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Citrusy Chicken Kabobs with Kumquats & Fennel

I’ve received countless questions about what I eventually did with those kumquats that inspired dinner the other night!! OK, so no one’s asked. But let’s, just for a moment, pretend someone had. I’d say that we just returned from a few quiet days in Central Oregon where my love and I played scrabble on a sunny patio, walked meadows with our dogs, went to bed early, and ate simply. I’d tell them that because I knew there was a grill there, I packed my bag of lovely kumquats. (There ought to be a song.)  I thought that if anything could improve upon the incredible flavor housed in that little fruit, it would be eating them outdoors straight from the grill. I’m not going to claim they were better (I’d say)  but let me tell you what they were. The gentle heating seemed to cause the sweet peel of the kumquat to share its sugars with the tart fruit inside. I’d tell them that as a mouthful, they were deliciously warm, had the tiniest bit of sweet char, and were oozy with juice! Paired with the citrusy-marinated chicken and grilled fennel bulb, it was quite the flavorful plateful! And thank you for asking! (I’d say.)

(For alternative ways to prepare a similar meal, or for substitutions, see Other Options at the bottom of the page.)

Earlier I shared a favorite Moroccan recipe for orange, red onion, olive and fennel salad. I suppose this dinner was inspired by that salad.

Citrusy Chicken Kabobs with Kumquats & Fennel

(serves 4 – 6)

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless, large chicken breasts
  • 2 or 3 small, or 1 to 2 large, fennel bulbs (fronds, stems and hard core removed, bulb cut into wedges or cubes)
  • 1 – 2 red onion, cut into cubes or wedges
  • kumquats – minimum of 4 per person (you’re going to love them)
  • olive oil to brush on the onions and fennel
  • metal skewers

for marinade:

  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt & coarsely ground pepper

Prepare the chicken by removing  cartilage, veins and fat. Cut into 1-inch cubes.

Prepare the marinade in a small bowl by whisking all marinade ingredients together. Either in a gallon-size sealable plastic bag or in a medium bowl, combine the marinade and the cut-up chicken. Coat the chicken well and refrigerate (covered with plastic if using bowl) for about an hour. (30 minutes minimum.)

I recommend skewering the onions on a separate skewer, and likewise, the fennel bulb. You can combine kumquats with chicken pieces, or put each on their own skewer. (I did some of each – cut kumquats when skewered with the chicken.) In any case, you don’t want to overcrowd them or they won’t cook properly.

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Chicken Salad with Peas, Feta, and Mint

Peas, feta and mint are such a wonderful combination. Their colors, textures and tastes play off each other beautifully, and when combined with the leftover roasted chicken from the night before, you have a salad that’s easy, cool and refreshing for a warm night or for a slow weekend lunch. With crusty baguette or whole-grain crackers, it’s a salad you can happily linger over, savoring the company you’re with and the flavors on your fork.

Chicken Salad with Peas, Feta and Mint

(Easily serves 4 as a main course.)

  • 3 Tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup shelled fresh or frozen peas (no need to thaw)
  • 3 small spring onions or scallions, white part only, cut into thin rounds or diagonals
  • 4 ounces Greek feta cheese, crumbled (1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, cut into a chiffonade (very thin crosswise strips)
  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 8 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large ripe avocado, thinly sliced
  • 2 heads baby romaine, coarsely shredded, or small baby romaine leaves, left whole
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh chives
  • Creamy Lemon-Chive Dressing (see below)
  • Fine sea salt

Fill a large bowl of ice-water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add coarse salt and the peas and blanch until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes (but even less if using baby peas.) (Did you know that adding salt to vegetable cooking water helps preserve their color?) Quickly pour the peas into a colander and submerge the colander into the bowl of ice-water. Drain thoroughly. (If using the peas right away, you can lay them out on a clean dish towel to absorb the water as you prepare the rest of the salad. Otherwise you can refrigerate them.) Read more

Roasted Whole Chicken on the Grill

This dinner all started with kumquats – even though, in the end, it had absolutely nothing to do with kumquats. Now that I think longer about it, this dinner actually started with going out to lunch and trying to avoid a parking ticket.

Maybe it’s just me…but sometimes I like to figure out exactly how I came to be where I am from where I’d just been. It’s often an odd, circuitous path to trace –  kind of like that “six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon” thing, if you know what I mean. Have you ever taken a long road trip with someone and after some lively conversation, there’s a period of prolonged but comfortable silence?  You think what you’re doing is watching the road or taking in all this amazing scenery, when actually, for some mysterious span of time, you’ve not been where you are at all, and suddenly out of your mouth comes something completely random and seemingly related to nothing. Do you ever then try to figure out (or even explain) how you came to be thinking that particular disjointed nonsensical thought? Well, this night’s dinner happened something like that.

Kumquats - having nothing to do with dinner

My husband and I have kind of a “custom” of going out to lunch on Saturdays. We’ll run a few errands and then pass the ball back and forth until one of us finally makes up our mind about where we’d like to eat, and then we sit across from one another talking about the week, news, politics…or sometimes something even more scintillating (if you can imagine!) We love our Saturdays together. Last week, we were following our usual practice and decided on a great little spot for lunch. We started to park in the lot across from the restaurant but realized it was designated for patrons of a grocery store. We parked there anyway –  but felt quite legal about it because we’d just drop into the market first, and then walk across the street for lunch. We had no real reason to be grocery shopping, other than ticket avoidance, but there we were.

The produce aisles always seduce me first, but for my husband, it’s the wine section. So we went our separate ways to meet up later. Weren’t kumquats all done for the season? I thought so, and had said my sad goodbyes – but no! There they were, and they were huge! – well, the biggest I’d ever seen.  I was downright delighted to see them and filled a small bag. My heart soon returned to its normal rhythm, but a little further down the aisle, the cutest little potatoes fanned out, in reds and yellows and purples! And they were smaller than the kumquats! Who ever heard of such a thing? I hadn’t, so I got handfuls of potatoes, simply because they were smaller than kumquats. And then, there was asparagus – now that’s gorgeous! That’ll be so good with those potatoes! I’ll do them together, with lemon and salt on the grill! Ah yes, the grill. Hmmm, I’ve never tried roasting a whole chicken on the grill before. I wonder if I can do that successfully? I think I’m just going to need to find that out!  And that is how I came to be here:

(You are so incredibly patient with me! Are you like this with everyone?)

Roasted Whole Chicken on the Grill

What I love about roasting a whole chicken: It’s far less expensive than buying the individual parts. It’s so straightforward and simple and after the first little bit, largely hands-off. It can be done in so many different and delicious ways…influences of French, Moroccan, Mediterranean, Spanish. Stuffed or not. Surrounded by vegetables of all different types. Sauce or not.  You can cook two at once with almost no additional labor. There’s (almost) always leftovers to turn into another meal. Then there’s the remnants that become a great stock for soups. And my husband loves it. So what’s not to like?

Cooking something on the grill for more than an hour at 400°F+ can only be done successfully using an indirect method. (In other words no coals or gas flames directly beneath the chicken.) So if you know how to cook on your grill using an indirect method, this will be easy! (If you don’t know how, just check the instructions from your grill’s manufacturer, or on line.)

Ingredients

  • 1 whole  chicken (preferably free-range, organic, humanely raised)
  • 2 lemons, 1 cut in half, the other juiced for basting
  • fresh herbs of your choice (rosemary, oregano, marjoram, parsley, sage, etc.)
  • whole garlic cloves, 2 or 3 or more, crushed but not minced
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

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Focaccia with Olive Oil and Rosemary

Focaccia, that sometimes wildly aromatic flat bread from Italy, can be made using many different herbs or flavorings. At the bottom of this recipe I’ll list several options that change it up quite a bit. If you have a stand mixer, this is an incredibly easy bread to make…and if you don’t, it’s only slightly more time-consuming. (Many food processors are large enough to accommodate it too.)

If your focaccia is around long enough to start to turn stale, you can slice it down the middle, fill it with the sandwich ingredients of your choice, including a good cheese (being sure to add some pesto to prove you’re part Italian) and make a grilled panini of it. Or turn it into croutons for your salad or for scattering on your soupa! If you haven’t made homemade bread before, this is a delicious (and pretty much fool-proof) place to start.

Focaccia with Olive Oil and Rosemary

  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups warm water (115° to 115° F)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 4-1/2 cups bread flour, plus extra as needed
  • Coarse sea salt for sprinkling on top
  • 1- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (or more to suit your taste)

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar over 1/2 cup of the water and stir to dissolve. Allow to stand at room temperature until the mixture is foamy (about 10 minutes.) Add the remaining water and sugar, 1/4 cup of the olive oil, the 1-1/2 tsp. salt and 1 cup of the flour. Beat on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add another cup of flour, and beat on medium-low for 2 minutes. Change to the dough hook attachment, and add the remaining flour, only 1/2 cup at a time, allowing each to incorporate before adding the next. You’re looking for a soft and, what is often described as, a “shaggy” dough to form that will start to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Continue kneading on low speed, adding flour 1 Tablespoon at a time until the dough is only slightly sticky and nearly as soft as a baby’s bottom. (About 6 or 7 minutes probably.) Cover the bowl with a moist clean towel or plastic wrap and allow to rest for 20 minutes.

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Summer Minestrone alla Genovese

Soup isn’t what you generally reach for on a deliciously warm summer day –  I know. So I fully expect you to squint your eyes and look at me sideways when I tell you this soup might just be an exception. First of all, it’s chock-belly full of summer-speaking vegetables – new green beans, zucchini, asparagus, fava beans, and fresh peas – so brightly green and clean and fresh! And to move it into the realm of being satisfying – you know what I mean –  some small, sweet new potatoes and the option of some tiny orzo pasta. And then spooned over top and swirled in, radiant bright basil pesto.  I’d say this soup has a lot to recommend it: it’s the very color of new summer; it’s loaded with healthful vegetables; it fills you in a pleasant way; it’s pretty to look at; and it’s probably even better served luke warm! Served alongside some fresh focaccia, and oh! my! good!

Summer Minestrone alla Genovese

serves 6 to 8

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 pound (or slightly more) new potatoes, quartered
  • 1 quart good chicken or vegetable stock
  • 5 ounces slender green beans, trimmed and cut in half
  • 5 ounces slender, small asparagus, halved lengthwise, or larger asparagus cut into approximately 2-inch lengths
  • 2 pounds 3 ounces fava beans, shelled and peeled, or 5 ounces frozen
  • 11 ounces fresh peas, shelled or 5 ounces frozen petite peas
  • 2 zucchini, cut into smallish cubes
  • 5 ounces orzo (optional)
  • salt

for the pesto:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 ounces fresh basil, stalks removed
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan, freshly grated, plus more for serving
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

In a large wide saucepan, heat the oil and cook the onion, garlic, celery and potatoes together on medium-low for about 10 minutes.

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Vanilla Cardamom Ice-Cream with Grilled Peaches

It seemed like such a good idea. The organic peaches had just arrived at the market and were irresistibly beautiful! Plump and fuzzy little things in colors of  the summer sun, deep coral, and bright, flushed cheeks. Gently going through dozens, I found six or seven that were perfectly ripe.
I held a notion that peach galette and vanilla-cardamom ice-cream would be a heavenly combination. With the taste already in my mind, I was anxious to get started. I set the bags of groceries on the counter and began making the dough for the galette. I prepared the beautiful peaches, assembled that rustic little pie and popped it in the oven. In the meantime, I made the ice-cream. When everything was done, it all looked quite pretty so I snapped some photos. Then I plated it and took that much-anticipated bite. Everything about it was lovely…except the taste. The ice-cream was fragrant-like-a-flower delicious! But the galette – I don’t mean to be rude – but she was boring! It really didn’t matter how pretty she was…once you got past her looks, there was nothing there.

I knew it wasn’t the fault of the peaches. (Naturally, as I was slicing them I’d slipped a few into my mouth.) I’d sweetened them some and spiced them nicely. Maybe somebody out there has a better idea, but I concluded that peaches and galettes, no matter how good they are on their own, don’t make a good pair. I haven’t had much experience cooking peaches…I love them fresh and bright and dripping juice.  My thoughts then went to, Well, how do I cook them in a way that all those lovable things about peaches are preserved? How about if I grill them?!  Of course this could be another good idea gone bad, but I had to find out.

I headed back to the store, found a few ripe peaches I’d missed before, brought them home, and fired up the grill. Just a few short minutes later, I was sitting in the sun with my bare feet up, eating heavenly mouthfuls of cold ice-cream and warm peaches!

Vanilla Cardamom Ice-Cream

The very first recipe I posted for this blog was an apple crisp. Here’s the ice-cream I’d promised to go with it. It’s almost indescribably good. Its speckled with black bits of vanilla bean and its flavor is carried on a cloud that touches your nose before the spoon meets your mouth. And if you try it, you’ll know what I mean when I say you’ll never be in a rush to swallow it. Its one of those things you’ll want to savor until the very last, melted spoonful.

  • 2 cups milk or light cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 8 whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed (see NOTE)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (see NOTE 2)

Preparation

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Halibut Tacos with Tequila-lime Marinade


It’s becoming apparent, isn’t it? We eat our share of seafood.  In these pages what you’ll mostly see is what I get excited about – and this time of year it’s the bountiful variety of fresh-picked produce, grown nearby – and  fresh fish, line-caught. Yesterday felt remarkably like – well, summer – and fish tacos seemed like such a festive way to celebrate a day so beautiful.

Halibut Tacos with Tequila-lime Marinade & Red Cabbage Slaw

(serves 4 ~ or more)

For the red cabbage slaw

  • 3/4 pound red cabbage, shredded (about 4 cups)
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro leaves and stems, roughly chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the tequila-lime marinade

  • 1 lime, first zested, then juiced (about 1 tsp. zest and 2 Tbl. juice)
  • 2 Tablespoons tequila
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 small jalapeños, halved, seeds and membranes removed, sliced crosswise into half rings
  • 1 small red onion, cut into thin half moons (about 2/3 cup)
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the halibut

  • 1 pound halibut fillet, skinned
  • 1 Tablespoon high-heat vegetable oil

For the taco bar

  • Flour tortillas, warmed
  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole (for a quick, easy home-made version see NOTE below)
  • Extra limes

To prepare the slaw, toss the cabbage with the salt. Place in a colander and put the colander in the sink. Using a bowl that fits well into the colander, fill with water and place on top of the shredded cabbage.  The weight of the water-filled bowl will force moisture from the cabbage, concentrating its flavor.

In a large bowl, mix together the shredded apple, mustard seeds, cilantro, vinegar and olive oil. Then, using your hands, lift the cabbage and squeeze it well. Rinse the salt from the cabbage with plenty of water, then squeeze again, getting all the liquid out. Combine the cabbage with the rest of the slaw ingredients, stir and season with salt if needed. Set aside.

To prepare the marinade, combine all of its ingredients in a small bowl.

To prepare the halibut, place it in a large pan (glass or ceramic preferably) and pour the marinade over the fillet. Set aside for 20 minutes.

In a grill pan or sauté pan over high heat, add the vegetable oil. Add the halibut, reserving the marinade, and cook until the fish is browned on one side, about 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully flip the halibut over and continue cooking until the fish is not quite yet flaking (in other words, just slightly underdone. It will continue to cook removed from the heat.) Total cooking time will be about 8 minutes per inch of fish, measured at the thickest part. Transfer the fish to a platter. Then add the reserved marinade to the pan (or get a fresh pan if you grilled the fish) and cook the marinade over high heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed and the onions and jalapeños are beginning to char. Then pile this mixture back onto the fish (which should be just perfectly flaking by now.)

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Grilled Salmon with Fennel, two ways

Nothing compares to the wild salmon from Alaska’s Copper River. Deeply red-orange, silky-tender, succulent, somehow smelling as clean as forest air and tasting of the sea – it’s an amazing fish.  We’ll have it several times during its fairly short season – and we’re in it now. I’ll be honest – Copper River salmon is one of those things that  needs nothing to be a spectacular meal. Sea salt and freshly-cracked pepper, put on the grill, a good squirt of lemon and it will melt in your mouth and lodge itself in your memory. You want to do nothing to disrupt or mask this exquisite taste. We’ll often enjoy it simple, just that way.

That being said, fennel is one of those foods that marries perfectly with the richness of wild salmon. In a recipe posted in late May, I shared a favorite rub that features ground fennel seed with many other spices. Here again salmon is paired with fennel, first with a simple rub of ground fennel and salt, and then served alongside grilled wedges of fennel bulb and red onion. Taken together, it’s smoky, sweet, and simply delicious.

(For this particular recipe you can use a less-expensive and more-readily available salmon – sockeye would be just fine. This time, we couldn’t resist the Copper River.)

(Serves 4)

For the fennel salt:

  • 1 tablespoon dried fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

For the vegetables:

  • 1 large fennel bulb, stems removed, cut into thin wedges (& small frond pieces reserved for garnish)
  • 1 red onion, cut into thick slices
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:

  • 1/4 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • salt to taste
  • 4 cups mixed small-leaf salad greens 

For the salmon:

  • 1 pound sockeye or other salmon fillet, skin on, cut in 4 equal portions, or left as one large piece
  • vegetable oil for oiling the grill

To prepare the fennel salt, grind together the fennel, salt and pepper in a spice grinder. Set asude.

To prepare the vegetables, toss the fennel and onion with olive oil and just 1 teaspoon of the fennel salt in a medium bowl.

To prepare the salad, in a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, mustard, cayenne, honey and salt. Just before serving, lightly coat the greens with 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Reserve the rest of the dressing as a sauce for the salmon.

To prepare the salmon, remove the pin bones. (You can use needle-nose pliers or tweezers.) Coat all flesh sides of the salmon with the remaining fennel salt and pat it on to adhere. Place the salmon on a plate and hold in the refrigerator until ready.

Preheat an outdoor gas grill or indoor grill pan to high heat. Oil the grill rack with vegetable oil. Grill the fennel wedges and onion slices for 6 to 8 minutes, or until tender but still crisp.

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wooing summer

It’s only June, not quite the middle, and not yet officially even summer. For the time being, our approach is still to laugh at the weather. That’s an approach that can’t sustain us forever of course, but we’re being good sports so far. Despite the threatening gloom approaching in wind-born and bruised clouds, despite the rain puddling brown around our sandaled feet, despite the wind lifting our hats, we break the grill out. Though we’re bundled in our jackets, we cook “cooling” things, quintessentially summer, as if  our faith in the season could woo summer closer.  As troubles go, this is a minor adversity, barely hitting the scales! Certainly we can bear up! Summer’s always come. It will again, and maybe still this year! So we eat our shrimp and our cucumber salad, dip chips in home-made salsa, maybe drink an ice-cold beer or two, shake our soppy heads and laugh at the weather. It’s June in Portland.

(I’m back from my little road trip south and have several nummy things to post about. Not wanting to give too much away, but in the next few days you’ll see fresh takes on salmon and halibut, a fresh fruit galette and a promised ice-cream. And … well, more! )

Citrus Broiled Shrimp

Apart from the hours the shrimp spend soaking up the marinade, this dish is quick and easy to prepare. These delicately-flavored, citrusy shrimp are especially delicious (if a little finger-lickingly messy) dipped in melted butter. Though the instructions here are for broiling, they could just as easily be cooked over a hot fire on the grill instead. If set to marinate in the morning, they’d make a fast summer dinner with corn on the cob and a fresh salad. (serves 4)

for the marinade

  • grated zest and juice of 3 oranges
  • grated zest and juice of 1 grapefruit
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce (Asian section of your market)
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh thyume leaves

the shrimp

  • 2 pounds extra-large shrimp (16 – 20 count)

additions

  • coarse salt (especially Fleur de Sel)
  • Melted butter for serving (optional)

In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients for the marinade together.

Spread the cleaned, shelled and de-veined shrimp in a single layer in a baking dish. Pour over the marinade, and cover. Refrigerate for at least 4, and up to 8 hours.

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