Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Here Come the Sun(chokes)

Not surprisingly, plenty of root veggies came in the final winter CSA delivery two weeks ago.

Last year, I was overwhelmed with potatoes and clueless about rutabaga. This year, I am mildly swamped with potatoes with no rutabaga in sight. Instead we've been preoccupied with something new and different.


A.k.a. Jerusalem artichokes, these puppies neither come from Jerusalem nor do they resemble artichokes (according to Wikipedia, Europeans called them "girasole," which means sunflower in Italian. The J. a. is a type of sunflower). But they look more like a cross between ginger root and odd-shaped potatoes.

The Internet recommended putting them into soups and salads. Instead, we made this recipe. Let me tell you, it was a winner. So easy and healthy and nutty (flavored, that is). Ryan is researching grocery stores around Chicago to find out where we can get more.

Quinoa Sunchoke Pilaf (from foodreference.com)

3/4 cup quinoa
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/4 cup vegetable (or chicken) broth
1 cup chickpeas, cooked or canned, (drained and rinsed)
1 cup peeled, chopped sunchokes
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1 tsp pepper

Place the quinoa in a large bowl; fill with cold water. Pour into a strainer, then return the quinoa to the bowl and rinse 4 times more. Drain well. Heat the oil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the rinsed quinoa and cook, stirring, until it cracks and pops, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the chickpeas, sunchokes, peas, and pepper, and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Serve.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sugar High

For inauguration, I roadtripped to DC and went to a party at my dad's office, which overlooks the parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue.

It was fun and I was thrilled to see Obama take the oath of office (for the first time), but I ate way too much sugar.

First, I sampled some cookies. Then a piece of tiramisu. Followed by an apple bread cakey thing. I also drank an orange mango flavored Nantucket Nectars. I didn't actually eat the cookies pictured above. I was feeling a little gnarly by the time I saw them but thought they captured the spirit of the occasion.

After awhile, my head started to hurt. By the time I got home, I had a throbbing headache.

But it was worth it to see Obama's motorcade speed by on the way to the Capitol. To see Malia's face smiling from the window of The Beast during the parade. To see the Bidens waving to the crowd on Pennsylvania Avenue. To see Bush's helicopter flying away for good.

For that, I'd eat a thousand cookies.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Moroccan Meal

We try to keep the kitchen uncluttered with gadgets. But for Ryan, the holidays bring out a certain interest in international ceramic dishware. Over the past two years, he has gifted me with a few items that one might not find in most American kitchens.

Last year, he shopped at the Christkindlmart in Daley Plaza and bought me a zwiebeln jar, which means onions in German. This year, he followed up with a smaller knoblauch jar for garlic. Considering the amount of onions and garlic that come in the CSA, and how I use these indispensible ingredients in more recipes than I can count, I treasure these jars. There is the kitsch factor to appreciate too.

He also bought me another item that we had been contemplating - a tajine. The conical clay pots are used in Morocco to slow cook meat, veggies, fruit, and spices. The pointy top collects the steam and returns the condensation to cook the food in the dish. Lovely aromas ensue.

There are many different combinations that can go in the tajine, but commonly used foods include chicken, lamb, pork, fish, onions, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, apples, pears, prunes, raisins, dates, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cumin, paprika, and saffron. Lemons and olives are frequently used ingredients.

Our came from a local giftshop that sells stuff like mood crystals and smells powerfully of patchouli. Unfortunately this odor had seeped into the tajine and failed to go away no matter how much we washed it. Finally we crossed our fingers that the food would taste okay.

The tajine came with a simple chicken recipe. It called for dried apricots, which always remind me of my grandmother, who passed away when I was a teenager.

I have this memory of us taking one of those tiny airplanes with an aisle you need to sidestep through and an overhead compartment that fits nothing but a jacket. It was a bumpy flight through the mountains so to calm our nerves from the turbulence, she took out a bag of apricots and handed them across the aisle one by one.

Each holiday season, my grandfather sends a bucket of trail mix. For some reason, he sent apricots this time. We mixed them with the other ingredients in the dish, put the whole deal in the oven, and passed the time with a Bollywood movie called Uriya.

Two hours later the oven buzzed. We were still watching this very long movie but paused to see how it turned out. The chicken was succulent and infused with flavor. There was no hint of patchouli although it was a bit too sweet - next time I would go easy on the honey. But the meal was one of the easiest to make and most delicious that I've eaten in a long time.

We then watched the end of the movie in which (spoiler warning!) the male lead, in trying to prevent his lady love from committing the terrorist act of detonating a bomb at India's Independence Day parade, begged her to blow them up together instead. And she did.

I suppose there is something to say about the different ways that people show love for one another, but I will leave it at that.

Holman Pottery* Tajine Recipe
4 chicken breasts, skinned
1/4 cup honey
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 sticks cinnamon
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons turmeric
1/2 cup dried apricot quarters

Preheat oven to 350. Arrange chicken breasts in bottom of tajine. Pour honey over chicken; sprinkle with onion and then with minced garlic. Add cinnamon sticks and sprinkle with lemon juice and turmeric. Top with apricot quarters, cover. Bake for about 2 hours or until fork can be inserted in chicken with ease. Remove cinnamon sticks from chicken mixture and serve with rice or couscous. Makes 4 servings.

* Makers of our tajine.


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