Chicken Couscous

There is something about porch doors that stir up memories of summer.  They remind me of the bungalow colony in the Catskills where we stayed with the “mima” and my cousins,  of day trips to family and friends in cottage country outside of Toronto, and of the weekends we spent at my aunt’s house in New Jersey.  The center screen invites you to peek inside, like a window without a curtain, and offers you a chance to call out and see if anyone is home without having to knock.  Then there is that particular sound that a porch door makes as it slams shut, that hard clap that announces your arrival and your departure.  Best of all, you can smell what’s cooking as you pass by.

When we redid our kitchen several years ago, I went on a mission looking for a porch door in various architectural salvage yards, and when I finally found one, it needed to be restored.  We brought it home and after it was sanded down, painted, and re-screened, it was installed on the laundry closet inside my service porch, as a reminder.  When I’m home, you will find that I always keep my kitchen windows open (and curtain free) so you can still peek in, call out my name, and smell what’s cooking.  Come on in!

Chicken Couscous

3 lbs boneless chicken thighs. cut in half
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, diced
3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into thirds
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
any type of orange fleshed squash, peeled and thickly sliced
4  Mexican squash or zucchini, sliced in half, lengthwise
1 bunch cilantro
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder, or less depending on your taste
salt and pepper to taste
½ Tb paprika
½ Tb cinnamon
½ Tb cumin
1/2 cup golden raisins

Saute thighs and onions in olive oil till golden, meanwhile sprinkling with spices.  Allow to fry for several more minutes and add tomato paste, chickpeas and 1 cup of water.  Season with salt and pepper bring to a boil, then lower heat and cook for about 15 minutes.  Add about 4 cups of water to the pot along with the orange squash, sweet potatoes and carrots.  Cook for about 45 minutes.  Add zucchini, raisins and cilantro and cook on low flame til vegetables are tender.

Prepare couscous according to directions on the box. Before serving take a ladle of the broth and stir it into the couscous which will give it a beautiful color.  Mound couscous in the center of a large platter and surround with meat and vegetables.  Place broth is a small bowl to serve on the side.  Serves 6-8

Enjoy,

Irene

Stella’s Curry Sauce for Fish Cakes

In an earlier post I recalled that each year before Rosh Hashana my Mother would buy a carp which was kept alive in the bathtub, destined to be made into Gefilte Fish.  For several days I would come home after school anxious to check on the fish and would then spend hours watching it swim back and forth.  It was a funny sight, but not an unusual one in the building where we lived.  The day before Rosh Hashana my mother would drain the tub, carry the fish into the kitchen, and lay it down on her large wooden board.  She would stun the fish with her rolling-pin, and then chop its’ head off.  The fish was ground and mixed with eggs, matzoh meal, a little salt, and sugar, yes, lots of sugar.

The first time I went to Toronto, my mother-in-law, Lil, served Gefilte Fish for dinner.  I was shocked that the the fish was not in the least bit sweet, and in fact was quite peppery.   At Chanukah I discovered that the Saiger family put onions in their Latkes and served them with sour cream and apple sauce.  My family preferred them onion-free and generously sprinkled with sugar.

We learned to compromise.  I now make Latkes with just a small amount of onion, enough to satisfy Norm’s palate, but not clash with the sugar.  As for Gefilte Fish, I don’t think I have ever actually made it, but in recent years we found a version that we both prefer.  The recipe is not Russian or Polish, but South African.  Both sweet and savory.

To all the fathers who have adapted their tastes for the sake of compromise, Happy Father’s Day.  I hope the day turns out to be sweeter than you expect, but not without a hint of spice.

 

Fish Cakes

2  frozen Gefilte Fish loaves (sweet variety) thawed.  (Mom forgive me)

3/4  cup plain bread crumbs

1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil, add more as needed

Combine thawed fish with bread crumbs and form into small patties.  In a  large frying pan, heat olive oil and sauté fish cakes till golden brown.  Set aside.

Stella’s Curry Sauce for Fish Cakes     (This recipe belonged to Stella’s great-aunt, and was given to her by her Mom)

2 cups white vinegar

1/2 cup ketchup

1 lemon, juiced

1  large apple, coarsely grated

2 Tb Mrs. Ball’s Peach Chutney

2 Tb apricot jelly

3/4 cup sugar

2 Bay Leaves

Dash of Worcestershire Sauce

1/2 cup raisins

1 Tsp whole peppercorns

Salt to taste

Put all ingredients in a medium size saucepan and bring to a boil.  In the meantime take a small bowl and combine:

2 Tb Curry Powder

1 Tb Corn Starch

Add 1 cup cold water (a little at a time so that it doesn’t get lumpy) to starch mixture and stir till well blended.   Slowly pour into  sauce on the stove and lower heat to a simmer.   Let cook for about 15 minutes.  When sauce is cool, pour over fish and refrigerate.

Enjoy,

Irene

Blackberry Buckle

My mother never baked pies, cobblers, buckles, or crisps, and since I didn’t have the opportunity to meet my grandmothers, coming home or going to grandma’s house for a piece of freshly baked pie was just not part of my childhood.  It is only in the last few years that I have thought how nice it would be to have recipes that were handed down for more than one generation.

Thankfully my children grew up with all four of their grandparents.  My mother passed away many years ago but Bubbie is still cooking up a storm in Toronto.  Both grandmothers loved to cook and both had the pleasure of feeding their grandchildren.  If I asked my children which dishes they loved eating when they went to their grandmothers, I am not sure what they would say, but I would venture to guess it wasn’t dessert.  So back to my fantasy.  It could be any kind of fruit at all, baked with a crust, topped with dough, sprinkled with crumbs, or oozing in a buckle, and really who cares what it’s called.  My plan is to bake each of these desserts this summer, all made with different types of fruit and various toppings, until I find my favorite.  Maybe one day it will even be passed down.  I’ll keep you posted.
Blackberry Buckle
Cake:
1 cup flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 extra-large egg
5 Tb milk
1 Tb Creme de Cassis
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups fresh blackberries
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Over a large piece of wax paper, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg and beat till smooth.  In a small bowl, combine milk with vanilla and Creme de Cassis.  Alternately add milk and dry sifted ingredients to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition.  Pour batter into a greased and floured 1½ quart baking dish.  Spread blackberries over batter.
Crumble topping:
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
3 Tb cold butter
Combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon.  Add small bits of butter at a time, until mixture is crumbly and sprinkle over blackberries.  Bake for about 35-40 minutes.  Serves 4-6
Enjoy,
Irene

Swiss Chard Strudel

My girlfriend Elin who grew up in the South recently accused me of being “such a city girl.”  She is right, but like many city girls I often read magazines about country life.   I fantasize about how nice it would be to live Upstate (New York of course) and have a piece of land where we could have a large vegetable garden, a few chickens (Araucana chickens so I can have blue eggs) and maybe even a goat or two (now that I know that a local editor has goats in his backyard here in L.A.)  I think about Norm selling his homemade baked goods at local farmers markets along with my blueberry buns.

Creating something with your own two hands is really rewarding, especially if you have to work at it.  It doesn’t matter if it is gardening, cooking, blogging or even needlepoint.  Every time I walk out my back door and look at the vegetable garden I stand and stare in amazement.  I guess that’s because I truly am a city girl.

Not wanting anything to go to waste I must have picked the equivalent of three bunches of chard and made this dish.  Hope you enjoy it.  In the meantime,  here is what this city girl is reading about.  http://clericiranch.wordpress.com/artisanal-chickens-availability  

 

Swiss Chard Strudel

1 pkg puff pastry, rolled out into a large square

3 bunches Swiss chard, washed, rolled up and sliced into thin strips (stems and leaves)

1 small onion, thinly sliced

3 Tb olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup raisins

salt and pepper to taste

2 Tb pomegranate molasses

1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large pot, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil on a low flame for several minutes till golden.  Add chard, raisins, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, making sure chard is tender and fully cooked.  Squeeze mixture gently after cooled to remove excess liquid.  Add pomegranate molasses and adjust seasoning to taste.   Spread chard mixture to cover entire surface of puff pastry.  Then roll up and tuck ends under strudel.  Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds.  Bake on a parchment covered cookie sheet till golden and crisp, about 25 minutes.  Slice and serve.  Serves 8 as a first course.

Enjoy,
Irene