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Good morning, Fare readers. Today's challenges: How to brine chicken without making the meat too salty; substitutes for castor sugar and coffee essence in Irish recipes; how to make batard, as well as levain or any crusty French bread.
Dixie Pearce has been experimenting with brining chicken, "but the result is always too salty." So then, this question broadens to all brining of meats. The benefit is that it makes the meat juicy and flavorful; how does the cook assure that it is not flavor overkill?
T.S. was trying a recipe for Irish coffeecake and didn't know where to find, or how to substitute, for castor sugar and coffee essence. And Yeast of the Ridge seconded the request for cranberry walnut levain, but added hopes that you breadmakers would provide a recipe for batard or any good and crusty French bread.
In return, Ms. Pearce has found the no-bake fruit and nut bars you asked for, straight from Whole Foods, and reported that her husband heartily approved.
15 dates with pits removed
1 cup walnuts
1 cup unsweetened coconut (shavings, chips or shredded, divide in half)
1/2 cup chopped dried mango
1/2 cup dried pineapple
Set aside 1/2 cup coconut. Pulse walnuts in food processor or blender about 2 minutes Add dates, coconut, mango and pineapple and blend to a thick dough (You may need to stir as the dates clump).
Press dough into an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle remaining coconut over top and cover with plastic wrap. Chill at least an hour.
The following gems emerged this week from the Fare Exchange "Save for Later" file. The sender was Helen Cooper. She is careful to explain reasons and offer options, as you will note.
1 cup wild rice, uncooked
1 each of small red, yellow or orange, and green bell pepper, diced small
1 cup Craisins or raisins or currants (cook's choice)
1 cup chopped nuts or sliced almonds, toasted
2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 large yellow onion, chopped fine
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil for sautéing onion and garlic
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Cook rice according to directions. It will usually take 45 minutes to an hour. Let stand for 30 minutes, then drain any excess water. While rice cooks, chop all peppers, onion and garlic. While rice stands last 15 minutes, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onions are transparent. Don't let garlic brown because it will get a bitter taste.
Mix peppers, onion-garlic mix, Craisins and nuts in a large mixing bowl. Add rice and mix well, then drizzle 1/3 cup olive oil over and mix again; pour into baking dish with cover and bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. This is great served warm. Leftovers should be refrigerated and may be reheated or served cold. If serving cold, mix a small amount of balsamic vinegar and olive oil (1 part balsamic to 3 parts olive oil) to pour over.
This is great with grilled meat and steamed broccoli.
To serve cold, use with salad greens and grilled chicken for a light meal.
4 cans chicken broth or 2 quarts fresh
2 cups diced, cooked chicken breast
Small bunch green onions, rinsed, trimmed and sliced to 1/4-inch
1/2 pound fresh green beans; very small snap beans are best; or use 1 small can, drained
1 large yellow onion, diced small
1 can navy beans, rinsed and drained (or substitute garbanzos)
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick (not baby carrots; they cook tough)
1 small jar capers
1 teaspoon curry powder
Kosher or sea salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon white pepper (add more after all is mixed if you want. It is better with a little bite.)
4 to 5 Roma tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped (or use 1 can diced tomatoes)
1 bunch cilantro (optional; use as much or as little as you want)
Couscous, the small Middle Eastern kind found in the rice section. Do not use flavored couscous.
The chicken bones may be used to make fresh broth, if desired. Cook chicken, cut meat off and either use it or save for later. To make the broth, for bones from about 10 pounds of chicken, use about 1-1/2 gallons water; cook for about 6 hours at a slow simmer; this produces optimum flavor. Remove from heat and begin to cool, then dip out the bones and let broth cool. Strain it into wide-mouth pitchers, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. This allows fat to rise to the top and be removed easily by folding a paper towel and dipping the fat out. Broth may be frozen.
For the stew, bring broth to slow boil and add green onions, green beans, white onions, navy beans, carrots, capers, curry powder, salt and white pepper. When carrots are tender (15-20 minutes or so), taste the broth and add more of any seasonings desired. Then add chicken and tomatoes. Cook a few minutes to let flavors marry, then taste again for seasoning correction. Add cilantro last.
Prepare couscous according to package directions. Spoon couscous into soup bowls and add the stew. This is a great dish for a light supper served with hummus and pita bread.
The stew also freezes well, either in large bowls or individual serving containers.
Variation: Add another pint or two of chicken broth and a little extra seasoning and serve it in a mug to sip.
Here's one more source for gumbo filé, with Peggy Mason to thank: "Zatarain's Ground Gumbo Filé is found at Hixson's Publix with the spices."
Marianna Demark loves her new set of silicone pot lids, useful in the microwave or on the stovetop or to cover bowls in the refrigerator. They make a strong seal over most vessels. Hers are decorative too, made like flowers, "so they look nice hanging above my stovetop."
So ends the writing for today. Please add your best ideas for next Wednesday