When the pandemic hit, McCrea’s Candies put a number of new policies and plans in place. Always one for strict cleaning, the candy maker stepped up its sanitizing routine with safeguarding employees in mind. The company also sent home anyone not involved in cooking and packaging, and staggered hours for those employees who had to come in to do their jobs. Additionally, the company offered flexible hours and the ability to work from home.
After hearing from several employees that trips to the grocery store were highly stressful because of risk of exposure, McCrea’s decided to expand its relationship with local produce supplier Katsiroubas Bros. McCrea’s has long turned to the family-owned purveyor for ginger, rosemary and other fresh ingredients when making slow-cooked, handcrafted caramel. It seemed a natural fit to increase orders with the fruits and vegetables its team needed to cook at home during quarantine. This decreased the need for employees to go out and shop, and also directed business to a partner during this extremely challenging time for small businesses.
The McCrea’s team, which includes both cooking pros and relative newbies in the kitchen, collaborated on what they would order and had fun sharing recipes and swapping tips and techniques since they were all cooking the same array of produce. What could be better than having a cadre of cooks as a resource for how to prepare dinners? Below, we share some of our more successful dishes (both sweet and savory) all based around the fresh fruits and veggies we sourced from Katsiroubas.
Chicken Soup from Scratch (Via the New York Times)
For the Broth:
- 1 chicken, 3 to 3 1/2 pounds, with skin, cut up
- 3 stalks celery, with leaves, cut into chunks
- 2 large carrots, cut into chunks
- 2 yellow onions, peeled and halved
- 1 parsnip or parsley root (optional)
- About 1 dozen large sprigs parsley
- About 1 dozen black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
To Finish the Soup:
- 3 tablespoons reserved chicken fat, more if needed
- 3 leeks, trimmed, halved lengthwise, rinsed and sliced crosswise into thin half-moons
- 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
- Kosher salt and ground black or white pepper
- Egg noodles (fresh or dried), such as packaged wide noodles, spaetzle, fettuccine or pappardelle cut into short lengths (see note)
- Finely chopped herbs, such as parsley, scallions, dill or a combination
- Place the chicken, celery, carrots, onions, parsnip (if using), parsley, peppercorns, bay leaves and salt in a large soup pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately reduce the heat to very low. Adjust the heat until the soup is “smiling”: barely moving on the surface, with an occasional bubble breaking through. Cook uncovered, until the chicken is very tender and falling off the bone, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- When cool enough to handle, use tongs to transfer chicken from the pot to a container. Taste the broth and continue to simmer it until it is concentrated and tasty. Strain broth through a fine sieve (or a colander lined with cheesecloth) into a separate container. Discard all the solids from the strainer (or reserve the vegetables, chill and serve with vinaigrette, if you wish).
- Refrigerate chicken pieces and broth separately for at least 8 hours (or up to 3 days), until a thick layer of yellow fat has risen to the top of the broth.
- When ready to finish the soup, use your fingers to separate chicken breast meat from bones and skin. Discard bones and skin. Use two forks to pull the breast meat apart into soft chunks, or use a knife and cut into bite-size pieces. (Reserve dark meat for another use.)
- Skim chicken fat from top of broth and set aside. Place 3 tablespoons of the fat in a soup pot with a lid. Add leeks, stir to coat, and heat over medium heat until leeks begin to fry. Then reduce the heat to a gentle sizzle and cook, stirring often, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes.
- Add carrots, sprinkle with salt, stir, and cover the pot. Cook until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes more. (Keep in mind that vegetables will continue to cook in the soup.) Do not brown.
- Pour broth into pot with vegetables and heat to a simmer. Add noodles and simmer until heated through, soft and plumped with chicken broth. Add the breast meat, then taste broth and add salt and pepper to taste. For best flavor, soup should have some golden droplets of fat on top; if needed, add more chicken fat one teaspoon at a time.
- Serve immediately, in a tureen or from the pot, sprinkling each serving with herbs.
NOTE: Instead of noodles, almost any starchy garnish can be used here: matzo balls; partly cooked dry pasta, rice or other grains; or cooked white beans. Add them when you would add the noodles and simmer until heated through.
Curried Apple Soup (Via The Enchanted Broccoli Forrest by Mollie Katzen)
- Peels and cores from the apples needed for II.
- Cleaned skins from the onions and garlic
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 ½ cups apple juice
- 2 ½ cups of water
- 3 tablespoons butter
- ½ teaspoon fresh grated ginger root
- 2 medium cloves of garlic
- 1 ½ cups chopped onion
- 4 heaping cups of peeled, chopped apples (any kind except delicious)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Juice from one lemon
- 3 tablespoons. Flour
- 1 teaspoon each: dry mustard, turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoons each: ground cloves and cayenne pepper (or to taste)
Final mix in and topping
- 2 cups mixed yogurt and sour cream, any ratio you like
- Slivered, toasted almonds
- Make the stock by combining ingredients in a kettle.
- Boil gently, partially covered for about 45 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.
- Strain and discard solids.
- Take our yogurt and sour cream to come to room temp.
- Heat a heavy skillet. Add butter, ginger, garlic, and a dash of salt. Stir and cook over moderate heat a minute or so, then add onions. Sauté another 5 minutes, then add 1 tsp. salt and apples, stirring well. Add lemon juice, and sprinkle in the pre-combined flour and spice mix, stirring constantly.
- Cover and cook 8-10 minutes.
- Heat the stock.
- Purée the stock and sautéed mixture together with an immersion blender until very smooth.
- Whisk in the yogurt/sour cream.
- At this point the soup shouldn’t be cooked any further. Just warm it over a low heat right before serving time.
- Add topping of almonds when served.
- Also, good cold.
Brazilian Black Bean Soup (Modified from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen)
- 2 cans of black beans rinsed
- 3 ½ cups of water or stock
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 large chopped carrot
- 1 stalk chopped celery
- (optional: 1 cup chopped green pepper)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons oil (approximate; use more as needed)
- 2 oranges; peeled, sectioned, seeded
- ½ cup orange juice
- dry sherry
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper
- ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Put rinsed beans in a large saucepan with 3 ½ cups of water or stock and bring to a boil.
- Sauté group A ingredients, beginning with onions and garlic. When they are soft enough (to your liking) add to the beans and simmer over lowest heat possible.
- Add group B ingredients to the soup, stir, cover and simmer 10 minutes.
- Add water if you want it thinner, puree some if you want it to be thick and hearty.
- Adjust spices to taste.
- Serve with sour cream or yogurt.
Orange “Beef” and Asparagus Stir-Fry
- 8 oz noodles of your choice (rice noodles and linguini noodles work well)
- 8-12 oz seitan or other beef substitute
- 5 tbsp. cornstarch
- ¼ cup soy sauce, shoyu, or tamari
- 2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 ½ cups vegetable stock
- 2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoon minced ginger root
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse, and drain again. Set aside. Toss the “beef” with 3 tbsp. cornstarch. Set aside
- Mix together the soy sauce, garlic, sugar, vegetable stock, sesame oil, remaining cornstarch, and ginger. Set aside.
- Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. When hot, stir-fry the “beef” for about 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and red pepper flakes and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
- Add the soy sauce mixture and continue cooking until the sauce thickens and the asparagus turns shiny and tender. Add the orange zest and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes more
- Top cooked noodles with stir-fry and garnish with an orange slice.
Spinach Pesto Pasta with Roasted Vegetables
- 3 cups spinach (can also use basil, arugula or any greens!)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- pinch of pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil + an additional 2-3 tablespoons to toss vegetables
- 1/2 lemon
- Your favorite veggies cut into bit sized pieces for roasting (tastes fantastic wit butternut squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips, brussels sprouts, carrots)
- Noodles of your choice
- Preheat oven to 400. Toss vegetables with salt and olive oil to taste. Roast until lightly browned and fork tender.
- To make the pesto: In the bowl of a food processor or blender add the spinach, garlic, pine nuts, cheese, salt and pepper and pulse until well combined, but not totally smooth. Slowly drizzle in ½ cup of olive oil while pulsing. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
- Toss pesto with your favorite noodles and top with roasted vegetables. Add protein if desired.
NOTE: Pesto can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for 7-10 days or frozen for 3 months.Pesto also goes great over fish, chicken and vegetables on their own.
Roasted Broccoli with Creamy Tahini Sauce
Serve with falafel patties (see recipe below) and lemony Israeli pearled couscous.
FOR THE TAHINI SAUCE
- 1 garlic clove, cut in half, green shoots removed
- Salt to taste
- ⅓ cup sesame tahini
- 2 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (more to taste)
- ⅓ cup water
- Red pepper flakes for sprinkling
FOR THE BROCCOLI
- 1 to 1 ½ pounds broccoli crowns
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Mince the garlic. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the sesame tahini. Whisk in the lemon juice, beginning with the smaller amount. The mixture will stiffen up. Gradually whisk in up to 1/3 cup water, until the sauce has the consistency of thick cream (or runny yogurt). Add salt to taste.
- Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Slice the broccoli crowns 1/3 inch thick, letting the flower buds on the edges fall off. Peel any large pieces of stem by gently pulling away the thick skin, then toss the slices and the unattached buds with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place on the baking sheet in an even layer. Roast until the tops are nicely browned, stirring and flipping the large slices over (tongs are a good tool for this) after 8 minutes, roasting about 15 minutes total.
- Remove from the oven and transfer to a platter or to individual serving plates. Drizzle on the tahini sauce and serve, or serve the tahini sauce in small bowls for dipping.
Easy Broiled Falafel
- 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 3 cloves fresh garlic
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley
- 1 Tablespoon olive or avocado oil
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- pinch of cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 tablespoons oat flour
- olive or avocado oil cooking spray
- Preheat the broiler. Spray a baking sheet with oil.
- Add chickpeas, onion, garlic, oil, parsley, lemon juice, cumin, coriander, salt and cayenne into a food processor (affiliate link) and pulse until just combined. You don’t want to over-process the mixture or you’ll end up with hummus. Plus, having a few chunks of chickpeas gives the falafel a nice texture. Stir in baking soda and oat flour. At this point your mixture should be holding together quite well.
- Scoop spoonfuls of mixture out and form into small patties; you should get about 15. Place on prepped baking sheet.
- Broil 2-3 minutes, flip patties and broil for another 2-3 minutes until falafel are golden and cooked through.
Thai Cucumber Salad with Peanuts
Serve as an accompaniment to a simple stir fry with the protein of your choice (Pictured: seitan with a spicy Szechuan sauce) with scallions and a handful of pea shoots lightly wilted and served over rice noodles.
For the Salad
- ½ red or white onion, very thinly sliced
- 2 large English cucumbers, sliced crosswise ¼-inch thick
- 1/3 cup packed chopped cilantro
- ½ cup salted peanuts, roughly chopped
- 1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- ¼ teaspoon of salt or to taste
For the Dressing
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 ½ tablespoons shoyu or tamari soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Place the onions in a small bowl of ice water. Let sit for ten minutes, then drain well and pat dry.
- In a large bowl, combine the drained onions, cucumbers, cilantro, peanuts, and jalapeno pepper.
- Make the dressing: combine the lime juice, oil, shoyu, sugar, and garlic in a small bowl and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Salt to taste.
Thai Yellow Chicken Curry (Adapted from Pinch of Yum)
- 4 large shallots
- 4 large heads of garlic (not individual cloves – FULL HEADS of garlic)
- 1 6-inch piece of fresh ginger
- 5–20 whole dried Thai chili peppers** (they’re very small and usually found in the spice section)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
- 2–3 tablespoons turmeric
- 2–3 tablespoons mild curry powder
- 2 teaspoons roasted ground coriander
- 3 tablespoons lemongrass paste
- 1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves and stems
- 1 tablespoon oil
- One yellow onion, sliced thinly
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/3 cup yellow curry paste (see below)
- 10 baby golden Yukon potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 14-ounce can coconut cream (it’s like coconut milk, but even more luscious)
- 1/2 – 1 cup water
- 1 can pineapple chunks
- Rice for serving
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Prep the aromatics:Peel the shallots – then drizzle with oil and wrap in foil. Peel the ginger and cut into thin slices. Arrange in a single layer, drizzle with oil, and wrap in foil. Pull the outer paper off the garlic. Cut the pointy tops off the heads of garlic so the cloves are partially exposed. Drizzle with oil, and wrap each head of garlic in foil.
- Bake the aromatics:Place all the foil packets on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the ginger (it should be soft), increase the temperature to 400, and roast the shallots and garlic for another 30 minutes until golden brown and very fragrant. When cooled, you can squeeze the garlic cloves out of the rest of the paper.
- Soak the chilis: While the aromatics are roasting, pour boiling water over the chili peppers to rehydrate them. Let them soak for 15 minutes. Drain the water.
- Make the paste: Put everything in a food processor or very strong blender. Pulse or puree until the yellow curry paste reaches your desired consistency. The recipe should make about 1 1/2 – 2 cups of curry paste, about 4-5 batches of curry. The paste keeps for about a week in the fridge and it freezes well.
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium low heat. Add the onions and sauté for a few minutes until the onions are fragrant and softened. Add the chicken and curry paste; sauté for 3-5 minutes. Add the potatoes and stir to coat with the curry paste.
- Add the coconut cream and 1/2 cup water to the pot – simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the chicken and potatoes are fully cooked, adding more water depending on the consistency you want for the sauce.
- Just before serving add in the pineapple chunks and some of the juice.
- Serve over rice.
Crisp Gnocchi With Brussels Sprouts and Brown Butter (Via the New York Times)
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts (or cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower or even cabbage)
- 1 lemon
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
- 1(18-ounce) package shelf-stable or refrigerated potato gnocchi
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into 6 pieces
- ½ teaspoon honey
- Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
- Trim and halve the Brussels sprouts. Using a vegetable peeler, peel thick strips of lemon zest, then coarsely chop. (You should have about 2 teaspoons chopped zest.)
- In a large (preferably 12-inch) skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high. Add the Brussels sprouts, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper, then arrange the Brussels sprouts in an even layer, cut-side down. Scatter the lemon zest over the top and cook, undisturbed, until the Brussels sprouts are well browned underneath, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the red-pepper flakes, stir and cook until the Brussels sprouts are crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl.
- In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high. Break up any gnocchi that are stuck together, add them to the pan and cook, covered and undisturbed, until golden brown on one side, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the butter and honey, season with salt and a generous amount of black pepper, and cook, stirring, until the butter is golden, nutty smelling and foaming, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the brussels sprouts until warmed through. Serve with grated Parmesan.
Steak and Shrimp Sheet Pan Fajitas (Adapted from Number 2 Pencil)
- 1 pound steak
- 1 pound shrimp peeled and deveined
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of chili powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of onion powder
- 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 orange bell pepper
- 1 small red onion
- 1/2 pound mushrooms
- limes for garnish
- fresh cilantro for garnish
- serve in tortillas warmed or over tortilla chips
- Preheat oven to 450 degree. In a small bowl combine salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and paprika.
- In a large plastic storage baggie, combine 1 tablespoon of olive oil, lime juice, soy sauce and 2/3 of spice mixture. Add steak to plastic storage baggie and turn to coat, let steak marinate at room temperature while prepping shrimp, onions and bell peppers.
- In a small bowl, combine shrimp with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and remaining 1/3 of spice mixture and set aside. Slice peppers and onions into 1/4 inch slices. Add peppers and onions to sheet pan, drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, tossing to coat. Move bell peppers and onions to outer edges of sheet pan and place steak in the middle.
- Cook at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Remove flank steak from oven and arrange uncooked shrimp over onions and peppers then broil on high for additional 3-4 minutes, just until shrimp is cooked through. Use a meat thermometer to check steak for doneness. About 140 for medium rare to 150 for medium.
- IMPORTANT - for juicy and tender steak, let rest at least 10 minutes and cut against the grain. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice before serving.
- Tortillas can be wrapped in a foil packet and heated in the oven while steak is resting. Serve fajitas in warm tortillas or over tortilla chips with avocado and/or sour cream.
Apple Crisp (Modified from an ancient Betty Crocker cookbook passed to Jason McCrea from his mother)
- 6 cups of apples
- 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
- 1 tbsp water
- ½ cup cold butter in cubes Butter
- 1 cup Brown Sugar
- ¾ cup all purpose Flour
- ¾ cup oats
- Pinch Salt
- Optional 1 ¾ tsp. cinnamon
- (Secret Ingredient: 2tbsp ground flax)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Peel, core, and slice apples and put into a 10x10 baking pan or dish.
- Sprinkle the lemon juice and water over the apples.
- Place dry ingredients in a food processor and run briefly to mix. Add cold butter and process with the chopping blade until the mixture is pebbly, do not over process.
- Sprinkle this over the apples and bake for 45-50 minutes.
- Let cool before enjoying.
NOTE: This is a very forgiving recipe. You can make it with apples and double crisp in an extra big Pyrex dish. It doesn’t matter how much is made, it’s never enough!
Baked Pears (Adapted from SkinnyTaste.com )
- Chopped Walnuts
- Cut pears in half and scoop out the core
- Place on a baking sheet with the inside facing up
- Put a ½ teaspoon of honey in each core and sprinkle with cinnamon and chopped walnuts.
- Bake for 30 minutes in a pre-heated 350-degree oven.
This light refreshing sorbet is great on its own but is even better garnished with fresh clementine or mandarin orange slices and anything ginger such as a ginger snap cookie or sprinkles of crystallized ginger. Try with lemon, lime, grapefruit, or any other citrus fruit.
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 ½ cups freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
- Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer without stirring until the sugar dissolves, about 3-5 minutes. Cool completely. (This is called a simple syrup and may be made ahead in larger quantities to have on hand for making other sorbets. Keep refrigerated until ready to use).
- Add orange juice and zest; stir to combine.
- Process the mixture in an ice cream machine per manufacturer’s instruction. (I have a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker and churned the mixture for 25-30 minutes).
- Remove from machine and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.
Cinnamon Pear Galette
- 1 ¾ cups flour
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup cornmeal
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/3 cup buttermilk (can sub 1/3 cup milk mixed with 1 teaspoon vinegar – let sit 15 minutes before using)
- 1 egg beaten
- 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
- 2 pears, cored and sliced thin
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- To make the crust, combine flour, sugar, cornmeal and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and cut in with a pastry cutter or food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Slowly add buttermilk and stir until dough begins to stick. Remove dough and any remaining pieces, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 45 minutes. Can be made in advance and stories for up to three days.
- While the dough is chilling, preheat oven to 350.
- Mix sugar and cinnamon together then combine with pears and lemon juice, tossing gently to coat.
- Remove dough from refrigerator and place on a pizza stone or parchment paper. Starting in the center, roll dough out to form a 14-inh wide circle. If using parchment paper, place on a baking sheet.
- Place pears on dough starting two inches from the outer edge and continuing inward to form circles until all slices have been used. Pour remaining juice/sugar mixture over the pears.
- Fold the edges of the dough over the pears and press gently to make sure the creases have adhered.
- Lightly brush the edge of the dough with the beaten egg and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.
- Bake for one hour or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling.
- Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for 20 minutes.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.