Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Cozy Cat and Harvest Dinner

Our cat Merlin always finds the most comfortable places to be. On cold rainy days he secures the comfy cozy chair right by the fire, or snuggles into the pillow on the computer chair which is protected from drafts on all sides by the l-shaped desk.

When it is sunny but cool he can be found in the sunspace, usually upstairs on a fuzzy comforter, soaking up the sun. If the day is warm he find not only the shady spot but the one with any breeze that can be found. It's tough wearing an elegant gray fur coat when the weather is warm.

On Friday I was folding wash and saw him outside on the back porch in an unusual place. Before the storm earlier in the week I had moved a couple of decorative lanterns from the shelf on the potting bench to the bench top so they wouldn't be toppled by the wind. Now that the shelf was completely empty, Merlin decided that it made the perfect place to nap since it was in the shade and caught the afternoon breeze. I slipped around the side of the house with my camera at the ready, crept up the deck steps and surprised him. He woke up immediately, but I got some cute photos.


While Merlin snoozed, I took advantage of the soaking rain from earlier in the week. It really loosened up the soil and made cleaning up the garden much easier.

Out went the spent zucchini plants, the old, dried up bachelor button plants and daises. I pulled up the plants that had done so surprisingly well in that plastic sack of potting soil and found the gopher run underneath and the place where the gopher had gotten tired of chewing on an old, hard shelled piece of zucchini and left it in the run. The gopher had also chewed a nice sized hole in the bottom of the sack. Thank heavens that I had plenty of plants to go around this year...some for me, some for the gophers.

As I went through cleaning up and weeding, I harvested some of the late season veggies. There were tomatoes, tiny zucchini - both yellow and green - and a decent sized light green one. There were pale purple eggplant shaped like eggs and dark purple skinned ones, like dark teardrops, plus one white one that was sort of round and squat.

Later in the afternoon I decided to make a harvest dinner using those smaller veggies, plus a squash that I had purchased at the local farm stand. I thawed some boneless, skinless chicken thighs out and found a container of small onions, already peeled and ready to cook with.

The first veggies to go under the knife were the eggplant varieties. The dark ones were peeled and the rest lost the top and stem and then were sliced and cut in half. Since they were all pretty small that was all that was needed. I roasted them with garlic, fresh oregano, dried rosemary and fresh basil and Sweetie took a taste and said that they were good. Since I'm not fond of eggplant I took his word for it.
Next I peeled the hard squash and removed the seeds and membranes from each half.

The slices looked like half moons and when cooked they were velvety in texture and quite delicious. The zucchini were treated differently depending on size. The light green on was cut into chunks, the medium yellow one was cut into rounds and the two tiny ones were just cut in half lengthwise.


These were roasted after being flavored with thyme, pepper and fresh marjoram.

The chicken pieces were browned in vegetable oil, then I added four cloves of minced garlic and cooked that gently for a few minutes until very lightly browned. Chicken stock, thyme, the baby onions, cardamom and chopped apricots, plus salt and pepper made for a savory sauce and succulent chicken.

The last part of the dinner was steamed rice which captured the pan sauce and helped tie the various flavors together. On the plate the mellow green and golden colors reminded me of the grape vines we had seen in the morning after walking the dog. Fall is here and the harvest is winding down.
I feel fortunate to have had so many wonderful garden veggies this spring and summer and I'll surely miss them as we head into winter, but it was good to tidy up the garden a bit, too. There are still plenty of green tomatoes and a couple of zucchini plants still producing squash. The Swiss chard are colorful and happy with the cooler weather and now I can appreciate the shapes and colors of the planting more with fewer plants taking up space. Time to start planning what seeds I want for next year.

Harvest Dinner

Amounts are approximate because the veggies went straight from the garden to the railing to the kitchen and never were weighed.


Eggplant:
About a pound of eggplants
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1-2 teaspoon(s) fresh oregano or marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
salt to taste
about 2 tablespoons olive oil

Wash the eggplant and peel any dark skinned ones. Remove the stem end and any soft spots. Cut in half and slice in 1/2 inch thick slices. Place eggplant slices, garlic slices, basil, oregano, rosemary, pepper and salt and olive oil in a large plastic bag. Close bag and shake to combine all the ingredients.
Line a baking pan (I used an 8-inch square baking pan like you use for brownies) with heavy foil and place the eggplant mixture in it. Roast in a preheated 425 degree F oven for 20 -25 minutes or until browned on the edges, but not burnt. Keep warm or reheat right before serving.

Squash:
About 3/4 pound mixed squash. I used a squash that had green and gold stripes and it was similar to a pumpkin. You could use acorn, hubbard, butternut or similar hard shelled squash for about half the squash and zucchini, pattypan, or similar summer squash for the rest.
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fresh marjoram
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper or to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil

Peel the hard shelled squash, remove all seeds and membranes, then cut in thin slices or chunks
Remove the ends of the summer squash and slice or cut in chunks.

Place the squash pieces, thyme, marjoram, pepper and the olive oil in a large plastic bag. Close the bag and shake to completely combine the ingredients (you can re-use the bag you used for the eggplant if you like).

Line a baking pan with heavy duty foil, place the squash mixture in it and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until the hard shelled squash is tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Keep warm or reheat at serving time.

Chicken with Onions, Garlic and Apricots

5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
1 cup small onions, peeled and par-boiled if fresh (I used thawed frozen ones which are ready to use)
1/4 cup dried apricots, cut in small dice
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry with towel. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed skillet. Brown the chicken on all sides, then remove and keep warm. Add the garlic and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until very lightly browned. Do not burn or cook to dark brown. If necessary, you can add a little more oil for cooking the garlic.

Add the chicken broth and use a non-stick or wooden spoon to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, add the onions and apricots and stir to combine the mixture. Sprinkle the thyme and cardamom over the chicken pieces. Add salt and pepper to taste. Check the stock. It should come about half way up the chicken pieces. If it is lower add some water or more stock. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes, until chicken is very tender.

While chicken is cooking, steam a cup of raw rice in your favorite manner. I used up the rest of the chicken broth from the can as part of the rice cooking liquid, but the sauce is so flavorful, just water is fine for cooking the rice.

To serve, place some of the rice on the plate. Add one or two pieces of the chicken. Spoon the onions and some sauce over the chicken and the rice. Spoon on generous servings of the eggplant and squash mixtures. Serve while still nice and hot. Serves 3-4.

8 comments:

tanita davis said...

Goodness, the blue in that borage is just eye-popping in contrast to the squashes. End of season can be so lovely!

Half Baked said...

How lovely! Your harvest made such a wonderful dinner!!

Anh said...

I am so envious with you, Elle! The cat is adorable. I was saying to myself that once I move out of the city I would like to have a cat! :)

And the harvest dinner, need I say more? So lovely!

DaviMack said...

I'm just so amazed that you guys have such sunlight! I mean, really: that's the sunshine of "home" to us!

Beautiful harvest, too. :)

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Sounds like your garden did really well this year. I like what you did with the season's remainders.

Andreas said...

Lovely fall colours and scrumptious food.

Dharm said...

What a delightful spread!! I want some of those brinjals (eggplant to you!) now!! I just love eggplant and that chicken looks pretty dang tasty too.

Hannah said...

Mmm, I'm drooling over the sound of those squash. So simple, healthy, but flavorful. :)