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I can’t concentrate on the keyboard. I keep drifting away into the wonderland in my head where Hauschka‘s piano rolls out a stairway in front of my eyes, and I ascend step by step into the air, surrounded by blue lollypops wrapped in red ribbons, and corpulent purple elephants taking an escalator down. Then, there’s a cloud of hippy bees buzzing by, followed by uptight butterflies dressed in unicolored suits and bow-ties.

I’m on zero medication, and it’s the music alone that afforded me a mid-afternoon high.

The reason I’m here today is to save the life of that half wilted zucchini in your refrigerator. There’s also a sad chunk of drying out bacon, or even better–pancetta–in the cheese drawer of your icebox that must be resuscitated immediately. And for the love of Zeus, how long do you think you can keep frozen peas in a freezer? They do expire, too, you know.

There’s no reason to toss food away, when it can be utilized in the most delicious way. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Every week, usually on Saturday, we do grocery shopping. Come Friday, I’m left with a handful of unused produce in our refrigerator, and a brand new challenge of turning it into a healthy, satisfying and comforting dinner for two. I’m not scared. On the contrary, I opt to face the music. That’s when I get to flex my creative muscle.

One of the babies of that intense and inspired labor was my ZUCCHINI, PEAS & PANCETTA MEDLEY. In other words, I saved the precious enzymes, mincro-elements, and hopefully also a few vitamins that then nourished our bodies, instead of being thrown away to the garbage and letting cockroaches rise in power.

The dish is so simple and self-explanatory, one does not even need a recipe. I will recap the steps in an effort to help you stayed organized.

Pancetta was diced and tossed into a hot skillet, and soon after chunks of zucchini followed. I seasoned the bunch gently with salt, as the bacon itself is salty already. Freshly ground black pepper, a touch of paprika, a dash of cayenne pepper for that extra punch in the nose all added flavor to my mixture. Half way through the coloring process (I like my veg a bit ruddy on the cheeks), in went the frozen peas. Five to seven more minutes and everybody was happy enough to leave the fire. A perfect time to finish the creation off with a teaspoon of my compound butter I told you about not long ago. The aroma of garlic and herbs unlocked from the creamy butter wrapped itself around every single green element on the plate, not leaving behind slightly salty and chewy bits of rendered pancetta.

We devoured the side dish along with steamed broccoli and a roasted leg of an organic chicken… Yes, it was a feast, and hardly did it look like the waiting area of an Emergency Room.

Do yourself a favor and save your hard-earned money. Don’t waste food. People in Asia, Africa, in your own city go to bed hungry each day, and only a fraction of them does it for vanity reasons. Let’s utilize more, and trash less. In general.


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I looked through my recent posts and realized there’s not much recipe sharing happening around here these days. Time to fix it… Where’s my utility belt?

Unless you live in the Smurf Village, you must be aware of the food revolution going on in America these days. It hasn’t started with Jamie Oliver’s hit TV show under the same name. The documentary “Food, Inc.” came first (among others). Its very own, and my personal guru, Michael Pollan has been talking about the REAL FOOD versus FOOD LIKE PRODUCTS for years now.

I’ve been observing the growing trend of eating fresh among my own friends and my American family. (In Poland it’s still so much easier to eat real food despite heavy influences of the Western World, hence I’ll focus on my life in the US for the purpose of this rant.) Shopping at Farmers Markets is fun. Sprouting one’s own herbs in a recycled can on the window seal, turned out, has nothing to do with magic. Stirring away creamy Risotto at home no longer intimidates. To top it all, gastro pubs pop up all over the cities like mushrooms after it rained. Those are the yummy eateries where everyone gets a chance to taste what fine dining is about for a fraction of what it would cost them in a high-end restaurant. Places like “Animal” on Fairfax or “Lazy Ox” Downtown (both in Los Angeles) are getting the buzz for a reason.

It’s undeniable, the way the Americans think about food today is shifting. And it’s so exciting to watch. I realize the change cannot be completed over night, but the steps we’ve been taking are very promising. Many of us, however, still hesitate to take the leap onto the brighter side of life for the organic food is priced at a higher mark. Moreover, people got used to cheap food in this country over the last several decades. The truth is, the prices are low because of the industrialization of the food market. The quality of the food in America is so low for the same exact reason. The cost of health care is also directly related. You do the math.

While I personally believe that we should pay for quality (You get what you pay for!), today I want to show you how we can all eat more organic foods without breaking the bank. Let’s use the product that an average American consumes over 60 pounds of each year–CHICKEN.

The regular chicken, not an organic one, raised most likely in some horrendous conditions, lingering knee-deep in its own feces, with legs breaking under its own unnatural weight (due to added growth hormones and overfeeding with genetically altered corn), that whole chicken costs about $6 at our grocery store. When you look over to the right, where the Organic, Free Range Chicken rests right next to the sad guy, with its price tag of $12, that may be shocking. I get that. Now, think about where your food comes from first. I don’t think it’ll take you long to lean toward the organic, happy bird. Your challenge is to use up that $12 to the last penny. I’ll show you how I do it.

First and foremost, I save a bucket of money by purchasing an entire bird versus only breasts, or legs. Then I cut it to pieces myself at home. Next, I place the chicken thighs and drums along with the boobies in a glass bowl and rub them with a combination of herbs and spices. I cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let the meat marinate for a day or two in the refrigerator.

The carcass, the neck and the wings go into a large pot along with a whole bunch of vegetables (cleaned, peeled if needed, and roughly chopped): 4-5 carrots, 2 parsnips, 1 large leek, 1 onion, 4-5 celery stalks (or 1 celery root, peeled and quartered). Next, I add a handful of whole peppercorns, no more than 1 tbsp of salt, 5-6 bay leaves and a bunch of fresh thyme springs plus a small spring of rosemary. (Dry will do, too, if you don’t have any fresh herbs handy.) Such arranged, I cover the content of the pot with water, as much as I can fit into my 6 quart dutch oven, and turn the heat on. You want to bring it to a simmer, and never let it boil. Leave the pot on the stove, with a lid on but not covering it completely, for about 2-2.5 hours.

When my chicken stock is concocting itself, I toss the giblets left from the bird (all the inner organs usually packaged along with the whole thing) in some flour and toss them onto a pan with hot oil. When those are cooked through, Cosmo has a ball. Frankly, I love chicken livers. I grew up eating them. Jason, on the other hand, is repulsed by the idea. Since one chicken liver won’t make a meal for me, I simply give it to Cosmo. You, however, can entertain the thought of using the innards for a cheap meal, if your feelings towards the meat are similar to mine.

Two hours later, I strain the stock and, once cooled, store it in an air-tight container. You can freeze it for up to 6 months! In my next installment, I’ll show you how you can turn that complex and aromatic stock into a pot of soulful soup with an addition of only a few bucks to your healthy food budget.

From the strainer I pull out all the chicken parts, and you won’t believe it until you do it yourself how much meat there’s still on that carcass, the wings, the neck. I gently pull it all away from the bones using two forks, as the meat simply falls off those bones.

Let’s add it all up. We spent $12 on the organic chicken plus another $5 – $6 on all the veg for the stock. We ended up with:

1) about 8-10 cups (based on my pot) of homemade, flavorful, organic chicken stock to be turned into a big pot of HEARTY AND FILLING SOUP in a few days;

2) 2 full legs (or 2 thighs and 2 drums, if you separate them) and 2 full breasts that are marinating in the ice-box that will turn into 2-3 full meals for two, with an addition of some starch and/or salad;

3) chicken scraps that can be sauteed for added flavor, mixed with a variety of sauces and served over brown rice or whole-wheat pasta (See how I’m planting those healthy choices in your head? INCEPTION…), or used as a filling in dumplings or croquettes, that will again easily feed 4 – 6 people.

I will get back to the SOUP and my CROQUETTES in the next few days. Today, let me share my simple tricks for baking that bird in such a way that the meat is perfectly cooked and yet still moist at each bite.

I roast my marinated chicken in a roasting pan for about 35 minutes in a 375° oven (with an addition of  a ladleful of my stock and some water or white wine, 1-2 bay leaves, fresh rosemary and thyme), then take it out and let it rest covered with foil for another 10 minutes. I serve with in a variety of ways; sometimes it’s over a medley of brown rice (as seen above) for the enjoyment of our clients who love ONE MORE BITE’s Lunches. The sauce that surrounds the meat in the pan is divine. Just pour it over your starch, perk up with fresh herbs (tarragon, parsley, dill, cilantro, etc.) and you have yourself a hearty and satiating dinner! A side of simple green salad with a LEMON VINAIGRETTE makes the meal complete.

This is home cooking at its best. The food is always fresh, with no processed ingredients, all made from scratch, leaving you not only satiated and content, but also the satisfaction level from the accomplishment (when you realize what you have just CREATED ALL BY YOURSELF, FROM SCRATCH, SO DELIGHTFUL AND FRESH!) will get you like a drug. You’ll want to come back for more. IF I CAN MAKE THAT, WHAT ELSE CAN I MAKE MYSELF INSTEAD OF BUYING CRAP FROM  A STORE OR EATING EVEN WORSE CRAP AT CHAIN RESTAURANTS AND FAST FOOD PLACES??? Now you feel the power of creation.

The fact that it also makes sense money wise is just a cherry that flips its feet in the pool of icing on top of the cake. The cake I have just described above. You get it, don’t you.

Homemade, organic, fresh are the slogans of today. Stay healthy, America. Stay healthy, the World! And Bon Appetit along the way.

I hate for you to think I’m neglecting my JOURNALISTIC duties of logging in the nuts and bolts of the culinary ventures I participate in. Nothing further from the truth. My heart aches for the lack of time, and my fingers itch to type away such succulent words and directives as STIR, MASSAGE, RUB (my roasted chicken), TENDERIZE, ROLL OUT, STRETCH (that bread dough AND my back after 17 hours of hustling in the kitchen…), SPREAD (the vegetables on a roasting pan), BEAT, PRESS, SQUEEZE, and POKE (no fun!).

It’s day 2 of the production of this very article I kid you not. I sneak in a word or even a complete sentence between various tasks that are being thrown at me at work. The satisfaction from such naughty behavior tickles me inside, adrenaline sprints through my veins, and the mischievous brat inside imitates a sinister laughter.

There’s no story to share, no juice or dirty laundry to expose, no beans to spill. Life goes on oblivious to all circumstances and doesn’t pause for a minute. Thus imagine what a Herculean effort it is for me to rewind time and bring you back to my kitchen last Sunday, where Leslie was plotting to stock her purse with my POTATO SKINS while I wasn’t looking. (Check the comments section if you believe me not!)

Speaking of the devil…

It is a true American Comfort Food, and a virgin territory for me. You know how I feel about doing a research and digging out recipes for dishes I attempt to make. I’ll be blunt – I’m too lazy for that extracurricular activity and so I merely cut to the chase of figuring out the jest of the dish at hand on my own. Most of the time I’m exploring foreign culinary grounds in order to learn and thus expand my repertoire. Just like with those guys above – The Russetts.

Leslie said:

“I’m severely craving baked potatoes.”

Agi thought:

“Bring it on!”

I got a bag of medium Russet potatoes, cleaned and baked them in a preheated oven (at 400°) for an hour. Next, I cut them in half (after they cooled off a little, hello!) and scooped out most of the potato leaving the skins still strong and intact. About 4 oz of pancetta landed in a hot skillet, fat rendered, pancetta was rescued into the bowl with the potato “meat”, and onion slices caramelized in the same skillet. I sprinkled crashed dry marjoram (I’m in love with that herb, no question) all over softened onions, seasoned with salt and pepper and set aside.

The potato “meat” mixed with crisped pancetta was then seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, nutmeg and chili powder. One teaspoon of butter gave it the moisture of a tropical forest. The green ribbons of basil chiffonade interlaced the filling like lianas in a jungle.

Drum-roll, please! The hero(in) of the dish arrived – Gruyere cheese, grated and generously added into the mixture. Once coherent, the mass was then scooped back into the potato skins, topped with more cheese, drizzled gently with olive oil, and baked in the oven for another 25 minutes at 350°.

We served them instantly, garnished with a tart tip of sour cream, and washed down with a glass of cold Chimay.

Need I say more?

Coming home from work at 9 or 10 pm leaves me only enough time and energy to bitch about it and not so much for writing, nor any other intellectually stimulating activity. I follow the feeding/wee-weeing routine with Cosmo and when relieved sleepwalk back home on a leash pulling me forward. Cosmo turns the key in the door, pushes it open and lets me into the bedroom where I crawl straight into my bed and roll into a fetal position, tail underneath my heiney.

My kitchen feels deserted. Hungry pots and pans line up on shelves, dust collecting on their ribs. Three neglected bananas rot away on the counter without a word. The refrigerator echoes EMPTY-PTY-TY.  Except, there’s a chick.

On the top shelf of the icebox a whole chicken lounges, sunglasses on and all, anticipating the roasting party it’s been invited for. It’s the happy kind, organic and free roaming while munching on grains and grass. The BIG DAY, the R Day is Saturday. It’s TODAY!

Time for glitter and jewelry. A whole garlic head sliced in two horizontally and four quarters of a whole lemon roll inside the carcass. Three rosemary spears push through right behind. Olive oil for moisture and that California golden tan is applied to it’s whole body. Celery seeds, pepper corns, thyme, salt, paprika, all get smashed and crashed in a pestle and mortar, then rubbed into the dry skin of the chick, all the while the oven rushes to raise its temperature to 425°.

A big sweet onion gets peeled and sliced into half moons, which are scattered all around the chicken inside the roasting pan falling as snow flakes on top of Pikes Peak. A couple of potatoes and a bunch of naked garlic cloves join the company. Can you hear the music?? Low-sodium chicken stock floods the pan. Bay leaf, one and two, float its stream. Wings get tucked underneath, while legs are handcuffed with a strip of twine.  That Chicken Boat of Love is ready to set sail.

Into the oven they go for one full hour and another 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the bird will have reached 175°. Then, a silver sheet of aluminum dress wraps around the roasted meat, hugs it tight, and they bond. Fifteen minutes of such splendid rest allows for the best spa treatment any chick can ask for. All the juices get locked inside the bird thus ensuring a perfectly moist bite every time.

S H O W T I M E !

It’s the best thing ever to touch your lips.

IMMACULATE. SUBLIME. PERFECTION.

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