Grace's Goodness

Get fresh with yourself.

On roasting chicken .

A whole bird.

Roasted. Not unusual, not complex. Just simple, satisfying, primal.

Right now, a fat chicken is sitting in a glass pan on the dining room table, all glossy, salted and buttered up. Alone, uncooked and unadorned by herbs or vegetables, it’s strangely erotic, this naked bird, plucked of all its feathers and primed for culinary enjoyment. The chicken is just screaming to be paired with a big handful of winter vegetables and placed in a hot oven, where its skin will morph into a crispy, golden brown crust and its meat can plumpen and shine with the help of a little butter, olive oil and garden herbs.

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Today I will bring butternut squash and brussels sprouts together, with a good amount of onion, to roast in the juices of the chicken.  I will heat up a cast iron skillet and make cornbread to use as a sopping device for the bird jus.

I am making this meal for a working family with 2 small children – a 3 year old and a 5 month old. I’m hoping the aromas wafting through their kitchen and the tastes of this modest meal can provide them sustenance, warmth and comfort after a long Monday. I am hoping that this one yard bird, roasted to tender, savory perfection, will somehow bring a little bit of well-deserved, edible cheer to the whole family.

That’s what so attractive about that naked bird perched in a glass pan on the table beside me. It has the power to change the day of a human being.

Roasted whole chicken 

1 nice sized chicken (Daniel from Darby Farms raises beautiful chickens,  if you’re around these Atlanta parts)

1 onion

3 cloves of garlic

1 lemon

1 bunch of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, even edible lavender work well. Today I used just a bunch of rosemary).

2-3 tbs of olive oil or melted butter

Salt + pepper

Preheat your oven to 425. Take the giblets out of the chicken. Divide your herb bouquet: chop about 1/4 cup of herbs and leave the rest of the bouquet whole. Rinse the bird off and pat it dry – the dry skin will crisp up much nicer than skin with a lot of water still on it. Rub the oil or butter all over and under the skin of the bird, and allow it to sit out in order to reach room temp. (A cold bird will not cook as well or as evenly). If you want to make sure your chicken breast ends up extra juicy, truss up your bird: tie its legs and wings back with kitchen twine to promote even cooking.  Cut the lemon in half and the onion in fourths. Stuff the cavity of the bird with these, and a bunch of herbs (you can’t have too many fresh herbs in the chicken). Crush the cloves of garlic and rub it all over the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt and pepper and the chopped herbs. Cook the chicken about an hour. You will know it’s done when the juices run clear and the leg meat and skin has separated away from the bone. Take it out of the oven and let it stand for about 15 minutes – this allows the juice to settle. Baste the bird with the remaining juice. Carve and serve with your favorite vegetables and sopping device.

“One cannot th…

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ~Virginia Woolf

Amen, Virginia.

Butter fruit or alligator pear .

There are many love affairs that I sustain with different foods. One long lasting one is with the avocado.

Butter and fruit are two of my favorite things. Perfect that both words are used as a nickname for the beloved avocado. Or, as they say in India, butter fruit. An apt reference to the heavenly taste and texture. In China, it’s an alligator pear. Charming and clever, since it describes the outer appearance of the avocado to a tee.


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Breakfast with a butter fruit / alligator pear sounded perfect this morning.

But not just a cut-up avocado thrown into my scrambled eggs. Sometimes, when in love, we have to change up our routine a bit. Spice things up and look at what has long been satisfying in a new light.

So I made my own version of papas bravas, with avocado and cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. This breakfast added a little fiesta to the start of a wet, bleak day.

And my love affair continues with gusto.

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Avocado + olive oil mashed potatoes 

3-4 Yukon gold potatoes

1 avocado

1 clove garlic, chopped

3-4 tbs olive oil

1/2 tsp paprika

Juice from 1/2 lime

Salt, pepper

Fresh cilantro (optional)

Grab a few Yukon gold potatoes (or whatever other potatoes you have on hand), slice them into evenly shaped pieces, and boil them in salted water for a few minutes, just till slightly tender. Then toss them in a skillet with olive oil and some freshly chopped garlic. Let them brown a little on both sides (7-8 minutes) and add salt, pepper and paprika. After that, cut up your alligator pear, add it to the potato mixture, and mashed everything together with a potato masher. Finish with a few squeezes of lime and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Serve with eggs and/or toast. Also delicious on its own.

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How do you take your avocado?

Spring into it .

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The sun’s welcomed appearance after the past few dismal days put a pep in my step this morning. I wanted a pep on my plate, too, and needed to put some pretty Nantes carrots to use. So. Smoky ginger carrot hummus was born! There’s plenty of pep here to go around.

The Nantes carrots are extra crunchy, sweet, and a little mineral-y. These carrots deserve to make a “hummus”of their own, one that’s refreshingly vegetable (instead of bean) based. This spunky hummus adds a punch of color and flavor to sandwiches, salads, and snacks. Perfect for these days when you’re itching for spring to get here. A little foreshadowing of the brightness ahead.

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The hummus takes advantage of chipotle chile powder and smoked paprika, the spices giving it a complex flavor contrast with the brightness of the carrot. I was inspired by the carrot hummus recipe on The Year in Food, then added a little fresh ginger and a pinch of turmeric to keep things lively.


Smoky carrot and ginger hummus

About 1lb (big bunch) carrots, rinsed
3/4 cup cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon, juiced (about 3-4 tbs)
1 tbs tahini
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp each: chipotle chile powder, fresh grated ginger, turmeric

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Chop carrots into even sized shapes. Toss in 2 teaspoons olive oil and lightly salt. Roast for about 30 minutes, until carrots are fork-tender. Set aside until cool enough to work with. (Or, steam them on the stove top in a few tbs of water and olive oil, a few minutes, until soft).

While roasting, you can get the rest of the prep done. Using a blender or food processor, add garbanzo beans, 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, sesame seeds, garlic, all spices and salt.

Once the carrots have cooled, add them to the blender or food processor. Pulse or blend until combined. Have a little carrot juice (whatever is left from the pan they were cooked on) and olive oil nearby if you need to add more because the consistency is too thick. You can also thin down with a few tbs of water, if you’d like. Garnish with fresh herbs.

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Enjoy on a sandwich, as a salad topper, as a dip with crackers, veggies or tortilla chips. Also good as a topping in lentil soup.

Lettuce turnip the beet .

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Listening to Solange and Blood Orange today while I pan-fry turnips and do a little dance around the kitchen.

I find turnips to be an unjustly overlooked vegetable. The peppery bite and meaty texture aren’t that different from the beloved radish. Maybe they are too often identified as an overlooked white cube in a sad clump of soggy turnip greens, the way they are displayed in all-you-can-eat-buffets in the south and at church potlucks?

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But. Turnips can taste delightful, especially when teamed up with a Japanese sweet potato (which has the texture of a baking potato, with a lovely floral sweetness), butter, thyme and a skillet.

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Pan-fried turnip + Japanese sweet potato 

A bunch of turnips, washed and dried (about 6)

One Japanese sweet potato, washed and dried (found at Whole Foods, can also sometimes be found at your local farmers market)

3 tbs. butter

Fresh thyme (a big bunch)

Salt + pepper

Cut the turnips and sweet potato into roughly the same size and shape pieces or cubes. No need to remove the skin (there are nutrients in there). Melt a pat of butter in a skillet on low. Take the leaves off the stem of thyme and set them aside. Add the root veggies to the skillet, tossing to coat them evenly with the butter. Turn up the heat to med, then to med-high, letting the veggies brown a little and crispen up. Sprinkle in salt and pepper, then toss and allow the veg to brown on the other side. Add the thyme leaves to a mortar and pestle, and grind with a teaspoon or two of salt. Sprinkle this herb salt on your pan-fried veggies.

Serve alongside a green salad, or with some garlicky sauteed turnip tops (greens), and a wedge of cornbread.

Remember summer?

I do.


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There were these gorgeous dragon beans in June, waiting inconspicuously on my front porch step, a gift from a thoughtful neighbor with a bountiful harvest. 

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And the arrival of perfectly ripe figs, and the blooming of fuchsia zinnias.

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An explosion of freckles, a perfectly spotted palette of pigment on my sister’s fair, flawless skin.

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And the food I’m craving during this time of year, more than any other time: rotund, vibrant globes of tomato from the garden across the street from my abode. Picked on the hottest day of the year, my shirt was damp before I even finished picking. The ultimate refreshment. 

Timeless tomato sandwiches (just a little winter teasing, to remind you what’s ahead)

Plain white bread

Mayonnaise (making it yourself, with egg yolk and slowly whisked in oil, can be extra rewarding, if you allow the time)

Fresh, sun ripened tomato

Salt

Cracked black pepper

You know what to do: slice the tomato to a thickness of your liking, sprinkle with salt and pepper, smear the bread with mayo, add your tomato slices. Top with another piece of bread, or leave open-faced. It’s up to you if you want to embellish with basil, or arugula, or olive oil. I take mine with just the ingredients listed, just like my mom, my aunts, and my grandma make.

Oh Julia.

“Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s most primal and innocent delights, and that is most soul-satisfying and eternal.” – Julia Child

 

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Fireside paella with friends has been a dinner highlight this first month of 2013. I would love to hear what memorable meals you’ve shared recently.

Perks in the dead of winter .

When the grasp of winter feels too tight around our souls, I am reminded that this cold season offers us its own type of quiet beauty.

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Rolling hills in the Blue Ridge Mountains provide a calm palette of color.

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The morning sun creeping into my dining room and onto my sister’s face as we share a breakfast of  tomato grits and soft scrambled eggs.

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Flowering pea shoots that provide a lovely, subtle sweetness to fresh picked arugula and spinach.

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A friendly neighborhood horse with a penchant for conversing over a fence and snacks of red apple.

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These little glimmers during the often desperate feeling days of winter provide a warm contrast to the skeletal trees and barren ground. Makes me get excited about peeling off my boots and standing in front of the stove to make a big pot of soup.

Lessons learned .

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Hello there. I’m happy you’re here, and I’m here, after such a long hiatus. In the time that I’ve been away, I’ve had the opportunity to experience and learn a lot about food and people and the unique, essential relationship they share. I have also learned loads about passionately owning and growing a business that’s close to your heart.

La petite mort.

Lessons recently learned:

A pink grapefruit freshly cut open for breakfast during the holiday season is like giving yourself a gorgeous gift to unwrap.

Don’t jump ship just because your boat is off the map.

While your boat is off the map, learn to enjoy it. You may never again get the opportunity to experience that solitary open water, all beautiful and terrifying all at once.

A good toast can be just as important as a good meal.

There is not much better than tasting the inherent sweetness in a good cup of black coffee.

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If you get stranded on an island, figure out how to feed and take care of yourself. Eat something nourishing, then you can look for
help.

A cheese grater, a newly sharpened knife, a mandolin = tools not to use in a frenzied hurry seconds before an event is to start.

Carry Band-Aids and water wherever you go.

Remember that you can always find solace in being able to nourish yourself.

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“Too few of us, perhaps, feel that breaking of bread, the sharing of salt, the common dipping into one bowl, mean more than satisfaction of a need. We make such primal things as casual as tunes heard over a radio, forgetting the mystery and strength in both.”

Serve It Forth, MFK Fisher

Eating with intention

Eeek.

I have been away from the blog for a while.

Been spending a lot of time staying up late, eating snacks like this (Goodness peanut butter and almond milk)

and thinking about relationships with food. And working with food. And working, in a sense, for food.

How to eat with more intention is a personal lifelong objective – a satisfying objective that I love to share with others. And, as Alice Waters has said, “I always make (my food) delicious for myself.” I think this kind of deliberate choice encourages intentional eating. Making your food delicious, even for you alone, means a lot more than just liking what you’re putting into your mouth at the moment.

It means really employing all your senses to savor food – enjoying the scent, feel, look, sound and taste of food as it is being prepared and eaten.

This means thoughtful shopping for the freshest ingredients, careful preparation, and  time to savor the taste of the food.

It means relishing things you find at the local farmers market, like these beautiful white eggplant:

(I cut them, salted them and added them to other vegetables for ratatouille).

It means savoring fruit that needs no embellishments, sugars or syrups to highlight its sweetness.

Eating with intention also means constantly learning about food. You have the power to never stop learning about it – it can be a very fulfilling lifetime commitment.

This commitment means lots of living and working around food, and exploring other places where people live, work and eat together.

Like Asheville, North Carolina.

I think this intention thing is such a rewarding endeavor.

As we begin to feel the first (teasing) kisses of fall, I want to make sure this intention stays with me.

Of course, there are always excuses, distractions and temptations to get in the way.

After one too many glasses of wine last night (an excuse),  I definitely hit the all-night Kroger with my friend Adrian for some generic “Fun Munch” ice cream  (a crappy temptation). Out of the carton. My stomach was not happy with this.

Anyway, the point is that when you make intentional eating a priority, eating becomes more enjoyable and makes you feel better. When those times come where you’re not being thoughtful about food, you notice later, and hopefully you file that information away for future use.

I have definitely made a mental note that ice cream after wine is NOT going to make me feel any better in the future. Ick.

But a handful of apricots probably would.

(I had the best apricots from upstate New York earlier this year. I spent probably 3 minutes savoring just one at a time).

And so, this week,  I’m going to be intentional and proactive about my sweets cravings. That means eating food that will help curb these feelings, and enjoying a fresh piece of fruit, or almond milk, or herbal tea, instead of Fun Munch ice cream, or a handful of old butterscotch morsels hiding in the back of the pantry. (#confession).

Do you have any food intentions to share?

Intentional late night snack:

Simmered pears with golden raisins and Greek yogurt

Pears – (I got some really delicious ones from Hendersonville, North Carolina when I was in Asheville last week. They were an Asian variety – Shinko, I think).

Anyway,  take a pear or two and cut into small slices. Put pear slices into a small pot with a small lump of butter and simmer over low. Grate a generous amount of fresh cinnamon stick and a grab a pinch of sugar (or in my case, honey), add to pot.  Add a handful of golden raisins. Continue simmering until pears and raisins are cooked through and soft. Spoon a dollop of Greek yogurt on top and more cinnamon-sugar(or honey). Enjoy with a cup of tea.

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