Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stove Top Pan-Barbequed Chicken

If you are hankering for a barbeque flavour in the cold of winter, this recipe is for you. This is a tried and true family favorite that was a regular treat back on the farm. Since we were operating without a refrigerator, fresh animal was a once a week special that we would bring from town in our ice chest and eat the next day. Usually it was chicken and if we didn't cover it with curry, we turned to this recipe instead. It is from Jane Brody's Good Food Book, a healthy eating bible that was published in 1985 with the byline "living the high-carbohydrate way". Ah, the good old days before the Adkins diet, when carrots and apples were considered healthier than bacon and steak! This recipe, however, would be perfectly acceptable to most low carb dieters, as it's mostly poultry. This is not a particularly spicy barbeque sauce. The "optional" add-ins bring the dish up to the heat level that I think good barbeque ought to have, but I suggest you try it with the original spices before you experiment, as tastes differ and I like my food with a real kick to it.

Also, feel free to experiment with this recipe. If you like liquid smoke in your sauce, put a little in. If you want a vegetarian version, nix the worcestershire sauce and replace the chicken with some firm tofu or tempeh, or even a healthy serving of beans. Some basic variations could include:
  • Vegetarian BBQed tofu or tempeh. Use a couple pounds of extra firm tofu or tempeh, get rid of the Worcestershire sauce and replace it with 1/2 tsp of good sea salt and 1/2 tsp of tamerind concentrate (available at Whole Foods and Indian grocery stores, or online).
  • BBQed pork or beef. This one is easy. Replace the chicken with your favorite meat. Proceed as usual.

Stove Top Barbequed Chicken

The total calorie count for the bbq sauce (not counting the chicken itself) is about 410 calories, or roughly 70 calories per half cup.

1 tsp olive oil (or less if you are using a nonstick pan)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp good quality chili powder
black pepper and salt
1/2 tsp chipotle pepper powder (optional)
2 tsp Marie Sharps habanero pepper sauce or other favorite hot sauce (optional)
One 3 lb whole chicken, skinned and cut into serving pieces, or about three lbs of mixed cuts (breasts and legs/thighs)

Procedure:

1. Toss the chicken with a spritz of olive oil, 1 tbsp of the vinegar, a light sprinkle of salt (the worcestershire sauce adds plenty of sodium) and a grind or two of fresh black pepper. Let sit.

2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan. Add the onion and stir, cooking, on medium low until it is well sauteed, soft and partially transparent.

3. Turn the heat up to high, add the chicken to the skillet, placing what used to be the skin side down, and quickly brown the meat on both sides. Mix together the ketchup, water, vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, and hot sauce, if using. Pour over the chicken and bring the sauce to a boil.

4. Cover the skillet and simmer the chicken for 20-30 minutes or until cooked through on the bottom side. Uncover, turn the chicken over and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the meat is cooked through.

I like to serve this with brown rice and a green salad as a hearty winter dinner, but you may certainly go the potatos route if you prefer.

Friday, January 25, 2008

World Peace Cookies+ Vanilla Bean Ice Cream=Heaven

I've never been very good at math, but this equation is easy to compute. Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies are delicious, and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is delicious, so how could world peace cookie dough-vanilla ice cream not be exquisitely, doubly, fantastically delicious? Smooth, sweet and creamy, crunchy, chocolatey and salty-frankly, it doesn't get much better than this!

Recently I purchased some vanilla online and so this weekend, for the first time in my life, I found myself the proud possessor of about 20 bourbon vanilla beans that smelled so richly of vanilla that the scent had wiggled its way past the tight packed molecules of food grade, air tight plastic surrounding the beans and permeated the air around the package. I had to do something with them immediately-they just smelled too good to ignore. Coincidentally, I had a whole log of World Peace Cookie dough sitting in the freezer and had been considering its potential as a luxury ice cream add-in. To that end I had already taken the plunge and conducted several field tests to determine if the raw cookie dough was indeed edible. After several tastes just to make sure, I stuck the log back into the freezer before I ate the whole thing.

I have been messing around with Mercede's "lower fat" key lime pie ice cream recipe and using it (minus the key lime juice and graham cracker crumbs) as a basic ice cream recipe for other flavours. I know. It's January. It's cold out. In fact, it was frigid out there when I was walking to work this morning at 7:30 AM. Brrr...and it doesn't help that my Mom loves to send me emails this time of year talking about tropical breezes and palm trees. But back to the ice cream. Many people seem to believe that ice cream should only be eaten when its warm out. This opinion was bantered about at work just the other day. I disagree-after all, if you are lucky enough, as I am, to have an apartment with a heater, once you are inside (where the ice cream is, I might add), the difference between winter and summer is negligible.

So with that in mind I decided to adapt the basic recipe for key lime pie ice cream, which is based on a mix of sweetened condensed milk, regular milk and only two eggs, to create a low fat vanilla ice cream that I could then spike with definitely high fat world peace cookie dough. For those of you who refuse to eat raw cookie dough for fear of salmonella, world peace cookie dough is conveniently egg free. It must be a sign.

In the end I came up with two versions of Vanilla World Peace Ice Cream. Those who are familiar with brioche will probably recall how the versions with the most butter are often referred to as "Rich Man's Brioche", while a "Poor Man's Brioche" has significantly less fat. I decided to do the same thing with the Vanilla Ice Cream recipe. As always, please try to use organic, free range ingredients. Dairy is especially prone to being full of hormones and antibiotics unless certified otherwise.


Vanilla World Peace Ice Cream (Rich and Poor Versions)

Rich Version
1 1/2 cup full fat sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cup milk (depending on how rich you want it, it can be full cream, skim or somewhere in between)
1 egg
1/8 tsp salt (optional)
1 vanilla bean

Poor Version
Approximately 205 calories per 1/2 cup serving. If making plain vanilla ice cream, without the world peace cookie dough, the calorie count is about 110 calories per half cup.
1 cup full fat sweetened condensed milk
2 cups low fat milk
1/8 tsp salt (optional)
1 vanilla bean

Procedure:

1. Whisk the milks together in a saucepan until the sweetened condensed milk has dissolved.

2. Scrape the vanilla bean pod seeds into the milk and add the split pod to the pan. Heat until almost boiling.

3. If you are making the rich version, beat the egg slightly in a bowl and while whisking slowly pour in a little of the hot milk mixture. Then add the egg/milk combo back into the pan, whisking all the while. Whisk until the mixture thickens slightly and then turn the heat off and let the vanilla bean steep in the hot custard. If you are making the poor version, skip the whole thing with the egg. Just bring the milk almost to a boil, then turn off the heat and let the vanilla bean steep.

4. In both cases, after half an hour (or more if you are watching Scrubs and forget about it), strain the milk mix into a bowl (to remove the vanilla bean and any skin or other unsightly mess that may have formed), and place the bowl of strained custard/milk into the fridge. Don't waste the leftover vanilla bean: pat it dry on paper towels and then toss it in a small container full of sugar to make some lovely vanilla sugar. For more details on how, check out Baking Bites entry on the topic.

5. Let the milk mixture cool until well chilled. If you are in a hurry you can put it in the freezer, just make sure it doesn't start to get icy around the edges.

6. Pour into your ice cream maker and process. Once the ice cream is nearly set, pour in 1 cup of finally minced (or crumbled) raw World Peace cookie dough. I put it in still frozen, so that it didn't mess up the consistency of the ice cream.

7. Eat! This makes a great sundae too, with some chocolate syrup and maybe banana if you like such things.

This is one of my favorite ice cream recipes so far, right up there with my tropical paradise ice cream, although very different in flavour. The crumbly, slightly salty, chocolatey chunks of sugary cookie dough add the perfect distraction to a sublime vanilla bean richness that permeates the frozen cream. The poor man's version sets up slightly harder than the rich man's, which tends to stay a bit soft, but neither freeze rock hard like fat free frozen yogurt is wont to do. Both stay scoopable and creamy although if you want a creamier mouth feel the rich man's version is probably the one to go for. Personally my favorite part is the little black specks of the vanilla seeds, which remind me of the fact that the vanilla bean is the seed pod of a climbing orchid, whose hundreds of thousands of tiny seeds, when fermented in the pod, give us one of nature's most wonderful scents and flavours. Thank goodness for vanilla!

Monday, January 21, 2008

My First Dorie Greenspan Recipe

It is with a hanging head and heavy heart that I admit that although I purchased Dorie Greenspan's famous baking tome "Baking, From My Home to Yours" late last summer, I didn't actually make a single thing from it until now. That isn't to say that I didn't read her book-many a night I fell asleep with the heavy, hard-backed volume open on the floor by my bed. Many a weekend I drooled over luscious, fantastic photos and shook my head in wonder at the sheer quantity of butter packed into some of the delicacies described within. But I didn't actually get around to baking anything. Even with all the cookies, pies, cakes and bars to choose from. Even the ice creams and puddings were left begging as I went about my business.

But then came winter. Winter means cookies and hot chocolate to me. And so this Friday night I came home from a long day at work, half frozen and determined to make a chocolate cookie to go with some easy mint-chocolate chip ice cream that I had thrown together earlier that week (recipe forthcoming).

I wanted to make a cookie from Dorie's book even though I had recently purchased, from the bargain bin of Borders book store, a 5 dollar "Cookie Bible" written in Britain, that lists pretty much every cookie, cracker and tea biscuit that I can think of. Despite the cookie bible, I decided that I needed to bake some World Peace Cookies. These famous cookies had already made the rounds among food bloggers in my blogosphere, and everyone was raving about them. I knew I was far behind on the trend, but figured that if they were so good, they would be as delicious in 2008 as they were in 2007. And so they were. Incredibly rich, loaded with butter and chocolate and sugar and with a slight sandy texture that crumbles into buttery goodness, they were the perfect cookie to accompany my mint ice cream or simply a cup of hot chocolate or tea. Go Dorie!

Postscript: I am not including the recipe here because any of the links above will take you directly to it. If you have not yet purchased Dorie Greenspan's great book, I highly recommend it. You can take a closer look here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Menu for Hope Prizes Announced!

I'll bet you were thinking
"Whatever happened to that Menu of Hope thing? I haven't heard a thing about it since December, and she said that the prizes were going to be announced in January!" Well folks, I admit that with graduate school now upon me full-time, I am not as quick with the posts as I normally would be. Unfortunately, I cannot promise that things will get better. In fact, you can probably expect me to completely disappear for weeks at a time as I wrestle with final papers in April and May.

But in the meantime you can rush over to Chez Pim and see if you won any prizes. I didn't get my cheese assortment, but there's always next year! To see who got lucky, go here: Menu of Hope Prize Winners. We are all winners though, because Menu for Hope raised 91,188 dollars for the World Food Program this year, a whopping 50% increase over last years total!

So congratulations to Chez Pim and the regional representatives, prize donors, organizers and all of us who participated. Here's to an even bigger and better Menu for Hope in 2008!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Gone Fishin'

Beware vegetarians, vegans and queasy omnivores. There is imagery here that may not be pleasing to some of you. We had the luck of catching a large and tasty mutton snapper (which despite the name taste nothing like mutton) while I was at home over the holidays. This is a fish that would have cost me around 80 dollars at Whole Foods. Of course, when you catch a fish for free, it has to be cleaned before any cookery can take place. While I have many years of fish cleaning experience, my brother did the task this time around.

Then I laid her out on some foil while we stoked a nice fire in the stove.

I rubbed the snapper all over with fresh ground black pepper (from the farm), salt, lime juice, (again, from the farm), and Marie Sharps hot sauce. I stuffed her with onions and her roe, topped her with more onions, and a friend's home made salsa, and for a special touch included a couple allspice leaves in the wrapping.

Then I sprinkled the fish with a drizzle of olive oil, folded up the foil and placed the packet right on the burning hot metal surface of our wood stove, where she roasted up into a delicious feast. The subtle flavour from the allspice leaves complemented but did not overwhelm the fish. We enjoyed our snapper with locally grown brown rice, a coleslaw and some fried bluggo bananas from the farm.


P.S. I promise that I will return to regularly scheduled programming soon, but I have so many culinary adventures to regale you with from my trip home that I thought I would run with it as long as possible.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Edible stars and other tropical wonders

One of the things I did while I was at home for the holidays was pick a bunch of carambolas or starfruit, and dry them to take back to DC with me. Carambolas can be found in most Whole Foods or even some "regular" grocery stores in the USA these days, but the specimens that I have seen there are a far cry from the ones that I picked off our tree in Belize. Unfortunately when starfruit are ripe they bruise and smash easily and so they are picked unripe (and mouth puckeringly sour) in order to be shipped to more temperate climes. I would hate to think that people judge this fruit by the shriveled miserable representatives huddled in the "tropical exotics" corner of the produce section, but the only other option is to fly somewhere warm and seek them out in a local market.

A good ripe carambola is pleasantly tart, very juicy, slightly crisp, and absolutely beautiful when sliced crosswise as you can see below. Aside from eating them out of hand, they make great juice (usually sweetened with a little sugar), wonderful jam and preserves, and a nice dried product that retains the tart character of the fruit. Carambolas are also excellent in stirfries and rice dishes as well as both fruit and vegetable salads, adding colour, character and their happy star shape everywhere they go.

Pineapples are another favorite of mine. Unlike the starfruit, these came from the market in town, as our 2 acres only ripen in June. They had been grown in another district a couple hours away, where, thanks to some microclimatic quirk, pineapples are available in December. Although the quality of pineapples in the US market has improved in the past decade or so, I have yet to find one state-side that could compete with these beauties. A perfectly ripe pineapple is like a perfect strawberry-one can smell their delicious fragrance from over 15 feet away. Needless to say, these babies got gobbled up within 24 hours of their arrival in our kitchen.


Apple bananas! I mentioned these in a previous post, and true to my word I ate plenty of them during my stay. These bananas are not usually cooked (we have other kinds that we use for baking and frying), but are excellent out of hand. You will never find them in the USA as they have very thin skins and tend to drop off of the bunch when they ripen (we usually tie a mesh bag around the bunch when it reaches this stage so as not to lose any on our dirt floor).

For some reason I didn't take any photos of the excellent tangerines and oranges that we stuffed ourselves with during my visit, nor did I get around to photographing the enormous papaya (around 10 pounds) that we purchased in town along with the pineapples. Even the soursops that we picked from the tree by the cookhouse doorway didn't get their moment of fame. But I can assure you that they were all beautiful and delicious-even more so because most of them were free for the picking on our farm.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Belated Happy New Year!

Its been a blissful few weeks. Waking to sunshine and the sound of parrots instead of alarm clocks, spending all day outside, playing in the sea, and eating food straight from one's own farm is good for the disposition. Now, I'm back in DC, sleep deprived after flying in after midnight, but tanned enough to cause envy in lesser souls:). Needless to say, working in a windowless office is not appealing at the moment, but luckily humans are an adaptable species.

Since I wasn't able to post anything during the holiday season, I have plenty of photos and food related stories to share with you from my time on the farm. We harvested cacao, caught fish, ate massive quantities of black fruitcake and tangerines and engaged in numerous other food related activities, but today I thought I would back track to Christmas (I know, its so over, its so 2007, you are so done with it, but bear with me). Here are some photos from our Christmas feast of canned ham (probably from Brazil), and side dishes that came right from the farm: roasted breadfruit and winged beans with chaya.

Here's the spread. As you can see our kitchen doesn't have a wall, which makes it very handy when tossing out dish water or a bone for the dog:

The skin cut from an oven roasted breadfruit, and my mom cutting it up.


Roasted breadfruit cut into slices.

Empty winged bean pods, fresh from our garden. Winged beans are originally from South East Asia where hundreds of varieties are cultivated.


Winged bean seeds. When the pods are young you can eat the whole thing, but these tougher specimens had to be shelled out.

I'll talk more about breadfruit and winged beans and such in future posts, but for the moment, I have a lot of browsing to do in order to catch up on what is going on in the food blogging world!