Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Baby, It's Cold Inside!

I think I've already mentioned my predilection for freezing things.  It's how I preserve summer and my favorite flavors on into winter, when I'm less inclined to buy fruits and vegetables out of their New England season.  I dole these things out and try to make them last until the end of winter, when I can start buying things like local asparagus and lettuce.  Don't get me wrong, this is no Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (which I not-so-secretly aspire to accomplishing...a girl can dream...).  I have a looooong way to go before I'm putting by enough vegetables and fruits to get us through winter.  But it's like opening precious jewels when I take out a quart of tomato sauce or make blueberry pancakes with the fruits from last summer.

This past summer, I had great luck with green beans and Romano beans, and we're just now finishing up the few packages I put by.  I socked away about 2 pounds of roasted red peppers, and 2 quarts of blueberries.  I also freeze greens like kale, chard, and collards, and I freeze as much tomato sauce in varying forms as I can possibly cram into the freezers we have. 

Another way that I like to freeze things is baked into muffins, scones, quick breads and things like lasagnas.  I found a zucchini-orange bread recipe last summer that I LOVE, and I put by about 10 loaves of the stuff.  We're down to our last few of those, as well as our last batch of peach-blueberry muffins. 

My least successful frozen "treat" would be the zucchini.  I followed the guidelines from one of last summer's "Eating Well" issues, but I have to say, the zucchini was a little...er...limp in tonight's dinner.  That's okay, though, because the green beans were fabulous, and the stew over all was delicious.  Herbes de Provence is a new blend for me to play around with--I'm typically an Italian Seasoning kind of girl--but I enjoyed it and will look for new ways to use it.
French-Style Chicken and Vegetable "Stoup"
by Me (inspired by Rachael Ray)
Serves 4-5
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion (I used red) chopped
1/2-3/4  c chopped carrot
1/2-3/4 c chopped celery
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 medium fennel bulb, cored and sliced about 1/4" thick  (I'd increase this to a whole bulb next time, I think)
1 heaping tsp Herbes de Provence
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
salt and pepper to taste (I used about 1 tsp total salt and 3/4 tsp total pepper)
1 small fresh zucchini, chopped*
1/4 c dry white wine
1- 14.5 oz can low-sodium diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 to 1 1/2 cups water  (could leave out if you want it more like a stew)
2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 1/2 pound, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 to 1 1/2 cups frozen chopped green beans
1 15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, for grating over top

1.  Heat olive oil in a large saucepot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  When oil shimmers, add onion through Herbes de Provence.  Sprinkle with salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the zucchini, and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Raise heat to medium-high.

2.  Add white wine and cook until almost evaporated.  Add bay leaf, tomatoes, broth and water, if using.  Bring to a bubble, add chicken, and reduce heat to medium.  Add more salt, and some pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 7-10 minutes.  Add green and white beans and heat through, about 3 minutes.  Serve with grated cheese on top, if desired.

*I used frozen zucchini from last summer's bumper crop (okay, it was the neighbor's bumper crop...).  I can't say I'd recommend it, because I like my zucchini to have a bite to it, but if you've got it, add it when you add the beans, and bump up the cooking time by a few minutes to make sure all the frozen things are heated through.  From now on, I'll just freeze the zucchini inside my baked goods. :)

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