Thursday, November 29, 2012

Southwest Chili Lime Chicken Soup

Closeup of Bowl of Chili Lime Soup with Toppings
Toppings Add Character

Recipe by Robin, Inspired by The Lunch Box

Earlier this month, I couldn’t quite grok the fact that my friend and neighbor James harvested 98 limes from his deck-cultivated, in-container dwarf tree. Serious citrus in the Santa Cruz mountains? From a deck? But as a result, we were blessed with over a dozen limes, which I’d said I could use to make chili lime chicken soup. “I’d like that recipe,” responded James, a lover of all spicy foods. But actually, there was no recipe, just a vague recollection of a delicious soup sold by the now-defunct Lunch Box, which used to deliver lunches and goodies to my day job. I remembered that it was a simple soup with numerous toppings that could be added to tweak the flavor. So I proceeded with the experiment. My first attempt was given the seal of approval (ie. was nearly polished off) at our monthly game night potluck. And so, by special request…a recipe for game night host James.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DIY Pureed Pumpkin

Small Pumpkin on Scale
Sugar Pie Pumpkin

Method by Robin,, and Marian Kleinsasser Towne

There’s more than one way to cook a pumpkin, and what’s easiest will depend upon how much time you have to cook it and how much effort you’re able to put in. I typically steam the pumpkin because it’s faster than baking and requires less finesse than microwaving. In fact, all I do cut the pumpkin into quarters or sixths, remove the innards, and steam it till it’s tender. Some people peel it before steaming, but these folks must be more coordinated than I am. Gripping a large piece of slippery pumpkin in one hand and a peeler in the other seems like it could get ugly fast at my house. I’m more inclined to scrape the pumpkin off the skin after steaming, when the only danger (too-hot pumpkin) is easy to identify before boo-boos happen.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chicken Marengo

Chicken on top of Sauce in Pan
Add Chicken to Sauce and Simmer

Recipe by Robin

Chicken Marengo. I’d heard the name for years, but never realized that it’s a historical dish. Napoleon Bonaparte’s chef Dunand first whipped it up after Napoleon’s victory at the Battle of Marengo in northern Italy in 1800. Using miscellaneous foraged ingredients, Dunand employed considerable skill in crafting the original recipe using chicken, eggs, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and crayfish, plus a couple of glugs of cognac from Napoleon’s flask.  The result was a chicken-tomato-onion stew served with fried eggs, crayfish, and soldiers’ bread rations on the side. Although this sounds like it would only taste good if you were camping, Napoleon considered the combination lucky. He insisted that Dunand prepare it the same way time and again when they returned home, despite the chef’s desire to modify the ingredients. Fortunately modern chefs are no longer literally under the sword, and have reinvented the recipe minus the eggs and crayfish and plus a few classic ingredients from Italian cuisine.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Thanks

Autumn Leaves on Wet Sidewalk in Collinsville
Hometown Visit 2007
Happy Thanksgiving All! Although we think of the tradition of Thanksgiving commemorating a meal shared between Native Americans and Pilgrims,  according to’s feature today, the story is a bit different. President George Washington proclaimed that the first Thanksgiving Day be celebrated on November 26, 1789 to give thanks for the US Constitution, “now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed.” Let’s give thanks for our lives and our liberties, as well as for bountiful foods shared with each other today. 

While we’re giving thanks, I’d like to appreciate each and every Seasonal Eating reader, with a special shout-out to followers and subscribers. You make this journey of seasonal exploration more fun and fulfilling. Thanks for your interest and your comments. May your Thanksgiving Day be blessed with fun, food, family, and friends. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Maple Glazed Delicata Squash

Serving Plate Piled High with Maple Glazed Delicata
Perfect for Late Autumn Dinners

Recipe by Robin

Delicata squash is another of those veggies that I wouldn’t have known about if it weren’t for receiving them in our CSA share. It looked so intriguing that I bought some extra from Live Earth Farm at the Farmers’ Market. Then, of course, we received more the following week. Delicata is unique in that it’s the only winter squash whose skin is tender enough to eat. Its flavor is also (quite logically) delicate, and easily overpowered by other flavors. For that reason I eliminated the idea of adding orange juice, apple juice, or bourbon as I might in a yam glaze. I might have skipped the cinnamon also, being a lover of all squash flavors, but my husband (lukewarm on most squashes) likes it with winter squash. With or without cinnamon, you could also use this simple glaze on yams.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tapioca filled Pumpkin

Tapioca filled Pumpkin with Lid Jauntily Askew and serving spoon
Points for Presentation: 10 out of 10

Recipe adapted from Sunset magazine, c. 1980

I’m a great fan of puddings, custards, and anything pumpkin-flavored, so I was ecstatic to find a recipe for a tapioca-filled pumpkin in a Sunset magazine, given to me by a lady whose house I cleaned when I first came to Santa Cruz. I loved the way the B&W photo looked, with a sophisticated lady’s hand scooping out tapioca along with pumpkin. When I finally tried the recipe, in 1995, it tasted exactly the way I’d imagined it. And then somehow the recipe disappeared. In 2001, I had a craving for it, and a weekend when my husband, who looks askance at both tapioca and pumpkin, was away. No recipe, no problem (and no internet for hints). How hard could tapioca and pumpkin be? One small forgotten detail, however, threatened to deflate the project. Or more correctly, to inflate it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chicken Cacciatore

Plate of Chicken Cacciatore with Spaghetti Squash
Served over Spaghetti Squash

Recipe by Robin

One way to almost guarantee success with a recipe that you haven’t tried before is to make something with tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes. Your chances of success are even greater if you use homemade tomato sauce and/or homemade stewed tomatoes. Add a little wine for even higher odds of success. Case in point: I have only made chicken cacciatore twice but both times it was enthusiastically enjoyed and compliments rolled in. The first success was back in yesteryear when feeding an under-appreciative boyfriend with a recipe from the new 1985 Joy of Cooking. The second success was at a recent dinner party where my husband hoped that I knew what I was doing when I made up a recipe at the last minute.  It’s hard to go wrong with variations on this recipe, as long as you use a wine that you’d consider drinking. It doesn’t need to be expensive wine. I used a 2001 Two Buck Chuck Shiraz. Yeah, I might consider drinking that if the occasion were right, though it’s even better for cooking.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gram’s Apple Cake

Plate of Apple cake with Whipped Cream
With Whipped Cream for Me

Recipe by Gram and Robin

Have you ever been on a culinary quest that lasted for years? Trying to find an elusive recipe that you tasted once or enjoyed as a child, trying to recreate that recipe but not getting it quite right year after year? Giving up, then recommitting, looking at old cookbooks, hoping for divine intervention and, when all else fails, searching the internet? Such was my quest for my grandmother’s apple cake. With a vivid flavor and texture in mind, and recipes in hand, I made many delicious apple cakes (and one notable failure) that weren’t anything like Gram’s. Until two days ago, when a hole in the space-time continuum to 1968 opened up and I saw the light. How fortunate that this happened before the dinner party.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Polish Style Beets

Plate of Red and Rose White Beets
Simple, Colorful, and Healthful

Recipe from Live Earth Farm

I know that I just advised you in my last post of November recipes to forego the beets and other root veggies until winter, when locavores will be eating plenty of them. But this strategy doesn’t always work if you belong to a CSA and get a box of produce every week that’s chosen by the farm. True that beets will keep for several weeks in the fridge. Also true that they can be large, take up a lot of refrigerator real estate, and resist being compressed into smaller spaces. After a couple of weeks' worth of both red and rose-white beets, my resistance to cooking them wore thin. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November Veggies and Recipes

Bright plum leaves
First Golden Plums, Now Scarlet Leaves

Last Harvests and Giving Thanks

It’s true that the dark time of year is upon us. Daylight hours are shrinking and in the US (except for a few states) we’re already into “Daylight Wasting” time. We’re past mid-fall and into the final day-shrink. Nights are cool and weather can be stormy. And yet, when the sun shines it’s warm in the garden. The soil warms up, unlike its perpetually chilly winter condition. Tomatoes are still ripening, even optimistically producing new flowers…though prudent gardeners remove these so plants will concentrate their energies on ripening already-set fruits. Peppers and zucchini still show up at the farmers’ market. Leaves still cling to our dogwood and plum trees, blazing in yellow, burnt orange, and burgundy. The apple tree leaves are still green. Does it seem “unseasonably” warm to anyone else?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

DIY Stewed Tomatoes

Basket of late season tomatoes
Late Season Imperfections

Recipe by Robin

I know that I’ve posted an inordinate amount of tomato recipes this year. That is due to a miscalculation early in the growing season. Or an inability to believe how large a small tomato plant (or 11) in an container can grow. When the 7 Renee’s Garden Super bush container tomato seeds that I sprouted looked a little wimpy, I bought 4 more plants at an organic farm: two cherries, and Brandywine and Mortgage Lifter heirlooms. These varieties were not container friendly, supposedly. So I assumed that when forced to live in pots, their yield would be skimpy. Not true, like so many assumptions. One advantage of this miscalculation is the discovery of 5 tomato varieties that grow really well in containers. Another is the discovery of homemade stewed tomatoes, for which late season, oddly textured, non-cosmetically correct tomatoes are perfect. DIY stewed tomatoes are only remotely related to the oversalted, underflavored varieties that come in cans.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Oven Roasted Peppers

Plate of Red, Orange, and Yellow Roasted Peppers
Versatile and Colorful

 Method by Bruce

Peppers of all varieties are my favorite vegetable to grill in the summertime. Or more correctly, to enjoy after my husband grills them. Their sweet, smoky flavor compliments every protein from roast beef to stewed chicken to veggie burgers. They’re delicious in corn relish, atop other sandwich ingredients, or pureed in salsas. They can add an unexpected layer to salads, canapés, or casseroles, or become a brightly colored garnish for almost anything savory. The addition of a little olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and herbs transmogrifies them into a different but equally tempting dish. So what’s not to like? Only the fact that the sweet pepper season seems to extend beyond the barbecue season, at least here on the central CA coast. This is especially true if you’re not at home most days. Grilling after dark is never ideal.