My Favorite Kitchen “Gadget”

Last night, I dreamed about soup.

There’s a reason for that and we’ll get there in a few minutes. For this morning, though, I fixed my first cup of lemon tea and pulled a quart of mixed pork and chicken broth (Brodo misto, if you’re feeling Italian!) and a quart of “veggies and meat for soup” from the freezer for lunch.

This particular lunch plan, however, began somewhere “in the way back machine”.

Years and years ago, at an outlet mall in north Georgia, I bought a stock pot. A massive stock pot. Stainless steel. The gallons-upon-gallons size. Complete with a spigot at the bottom so you can drain the broth off  without having to lift the whole thing when it’s full.

It is, without a doubt, my most prized kitchen “gadget”. And it just got even better.

It seems my friend, who is recovering from a major brain aneurysm, needs soup.

Let the record show that I made a couple of  gallons while I was in Florida. Now, according to a phone call last evening, we need more.

I’m honored. And a little blown away.

I’ve been making soup for quite a while. Good soup that starts with really good bone broth. It’s an oddly creative process for me. Alchemical, even.

I love the scent of simmering broth in the house.

I love the process of honoring the beings who feed us by using all the random bits to make food for as many meals as possible.

And, in this moment, I have a sense of coming full circle. Of why I’ve been learning broth for so long.

Today, calls to local farmers and artisanal butchers.

Freezer inventory.

Farmers Market lists.

I have three varieties in mind.

We need a lot of healing.

Onions and garlic. A bunch of both. Fresh bay leaves and thyme. As many veg as possible.

Roast chicken carcasses, plus necks and feet and other healing parts.

Halibut broth imported from the west coast, because I’m still learning this one. Delicious and healing.

Years ago, I bought a magic wand in a mystical sort of store in Black Mountain, NC. It’s a useful coaching tool but it doesn’t seem to make soup.

Somehow, I never imagined that this would be my particular magic.

It seems to be me. A gift.

And yet, not just mine.

Each pot of my broth is midwifed by sustainable local farmers. People who believe we can feed ourselves and our neighbors, and support the planet.

I still remember the day I bought my first pasture raised local chicken, standing in a parking lot behind an anonymous sort of box truck, maybe 10 years or so ago. Complete with a hug from the farmer!

It was kind of a scrawny little thing…no growth hormones there!

And, compared to the supermarket variety, it was pretty expensive. I decided to see how far I could make that chicken go.

When I was growing up, a whole chicken was one meal for our family of four. Sadly, necks, hearts, gizzards, and most of the bones ended up in the trash.

My experimental farm chicken wound up being the protein in 13 entre’ servings of delicious, clean food before I decided it was ok to quit counting and just be amazed.

Most of that was possible because of a stock pot.

I was hooked!

I’ve had many teachers along the way. I’ve even become one of the teachers!

My third book, Let’s Boil Bones…Grammy’s guide to bone broth and other yummy things! is available in Kindle books, with the paperback due out this fall.

For today, a bowl of leftover soup. Broth. A bit of pulled pork from a local event. Good, southern-style green beans. Some cabbage and a few tiny Bunapi mushrooms. Roasted cauliflower saved from dinner last night. All served over a bowl of finely shredded romaine lettuce, which is a great way to add healthy bitter greens and texture to soup. (Arugula, collards, turnip greens, etc. all work, too.) Spritz with a bit of fresh lemon juice and finish with good sea salt as desired. A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes would not be amiss.

Love, hope, and healing in a bowl!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winner. Winner.

It’s been a while since we’ve done a recipe.

Part of that is because I’ve been busy recomposing my list of go-to ingredients over the last year or so. It’s been a bit of a challenge, as most new things are. Then I remember how much better I feel and I get up and do it again the next day.

Growing past a few personal tendencies toward food fundamentalism has been the biggest challenge for me. I’ve discovered, deep inside, how to join together the new things I’ve learned and the individual quirks I bring to the journey, all in relationship with a gluten-free, diabetic husband who’s fond of 1000 Island salad dressing in a jar!

Learning where it works to wander occasionally toward the fringes, and where it really doesn’t, in light of the future I long for.

We made a bit of a trip in the direction of  the fringes on the 4th of July.

I wanted fried chicken. It’s probably a genetic thing. (At least a recent one!) I did not want belly aches and swollen ankles. I did not want carb cravings or chemicals or trans fats.

Homemade was clearly in order.

The best wings I could buy. A few extra for the stock pot. Some research and a new theory for the dredging part of the plan. An extra set of hands in the kitchen.

It worked!!!

Sadly, I did not take a picture. When I suggested a do-over “for artistic purposes”, Bill immediately volunteered to go to the Farmers’ Market. So, here, just for you…

Grammy’s Best Wings Ever

Serves 2-3 adults for a main course.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

1-1 1/2 pounds chicken wings per person. Local, pastured, sustainably raised, wing tips removed and discarded if needed.

1 c. organic brown rice flour. (Or white, if you prefer.)

2 tsp. aluminum free baking powder.

2 tsp. good Celtic sea salt, plus extra for finishing.

1 tsp. freshly ground black or mixed peppercorns.

1 tsp. dried thyme.

1/2 – 1 tsp. ground chipotle pepper, if desired.

1 – 2 tsp. lemon zest, if desired.

Good, imported olive oil or other oil of your choice for frying. (You really can fry in olive oil!)

About 1/2 hour to 45 min. before cooking, remove wings from fridge and bring to cool room temp.

Mix all dry ingredients, plus lemon zest, if desired, in a medium sized bowl, adjusting seasoning as desired.

Heat about 1 inch of olive oil in large skillet, preferably cast iron, over just less than highest heat, adjusting to avoid smoking.

Toss about a quarter of the wing pieces in flour mix to coat.

Place wings in sieve and tap off extra flour.

Using tongs, add wings to hot skillet. (Be careful. They’ll pop!)

Fry until nicely golden brown and turn to second side. Continue to fry until golden brown.

Remove to sheet tray lined with parchment paper and a rack, if desired.

Continue coating and frying wing pieces until all are finished. (I used 2 trays with racks for this amount.)

Roast wings in hot oven for 10 minutes.

Remove, checking a larger piece for doneness. Roast an extra 1-2 min. if needed.

Re-season with good sea salt.

Sprinkle with hot sauce if desired.

Enjoy!

This is not the way my mom made fried chicken. Nor the way my grandmother did it. It is a way that meets all those same sentimental, emotional needs for me, and Bill loves it, too.

Juicy. Tasty. Oddly hospitable.

Serve with lots of veg!

No guilt. No belly aches. No hobbling around the morning after.

Or, as my Food Network buddies would say, recalling historic Las Vegas: Winner, winner chicken dinner!

Next, we try fish!

 

 

One Skillet Wild Shrimp with Spring Sauce Verde

I’m just beginning to realize how much I hibernated this winter. Granted, it wasn’t that cold in Atlanta and we have heat. I seem to have hibernated, all the same.

Suddenly, my imagination is awake again. My hunger for variety. And company.

I treasure the freezer, still about half full of deep, rich bone broth after the dark days. I just want other things, too. Fresh, tasty, light things. Quick things. So, tonight, for the first time, an ongoing experiment and a relatively recent favorite, all with minimal dishes to do!

This is delicious. Tasty in a grilled sort of way. A bit of heat. Lots of crunch. Complex and, at the same time, very clean. Try it with leftover roast chicken breast or a seared, roasted, and sliced pork tenderloin. Or, to skip the meat, do the veg mix and toss with scrambled eggs, or top with fried eggs. (We will!)

Seasonal food is at its best when what there is and what you long for meet!

One Skillet Wild Shrimp with Spring Sauce Verde

Serves 2 hungry adults for a whole meal or 4 for a main course. WildFit/Paleo friendly & Gluten-free.

Total time, about 1 hour. Active time, 15 minutes. (A handy sous chef is helpful, as this goes quickly.)

First, dispatch someone wise in the ways of  local markets to “source”, as my foodie friends would say, some really excellent shrimp. For us, from Georgia. The Atlantic is good for US friends. Or the Pacific Coast. Whatever is “local” for you. (Shrimp from China and Viet Nam should be avoided for health reasons. If you must buy commercial, pre-packaged shrimp, please check the label!) You’ll also want some bright greens, as clean and local as possible. Here’s the list:

 1 1/2 pounds excellent shrimp. We buy the 16-20 size (large). I like them with heads and shells best. Today, only shells. (See below.)

1/2 large head Romaine (or other deep green, crunchy lettuce) per diner.

About 4 – 6 c. washed, trimmed, and chopped mixed greens. (The more, the merrier!) In this case, baby arugula, some Italian, flat-leafed parsley, a bit of fresh basil or thyme, and a few clumps of dandelion greens. (Reserve stems of parsely, if using. They’re great in salads, smoothies, or shrimp stock!)

6 spears really fresh asparagus, stemmed and sliced very thinly, from the garden, if possible. (Optional, but awesome! Sliced broccoli stems, or even chopped stems from collard greens, Swiss chard, etc., would work, too.)

1 Vidalia onion or a handful of scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced at the last minute. (WildFit friends may wish to avoid “sweet” onions like Vidalias in “deep Spring.”)

2 – 4 cloves of minced garlic.

3 excellent quality anchovy fillets. (Trust me!)

Juice of 1/2 a fresh lemon.

3 Tbsp. good olive oil, divided.

Freshly ground black or mixed peppercorns.

Good, Celtic sea salt.

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, optional, to  taste.

Optional – 1/2 c. or so of hot, cooked, organic rice per person for those who desire. (Bill does!)

And the plan:

About 1 hour before you wish to serve, remove shrimp from fridge, if still frozen. Rinse in collander and set to thaw/drain. (If your shrimp are thawed, start here about 30 min. before you wish to serve. Rinse and drain well.)

Place rice in oven at 350 F. to re-heat if needed. (Or steam, or whatever.)

Shell shrimp, as needed, reserving and freezing shells, if desired, for stock. I like the $2.00 plastic thing-y you can buy at many fish places to help remove shells and “vein”.

Drain shrimp some more and pat on paper towels. We want them as close to dry as shrimp get!

While shrimp drain & dry, start washing and trimming your veg as necessary. Tonight, I picked out the pine straw and tiny maple trees, and returned them to the compost. Halve Romaine the long way, remove any wilted outer leaves, rinse and drain really well. Dry greens well in a kitchen towel and chop as needed. They’re going to wilt/shrink!

Place shrimp in a bowl with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and about a tsp. each of salt and pepper. Toss well to coat.

About 15 min. before you plan to serve, heat large, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) dry over high heat. (A few drops of water should skitter around.)

Place Romaine halves, cut side down, into skillet, pressing down occasionally, to sear. When cut side is nicely browned, remove to serving plates, cut side up.

Reduce heat to medium high.

Add oiled and seasoned shrimp, with extra olive oil if pan gets dry, in 2 batches if needed to allow space to turn and sear, turning with tongs until shrimp are fragrant, pink on the outsides, and opaque through the center, about 3 – 5 minutes, depending on size. Resist overcooking!

Remove cooked shrimp to serving plates, over seared lettuce.

Add an extra Tbsp. of olive oil to same skillet, over medium heat. Add sliced onions and stir to begin to wilt.

Add anchovy fillets and stir to incorporate with onions.

Add asparagus, if using. Continue to stir fry, adding a bit more olive oil if needed.

Add chopped greens and herbs, continuing to toss.

Add lemon juice and crushed red pepper flakes. Season with S & P to taste.

When the individual bits are all still intact but the greens have wilted, spoon over Romaine, shrimp (and rice, if serving).

Serve, perhaps with additional lemon wedges, if desired.

If you saved shrimp heads/peels, place in zipee bag and squeeze out air. Freeze, labeled, and dated. Watch here for stock recipe to follow.

Enjoy!

Simple Pleasures…

As a part of my Lent II, 2016 retreat, I’m trying to pay attention to things that feed me, body, mind, and soul. It also helps with the writing! Let’s Boil Bones…Grammy’s guide to bone broth and other yummy things! is rapidly becoming reality and should be out this fall.

I’ve worked for years to perfect a recipe for roast chicken. Roast chicken makes me happy! It also makes great broth. It’s both homey and elegant in its simplicity. It’s juicy and full of flavor. And, perhaps best of all, it’s easy. In fact, with a little planning and prep time, it could even be a weekday dinner. Or a new tradition for Fridays or Sundays.

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Never Say Never!

I have some new food friends lately, courtesy of my long-term friends at Learning Strategies. It’s been a bit of an adventure. One that I’m oddly in the right emotional place for just now, which is kind of amazing, given all the other new stuff popping up like volunteer pine trees in the garden.

Week 1…no problem. Drink lots of water and keep eating what you’ve been eating. Really! Write it all down and notice your inner dialogue–what you’re saying to yourself as you’re making choices.

Week 2…OMG!!! Green Goo for breakfast! Technically, a green smoothie. I have to admit, I freaked out just a bit. You see, I’ve met one of these things before! There was a quick mention of it in the Mermaid post from last week. “Don’t ask about the smoothies!” It was ghastly. However, being very much one for learning new things, I had learned something from that other experience that turned out to be really useful now. 

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In case you forgot to lock your doors…

There’s an old joke that starts out in some small-ish town in a farming part of the country and goes on to ask, “Do you know the only time the people around here lock their car doors?”

“At church on Sunday, during squash season! They’re afraid sombody will leave bags of zuchini in their cars!!!”

If you’re a gardener, or grew up in a family of gardeners, you probably know that both green zuchini and their yellow cousins, often called summer or crookneck squash, tend to be enthusiastic producers, to say the least!

My garden is a bit behind, as usual. We don’t have a homegrown hoard of squash taking over the front yard, yet. A friend of mine, however, does. And she gave me some!

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Hot Tips for Mothers’ Day!

Next Sunday, May 8, is Mothers’ Day. I don’t know about you, but I have a bit of trouble keeping up with the holidays that move around on the calendar! So, here’s a fabulous hint for breakfast in bed or brunch along with a couple of ideas for last minute gifts. But first, a brief history lesson.

The story I learned, and like the best, was that early celebrations of Mothers’ Day were held for Northern and Southern mothers who had lost sons in the Civil War to come together and tend cemeteries where their sons lay in hopes of forming friendships among the women and working for peace.

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