Archive for the ‘Poultry’ Category

If you’re going to eat at home, Wednesday is a good night to do so at our house.

Every night is a good night, truth be told, but on Wednesdays we get treated to a new adventure every week–a recipe plucked from the Internet, made and served by the divine Miss Jadah.

We’ve known and loved Jadah since she was 12, when she and her grandmother (aka “G”) made phone calls for Obama on our front porch in 2008. Last September, G’s failing health threw her housing and access to school into disarray, and since Bill and I were able to offer both, Jadah came to live with us, a blessing to us all. Add TLC, a weekly trip to the grocery store, and a few cooking tips, and we have Wednesdays with Jadah.

It began with that old favorite, mac and cheese, prepared from scratch rather than via the microwave method Jadah was taught at Wyomissing High School. (“Which of six store-bought boxes is best?” is what passes for education.) She cooked the pasta in boiling water, made the roux, stirred the thickening white sauce, grated the cheese–even crumbled the bread that became the crunchy, toasted crumbs on top–and served it up with a side of green beans and a splotch of Sriracha. Comfort on a plate.

The following Tuesday, I asked what she was going to make next. “Do you mean I’m supposed to do this every week?” she said, the penny of awareness of domestic responsibility dropping with a clatter. She rose, as always, to the occasion, varying the creamy pasta theme with a spinach, red sweet pepper and chicken alfredo, with massaged kale on the side. Several Wednesday dinners have since then been built on chicken and pasta, each time with a tasty twist.

Chicken Pesto

Jadah gets her ideas from the world around her. Inspired by a gluten-free meal prepared by my daughter Alex, Jadah created two delectable pizzas one evening from Bob’s Red Mill pizza crust mix. Caramelized onions (made slowly, the only way possible) and sautéed mushrooms topped one; spinach, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella the other.

On another occasion, she took a cue from a low-carb cauliflower crust prepared by my son Sam, who found the original recipe where I never would, on a site called Testosterone Nation. Though I can’t speak to the hormonal impact, the crust–and Jadah’s pizza–were sufficiently amazing that we now keep a cauliflower on tap just in case.

Jadah’s friend Soua has introduced us to Hmong cuisine, a unique mix of Lao, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese influences, plus in our case, a bit of whatever thrown in. Soua is justifiably famous for her egg rolls (red cabbage, scallions, carrots, pork, egg, rice vermicelli) and Jadah has become her roller-in-chief.

My personal favorite is a soft rice flour pancake, sprinkled with sauteed ground pork and scallions, and turned into a floppy roll-up of deliciousness. Serve all of the above with soy sauce , Sriracha (of course) and sweet egg-roll sauce, which we sometimes fake with fish sauce, sugar, and grated carrot.

Jadah and I experimented at long, hilarious length with the pancake, tossing a few gooey messes into the trash, but she transformed one version into something great–a hearty pancake embedded with pork and scallions.

Last week, which seemed like Spring had come at last, Jadah made Pasta Primavera: fusilli, with snap peas, broccoli, yellow bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, pepper flakes, mint and cheese. The called-for goat cheese was too expensive, so we used a few feta crumbles purchased below rate from the Giant’s salad bar. And when she discovered that the snap peas had missed the prescribed pasta-water bath, she simply tossed them in the bottom of the colander for a hot shower along with the draining pasta. They were perfect, and so was dinner.

In loving memory of Mary Spencer, June 29, 1951-April 12, 2012.

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A 6-pound pile of boneless, skinless chicken breasts between us, my friend Abdel could barely express his joy over the recent success of the revolution in Egypt. “You see how they behave, with such dignity and restraint,” he said. “These are my people.”

I’ve been buying my chicken from Abdel ever since Lorna told me about his Alsafa Halal Meat-Grocery-Restaurant on Lancaster Avenue in Reading. Also, I had just learned that my primary source for organic chicken was an avid Tea Party supporter. It’s wonderful that concern for healthy eating reaches across the political spectrum, but I wasn’t keen to give my money to folks protesting immigration reform by yelling “Send them home.”

The United States was founded by immigrants from Western Europe, some of whom wasted no time putting down the next wave of immigrants. Our own iconic Benjamin Franklin, said this in 1727 to the Pennsylvania assembly in support of a law requiring all Palatines (German immigrants from the Palatine region of Germany) to take an Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown.

Why should the Palatine boors be suffered to swarm into our settlements, and by herding together establish their language and manners to the exclusion of ours?  Why should Pennsylvania founded by Englishmen suffer to become a colony of foreigners who shortly will be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of us Anglifying them.

Reading itself, like most cities, has been home to successive waves of immigrants–people who came here with little more than a desire to work hard and raise children whose lives might be better than their own. Today our predominantly Hispanic city includes people from more than 30 nations.

I celebrate their contributions: the world-class Vietnamese restaurant Hong Thanh; El Puente Mexican store, with fresh tortillas every day and tamales on Friday; Mezcal’s restaurant on 6th Street where I can’t resist the Chiripas seafood fajita; Johanny Cepada’s welcoming Mi Casa Su Casa; Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant in West Reading; AASHIYANA, the yummy Indian place that uses all CAPS; and Alsafa Halal Meat-Grocery-Restaurant. Abdel sells fresh poultry, lamb and beef, Middle Eastern spices, canned goods and specialty foods, and a satisfying array of meals. Fool, in case you’re wondering, involves fava beans, lemon juice and garlic.

Halal means lawful in Arabic, and the term is used to designate food that’s consistent with Islamic law. Halal meat is slaughtered using a special technique designed to minimize the animal’s suffering and quickly drain blood from the body. The butcher makes a swift, deep incision in the animal’s neck, cutting the jugular veins and carotid artieris of both sides but leaving the spinal cord intact. Forbidden foods include pork, carnivorous animals such as birds of prey, improperly slaughtered animals, and alcoholic drinks and other intoxicants.

The other day, when I stopped in at Alsafa with a dozen roses to celebrate the liberation of his country, I asked Abdel a question that had been bothering me since the revolution began–how did all those people in Tahrir Square get fed? “Supporters delivered carloads of bread, meat and water to the square, while others worked at stalls, like at a market, preparing sandwiches,” Abdel explained. The food was paid for by wealthy Egyptians supportive of the revolution, so people could come up to a stall, day or night, for a free sandwich and a bottle of water. Facilities? “The big mosques around Tahrir Square have dozens of bathrooms, because we must be clean for prayers.”

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