When do you change up your eating routine?
Personally I find that my dietary habits vary most dramatically during the summer months.
Get me away from the heavy, the saturated, the towering and the stuffed. Bring on the juicy, the puffy and the wafer-thin.
In addition, my already minimalistic approach to plate design becomes even more basic: we’re talking an aggressively perceptible shift from ‘make that look pretty’ to ‘it’s simply too hot for me to care especially since it all ends up in the same place’.
Which would explain why literal hot messes such as crisps, crumbles and cobblers make regular appearances at my summer dessert table.
Blackberries are abundant in this part of the country, and when they’re plump and ripe and practically perfect such as they are right now, I rarely pass them by. But the cool thing about a dessert like this is that you can adapt it to feature the berry or even stone fruit of your choosing.
Just be sure to remember the vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped stuff. And brace for a mess. Or don’t! It’s summer, and you’re having too much fun to care.
I confess that, even as the outdoor thermostat rises, I still crave casseroles; this week will be solidly in the 90s here in the Valley of the Sun, but for the past few days I haven’t been able to stop thinking about a certain cheesy, flavorful, bubbling casserole…
King Ranch Chicken (also known as King Ranch Casserole) is a Tex-Mex heirloom dish that has been around for almost as long as its namesake, although the recipe likely did not actually originate from King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas (King Ranch, one of the largest working ranches in the world, is, after all, known for its beef).
The truth is that no one knows for sure where the original recipe for King Ranch Chicken came from, but it most certainly gained traction in popular culture right around the middle of the twentieth century while canned and condensed soups were also quickly becoming mainstays in pantries throughout the United States. Which is probably why, lineage or no lineage, there is very little question about the ingredients that typically make up a traditional King Ranch Chicken Casserole: canned cream of mushroom soup, canned cream of chicken soup, canned Ro-Tel tomatoes, and canned roasted green chiles. Other ingredients are common -bell peppers, chicken, tortillas and cheese- but the cans stand out.
So I suppose, both in my abandonment of the can (I didn’t kick them all to the curb!), as well as my craving of the comfort-wielding casserole just as the mercury inches dangerously close to 100º F, I am committing some type of dual heresy.
If you were to ask, I would not claim spring as my favorite season. In fact, it would probably be last on my preferred list, with one exception: what is means for produce.
Ironically, as many of you are no doubt encountering, although spring has technically already sprung, prime growing season has yet to show its pretty little face. I think that, for some of you, unsnowcapped-ground has yet to show its pretty little face. So it must be the anticipation of things to come that has such an impact on fresh fruits and vegetables available this time of the year… they just taste better.
A good example is this rice. Yes, rice.
I started preparing this dish several years ago during the spring after I walked by a stand of poblano chiles that were so good looking that I threw a wink their way. Next to a crate full of Mexican limes that were an irresistible shade of bright, bright green. And a stack of leafy parsley that smelled so tempting that I simply could not walk away.
I decided that mixing my finds in with some luscious rice would be perfect; the flavor of my new fresh friends mixed up with plump rice filling enough to respect the fact that spring doesn’t yet feel like it’s entirely in full effect.
So… arroz verde.
Sticky, satisfying, tasting like sweet promise: spring is (almost) here. We can taste it.
Arroz Verde (Green Rice)
3 large shallots, peeled and ends removed
4 large cloves garlic
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
salt for roasting and seasoning to taste
3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, stemmed and seeded
6 stems parsley
3 tbsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 c. medium-grain rice
4 c. vegetable stock
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Toss the shallots and garlic together with 1 tablespoon of the oil and a pinch of salt, wrap tightly in foil and roast for approximately 50 minutes or until shallots are slightly shrunken and garlic is golden and fragrant. Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the poblano chiles, parsley, and lime juice and process to a uniform paste.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the rice and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the grains are opaque. Add the processed chile mixture and cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the stock, season with salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until all of the moisture has been absorbed and rice is tender. Fluff and stir before serving.
YIELD: approximately 6 servings
I don’t know exactly what your week will entail.
I don’t know if you’ll have a couple of bonkers work deadlines to meet.
Or maybe you have some Spring Break stuff to be breaking.
Perhaps you’ll need to be reminded of Daylight Savings? Or maybe you’ll do some reminding yourself…