QUINCY — It’s the creativity in cooking that most appeals to Kate Daniels.
“A recipe gives you a guide, but you don’t have to do that,” she said. “It’s a way to be creative and do something kind of fun. I love to cook. I really do.”
Weekends often find the Quincy woman cooking ahead to have meals prepared for the coming week for herself, her husband Jim and their daughter Eren, a freshman at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus, doing virtual classes this semester from home.
Early inspiration came from Daniels’ mom.
“My mom used to cook a lot when we were young. My mom and dad had five kids. She cooked a lot just be necessity,” Daniels said. “If you’re around it, you learn.”
Eren, who also grew up watching her mom and dad both cook, has started cooking more for herself, trying simple dishes perfect to share with friends.
Daniels believes cooking, and eating, together is a way to nurture each other.
“It’s a good way, as far as I’m concerned to talk to people,” she said. “It loosens us up, relaxes us. It’s a community sharing.”
More inspiration comes from traveling — and online with videos, recipes and reviews. “Especially now that we can’t travel, I love trying different food from different places,” Daniels said.
“It’s not just the foods. It’s the different ways of doing things,” she said. “To be a good cook, you do have to be creative and open to different ways of doing things, new ideas, new methods. You’ve got to be willing to try stuff.”
In the kitchen, Daniels often focuses on main and side dishes — key ingredients to well-rounded meals.
Simple Roast Chicken makes a favorite Sunday meal served with mashed potatoes, gravy made from the drippings and green beans.
“The key to get that really crispy skin is to make sure it’s really dry,” she said. “Dry it with paper towels inside and out so that there’s not a lot of steam or water in the oven, and roast at high heat, 450 degrees.”
Chicken Paprikash, served over noodles, “is a little spicier but really good,” she said, and marinated chicken stars in Honey Chipotle Chicken Bowls with Lime Quinoa.
While searching for different dip recipes, Daniels found Muhammara, which means “reddened” in Lebanese Arabic. Served with vegetables or with pita bread, “this is really good,” Daniels said.
Delicious Yakitori-Style Salmon with Scallions and Zucchini brings back memories of travels to Japan and works well with other fish besides salmon, while Ratatouille provides a great way to use garden vegetables in the summertime as a main dish, a side dish or a key part to a tart.
“I don’t like to fuss too much with pastry if I don’t have to,” Daniels said, but a tart “with a thin layer of goat cheese, then ratatouille and pesto on top is really good.”
Complementing Daniels’ love of cooking is her love of gardening. Ready to plant garlic last week to harvest next year, she’s still harvesting “whatever’s left” from a small herb garden.
“You’d be surprised. Parsley is really good in the fall,” she said. “Carrots, if you start them in midsummer, are really good. They get sweeter.”
2 red bell peppers
1 to 2 chipotles, rinsed, stemmed and seeded
1 1/3 cups walnuts
¼ small onion
¾ cup toasted breadcrumbs or toasted panko
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
Coarse salt and pepper
Heat the broiler or a grill. Pierce the bell peppers in several places with a paring knife. Place the peppers on a rimmed baking sheet or directly on grill grates; broil or grill, turning every couple minutes, until the skin chars and blisters, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer the peppers to a paper bag to steam until they’re cool enough to handle.
Peel and seed the broiled peppers. Put peppers in a food processor with the chipotles, walnuts, onion, breadcrumbs and garlic. Process until the mixture is a thick, smooth paste. With the food processor still running, drizzle in the olive oil.
Transfer pepper mixture to a bowl. Stir in the molasses, lemon juice, paprika and cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with pita wedges.
6 Roma tomatoes
2 yellow squashes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, from 8 to 10 leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, from 8 to 10 leaves
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil
Slice eggplant, tomatoes, squash and zucchini into approximately 1/16-inch rounds; set aside.
To make the sauce, heat olive oil in a 12-inch oven-safe pan over medium-high heat. Saute onion, garlic and bell peppers until soft, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add the crushed tomatoes. Stir until the ingredients are fully incorporated. Remove from heat, then add the basil. Stir once more, then smooth the surface of the sauce with a spatula.
Arrange the sliced vegetables in alternating patterns (for example, eggplant, tomato, squash, zucchini) on top of the sauce from the outer edge to the middle of the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
In a small bowl, mix together basil, garlic, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper and olive oil. Spoon the herb seasoning over the vegetables.
Cover the pan with foil, and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Uncover pan, then bake for another 20 minutes until the vegetables are softened. Serve while hot as a main dish or side.
3 to 4 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks, or whole chicken legs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as canola
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow or Spanish onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons Hungarian paprika, sweet or hot, or a combination
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes or 1 large ripe tomato, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1 pound egg noodles
¾ cup sour cream
Season the chicken aggressively with salt and pepper. Heat oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large, heavy oven-safe saute pan or Dutch oven set over high flame until butter is foaming. Sear the chicken in batches, skin side down, until golden and crisp, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Turn chicken, and repeat on the other side, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate to rest.
Pour off all but 1 to 2 tablespoons of accumulated fat in the pot. Return the pot to the stove over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently with a spoon to scrape off any browned bits of chicken skin until the onion has softened and gone translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and stir again, cooking it until it has softened, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the paprika and the flour, and stir well to combine, then cook until the mixture is fragrant and the taste of the flour has been cooked out, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes and broth, whisk until smooth and then nestle the chicken back in the pan, skin side up. Bake at 400 degrees until the chicken has cooked through and the sauce has thickened slightly, approximately 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, set a large pot of heavily salted water to boil over high heat. Cook noodles in the water until they are almost completely tender, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Drain the noodles, and toss in a bowl with the remaining butter. Place the chicken on top of the noodles, then add the sour cream to the sauce, stir to combine and ladle over top.
Honey Chipotle Chicken Bowls with Lime Quinoa
Honey Chipotle Chicken
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles in adobo)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups spring greens
½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup torn fresh cilantro
4 green onions, sliced
1 avocado, sliced
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ tablespoon honey
½ cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock, or water
1 tablespoon coconut oil or butter
1 lime, zested and juiced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Add chicken breasts to a baking dish or Ziploc bag, and season with salt and pepper. In a bowl, whisk together olive oil, adobo, honey, mustards, cilantro and garlic. Pour the marinade over the chicken, covering it evenly. Refrigerate, and marinate for at least two hours or overnight.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tiny bit of olive oil and the chicken, then cook covered until the chicken is deeply browned on both sides and cooked in the center, about 6 minutes per side.
Add the quinoa and stock (or water) to a saucepan over high heat, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, and cover the pot. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the coconut oil or butter, lime juice, zest, salt and pepper.
To make the salads, add the greens to a large bowl, and toss with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Add chicken on top along with the quinoa, tomatoes, cilantro, green onions and avocado. Drizzle the bowl with the lime juice, olive oil and honey before serving.
Simple Roast Chicken
1 (2- to 3-pound) farm-raised chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons thyme
Bring the chicken to room temperature. Dry the chicken very well with paper towels, inside and out, to help achieve crispy skin.
Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird. Salt the chicken, using about 1 tablespoon, so it has a uniform coating. Season with pepper to taste. Place the chicken in a saute or roasting pan, then roast at 450 degrees until done, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven, and add the thyme, if using, to the pan. Let rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board. Remove the twine, and serve.
Yakitori-Style Salmon with Scallions and Zucchini
¼ cup canola oil, plus more for greasing
1 tablespoon minced garlic (from about three cloves)
1 tablespoon minced ginger (from a one-inch piece)
2/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 pound small zucchini (about 3), trimmed and sliced 1/8-inch-thick
8 scallions, trimmed, halved lengthwise if large, and cut into 2-inch pieces
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 pounds boneless, skinless salmon fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
Lemon wedges, for serving
In a small saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-low. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 2/3 cup water, soy sauce, sugar and vinegar, and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar, 1 to 2 minutes. Mix cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water, and whisk into sauce. Simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Reserve 1 cup sauce for basting. Transfer remaining sauce to a small bowl for serving.
Heat a lightly greased cast iron griddle or grill pan over medium. Season zucchini and scallions with salt and pepper. Toss with 2 tablespoons oil. Thread onto wooden skewers that have been soaked in water or metal skewers. Season salmon with salt and pepper, and toss with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Thread onto skewers.
Grill, basting with sauce and turning every few minutes, until salmon and vegetables are caramelized and cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes for salmon and 12 to 15 minutes for vegetables. Serve with lemon wedges and reserved sauce for dipping.