Sunday, October 11, 2009

I'm Moving!

No, not houses (thank God).

I'm moving blogs. Or rather, consolidating blogs. I have been keeping separate blogs for lifestyle/food, and the other things I do in my daily life, and I've decided to combine them.

The new blog is Kung Foo Cinema, and I hope you'll join me there. A lot of the same content will be there, and I may even move some of the Cottage Witch posts to the new space.

In the meantime, the CW will stay here for some time, in case you want to access the recipes.

Hope to see you at the Cinema!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Frozen Chicken Fingers

I'll admit it - I can pretty much eat the same thing over and over. I'm perfectly content with a peanut butter sandwich (on homemade bread, natch) and a banana for lunch, every day. But with summer here and a kid home from school, I have to put a little more thought into what I have lying around for lunches.

To make sure she's well-fed while I'm at work, I pre-make large batches of buttermilk chicken fingers and flash freeze them. (Flash freezing deserves its own post, but essentially, you freeze things in single layers until they're hard, then pop them in ziploc bags - where they magically don't stick together.) The kiddo can then pull a couple of chicken fingers out of the bag, pop them in the microwave for a minute or so, and voila. Hot lunch.

This is more of a method than a recipe, so feel free to add herbs and spices to taste.

Frozen Buttermilk Chicken Fingers

Season however many chicken tenders you want to make with salt and pepper. Be generous with the seasoning. Then, place them in a shallow baking pan and cover them with buttermilk.

Leave the chicken tenders in the buttermilk bath for at least an hour or two. I've left them overnight with no ill effects.

When you're ready to cook the chicken, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

I use panko bread crumbs as breading. They make a light and crispy coating, and tend to adhere well. Just make sure that you season the bread crumbs well, because they don't have a lot of flavor on their own. You want to season every layer of flavor. Place them in a flat dish, like a plate or a pie plate.

Now, pull the chicken tenders one at a time from their buttermilk soak, and dredge them in the panko. Use your fingers to pat the bread crumbs on so that they really adhere and form a nice crust. You may need to add more panko to your dish if you have a lot of chicken tenders to make. Pile the chicken tenders on a clean plate after they're breaded.

It's time to fry these puppies. Heat some canola or other vegetable oil in a large skillet until it's just starting to smoke. While that's heating up. get out your tongs and set aside a large baking sheet to place the browned chicken tenders on.

Once the skillet's hot, lay the first batch of tenders in it. Don't overcrowd the skillet! You'll need to do several batches, so give them plenty of room to breathe. Let them sit for a few minutes without moving until they're nicely browned; turn with your tongs and brown the other side - 1 to 3 minutes more. At this point, you're just trying to get a nice crust. You're not trying to cook them through.

Once they're browned, move them to the baking sheet, using your tongs. Add a little more oil (no more than a tablespoon at a time) if needed, and brown your next batch. Once all of the batches are browned and added to the sheet, move it to the oven. Bake the chicken fingers at 350 for 5-8 minutes, until the thickest are cooked through. (You may want to remove some thinner or smaller pieces out of the oven sooner, if you are making a large batch - put those closer to the front.)

Remove the pan from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle. I usually transfer them to a clean baking sheet at this time (sprayed with cooking spray), because they're less likely to stick. Put the sheet in the oven, uncovered, for about an hour. Check in an hour or so, if the individual chicken fingers are frozen solid, you can remove them from the baking sheet and transfer them to ziploc bags. They'll stay individually frozen in the bags.

When you're ready to eat, take however many chicken fingers you want, and transfer them to a clean plate. Microwave on high for one minute; if they're not heated through, heat 10 seconds at a time until hot.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

CSA Recipe - Sauteed Swiss Chard

I've never had Swiss chard before.

I grew up eating greens, true, but Southern greens: collards and mustards. They were always boiled to within an inch of their lives, and doused in white vinegar.

But my CSA box this week came with a bunch of Swiss chard, so I needed to figure out how to cook it. And preferably not boiled and drowned in vinegar (though there's a place for that, surely). Gourmet magazine came thundering to the rescue, with a recipe in this month's issue for Wilted Swiss Chard with Garlic, Lemon and Parmesan. It was delicious - nutty and flavorful, and it grew tender with just a quick sautee.

One interesting note...Swiss chard isn't Swiss at all.

Gourmet's Wilted Swiss Chard with Garlic, Lemon and Parmesan

I cut the amounts by a third here because I only had a single bunch of chard. I also did not use anchovies, and it turned out fine. Still, I'm printing the recipe as is so you can make your own adjustments.

4 large Garlic Cloves
3 lb. Swiss Chard (about 3 bunches)
1/4 cup Olive Oil
6 flat anchovy fillets
1 tbsp. fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan
Salt and Pepper

1.) Thinly slice garlic lengthwise
2.) Cut Swiss chard leaves from stems and center ribs, then cut leaves and stems into 2 inch pieces, reserving separately
3.) Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers
4.) Saute garlic until golden (about 45 seconds), then transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon
5.) Add anchovies to oil in skillet (it will splatter) and cook, stirring constantly, until anchovies break down (about 30 seconds)
6.) Add chard stems and cook, stirring frequently, until stems begin to soften (4 to 6 minutes)
7.) Add chard leaves by handfuls, turning with tongs and covering pot briefly until greens are wilted, before adding more
8.) Cook until leaves and stems are tender (5 to 8 minutes)
9.) Stir garlic, lemon juice and cheese into chard
10.) Season to taste

Note: Be sure and rinse your chard very, very well - more than you think you need to. They pick up dirt, and mine had just a hint of grit to it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Taking Advantage of Summer's Bounty

When I got home from work a few days ago, this was sitting on my back porch:

In spite of living in an area known for its farmers' markets and farms, I've found it hard to consistently get out and get fresh produce. So, I joined a local CSA - which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. At its heart, the CSA movement connects farmers directly with consumers. You sign up for a local farm's CSA, pay a regular fee (which is usually pretty affordable for the quality and quantity), and the farmer delivers a box for you - usually of pre-set produce.

(It makes sense - if the boxes are all the same, the farmer can keep expenses, and therefore prices, lower.)

Part of the fun of joining a CSA is that you never really know what you're going to get. Not only do you get good, fresh, locally-grown produce, but it kind of forces you to cook in different ways.

My first box consisted of the following:

A bunch of lettuce (tossed into a salad)
A bunch of Swiss chard (sauteed with garlic, lemon juice and parmesan)
A pound of small white potatoes (destined for a German potato salad)
Several heirloom tomatoes (eaten raw with buffalo mozzarella, and tossed in the aforementioned salad)
A pound of white nectarines (eaten greedily)
A pint of fresh blueberries (eaten greedily)
Several small red onions (stored properly)
A yellow pepper (given away)

Now, the key for my CSA (, is that you can sign up online and they deliver right to your door. You can also ask for certain items to be left out of the regularly-scheduled box and replaced with other things. For instance, I am allergic to peppers, so they replaced the planned lipstick peppers with the potatoes (though one slipped in - no biggie). They also allow you to pick different boxes with different mixes of produce - this week, I'm going for more fruit.

So far, I highly recommend a CSA - especially if you can get one that delivers. I'll let you know as the weeks go on if the quality and convenience are worth the price. I'll also share a few of the recipes I've tried with the loot veggies.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream

Summer here isn't exactly like the summers I remember from growing up in the Deep South. In fact, they may be just the opposite - instead of 105 degree heat and 100% humidity, we have thick fog and 60 degrees. Basically, I spend most of the summer in sweatshirts, except for the occasional, bright, gorgeous exception.

As Mark Twain once said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."

Still, it's summer somewhere! Therefore (ergo), I bring you my favorite ice cream recipe of all time: Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream. You hardly taste the Guinness - just a deep tang beneath the creamy chocolate.

Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream

This recipe is from David Lebovitz' book The Perfect Scoop and trust me, if you like to make ice cream, you need this book.

7 oz. Milk Chocolate, finely-chopped
1 cup Whole Milk
1/2 cup Sugar
Pinch of Salt
4 large Egg Yolks
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup Guinness Stout
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

1.) Put the chocolate pieces in a large bowl set over an ice bath, and set a mesh strainer on top.
2.) Warm the milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan.(You're looking for the first whisps of steam to rise up from the surface.)
3.) In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks.
4.) Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yoks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
5.) Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. (You're looking for the ability to draw a line in the center of the custard on the spatula, that then does not fill itself back in.)
6.) Pour the custard through the strainer over the milk chocolate, then stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
7.) Whisk in the cream, and then the Guinness and the vanilla.
8.) Stir over the ice bath until cool.
9.) Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. (This step is important. If the custard's too warm, it won't freeze in most kitchen ice cream makers. I chill mine overnight, but go for at least 8 hours.)
10.) Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

New Windows in an Old Cottage

For those of you not familiar with my story, I live in one of oldest - if not the oldest - farmhouses in the small coastal town in which I live. There's some debate on whether or not it's the oldest residential house, but it's darn close. All accounts put it somewhere around 1907-1908 (which, in coastal California, is fairly old).

It's called The Collins House, after a doctor who owned it for 50 years, and it pretty much looks like a Norman Rockwell picture postcard.

I heart it. A lot.

It's been meticulously restored, so I haven't had to do a lot to it, but recently had some restoration work done to the three large windows in front. Basically, the bottom window frames had been ruined by a shoddy patching job prior to my buying the house, and needed to be replaced.

Somewhere along the line they'd been nailed and screwed shut, but they were designed to open, as we saw when we removed the wood from the front of the window.

Take a look at this:

Yes, that is an old rope and pulley system, and still functional. Here's a closer look at the iron weight inside, which had to have weighed close to 15 pounds, and probably had not been outside the house in a century:

I don't know why, but I just found that cool.

Once the windows were repaired, I was able to open the front three windows that look out onto the street for the first time in what must have been years. I can't express how much better it makes life. This was an old farmhouse, and as such, the windows were designed to maximize light and air circulation. Having the windows open causes a nice breeze to move through the entire house, keeping it nice and cool even on hot days.

Plus, it's essentially TV for the dog, who sits in the window seat for hours, haranguing passersby.

I Have Returned

Now that it's the Summer Solstice, maybe it's time for me to dust things off here and hit the restart button.

I won't go into the long, boring details about why I was gone for so long, but they involve a crazy little dog, a busted computer, and a camera that refused to do camera things.

Plus, I got distracted and then boom. It's summer again. (What the...?)

But now that the kiddo is here, she's demanding all kinds of new goodies, so I'll have plenty to blog about this summer. There will be a slight sabbatical while we travel to London, but I promise great pictures of awesome British food (which I'm told does exist).

Looking forward to getting back to it.