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Stick-to-your-ribs dishes that won’t stick to your hips
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Stick-to-your-ribs dishes that won’t stick to your hips

We’ve made it half way through the winter — yay! Many of us are already looking forward to the sweet smells and tastes of spring and summer fruits, vegetables, and lighter fare. But it’s still cold outside, and as I peruse the produce aisles and wonder if those expensive peaches and nectarines are worth the price, I focus on the soup vegetables and the locally sourced choices. 

Both recipes below are savory and healthy, and both have a special “zing” that makes them ideal dinnertime staples for my family this time of year. 

The vegetable stew allows variations in the choice of vegetables — whatever looks good and is a bargain can be thrown into the pot. The chicken dish is a one-pot meal that is great even as a left-over. 

These recipes also use two of my favorite cooking tools: an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven and a cast-iron frying pan (I own six different sizes). (My other favorite pan is the DeBuyer carbon steel fry pan.) All are outstanding conductors of heat and are excellent for going from stove top to oven. 

HEARTY ROOT VEGETABLE STEW

3-4 lbs. assorted root vegetables (parsnips, rutabagas, carrots, potatoes, golden beets, turnips, celery root) peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 large zucchini or yellow squash, skin on, cubed (optional)

5-6 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

6 Tbsps. canola (or similar) oil, divided in equal parts

2 tsps. kosher salt 

1 cup chopped onion

2 1/2 to 3 Tbsps. tomato paste

1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

2 1/2 cups (packed) Swiss chard, chopped

2 tsps. dried oregano

1/8 tsp. dried crushed red pepper

1 bay leaf (remove before serving)

Black pepper to taste

Roast the root vegetables: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix vegetables and garlic in a roasting pan. (If using squash, be aware that it cooks faster than the root vegetables, so roast separately for a shorter time.) 

Mix the vegetables in three tablespoons of the oil; sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast for 45 minutes, turning the vegetables over halfway through cooking. They should be fully cooked: lightly browned on the edges and easily pierced with a fork. 

While the vegetables are roasting, in a four- to five-quart heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat three tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and saute until the edges begin to brown. 

Stir in the tomato paste and cook a minute longer. Cut or tear the canned tomatoes into large pieces and add to the pot. Add remaining liquid from the tomato can; stir well. Add oregano, crushed red pepper, bay leaf, and Swiss chard; stir. Cover the pot and simmer on low heat until the chard is wilted. 

Add the chickpeas and vegetables, mix together, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat 5-10 minutes; serve immediately.

Serve alone or over rice, farro, or couscous — and enjoy!

EASY, YUMMY GREEK CHICKEN WITH LEMON RICE

I recently had a magnificent dish at a Greek restaurant and tried to recreate it at home. I combined some recipes I found on-line and added a personal touch to get what I think is an authentic tasting — and easy — dish. (I recommend making it in a cast-iron pan.) My husband said I hit the nail on the head! 

2 lbs. chicken (I used a cut-up whole chicken) 

1 large lemon 

 

Marinade:

juice of 1 lemon (use to make zest)

1 Tbsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. high-temp oil (I use canola)

 

Rice mixture:

1 Tbsp. oil

1 small onion, finely diced

1 cup long-grain rice 

1 1/2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

3/4 cup water

1 Tbsp. dried oregano

3/4 tsp. salt

black pepper

Place chicken and marinade ingredients in a resealable bag and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes (preferably longer, even overnight).

When you are ready to cook, remove the chicken; reserve the marinade. 

Heat one tablespoon oil in a deep, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron; I used a 12-inch pan) over medium-high heat. Place the chicken in the skillet and sear until a crispy, dark-brown, “crusty” appearance is seen, then turn and cook the other side. 

Remove the chicken and set aside. Pour off the fat and wipe the pan with paper towel to remove any black bits, then return to the stove.

Heat one tablespoon oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes, until translucent. 

Add remaining rice ingredients and reserved marinade to the pan. Stir to combine all ingredients. On medium heat, let the liquid come to a simmer and cook for one minute. Remove pan from heat. 

Place chicken on top of the rice. Slice the lemon; place slices on chicken. 

Cover and seal pan with foil. Bake in 375-degree oven for 35 minutes. 

Remove cover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.

Garnish with parsley or oregano and fresh lemon zest, if desired.

(Note: If you use boneless chicken, it will cook faster, so adjust cooking time.)

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