Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fall has fell

Like the Facebook friend who pondered "Who turned off the heat in Colorado?" I am huddled under a blanket staring at the gloomy, bone-chilling day. Except for the brilliant yellow leaves on the big ol' cottonwood in the backyard, you might think it was winter already.

I like fall. Growing up in Texas, it was my favorite season because it was such a relief after the droning heat of summer. Of course there it didn't usually show up until November.

Even in Colorado, though, the (admittedly too few) colors of autumn are a fresh new look after the dry brown that usually accompanies the end of summer. But this year was a little different. The flood threw a wrench into the works. The grass peeking out from the mantle of fallen leaves is actually green!

But the real reason I love fall is that it begins the season of bounty. Instead of cooling salads and refreshing beverages, we get to revel in the pleasures of pumpkin, eggnog, huge family feasts focused on food and, best of all, chocolate.

Yes, Halloween opens the season of sweets. From candy corn and pillowcases full of Snickers into the pies of Thanksgiving, candy canes and Christmas cookies, then heart-shaped boxes of goodness for Valentine's Day and baskets of sugary treats at Easter. My family has four birthdays in the spring so the indulgence lasts for a good six months.

How to enjoy this flavor fiesta without packing on the pounds? My strategy this year will be to eat more healthfully at mealtime, packing as many good things in as possible. Cooler weather also encourages cooking, at least for me. Warming soups and stews just seem to fit with sweaters and mittens. It doesn't seem to be a crime to let the oven roast away for a hour or two when the heat is already on.

For the past few days, I've been enjoying the fruits of a long-simmered dish I prepared for the church's annual Sages Luncheon, celebrating the folks who have reached their 80th birthdays and beyond. The Arroz con Pollo (Rice with Chicken) was a big hit, but I overestimated the amount of food needed. So, leftovers!

The heartiness of the dish has warmed me for several days and I've thought about ways to incorporate even more flavor. I could have easily added some greens to boost the nutrition without seriously affecting flavor. As it was, the colorful peppers practically melted into the rice after the third reheating. Zucchini might have been nice but certainly would have blended in to the medley without adding a lot of color.

What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear some ideas, cuz I really like the dish and want to bump it up a bit.

The first step is cleverly hidden at the end of the recipe so read it all the way through!
Arroz con Pollo

1 whole chicken, cut in pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, rough chopped
1Tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 Tablespoons lime juice
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup onion in chunks
1/4 cup green pepper seeded and rough chopped
3 Tablespoons cilantro leaves
1/2 Tablespoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons ghee
1 medium onion, diced
 1 medium red or orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 cups diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon salt
Optional; 1 cup small Spanish olives
 2 cups long grain brown rice, soaked overnight and drained

For the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a large, non-reactive bowl. Add the chicken and turn to coat well. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at least 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

The sofrito is all those ingredients whirled in a blender or food processor until smooth.

For the rice, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drain the marinated chicken pieces and lightly pat dry. In a Dutch oven or large frying pan, heat the ghee over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and brown at least 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Depending on the size of the pan, you may need to do this in batches.

Lower the heat to medium and add the onion, bell pepper, cumin and oregano to the pan. Here is where you could add more vegetables if desired. Saute until just tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the sofrito and saute 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, stocl and sea salt and simmer 2 minutes. Stir in the drained rice and, if you choose, olives and bring it to a boil. Return the chicken to the pan and push into the rice. Cover with foil and a tight-fitting lid and bake for 45 minutes. 
Source: Bauman College Natural Chef recipe book