Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Links: Food in the News

Our next destination: South Africa (photo credit)
Happy March Madness to all the basketball fans out there.  I am not even aware of who is playing.  Terrible, I know.  My march madness is this crazy weather in Colorado.  It is currently a record-breaking 65 degrees and perfectly sunny in town in Aspen at 7900 feet.  Madness.  While it is sad for our ski slopes, I am loving my suntan and capri pants.  While basketball and the nation's crazy weather have been in the news recently, so has food, farming, and nutrition.  Here are a few links from around the web about our current hot food topics.  Happy Friday!

1. Seattle, my hometown, will be building the world's first food forest in a new 7 acre park near Beacon Hill.
2. An interesting perspective on the new egg bill, by one of my favorite bloggers.
3. Scientific advancements with food allergies.
4. The ins and outs of Celiac disease.
5. Nutrition and education, how healthy eating affects America's children.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Happy Spring: Tomato and Eggplant Gratin

Spring is officially here, and wedding season has begun.  We were happy to spend last weekend in Washington to celebrate dear friends' marriage.  We also got to spend a St. Patrick's Day/ Happy Birthday Val party with great friends on Saturday.
To celebrate our lovely (and early here in Colorado) spring weather, today is dedicated to eggplant.  Eggplant can be a tricky vegetable to cook, as it easily becomes slimy or chewy.  To do eggplant justice, you need a little bit of time and patience.  Some recipes advise salting the eggplant to remove potentially bitter liquid and reduce the amount of cooking fat that is absorbed.  I notice that this technique, even after careful rinsing, leaves my dish undesirably salty.  In addition, I have never noticed any bitter flavor in fully cooked eggplant.  The key is to roast the eggplant for enough time to allow the plant to break down and tenderize.  This dish roasts eggplant with fresh tomatoes and olive oil.  The roasting process does not require much oil, and therefore prevents a greasy dish.

Tomato and Eggplant Gratin
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 5 roma tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 large globe eggplant, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • 6oz chevere, or other soft goat cheese, crumbled
  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Brush a large oval baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
  3. Arrange the tomato and eggplant in a single layer of overlapping circles.
  4. Spread the thyme on top and season mildly with salt and pepper.
  5. Drizzle remaining olive oil over top and cover with foil.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil.
  7. Bake for an additional 25-30 minutes until the juices have evaporated and the eggplant is tender.
  8. Sprinkle goat cheese over top, and bake an additional 10 minutes.
  9. Serve warm.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How to Roast the Perfect Chicken: Rosemary Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

March has been a good month so far. Steven celebrated his 26th birthday, and we have been enjoying lovely spring weather.  Hopefully we will have a snowier second half of the month.  

Roasted chicken is one of the tastiest meals, and also seems to be one of the inaugural "tests" to being a good home cook.  The key to a great roasted chicken lies in two things: quality of the bird and temperature of the oven.  When you are shopping for a chicken, look for locally raised, fresh, vegetarian-fed birds.  The word "organic" is much less important than these characteristics.  Add roasted vegetables in a little chicken fat, and you have heaven.  The best part is that this is a one-dish meal, worthy of your favorite dinner guests.  Just buy a baguette or make a loaf of bread.  

Rosemary Chicken with Roasted Root Vegetables
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 8 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • ½ lemon
  • 2 onions, cut into half moons (except the ½ for the cavity)
  • 3-4 red potatoes, cut into 1 inch dice
  • 1 small sweet potato (optional), cut into 1 inch dice
  • 3 carrots, cut on an angle into 1 inch sections
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

  1. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it comes to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 475 F.
  3. Remove the neck and innards if they are still in the cavity of the chicken.  Rinse and thoroughly dry the bird.
  4. Generously season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper, add ½ of one of the onions, cut into quarters, ½ of a lemon and 5 sprigs of rosemary, and massage the inside of the bird to infuse it with the flavors. Truss the chicken.
  5. Combine carrots, onions, potatoes and 1 sprig of rosemary in 13x9 stoneware or pyrex and drizzle 2 TB of the olive oil over and stir to coat all vegetables.
  6. Rub the remaining oil over the chicken. Season generously with salt and pepper. Salting heavily creates a crispy skin.
  7. Take 2 remaining sprigs of rosemary and stuff underneath skin on top of breast.
  8. Make a nest in the center of the vegetables and nestle the chicken in it.
  9. Put the chicken in the oven and roast for 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400 F and roast for an additional 45 minutes, or until the temperature registers 160 F in the meatiest portions of the bird–the thighs, and under the breast where the thigh meets the breast–and the juices run clear. If necessary, return the bird to the oven for more roasting; check it every 5 minutes. Tent loosely with foil if the bird is browning too quickly.
  10. Transfer the chicken to a carving board or cooling rack, tent with foil and let rest for 20 minutes.
  11. Stir the vegetables to coat in fats and return pan to the oven for 20 minutes to caramelize.
  12. Cut the chicken into serving pieces, arrange over the vegetables and serve.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Happy Birthday to my Hubby

Yesterday my love turned another year older.  To celebrate I made pan-seared sea bass, braised asparagus and green beans, mushroom rice pilaf, spinach and goat cheese salad, whole wheat focaccia, and a flourless chocolate grand marnier cake. We had a delicious meal and fun celebration. Coming up this week: how to roast a chicken.