Pirate Kitchen

Roasted Eggplant & Tomato Pasta

General, Pasta, Vegetarian | September 26, 2010 | By

Roasted veg ready to puree

I’m a bit disappointed. It was officially Fall on Thursday and I’m still waiting for it to arrive. The whole week was hovering in the 90’s and an exercise in frustration trying to find the right thing to wear. It is time to put away Summer clothes. Every year this means I want to burn just about everything in my closet. But, <sigh> I digress.

(more…)

Peach Pie Plan B

Baking, Desserts, General, Pies | September 16, 2010 | By

Peach Pie Slice

This was my effort to memorialize Summer and it ain’t pretty (see photo above), but boy was it delicious. Peach Pie Plan A was striving for perfection. It was a nice goal to have, but it didn’t happen so I moved on to Plan B. It started with a bowl of beautiful Jersey peaches. Look at these babies:

Bowl of New Jersey Peaches

Which I made into, as I mentioned earlier, a very messy pie. I ate and contemplated the Summer’s events. I thought about past Summers like this one:

Girls Playing Dressup
Every Summer of my childhood looks like this when I think about it:  perfect sunny days playing Barbies and dress-up with my friends. Just look at us circa 1973. That’s me on the far left in the red velveteen. I loved that dress of my mom’s. It’s doing a good job hiding my scabby, messy legs I got from riding bikes and playing in the woods. Then I looked at my slightly tired herb garden and thought, “come on Autumn”. I can’t wait for our backyard tree

Huge Tree

to look like this

Backyard Autumn Tree

and

wearing sweaters

sitting out back wrapped in a blanket drinking an amazing cup of coffee

making soup

pumpkin picking

Halloween and

thinking about next Summer.

Prunes Opus #1

Chicken, General, Gluten Free | September 15, 2010 | By

Chicken Marbella in MacKenzie Childs platter

Weird but true statement:  I love prunes. I think I want that on a T-shirt. Ok, maybe not. I love their rich, creamy texture and deep flavor. Somehow though, I can’t bring myself to refer to them any other way than that:  prune. It seems disrespectful to refer to the proud and honorable grandfather of the raisin as a “Dried Plum”.  But let’s face it, prunes are not “cool” or “hip” or “groovy” and I think that’s right and good. Don’t go tryin’ to change them!

I’ve always loved pastries made with lekvar, a.k.a. prune butter. My prune world began in my VERY (as I’ve mentioned before) ethnic hometown region with those Eastern European-Slovak-Polish types. I’ve had the best darned Kolaczki which is a prune butter filled cookie.

lekvarKOLACZI

Lekvar Kolaczki

Kolachi

Kolachi

And my other favorite is Kolachi (I know it looks almost like the same word as Kolaczki, but note the pictures. They’re definitely different) which is a sweet yeast pastry, rolled and filled with prune butter, a ground nut mixture or poppy butter. Hungarians call this Beigli. I made the rolls at Christmas and Easter and overfilled them so they exploded a bit on top, but they were still out of this world delicious.

When I found the Chicken Marbella recipe years ago in The Silver Palate Cookbook, I nearly flipped my lid. Prunes with chicken?!  It’s an unbelievable combination of savory and sweet: the savory herbs, olives, capers and garlic paired with the sweetness of the prunes and brown sugar. You know a recipe has to be good when it’s appealing even in its raw state. Of course I would never and don’t have any sort of gastronomic death wish. I’m talking purely visual here.

The marinade has many ingredients, but the whole thing comes together easily and is never disappointing. Also, you can use whatever type of chicken you like in a 3-5 lb range. So, now that the quality of light is changing and the days are just a wee bit shorter, throw the ingredients in a big bowl or pot to marinate and invite some friends for dinner the following evening. After marinating, all you have to do is bake and arrange on a platter –  that’s it! They will worship and adore you and you can sit back with a glass of wine (or a few!) and enjoy the cool evening and the warmth of friendship.

Chicken Marbella
Serves 6-8 or more

Ingredients

  • 3 – 5 pounds of chicken (any combination of quarters, thighs, wings or just plain boneless, skinless breast)
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and rough chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup pitted prunes
  • 1/2 cup green olives
  • 1/2 cup (or whole 3 ounce jar) capers with a bit of juice
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley or fresh cilantro, chopped

In a large bowl combine chicken, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange chicken pieces in a single layer in a shallow roasting pan and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting occasionally with pan juices. With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with pan juices and, if desired, sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pan juices can be served on the side. Chicken can be enjoyed hot or at room temperature.

Credit:The Silver Palate Cookbook

Million Dollar Chocolate Chip Cookies

Baking, Chocolate, Cookies, Desserts, General | September 5, 2010 | By

Remember the myth of the Neiman-Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies? How about the $250 Cookie Recipe? Well, at the height of this myth/controversy/craze I got sucked in and made the $250 Cookie Recipe. Why? Because it had an 8 oz. Hershey bar listed in the ingredients. I missed the word “grated” next to it and 4 cups of flour and 5 cups of oatmeal, etc! However, I tackled this beast of a recipe in that same tiny kitchen from my youth with tenacity, naivete and inexperience. It was a good cookie, but a better learning experience and not worth the effort and frustration caused by the fact that my kitchen was not the size of a football field.

In the late 1980’s, early 1990’s, I worked in Center City, Philadelphia and just happened to be right around the corner from The Frog Commissary storefront which is no longer there, but they continue to thrive in other incarnations. May it Rest In Peace. They made and sold an amazing oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. Of course, The Frog Commissary Cookbook is still one of my favorites and thankfully the recipe for that cookie (among other fantastic recipes) is in it.

My recipe hits the “million dollar” mark because I add a secret ingredientcinnamon. Whoa. I noticed that the Neiman Marcus recipe used espresso powder, but since that’s not really my favorite flavor combination with chocolate, I thought I would try cinnamon. It adds a warm richness and your whole house will smell divine when they’re baking in the oven.

The recipe is large enough to make a substantial amount (3 dozen), but not so big to become an exercise in frustration.  It also supports those stealthy cookie dough eaters.

Million Dollar Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Even better than the stuff of urban myth and legend

Makes 3 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats (not instant)
  • 12 ounces (2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter with the sugars. Add the vanilla, milk and eggs. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and blend. Add to the creamed mixture and combine. By hand, stir in the oats, chips and nuts. Drop the dough on parchment lined baking sheets, using a nifty 1 3/4-inch-diameter ice cream scoop or a rounded tablespoon. Flatten lightly to make them a bit more compact and bake for 12-15 minutes. Let sit for 1 minute, then remove to cooling racks.

I like to store these in large zip top bags and they freeze well. For that just-out-of-the-oven goodness, pop one (or 2!) in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Try substituting other nuts like pecans or macadamias.

Credit: Recipe inspired by The Frog Commissary Cookbook’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies