Honey Jalapeño Chicken Tenders

Honey Jalapeno Chicken 2For summertime grilling, this is one of the easiest, quickest and tastiest recipes you will find.  It only takes 2-3 minutes per side to cook chicken tenders on a hot grill which is one reason why this marinade from The Farm, by Ian Knauer, is so great…the honey caramelizes very quickly so you get a wonderful glazed char before the chicken is overcooked. Most of the heat in a jalapeño is in the seeds so use them to control the spiciness of this dish.  I scrape out most of the seeds, letting just a random few into the marinade and that makes for chicken tenders with just a little kick, suitable for kids and adults alike.

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1/4 cup honey

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

6 jalapeño peppers, chopped (see note above about seeds)

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

3 pounds chicken tenders

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Sour Cream for serving

 

Preheat the grill to high and oil the grill rack.

Whisk together the honey, soy sauce, oil, garlic, jalapeños, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.  Toss the chicken in the marinade and let stand for at least 15 minutes at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.

Grill the chicken until well browned and cooked through, 2-3 minutes per side.  Serve sprinkled with cilantro with sour cream on the side.

Serves 6-8

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Asparagus Tartine

asparagus tartine-3A tartine is simply an open-faced sandwich and here is the perfect one for a glorious spring day.  Look for big, meaty spears with tightly closed tips that signify freshness.  Did you know that the diameter of asparagus spears relates to the maturity of the plant?  I takes 2 or 3 years before asparagus plants are well established enough, with spears big enough, to harvest.  And so I do imagine that the day the asparagus begins to nudge its way out of the soil must be one of a gardener’s favorite days!   Recipe adapted from Cicchetti, and other small Italian Plates to Share, by Lindy Wildsmith and Valentina Sforza.

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1 pound asparagus

4 eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons mayonaise

salt and pepper

1 fresh baguette, or other good, fresh crusty bread, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a simmer.  Carefully lower the eggs into the water and simmer for 12 minutes.  While eggs are cooking, prepare a bowl of ice water.  Remove eggs from hot water and immediately place them into the ice bath  to cool.  Meanwhile, trim the asparagus, bring the water in the pot to a boil, add the asparagus and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes, depending on the size of the spears.  Remove the eggs from the ice bath and add more ice so that you can chill the asparagus just as soon as it is ready.

Peel the eggs then chop finely.  When the asparagus is cooled, remove from the ice bath and cut the tips and set them aside to use as the garnish.  Chop the rest of the spears and add to the chopped eggs.  Add the olive oil and mayonnaise and gently stir to combine.  Season well with salt and pepper to taste.

Brush the bread slices with olive oil, toast lightly and let cool.  Spread each tartine with some of the egg salad, top with the reserved asparagus tips then sprinkle with chives.  (The number of servings that this recipe will produce varies greatly based upon the size of the bread you use. You can make around 30 small appetizer servings with a skinny baguette or 6 lunch-sized portions with a larger Italian bread such as the one I used in the photo. Just be sure to save enough asparagus tips to finish your dish.)

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Mozzarella con Prosciutto

proscuitto-mozzarellaAnd the award for Best Appetizer in the “Don’t Have Time to Cook”  category goes to …. Mozzarella con Prosciutto!

Buy the bite-sized mozzarella balls already marinated in olive oil and herbs and wrap each one with 1/4 of a slice (cut lengthwise) of paper thin prosciutto.  Secure with a toothpick.  If you make them ahead of time, let sit at room temperate for 10 minutes for the best taste and texture.  And if you are serving a crowd, Costco has a big tub of marinated mozzarella and perfectly sliced prosciutto at a very decent price.

Hard Cooked Eggs with Basil and Fluffy Ham

devilled ham and eggs 1Wonderful opportunities arise when you have a bit of leftover ham in the frig.  I’m not talking about deli meats…not cold cuts… but a real hunk of boneless or semi boneless smoked ham.  They come fully cooked, but in my family we still roast the heck out of it anyway so that we can shave it into thin, melt in your mouth slices.

The first serving of a ham around here is hot from the oven, carved at the table with a  cheese grits casserole  and a big green salad.  After that, it goes into eggs at breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and flavors soups and salads throughout the week.  The possibilities are endless, of course, as demonstrated by my latest discovery, Ham Fluff.

Looking for a way to perk up some deviled eggs I was making, I spied the last bits of a ham that I had cooked last Friday.  Using a microplane grater, the one that is designed for parmesan cheese, I grated the ham into a big pile of the softest, fluffiest stuff you can imagine.  Then I leveled off the filling from the deviled eggs to make room and topped each egg with a generous amount.  So what you get is the salty good taste of ham, which we all know goes well with eggs, without taking away from the creamy, light texture of a good deviled egg.  If you are looking for a resource for ham, I highly recommend the  The Good Ham Company in Memphis, TN.

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1 dozen medium or large eggs*

2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

6 large leaves of fresh basil, slivered thinly

salt and pepper

2 inch piece of leftover baked smoked ham, cold

Fill a large sauce pot half way with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Carefully lower the eggs into the hot water and simmer, being careful not to let the water boil, for 15 minutes.  While eggs are cooking, prepare a large bowl with ice and water.  At the 15 minute mark, remove there eggs from the hot water and immediately put them in the bowl with the ice water.  Let sit 15 minutes, then peel.  Cut the eggs in half crosswise or lengthwise  and pop the yolks out into a small bowl.  Using a fork, mash the yolks then stir in enough of the cream to create a smooth, luscious filling.  Stir in fresh basil and season to taste with salt.  Fill each egg white half with the egg yolk mixture, leveling off the top. (recipe can be made to this point, covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.)  When ready to serve,  grate the cold ham with a small microplane grater (the one designed for grating parmesan cheese) creating a big pile of fluff.  Top each egg generously and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

*If you want to guarantee easy-to-peel eggs, use a push pin to poke a tiny hole, just barely through the shell, in the larger end of each egg.  If done correctly, only air bubbles will escape from the holes while the eggs are simmering.  If you go too deep, you’ll get some egg white oozing out into the water, but your eggs will still turn out fine.  The ice bath helps with the peeling too, as well as keeping the yolks from developing the greenish ring around the edges.

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Southern “Paté” with Pickled Red Onions and Cucumbers

Southern Pate 4

Liver-haters stay put.  This is paté southern-style, full of black-eyed peas and country ham.  Remember Underwood Deviled Ham? The spread in the tiny paper-wrapped can with the feisty red devil on the label?  Well, this is slightly reminiscent of that… but light and fresh with the flavors of salty ham, mushrooms sautéed in dry sherry, fresh parsley and thyme and crunchy toasted pecans.  It is all held together by creamy black-eyed peas cooked with fresh jalapeno. Make it the day before for a new and different hors d’oeuvre with crusty bread and pickled veggies.  Inspired by and adapted from Southern Living Magazine.

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For the Paté:

1 1/2 cups frozen black-eyed peas

1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded

3/4 cup chopped country ham

4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

1/4 cup dry sherry

1/2 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped

1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

For the Pickled Vegetables:

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 english cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced

1 cups seasoned rice vinegar

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Cover frozen black-eyed peas with water, add the fresh jalapeño, bring to a boil then simmer 15-20 minutes until tender.  Drain and put peas and jalapeño into the bowl of a food processor.  Sauté ham, mushrooms and garlic in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, stirring frequently until liquid from mushrooms has evaporated and the mixture if beginning to brown. Stir in dry sherry and cook one to two minutes more.  Scrape this mixture into the food processor with the peas.  Add the remaining oliver oil, about 5 tablespoons, and process until  smooth.  Stir in the pecans, parsley and thyme and season with black pepper.  Taste to see if salt is needed (most likely not because the country ham is quite salty).  Cover and chill for 8-24 hours.

Stir together the red onion, cucumber, rice wine vinegar, water, sugar and salt and cover and chill for 2 hours and up to 2 days.

To serve:

Spread paté onto toasted crostini or crackers and  top with a bit of the pickled vegetables.

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Little Leebos (bacon wrapped potato bites w/BBQ sauce)

bacon potato bitesBy popular demand, I offer you the treats of the tailgate, the most quickly disappearing nibble of our holiday buffet and soon to be, the must-have recipe for your Super Bowl Party. Those of you who are personally acquainted with me will know exactly who went on a one-man campaign to name these little gems.  Such devotion deserves recognition and reward.  I’ve yet to be able to make enough of these to satisfy my guests…a testament to their tastiness, not to their difficulty.   The truth is, they are very simple to throw together.

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1 pound very small potatoes (1-2 inches)

drizzle of olive oil

lemon pepper

1 pound thin sliced center cut bacon

your favorite barbecue sauce for dipping

Preheat oven to 350.  Scrub potatoes and cut each in half.  In a small bowl, toss the potatoes with just a bit of olive oil and generously season with lemon pepper.  Cut bacon slices into halves or thirds (figure out the right size for your potatoes…the bacon must wrap around the potato piece and can just meet, or slightly overlap, on the bottom).  Wrap each potato with a piece of bacon, and place them flat size down, bacon ends tucked under, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and bacon is golden.  Remove immediately from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack or paper towels. (note: if you leave the potatoes to cool on the baking sheet, they will adsorb every bit of the fat that has been rendered from the bacon.)  Serve hot or warm with barbecue sauce for dipping.

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Outstanding in the Field…and an End-of-the-Summer Tomato Bread Salad

IMG_3695If you want to spend an evening celebrating local farm to table cuisine, there is no better way than to attend  an Outstanding in the Field dinner party.  Sign up early….some of the venues sell out fast!  Get on the email list and be ready when they announce the new season.  Founder and Chef Jim Deneven and his trusted crew travel the country with the mission of reconnecting diners to the land and to the origins of their food.  Please enjoy some photos from last nights dinner at the beautiful and impressive Free Union Grass Farm just outside of Charlottesville, VA and then scroll down for a lovely recipe inspired by the event.

Thank you to Erica Hellen and Joel Siezak of Free Union Grass Farm, Ian Boden of Glass Haus Kitchen and the OITF crew for a memorable evening out in the field.

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Accommodations for the traveling crew

First a Tour of the Farm

First a Tour of the Farm

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“Sweet Face” a White British/Angus Mix

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The guests make their way back to the table

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Duck Breasts on the grill

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Finding a seat at the table

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Getting to know our table-mates

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Duck Mole Bolognaise with Grits and Toasted Peanuts

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Local wines and fresh brewed beers paired with each course

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The talented chefs tour the table after dinner to enthusiastic applause

Tomato Bread Salad 2-2

End of the Summer Tomato Bread Salad with Peppers and Olives
(Please click on photo for recipe)

Brussels Sprout Barbecue Chips

sprouts

Looking for a new nibble to serve at cocktail hour? Separating the leaves is a bit tedious, I’ll admit, but it can be done well in advance.  A quick flash fry and you’ll have an irresistible treat that will be the talk of the party.

 
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Vegetable oil for frying

1 pound Brussels sprouts

Your favorite barbecue seasoning, to taste (I use 2 Brothers Original Seasoning)

Trim the base of each sprout and gently pull away the leaves, stopping when they become too small and tight…discard the very interior bits.  Dry the leaves with a paper towel.

Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet or saucepan over high heat. (my wok works well) Test the oil temperature with a sprout leaf…it should sizzle immediately.  Fry the leaves, in batches, for 2 minutes, or until golden and crunchy.  Drain on paper towels and season with barbecue seasoning to taste while still hot.   Let cool slightly before serving.

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Two Bite Turkey Sliders… For Manly Men

Low Carb Turkey Sliders for Manly MenThis recipe was inspired by  Turkey Patties for Manly Men in The Family Chef, by Jewels and Jill Elmore.  Admittedly, I may have made these burgers a little less “manly” by turning them into adorable sliders but they are hearty and flavorful and will be loved by everyone!  Note: If you have mushroom-phobic children at your gathering, just don’t mention that particular ingredient.  The mushrooms are imperceptible here, although they, along with the onions and parsley, provide a deep, rich flavor that you don’t usually find in a turkey burger.

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extra virgin olive oil

1 cup finely minced Vidalia onion

1 cup finely minced button mushrooms

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

salt and pepper to taste

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

1 pound ground turkey

9 party-size (2-inch) potato rolls, split

4 slices provolone cheese

1/4 cup Hellmanns’s mayonaise

1 tablespoon brown mustard

cherry tomatoes

small basil leaves

18 small wooden skewers

In a hot skillet, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sauté the onions, mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper until onions are caramelized and mushrooms have absorbed their liquids and are beginning to brown.  Stir in garlic and parsley and remove mixture from heat to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, add all of the sautéed ingredients to the ground turkey, season generously with salt and pepper, and mix together gently with a fork.  It is important not to overwork this meat mixture!

Form the meat into small burgers, about 2 tablespoons each, once again being careful not to overwork the meat…just gently press into shape….they won’t fall apart. (use a #40 cookie scoop if you have one, to keep the size uniform).  Place the burgers on a baking sheet covered with waxed paper and chill in the refrigerator while prepare the rest of the ingredients.  (can be made ahead)

Cut the split potato rolls into 1 1/2  inch circles with a cookie cutter then flatten the circles slightly with the palm of your hand.  Place onto a baking sheet and top each circle with a bit of provolone cheese.

Preheat broiler.

In a small dish, stir together the mayonnaise and the brown mustard. Set aside.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and clean and trim the small basil leaves.  Set aside.

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Cook turkey patties for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown and just cooked through.  Keep warm while you toast the bread and cheese lightly under the broiler.

Assemble the sliders by placing a burger onto of each piece of toasted cheese bread.  Add a small dollop of mayo/mustard.  Pierce a cherry tomato half with a small skewer first, add a small basil leaf then press the skewer all the way though the slider to serve.

Makes 18 sliders.

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Spicy Grilled Chicken Satay

new skewers to postA tried and true Summertime Classic…. and one loved equally by kids and adults! This recipe adds an extra pop of flavor by soaking the bamboo sticks in a flavored brine…super easy since you have to soak them anyway to keep them from catching  fire on the grill. ( see another grilling tip below)  Make it even simpler by starting with prepackaged chicken tenderloins thus avoiding the trimming and slicing.  Recipe adapted from New South Grilling, by Robert St. John.

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Skewer Soak

1 cup water

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 cup coconut milk

twenty-four 6 inch wooden skewers

Chicken Marinade

1 1/4 pounds boneless skin-less chicken breasts, cut into 24 strips (or 24 chicken tenderloins)

1/4 cup pineapple juice

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1-2 tablespoons asian chile sauce

2-3 tablespoons peanut oil (to brush chicken before grilling)

Dipping Sauce

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 tablespoons minced shallots

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

2 cloves minced garlic

2 teaspoons fresh minced jalapeños ( or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes)

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup chunky peanut butter

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 lime, zest and juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

cayenne pepper to garnish

1.  Combine skewer soak ingredients.  Soak skewers 2 hours or longer.

2.  Combine pineapple juice, soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, and chili sauce.  Pour over chicken and allow to marinate, refrigerated, for 3-4 hours.

3.  Make dipping sauce:  Heat the peanut oil in a skillet and sauté the shallots, ginger, garlic and jalapeños over low heat 4-5 minutes.  Add coconut milk, vinegar, and peanut butter, stir well and simmer 5 minutes.  Let cool slightly then transfer to a blender and puree, adding all remaining ingredients. Thin with a couple of tablespoons of warm water if mixture is too thick.  Serve dipping sauce in a small bowl garnished with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper and additional chopped cilantro.  (sauce may be made in advance, store in refrigerator and bring to room temp. before serving)

4.  Remove skewers from marinade. Remove chicken from marinade and thread onto skewers. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel then use a pastry brush to lightly coat the chicken with peanut oil.

4.  Preheat grill to high.  Grill skewers 5-7 minutes, turning only once, until cooked through. (use folded foil to protect skewers, see below) Arrange on platter to serve.  Dipping sauce can be drizzled over or served on the side.  Serves 6-8

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Japanese Grilled Chicken Skewers with Scallions

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You can’t go wrong with a grilled skewer of glazed Yakitori chicken.  This is a fairly traditional recipe that everyone loves.  I used to use chicken breasts  simple because they are so much easier to trim…but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that chicken thighs are really far superior in this dish.

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1 cup lower-sodium chicken broth

3/4 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)

1/4 cup honey

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon wasabi paste (or more to taste)

6 slices ginger, smashed

4 cloves garlic, smashed

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces.

2 bunches scallions, cut into 1 -inch pieces.

salt

coarse ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, combine chicken broth, soy sauce, mirin, honey, rice vinegar, lime juice, sugar, sesame oil, wasabi paste, ginger and garlic.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Mix the cornstarch and water until smooth then stir into the hot soy mixture.  Simmer until thickened…another 5 minutes or so.  Remove from heat and strain to remover garlic and ginger.  Reserve 1/2 cup sauce for dipping and the rest will be used to glaze the chicken while grilling.

Thread chicken onto skewers, alternating with scallions.  Brush with oil and season very lightly with salt and pepper.  (if using bamboo skewers, be sure to soak in water for at least 30 minutes before you skewer the chicken)

Over a medium hot grill (charcoal or gas), grill the skewers for 2 minutes on each side and then start basting with the sauce.  Baste and turn the skewers several times to create a thick, glossy surface until cooked through.  The whole grilling process takes about 10 minutes.  Serve with reserved dipping sauce on the side.

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Waffle Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Ancho Pepper Jelly

waffle fry to post

Much more exciting than the average cheese and cracker tray yet not much harder to throw together…here is an idea for a tasty nibble for your next party.

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High quality frozen waffle fries (I use Alexia brand)

Fresh goat cheese, at room temperature

Your favorite pepper jelly (I found a lovely red ancho pepper jelly)

Cook waffle fries according to the package directions until golden and crispy.  Use kitchen shears to trim them slightly into similarly sized, two bite, squarish shapes.  Stir the goat cheese until it is fluffy and spoonable and place a nice dollop on each trimmed waffle fry.  Top with a teaspoon of pepper jelly, sprinkle with coarse ground black pepper and serve.

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Buttermilk Crisped Vidalia Onion Rings

onion rings to post

Incomparable to frozen onion rings and infinitely easier than homemade french fries…you must make these if you and your family are onion ring lovers.  Keep some buttermilk in the frig and you’ll be ready to turn superhero. “Hey, would you guys like onion rings instead of plain old potato chips with those burgers?? No problem!”

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3 or 4 nice big Vidalia onions, peeled and   sliced 1/2 inch thick and separated into rings (tiny inner rings should be reserved for another use)

2-3 cups buttermilk, shake well before using

salt and pepper

2-3 cups all purpose flour

peanut oil for frying

Place onion rings in a large bowl and cover with buttermilk.  Let sit at least 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times to make sure all the onions are well coated.

Meanwhile, stir flour together with a couple of teaspoons of salt and pepper each.  Taste to make sure flour is nicely seasoned.  Prepare a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Remove a couple of onion rings at a time from the buttermilk, shake a bit to drain off excess then dredge quickly in the seasoned flour.  Place coated rings on waxed paper and let rest for about 15 minutes to give the batter a chance to set.  Repeat with remaining onions.

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet (a wok works really well here) over high heat until hot. (350-375 degrees or test with an onion ring…it should sizzle immediately).  Fry onion rings in batches of 6 or so at a times, being careful not to crowd the pan too much, and turning the rings a couple of times to brown evenly.  It will only take a few minutes per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain, season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.  May be kept warm and crispy in a 200 degree oven while you cook the remaining rings.  (They stay crispy at room temperature as well…another reason I love this recipe)

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Zesty Black-Eyed Pea Salsa

This is the best version of marinated black eyed peas, better known as Southern Caviar, that I have ever had.  Simplified slightly from The New Southern Garden Cookbook by Sheri Castle.

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2 cups canned black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup sherry vinegar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 cup canned fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup corn kernels

1 or 2 finely chopped pickled jalapeños

1 tablespoon canned chopped mild green chiles

1/2 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours and preferably overnight.  Stir and season with salt and pepper if necessary to taste.  Serve as an appetizer with crackers, or as a salsa with chips, on tacos, fajitas, etc.  This is also a great side dish with fried or grilled chicken.

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Bibb Lettuce with Tarragon Vinaigrette and Toasted Walnuts

 This salad works well with big holiday meals as well as casual steak/frites suppers.  It’s nice to have this simple yet elegant item on the buffet table.  This is from Tyler Florence’s book, Dinner at My Place.  The lightly toasted walnuts in the photo are my addition.
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1 small shallot, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 lemon, juice only
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head Bibb lettuce
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
lightly toasted walnuts
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Combine shallot, mustard, and lemon juice in a large salad bowl.  Slowly drizzle in oil as you constantly whisk to emulsify the dressing.  Once all of the oil has been incorporated, stir in honey and fold in the 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon.  Season with salt and pepper.
Wash the lettuce and separate the leaves.  Smear the dressing up around the insides of the salad bowl and toss the leaves in the bowl.  (By doing this the leaves pick up a light,even coating of the dressing.)  Fold in the 1 tablespoon tarragon leaves and serve.
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Sesame Chicken Tenders with Ginger Soy Dipping Sauce

This recipe just might keep you out of that Chick-fil-A drive thru line for good.  At the very least, you’ll never buy frozen chicken tenders again.  When I ask my family to pitch ideas for dinner, this is what they ask for 8 out of 10 times.  It can also be a wonderful Sesame Chicken Salad when you use the sauce as a dressing…. the chicken stays crunchy and tastes great at room temperature.

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1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon toasted Asian sesame oil

3/4 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated finely

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 package chicken tenders (about 16)

1/4 cup white sesame seeds

1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs

salt and pepper

Oil (canola or peanut)

In a small bowl, whisk together first 6 ingredients and set aside.  Place chicken tenders in second small bowl,toss with 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce mixture, and let marinate for 10-15 minutes.  Reserve remaining soy sauce mixture to use as the dipping sauce. On a large plate, mix together sesame seeds and panko bread crumbs and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Coat each chicken tender with the panko mixture, patting gently to help the crumbs adhere.  Set tenders in a single layer on waxed paper until ready to fry.  (this can be done hours in advance…just keep the tenders in a single layer and put in the frig)

Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in large skillet (non stick works well here) over medium high heat.   Test temperature by dropping in a tiny piece of the panko….it should sizzle immediately.  Fry chicken tenders (in batches unless your skillet is enormous) until golden brown on both sides and cooked through.  This will only take 2-3 minutes per side then remove to a wire rack. (This will keep them crunchy.  When you drain things on paper towels, they tend to soak the oil back in and get soggy on the bottom)  You can stick them in a warm oven if you are not quite ready to serve.  Serve hot with reserved soy ginger sauce.

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Bruschetta with Caramelized Tomatoes and Ricotta

No need to stop serving Bruschetta just because vine-ripened tomatoes are going out of season.  These slow roasted cherry tomatoes are a burst of concentrated sweetness that, when combined with creamy ricotta and a slice of crispy/chewy bread, make for a memorable cocktail hour.  (or pair with a nice salad for a light lunch) Adapted from Rustic Italian, by Domenica Marchetti

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1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed

freshly ground black pepper and fine sea salt

1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved

12 slices crusty country bread cut in to 1/2 inch slices (I used ciabatta)

extra virgin olive oil for brushing

8 ounces fresh sheep’s milk ricotta or well-drained cows milk ricotta (at room temperature for serving)

In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, garlic, fennel seeds, and a generous grinding of pepper.  Set aside and let stand for a bout 30 minutes.

Preheat the over to 300 degrees.  Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet.  Spoon the olive oil mixture over the tomatoes and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bake until tomatoes are partially shriveled and browned in spots but still juicy, could take up to 1 1/2 hours (depending on size of tomatoes).  Transfer to a bowl, tkaing care to scrape any juices and browned bits from the baking sheet into the bowl.

To make the bruschetta, position a broiler pan 4 inches below the heat source and preheat the broiler.  Arrange the bread slices on a large baking sheet and brush the tops with olive oil.  Slip under the broiler and broil until the edges are lightly browned and the tops are golden, just 1-2 minutes.

Spread with a heaping tablespoon of the ricotta on each slice and top each with caramelized tomatoes.  Taste and sprinkle with additional black pepper and/or salt if necessary.  Serves 6

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White Cheddar Cheese Straws

On top of being light, crispy, and spicy, these are also extremely quick and easy to make.  This recipe is based on one published in Southern Living in 2007.
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6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, cut into cubes
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper ( I use 1/2 tsp. for spicy straws)
1 tablespoon half and half
Combine the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add red pepper flakes and half and half and process until dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.
On a well floured surface, roll into a rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick.  Using a pizza wheel or a big knife, trim the edges a bit to even them up and then cut the dough into straws about 1/4 inch wide.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet (I like to use parchment paper).
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until ends are just slightly browned.  Cool on baking sheet on a wire rack.
Makes about 2 dozen
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Barbecue Potato Chips with Peppered Feta Dip

 Image
I find this combination of flavors positively addictive! The dip is best at room temperature and I think that Cape Cod brand BBQ potato chips work really well as they are nice and sturdy and won’t crumble into the dip. I cut this recipe out of a magazine several years ago and didn’t note the source.  My apologies to the creator.
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8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise, or plain yogurt
1/2 cup pickled peppers (pepperoncini and/or Sweet red cherry peppers) sliced (see note)
1/4 cup scallions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Coarse ground black pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil
BBQ potato chips
Blend feta, cream cheese, and mayonnaise in a food processor until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl periodically.  Transfer to a mixing bowl,
Fold in peppers, scallions, lemon zest, and pepper.  Transfer to a serving dish and chill at least 1 hour to let flavors develop.  Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.  Drizzle dip with oil and garnish with additional pepper.  Serve with BBQ potato chips.
note: I’ve used both types of pickled peppers in the recipe and while both are good, I prefer the red.  In the photo I used Peppadew Mild whole sweet Piquante peppers.
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Hush Puppy and Deviled Crab Bites

There is nothing dainty about the flavor of this little treat.  Crispy hush puppies, hollowed out slightly and filled with a cool and creamy crab salad.
1 package frozen hush puppies  (I use Savannah Classics original recipe)
8 ounces jumbo lump crab meat, picked over for shell fragments
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon coarse grain Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley leaves for garnish
Prepare hush puppies according to directions on package.  Let cool slightly then cut top 1/3 off of each hush puppy and remove some of the interior to make room for a nice portion of crab meat.  You may also want to take a tiny sliver from the bottom of each hush puppy so that the finished product will stay level on a serving tray instead of rolling about.
In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and horseradish.  Gently stir in crab until it is well coated then taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, fill hush puppies with crab salad and top each with a fresh parsley leaf.
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