Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Saffron Chicken with Quinces

The quince is an odd fruit that looks like a cross between an apple and a pear... but fuzzy. It smells heavenly, a bit like pineapple. When raw, it's sour, astringent, and tough, but when cooked its taste is incredibly rich and delicious, like apple intensified! Not many people grow quinces anymore, and the only places I know to get them are from Gutierrez Farm and Macias Farm at the Downtown Growers' Market.

Saffron, one of the world's most expensive spices, comes from the stigma of a crocus which blooms in fall. They actually grow quite well in Albuquerque, so I've just ordered some for my garden - now is the time to plant them, and most nurseries will sell out by the end of October.

This flavorful chicken stew with quinces is common, with many variations, in the Mediterranean and Middle East. My pomegranate tree is loaded with fruit right now, so I added some pomegranate seeds as a garnish, but next time I would also incorporate them into the stew.

1 whole chicken, cut up into serving pieces
4 quinces
1 medium onion
A pinch of saffron threads
1/2 t. coriander
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. black pepper
1 C. chicken stock
1 t. honey
Seeds of 1 pomegranate (optional)

Cut quinces into eighths, removing the seeds and stem. Heat oil in a wide skillet over medium flame. Sear the chicken until browned on both sides, and set aside. Add onion to the skillet and cook until translucent. Push the onions to one side of the skillet, add quinces and brown on both sides. Stir in spices, stock and honey. Add most of the pomegranate seeds (optional) but save a handful for garnish. Put chicken pieces back into the skillet, cover tightly and simmer 30 minutes or until the chicken is done and the quinces are tender but not mushy.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Green Chile Apple Pie

Green chile apple pie is a New Mexico classic, and everyone makes it a little differently – I could never reveal my friend Ashley's secret recipe, so I had to make up my own! I used some of Dixon Orchard's special Champagne apples, which are fantastic for fresh eating but also hold their shape and flavor nicely when cooked. Cooking the apples before putting them into the pie allows the green chile flavor to thoroughly infuse, and eliminates the gap between the filling and the top crust that forms when the fruit shrinks during cooking.

6 ripe apples
2 T. butter
1/2-1 C. chopped green chile
3/4 C. sugar
1/8 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 C. cheddar cheese, grated
2 pre-made pie crusts

Preheat oven to 375. Core and slice apples 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Heat butter in a large skillet on medium heat until fragrant and sizzling. Add apples and toss to coat, cover tightly and cook, stirring frequently until they are tender but still slightly crunchy, about 5 minutes. Stir in green chile, sugar, salt and spices, and cook on high heat about 5 more minutes, until the juices thicken. Lay the bottom crust in a 9” pie pan and sprinkle cheese over the bottom. Pour in the apple mixture. Lay the top crust over and seal by crimping the edges. Bake about 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pomegranate Martini

Our pomegranate tree (well, shrub really) has borne its first gorgeous crop this year! Tucked in a sunny southwest-facing corner, it is thriving, and we've got about a dozen fruits.

We're in heaven, just cracking them open and tumbling their gorgeous little ruby seeds out over a bowl, and eating them fresh. The next step, of course, is to make a cocktail out of them...

To make the juice, I just crushed a handful of seeds through a strainer with the back of a spoon.

1.5 ounces pomegranate juice
1.5 ounces gin

Shake with ice, and pour into martini glasses. Drop a few pomegranate seeds in the bottom of the glass, and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Cabbage, Currant, and Chorizo Slaw

This dish we had at Bar Salute in Greytown, NZ was so good, I had to re-create it as soon as we got home! Unfortunately, I forgot to finish this post about it until now. It's so sweet and crunchy, and filling, because of the chorizo... a perfect light winter dish, because cabbages keep so well through the winter, and lemons are in season. In New Zealand, the lemons taste slightly different than our lemons, with a hint of orange, so I used a bit of orange juice to reproduce this flavor.

2 fresh chorizo links
1 cup water
2 Tbs olive oil

1 pound cabbage (about half a medium head)
1/2 small red onion
2 Tbs fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
2 Tbs. black currants
Juice of one lemon
Juice of one quarter orange
1 tsp honey
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of ground coriander
Salt and pepper to taste

Set the chorizo links in a pan with the water and olive oil over medium heat. Boil until the water is evaporated, turning the sausages over halfway through. Fry until the sausages are browned on both sides, then set aside. When cool enough to handle, slice the chorizo in half crosswise, then slice each half lengthwise into about 6 long pieces.

Slice the cabbage and onion into very thin ribbons. Chop the cilantro leaves roughly, and toss with the chorizo, cabbage, onion and currants.  Mix the lemon juice, orange juice, honey, cloves and coriander to make dressing. Toss with salad, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sweet and Savory Crepes

Last weekend, we had a fabulous breakfast with our friends Dan and Viv - crepes, with sweet and savory fillings. Viv made the crepes, some with coconut milk, some with whole wheat flour.

We brought fresh spinach, ham, and fresh oyster mushrooms from the farmers' market, grown by Exotic Edibles of Edgewood. For the crepe recipe I use, and the spinach filling with veloute sauce, see my earlier post about spinach crepes. We made these the same way, but added chopped ham to some and oyster mushrooms to others. For the mushrooms, I just lightly browned them in olive oil with green onions, garlic, salt and pepper, then added a splash of white wine at the end and cooked a bit more until the wine evaporated.

And for sweet stuff, we brought fresh peaches from Montoya's Orchard, and Cort Pendu Plat apples from our tree (this is the first year we've had a really good crop, and they taste fantastic!) I cut up the peaches and tossed them with a few tablespoons of sugar to macerate. The apples were just sauteed in butter, with a little cinnamon added at the end. One of my favorite crepe fillings is actually apples (or applesauce) and bacon, but we were trying to keep it light. All in all, a perfect Sunday morning.

Crispy String Beans with Pork

I bought these gorgeous purple yard-long beans at the farmers' market this week from Eli and Amanda at Chispas Farms. They are so sweet and crunchy, and they stay red when you cook them!

Here's one of my favorite ways to eat snap beans, that reminds me of when I lived in Honolulu. I was friends with a bunch of grad students from the meteorology department, who worked on the floor below me at the University of Hawaii, and we used to eat at this great Chinese place called the Dew Drop Inn. On the menu it was called Crispy String Beans with Pork, but you can make it with any ground meat and any type of snap beans you like.

2 Tbs oil
1 pound snap beans
1/4 pound ground pork, beef or turkey
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbs fish sauce (OR 1 Tbs mirin or dry sherry + 2 Tbs soy sauce)
red chile or cayenne to taste
1/2 Tbs grated fresh ginger (optional)
2 green onions (optional)
1/2 tsp sugar (optional)
1/2 tsp sesame oil (optional)

Wash the beans, trim the ends and dry them with a dishtowel. Cut them into 2-5 inch pieces. Get the oil very hot in a wide skillet on medium heat. Add the green beans and fry until the skins pucker and brown slightly, about 7-10 minutes. Remove the beans and set aside.

Add more oil to the skillet if necessary, and fry the garlic for a few seconds. Add the meat, break it up into small bits and fry without turning until browned, then turn once to brown the other side. Add the green beans and all remaining ingredients. Toss to coat everything evenly with the sauce, and remove from heat. Serve hot, with rice.