One of the pleasures of writing Blue Kitchen is the opportunities we get to review cookbooks. We love food and we love the written word. Cookbooks give us both. The latest volume to come across our desk celebrates a place that has helped support the written word for 25 years now.
Hedgebrook is a writing retreat on Whidbey Island in Washington state, 48 acres with a farmhouse and six cabins. Since 1988, those cabins have been home to an impressive list of women writers, including Eve Ensler, Jane Hamilton, Carolyn Forché and Gloria Steinem, all enjoying what Hedgebrook calls “radical hospitality.”
Amy Wheeler, Executive Director of Hedgebrook, explains it like this: “As women, we are used to being the nurturers. We make sure others are fed, clothed and taken care of. We enable their work and visions, sometimes at the expense of our own.” Hedgebrook turns the tables, nurturing women writers, feeding them, caring for them and giving them time to write.
With the 'Hedgebrook Cookbook: Celebrating Radical Hospitality,' the famed retreat’s chefs share recipes prepared for the communal table in the farmhouse. Proceeds from the sale of the cookbook will support Hedgebrook’s mission. Written by Denise Barr and Julie Rosten and released through She Writes Press, it contains more than ninety recipes as well as original writings by a number of Hedgebrook alumnae. It’s also filled with beautiful photography— of the food, of course, but also images of the place that resonate with peace, comfort, and joy.
The recipes are rich in comfort foods— lavender shortbread, savory galettes, clam chowder, cauliflower mac and cheese… and this Italian chicken stew, with chunks of chicken, potatoes, and artichoke hearts, brightened with capers, olives, red pepper flakes, and lemon. Reading the recipe, we knew it would be good, but we were not prepared for just how good— big-flavored, rustic, and soul satisfying.
Italian chicken stew
Adapted from Hedgebrook Cookbook: Celebrating Radical Hospitality
Serves 3 to 4
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 5)
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons capers, drained
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup dry white wine (*optional, may substitute cooking wine)
1-1/2 cups unsalted or reduced-sodium chicken broth (plus more, if needed)
1 pound yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into a 3/4-inch dice
8 to 12 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and quartered
1/2 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 cup whole green pitted olives, drained
1. Cut chicken into large pieces, 4 or 5 pieces per thigh. Mix flour, salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Add chicken, close bag and shake, making sure each piece is coated. Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium flame. Sauté chicken in batches, cooking until lightly brown, turning once, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
2. Reduce heat, add garlic and fennel seed and cook until fragrant, stirring, about 45 seconds. Add red pepper flakes, capers and lemon zest and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds. (The fragrance will be amazing at this point.) Add wine and simmer, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook about 2 minutes.
3. Add broth and chicken, along with any accumulated juices, and return to a simmer. Add potatoes and continue to simmer about 15 minutes. Gently stir in artichokes with a wooden spoon, adding a little more broth, if needed. Everything doesn’t have to be submerged, but you want all the ingredients in contact with liquid. Partially cover pot and cook until potatoes are done, another 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and stir in olives, parsley and lemon juice. Serve immediately.