This slightly-involved, but VERY tasty recipe comes to us from the Lake Austin Spa cookbook, “Fresh.” Page 98, to be exact. In this recipe, we will roast, then toast, then puree, then puree again, then brown, then sauté, then simmer, so get ready.

The Roasting:

Slice the top off of one garlic bulb, drizzle with olive oil and a little salt and pepper, and wrap in foil. Place the wrapped garlic bulb, 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thickly, 4 medium tomatoes, 3 husked tomatillos, and 1 poblano chile onto a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

The Toasting:

Toast 2 ancho chiles in a cast iron skillet for a few minutes, turning them frequently. After toasting, seed the chiles and soak them in a bowl of hot water for 20 minutes.

The Pureeing:

Take the veggies that were just roasted and puree them in a food processor. Make sure you squeeze the garlic pulp out first–don’t puree the skins. Remove from the food processor and set aside.

More Pureeing:

Combine the ancho chiles, 1/4 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/8 tsp dried thyme, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/8 tsp cloves in the food processor, along with a little chicken stock to thin it out.

The Browning:

Salt and pepper 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (you could absolutely make this with boneless skinless thighs and it would be awesome, too) cubed. Brown this in heavy skillet (make sure the skillet or pot is big enough, because this is what you’ll be adding everything to later) with a few tbsp olive oil. Remove the chicken from the skillet.

The Sauteeing:

Add a few teaspoons olive oil to the same skillet, along with the ancho chile puree, and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, and scraping up any brown bits leftover from the chicken.

The Simmering:

To the sautéed ancho chile paste, add 1 1/2 c chicken stock, 1/2 pound peeled and cubed sweet potatoes, 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp raisins, 1 c peeled cubed fresh pineapple, 1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced, the roasted vegetable puree (remember that from 18 steps ago?!) and the browned chicken. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes.

To serve, prepare black beans and rice (separately). Spoon rice into 1/2 of a shallow bowl, and spoon beans into the other half. Serve the manchamantel over it, and garnish with cilantro. I added a little non-dairy sour cream to it as well–I highly recommend doing that.

Citrus and Olive Salad/Slaw

Citrus and olive salad with cabbage and carrots, and Mexican salsa verde.

This recipe’s parents are two recipes from Salt Fat Acid Heat: orange and olive salad, and Mexican-ish salsa verde. It’s not an exact combination of the two, but I drew inspiration from them to create this very flavorful, crisp, refreshing salad.

Start by sectioning the citrus. I find this process to be a giant pain in the ass, but it is necessary so that you don’t have any membranes in your salad. For citrus, you can really use any combination: blood oranges, grapefruit, sumo citrus, regular oranges…whatever you have in the fridge that day. Combine your citrus with halved Kalamata olives (I suspect green olives would work too, but I haven’t given this a try). I probably used 3-4 oranges/grapefruits and a half cup of the olives. Adjust to your liking, though. Add in julienned cabbage–roughly 1/2 head–and one julienned carrot. You could shred the carrot, too, if you prefer.

For the dressing, mince 3 tbsp shallots and one jalapeno pepper (seeded) and let macerate for about 15 minutes in a bowl with the juice of two limes. In a separate bowl, combine 1/4 c chopped cilantro, 1/4 c neutral oil (like grapeseed), salt to taste. Spoon out the shallots and jalapeno into the oil/cilantro combination, and taste for acid. If it needs more acid, add the lime juice little by little until it tastes right to you.

Combine the dressing with the orange/olive/cabbage mixture. Let sit for 5 minutes or so, then eat! This salad goes really nicely with fried chicken, conveyor belt chicken, citrus braised chicken, or slow-roasted citrus salmon.

Breakfast: Poached Eggs with Challah Bruschetta

It’s a day that ends in “y,” which means I have acquired another cooking guide: “In the Green Kitchen,” by Alice Waters.

This book has instructions on how to make a poached egg, so I figured that’s what I’ll try this morning. Even better, there was a serving suggestion that sounded perfect: poached egg on bruschetta. I had some challah leftover from Friday night, so I gave that suggestion that a go. It resulted in a satisfying but fresh and summery breakfast, despite the dreary weather happening while I was making it.

Poached eggs are weird. I was not at all confident that I was doing it right at first, so I did a test egg before I went and messed up my pretty challah bruschetta. I brought a pot of salted water, about 2-3 inches deep, to a low not-quite-simmer, where no bubbles are breaking the surface of the water. If Alice Waters and her crew have taught me anything, it’s to make sure water is properly salted to that it actually imparts flavor on the food that is being cooked in it. Don’t be shy, salt that water. It should taste nicely salty when you test it.

Before you get going with the eggs, make the bruschetta. Dice a ripe tomato, and mix in a bowl with one or two thickly sliced garlic cloves, a few tablespoons of chopped parsley, a splash of vinegar (I used prosecco vinegar), and a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Let it sit and absorb the flavors. I also added a tiny pinch of salt.

Now you’re ready for the weirdness. Crack the egg into a glass or bowl (I used a teacup) and slide it into the water. Cook in the water until the whites are set, about 5-7 minutes. I should have taken a picture of this part–I will next time and will update the post. The egg looked WEIRD. The whites were sort of suspended in the water. Most of them eventually settled down to where the yolk was, but the whole thing still had this ephemeral floating-ghost-robes quality.

While the egg is cooking, toast a slice of challah.

Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and dry on a towel (not a paper towel- the paper will stick to it. Use cloth). Assemble the challah bruschetta (make sure not to include the slices of garlic or someone will get a spicy surprise) and place the poached egg on top. I also served this with leftover navy beans from Friday’s dinner, with a little parsley from the garden sprinkled on top. Enjoy!

Rosemary Rack of Lamb with Crushed Potatoes

This one came from New York Times Cooking:

Yeah, this one was awesome and I would 100% do it again. It will go on The List. This was only the second time I’ve ever cooked lamb, and it was the first time I’ve ever done rack of lamb, so I was fully braced for potential disaster. However, it was truly perfect (thank you, trusty meat thermometer).

The recipe is easy, but I did make some modifications that I’ll flag later. First, start with your rub: 3 cloves garlic, 4 anchovy fillets, a pinch of Morton’s salt, and 2 tbsp dijon mustard. Combine these by either dicing the garlic and anchovies, or pound them in a mortar and pestle. I went the mortar and pestle route, and it made a nice, slightly chunky paste. I FORGOT TO ADD THE OLIVE OIL AT THIS POINT–WHOOPS! More on that later, but you should probably go ahead and add 3 tbsp of olive oil now so you don’t forget like I did.

Next take enough small potatoes to cover the bottom of whatever dish you’ll roast the lamb in. Boil them in salted water until tender, but skins still intact (about 10-15 mins), remove from water and set aside to cool. Very important to remove them from the water, or they’ll keep cooking and you’ll have mush on your hands.

Here’s where I deviated from the recipe (on purpose, rather than accidentally in the case of the missing olive oil): I salted the lamb, brought it to room temperature, and browned it in a cast iron skillet, starting with fat side down. I’m not certain that’s its necessary to brown meat that you’re roasting, but it seemed like a good idea to me, and I got a nice pretty caramelization on the lamb from it. I think it improves flavor generally, so why not?

While you’re waiting for the lamb to brown, put the potatoes in one layer in the roasting pan and crush them with the back of a spoon to open them up a bit. Drizzle them in olive oil and a little bit of kosher salt, and toss to coat.

After browning the lamb, I rubbed it in the dijon/garlic/anchovy paste. That’s when I realized I had forgotten to add 3 tbsp of olive oil to the paste. After I applied the admittedly-thick rub sans olive oil to the lamb, I realized my mistake, and just drizzled olive oil on top and rubbed it in the best I could. It turned out fine. Next, I laid the ribs over the potatoes with ribs pointing down, and let the meat sit for a few minutes to absorb the rub. Then I sprinkled chopped rosemary over the lamb and potatoes and put it in the oven at 400 for 20 minutes (my oven cooks hot, just FYI, so yours might take longer). The meat thermometer read 130 at that point, so I removed the lamb to a separate plate and let the potatoes continue cooking another 12 minutes or so, until they were a little crispy.

I plated the potatoes and lamb onto a separate platter and kept that in a warm oven for about 10 mins while we got the rest of dinner going. I was worried it would dry out the meat, but it was fine.

We served this with roasted asparagus (just olive oil and salt), boiled navy beans, and a basic salad with a fresh vinaigrette.

Crispy Braised Chicken with Oranges, Rosemary, and Onions

Braising chicken has become my go-to back up dinner because it is easy, always a crowd-pleaser, hands-off once in the oven, and it offers the opportunity to creatively use leftover fruits, veggies, and herbs. This time I had onions and oranges that needed to be used up, so I added a little rosemary to the combo and it resulted in a dish with a Mediterranean vibe. I have also made this with fennel in place of onions, and with a combo of oranges and lemons. Oregano or thyme would work great in place of rosemary as well.

I used to just braise slowly at 325 until the chicken was tender and done, but my daughter recently asked if we could figure out a way to make the skin crispy after braising. I agree with her that crispy skin is better, so we found a solution–pop on that broiler for the last 5-8 minutes. It worked beautifully!

Season your chicken the day before (salt both sides, pepper if that’s your thing) and refrigerate. If you forget to do this, take the chicken out of the fridge an hour before cooking, and season it then. In any case, let the chicken rest at room temp for an hour before cooking.

While you’re waiting for the chicken to warm up out of the fridge, slice 2-3 oranges (enough to cover the bottom of whatever pan you’re using to braise) into 1/4 inch-thick slices. Slice 1-2 onions the same way.

Pre-heat your oven to 425.

Start the cooking process by browning your chicken pieces in a skillet over medium heat. Now, ideally you would be browning your chicken in your braising dish, but I don’t have one (yet! hint, hint, family!) that is the right size and can go on the direct heat of the burner. I have a Le Creuset dutch oven, but it is just a bit too tall and narrow for braising. So I used a separate skillet and just moved everything over into a roasting pan after I was done browning the meat and cooking the onions.

I like to use dark meat, so we used chicken leg quarters and a few extra drumsticks for my son who eats them like one of those cartoon characters who just sucks the meat right off the bone.

Tips for browning: use a pan or skillet with shallow sides and space the pieces several inches apart (i.e., don’t overcrowd the pan). Following those two rules will help you brown your pieces without accidentally steaming them. Put a little bit of oil in the pan, heat it on medium heat, and start skin side down, then flip and do the other side. Set the chicken aside on another plate.

Move the browning pan off of the heat, and add 1/2 c white wine to deglaze the pan, scraping off the brown bits. Then cook the onions for a few minutes in the deglazing juices, just until they start to turn translucent.

To assemble the braising dish, lay rosemary sprigs on the bottom of the pan–I used about 5-6 sprigs. Cover evenly with the cooked onions, then arrange the orange slices evenly on top of the onions. Lay the chicken pieces on top of the onions in one layer. Add 3/4 cup white wine to the dish, followed by enough chicken stock to come halfway up the sides of the chicken pieces.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 10 minutes or so or until the liquid is simmering (don’t check too frequently or it’ll cool down each time you open the oven and lift the foil). Once it bubbles, turn the oven down to 325 and cook until the chicken is done. Use a meat thermometer or poke the thigh to see if the juices run clear. If they do, it’s done.

Remove the foil and crank on the broiler. Broil for 5 minutes, then check to make sure the skin is not burning. Broil, watching very carefully after 5 minutes, until the skin is a nice golden brown and then remove from the oven and enjoy!

Leftovers: Quinoa salad and salsa verde combined to make a refreshing spinach salad

We spent Passover at Kenny’s parents’ house this year (yay to vaccinated grandparents!) and our departure home with pounds and pounds of leftovers has become a Passover tradition to rival the singing of Dayenu. We will never, however, say “dayenu” to the leftovers–they are always welcome!

One of the leftovers we packed home was a quinoa salad with finely diced apples, raisins, zucchini, and cucumbers. It had a dressing on it, but it was so light that I didn’t worry about it competing with whatever I was about to do to it. For dinner last night, we didn’t have quite enough for two servings (the kids won’t touch quinoa), so I mixed it with baby spinach. It was pretty and looked very healthy and texturally interesting. I think I also added toasted crushed coriander seed, because I add that to everything now. It would also be fine without it, though.

As for dressing, we had some leftover salsa verde (acid: lime juice; fat: grapeseed oil; shallots and parsley, Morton’s kosher salt to taste), which I made into a dressing by adding a few teaspoons of Dijon mustard, a splash of white wine vinegar and some more oil just to bring up the volume of ingredients (I started with about 2 tbsp of the salsa verde). The result was a light and refreshing spinach salad with great texture added by the quinoa and diced veggies.

UPDATE: We had some of this frankensalad leftover after dinner, so for lunch the next day I added a chopped 9 minute egg and a spoonful or two of tahini from our local Chutzpah Kitchen and it was a filling, delicious, one-bowl lunch!