Friday, October 30, 2009

The London Borough Market

We spent 11 weeks this past summer living in London. We adored the London Borough Street Market. If you love food, this market is a must-see. The food offerings are remarkable and the energy within the market is terrific. People seemed sincerely happy to be working there, and the visitors to the market have a decidedly positive buzz. Although the place is covered there are a number of huge skylights and as a consequence the light inside was perfect for photography. I spent two very happy Saturday mornings shooting and tasting beautiful food. These are some of the shots I took.

I couldn't believe how cute these little cookies were. Nicely crunchy and lightly sweet they were both cute and tasty which is quite the combo.

Ah yes, more adorable cookies. Same baker.

I'm not sure what these are and I forgot to ask.

These are Middle Eastern and made with chick peas.

Neal's Yard Dairy sits just adjacent to the Borough Market
and should not be missed either.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chicken Mushroom Soup

It is cold again and I have a lingering cough, so I’m back in the kitchen making chicken soup. I need to complain, just for a moment, about boxed chicken broth. Most of it is tasteless. I know I should make my own. I should, but I don’t. Boxed broth is one of those time savers that means I actually end up with time to make soup. I’m certain that if I made homemade chicken broth the only thing we’d have to eat for dinner would be broth.

Chicken Mushroom Soup

(10-12 servings)

  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 4 half chicken breasts with bones and skin
  • 1 ½ cups carrots, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups celery, chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 leeks, well cleaned and chopped (white part only)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 32-oz boxes chicken broth (preferably organic)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 packets chicken flavor liquid concentrate OR 3 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 20 ounces sliced crimini mushrooms (I use 2 10-oz bags of sliced mushrooms from Trader Joe’s)

Heat grapeseed oil in large soup pot. Add chicken breasts and brown on medium/high heat, about three minutes per side. They should be golden. Remove chicken from pot and set aside.

This is what your browned chicken breasts should look like.

This is what your chopped veggies should look like before they go in the pot.

This is what your leaks should look like before they go in.

Turn heat down to medium and add celery, carrots, onions, leeks and butter to pot. Brown the vegetables until they are soft, about 10-12 minutes.

Add three boxes of chicken broth and the wine to the softened vegetables. Turn heat up to high and bring broth to a boil. Immediately turn down to a simmer and add the chicken breasts and any accumulated liquid. Simmer for 20 minutes. Do not allow to boil. Remove chicken breasts from pot and allow to rest on a cutting board. At this point I taste the soup. Most of the time I think the flavor is too mild. This is when I add chicken concentrate or bouillon. You could also add butter, but I try to keep that to a minimum. This soup has almost no fat. I think you’ll find it tastes fuller if you add the recommended amount of chicken concentrate or bouillon.

While the chicken is resting insert immersion blender in soup and process the softened vegetables and the broth until smooth. This takes 3-4 minutes. If you don’t own an immersion blender this can be done in a regular blender in batches, or in a Cuisinart. The advantage of the immersion blender is fewer dishes to wash and you don’t have move around hot soup. Once the broth is smooth, add the mushrooms to the soup and simmer for 15 minutes. While the mushrooms are simmering pull the chicken off of the bone and chop into cubes. Add chicken cubes back to the pot. The chicken should be just cooked through. If it still has pink spots, don’t worry it will finish cooking when you add the chicken cubes back to the pot. One of the advantages of cooking the chicken this way is that the meat stays really tender and moist.

Test the soup and adjust the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve or allow to cool and freeze.

You could absolutely make this soup without using the immersion blender and just have chunky soup. I like to mix things up so that some of the time our soup is smooth and sometimes it is chunky. One of the advantages of smooth soup in my house is that it means my children eat all of their vegetables. Though they are terrific eaters, they have been known to leave cooked carrots and/or celery at the bottom of a soup bowl. They don’t leave a drop behind when the broth is smooth.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pot Roast

I have a cold. One of those miserable, horrible, head so stuffy you can hardly think straight, lousy colds. All I want is comfort food, and it would be really great if someone would come over and make some for me. It made me think of the food my mother makes whenever someone is sick. In our house the recuperative food of choice is Pot Roast.

My paternal grandmother was born in Harbin, Manchuria and spent her adult life in New York and then Sacramento. She was a wonderful cook. One of the most interesting things I inherited from her was her box of New York Times Food Section recipe clippings. Her food interests were quite broad and it appears that she was more than willing to try things that were well out of her comfort zone.

This post includes her recipe for Pot Roast as remembered and interpreted by my mother. It is total comfort food, tastes great the day it is made and even better the next day. My mother makes this for my family whenever someone has to recuperate from something (childbirth, surgery, excessive holiday shopping). My entire family LOVES this pot roast. It is quite easy to prep, but you do need to be home for most of a morning or an afternoon for it to cook.

Pot Roast (6 servings)

  • 3½ to 4½ lbs pot roast (cross rib, shoulder clod, chuck)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 medium onions, cut into 6-8 sections each
  • 2 cups celery, chopped in large pieces
  • 4 carrots, chopped in large pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped in large pieces
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • a pinch of sugar
  • ¼ cup flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 14 ½-oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • ¾ cup red wine

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

In a heavy fry pan or deep Dutch oven, brown pot roast on both sides in hot olive oil. Remove pot roast from pan to a covered deep oven-safe pot.

Brown the onions, garlic and chopped peppers in the pan drippings until soft. Sprinkle vegetables with flour and brown over medium high heat, stirring quickly, 1 minute.

Add the canned tomatoes, bay leaf, tomato paste, red wine, thyme, sugar, chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Stir this mixture until it thickens slightly. Let simmer for 5 minutes uncovered. Correct seasoning.

Pour the tomato mixture over the pot roast, spreading evenly. Cover the pan, place pot roast in oven and reduce heat to 300 degrees. Bake 3½ to 4½ hours. 30 minutes before serving add celery and sliced carrots to pan.

Serve over flat noodles or mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Roasted Peppers and Onions

My father is visiting which means that there is a great deal of activity in the kitchen. My children have all sorts of food requests for him, most of them involve fish and I’ll get to that in due course. But first he is roasting some vegetables. This is a super easy, fast, fresh dish that should please even the fussiest pre-teen or elementary school-age child. I love simple, direct, tasty food. Besides all of these accolades the peppers are absolutely gorgeous. Just look at that photo. Is that splendid, or what?

Roasted Peppers and Onions

with Green Olives and Capers

(4 servings)

  • 2 red bell peppers cut in large pieces
  • 1 pint or 16 ounces mini sweet bell peppers, whole
  • 3 small yellow onions, quartered
  • 1/3 cup pimento stuffed green olives
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Drizzle olive oil in a 2-quart casserole dish so that the roasted vegetables do not stick to the dish. Place all of the vegetables in the casserole dish. Toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place the casserole dish in the oven. Roast for 45 minutes. Toss the vegetables gently every 15 minutes.

When ready to serve sprinkle ½ teaspoon dried oregano over the top.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chicken Soup

It was cold in Los Angeles for exactly two days and I managed to make and consume a delicious batch of chicken soup before the hot weather returned with a vengeance. One has to jump on these opportunities when one gets them if one lives in LA. On a cold day you cannot do better than homemade chicken noodle soup. It does in fact feed the soul.

I was chatting the other night with a friend who cooks for her family every day, but does not consider herself a “cook.” One of the things she doesn’t make is soup. This is in part because the chopping required seems daunting to her, but in addition she is opposed to the need to be home for hours while tending the soup. I tried to reassure her on both counts. First, I think even 6 and 8 year olds can be taught to safely chop vegetables for soup. Give them a steak knife, not a chopping knife, and show them how to keep their fingers out of the way of the sharp part of the tool. Set the kids far enough apart that they won’t get in each other’s way. The great thing about soup is that it really doesn’t matter what the chopped carrots or celery look like, so it is a perfect starting point for kids. My children take enormous pride in meals they’ve helped prepare and the prep takes half the time if they chop the vegetables for me. Beyond this, many grocery stores now sell chopped vegetables. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Ralph’s – they’ve all got chopped carrots, celery and onions if you cannot bring yourself to spend ten minutes with a knife and cutting board. The next point is truthfully, I don’t make any soup that takes more than 30 minutes of prep work and 60-90 minutes of cooking time. I don’t have the patience. Some of my favorite soup recipes only take 45-50 minutes total to pull together (I’ll post some of the quickies soon).

This post includes two recipes for chicken soup. The first is my father’s basic Chicken Noodle Soup, and the second is my recipe for Chicken Chowder. Both my father and I suffer from serious soup addictions. We make soup, A LOT. I can make soup with just about any combination of ingredients. It is my failsafe meal. When I cannot find the energy or inspiration for something complex, I set my sights on soup.

My father puts a single jalapeno chili in his soup recipe. Even without the seeds, it packs a punch. Those with chili sensitive palates would do well to leave it out.

Chicken Noodle Soup (10-12 servings)

  • 3 quarts of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 3-5 pound chicken, rinsed and quartered
  • 2 large onions, quartered
  • 4 medium carrots, cut in large pieces
  • 4 stalks celery, cut in large pieces
  • ¼ cup Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 parsnip, cut in large pieces
  • 2 whole cloves of garlic
  • 1 whole shallot (do not cut up)
  • 1 green jalapeno chili, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 half package flat whites-only egg noodles

Bring first twelve ingredients to a boil in a large stockpot. Lower to simmer. Simmer uncovered for 90 minutes. Skim the surface of the soup to remove foam and fat.

Turn off burner. Put a large colander inside a large pot or bowl. Drain soup through colander. Return broth to the stockpot.

Separate the chicken from the vegetables. Discard garlic cloves, shallots and jalapeno chili. When cool enough to handle cut the vegetables into medium dice and return the vegetables to the soup pot. When the chicken is cool enough to handle hand strip the chicken from the bones. Return chicken meat to the soup pot.

Cook the noodles according to the directions on the package. Drain and add to soup. Mazel Tov!

This next recipe is one of my favorites. If you have slightly vegetable averse children, this is a particularly good choice. It has double the vegetables. The first batch of vegetables are blended into the broth, and the second batch is chopped. My children adore this soup. It freezes well.

Chicken Chowder (8-10 servings)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (any quality will do)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large whole chicken (preferably organic), cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 4 cups carrots, diced
  • 2 leeks, carefully washed and diced
  • 2 heads celery, trim tops off (discard) and dice
  • 2 large russet or yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 14-ounce package frozen sweet white corn
  • 1 cup frozen petite whole onions
  • 1-2 cups cream, half & half or whole milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil and butter in large stock pot. Salt and pepper chicken. Brown the chicken on both sides (about 4 minutes per side on medium-high heat). Remove chicken from pot and place in bowl while you prepare the vegetables. Brown onions, two cups carrots, one head celery, and the leeks until soft over medium heat. Approximately 12-15 minutes.

Add white wine and chicken broth. Bring to simmer. Add chicken and potatoes. Simmer until chicken is cooked through, approx 20 minutes. While cooking skim foam and fat off of the top. Remove chicken once cooked through and place on a cutting board to cool.

Place immersion blender in soup pot and blend until broth is smooth OR if you don’t own an immersion blender, blend soup in batches in either a Cuisinart or a blender. The only real advantage of the immersion blender is that it reduces the dishes you need to do afterwards.

Tear cooled chicken into small, bite-size pieces. Return to pot with two cups carrots, the second head of celery, frozen corn, frozen onions and cream (or half & half, or milk). Cook an additional 15-20 minutes until carrots and celery are just tender. Don’t overcook. Add salt and pepper to taste. Skim fat off of the top again. Serve.

Note: I find that commercial chicken broth is quite bland, but I rarely have the time or inclination to make my own chicken broth. As a consequence I often add bouillon or liquid chicken broth concentrate to soups to make them richer in flavor. I recommend adding one or the other to this soup if you use commercial stock as its base. I use Trader Joe’s “Reduced Sodium Liquid Concentrate, Chicken Flavor” or “Savory Choice Liquid Chicken Broth” which is carried by Whole Foods and a number of other retailers. They are small packets that come in a small box. You can add one packet at a time and taste the soup after each addition. For a batch of soup this large I often add four packets. I’m partial to the turkey flavored concentrates because they have a bit more gusto than the chicken – but that is just a personal preference.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chicken Cachengo

My family loves food. We love to cook and we love to spend time together in the kitchen. At home my sister and I often spend our Sunday afternoons trying something new in the kitchen. My boys (now 8 and 10) are able sous-chefs, handy with a sharp knife for chopping, capable of whisking, blending, beating, stirring, and tasting. Family holidays often center in and around the kitchen. A glass of wine in hand and a story to tell, my father never tires of pulling a meal together, whether for 4 or 14. My mother sails in, particularly in times of trouble, quick to make a pot roast and some homemade applesauce (recipes to follow). My grandmother could out-cook folks a quarter of her age. We’d be in our sixth hour of making jam or baking cookies, ant the rest of us were slumped on one chair or another and my grandmother would still be standing, not a word of complaint.

This blog is loosely based on a family cookbook I edited and photographed two years ago. The cookbook, “Inside the Kaganoff Kitchen,” brought together recipes that we, as a family, have made again and again over the years. Some are festive holiday foods and others are simple fare suitable for a busy weeknight with homework to do and instruments to practice.

The first two recipes I’m going to post are variations on a theme. My father makes a dish in the wintertime we call “Chicken Cachengo” which is a humorous name that combines Chicken Cacciatore with Chicken Morengo. He was inspired to create this dish one year when we were skiing in Deer Valley and he needed something to warm our insides and fuel us for the next day’s skiing. This dish does just the trick, and we’ve been making it ever since. This makes a great party meal. All of the work can be done in advance. It can even be made the day before and reheated on the stovetop (NOT the microwave – puh-lease) and then served. The second recipe I’m going to post is my version of the same dish. Both of them feed a crowd, prep well in advance, and taste even better on the second day.

Chicken Cachengo (10 servings)

  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
  • 2 whole chickens cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 6 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 20 ounces cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 35-ounce can peeled Italian tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 12-ounce jar pitted Kalamata olives
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon Herbs de Provence
  • 32 ounces chicken broth
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 3 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • flat leaf Italian parsley for garnish

Heat grapeseed oil in large skillet. Generously salt and pepper the chicken pieces. Brown chicken pieces in skillet over medium high heat until skin is slightly golden, approximately 10-12 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and set aside. Drain off all but ¼ cup pan drippings.

Sauté onions, shallots and red pepper flakes over medium high heat until golden, about 10-12 minutes.

Add white wine to onion/shallot mixture; cook 2 minutes.

Add bell pepper, carrots, and celery; sauté 2 more minutes.

Add chicken back to pot. Add chicken broth; turn up heat and bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer. Break up Italian tomatoes in the can and then add them plus their juices, the olives, tomato sauce, tomato paste, mushrooms, thyme, Herbs de Provence and sugar. Simmer one hour. While the chicken is cooking skim off the fat. Taste. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve in low bowl over crusty bread. Sprinkle with flat leaf parsley to garnish.

Chicken and Sausage Stew (6-8 servings)

  • 2 lbs sweet Italian sausage, cut into rounds (I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s Sweet Italian sausage)
  • 6 large chicken thighs (my children like them boneless) or 1 whole chicken, cut up
  • 3 cups onions, chopped
  • 3 cups red bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh or dried oregano, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh or dried thyme, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 14 1/2-oz cans diced tomatoes with juices
  • 1 14½-oz can chicken broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • ¾ cup pimiento-stuffed olives, sliced
  • flat leaf Italian parsley for garnish

Sauté sausage in a heavy pot over medium-high heat until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer browned sausage to a large bowl. Sprinkle chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pot and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Using slotted spoon transfer chicken to bowl with sausage. Drain off all but ¼ cup pan drippings.

In the reserved pan drippings sauté onions and peppers until soft, about 10-12 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, thyme, and paprika. Sauté 2 minutes. Add flour and sauté 1 minute. Return sausage, chicken and any accumulated juices to the pot. Add tomatoes with juices, chicken broth and wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. While chicken is cooking use a flat spoon to skim off the fat.

Uncover pot. Add olives and simmer until chicken is very tender and liquid is reduced, about 45 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in a low, flat bowl over a piece of toasted crusty country bread. Sprinkle with chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish.