Thursday, October 27, 2005

spiced glazed carrots

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With Thanksgiving less than a month away, I though of pulling a few of the last year’s recipes to set the mood. This time is my favorite time of year, filled with great comfort foods: warm, full of spices, filling.

When the temperatures begin to drop, my craving for root vegetables grow. Roasted beets or turnips find their way into my meals. Having grown up in Russia, where plenty of root vegetables are consumed year-round, I never had to develop a taste for them. In fact, I never had to hear my mother say “Eat your vegetables!” to me – it was more like “Eat your meat!” In America, I learned, in school, that liking beets was a very uncool thing. It painted me as a borscht-belt immigrant with her weird foods. Chicken nuggets were in, root veggies were out!

Surprisingly, carrots were not as uncool as their other earthly cousins. Carrots, smothered with dip, were acceptable. My first encounter with a crudite left a sad impression as carrots sticks lay side by side with celery and tomatoes, all dried up and bent out of shape. The irony was that I hated cooked carrots.

As a little girl, I had to eat a lot of tzimmes, a traditional Jewish dish with cooked carrots, honey, raisins and cinnamon. It sounds good to me now, but back when I was a tiny, wee thing, I dreaded the dish like the plague. As I got older, I grew to love cooked carrots and even crave tzimmes now. But that recipe will be saved for another day. Perhaps when Passover hits and I need to contribute to the Jewish cooking ideas. The spiced, glazed carrots I made for Thanksgiving last year, my favorite holiday, were a hit with everyone at the table. Even the self-proclaimed vegetable haters.

Not only did they taste good, but they looked quite pretty with their green tops decorating the platter!

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Monday, October 3, 2005

moroccan chicken stew

Moroccan-Inspired Chicken Stew

As autumn sets in and days get shorter, temperatures – cooler, and sweaters – thicker, food cravings change as well. Salads are often replaced by heartier vegetables – cooked, warm, flavorful. Baking frequency goes up. Instead of strawberry shortcake, you might want to make an apple pie. Instead of a spinach salad, you might crave a spinakopita. And perhaps grilled chicken is replaced by a stew with a myriad of spices and flavors.

I have noticed that I am always in search of recipes that combine sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Perhaps this is why I am such a fan of Thai food. I’m practically a permanent fixture at a nearby restaurant.

Overall, and especially for stews, I prefer to use the dark meat to white meat because of how much flavor it contains. Legs and thighs on a chicken have more muscle, therefore more blood, and thus more flavor. The breast, while considered a “healthier” choice tastes bland to me. No matter how you cook it, I’ll always eye the dark meat on any bird, be it chicken, duck or turkey.

Another great thing about this recipe is its one-pot functionality. This is great for those with small kitchens or who are easily overwhelmed with having several pots to watch at one time. For novice cooks, this is almost fool-proof, especially if you follow the dark meat route. The meat will become juicy and tender, practically falling off the bone.

If you’re disgusted by the idea of eating gizzards and hearts, then simply substitute that portion with more chicken. As a Russian, I cannot discard that part of my upbringing. And what a great surprise it was when I cautiously mentioned to my boyfriend that there were organs in the stew and that he didn’t have to have any, and he was elated because he grew up eating them too! If you’ve never tried gizzards or hearts, I’ll say that it’s extremely flavorful. I happen to love it, but it’s a matter of taste and what you’re used to.

Overall, this is fun and easy to make. And it fills your kitchen and house with warm, cozy smells of fall and familiarity. It’s a perfect meal to eat on your couch watching a movie or a game or just hanging out with a few friends. Grab a few deep bowls and enjoy!

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