A Midsummer Salon

Last night we went to a Salon at the home of our dear friends Matthew & Charlie. We listened to beautifully performed classical music by very talented musicians and in between each piece we enjoyed a coursed dinner that was prepared by Matthew. Charlie performed a piece of music he wrote four years ago in Woodstock, New York. It was a real treat.

The menu was amazing! At cocktail hour we had savory basil cheesecake and hummus with pita, the 2nd course included shrimp rolls with fresh tarragon, corn soufflé and roasted asparagus, the 3rd course was cheese & fruit and we had cupcakes for dessert. The culinary highlight of the evening for me was the hummus. It was airy, creamy and almost mousse like in texture. I learned last night that Matthew is not a fan of tahini and the hummus isn’t missing it here. The extra virgin olive oil keeps the flavor profile clean and delicious. Matthew was kind of enough to give me his recipe and some hummus to take home.

Matthew’s Creamy Hummus

1 15 oz can of organic garbanzo beans (he likes Libby’s)

1 garlic clove

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

juice of half a lemon

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Combine all ingredients in food processor.

While processing stream in 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil and process until super smooth. Serve with toasted pita points.

New House Love: Fall Garden & Chicken Coop

The garden & chicken gods are smiling upon my weekend project. It is pouring rain! This is perfect because the dirt is as hard as cement and I was having a heck of a time turning it over. We inherited the swing set below last October when we moved into our house. There has been a long discussion of should it stay or should it go. It is staying because my brilliant boyfriend came up with the idea that it could be more than a potting shed, it could be Chicken Paradise.

We have shown our house some love since we moved in with a late fall/early winter kitchen remodel. We haven’t touched the backyard and the timing couldn’t be more perfect for fall garden and chicken coop planning. You can see that I have started prepping the garden bed and I am so happy that the dirt is going to be gooey and soft when I try again after the rains. Yay!

One of our first goals in planning is to figure out the exact construction/electrical needs for chicken paradise. This really isn’t my specialty although I bet it would include some electrical access and a ledge for all the egg laying that is going to happen. I imagine a little Jimmy Buffet playing when the ladies are up for it and some fresh wood shavings for nestling. This is going to be fun.

Here is my fall garden list so far:

  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Lettuce  – several varieties – tbd
  • Collards
  • Radcchio
  • Swiss Chard
  • Carrots – orange and purple
  • Beets
  • Radishes
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Peas

I love to reuse and repurpose things we already have. Find those pieces that you don’t use and use a little imagination to create a new purpose. It is a money saving way to make something unique and one of a kind. It could be purely decorative although you get extra bonus points for function. Do you have any fun projects lined up for this weekend? Please share below!

Dinner Tonight: Crispy Herb Chicken with Grilled Lemons

This is THE best chicken I have ever had, hands down. It all started with a surprise bird Michael brought home from our friends Ron and Kelly of Lost Man’s Farm. All I could think about was crisping the skin, my usual goal with chicken. I have butchered hundreds of chickens and as I sliced through this bird the bones were a bit softer than most and the meat and skin felt velvety, one more reason to buy local chicken. I marinated the quartered bird in lemon juice. herbs and garlic for two hours and placed a heavy pan on top of the chicken as it was grilling which gave me an amber brown crispy skin that was to die for. A little squeeze of grilled lemon and you could hear the oohs & ahhhs around the table.

Here is the recipe :

Crispy Herb Chicken with Grilled Lemon

1 (4lb) local chicken – stand the chicken upright and cut out the backbone, spread the chicken on a plastic board with the skin side down and cut around and remove the breast bone with a boning knife, then cut through the thigh joints to quarter the chicken – or ask your butcher to do this for you!

1/2 cup of olive oil

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest  ( 2 to 3 lemons)

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons of minced garlic (3 to 4 cloves)

1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves, minced

3 lemons halved

Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoon of salt on each side. Don’t skimp on the salt with chicken, it brings out all the flavor. Combine the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary and 1 teaspoon of pepper in a shallow flat dish that is just large enough to hold the chicken. Add the chicken pieces and turn to coat (I like to loosen the skin a bit and rub the marinade directly on the meat).  Cover the dish and refrigerate for 2 hours or so and turn the chicken at the half way point.

Prepare the grill with hot charcoals on one side and spread 1/4 of the coals across the other side of the grill. Place the chicken on the cooler side with the skin up and weight it down with a heavy dish, like the one you used for marinating.

Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the underside is golden down and turn the chicken skin side down until the chicken is cooked through, another 12 to 15 minutes. Place the lemons on the cool side the grill, cut side down for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Remove the chicken and cover with aluminum foil, let it rest for 5 minutes.

Serve with the lemons, an organic green salad with balsamic vinegar and grilled bread. My favorite drink pairings: a crisp lighter bodied Italian Pinot Grigio and/or a mid-hopped Pale Ale.

*this recipe is based on Ina Garten’s Tuscan Lemon Chicken

Farmer’s Market 7.7.12

It was 86 degrees and felt like 93 when I arrived at the Farmer’s Market this morning. With the drought and the heat I didn’t want to miss a chance to support the Farmers!

This week I scored some beautiful baby spinach, mustard greens, swiss chard, farm fresh eggs and candied onions. The highlights: gorgeous chioggia beets from Freedom, Indiana, a green centered sunflower bouquet and fennel from Heartland Family Farms. I bought a chili pepper garland from the Chili Pepper Lady. I am not a fan of buying spices in small plastic bottles, it is wasteful and the spices are not always the freshest. Now I can grind peppers for chili powder or chop them to top pizza, risotto and just about anything else. My favorite lettuce lady with the cute baskets was sold out of most varieties by 9am. Note: on hot days arrive early.

I could barely wait to get home and plop my bouquet in a blue ball jar. I whipped up some fennel frond pesto this afternoon for Grilled Pizza tonight (recipe below) and I plan to top it with fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes. As I craft my menus for the week, I will post the recipes.

Remember the next Farmer’s Market is on Tuesday evening at Bloomingfood’s West. The cute lettuce lady is always there and the high for next Tuesday is only 87 degrees. Take a minute this weekend and do a rain dance!

 Fennel Frond Pesto

Chop fennel fronds, enough to measure 1 cup. Put fronds in food processor and add 1 small clove of garlic, 1 tablespoon of chopped walnuts, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and a pinch of freshly cracked black pepper. Process until finely chopped and add 4 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano Reggiano. Process until it looks like pesto and season with more salt to taste. This is great on pasta, pizza and eggs.