This was the first time too many cooks came perilously close to “spoiling the broth”. Someone inadvertently turned off the oven when it was filled with chicken and vegetables roasting. And minutes later we discovered that the rice cooker, set to make brown rice, was cold and quiet – it had been unplugged. In spite of these setbacks the nine of us who gathered last Friday managed not to get in each others way too much and eventually we were very pleased with our culinary output. As we served each other a sumptuous lunch seated around the table we discussed how darn efficient we had become!
We took two large boxes of veggies and two heritage breed chickens from Tomato Mountain and in short order made (best I can remember) the following:
- A very large green dressed salad
- Chicken and chickpeas Pakistani style
- Chicken with spinach and turnips Indian style
- Baked chicken and root vegetables
- Chinese style chicken
- Tomato and carrot soup Mexican style
- Squash soup with cardamom topped with roasted squash seeds
- Grated carrot and radish salad
- Roasted turnips, carrots and onions
- Chinese style spinach salad
- Brown rice
Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
We cheered S who started this program feeling at a loss about how to mix herbs and spices without guidance, who thought of herself as strictly a “meat and potatoes” cook and who, this day, decided to make those roasted turnips and carrots with no guidance from a recipe and then dove right in and made a mixture of rice vinegar, olive oil, coriander, thyme, salt and pepper to flavor them with! They tasted great and S will never be “a meat and potatoes only” cook again!
Here’s an idea of how to make one of the chicken dishes. Feel free to substitute other vegetables or change around the spices!
Chicken with spinach and turnip Indian style
- Brown about 8 smallish chicken pieces in some oil (drumsticks and thighs work well)
- Add two or three bay leaves to the pan
- While the chicken is browning put a roughly chopped large onion, about 5 cloves of garlic, a hot chili pepper and a 2 inch piece of ginger in some liquid (water, stock and tomato juice all work fine) and blend thoroughly with a stick blender
- Grind together until fine (I use a coffee grinder set aside for spices only) about 1 tablespoon of cumin, 1 tablespoon of coriander seed, about 5 cloves, 5 cardamom pods and an inch long piece of cinnamon
- Add about 2 tablespoons of turmeric powder to the pot then the dry spice mixture and the wet aromatic mixture and stir thoroughly
- Add handfuls of washed spinach leaves and stir them in so they wilt and add turnips cut up into 1” to 2” cubes
- Add salt, cover, turn down heat and cook until chicken is soft (I use a pressure cooker). Add a little water if almost all the liquid seems to have evaporated off.
- Adjust salt and serve over brown or white rice.
Once everything was cooked we looked approvingly at all the fresh good food laid out for lunch. Then we thoroughly enjoyed sitting around the table serving each other, talking and eating. Everyone agreed the inclusion of chicken added a wonderful new dimension to the meal.
And we managed to have a very interesting discussion about war and culture and language and what joins and separates peoples while packing up small bags of lettuce, spinach and turnips to take away!
As host this time, I am saddened that we will not meet again until Mid-December because of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. This group really represents something fine, an essence of community we have too little of, and I will miss them until I see them again, almost a month from now.
I’m going to end with a quick look back to session 4 in the blog post for which I mentioned a Chinese broccoli dish. Q has shared the recipe:
Stir fried broccoli:
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 /2 tbsp medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger root, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar or honey
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
- 1/4 carrot, peeled and shredded
- 2 large heads of broccoli, cut into florets
Put a pinch of salt into a pot of water and bring to the boil; boil broccoli florets in the salted water for about 2 minutes until tender-crisp. Drain and put florets into cold water to stop them cooking further. Shake dry.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Stir in onions and cook for one minute. Stir in garlic and ginger, and cook for 30 seconds to 40 seconds till the garlic turns brown. In a small bowl, combine the half cup of water, rice wine vinegar, sugar or honey, and soy sauce, and pour the mixture into the skillet. Bring to a simmer. Cook for two minutes, and then stir in cornstarch and water mixture. Keep stirring and simmer until sauce thickens. Pour sauce over vegetables and garnish with shredded carrots.