Keep Calm and Add Coconut

Occasionally we all have an unpleasant experience with a meal. Not full-on food poisoning, serious and often triggered by eating contaminated items, but mild cases of digestive distress and just enough of a nuisance to carve out a place in our memories for a painful recall each time the substance presents itself.

Coconut citrus flan

Coconut citrus flan

For a time, it seems as if my family avoided coconut in any of its forms. The continuing ingredient aversion was all linked to a childhood fascination with a big brown coconut. During a visit to Florida to see their grandparents and numerous other extended family members, our sons managed to find a backyard coconut that they claimed with curiosity. It looked harmless enough but we had no idea when the fiber-filled fruit may have fallen from its palm tree. It wasn’t stamped with an expiration date, but didn’t seem to have an odor, so we let the kids hang on to it. Soon enough, after tossing it around for the day, they wanted to crack it open for a tropical taste of their newly acquired exotic food. With help from Poppy, their grandfather, who gave it two good whacks with his ax, the coconut cracked open and the boys were the first with their hands in the air to try the white flesh and the sweet clear liquid found inside. A couple of aunts and uncles joined them in the sampling, making the experience a true family affair. Later that evening, those who fell for the fruit of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) weren’t feeling too well, some necessitating emergency stops on the Florida Turnpike. Thankfully, the reaction was mild, but we took a break, even if unintentional, from coconut. No cream pies, no coconut-coated shrimp, not even a creamy tropical summer cocktail.

But that’s all changed and coconut is back on the menu, though we’re no longer collecting random coconuts that are just lying around going rancid. In the form of liquid to sweetened shreds, coconut continues to surface in restaurants and in recipes from friends. My friend and grad school mentor Jane introduced a tofu-coconut milk soup to our family last month and its sweet-smelling base makes a great starter for a number of summer vegetable soups. Out and about, the key lime truffles with coconut sauce at Blu Pointe in Newburgh (the newish restaurant in the space formerly operated by Torches on the Hudson) should help to sway diners into dessert after every meal. And I’ve recently adapted a flan recipe from a friend from Puerto Rico who carries on a tradition of doubling her recipe whenever making flan. The second flan finds its way to a friend’s table. It’s unthinkable to turn away one of Rosie’s beautiful caramel-coated baked custards that are made for sharing. She creates a rich and silky-soft flan coated, but not smothered, with golden caramel sauce.

Coconut layer

Coconut layer

This flan variation takes on a hint of summer with the addition of lime or orange zest as well as shredded coconut and coconut milk. For those who want to keep their ingredients the freshest with this precious egg dish, crack your own coconut and consider shredding chunks of the fresh mature flesh or extracting liquid by grating the small pieces of the fruit. The process of cutting the white fleshy meat away from the shell and blending it with a little warm water doesn’t take too much time, but you’ll also need to strain the liquid to remove any remaining pieces of fiber from the pressed coconut. Canned unsweetened coconut milk works well and minimizes prep time to create this delicate dish that can be served any time of day. If home cooks can make time to whack or drill a coconut, it’s probably wisest not to select those that may be found under a palm tree in someone’s back yard.

Coconut Citrus Flan

Serves 8

¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 ¾ cup sugar

¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 ¼ cups whole milk

1 teaspoon orange zest

¾ cup sweetened shredded coconut

3 medium egg yolks

3 medium eggs

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Dissolve 1 cup sugar and orange juice in heavy sauce pan over medium heat without boiling. Raise heat to medium-high and stir until sugar mixture turns amber in color. Heat 9-inch glass pie dish with hot water and dry completely before coating dish with syrup. Remove sauce from heat and pour syrup into dish, covering bottom completely. Set aside.
  2. Heat coconut milk, milk and salt. Bring to a boil and remove from heat immediately.
  3. Sprinkle shredded coconut and orange zest over caramel sauce layer.
  4. In mixing bowl (electric mixer for best results), beat remaining sugar, egg yolks, eggs and vanilla. Stir milk mixture gradually into egg mixture.
  5. Pour over coconut layer in pie dish. Set pie dish in shallow pan filled with water to cover bottom half of pie dish.
  6. Bake on center rack in preheated 350-degree oven approximately 50 minutes until flan is set. Remove pan from oven and carefully lift pie dish from water.
  7. Run a thin knife around the edge of the dish to loosen the flan while still warm. After flan cools for at least 1 hour, invert onto a larger platter or rimmed plate to keep sauce contained. Serve at room temperature, chill for 2 hours or refrigerate overnight and serve next day.

Cook On: 1 part chaos, 2 parts calm

By Mary Ann Ebner

First published: The Paper, July 10, 2015

 

 

 

The Classic Cuban Chip

A new day may be arriving for Cuban cuisine, and the unassuming plantain carries enough prestige as a simple snack and sweet side dish to emerge as a cultural symbol of edible sorts. Without wading into the Cuban government, its legacy or the U.S. embargo, one doesn’t have to look far to see the effects of easing travel restrictions to the neighboring nation. As passage to the island continues to open, with efforts prevailing to thaw icy U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations, the home kitchen offers inspiration to explore Cuba’s cultural heritage and cooking customs.

Plantain chips

Plantain chips

The Castro family may still have a hand in ruling the country, but generous helpings of tropical flavors, rich spices, love and hospitality rule the Cuban kitchen.

A work assignment as a press attaché for the U.S. Olympic Committee landed me in Cuba years ago when Fidel Castro was still tossing out ceremonial first pitches at baseball games. Many Cuban people working as staffers made immeasurable sacrifices to orchestrate a Pan American Games from Havana to Santiago de Cuba as the country hosted thousands of visitors, some of us for up to a month.

Late evenings we found ourselves sampling home-cooked street food at neighborhood parties buzzing with Latin rhythms and a contagious energy from live music and dance stoked by local non-labeled beer and rum-flavored pastries. Breakfast wasn’t quite as festive, but the morning menu was hearty, and drinking Cuba’s bold sweetened coffee became our daily ritual before strolling along residential sidewalks to reach event venues. The host nation extended daily meals to the delegations from the participating Pan American countries, and athletes, coaches and support staff dined together in a breezy cafeteria. This wasn’t a Cuban sandwich-type-of-place, dishing up gourmet pork loin on light and crusty Cuban bread dripping with butter and cheese, but a modest effort to feed the masses. Little meat was served and a couple of times each week, the special of the day was hígado, a beef liver dish served with onions. Rice, black beans, potatoes, fish and juicy mango slices made repeat appearances in the serving line, but it was the crispy salted plantain chips, chicharritas, that became a favorite food in the Pan Am village.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, though it boasts vegetable-like qualities, the plantain belongs in the banana family, and it’s often available at local markets where it usually ripens naturally. The fruit looks like a banana but it’s much starchier and is sold in varying degrees of ripeness. When making variations of the Cuban chips chicharritas (or mariquitas when sliced Nicaraguan style), as well as the twice-fried tostones (plantain chips served with sauce), look for plantains that are green to yellow in color. If you come across any with blackened skin in the produce section, however, make a timely purchase and if blackened plantains are ripening on your own kitchen counter, prepare to peel. This degree of ripeness is perfect for preparing fried sweet plantains, platanos maduros, the dish made from the ripest fruit.

Green plantains

Green plantains

Whether in search of the perfect plantain dish or a chilled mojito, open travel to Cuba for tourist activities is still prohibited and U.S. citizens are not authorized to hit the beaches. The U.S. Department of Treasury (Office of Foreign Assets Control) outlines 12 categories for authorized travel with general licenses ranging from family visits to educational activities and humanitarian projects. James Caroll, co-owner of Cold Spring’s Old Souls outdoor equipment store, recently made his first visit to Cuba on a research fly fishing trip. Caroll said he obtained a research visa that allowed his party to collect scale samples and fin clips of the fish that they caught and released.

Caroll’s photographs from his May 2015 trip illustrate the beauty of the turquoise-blue waters, people, architecture, and even fruit carts spilling over with fresh produce. His fishing experience exceeded his expectations.

“It was incredible,” Caroll said. “We drove 12 hours across the island — and that was only half way across — before boarding a large live-aboard boat. Smaller skiffs picked us up from that boat every day, and we made runs out to our fishing grounds with the guides. Bonefish, tarpon, permit, jacks, and barracuda were all daily targets for our fly rods.”

Caroll found the fishing research rewarding and the food of Cuba amazing as well, from simple grilled meats and rice to spiny lobster. His collection of photographs from Cuba may be viewed on Flickr (search user name OldSoulsNY on Flickr), and are also on exhibit at the Old Souls store at 63 Main St.

Discover Cuba’s cuisine in your own kitchen and explore a complex country rich in culture and influenced by Spanish, African and Caribbean food traditions.

Plantain chips — Chicharritas

6 to 8 servings

Fried version

2 cups canola oil

6 large green plantains

Salt

Cut off the ends of plantains and slit the skin. Pull skin away from the plantains and slice thinly into rounds. For best results, use a slicer on its thinnest setting. Heat oil to medium-high heat in deep fryer or Dutch oven. Fry plantain chips in small batches, removing them from oil with stainless steel frying skimmer or steel slotted spoon. After removing from oil, drain on paper towels. Add salt to your liking and serve. For best results, keep warm and share them at the table immediately. Chips keep a crunch if tightly sealed.

Oven-baked version

Peel and slice the plantain as noted above. Coat a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Spread plantain chips in a single layer. Bake 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove baking sheet from oven and turn plantain chips with spatula. Bake an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and add salt. This version is chewier than the fried plantain chips and is best served immediately.

First published July 10, 2015: Cook On: 1 part chaos, 2 parts calm — The Paper — By Mary Ann Ebner

 

Bread Winner

Garden bread

Garden bread

When it comes to bread, not all of us can resist home-baked varieties, the puffy pillowy kind or the crusty-on-the-outside and soft-on-the-inside loaves baked to eat as soon as they cool. Check out this easy-to-bake garden bread infused with herbs.

 

 

 

 

St. Louis romantics, please pass the pork butt

Firing up the grill for graduation season and summer suppers takes me back to my youth and brings on a yearning for grilled pork. Dinners growing up along the Mississippi River centered on preparing food influenced by early European settlers, but the most memorable meals in warm weather were often anchored with St. Louis barbecued pork steaks.

Barbecued pork steaks

Barbecued pork steaks

My family rarely ate high off the hog, as the top choice was typically priciest. But in place of fine ham and luscious loin, we splurged on pork steaks — not year round — but for summer grilling. If there was a sure thing for a meal around our family picnic table, this was it. And it was nearly impossible to keep the grilling a secret. Neighbors and passers-by on the sidewalk would slow down to wave when they sniffed that blend of fiery sweet sauce and sizzling pork drippings in the air.

Now with my own family, as we’ve moved across the country, we’ve explored many regional foods. There’s always room in the repertoire to add new discoveries but we also rotate deeply rooted recipes from the past. Not too many years ago, it seemed appropriate to prepare St. Louis-style pork steaks for my son’s kindergarten graduation. After all, his godmother, Jenny, and her daughter, Sam, traveled to New York from St. Louis to visit for a few days. Until then, I’d never purchased pork steaks in my adult life. Once out of college, I moved out west and as a newly minted young adult, I sampled a world of food choices. Now that I’ve matured into adulthood (wrinkles and all), childhood memories of a pony-tailed girl devouring an enormous pork steak, licking sauce from her fingers without fear of reprimand, comes clearly back to me.

For our festive meal, I made a special order at the meat counter and brought a choice cut home to my husband, Greg, for grilling. He grew up in Michigan and until preparing them himself, he didn’t think much of pork steaks. Hand him his favorite Coney (a hot dog with natural skin casing, onions and brown chili) and he’s back home again. But he agreed to slow-grill the pork steaks, even brushing them precisely with tomato purée.

Steaks on the grill

Steaks on the grill

I told Greg that every backyard chef in my memory added beer to the sauce. He had a few bottles of his favorite on hand, which appeared to work fine — one bottle for the recipe, two bottles for the chef, according to legend. Greg slowly grilled the meat and then placed it in a pan of sauce to simmer.

When we sat down at the patio table to enjoy the graduation feast, Jenny smiled with delight when Greg presented the platter of pork steaks.

“Fabulous!” she exclaimed with genuine appreciation. “You made pork butt.”

Well, our young sons, who had been pre-conditioned by their preschool head mistress to use bottom in place of butt at all times, jumped in their surprise. If a godmother could say pork butt, why couldn’t they give it a shout? “Pork butt! Pork butt! Pork butt!” They shook up the conversation, and we tried to camouflage our own laughing outburst. At that shining moment, bottom took a back seat and butt emerged from backyard barbecue chatter to the kindergarten playground.

I could just imagine the look on the headmistress’s face at the chanting. “You are role models for your children,” she always reminded parents. “We’d like to leave the four-letter words out of our environment.”

The pork steaks, though commonly regarded as pork butt, are cut from the upper shoulder blade, nowhere near the … bottom. But young boys are hardly fooled when it comes to table etiquette. “Would you care for barbecued pork shoulder?” or “Please pass the pork butt.” It tastes the same but sounds entirely different.

Grilling rights in the family were turned over to me a while back, and sunny skies recently inspired a pork butt dinner. Cold Spring’s Marbled Meat Shop was the only stop needed to pick up a few pounds of pork. Shop owner Lisa Hall confirmed over the phone that she had pork shoulder in the meat case. I made my way there directly and found Hall and her husband, shop co-owner Chris Pascarella, taking care of customers buying everything from pickles to pastured beef cuts. Pascarella presented a selection of pork shoulder before slicing my choice into ¼-inch thick steaks.

“This is pork shoulder from a Berkshire pork whole hog,” Pascarella said. “It’s actually a cut from the Boston Butt.”

The local purveyors sent me away with pork ready to prepare and confirmed the origin of the meat: Autumn’s Harvest in Romulus, New York.

For every kind of meal from reunions to graduations, from peppers to pineapple, the season calls for grilling. There’s a menu in the making for my eighth grader’s June graduation and in keeping with tradition, we’ll mark the occasion with another backyard barbecue. Bottoms up!

Barbecued Pork Steaks

Serves 8

Kosher salt and pepper for seasoning steaks and sauce

4 to 5 pounds pork shoulder sliced into ¼- to ½”-thick steaks

2 tablespoons bacon grease (substitute with canola oil)

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, diced

4 cups tomato-based barbecue purée

12 ounces bottled beer

2 tablespoons sugar

  1. Rinse pork steaks with a cold, lightly salted water wash. Pat dry. Generously salt and pepper steaks on both sides. Set aside.
  2. To prepare sauce, cook chopped onions and diced garlic over high heat in bacon grease until browned. Add tomato purée, beer, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Stir thoroughly and keep warm on lowest heat.
  3. Slowly grill steaks on low to medium heat, browning on both sides until fully cooked. Brush steaks with sauce and grill an additional 2 minutes.
  4. Place grilled steaks in pan of sauce and simmer 2 hours until tender.

By Mary Ann Ebner

First published at Philipstown.info: Cook On: 1 part chaos, 2 parts calm

Why we crave salted caramel brownies

The Hudson Valley’s Kristin Nelson creates handmade salted caramel sauce that will make anyone’s brownies irresistible. Make salted caramel brownies and try to resist.

Salted Caramel Brownie

Salted Caramel Brownie

Tortillas and guac any day in May

Tortillas on the Griddle

Back in her homeland of Mexico, Eva Rojas grew up on corn tortillas made with fresh masa. She learned to love the textured tradition of the family diet, and ate tortillas dressed with everything from avocados to tomatoes.

She still savors warm tortillas, and prepares them at home in her Cold Spring kitchen. She also keeps them on hand to share with the children she cares for at ABC Soup Day Care. Not only are the corn tortillas gluten free, but they’re not messy or sticky, and the children shine when she offers them as an occasional snack.

“When I make tortillas, I make a lot of them,” Eva said. “I always made them for my children when they were growing up.”

It was right about this time last year, with a nod to Cinco de Mayo, that she shared a batch of her tortillas with a few staff members at The Paper. Fellow scribes in attendance at that Monday morning staff meeting — sorry Tuesday staffers — finished these off while they were still steamy. Eva’s guacamole and salsa vanished quickly as well.

To recreate the traditional food she learned to make in Mexico City, Eva prefers fresh masa. It’s prepared through a process where corn seeds are dried and treated with a powdered lime and water solution, then boiled to loosen and remove skins to prepare this stage of the corn, the nixtamal, and finally ground. But the fresh corn dough isn’t readily available at every corner market in New York like it is back in Mexico so she uses masa harina, corn flour, as a substitute.

Eva Rojas uses a tortilla press in her Cold Spring kitchen.

Eva Rojas uses a tortilla press in her Cold Spring kitchen.

“In Mexico, in many places, they make the masa freshly ground every day. You can buy tortillas or one or two pounds of the masa,” she said. “It’s fresh and if you buy it, you are usually going to use it right away.”

She’s taught me how to replicate her tortillas using a small tortilla press. Ambitious cooks who want to start making tortillas right away can get by without a press by using standard kitchen plates to help flatten the dough. She recommends cooking tortillas with a comal, a flat griddle which is typically used in Mexico. If you don’t have a comal, any griddle or cast-iron pan will do. And with dough in general, consistency is paramount.

“You have to add the water little by little,” Eva said. “But it has to be warm, not too hot. You keep adding until the consistency is good.”

Once the consistency is right, form the dough balls and press on. Depending on the size of your griddle, cook one or several tortillas at a time. The tortillas also take on a crunchy dimension when fried, and fried tortilla strips serve as the foundation for another revered Rojas family dish: caldo de tomatoes (tomato soup). Using three tomatoes, one garlic clove, the juice of half a lemon, a sprinkle of salt and just a pinch of fresh cilantro, blend ingredients. In a small saucepan, heat the tomato mixture until it bubbles and reduce the heat to low. After grilling several fresh tortillas, allow them to cool to the touch, then slice the tortillas into strips. In a few tablespoons of canola oil, fry the strips for two minutes, and remove them from the pan. Layer the fried strips in a bowl, top with the tomato mixture, and add a spoonful of sour cream to the broth-covered tortillas.

The caldo is a miniature feast but tortillas and guacamole make the perfect match. Everyone seems to have their own recipe for the bright green dip, but to turn out her own Mexican guacamole, Eva leans to inspiration from the Mexican flag which is green, white and red and emblazoned with an eagle.

The colors of the flag of Mexico — green, white and red — inspire a classic recipe for guacamole.

The colors of the flag of Mexico — green, white and red — inspire a classic recipe for guacamole.

“The white is the onion, the green is the avocado and the red is the tomato,” she said, “and you have the colors of the Mexican flag.”

With three medium Hass avocados, one medium onion and tomato, juice of half a lime, three quarters of a bunch of cilantro and salt to your liking, mix up colorful guacamole. (After pitting the avocado, don’t toss the seed. If placed in prepared guacamole, it will prevent browning.) Eva recommends mashing avocados with nothing but a fork. Mash, mix and pass the tortillas.

Tortillas

Makes 1 dozen

2 cups corn flour (masa harina — Eva uses the Maseca brand.)

¼ teaspoon salt

1 to 1 ¼ cups warm water

  1. Thoroughly whisk corn flour and salt in mixing bowl. Gradually add warm water and mix. Dough should be moist with elastic consistency. Knead dough in bowl. If dough is too dry, add warm water by the tablespoonful.
  1. Divide dough into 12 pieces and form into 1- to 1 ½-inch balls. Cut two pieces of plastic wrap large enough to cover a plate of 6 to 7 inches in diameter. If you have a tortilla press, place a sheet of the plastic wrap on the opened press and position a dough ball on the plastic. Place the second sheet of plastic on the dough ball and close the top plate and apply pressure with the handle. (If using plates in place of the tortilla press, place a small plate on top of the dough ball covered by plastic and press the plate firmly to flatten the dough ball.)
  1. Open the press, remove the top sheet of plastic and lift the tortilla using the edges of the remaining plastic. Holding the plastic side in your palm, gently remove tortilla and flip it onto a hot ungreased griddle or pan. Cook tortilla on one side, 1 to 2 minutes, until edges begin to brown. Turn tortilla over and cook on other side.
  1. Remove tortillas from griddle and set aside to keep warm in a covered dish or wrap in a towel. Best when served warm.

Cook On: 1 part chaos, 2 parts calm

By Mary Ann Ebner

 

Cook On: spruce up the kitchen with modest utensils

Tool Stash

We may think we know our neighbors, closest confidants and even ourselves, but a more complete picture may be stashed on kitchen shelves and counters. It’s not the pantry — blushing with expired preserves or neglected boxes of dated pasta — that gives us away, but a cabinet or tool drawer, where we store, stuff and tuck kitchenware. Some kitchens bulge with too much, while others suffer the consequences of meager attention.

Last summer my family stayed in a home away from home for a few days during a gathering in Florida. Located in close proximity to the beach as well as the grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, the cottage exceeded our needs. It was one of those property agreements brokered through a third party. The owner secures personal items in a locked storage room and guests rent the rest of the space — kitchen utensils included.

Modest utensils may be the hardest workers in an everyday kitchen.

Modest utensils may be the hardest workers in an everyday kitchen.

The lush herb garden spilling over the back patio hinted that the owner invested real time cooking in the home’s kitchen. But it was the complete set of razor-sharp kitchen knives, cutting boards worn with use and a selection of pans of a certain quality that revealed details about the owner who stepped out for the week to generate a little income from the property.

The homeowner, subliminally, shared a philosophy: Stocking the right utensils helps hands in the kitchen. Some of us are wishful when it comes to essential tools designed for food preparation and table service. An ambitious friend has accumulated a colossal collection of the latest cooking and baking products but doesn’t cook much. The desire is there, but the pasta maker serves more as a decoration than a workhorse in the kitchen. It’s easy to fall for the latest gadgets on the market, but limiting acquisitions to items that justify their keep with frequent use can control kitchen clutter. My go-to cooking tools include the basics, a santoku knife, cast-iron skillet and a collection of assorted spoons, and occasionally the day arrives to retire tools that time and technology have improved.

One of my most reliable tools was purchased thanks to a neighbor who dropped by during dinner prep one evening. Artemis, born and raised in Asia, knows her rice and probably prepares it six days a week. She insisted that I surrender my old rice cooker. It was smallish, with two settings, but did the job. Politely, my friend questioned how it could possibly suffice, and most importantly, she mentioned the products she had avoided and suggested a few models to research. A rice cooker equipped with Fuzzy Logic technology — essentially a computer chip that adjusts time and temperature for precise and consistent cooking — soon replaced the old small appliance. The rice cooker has paid for itself in producing pillowy rice for the last few years, and it also turns out perfectly steamed vegetables.

Another practical tool is the mandoline slicer. Interchangeable blades offer a choice in creating everything from julienne slices to curly cuts to course grating and fine zesting. But do note: Absolute attention is required for those who want to keep all of their fingers intact. The blades are super sharp. Distracted slicing is not recommended.

Not everyone needs a lava mortar and pestle, but the three-legged bowl often used in my kitchen rocks. Also known as a molcajete, it’s an age-old cooking tool. The molcajete helps in the crushing of herbs and spices, and inspires the smashing of just-ripened avocadoes into a proper paste for guacamole. And when making guacamole, the lemon and lime squeezer is a must. Home-away-from-home guests peering around in my kitchen might be fooled by a small display of odd kitchen gadgets on a shelf. Among the items is a vintage aluminum citrus squeezer. Put it to work and it still fully extracts the juice and separates it from the seeds and pulp, but it’s no match for a contemporary hinged squeezer (kept at close reach in a drawer) that makes easy work of juice extraction.

Sweet and sour chicken with vegetables

Sweet and sour chicken with vegetables

A medley of knives, slicers, spoons and pans recently served as instruments to help prepare sweet and sour chicken with vegetables. Naturally, the task could have been handled with fewer gadgets, but when a kitchen functions well, even a slender slotted spoon deserves some of the credit. Modest tools — put into practice — minimize prep time, food waste and cleanup. The best utensils in an everyday kitchen may not necessarily be the most sophisticated, but they’re the tools that see the most use.

 

 

Sweet and Sour Chicken with Vegetables

Serves 6

Chicken

6 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

1 teaspoon grated ginger

1 teaspoon sea salt

twist of freshly ground pepper

Sauce

½ cup sugar

1 cup stock or chicken broth

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup red wine vinegar

½ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Vegetables

6 to 8 medium carrots, thinly sliced

(If you have one, use the mandoline food slicer.)

1 large green pepper, thinly sliced

1 bunch scallions, finely chopped

 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse chicken thighs and place in sealable bag or container. Mix soy sauce, canola, sesame seeds, ginger, salt and pepper. Pour mixture over chicken, seal container and toss to evenly coat chicken. Place container contents in baking dish. Bake uncovered 45 minutes.
  1. During the baking process, slice carrots and green peppers and chop scallions. Set aside.
  1. In medium saucepan, combine sugar, stock, vinegars, lemon juice and zest. Bring to a low boil and whisk in cornstarch. Remove from heat and stir in carrots, green peppers and scallions. Stir to warm through.

Place chicken thighs on platter or serving dish and smother with sweet and sour vegetable sauce. Serve immediately with fresh garden greens and steamed rice.

Cook On: 1 part chaos, 2 parts calm

By Mary Ann Ebner