Typically around this time of year I’d be featuring very seasonally-focused, fresh garden-centric recipes.
When the temperature is soaring, our tastebuds naturally lean towards lighter, brighter, and more refreshing dishes. Crunchy, cooling, vibrant: the food of summer.
Then throw in the fact that gardens and farmers’ markets are brimming with produce of all types, from tomatoes to green beans to kale. Really, it only makes sense that our meals and preferences would center around these more "summer-y" styles and flavors.
Being sensible or not, however, apparently doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re pregnant. This baby has a mind of its own.
It was one of these incredibly hot, muggy days; a cold sandwich would have seemed about one of the only appropriate menu choices. Yet the only thing that sounded remotely appealing to me was chicken noodle soup. Mmm, salty, brothy, rich. Definitely a cool-weather type of soup.
Fortunately, I accounted for the heat, and only wanted it cold.
Okay, that part I can’t even blame on the baby. Soup is likely my favorite food genre, especially when I get to love it hot one day and cold the next.
Besides potatoes, that chicken soup theme has been one of my most consistent preferences. I’ve made a couple different versions over the last few weeks before branching out to chicken pot pie; I stockpiled a whole stack of ideas for chicken & biscuits and chicken dumplings. Not only is this specific comfort food craving out of line with the standard rhythm of summer cuisine, but it’s also the only way I can manage carrots.
Carrots! Seriously? Everybody loves carrots, not least of all Brian and me. It’s one of our favorite garden crops to grow, and it’s rare I can walk past the jumbo carrots at Smith’s without grabbing at least a few. We eat them like candy.
Except I would so much rather eat a plate of candy than of carrots right now. I’ve bravely swallowed a bite or two every now and then, begging my subconscious to give them a chance. In fact, I sliced up a big, beautiful carrot earlier this week, in good faith that I couldn’t hate them forever. It was a great idea — except for the part where every time I open the fridge, there they are, staring at me and turning my stomach with their (fading) orange cheeriness.
Unless of course, they’re swimming in something salty with chicken and celery; then they’re marvelous. Being pregnant is funny.
Fortunately, while that trio of ingredients isn’t traditionally associated with summertime fare, it’s not entirely devoid of seasonality. Fresh vegetables can easily swap in and out within the basic scheme of things: think sliced just-pulled onions and garlic, diced new potatoes, shelling peas, snapped green beans, chopped beet greens or kale. A handful of fresh herbs can brighten up the rich flavors, and a big old salad can round out the meal in full recognition of the continuing hot weather.
That is, if you’re into that kind of thing. I also can’t stomach salads right now, so maybe later.
And then of course, if a hot casserole just seems totally out of place right now, you can always go my route and eat it cold the next day. Perfect summer food, I say.
Amanda Miller writes a column about local foods for The Hutchinson News. She teaches classes at Apron Strings and makes cheese on her family’s dairy farm near Pleasantview. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chicken Cornbread Pot Pie
Really, what I wanted was the filling of pot pie, just not the pie part. Plus I’d really been hankering for some cornbread (again), so I figured my best option was to put them together. Unlike all pregnancy concoctions, this one seems like it could be a winning combination for anyone. Brian was visibly horrified when he realized I was eating it cold, but we both happily finished our separate portions.
Prep tips: like I suggested, a wide variety of vegetables can excel here (I put potatoes in ours, of course). Just keep in mind different cooking times and layer adding your ingredients accordingly. Use your favorite cornbread recipe (probably a half batch if it normally makes an 8x8", or just bake the extra separately) or ask me for mine; or let’s be honest, a box of Jiffy mix would also be great.
half a stick of butter
½ c all-purpose or whole-wheat flour
1 qt chicken broth
1 large onion or a handful of green onions, sliced
a couple carrots, diced
a couple celery stalks, sliced
about two pounds of hearty veg of your choice, cubed: potatoes, broccoli/stems, turnips, etc.
3 bay leaves
several sprigs of fresh thyme
1 ½ t curry powder
salt, pepper, and white pepper
about a pound of cooked chicken, cubed or shredded
a handful or two of peas and/or greens
Melt butter in a medium cast-iron skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Whisk in flour, stirring until it just starts to turn golden, then whisk in the broth thoroughly. Bring to a low boil and cook until it begins to thicken. Add in the onion, carrot, celery, other veg, bay, thyme, and curry powder. Season to taste with salt and peppers; cover and simmer until vegetables are just tender, about ten minutes. Fish out the bay leaves and thyme stems (or warn people when you’re eating). Stir in chicken and peas. Pour cornbread on top, and bake at 350° for 20-30 minutes, until cornbread is cooked through.