters food-related — swears by it; and it has even shown up in my email box at least once with a note from Simran saying, “please make this and invite me over!”. So I finally cooked up some of this irresistible chicken, or rather threw it together one night when I found myself staring blankly into the refrigerator wishing it was someone else’s turn to make dinner. The verdict: this is as tasty as advertised, especially given the extra liberties I took (no sage, forgot the cinnamon stick, chicken pieces instead of whole…). What can I say? This is just one more reason to love Jamie Oliver. Continue reading

Succotash Polenta

If the word succotash makes you think of a limp and lifeless lump of cooked to death vegetables, this could not be farther from that notion. Think instead…. a big bowl of bright, fresh, sweet summer vegetables tumbled onto creamy, creamy polenta. Are you with me? I don’t always think of making polenta this time of year, but it turns out that it’s the perfect canvas for a basket of gorgeous summer vegetables. I think this is absolutely fantastic as is, but you can easily turn this into a more substantial meal for brunch, lunch or dinner by adding a poached egg, a piece of grilled chicken or fish or even a broiled sausage. The soft and creamy polenta is ideal for little teethers and older kids can help you pick out the vegetables, snap green beans and shell fresh peas if you’re using them.

For the succotash, use any combo of vegetables you like but definitely include shallots, corn, tomatoes and green beans. We like to add fresh english peas and fava beans when we can find them. Favas take a little extra work (shelling the beans, then blanching them in salted water for 30 seconds and removing their tough skins) but are definitely worth the extra trouble. You could certainly add sliced zucchini and finely chopped herbs (basil, parsley, thyme) would be lovely too.

For the polenta, I like to use Marcella Hazan’s no stir polenta method. Be sure to stir in a little butter and a whole lot of grated parmesan cheese. Your polenta will stay creamy as long as you keep it warm, but the leftovers are worth spending a few minutes on. Turn leftovers into a baking dish or cookie sheet. When it cools it will set and you can cut it into squares which you can grill or fry or simply reheat. The squares wont be creamy like just made polenta but are still delicious and great with any saucy Italian recipe. You can wrap the squares in parchment paper and freeze them to enjoy later.

Succotash Polenta

  • Cook your polenta using Marcella Hazan’s “no stir” method. It will take about 45 minutes in all, but only a minute of stirring every 10 minutes. When the polenta is cooked, stir in butter and grated parmesan cheese to taste and keep warm.
  • Prep all your vegetables: finely mince shallots, trim green beans (I like 1″ pieces sliced on the diagonal), halve cherry tomatoes, cut corn off the cob. I like to cut my corn on top of a cookie sheet to catch all the juices and stray kernels that try to get away. When all the corn has been cut off, run the back of your knife along the cob to release the “corn milk” which you can cook along with your kernels.
  • Sprinkle the shallots with a few pinches of salt and saute in oilve oil until softened. Add the green beans and cook until tender crisp, about 3-5 minutes. Add the corn kernels and their juices and cook 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute just to heat through. Add a tiny splash of red wine vinegar and stir. Taste and correct seasoning, adding a little more salt or vinegar if needed.
  • Spoon the succotash over polenta and sprinkle with fresh herbs of your choice.

You might also like these summery faves: summer corn and lobster ravioli in a light corn broth; Easy Summer Fruit Cobbler; Tomato Water Pasta; Summer Obsession: Roasted Sweet Peppers; Summer Ratatouille

Warm Yourself Up on a Chilly December Day: Chickpea and Rosemary Soup

Growing up, my family fell into an informal tradition of soup night once a week. There would be a big pot of my dad’s soup going on the stove and a spread of bread, cheese and cold cuts and usually a crisp green salad of some sort. I looked forward to these meals in my parent’s cozy kitchen almost more than any other. My dad is quite a good soup maker, he never uses a recipe and is able to coax out an impossible amount of flavor from the ingredients at hand. Watching him at the soup pot brings Mr. Miyagi to mind, so I guess that makes me the karate kid?

This soup is just about the perfect thing you can eat with a nice piece of crusty bread on a chilly December day (hey it actually dipped below 50 degrees here this week!). It’s savory with tomatoes and garlic, herb-y from the rosemary and has just a touch of chickpea sweetness. My little ones don’t favor terribly chunky soups, so these days I puree about third of the soup then return it to the pot, and might even mash some of the remaining whole chickpeas in their bowls. Give it a try, it’s one of our all time favorites.

Chickpea and Rosemary Soup

(adapted from the recipe in Marcella Hazan’s “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking”)

  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • leaves from two sprigs of rosemary, chopped finely
  • 1 – 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 – 15 ounce cans chickpeas
  • 1 quart chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth if you want to keep it vegetarian)
  • Salt to taste
  • small piece of Parmegiano Reggiano rind (optional)
  1. Saute garlic and rosemary, and a big pinch of salt. Cook until the garlic is softened and golden.
  2. Add the tomatoes (breaking them up a bit more with the back of a spoon). Stir well and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes
  3. Add the chickpeas, stir well and simmer 10 minutes
  4. Add broth and simmer for at least 15 minutes. For extra flavor, throw in a small piece of parmegiano reggiano rind.
  5. Remove the cheese rind and discard. Ladle about a third of the soup into a blender or food processor. (Beware of pureeing hot food because it can spray out, so let it cool before proceeding). Puree and return it to the pot, stirring well.
  6. Adjust the seasoning and enjoy with a piece of crusty french bread.

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A Food Hug: Tomato Soup

Summer in San Francisco means lots of fog, but it still means lots of tomatoes. We snap up early girl tomatoes at the beginning of the season and grab cheap boxes of “ugly” tomatoes at the farmers’ market at the end of the season in late September/October. After a bumper backyard crop last year, Luca and I made a go at growing our our own again this summer, but the unusually cool summer has taken its toll.  [BTW: for you gardeners, it’s too late to plant this year, here’s a great guide from Love Apple Farm on growing tomatoes for your future reference.]

Seems like tomatoes show up on our table just about everyday during their season. We love them in salads, sandwiches and sauces. We stock our freezer with homemade conserva di pomodoro (tomato paste) and  the ultimate simple sauce Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion. If you haven’t tried this recipe, you must. Using fresh or canned tomatoes, it’s great as is — especially on gnocchi. And because it’s so simple you can use it as a flavorful base for other pasta sauces. [I usually use a little less butter and rough chop fresh tomatoes, removing the seeds and skin by passing the sauce through a food mill after it’s cooked. My husband and son prefer a less chunky sauce which is another reason I like the food mill. Using fresh tomatoes will require more cooking time because of the higher water content].

We also make sure to cook up as many batches of  tomato soup as we can. It’s become a summertime tradition. For my family, it’s the perfect comfort food especially with a grilled cheese sandwich — and it puts a smile on our faces on even the foggiest summer day. I shared some with a friend recently, and she served it cold, sort of gazpacho-like, which is an interesting idea.

Classic Tomato Soup

This is a hybrid of various recipes we’ve tried over the years. We like the combination of roasted and fresh tomatoes. It’s very tomato-y and the brandy gives it a nice boost.

  1. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Slice 2 pounds of tomatoes and lay them on the cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt and a little sugar, then drizzle with olive oil. Roast in a 375 oven for 30 minutes or until the tomatoes are a bit wrinkled and the much of their moisture has cooked out. Set aside.
  2. Saute 1-2 large shallots in butter in a large pot, then add a small pinch of ground allspice.
  3. Add 2 pounds of sliced (uncooked) tomatoes to the shallots, then add the roasted tomatoes, and enough chicken of vegetable stock to cover (about 6 cups).
  4. Simmer on low for an hour or so.
  5. Put the soup through a fine setting on a food mill, which will strain out the skins. You could use a blender, too.
  6. Return to the stove and taste for seasoning, adding salt or pepper to taste. Swirl in a TBL or sherry and 1/4 cup of half and half or cream.

Something Slow and Something Quick: Homemade Pasta + Tomato Sauce with Almonds and Roasted Garlic

Once in a while on when we’ve got got a little extra time on a Saturday or Sunday, we make homemade pasta. It’s a bit of a project, but sometimes when the weather isn’t great or we feel like tinkering in the  kitchen, it’s just the thing to keep us entertained.

My favorite pasta dough recipe comes from Marcella Hazan. She has a great step-by-step description, but in a nutshell it involves using the “well method” to combine 1.5 cups flour and 3 eggs which will yield a little over a pound of pasta. [Regular all purpose flour is fine, but if you want to get fancy, try “00” pizzeria flour. I drag Luca to Rainbow Grocery every couple of months to stock up on our niche pantry items like 00 flour, sea salt, capers, and vanilla beans — which they have in bulk along with tons of other great things. It’s a cook’s paradise and a fun mini food adventure. As a bonus, you can grab a couple of tacos from the El Toyanese Taco truck which is usually parked just down the block.]

After combining the eggs and flour, knead for 8 minutes (Marcella is exact about this) until the dough is as smooth as a “baby’s bottom”. I’m always amazed by the transformation of these two simple ingredients into a wonderfully smooth dough precisely at that 7th or 8th minute. It’s like magic! Then wrap the dough in plastic, throw it in the fridge and let it rest 20 minutes or until you’re ready to roll it.

Luca was taking a nap during pasta dough part, but was eager to help with the rolling and cutting when he woke up. He pulled up a chair and helped me crank the pasta machine (3 times through the largest setting and once through each successively smaller setting) and caught the pasta on a floured tray as it came through the cutter. I gave him a tiny dough ball and a mound of bench flour to play with which kept him very happy and busy while I finished up the rest. Fresh pasta is quick to cook, just boil for a couple of minutes in nicely salted water.

Tomato, Roasted Garlic & Toasted Almond Sauce

Another mom shared this recipe on the playground one day. It’s like toastier version of regular old tomato sauce and not too much of a stretch for kids. By contrast to the homemade pasta endeavor, it comes together quickly  — especially if you roast your garlic and toast your almonds ahead of time.

Drizzle a head of garlic in a little olive oil, wrap it in aluminum foil and roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minute until soft. You can do this in advance.

Toast 1/2 cup of slivered or sliced almonds in a dry pan on the stove until golden. They go from golden to burned quickly so toss frequently and watch carefully, you can’t really leave them alone. Remove the almonds from the pan as soon as they have color.

To a blender add 2 1/2  cups tomatoes and the toasted almonds (you could use plain tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, flavorful fresh tomatoes or a combination). Slice the end off the roasted garlic head and squeeze the garlic into the blender and puree everything until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste: salt, pepper, drizzle of olive oil. If you want a little kick add a few pinches of red pepper flakes or puree in a little fresh garlic.

Warm the sauce through a bit and toss with hot pasta. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and some grated parmesan cheese. A sprinkle of minced basil or parsley would be nice, but is totally optional.