Chicken and Fennel Soup

I had a leftover roast chicken in the fridge and some fennel I’d forgotten about – and it’s fall! Chilly weather means it’s time for soup.

  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 jalepeno pepper, minced
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white cooking wine
  • Bones and meat from leftover roasted chicken (or 5 to 6 cups vegetable stock)
  • 2 large fennel stalks, chopped
  • 2 tsp. herbes de Provence
  • 1 tsp. orange peel
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cashews
  • salt and pepper to taste

(if you’re using a leftover roast chicken) Place the chicken bones in a large pot and fill with enough cold water to just cover. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Let cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

In a medium-large pot or Dutch oven, cook the garlic and peppers in the olive oil. As the garlic browns, add the carrots and fennel. Season with herbs, orange peel a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Add wine and some broth to keep it from sticking.

If you like pureed soup, puree the fennel/garlic mixture with the cashews. Then, strain the chicken meat and broth and add it to the fennel/garlic mixture. Serve with bread or mix in cooked faroe or rice.

Chicken Mole

I’ve never tried to make Chicken Mole from scratch, although there are plenty of good recipes for that out there. This version with Dona Maria Mole sauce is pretty close to what I’ve had in Mexican restaurants. Their version usually has more chocolate.

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (mild)
  • 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato paste
  • Dona Maria mole mix
  • 2 squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • sesame seeds (optional)
  • chopped cilantro (optional)

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until golden brown.

Add chicken thighs. Sprinkle with chili powder. Cover and sauté until chicken is lightly browned

Use orange juice or broth to deglaze the pan. Thin about 3 tablespoons of Mole mix with the orange juice. Mix the tomato paste and the rest of the orange juice and broth together. Add the Mole mix.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and add the unsweetened chocolate. Stir until melted. Add cinnamon. Cover and simmer until chicken is tender and just cooked through, about 25 minutes.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and cilantro (or have them on the side). Serve over quinoa or rice + peas.

Baked Ziti with spinach pesto

I was planning to make spinach lasagna last night, but didn’t have the right pan, so tried this:

Serves 2:

4 handfulls dry ziti
2 tbsp. virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
about 1/2 of a 5-ounce box fresh spinach
Italian herb mix or 1/2 tsp. basil, oregano and parsely
fresh-ground pepper
1 cup low fat ricotta cheese
1 cup pre-shredded mozzarella
1/2 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
some freshly grated Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, or a combination

– Preheat oven to 400 F

– In a water filled pot cook the ziti with about 1 tsp oil till al dente

– put the fresh spinach, herbs, pepper and minced garlic into a blender and chop the mix until it becomes a paste. If you want, add a little oil

– mix the cooked ziti, ricotta, mozzarella, spinach pesto mix and a little bit of the spaghetti sauce together till blended. Top off with the rest of the sauce, a sprinkle of the parmesean and some pepper.

– Bake at 400 F for about 30 minutes, then serve

Quick Breaded zucchini (side dish for 2)

1 shallot, chopped
1 tsp chopped ginger
2 med zucchini chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp margarine
2 tsp roasted paprika
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

1. Fry shallot and ginger in olive oil over med heat* till shallot is browned
2. Add roasted paprika and some fresh ground pepper to oil and stir quickly till fragrant
3. Add zucchini and margarine and fry till zucchini is soft
4. Throw in about 1/4cup breadcrumbs and fry till breadcrumbs are browned.
* if you keep it over med heat the whole time, the breading will be crispy and the zucchini will stay juicy

Into the wild tri-state area

Nicholas Kristof offers advice on how to hike and camp in the NY/NJ area and not get eaten by bears:

Here’s how to pry yourself and your family off the keyboard and venture into the wild — without feeding a bear. In the same way that you recharge your BlackBerry from time to time, you also should recharge your soul — by spending part of August disconnected from the Web and reconnected with the universe.

In short: Go take a hike! Backpacking is the cheapest of vacations, and it links you intimately and directly to the world around you. It reminds us that we are just a part of the natural order, not lord of it, and that humble acknowledgment is the first step to improve our stewardship.

Backpacking means you take on your shoulders everything you need to hike and camp. The key is to carry very little, say 10 pounds not including food and water. I frequently see tortured backpackers stumbling along as they lug gargantuan packs that dangle frying pans; in their torment, they gaze enviously at my small pack and mistake me for a day-hiker.

So here’s a basic how-to guide:

1. Follow Robert Frost and take the path less traveled by, for that makes all the difference. In the evening, camp where no one else is around. You don’t need a campground: just stop anywhere that is flat. Indeed, the ground in the woods and fields is much softer than the packed dirt of campgrounds. But when you leave in the morning, make sure that you leave no trace.

2. Wear an old pair of running shoes, not a new pair of hiking boots that just give you blisters. One way to tell neophyte weekend hikers from Mexico-to-Canada through-hikers is that the beginners have huge packs and heavy boots, while the through-hikers have sneakers and tiny packs.

3. Try the “ultralight” gear that is revolutionizing backpacking. My beloved basics are the 1-pound G4 pack from Gossamer Gear, with a sleeping pad that doubles as pack frame, and a 1-pound, 13-ounce Ultralite sleeping bag from Western Mountaineering that is warm to 20 degrees.

4. Skip a tent. To keep off rain, carry an ultralight tarp that you tie between two trees and stake to the ground, like a pup tent. But if there’s no rain, sleep under the stars. God made stars so that humans could fall asleep admiring them.

5. A tiny backpacking stove can boil water for freeze-dried dinners that are unpalatable at home and delectable in the field. My kids’ favorite food is “anything cooked in the woods.”…

I used to cook hot dogs and smores in the campfire (when I was able to get a good fire started). Food that doesn’t need to be cooked, like tabouli, hummus and pita is also good. If all else fails, it’s good to keep a supply of power bars & rice krispie treats.

Bugs are also a big part of any effort to get in touch with nature. Long-sleeved light shirts, bug repellent and some mosquito netting under the tarp can really improve your attitude towards the wild.

Cheese-related adjectives

How to sound like you know what you’re talking about when you’re talking about cheese: *

“Fresh” is Young, Tart, Tangy, Creamy (like Mozzarella)

“Bloomy” refers to the snowy, fluffy, blooming rind. White, Buttery Decadent, Rich (like Brie, Camembert)

“Semi-soft” Hay, Leaves, Wet Straw, Earthy, Pliable, Melting. (Fontina, Morbler)

“Washed rind” – Washed during aging with brine or alcohol. Stinky, Fruity, Meaty, Intense ( Epoisses, Taleggio)

“Firm” – Dense but supple. Grassy, Eggy, Fruity, Sharp, Thick, natural rind is usually not eaten ( Cheddar)

“Hard” – The super-aged big guns. Dry, Crunchy, Carmelly, Butterscotchy, Grainy (Gouda, Parmigiano-Reggiano)

* Thanks to Cielo Peralta of Murray’s