Chicken Wild Rice Soup
Friday, 5 December 2008
Wow, it has been almost three weeks since I last posted. Where did the time go? We enjoyed a wonderful week in Boston visiting my brother and family for Thanksgiving. Not only was it great spending time with family and enjoying the exciting city of Boston, but good food seemed to find us wherever we went. Normally a trip outside my comfort zone invokes anxiety over whether or not I will be able to find food that I can eat. This time, I decided I was not going to stress over it and put my trust in the universe to lead me in the right direction. That it did.
First off, I was well prepared. I had filled the backpack for the plane with packages of California Suncakes, Clif Bar Nectar snack bars, gluten-free Grindstone Bakery dark chocolate cookies, Mary’s Gone Crackers, trail mix and fruit. In the suitcase I had another bag packed with Ziploc bags filled with pre-mixed flours for making pancakes, crepes, and even a gluten-free pie crust, along with some quinoa flakes, homemade granola, and dry polenta. I had snacks and breakfast covered. I also anticipated the need to pack a lunch for the first flight, so the day before we left I bought some tofu-cilantro salad from the farmers market. I packed it in our insulated lunch sack with a few carrots and we were good to go. But a trip from coast to coast is an all-day affair, with a 4-hour layover in Salt Lake City to boot. We were going to have to find dinner somewhere in the airport.
The Salt Lake City airport was a surprisingly progressive place! We passed some of the time walking the length of the terminal to stretch our legs and get some exercise. We noticed recycling bins everywhere for both newspapers and plastic/glass bottles, something that is hard to find at the Oakland airport. Then we found a little gift shop that sold only recycled, organic, or sustainably-made products. I picked up a gift for my cat-sitter and a soothing peppermint oil neck wrap. We made our way to our connecting gate, and right next to it was a restaurant and brewery featuring natural, organic, local foods called Squatters. I was impressed – airports are notorious for carrying primarily processed fast foods, chain restaurants and convenience items. But the back page of their menu touted vendors from sustainable seafood to organic produce to antibiotic and hormone-free meat and dairy products. We ordered some humus, a couple of fish tacos to go for the next flight, and sipped a glass of red wine.
The next morning we woke up late. My brother had already left for work, and his wife and the kids had already eaten breakfast. We pulled out the bag of prepared buckwheat crepe mix, added some soy milk (my sister-in-law had generously gone shopping for us the weekend before and picked up some of our necessities) and topped them with some walnuts and sliced a persimmon that we had brought on the plane. My 2-year-old niece was intrigued, so we prepared a small crepe for her. She loved it, and the persimmon, and polished off the whole crepe!
That afternoon my sister-in-law took us to the Museum of Fine Arts. After browsing for a couple hours we sat down to lunch at the museum cafe, where my husband and I split a bowl of Assyrian bean soup and a roasted pumpkin and frisee salad. Then she took the kids home for a nap and dropped us off on Newberry Street. It was pouring rain and we forgot our umbrella, so we wandered into a bookstore to dry off. We sat down in their little cafe for a cup of tea, only to find that they served fresh raw vegetable juice. I ordered a beet-celery-cucumber-carrot juice and was grateful for the extra burst of energy, as I was feeling a bit jet-lagged. Afterward we browsed a few shops and found a cozy restaurant called Sonsie. They had one of our favorite California wines on the menu, Bridlewood Syrah, so we ordered a glass along with a half-dozen Maine oysters and an appetizer of braised organic pork cheeks with beet-pickled applekraut. It was delicious, and very rich. By the time we got home we didn’t have an appetite for a full dinner so we just cooked some brown rice and steamed vegetables.
The night before Thanksgiving the four of us went in to the North End, the Little Italy of Boston, where we had a lovely dinner at a charming little restaurant called Pomodoro. It was so tiny that they only seat 12 people at a time, and the bathroom was the size of the one on the plane (sink not included). We hung our coats and sat in a cozy candlelit booth. The table was garnished with plates of marinated olives and garlic in oil along with fresh bread, which we deferred to my brother and his wife. We ordered a bottle of Chianti to share and an order of antipasto and an arugula and prosciutto salad to start. We informed the waitress of our dietary requirements and asked that they leave the Parmesan off the salad, but it arrived anyway with a huge slice of Parmesan right on top. We sent it back and the waitress was very apologetic. She must have felt bad because she came back with an extra salad for my brother and his wife. Then came the entree – baked cod atop marinated tomatoes with kalamata olives and capers. I couldn’t tell if I was becoming intoxicated from the wine or from the food, it was incredible. We were one of only two tables in the restaurant that night, and either the waitress was still feeling bad about the Parmesan or she didn’t want us to leave, because she kept pouring us more wine, even though we had already finished the bottle. None of these extras ended up on our bill. Completely contented, we crossed the street afterward to Mike’s Pastries, where my brother and his wife indulged and we eyed the chocolate covered cheesecakes jealously. Right next door was a kitschy Victorian cafe, and we grabbed a table for a nightcap. My brother ordered a cappuccino and my husband a chocolate martini. I had a cup of chamomile tea. And a few sips of my husband’s chocolate martini.
Thanksgiving itself was a whirlwind of baking. The day before, my sister-in-law and I had baked pies. She made a traditional apple pie, and I made my gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free pumpkin pie from my pre-mixed bag of flour. (Not a huge fan of tofu, she was amazed at how normal a pumpkin pie made with tofu could be.) Thanksgiving morning, my husband made amaranth pancakes for everyone, topped with fresh blackberries and strawberries. They all loved it, including my niece. Later on, my brother and his wife prepared the turkey (and the tofurkey – my brother is a vegetarian:) and stuffing. I cut up a butternut squash and drizzled it with olive oil and minced garlic. We prepared two scrumptious batches of mashed red potatoes – one with milk and one without – cooked with the skin on and seasoned with fresh parsley left over from the stuffing. I also prepared two vegetable side dishes: Brussels sprouts with brown butter and pine nuts, and sauteed broccoli rabe. There were eight of us, including my brother’s family and his wife’s parents. Back in the Midwest, where most of us are from, the way you prepare squash is to mash it all up with butter and brown sugar, and then top it with more brown sugar. So my garlic squash with fresh sliced basil was a new thing for everyone (as were the Brussels sprouts and broccoli rabe). But even those who never liked squash before commented on how delicious it was. My adventurous niece also loved it. The broccoli rabe and the Brussels sprouts we prepared primarily for our own sake, since we love lots of greens, but everyone shared and to our surprise, the Brussels sprouts were a huge hit. The turkey itself was divine, and very moist, as my brother the vegetarian basted it constantly with olive oil (the tofurkey, on the other hand, was not quite as appealing, nor was the stuffing, which had accidentally burned to a blackened crisp). When we left the next day, we made sandwiches from leftover turkey topped with broccoli rabe (on our Grindstone Bakery gluten-free bread we brought from home) to take on the plane.
A couple days after we got home, we were feeling the toll of long days of traveling, changing climate, wandering around in the rain, and a higher consumption of alcohol and caffeine than we are used to. We had gone right back to work without a day to recover from our vacation, and not surprisingly we both came down with colds. So there is my excuse for not posting sooner and an extremely long-winded introduction to the dish I prepared this week: chicken and wild rice soup in the crock pot. Boosting the immune system with home-cooked chicken broth is the perfect natural remedy for a cold, and a tasty one as well. I have been making this for years, even before I went gluten-free (although I used to make it with dumplings).
Chicken Wild Rice Soup
4-6 mixed pieces of bone-in chicken
1 small onion, diced
2 tsp salt
filtered water or chicken stock
3-4 large carrots, sliced
3-4 stalks celery
1 cup wild rice blend
fresh sage and thyme leaves
Wash the chicken, remove excess skin, and place it in the crock pot along with the diced onion. Add the salt and pepper and cover with filtered water until the pot is about 1/2 to 2/3 full, depending on the size of your crock pot. For more flavor, include 2 cups chicken stock. Turn the pot on high until the water comes to a boil, then turn down to low. Cook for about 3-4 hours or until the meat easily falls off the bone. Remove the chicken from the pot and add the vegetables, rice, and herbs. When the meat cools, take out the bones and tear the meat into smaller pieces and place it back in the pot. Turn the heat up to high and cook for another 2 hours or until the rice is soft. Serve hot and refrigerate or freeze the rest.