Breathing Greens

Fruits and vegetables, as I am sure you already knew, are living organisms. But rarely do we consider that our produce is actually breathing. Yes, breathing; or rather, respiring. Produce is taking in oxygen, breaking down the complex compounds into energy, water, and carbon dioxide. And unlike photosynthesis, in which carbon dioxide, along with sunlight and water,  is taken in by plants to produce sugar (food), respiration is the process in which plants take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide, much like muscular breathing.

So, you say, what does all this respiration talk have to do with my daily interaction with produce? Well, if you want to preserve your precious produce effectively, you need to slow down its respiration, or rather, its metabolic breakdown. When the respiration process is happening at a rapid pace, so is its deterioration. Keeping your produce cold and limiting its oxygen supply aids in slowing down the deterioration process. In other words, fruits and vegetables that have low respiration rates, such as potatoes, grapes, and apples, are able to keep well for longer periods of time than produce with high respiration rates, such as ripe bananas, lettuce, and green beans.

When you bring your produce and fresh herbs home from the market, be sure to wash them in cold water. This process not only removes any dirt or debris lingering on the stalks and leaves, but also allows the plants’ cells to fill with water. Plant cells begin to lose their water after picking, which causes wilting. Slowing this process, by keeping the humidity high and limiting air flow, is best achieved by spinning the produce in a salad spinner, wrapping a layer of paper towel around the produce, then placing it in a plastic bag. When stored in such a manner, it is possible to keep your produce for about one week in the fridge, sometimes slightly longer. Plus, whenever meal time comes along, you don’t have to worry about cleaning and drying your produce prior to cooking, saving you a bit of time.

Ever wonder why you are left with soggy, wilted greens when you dress your salad far in advance of serving dinner? Greens are somewhat water-proof, so the culprit of this mushy mess isn’t the vinegar in the dressing, but the oil and salt. Your best bet is to chop all the vegetable ingredients into a bowl, and save the actual dressing for a minute or so before you actually serve the salad.

1 Tbl. unsalted butter
1/4 c. raw pine nuts
1/2 shallot, peeled
1 Tbl. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbl. honey
1/2 c. canola, peanut, or mild olive oil
1 large bunch spinach, rinsed and dried
1 large navel orange, peeled and cut into 1/4″ slices
salt, pepper to taste

Melt the butter on low heat. Add the pine nuts and toast for about 2 minutes, being careful to stir and avoid burning the nuts. Transfer the nuts to a paper towel-lined  plate and sprinkle a bit of salt on top. Set aside. Add the vinegar, shallot, mustard, honey, salt, and pepper to a food processor. Slowly add the oil. Add 2 Tbl. toasted pine nuts and process the dressing until it is thoroughly puréed. Set aside.

With a sharp knife, remove the orange’s peel, following around the fruit’s contour. Slicing between each inside membrane of the orange, carefully slice 1/4″ slices. Arrange the slices onto a salad platter. Remove the spinach stems and finely chop the spinach leaves, placing them into a large mixing bowl. Toss with the dressing.

Pile the spinach into the center of the salad platter. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve immediately.

Congratulations!

My apologies to our readers. The last week has been a bit hectic….. travels to celebrate Easter Sunday with my family in the D.C. area, then back home to New York to celebrate the Greek Orthodox Easter with dear friends. Oh, and my other half of Two Dancing Buckeyes gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby. Congratulations, Gretchen!!!! I wish I could be there, but I’ll try to “hold down the fort,” -er, blog, so to speak, while you’re recovering and enjoying your new bundle of joy.

While traveling to Connecticut to celebrate Greek Easter earlier today, we stopped at a service station along route 95 to get a cup of coffee and allow the kiddos to use the toilets. The facilities appeared to be somewhat new, with the typical food service offerings one could expect to find along a highway: McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, and Sabbaro to name a few. While my son was begging for a donut on the way to the bathroom, a sign on the other end of the service station caught my attention: Good-to-Go Organics. Organic food?!?! At a service station? Could this be some sort of mirage? Clearly my brain must be playing tricks on me. But no, there really exists, at least in Milford, CT, an organic food station, serving organic snacks, beverages, and sandwiches to those of us weary travelers tired of having zero healthy options while stuck on the highway.

**For those of you living in and around New York City, you may recognize the name, Good to Go Organics, which has outposts in Central Park and Chelsea Piers.

A Perfect Cheescake….Finally!

There are those recipes you dare to try, going in with great gusto and leaving all inhibitions aside. Cheesecake may safely be said to be one of those such recipes. (At least for me.) I’ve lived in New York City long enough to consider myself a New Yorker and, thus, a fan of cheesecake. Those of you inhabiting the East Coast of the U.S. may likely be familiar with Junior’s cheesecake, originating in Brooklyn; decadently rich and smooth. But, honestly, I don’t know too many people, regardless where they originate or currently find themselves geographically, who don’t enjoy a thick slice of gateaux du fromage.

I’ve attempted my hand at creating a cheesecake worthy of praise a few times in my life. I’ve had some near successes, but certainly nothing I could sell at a corner bakery. Until now…

I recently began reading a book titled, “CookWise,” by Shirley O. Corriher. I haven’t completed reading it cover to cover, so I can’t give a final review at this time, but I can tell you how exciting it is to read sections and chapters at random and get new insights about various recipes I’ve tried without a lot of success, simply due to my lack of food science knowledge. I find this book to be most like a hand guide for those of us home cooks who have always had an inkling to — but never found the time — to attend cooking school.

I tweaked the following recipe — it originally called for sour cream, and I replaced it with Greek thick yogurt, with much success. I added pure almond extract, but you could instead add an almond-flavored  liquor, such as amaretto, or simply omit the almond flavoring and opt for lemon juice and zest. The original recipe calls for chocolate wafers in the graham crust, however I used some tea biscuits and loved the outcome. It’s totally up to you and your preference.

Because this recipe doesn’t contain any starch in the batter, it must be baked in a water bath. The cake pan should be placed in a casserole dish large enough to leave a good inch of space around the entire cake pan. I was a little apprehensive the first time I attempted this recipe, but placing a thick, terry cloth towel underneath the cake pan provides extra protection from heat on the bottom of the pan, and allows the cheesecake to bake nicely without overcooking. The towel will certainly not burn, so not to worry!

Cheesecake will appear to be undercooked when you need to stop the baking process. So if the cake looks a bit jiggly in the center, don’t fret. It will set nicely in the fridge overnight. Most cheesecakes I have made in the past came out cracked in the center, which I later found meant I had overcooked the cake. I made a simple preserve syrup out of frozen strawberries, blueberry/cranberry juice, almond extract, and sugar, but it’s certainly not necessary. This cheesecake is divine on its own, topping or no.

Crust:
14 wafers, or tea biscuits (chocolate or plain)
3 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, room temperature
1 c. sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
4 tsp. pure almond extract, or 1/4 c. amaretto
3 c. thick Greek yogurt, such as FAGE brand

Crush the wafers or biscuits in a plastic zipper bag or in a food processor. In a small bowl, stir together the crushed wafers, sugar, and melted butter until a coarse crumb is achieved. Line the bottom of an 8 x 3″ round, straight-edged cake pan with parchment paper, cut to fit. (Despite what you see in the photo below, I do not recommend using a spring form pan, as a little bit of water will leak through the pan during the baking process, making the crumb crust soggy.) Grease the sides of the pan, then press the crumb crust into the bottom of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Meanwhile, in a food processor or standing mixer, blend the cream cheese and sugar well, removing all lumps. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add the vanilla, salt, and almond extract (or amaretto). Blend well. Add the yogurt. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Prepare a water bath by folding a thick, terry cloth towel into the bottom of a roasting pan. Place the cake pan on top of the towel. Pull out the oven shelf you intend to use to bake the cake, and place the roasting pan onto the oven shelf. Carefully fill the roasting pan with nearly boiling water until the water reaches about an inch up the sides of the cake pan. Carefully slide the oven shelf back into place. Close the oven door and do not open it for 45 minutes, despite any temptation to do so. After 45 minutes, shut off the oven heat and allow the cake to sit inside the oven for another hour. The cheesecake batter may look undercooked to you, but trust me, it’s going to be fine! Remove the cake from the oven and place it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, you will need to remove the cake from the pan. It will need to be inverted twice, so cover a baking sheet with plastic wrap and set aside. Turn a burner on low and place the cheesecake pan on the burner for a few seconds. This will allow you to remove the cake from the pan easily. Place the plastic-coated baking baking sheet over the cake pan and invert the cake onto the sheet. Peel the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake and then re-invert the cake onto a pedestal cake dish, or cake plate. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve. Believe me, you (and all your guests) will be blown away by this cheesecake. In fact, I think I am going to have another slice from the fridge as soon as I finish writing this post!

Wine Bits: A Bit on Pairing and Hosting, Part 2

 
The following is part two of a two-part series that was written for Two Dancing Buckeyes by ‘Dad’ Wolfe who is a regular ‘Wine Bits’  and TDB contributor.
 

In my last post, I wrote about wine and food pairings and made a few suggestions regarding which wines might pair well with a selection of Two Dancing Buckeyes recipes.  Now, regarding wine and hosting, I recommend having, at least, a small variety of choices at any gathering.  First of all, it’s the mark of a good host to accommodate the major differences in preferences of red or white and, within the reds and whites, of sweet or not so sweet (i.e. dry).  To thoroughly cover the bases might require six to eight choices:  a sweet, dry and middle-of-the-road red (3), the same for whites (3), a rosé(1) and something with bubbles–a champagne, a sparkling or a moscato (1), totaling eight.  And, of course, it’s a nice gesture to have some beer on hand for that person who “does not drink wine” and some soft drinks (don’t forget sugar-free and/or caffeine-free choices) or fruit drinks, as well as bottled water, for those who do not wish to drink beer or wine.  Whew!  Sounds like a pretty big job.  Not really.  All of the above can be kept on hand for quite a while (when it is best to drink various wines and how long they may be kept will be discussed in a soon-to-follow posting),  so you may find it helpful to gradually accumulate a variety of beverages to have on hand.  In this way, you will be reasonably prepared for an impromptu gathering.  The only things you may need are a cooler and a bag of ice.  No, I haven’t forgotten your friends who prefer mixed drinks.  However, to accommodate such preferences requires a great deal more inventory, expense, accessories and preparation.  You must decide for yourself how far in that direction you wish to go.  However, that’s another story for another writer.

As for wine, if you purchase what you want for a particular occasion, as you go, it can be a bit expensive.  However, if you make purchases on an on-going basis, perhaps buying a case, from time to time, of something you like and/or that may be on sale, you will gradually expand your inventory.  You may visit a winery and, after tasting a variety, bring home some bottles of something you enjoyed.  Or you might attend a wine-tasting at a restaurant or wine store and find some varieties you wish to have.  There is much less guess-work with this method.  Recently, a favorite restaurant of mine hosted a particular wine-maker for a tasting.  Such events are usually very reasonably priced and may include appetizers.  The object is to acquaint you with the wine and, hopefully, sell some to you.  It is also very interesting and informative to talk with the winemaker.  I came home with a case which included a number of varieties.  Most purchases, by the case, are discounted, depending on the applicable state laws (a case consisting of twelve bottles).  Many larger grocery stores are expanding their wine sections to include a greater variety at a wide range of prices.  Oftentimes, they will offer tastings of a featured wine for as little as $0.25 or $0.50, and that wine will be on sale that day.  This is another good opportunity to expand your reserve supply.  If you acquire a variety, over a period of time, you will be better prepared to accommodate the varying tastes of your guests or your own range of choices depending on your food and mood.

Two other ways to be prepared are 1) check with your guests ahead of time as to their preferences and 2) request guests, to a planned event, to bring one bottle of a wine they like, to share.  If you plan to serve a wine which is new to you, it’s a good idea to conduct your own tasting, in advance, to be sure it is what you expect and want.  This will also give you an opportunity to try different foods with the wine.   Sometimes, a pop-in guest will bring a bottle of wine along and say something like “let’s try this and see what we think.”  That’s a fun way to experience a new wine.  And, of course, you might do the same when you are the visitor.  Your host will appreciate it.

Having a proper place to store your wine is important in building and maintaining a good supply.  I have a friend who lives in a nice, older country home, the kind which typically has a fruit cellar (sometimes a room formerly used for coal) and his house has one.  Such places are dark and cool and usually stay at a fairly constant temperature.  Although he had been a life-long beer drinker and had little interest in wine, I was able to get him to expand his horizons to include wine.  We joined a wine club together, which gave us a good chance to taste a variety of wines, and he gradually found where his preferences lay.  He began to accumulate wines and, one day, boastfully announced (having cleaned out his fruit cellar to store his wines—temperature control being a significant point here—more on this later), “I have a WINE CELLAR, you only have a basement” (one-upsmanship being a game we tend to play).  I replied to him that, while I may only have a basement, he never seems to have any trouble finding something he likes when he goes there.  It’s all in good humor and a part of enjoying the journey.  Until next time, please do enjoy the journey.

Pineapple-Mango Salsa

On New Year’s Eve this past year, a friend brought over a chutney-like salsa that she had purchased at a deli. We were both so enamored by the product that I immediately vowed to recreate it at home, and this is what I came up with. This salsa is so fresh and flavorful, sweet yet tangy, that I just can’t get enough of it.

This salsa can be served with tortilla chips, used as a garnish over fish, or just eaten by the spoonful (which is what I like to do!)

1 ripe mango, peeled and diced (about 1 cup, measured)
1 c. diced pineapple
1/3 c. chopped red pepper
1/3 c. chopped red onion (rinsed under cold water after chopping)
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
juice from 1/2 lime
1 tsp. finely chopped jalapeño (optional)
a pinch of chili powder (optional)
Salt and pepper

Prep all the ingredients. Combine the mango, pineapple, red pepper, red onion, cilantro, garlic, and jalapeño (if using) in a medium-sized bowl. Sprinkle with the chili powder, a pinch or two of salt, and a twist of freshly ground pepper, then squeeze the lime juice over everything and stir to combine. Allow to sit for 1/2 hour before serving to allow the flavors to mix. Enjoy!

Wine Bits: A Bit on Pairing and Hosting, Part 1

 
The following is the first of a two-part series that was written for Two Dancing Buckeyes by ‘Dad’ Wolfe who is a regular ‘Wine Bits’  and TDB contributor.
 

Spring is upon us and thoughts begin turning toward warm weather, outdoor activities and enjoying some relaxation on our decks, porches, patios and/or in our backyards.  Likewise, cookouts and picnics come to the forefront.  Some of the recipes presented by our two dancing buckeyes are perfect for such activities, such as the salads, dips, soups, chicken dishes, desserts and on and on.  And, of course, we should have our favorite beverages, which may include wine.  Wine pairs wonderfully with the foods of picnics and barbeques.  Wine is also a necessary accessory in the grilling process. There are so many great choices of wine, at reasonable prices, and lots of flexibility for varying tastes and preferences.  Also, it is not that difficult to take a bottle or two of wine on a picnic, outdoor concert, etc.  (where legally permitted, of course).  The bottles can be chilled, in advance, and easily transported.  There are convenient carriers for one or two wine bottles which you should add to your wine accessories.

In this offering, I will suggest some wines that I believe will pair well with some of the suggestions from the TDBs.  Of course, such suggestions are just “one person’s opinions” and you must always remember: all that really matters is what YOU like.  However, there is generally some rationale to the concepts of what wines work well with what foods.  The object is for the food and the wine to complement each other.  I like to look for a wine that will not overwhelm the food and, likewise, one the taste of which will not be lost to the food.  For example, with some fresh fruit, mild cheese and crackers, something such as a chilled sauvignon blanc will do very nicely.  However, with a spicy dip, breads and various meats you may find a heartier red wine to be more suitable.  People’s taste buds vary, so it is not an exact science and achieving a balanced pairing is sometimes a difficult task.  It may require a little experimentation.

Recent food suggestions from the Two Dancing Buckeyes and my thoughts on wines to go with them:

Cucumber Crunch Salad  — a dry white, such as a chardonnay, or a moderate red such as a malbec.

Taco Layer Dip — a more robust red such as a tempranillo.

Crab and Corn Chowder — a moderate white, perhaps a viognier, or a lighter red such as a pinot noir, perhaps even a rosé, as you may wish.

Cilantro-Tomato Sauce Over Chicken — a tough one, how do you feel?  Maybe a hearty red, to balance the sauce.  There’s no right or wrong here (or anywhere, for that matter).

Spinach Salad — I would prefer a nice, chilled pinot gris with this simple, but tasty salad.

Crudité Platter — Lots of opportunity here, but how about a nice chilled rosé on a warm summer evening.

Black Bean Burgers — I’d go with a cabernet on this, while preparing the burgers on the grill.  Sounds great!

Desserts — break out the bubbly to wind down the evening.  Enjoy.

Orange Poppy Seed Bread

There are always a few recipes that stay with us as fond memories from our childhood. This recipe is most certainly one I carried with me after I left home. It was a favorite of my mother’s, who would bake it for family gatherings, or simply because one of her children requested it. I loved to cut a slice from the middle, which was richly laden with the orange glaze drizzled atop the loaf. I so enjoyed the tiny bites of poppy seeds, exploding under my teeth while I savored every bite. I am a huge fan of marzipan, and really anything flavored with almond, so perhaps that’s why this bread has appealed so greatly to me throughout my life. You could substitute lemon in place of the orange juice and zest called for in the recipe, if you prefer. This bread is fantastic served at brunch, afternoon coffee, or as a light dessert post dinner. It also makes a lovely gift. Perhaps this recipe will become a favorite of your family, just as it did in mine.

3 eggs, room temperature, slightly beaten
1 1/2 c. oil (canola, safflower, or vegetable, preferably organic)
1 1/2 c. whole milk, room temperature
2 c. sugar
3 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
zest of one orange
3-4 tsp. pure almond extract

For the Glaze:
1 orange, juiced
1/4 c. granulated or powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)

Grease and flour two 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5″ loaf pans. Set aside and preheat the oven to 325°F. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds in a large bowl; whisk to remove any clumps. Combine the eggs, and with the mixer running on medium-low, add the oil, sugar, almond extract, and orange zest in the bowl of a stand mixer. Starting and ending with the dry ingredients, alternate between adding the dry ingredients and milk to the egg mixture. Pour the prepared batter into the loaf pans and bake in the oven on the middle rack of the oven for about 1- 1 1/4 hours, or until a toothpick, inserted into the middle of the loaf removes cleanly.

Allow the loaves to cool for about 10 minutes on a wire cooling rack before attempting to remove them from the pan. If they do not remove easily, run a sharp knife around the edges of the loaves. Meanwhile, prepare the orange glaze in a small butter warming pan. Add all the ingredients and allow the sugar to completely dissolve into the juice. Place the wire cooling rack over a baking tray, and pour the glaze over both loaves. You may want to poke a few holes into the tops of the loaves so more glaze penetrates into the center. Some glaze will accumulate in the baking tray. Simply remove the wire rack and pour the remaining glaze back into the butter warmer and re-pour the contents over both loaves again. Once the loaves have cooled slightly, you can eat a slice (or two!) immediately, or once the loaves are completely cool, you can wrap them in plastic or aluminum foil. This bread freezes nicely, but I have not yet ever had a loaf left over to store in the freezer!

Contest Winner, Food Tips, and a Guest Blogging Opportunity!

Congratulations to Sherryl, from the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh for winning the pair of two-day registration passes to the Farm To Table Conference in Pittsburgh this weekend. We’ll have a recap of the Conference for our readers after the fact, so check back if you are unable to attend but want to catch some of the highlights.

Thank you to all the applicants for your interest and your wonderful comments, suggestions, and ideas! In fact, we love so many of the ideas and recipes that our readers share with us that we are starting a new feature on our blog that will give you the opportunity to be a guest blogger! If you have any novel ideas about how to reclaim your food or any really great recipes using whole ingredients that you are dying to share, please send them to us at twodancingbuckeyes@gmail.com. Once a month, we will select an entry (or two) to  feature in a blog post.

Below are two of our favorite comments that were submitted by contest applicants.
The following recipe was shared by Sherryl, our contest winner:
Here’s a quick and healthy summer dish I love when the zucchini is young and tender. Chicken and Zuc’s (serves 4)
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, seasoned with salt, pepper, and fresh garlic diced into bite size chunks
4 small zuc’s julienned like fettuccine noodles
1 red bell pepper julienned
1/2 large red onion julienned
4 ripe roma tomatoes diced with inner flesh intact
1 large portobella mushroom diced
4 cloves fresh garlic
1 cup chicken or veggie stock
1/4 cup white wine for de-glazing
2-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 

Place a large (biggest you have) skillet on the fire on full blast. Allow the pan to start smoking before adding your oil. Once the oil is in, add the chicken, spread it out to allow the pan to stay as hot as possible. Once the chicken is browned on all sides remove from the pan and set aside. Add another splash of olive oil to the pan and allow it to heat back up to almost the smoke point. Add the onions, cook 3-4 mins. Add the red bell pepper and saute for another 4-5 min. By now the onions should be getting some color. Season with salt and pepper, then add the mushrooms, saute until the water that was released from the mushrooms has cooked away. Add the diced tomato and allow the juice to caramelize in the bottom of the pan. When the tomato liquid had cooked away add the zucchini “noodles” and de-glaze the pan with wine. Crush in the 4 cloves of garlic and season with s&p again to taste. Allow the wine to cook down a bit then add 1/2 cup of the stock and return the chicken and its juice to the pan. Simmer until the zuc’s are Al Dente. Serve with garlic crostini and a maybe a spinach salad with pine nuts, red onion, and feta, drizzled with a honey balsamic dressing.

Summer eating at its best!
Cheers!

The following bits of advice are from Judy from the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA.
I try to adapt most recipes to non-fat or low-fat alternatives for healthier eating. The most difficult foods to find substitutes for are snacks but I have managed to find a few that are satisfying and healthier. 
 
My favorite dessert is non-fat plain or vanilla yogurt with blueberries or raspberries when in season.  I don’t add granola as it is sweet enough without it. I also use the Greek yogurts which are healthier for you and have more protein. 
 
I have made my own veggie chips by thinly slicing acorn and butternut squash and baking them. I use very little sea salt when doing so as I’m not to have much salt. These are really tasty and a great substitute for chips or those veggie straws that are so popular right now (these are highly processed and salted).
 
While I am not a full vegetarian, I try to eat more veggies than anything else.  I use the Moosewood Cookbooks and an old favorite from the 70’s:  Diet for a Small Planet.
 

Chicken Soup with Fregula Sarda

March is always a welcome relief to the many months of winter, with its hints of warm, spring days. But it also seems to be the month in which my family develops the last great sickness of our cold season. This week has proven to hit my family hard in the viral department, with my son bringing home some unwelcome germs, then my husband contracting the disease, and now, finally, my daughter. Fortunately, while I type this post, I have not yet come down with this bad cold, and I am extremely happy about that, because as any other mother knows, if mamma falls ill, the whole ship goes down with her!

There’s nothing more comforting than a bowl of chicken soup when you aren’t feeling well. You can feel the warm liquid nutrients working their magic as they pass into your body, working their sickness-healing magic. Science has now confirmed that chicken soup actually helps to break congestion and contains an amino acid called, cysteine, which inhibits white blood cell production and the triggering of the inflammatory response, causing sore throats and phlegm. I guess grandma did know a thing or two.

For this chicken soup, I decided to use some fregula sarda I had in my pantry, which is an Italian pasta, originating from Sardinia. The pasta dough is rolled into tiny balls, resembling Israeli couscous, and toasted twice, which promotes its pleasant nutty flavor and golden colors. If you aren’t able to purchase fregula sarda, then Israeli couscous (or another type of small pasta) would be an excellent substitute for the following soup.

Of course, this soup is delicious whether you are under the weather or sailing atop clouds of health. But if you find yourself with a bit of a cold, this soup will definitely hit the spot. Stay healthy and happy eating!

1-1.5 lbs. chicken thighs, bone-in, skin removed
1 small onion, whole
4 stalks celery, cleaned, halved and chopped into small pieces*
5 md. carrots, peeled, halved and chopped into small pieces**
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled, whole
small bunch of fresh thyme
2 dried bay leaves
salt, pepper to taste
12 cups water
1/2-3/4 c. fregula sarda
small bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped

In a pot, large enough to accommodate 12 cups of water, add the chicken thighs, one carrot, one celery, the onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and some salt and pepper. Be sure not to add too much salt at this time. You can add more before you add the fregula sarda. Bring the water to a boil and skim off any fat that floats up to the top. Cover the pot and lower the heat to low. Allow the base of your soup to continue cooking for about 1- 1 1/2 hours. Remove from heat, and discard the garlic, onion, carrot, celery, and bay leaves. I find it works best to do this with a large, cook’s spoon that has holes. Remove the chicken thighs, and allow them to cool slightly before you remove the meat from the bone. Place the chicken back into the pot, along with the chopped carrots and celery. Bring the liquid back to a slow boil. After about 15 minutes, add the fregula sarda, along with about 1.5-2 cups of water. Allow the fregula to cook through, about 8 more minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Add the finely chopped parsley. Serve with some nice crusty bread.

*Leave one celery stalk whole to make the soup base
**Leave one carrot whole, unpeeled to make the soup base

TDB Give-Away – Free tickets to the Pittsburgh Farm to Table Conference!

We have a pair of two-day registration passes (a $50 value!) to the upcoming Farm to Table Conference being held in Pittsburgh on March 23rd and 24th that we will be raffling off. What better way to usher in the springtime than to get in touch with localized food resources!

To enter this contest, add a comment to this post or the link on our facebook page, or send us an email at twodancingbuckeyes@gmail.com about how you like to make healthier or homemade versions of common prepared foods, or a tip on your favorite spot to find local food in your area. Submit your ideas to us by Tuesday, March 20th, and we will pick a winner at random. The winner will be notified on Wednesday, March 21st.

Conference features include:

  • Farmers Market & Health Vendors
  • Live Cooking Demonstrations by Chefs and Dieticians
  • Expert Presentation about Health and Local Food Resources
  • Activities for kids (12 and under are free)

For inspiration, and in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, check out a previous post of ours on a homemade version of McDonald’s Shamrock Shake. Also, with your consent, ideas and tips collected as part of this contest may end up published in a new post on this website. We look forward to hearing from you!