Spring Chicken Stew (for Fall)

My mom used to come home with some goody in her bag almost every day when I was little. Mostly because it was hard to shop by "shopping list" on a designated "grocery shopping day" before the 90's in USSR. Stores had limited supply of products, and if anything of interest was available, it usually disappeared before ever making its way to the shelves. Primary source of shopping was the Northern Bazaar down the street...but I digress. While the daily scavenger hunt for food, was not exciting for my parents, the nightly discoveries in a shopping net in the kitchen were thrilling for me.

My mom and grandmother would masterfully convert these lone articles into flavorful dishes, that made the shopping challenges seem improbable to a guest. In early spring, when young potatoes became available and so did peas, we used to enjoy a bright stew, unlike those with heavier flavors in the winter.  It was comforting, yet bursting with fresh flavor, with promise of more fresh vegetables and fruit.

This is my version of that stew, recognizing the luxury of having it mid-autumn.

2 leeks, trimmed
2 cloves, garlic
1 lb young creamer potatoes
1/4 lb fresh peas
1 corn
5 chicken thighs, bone in
2 cups, chicken stock
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp hot mustard
olive oil

1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp hot mustard
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp olive oil

In a dutch oven, roast diced leeks and garlic, on medium heat. Add in the potatoes and corn, chopped into about 6 sections, when the leeks begin to turn golden. Salt to taste. Roast, mixing repeatedly to prevent leeks from burning. Grill chicken thighs smothered in the marinade, about 3 minutes on each side. Add the grilled chicken and fresh peas into the pot and stir in. Mix chicken stock, mustard and maple syrup and pour over the contents of the pot. Cover with lid. Cook for 20-25 minutes, checking to mix and add more chicken stock if needed, until the potatoes are cooked.

Almost Borscht

It was a typical New England day, when you need a jacket in the shade and a bikini in the sunshine when we took a drive to Drumlin Farm, a Mass Audubon property. Left with hay in my sweater and a biodegradable bag full of organic vegetables, I decided on a warm soup.

I haven't made borscht in a while, nor was this a typical preparation. It's meat and cabbage free. Now, purists would say it isn't borscht then...in which case they can just refer to this as a beet soup.

4 carrots, peeled
5 small to medium beets, peeled
1/ 2 yellow onion, cleaned
4 medium, red potatoes, peeled
2 cloves garlic
1.75 quarts organic chicken stock
2 cups tomato juice
3 tbsp olive oil + 2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp crushed seedless tomatoes (canned)
15 sprigs of dill
Sour cream, for serving

Chop onion. Slice garlic cloves. Grate 2 carrots, using a box grater. Slice the other two carrots in half, parallel the length. Chop into half-moons, about 2mm in width. Cut peeled potatoes into about 6 cubes each.

In a tall, thick bottomed pot, roast the chopped onion in olive oil and butter until just turning golden. Add grated carrots and garlic. Mix occasionally, until carrots are starting to brown. Add in the rest of the carrots and potatoes. Stir in about .75 quarts of chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, and tomato juice. Add in the whole beets. Let cook on medium heat for about an hour, or until the beets are soft.

Remove the beets, and grate (they will be hot!), and return them into the soup. Add the rest of the chicken stock and tied dill. Let the soup return to boil and remove from heat. I didn't think any additional salt was necessary, the stock was enough. Serve with sour cream.


Roasted Delicata Squash with Ricotta Stuffing

A little surprise for E, who's very excited about every pumpkin sighting - roasted delicata squash filled with whipped ricotta and pumpkin seeds.

1 delicata squash
3 tbsp ricotta
2 tbsp Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla sugar
handful of pumpkin seeds
olive oil

Cut the delicata squash into rings, and clean out the middle. The rings should be about 1/2 inch wide. Roast, sprayed with olive oil, at 425 for 30 minutes. Turning once during the cooking cycle. In the meantime, whip ricotta with greek yogurt and vanilla sugar with a whisk for about 5 minutes. Scoop ricotta mixture into slightly cooled squash (set in the serving platter) and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.


Salmon Kulebyaka

Pot luck holiday dinners with family always mean two things - 1) delicious food and 2) tons of leftovers. Responsible for the entree, I decided on something festive, yet very homey.

I made a Kulebyaka. What's that you may ask? Well, think a giant, stuffed...um, pie? I found a brief history which may be a bit more eloquent.

2 large shallots, minced
1 tbsp butter, unsalted
1 package of baby bella mushrooms
3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp sour creme
1/4 lb young fontina
about 9 asparagus spears, peeled and trimmed (florets cut off)
1.5 lbs salmon
1 package of puff pastry
olive oil

Roast shallots in butter until golden. Set aside. Roast sliced portabellas in a little olive oil, until most of the liquid is gone. Remove from heat and mix with the shallot mixture. Add flour and sour cream. Season to taste and set aside to cool.

Cut the fontina cheese into slices. Salt the peeled asparagus and dust with flour, shaking off the excess.

Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface, about 4mm thick. Spread the mushroom mix over the pastry at the center (see pictures below), layer with fontina, seasoned salmon and asparagus. Fold pastry and pinch to close. Flip over onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. If you had pastry leftovers, you can decorate, preferably with the help of a willing child.

Bake at 375 for about 35-40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden in color. Let cool slightly before moving to a serving platter and cutting with a serrated knife. 

Note: my fall theme of leaves and acorns was critiqued, E. wanted a doggy.....right in the center.


"Fast to Feed"

Pondering the Yom Kippur dinner menu, I am already looking forward to breaking a fast that has not yet started. Those of us that observe this holiday with a fast, to focus on the year past and the year ahead, know it's much more then getting together at the dinner table as soon as the sun is out of sight. But, there is no better way to close out the day then with those most important to you, sharing food from a menu that has become a tradition of its own.
With the choice to fast being my own, it's difficult to consider what if it were not. Sarah from Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) reached out to me about the "Fast to Feed" fund raiser; which is focused on helping to fight hunger in the Greater Boston area. They are asking everyone to consider donating the money you would have spent on a day's worth of food to help feed those that struggle to feed themselves, regardless if you observe Yom Kippur.

Some facts from CJP:
  • "1 in 10 families in Massachusetts can’t afford sufficient food. 
  • Family Table, a program of Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JF&CS), saw a 20% increase in demand for services during the last year. 
  • The Lucy & Joe Food Pantry, a program of Jewish Family Service of Metrowest (JFS), saw a 50% increase in demand for services during the last year.
  • 100% of all donations to CJP’s “Fast to Feed” Initiative will directly support Family Table and Lucy & Joe’s Food Pantry."
For more information on the fund raiser please visit: http://www.cjp.org/page.aspx?id=245692
To donate to go: http://www.cjp.org/feed