I prepared this post so long ago that it was actually photographed in the kitchen of the house we sold last May. Not to mention that, actually, the draft date was January of 2013. Two years ago. Before we even knew that we were having a baby. A baby who is now a 15-month old toddler.
Sorry, friends. Better late than never?
My tardiness does help to prove the point of this post, though; that roast chicken is a staple in our house, and this recipe in particular is our favorite. Because, two years later, these images are as relevant as the day I prepared them. Except for that kitchen.
Happy, healthy 2015 to any readers that may still have Bella Eats hooked into their feed reader. All two of you. Hi Brian, hi Momma.
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.
Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird. Trussing is not difficult, and if you roast chicken often, it's a good technique to feel comfortable with. When you truss a bird, the wings and legs stay close to the body; the ends of the drumsticks cover the top of the breast and keep it from drying out. Trussing helps the chicken to cook evenly, and it also makes for a more beautiful roasted bird.
Now, salt the chicken—I like to rain the salt over the bird so that it has a nice uniform coating that will result in a crisp, salty, flavorful skin (about 1 tablespoon). When it's cooked, you should still be able to make out the salt baked onto the crisp skin. Season to taste with pepper.
Place the chicken in a sauté pan or roasting pan and, when the oven is up to temperature, put the chicken in the oven. I leave it alone—I don't baste it, I don't add butter; you can if you wish, but I feel this creates steam, which I don't want. Roast it until it's done, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove it from the oven and add the thyme, if using, to the pan. Baste the chicken with the juices and thyme and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.
Remove the twine. Separate the middle wing joint and eat that immediately. Remove the legs and thighs. I like to take off the backbone and eat one of the oysters, the two succulent morsels of meat embedded here, and give the other to the person I'm cooking with. But I take the chicken butt for myself. I could never understand why my brothers always fought over that triangular tip—until one day I got the crispy, juicy fat myself. These are the cook's rewards. Cut the breast down the middle and serve it on the bone, with one wing joint still attached to each. The preparation is not meant to be superelegant. Slather the meat with fresh butter. Serve with mustard on the side and, if you wish, a simple green salad. You'll start using a knife and fork, but finish with your fingers, because it's so good.
You may have noticed that I’ve had quite a few baked goods featured here lately. Bella Eats is starting to look more like a baking blog than an all foods blog, which is not my intention even though I do have a not-so-secret desire to be a baker. The truth is, when I am stressed, overwhelmed or even underwhelmed with life in general, or just want an excuse to be lost in my head for an hour or two, I bake. Some people go for a run, others practice yoga, I pull out the flour and sugar and butter and get to work mixing and shaping.
Maybe its because I am training to be an architect, spending my days working on minute details for buildings that won’t break ground for another six months and won’t be complete for another two years. It takes a lot of time, and a lot of patience, to get to the point in a project where you feel the satisfaction of seeing the results of your hard work. The days can be frustrating, the hours long, and at the end of it all you may not even be happy with the final result. But you continue forward, filing away the lessons learned on one project for a similar situation on the next, always striving for the perfect design against the odds of disagreeable clients and undesirable sites.
There are a lot of similarities between baking and architecture - formula, precision, a bit of risk taking, structure - but one very notable difference is timing. I can enter the kitchen, experiment with a new recipe that I’ve been dreaming about and have results in 1-2 hours. And if the final product doesn’t come out exactly as I had imagined, I can try again the next evening. Or immediately even, if the desire to get it right then and there is strong enough. That [nearly] instant gratification is what I love most about baking. The reactions from friends presented with something you’ve made from scratch help as well - who isn’t happy to be surprised with a plateful of baked goods?
There are nights when I get home from the office needing to bake. Not just wanting to, but needing to. Sometimes I’ll pick a recipe that is tried and true, other times I’ll try drastic experiments that go horribly wrong but always teach me something new. Last week I was looking for a recipe somewhere in the middle - a recipe that someone else had tried and recommended, that I could play with and put my own twist on. Luckily I had recently discovered Sweet Amandine and spent most of Sunday reading through her archives, soaking in her lovely writing and photographs. I found these chocolate hazelnut bites, put my own little spin on them and got to work.
There are a lack of preparatory photographs in this post because baking these cookies on that particular night was purely for my mental well-being. I was tired, a little bit frazzled and a lot in need of the dark chocolatey, almondy, slightly salty goodness that these three-bite cookies delivered to my mouth. The process to make them was really quite simple - melt chocolate, amaretto and butter in one pan while whipping together the egg and sugar in another. You combine the two, fold in some finely processed toasted almonds and then chill the batter for 1-2 hours. If you have the patience, shoot for two hours of chilling. I couldn't stand it and pulled them after just one so that I could get to work on the methodical task of rolling each lump of dough between my palms and coating each ball with granular sugar and then powdered. They bake for a quick 10-12 minutes and then you are free to pile them onto a plate, grab a glass of wine and cuddle up to your partner on the couch. There's no better cure for a long day, I promise.
Also, if you are in need of some cheer the next evening as well, they are great crumbled over vanilla ice cream.
Dark Chocolate Almond Bitesadapted from Sweet Amandine who adapted from Chez Pim who adapted from David Lebovitz's Room for Dessert - goodness, this cookie's been around!makes 3-4 dozen 3-bite cookies
8 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao)
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp amaretto
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3-4 pinches sea salt
*1 cup each of granulated sugar and powdered sugar, in separate bowls, for rolling dough balls in
Preheat the oven to 350*.
Spread the almonds onto a baking sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes, until fragrant. Do not burn. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, chop the chocolate into small pieces and melt it in a double boiler with butter and amaretto until smooth.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip together the eggs and 1/3 cup sugar on high speed until pale, as pictured above (5-8 minutes). Stir in the melted chocolate mixture.
Pour the cooled nuts and flour into a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the baking powder and the salt, and pulse a few more times. Stir the ground nut mixture into the chocolate batter.
Chill for 1-2 hours, preferably 2, until batter is firm.
When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat your oven to 350 again and set up your bowls of granulated sugar and powdered sugar. Roll the chocolate cookie batter into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball first in granulated sugar and then in powdered sugar. Set the cookies in rows, at least 1-inch apart, on two parchment-lined baking sheets.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, swapping the top and bottom baking sheets about halfway through. The cookies should be slightly firm around the edges, but otherwise soft.
Cool on a rack completely, then store in an airtight container.
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Summer is upon us, and I have a confession to make. I don't cook much from June thru September. I blame the longer days and the evening activities that come with them. Cocktails after work with friends on the downtown mall, a few hours weeding and picking and training in the garden, fetch with the dogs and wine on the deck. By the time I start to think about dinner the sun has fallen in the sky and its past 8pm.
The fresh produce this time of year holds some of the blame as well. When you're picking sugar snaps straight from the vine outside your kitchen door and have an abundance of fresh lettuce at your feet its hard to imagine doing anything but going straight inside, dumping it all into a bowl and drizzling it with a simple vinaigrette. Or, when you've just pulled perfect little beets from the ground and realize that you still have some carrots from the farmer's market in your fridge, images of simply roasted root vegetables sprinkled with salt + pepper laid across a bed of lettuce start dancing in your head and eventually wind up on your plate (pictured above). It can't be helped, really. And how about brown rice pasta with quickly-sauteed squash from the market? The quick and simple possibilities are endless.
And then there is my attempt to follow Mark Bittman'sVegan Before 6 diet, although I hate to call it that. The d-word has such negative connotations and forces thoughts of deprivation into my head, when this new way of eating doesn't make me feel deprived in the least. I've simply been reducing my intake of processed foods and animal products by following a Vegan diet from the time I wake up until dinner time, when anything goes. If you've read about me, you'll know that Brian and I are very conscious of what we eat and where it comes from, and strive to eat as sustainably as possible. I've found that switching to a Vegan diet for two out of three meals a day (and many days for all three!) has been a very easy transition because of the way we've thought about food for some time now. And its especially easy in the summer when my appetite leans towards light salads rather than stick-to-your ribs casseroles.
So, that was a lot of excuses to say that, basically, I like to eat simply in the summertime. I love salads that I can make on Sunday and eat for lunch the rest of the week, and simple breads that become the star of the meal with very little effort put forth. The plate above was assembled on an evening when we had a few of those salads in the fridge, fresh lettuce from the garden on the counter and 30 minutes to spend making flatbread. The roasted red pepper, chickpea and quinoa salad is simple, delicious and filling...just my kind of meal. And trust me, even on a low-effort dinner night the extra 30 minutes is worth it, because this flatbread is incredible.
I haven't shared the curried tomato salad because I screwed it up the first time we made it and wasn't completely happy with the results. The concept is a good one though and I assure you that as soon as local tomatoes grace the booths at the market I'll be trying it again.
The lentil + brown rice salad can be found here.
Whole Grain Flatbreadslightly modified from Mark Bittman
1 cup whole wheat flour (I also tried this with 1/2 cornmeal and 1/2 white whole wheat and didn't like it nearly as much)
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups water
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sift the flour and salt together in a bowl. Slowly add the water and whisk to eliminate lumps, the batter will resemble thing pancake batter. Cover with a towel and let sit while your oven preheats, or up to 12 hours.
When ready to bake, heat your oven to 450 degrees. Put the oil in a 12" skillet (if you use a smaller skillet use less oil and give the bread more time to cook), along with the onion and garlic. Put the skillet in the heated oven and let the oil get hot, but not smoking. It should just take a few minutes - you'll know when the oil starts to get fragrant.
Carefully remove the skillet from the oven, give the onions and garlic a stir and then pour the batter and return the pan to the oven.
Bake 30-40 minutes (I took mine out at 30 and will probably give it just a few more minutes next time) until the flatbread is well browned, firm and crisp around the edges. Let it rest for about 5 minutes and then slide it from the pan onto a cutting board to cut into wedges.
6 oz drained jarred roasted red peppers, diced (about 1 cup) - I didn't have any so just roasted a fresh red bell pepper
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp honey
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
First, if you don't have jarred roasted red peppers, roast your own. I sliced 1 bell pepper thinly, placed it in a small baking dish, drizzled it with olive oil, sprinkled it with salt and pepper and roasted it for about 30 minutes.
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa and bring back to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, cover pan and let cook for about 15 minutes, until quinoa is tender but not mushy. Remove from heat, drain any excess liquid and place quinoa in a medium-sized heat-tolerant bowl.
Whisk together the lemon juice, honey, cumin, cayenne and 1/2 tsp salt together in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil until the dressing is smooth.
Add the chickpeas, roasted red peppers and parsley to the bowl with the quinoa and stir to combine. Drizzle the dressing over the mixture and toss to combine.
The last few days of May were spent in Florida celebrating the 10th Anniversary of my Momma and Stepfather. There was a lot of family time, spent mostly in the kitchen either preparing food for festivities or gathered around the table eating and chatting. That's how it works in my family - vacations, visits, events all revolve around our meals. If we're traveling to New Orleans we plan our entire stay around the restaurants we simply MUST dine at while there. When planning a visit to one of our houses my mom and I are on the phone no later than two weeks prior to the scheduled date of arrival planning out the daily menus.
This visit was no exception. On the drive from the airport we discussed what lunch would be the next day, a trip to my favorite Vietnamese Pho restaurant of course, since Charlottesville is lacking in Pho. Saturday's festivities menu was also discussed and last minute grocery lists were made. On Friday afternoon we got to work in the kitchen, each of the four of us with our own list of tasks and stack of recipes, all delegated at the family meeting around the kitchen table 10 minutes before. We moved around each other as if having been choreographed, the evening nearly flawless aside from my lack of preparedness with eclair ingredients - the pate a choux dough comes together rather quickly, for future reference. Saturday was spent enjoying the results of our hard work with more family and close friends, and celebrating the marriage of two incredible people. It was a lovely, lovely weekend.
Since our return I've been unusually sleepy, most likely because of the ridiculous stress of flight delays on our way there and the busyness of the weekend from the moment we stepped foot in the sunshine state. I still can't help but wonder, however, if the copious amounts of sweets consumed has anything to do with my desire to take a nap at my desk by around 3pm each day this week. I wonder how long the effects of a sugar high and the resulting crash can stay in your system... I'm kidding of course. Maybe.
I've intended to write this post each evening after work these last few days, but every time I opened my iPhoto account and glimpsed the 500+ photos taken during our stay in Florida I became overwhelmed, and even more tired. Its been a struggle to decide which recipe to share with you first, the stuffed french toast filled with sliced bananas and homemade strawberry jam, the tangy creole mustard sauce that graced the perfectly poached fillet of grouper, the unbelievably delicious amaretto chocolate chip cookies and their accompanying amaretto buttercream frosting, or the beautiful mini eclairs with their vanilla custard filling and chocolate ganache topping.
In the end I've decided on this simple salad. It will probably seem bland and boring after the list of possibilities I gave above, but it really should not be ignored. Perhaps that's why I decided to feature it first, to emphasize that although a lentil + brown rice salad may not have been the star at our festivities in Florida, it was certainly a nominee for best supporting side dish. The ingredients are simple - after returning home to a nearly empty fridge and pantry I still had everything I needed to make this salad Sunday night. It was the first thing I did after loving on our dogs and making a quick dinner. Subtle and earthy with a lemony kick and a firm crunch, it has become the star of my lunches each day this week and will continue to make appearances at our table in the future.
Lentil + Brown Rice Saladmodified slightly from this recipeI realized after just reading Giada's recipe again that I forgot to add the kalamata olives (sorry Joe!). I bet they would be a delicious addition...
1 large carrot, peeled and diced finely
1 medium onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1-1/4 cups lentils (we used green in Florida, and I used French lentils at home)
Saute' carrot, onion and garlic over medium heat until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add lentils to pot and stir to mix. Add 2 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cover, simmering for about 20 minutes until lentils are tender but still firm. Remove from heat, drain. Pour lentils into heat-proof bowl and allow to cool.
Cook brown rice according to instructions, using broth instead of water.
When lentils have cooled, stir in the herbs and zest. Add the cooked rice and mix well. Salt + pepper to taste.
Top with crumbled feta when serving, if desired.
Congratulations Momma + Joe. We love you very much!
Do you ever have nights when you just don’t feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen? I know you do. I can usually tell early in the afternoon when it is going to be one of those nights because I am either dreading the process of preparing what we’ve got on the menu or I have no interest in thinking about something to cook. Leftovers come in handy on such nights as do Amy’s pizzas stashed in the freezer. Sometimes a quick batch of guacamole won’t seem too daunting and Brian and I will spend the evening snacking on seven-layer dip, other times we resort to picking up the phone and ordering various tofu dishes from our favorite Chinese take-out place. But my favorite no-effort meal is, by far, of the crusty loaf of bread, hard cheese and simple salad variety.
I was in one of these moods on Sunday after arriving home from the cabin. We’d spent the weekend cooking in a foreign kitchen for extra people - which was a blast - but by the time we got back to our own house and unloaded the car and the coolers of leftover food I knew that there would be no cooking happening that evening. Even so, a grocery trip was on the afternoon agenda so that I could pick up necessary ingredients to eventually make this and these for Meghann'sblogger bake sale [during which she made an incredible amount of money and exceeded her fundraiser goal by over $1000!!!]. I hadn't made a menu for the week so spent the first 10 minutes or so wandering through the produce department looking for inspiration. And I saw these:
Radishes and I don't have much of a history. In fact, until Sunday, I didn't think that I even liked radishes. But as I stood in front of the deep scarlet globes in the middle of a very busy produce department and racked my brain trying to think of why I didn't like them I could not come up with one recollection of ever actually eating a radish. Maybe once or twice, shaved over baby greens on a salad, but never on their own or displayed proudly and prominently as a key ingredient in a dish. And, since I'd been reading Molly's book while in West Virginia and had come across this recipe, I decided it was time to give the bright red beauties a fair review.
I even, coincidentally, picked up Plugra. The same salted European butter that Molly recommends on Orangette for this very treat, although I didn't know it at the time. Armed with a French baguette I arrived home and happily announced to Brian and our last lingering house guest that we would be having sliced, salted radishes on fresh bread for dinner, along with a salad. Though they weren't convinced at first (and we did add a hunk of fresh sheep's milk cheese from the local farmer's market to the mix, separate from the radish ensemble) they came around after the first bite. For thinly sliced radishes with delicately shaved butter and sea salt on a fresh baguette is a delicious combination. Truly.
So impressed was I with my first official radish experience that I came home from the office today to make a salad with radishes for lunch, stopping first at the local market for an avocado. I made this soup [scroll to bottom] for dinner last night and knew that it was destined to be my mid-day meal, but couldn't resist the urge for fresh Spring greens to accompany it. A quick search on epicurious for a good radish salad [remember, I'm new to them] yielded this recipe. The avocado and fresh cilantro seemed to be the perfect compliment for the radishes and ultimately my spicy tomato-based soup, and I wasn't disappointed. Oh radish, I'm your newest fan.
The recipe describes a lovely presentation for the salad on the plate, but in the name of time [and simplicity], I just dumped everything in a bowl. It was still delicious, although the display would be lovely if you have the time.
Radish and Avocado Salad with Fresh Cilantromodified from epicuriousserves 2
leafy green lettuce, such as butter or bibb
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
4 medium radishes, halved and sliced thinly
2 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves
1 tbsp minced shallot
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp cabernet vinegar (I'm out of champagne vinegar, which the recipe calls for)
2 tsp dijon mustard
Whisk last 4 ingredients together to make dressing. Divide first 4 ingredients into 2 bowls and drizzle dressing on top.
The recipe describes a lovely presentation for the salad on the plate, but in the name of time [and simplicity], I just dumped everything in a bowl. It was still delicious, although the display would be nice if you have the time.