Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Crockafeather Leekie

My last two free-range chickens (will order more from the Northwest Food Hub!) achieved thawed-ness at a very awkward time.  So I put them in the slow cooker, with some leeks and white wine.  Seeing them there, I thought, "Cockaleekie!" and so Googled.

Cockaleekie is Scottish.  Though Scotland's cuisine sometimes can seem a bit perverse, nonetheless the country fascinates me, with its lochs, remote highland moors, wheeling curlews, and rambling old houses.  But I digress.

It seems a certain Ronnie Clydesdale (how can you not trust that name?) from the Ubiquitous Chip restaurant in Glasgow has a recipe for Cockaleekie. It's probably authentic, but seems really plain.  

Wikipedia says that historically, prunes (!) were added to boost Cockaleekie broth's nutritional qualities.

Another website is so Scottish, it has an online game you can play called "Whack a Haggis."  Right.  Their Cockaleekie recipe calls for celery, bay leaf, and optional avocado. They also mention something called "Feather Fowlie," a soup finished with egg yolks and cream. 

Having picked up some duck eggs at the Northwest Food Hub, and having Pure Eire heavy cream to hand, a Feather Fowlie/Cockaleekie hybridization is emerging.   Also, thyme and bacon seem to be Feather Fowlie options. And nutmeg!  And it's topped with julienned prunes.  I love how prunes keep popping up in these recipes.

Back in the kitchen, I drafted a recipe based on my research, and added herbs, spices and prunes to the slow cooker.

The finished soup was deeply satisfying.  And so a blog post was born.


For chicken and stock:

2 small free-range chickens
4 small or 2 large leeks, white
   and light green parts only, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups water
4 prunes
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 bay leaf

To finish the soup:

1-1/2 cups sliced carrots
1-1/2 cups sliced celery
1-1/2 cups diced onion
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

3 cups of the cooked chicken, cut into smallish pieces for soup

1/2 cup Pure Eire cream
2 duck egg (or three chicken egg) yolks

1 cup sliced bacon
1 clove garlic, minced

2 or 3 prunes, julienned (cut in slivers)

Place all chicken and stock ingredients in 6-quart slow cooker.  Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 8 to 10 hours.  Remove chickens from cooker and place them on a platter.  Strain the broth and chill.  Remove chicken meat from bones and set aside or refrigerate.

To finish and serve the soup, skim fat from broth.  Heat broth to simmering in a large soup pot.  Add carrots, celery, onion and crushed red pepper.  Simmer about 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

In a small skillet, fry bacon and garlic 'til crispy.  Set aside.

In small bowl, whisk together cream and egg yolks.

Turn off heat under soup pot.  Quickly stir in cream/egg yolk mixture.  Ladle soup into bowls and top with bacon and julienned prunes.

Taste the Scottish history!

Makes 4 very hearty servings.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Coconut Cream Bark Three Ways

From left:  Cherry-Almond, German Chocolate,
 and Useful Plain Coconut Cream Barks
"What to do with coconut butter" is one of the most common search phrases I see on my blog stats.

Tropical Traditions is an excellent online vendor
 of coconut products.
Coconut butter (and coconut cream) do seem rather unapproachable, sitting solidly in their jars as they do.  Gently heated in a pan of water on the stove, though, they become quite willing to cooperate with your creativity.

Easiest by far is to make bark.  I've made lots of plain coconut cream bark, which can be used, mixed into gently warmed water, to create coconut milk on demand. 

Winter CSA Box 9's dried local tart cherries offered a great opportunity to finally follow the impulse I've been having lately to mix things into coconut cream.

Eating the way we do, tooth-achingly sweet desserts and candies are a thing of the past.   But these delicious coconut cream barks provide a flavorful, satisfying bite or two of a confectionary nature, without being overly sweet.

And of course, these combinations are just the beginning.   I'm thinking pistachioes with cranberries .... maybe toasted pumpkin seeds with cinnamon and vanilla ... or chopped dried pineapple for a pina colada version.  

Here are more ideas for coconut butter and coconut cream.  I've melted the plain shards directly into curries and soups.

Coconut butter and coconut cream can be stored unopened in their jars at room temperature.  Once made into bark, the bark should be stored in the refrigerator so that the pieces don't soften.  Coconut oil differs in that it is pure oil and is quite dense.  Coconut oil can be stored at room temperature, and in fact will be easier to use if you do so.

Is there a difference between coconut butter and coconut cream?  I think they're nearly interchangeable, but coconut cream seems to be smoother than coconut butter.


Plain, Useful Coconut Bark

1 jar (16 ounces) coconut cream or coconut butter


Place an 11" x 17" Silpat liner on a baking sheet, then place the baking sheet in the freezer.

Remove lid from jar of coconut butter, and set the jar in a pan of hot water over very low heat.  Check occasionally, and when it's soft enough to stir until smooth, get the baking sheet out of the freezer and pour the coconut cream onto the Silpat.  Spread evenly, and return the baking sheet to the freezer.

In a very short time the bark will be solid.  Peel the Silpat off the back of the bark, and break the bark into shards of varying sizes.  Store the shards in a container in the fridge, and when you need coconut milk, figure about 2 tablepoons of bark to 1/2 cup water, gently heating the water and stirring in the bark until it's a liquid.  You can vary the ratio of coconut cream to water, to suit your taste.

German Chocolate Coconut Bark

1 jar (16 ounces) coconut cream or coconut butter
1 bar Theo 91% cacao dark chocolate (or less to taste), gently melted
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

Cherry-Almond Coconut Cream Bark

1 jar (16 ounces) coconut cream or coconut butter
1-1/4 cups (about 7 ounces) dried tart cherries
1 cup chopped almonds
1 teaspoon almond extract

For each of these bark variations, pour the softened coconut cream into a medium bowl.  Mix in the ingredients shown, and spread onto a Silpat-lined baking sheet that has been chilled in the freezer.

Proceed as for plain coconut bark, spreading the mixture thinly, chilling, and breaking into pieces.  I scored the chocolate bark as it began to set, which resulted in squares rather than shards.

Update:  Made the chocolate version with chopped macadamias instead of pecans, and used 1/2 cup coconut for a smoother bark.  Wonderful!

Another update:  Made the cherry-almond version with chopped dried pineapple and chopped roasted, salted pistachios instead of the cherries and almonds.  Delicious!  Also added 1/2 cup shredded coconut, and left out the almond extract.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2012: Winter CSA Boxes 8 and 9

Box 8:  The toothsome kale!  The spectacularly fresh salad greens!  The rainbow of chard!  The crisp, juicy Fuji apples!  Little garlic heads, and a swatch of dried oregano.

And that other thing, there?  I'm not ungrateful.  But we don't eat grain flours anymore.  The times, they are a'changin,' nutrition wise.

Box 9, below:   More salad greens of exquisite, dewy freshness. Spinach ... and KALE! (Smiles all around). Split peas (already spoken for .. that means you, Vicki), dried sage, awesome Rowley and Hawkins dried tart cherries, and a cavalcade of apples. Me happy.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Perfect Pad Thai

No grains!  Just great flavors and crispy, savory delight!
Going out to eat grain free is a mighty challenge.  So we accept rice, and even rice noodles on occasion, just to give our kitchen slave (me) a break.  That way, we can eat gluten free, at least.  But hello!  The Keatleys over at Health Bent brilliantly have devised yet another reason to stay home and eat grain free.  Thank you, Keatleys.  Grrr. 

Really, though, Mr. Eating the Scenery and I both feel much better when we eat at home.  Eating out has a pesky tendency to give us weird headaches now.  Something to do with cheap industrial cooking oils, ubiquitous starches, flavoring agents ... who knows. 

So, about a year ago I just sighed, tossed everything crappy from our pantry, fridge and freezer, arranged my battalion of cooking gear in the most efficient configuration possible, and accepted the inevitable.  We still eat out now and then, but only at establishments that don't inflict headaches! 

This is Pad Thai at its very best.  Prepare all your ingredients ahead so you can can slam it together quickly and serve it fresh and hot.

Adapted from Health Bent

Serve over shredded raw cabbage or with raw cauliflower "rice."  Make cauliflower rice by shredding raw cauliflower with a medium shred disk in the food processor, or with a hand grater.  You can saute it lightly, but the crispy raw crunch is very good with this dish.

1/2 cup almond butter
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons honey

1/3 cup coconut oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped ginger

1-1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
15 large raw shrimp, tails removed, and lightly salted

3 small zucchini, julienned or simply sliced into thin strips 1/4 inch wide or so
3 big handfuls fresh spinach leaves (optional)

1 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
1/2 cup cilantro
Lime wedges


In small bowl, mix almond butter, vinegar, fish sauce, chili garlic sauce, lime juice and honey.

In large skillet, melt coconut oil over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring frequently, for a few minutes.  Add mushrooms and shrimp, cooking for a few minutes more or until shrimp begin to turn pink. 

Stir in sauce mixture and zucchini strips, and optional spinach, and heat through.  The Pad Thai will be looking very, very tasty.  Heat until steaming hot and shrimp are cooked through.  You'll recognize perfection when you see it.

Serve either in individual bowls or on a large serving platter, garnished with shredded carrot, toasted almonds, cilantro, and lime wedges.

Makes 3 generous servings.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Country Captain Soup

The authors of Cooks Illustrated's book The Best Recipe:  Soups and Stews are crazy obsessed with perfection.  Pages of text describe the process by which the neurotic dedicated team achieves soup or stew perfection.

They take ingredients out.  They add ingredients.  They fuss with the order in which ingredients are added.  They wonder if a blender produces a different texture of puree than a food processor (yes).  They taste and test and and experiment and document, and only rest when every team member is satisfied that The Best Recipe is the one they have just produced.

And I totally admire them for it.  Who doesn't want to sit down to a steaming bowl of soup or stew, admire its beauty and fragrance, take a sip, and gaze upward toward the firmament, uttering those blissful words, "This is the best soup I've ever tasted."  These things don't happen by chance, people!  Soup is an art, and if you've ever had a bleah soup, or even a bad soup, you know just what I mean.

All that said, I had on hand some local chicken, homemade broth, and a mango. "Country Captain!" said I, then proceeded to wrench Cooks Illustrated's perfect recipe almost beyond recognition.  Why?  I didn't have some of the ingredients they listed.  I don't particularly like green peppers.  I was in the mood for a soup, not a stew.  As I went along, it seemed right and good to add spinach, carrots, more spices.

And it was perfectly delicious.  Our lesson today:  Perfection is not the exclusive property of Cooks Illustrated.

Typically a stew, this history-rich dish is also delicious as a soup.  Adding coconut cream or coconut butter to the soup instead of flour makes it richly nourishing and deeply satisfying.

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 large onion, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 tablespoon chopped garlic

4 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (less if you don't like heat)
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cups chicken broth
1-1/2 cups sliced carrots

2 cooked* chicken breasts, cut into chunks or diced (about 2 cups)
1 can (or 1-1/2 cups fresh) diced tomatoes, undrained
3 big handfuls (about 6 cups loose) fresh spinach
1 mango, diced
1/2 cup coconut cream or coconut butter (coconut milk would probably do)

Garnishes:  Toasted coconut flakes, toasted and chopped almonds or macadamias, diced apple, sliced banana, raisins, green onion ... you get the idea.

*If using raw chicken, add it with the broth and carrots.


In soup pot, melt coconut oil over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic, sauteeing until onion begins to soften.

Sprinkle spices over onion/garlic mixture, and fry for a few minutes, until spices begin to release a delightful, pungent fragrance. 

Add bay leaf, thyme, chicken broth and carrots to pot, stir, and cover.  Cook at a hearty simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, then add chicken, tomatoes, spinach and mango, and continue to cook 10 to 15 minutes more. 

Stir in coconut cream or coconut butter. Serve topped with garnishes of choice.  I used toasted coconut flakes and chopped roasted, salted macadamias.

Makes 4 generous servings.