Herb Marinated Chicken Kabobs with Red Peppers and Onion

grilled chicken kabob to post

We all know that grilled white meat chicken kabobs can sometimes be a disaster …dry, tough, flavorless.  Follow the instructions from this recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated for picture perfect and delicious chicken and vegetables every time.  It’s the right marinade, the uniform cutting of ingredients for the skewer, and the extra layer of flavor from the lemon dressing that make this recipe one of our trusted summer staples.

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1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided (half for marinade, half for the lemon dressing)

4 cloves garlic, minced, divided (half for marinade, half for the lemon dressing)

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch squares

1 large red onion, cut into 1-inch squares

Whisk yogurt, 1/4 cup of the olive oil, half of the garlic, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a large bowl.  Stir in chicken, Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 3-6 hours.  Whisk remaining 1/4 cup oil, remaining garlic, fresh basil and lemon juice in a small bowl and cover and refrigerator while chicken is marinating.

Remove chicken from the yogurt marinade; discard marinade.  Thread each skewer with 2 pieces of the red pepper, 2 pieces of the red onion, 2 pieces of chicken and then another 2 pieces of the red onion.  Repeat until skewer is full.  Grill over high heat until vegetables and chicken are charred around the edges of all four sides and the chicken is cooked through.  transfer to serving platter and brush kebobs all over with the lemon dressing.  Serves 6.

 

chicken kabob to post

 

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Tomato, Arugula and Quinoa Salad with Miso Vinaigrette

miso dressingAlthough I love this simple combination of sweet cherry tomatoes, spicy baby arugula and nutty red quinoa, it is the wonderful miso vinaigrette that needs to be your take-away keeper recipe from this post.  Simple to whisk together, this vinaigrette will keep for several days in a jar in the fridge and is positively addictive.  I love to use it as a sauce for the veggie sushi that I pick up at Whole Foods, as a marinade for fish and seafood, or just a super tasty salad dressing.  Homemade dressings are infinitely better than the store bought variety and they only take seconds to prepare.

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Girard’s Ole Venice Italian

To tell the truth, we only purchase one store bought salad dressing in our house and we use it on all types of salads and to marinate fresh asparagus for the grill.  Its nice to have a standby that you can count on.

 

 

 

 

But try this miso vinaigrette and get creative….it is sure to become a favorite this summer.

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For the Miso Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons white miso

3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1-2 teaspoons light brown sugar (to taste)

1/2 cup extra-light olive oil ( or other light, neutral oil)

Whisk first 6 ingredients together until smooth (or use your Magic Bullet or other small blender). Add olive oil and blend or whisk vigorously until you have a creamy dressing.

For the salad

1 pint sweet cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 package baby arugula

1 1/2 cups cooked and cooled red quinoa, see package for directions

Toss salad ingredients with 1/4 cup of the miso vinaigrette and toss gently.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Store remaining vinaigrette refrigerated in a jar or other sealed container.

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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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Zesty Artichoke and Palm Salad with Cannellini

Artichoke and Palm SaladTwo hearts are better than one in this delicious marinated salad.  Hearts of Palm and Artichoke Hearts are the perfect compliment to creamy Cannellini Beans drenched in an Italian Style Vinaigrette.  It’s a super make-ahead and/or take-along salad since it keeps well in the frig for a couple of days and is especially good with grilled chicken, beef or seafood.  Toss in some fresh spinach or arugula just before serving if you want to turn this into a vegetarian main course.

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1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 can artichoke hearts in water, drained and quartered

1 jar hearts of palm, drained and sliced

1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 medium red onion, sliced thinly

In a small bowl, whisk together first six ingredients to make the vinaigrette.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, gently toss together the artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, cannellini beans and red onion.  Re whisk the vinaigrette and pour over the salad.  Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper if needed.  Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour.  Let the salad sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before serving for best flavor. Serves 6-8 as a side dish and 4 as a vegetarian main course.

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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.

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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Once-A-Year Sourdough Cornbread Dressing

Thanksgiving Dressing

Why “once a year”?  Well, sourdough bread and cornbread doused in butter, broth and cream just can’t be an everyday side dish.  And, there is something to be said for keeping a recipe special by only serving it once a year.  This dressing is moist on the inside from the cornbread, with crispy bits on the top from the sourdough bread.  The seasonings are subtle and the whole dish is melt-in-your-mouth rich; the perfect complement to your Thanksgiving Day turkey.  You can make this a day or two in advance, refrigerate it uncooked, and just pop it in the oven on the big day.  My recipe is adapted from one published in the New York Times a few years back.

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3/4 cup butter   (plus extra for buttering baking dish)

6 cups crumbled cornbread (see note below)

6 cups crusty sourdough bread, torn into bite sized pieces

2 cups chopped onion

2 cups chopped celery

1/2 teaspoon dried ground sage (see note below)

2 teaspoons salt

black pepper

6 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2 cups chicken broth

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Butter 9×13 inch baking dish.  Melt the 3/4 cup butter and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine corn bead, sourdough bread, onion, celery, sage, salt and pepper to taste.  Toss until well mixed.   Add melted butter, eggs, cream and 1 1/2 cups broth. Mix lightly but well.  Mixture should be moist.  Pour into prepared baking dish, do not pack it down…you want the top to have some texture.  If mixture seems dry around edges, drizzle with remaining broth.  Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour until firm and golden brown on top.  Serves 12.

For cornbread:  You don’t want to use a sweet cornbread in this recipe.  Here is an easy, quick recipe.  

Preheat oven to 475.  Put 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a small cast iron skillet and place in the hot oven to preheat.  In a medium bowl, stir together 2 cups self-rising white cornmeal mix,  2 cups buttermilk , 1 beaten egg and 1/4 cup vegetable oil.  Just mix it quickly…ok if there are lumps.  Carefully pour batter into hot skillet and bake until golden brown.

Concerning dried sage:  Check the expiration date and smell for freshness.  Some of us find that our dried sage was left over from Thanksgivings past and is nothing more than a flavorless dust!

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Cast Iron Spicy Salmon with Parmesan Grits

creole salmon with parmesan grits 2

Did you know that grits go with everything?  Really, they do.  Grits and Shrimp…no brainer.  Grits and Chicken…yum!  I’ve even had Grits ‘n Mussels at a restaurant in Augusta, GA.  Name any protein or vegetable. Now imagine it with grits.   See what I mean?  Grits make everything just a little bit better and this spicy salmon dish is no exception.

I’m using regular Quaker Grits in this recipe so that the whole dish can come together in about 20 minutes for an easy weeknight supper.  And you will have lots of the spice mix left over ready to add tons of flavor to most any seafood, poultry or meat. (This is a nice, well-balanced spicy rub.  Add more cayenne if you like it hot hot!)

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4 pieces of fresh salmon

spice mix (see below)

3 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup Quaker Old Fashioned White Grits

1 cup milk

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 small slivers of butter for garnish

1 green onion, thinly sliced for garnish

Check salmon for pin bones and remove if necessary.  Sprinkle salmon generously on both sides with spice rub.  Refrigerate until ready to cook.

In a medium sauce pan, bring the water and salt to a boil.  Add grits and stir well.  Lower heat to a simmer.  After 5 minutes, add milk and continue to simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until grits and tender, 10-15 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the Parmesan cheese.  Stir well and let rest in the saucepan while you cook the salmon.

Heat a well seasoned cast iron skillet over high heat.  Coat the surface with the olive oil.  Sear salmon steaks until dark golden  brown on each side then lower heat to medium high and cook until just barely translucent in the center, or to your liking.  Timing will depend on the thickness of your salmon but it shouldn’t take more than 5-6 minutes.

Spoon grits into individual serving plates or bowls and top with salmon.  Garnish with a small sliver of butter and a sprinkle of green onions and serve.  Makes 4 servings.  (with extra spice rub that you will be happy to have around!)

For the Spice Mix

1 tablespoon white pepper

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon black pepper

5 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons dried basil

1 tablespoon dried thyme

3 tablespoons sea salt

Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Store extra in a small jar.

 

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Chocolate Fudge Pie with Salted Caramel Pecans

Chocolate Pecan Pie 1

When a friend showed me this pie on the cover of Southern Living recently, I knew that we had to try it and the results were quite spectacular.   We made a couple of minor changes (improvements, dare I say).

First of all, the name…this is actually a chocolate pie with pecans on top. The original name “Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie” leaves one expecting a more traditional pecan pie filling.

Secondly, we didn’t care for the lemon juice in the caramel of the original recipe .… gave  it a curious taste,  so we tossed it and made it again without.  (very quick process, don’t be afraid of the caramel!)

Thirdly, the recipe calls for a deep dish pie crust. But please don’t use the frozen ones in the disposable tins.  It is almost as easy to use the Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts and set it in your own pie plate and crimp the edged for a more homemade look.

One more note…if you want to make sure to have gorgeous pecans for your pie, order these  Natural Extra Fancy Mammoth Pecan Halves from Sunnyland Farms.  They are amazing!  We ordered the large economical box and split it up so we will both have fresh pecans in the freezer year round.

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Chocolate Filling

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 large eggs

1 cup toasted chopped pecans

1 Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust

Salted Caramel topping

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups toasted pecan halves

flakey salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Unroll pie crust and set into a deep pie dish and crimp the edges decoratively.  In a large bowl, stir together the first 6 ingredients of the filling.  Add the eggs and stir until well blended.  Fold in the chopped pecans and pour the filling mixture into the pie shell.

Bake for 35 minutes.  The filling may still seem a bit loose just in the center but will continue to set as it cools.

For the caramel, bring the sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over hight heat.  Do not stir.  Boil until sugar begins to change color and then swirl the pot to “stir”.  Do not walk away from the pot at this point because the sugar can go from just right to burnt very quickly.  The whole process will take about 6-8 minutes.  When it is a dark amber color, remover from heat and immediately stir in the cream and butter and salt. Set aside to cool slightly.

Arrange the toasted pecan halves on top of the cooled pie then drizzle all over with the caramel sauce.  Sprinkle with the flakey salt and let cool before serving. (serves 8)

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Main Course Spinach Salad with Prosciutto, Cannellini, and a Maple Vinaigrette

Spinach Prosciutto Salad

I love the way proscuitto changes when it is slightly warmed.  It loses the waxy texture and it’s salty flavor is intensified.  Try it in this excellent main course salad; one that can easily come together in 10-15 minutes if you have the pantry ingredients on hand.  A warm fire, a glass of Chianti and this salad are a heavenly combination!

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For the vinaigrette

3 teaspoons maple syrup

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup light olive oil

1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

pinch of salt

For the Salad

1 bunch fresh baby spinach (about 6 cups) stemmed

1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon butter

4 ounces very thinly sliced Prosciutto ham, cut into ribbons (see note below)

1/4 cup pine nuts

In a small bowl, whisk vinaigrette ingredients together until blended.  Place spinach, cannellini beans and red onion in a large bowl.  Add vinaigrette and toss.  Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the pine nuts and stir until fragrant, about a minute, then add the prosciutto and stir constantly, separating the ribbons, until it is warmed through, about 2 more minutes.  Remove from the heat and let this mixture cool slightly before adding it to the salad and tossing to combine.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.  Serves 4 as a main course.

Note: If you are a Costco shopper, that is where you should get your prosciutto and pine nuts….good quality and best value around for these pricey ingredients.

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Banana Scones with Spiced Pecan Glaze

banana scones with pecan spice glaze_Here’s the thing about scones.  You can’t just go throwing in extra ingredients willy-nilly to create different flavors.  You’ll throw off the proportions and end up with a dry and cakey mess.  So in creating this new version of my favorite tea-time treat, I’ve carefully pureed a couple of very ripe bananas into the cream before mixing the dough, and then added extra layers of flavor by spicing up the glaze with nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.  And to top it off, the pecans have been toasted in a bit of butter, salt and brown sugar for amazing taste and texture.

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For the dough:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoon sugar

5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 very ripe bananas

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the pecan topping:

1 cup pecans, finely chopped

2 tablespoons butter

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

For the glaze:

1 cup confectioners sugar

a couple of teaspoons milk or cream

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

generous pinch of ground cloves

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a Pyrex measuring cup, thoroughly mash the bananas then add cream and vanilla and stir well.  This mixture should total 1 1/2 cups.  Set aside.  Whisk dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt and sugar) together in a medium bowl.  Add the butter to the flour mixture and cut it in, either with a pastry fork, two table knives, or your fingers, until the butter is in small pieces (about the size of a pea) and the mixture is crumbly.  Make a well in the center of the flour/butter mixture and pour in the cream/bananas.  Using a fork, gradually work the wet and dry ingredients together to form a dough.  This will not be a wet dough so resist the temptation to add more cream.  As soon as the dough starts to come together, dump it out on a clean surface and begin to pat it out into a rectangle, about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Be careful not to overwork the dough.  Cut the rectangle in half width-wise, then cut each of those pieces into 4 squares, then cut each square into 2 triangles.  Transfer triangles to the baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until puffed and just lightly brown around the edges.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Toast the pecans:  In a small skillet, melt the butter and add the pecan, salt and brown sugar.  Stir constantly for several minutes until pecans are warmed through and sugar is melted.  Remove from skillet and let cool.

Make the glaze:  Sift the powdered sugar into a small bowl and add the milk or cream one teaspoon at a time until you get a thick glaze.  Stir in spices and set aside until scones are completely cooled.

When scones have cooled completely, use a table fork to drizzle glaze over each one and sprinkle generously with the pecans.  Let glaze dry before serving.  Makes 32 small scones.

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End-of-the-Summer Tomato Bread Salad with Peppers and Black Olives

Tomato Bread Salad 2-2

This salad is a combination of inspiration from the excellent dinner party thrown by Outstanding in the Field and a recipe in the founder’s book, Outstanding in the field, a farm to table cookbook, by Jim Deneven and Marah Stets.  I love the sweet roasted yellow peppers and fresh juicy tomatoes with the salty cured black olives and capers.  And the bread soaks in all the flavors of the simple vinaigrette to make this a hearty salad that you can make a meal out of. Adjust the amounts of the different ingredients to suit your taste…mine has a bit less bread and a bit more of everything else!

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1 Loaf Italian country bread, crusts removed and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 yellow bell peppers, roasted, seeded, peeled and cut into 1 inch squares (see note below)

1 pound ripe, juicy tomatoes

1 medium cucumber (I used watermelon gherkins)

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup dry cured black olives, halved and pitted

2 handfuls baby arugula

2 teaspoons anchovy paste

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Toast the bread cubes until they are dried out all over, about 10 minutes. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the cores and seeds.  Cut them into 1/2 inch cubes.  Peel, half, and seed the cucumber.  Cut into 1/4 inch slices

In a large bowl, combine the bread, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, arugula, capers, and olives.  Toss together until well combined,  In a small bowl, whisk together the anchovy pastes, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Drizzle vinaigrette over salad and toss well (you may not need all the dressing) .  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Let the salad sit for 15 minutes or so to let the bread soak in the vinaigrette.  (the chef suggests 3 hours, which is probably more traditional, but I like this best when the bread has soaked in the flavors yet still retains a bit of crunch around the edges).  Tear the basil leaves and add them to the salad just before serving.   Serves 6-8

NOTE:  To roast peppers:  Preheat oven to 450 degrees, roast whole peppers on a baking sheet until black and blistered all over.  Remove to a paper bag, close and let rest 15 minutes to steam themselves.  At this point you will be able to peel, core and seed them quite easily.

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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

OITF 6

Getting to know our table-mates

OITF 3

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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“Real South” Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Real South Salted Caramel Cupcakes-2

 

For years, I’ve wanted to master the perfect Southern Caramel Cake.  Betty Irving, who makes the best caramel cake in West Point, Mississippi, won’t give me her recipe.  She just tells me that the secret is the heavy cream.  And the decade that we spent in the Chicago area was virtually caramel cake-less due to the fact that it just didn’t exist in that part of the country.  What fun it was to discover, upon arrival in Winston-Salem, NC, that  I could order a delicious three-tiered caramel cake from Cherries Cafe in Lewisville any time we wanted.  So that’s what we did for birthdays and special occasions until 2006 when Cherries Cafe published a book of recipes that included Ollie’s Caramel Cake.  Hurrah!  Problem solved, right?  Not so fast… Here is what it says at the bottom of the page, “Note: This is a great old-fashioned cake but a bit difficult to make.”  My attempts were tasty enough…. but sloppy and lopsided, real “cake wrecks” if you will.

The recipe below is my solution for satisfying the caramel cake lovers in our family and it has been a huge success.  I use a tried and true yellow cupcake recipe formula from noted pastry chef Gail Gand, the caramel icing recipe from Cherries Cafe Secrets, and a healthy pinch of flakey sea salt which takes this desert to a whole new level.  Cupcakes, being infinitely easier to frost with the warm, candy-like icing, were the answer.  Now we have a family argument over how many cupcakes constitute a serving.  I say one, and I’m confident that I am correct.  Others insist that 2 cupcakes equal one slice of a traditional layered cake.  You be the judge.

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For the cupcakes:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 eggs

3 cups sifted cake flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole milk, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2, 12-cup muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.

In a mixer fitter with the whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Add the sugar and continue to whip.  Add the vanilla and gradually mix in the eggs, one by one, until well combined.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk and ending with the dry ingredients.

Pour the batter in to the prepared pan, filling each slot three-quarters full.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cupcakes are puffed, firm in the center , and light golden brown on top.  Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack.

For the icing:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 cup heavy cream

1 (16 ounce) package brown sugar

1 (16 ounce) package confectioners sugar, sifted

flakey sea salt, such as Maldon

Bring the butter, cream and brown sugar to a boil in a heavy saucepan.  Boil for 5 minutes or until thickened and the sugar is dissolved, stirring often,  Pour carefull into a large bowl and add the sifted confectioners’ sugar immediately.  Beat until creamy and smooth.  Let the icing cool slightly.

To frost the cupcakes:

Remove the cupcakes from the pan.

The icing should still be warm but firm enough to just barely drip over the edges.  Do a test on one cupcake and when it is the right consistency, go ahead and frost all the cupcakes fairly quickly before the icing hardens. (a small off-set spatula works well here)  Sprinkle each with a healthy pinch of the flakey sea salt as you go so it will adhere to the wet icing.  Let icing set before serving.  Makes 24.

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Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Tomato Salad and Coconut Sauce

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Coconut Sauce and Tomato Salad

Last week, with sweet summer tomatoes lining my kitchen windowsill, I rediscovered a favorite dish from a few summers ago.  Tyler Florence introduced me to this amazing flavor combination and I’ve just tweeked it a bit to accommodate my pantry staples and simplify the steps.  The original recipe can be found in Tyler’s Ultimate, a very reliable recipe source.  Here’s a link… check it out  if you have fresh lemongrass and fresh coconut on hand. Original Recipe.

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For the Pork:

2 pork tenderloins, trimmed

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1/2 lime

 

For the Chile-Coconut Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

zest of one lemon

1 hot red chile, cut into rounds (or sub crushed red chile flakes, about 1/4 teaspoon)

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

1 can unsweetened coconut milk (not “lite”)

1 teaspoon sugar

juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon asian fish sauce

salt and pepper to taste

 

For the Salad:

2 pounds fresh heirloom tomatoes, cut into big chunks

1/2 small red onion, slivered

leaves from 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro

handful of fresh mint leaves

salt and pepper to taste

extra virgin olive oil

2 scallions, trimmed and chopped

 

1.  Marinate the pork:  Put the pork on a platter and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Add the olive oil and lime juice and turn to coat the pork. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in the refrigerator.

2.  Make the sauce:  Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the ginger, garlic, lemon zest, chile and chopped cilantro and cook to soften, about 3 minutes.  Add the coconut milk and sugar and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Squeeze in lime juice and season with the fish sauce, salt and pepper.  Cool to room temperature.

3.  Make the salad:  In a big bowl, toss together the tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, mint, and salt and pepper.  Drizzle with olive oil and fold in the scallions.

4.  Grill the pork:  Grill the pork over high heat until crusty brown on all sides and just cooked through, 10-15 minutes.

5.  To serve:  Slice the pork and add it to the bowl with the tomato salad.  Pour over the chile-coconut sauce and toss it all together.  Serves 4-6

 

 

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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Flaky Fish Tacos with Marinated Red Onions and Cilantro Cream

Flaky Fish Tacos with Marinated Red Onions and Cilantro CreamI’m pleased to report that the best fish tacos I have ever made are also the easiest fish tacos I have ever made.  I love it when that happens! Three simple components come together so well…the fish is moist and spicy, the sauce cool and creamy and the quick-marinated onions are sweet and crunchy.  This is a combination of a couple of recipes, but mainly an adaptation of one from Simply Mexican, by Lourdes Castro.

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1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

about 1 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chile powder (you can use regular chile powder if you like but the fish will not be as spicy)

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (half for marinade and half for cilantro cream)

1 jalapeño, stemmed and chopped

1 pound flaky white fish, such as mahi mahi or cod, cut into 4 pieces (I use cod fish)

salt

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon heavy cream

8 fresh corn tortillas

2 limes, cut into wedges

Marinate the onion:

Put the onion in a small bowl and pour in enough red wine vinegar to cover.  Add sugar and stir.  Set aside for at least 30 minutes.  May be kept in refrigerator several weeks.

Marinate the fish:

Pour the olive oil into a small bowl and add the ancho chile powder, oregano, cumin, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, and jalapeno.  Mix well. Place the fish on a dish and pour the marinade over it, making sure to coat the fish well on both sides.  Allow to marinate for 20 minutes.

Make the sauce:

In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, remaining 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, lemon juice and heavy cream.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Cook the fish:

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Remove the fish from the marinade and place in the hot pan.  Season the fish with salt.  Cook the fish for 4 minutes undisturbed, then turnover and cool for another 2 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove the pan from the heat and flake the fish into the pan with a fork, making sure to mix in all the marinade that has stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.  Set aside.

For the tacos:

Heat the tortillas, either in a hot skillet or in the microwave between damp paper towels.  Fill each tortilla with a spoonful of cilantro cream, topped with the flaked fish and marinated onions.  Serve each taco with a lime wedge to add a burst of fresh flavor just before digging in.  Serves 4

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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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Herbed Watermelon Salad with Feta

watermelon salad 2 to post

The next time you are cutting up a whole watermelon for the kids, save about 4 cups of the best bits to make this refreshing summer salad for the adults.  This recipe, adapted only slightly from For The Love Of Salad, by Jeanelle Mitchell, would be an excellent side dish to any 4th of July meal….or throw a few grilled shrimp on top for a bright and  healthy lunch or supper.

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For the salad:

4 cups cubed seedless watermelon (small bite-sized pieces)

2 cups cubed baby cucumber

1/2 cup finely chopped sweet red or yellow pepper

1/2 cup sliced Kalamata olives

1/4 cup finely minces red onion

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1 cup diced feta cheese

For the vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

zest of one lime

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

sea salt and pepper to taste

Place watermelon, cucumber, sweet pepper, olives, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, mint and basil in a large bowl. (you will add the feta cheese later)

For the vinaigrette:  whisk together lime juice, lime zest, olive oil, and honey in a small bowl,  Season with salt to taste and set aside.

Just before serving, drain excess liquid from watermelon mixture, then add vinaigrette and feta to the salad and toss lightly to coat. Taste and correct seasonings if needed.  Serves 6

note:  Can be made 1-2 hours ahead but keep in mind that the watermelon and the cucumber will start to release their juices and will water down the salad.  If you make it ahead, you will want to drain some of the juices before serving.

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Chopped Antipasto Salad with White Balsamic Vinaigrette

antipasta salad to post

A main-dish salad full of the flavors of an Italian Antipasto platter….perfect for a summer no-cook meal.  Start with a flavorful rotisserie chicken and be sure to buy the best quality salami and cheeses you can find.  I used an excellent  Black Pepper coated Italian Dry Salami that I picked up at The Fresh Market.  This recipe makes more dressing than you will need for this salad so have a jar ready to store it to use on any type of green salad or pasta salad.   This recipe is from The Marshall Fields Cookbook, by Steve Seigelman.

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For the vinaigrette:

1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar

1 egg

2 tablespoons minced shallots

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients except the oil in a blender and pulse to combine.  With the motor running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream to make an emulsion.  Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.  Will keep covered and refrigerated, 3 days.

For the salad:

1 1/2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped

6 ounces hard salami, julienne (about 1 cup)

1 rotisserie chicken, meat shredded into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups)

1 cup julienned provolone cheese

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 bunch basil, thinly sliced

1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish

salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, salami, chicken, provolone, tomatoes, chickpeas, basil and Parmesan and toss lightly.  Pour 1/2 cup of the dressing over the salad and season with salt and pepper.  Toss well to coat, garnish with extra pParmesan and serve immediately.  Serves 4.

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Indonesian Grilled Pork Tenderloin

pork again tp post

Today I am sharing an excellent marinade courtesy of Tide & Thyme.   I’ve adapted the recipe for a quick turn on the grill, either gas or charcoal, and I’ve butterflied the pork tenderloins. This maximizes the surface area to soak in the yummy marinade, and also speeds up the grilling time so that the meat cooks through before the outside burns… which tends to happen when there is any sugar in a marinade.  To prepare the tenderloins, simply trim all visible fat, remove the silverskin (very important) then use a large knife to cut the meat lengthwise, about 1/2 of the way through.  Open the meat up to lay flat and pound  gently  to even it out, either with a meat mallet or just the palm of your hand.  For best flavor, marinate overnight.

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2 pork tenderloins, trimmed and butterflied (see note above)
1/4 cup apricot preserves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Combine preserves, garlic, coriander, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, peanut butter, lime juice, orange juice, crushed red pepper and black pepper in a small bowl. Whisk well to combine, paying attention to break up the peanut butter.  Place pork tenderloins in gallon sized Ziploc bag and pour the marinade on top. Squeeze out the air, and seal, using your hands to squish bag and distribute marinade evenly. Place in refrigerator and let marinade for at least 1 hour, or up to 8 hours.

Preheat grill on high.  Remove pork from marinade and bring the marinade to a boil in a small saucepan, reduce to a simmer and keep warm.  Grill tenderloins on both sides until you have nice golden grill marks then turn the heat down a bit (or move to a cooler spot on the grill if using charcoal) and cook 5-10 minutes until just cooked through.  Brush tenderloins with the reserved marinade (thoroughly heated). Slice and serve with fresh cilantro if desired. Serves 4-6

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Mediterranean Salad with Chickpeas, Black Beans, Quinoa and a Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette

quinoa to post

I love quinoa most when it is a secondary ingredient so I keep it (cooked) in the refrigerator and toss a few tablespoons in my salad at lunch.   I was pleased to find the recipe for this salad on The Cafe Sucre Farine because it was so chock full of legumes, vegetables and herbs.  I’ve used half regular quinoa and half red quinoa for my salad…you can cook them together and they really taste the same….I just happen to like the color contrast.   This is not only an excellent vegetarian main course, but also the perfect side dish for grilled or roasted meats and seafood.

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For vinaigrette:

1 clove garlic, minced

fine zest of one lemon

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

 For Salad:

2 cups cooked quinoa (according to directions on package)

1 can black beans

1 can chick peas

1/4 cup minced red onion

1 medium red bell pepper, small dice

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well.  Toss all salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Add about 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette to the salad bowl and toss well.  Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.  Reserve any extra vinaigrette.  Can be made ahead and refrigerated….let the salad warm up a bit at room temperature, toss and taste for seasonings before serving.  Serves 6-8

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Overnight Marinated Collard Greens Salad

collards to post

When I saw how beautiful and tender the collard greens looked in the market this week, I knew it was time to try to make a fresh salad out of them.  Some of the versions that I have had are too sweet…. or too raw tasting.   I fixed that by cutting way back on the sugar and by poring the boiling hot dressing over the vegetables to “cook” them just ever so slightly, then marinating them overnight in a large zip lock bag.  The result is a bright, crunchy, healthy and fresh-tasting salad for your summer repertoire. (inspired by a recipe in Vegetarian Times)

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1/2 pound fresh collard greens, washed

2 cups grated carrots

1 red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup light olive oil

1 teaspoon powdered mustard

1 teaspoon celery seed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cut the thick center vein out of the collard green leaves then stack several leaves together, roll into a cylinder, hold together and thinly slice to make narrow strips.  Repeat with remaining leaves and transfer to a large bowl.  Stir in carrots, bell pepper, and onion. In a small sauce pan, whisk together vinegar,  sugar, oil,  mustard,  celery seed,  salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Pour the hot dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat well.  Season with salt and pepper if desired.  Transfer to a large zip lock bag and close…sealing out any air.  Refrigerate overnight.  Serves 8

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Minced Turkey Salad with Marinated Artichoke Hearts

chicken salad to post Here’s a recipe for those of us who love the artichoke hearts that you buy in a jar…so silky and tender from marinating in the herb drenched oil.   With a roasted turkey breast from  The Fresh Market, or your local rotisserie, and some bright green vegetables for crunch, you’ll have an excellent springtime dish in quick order.

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2 cups minced roasted turkey breast

1 16-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

2 green onions, sliced

1/2 large green bell pepper, minced

3 stalks celery, minced

2 teaspoons capers, drained, rinsed and minced

1/4 cup mayonnaise

3/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

freshly ground black pepper

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl then season generously with black pepper . (be sure and taste before adding any salt…the artichokes, Old Bay and Capers are all salty so you probably won’t want to add extra)  Cover and chill at least 30 minutes or overnight. Serves 4-5

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Hummus…. All Dressed Up

dip to postHere’s a idea for the next time you need to throw together a quick appetizer. As you know, there are many different flavors of hummus available these days, but it’s so much fresher and tastier to add your own flavors to this extremely popular Middle Eastern dip.

In these photos I’ve spread about 1/2 inch of good quality hummus onto one of my cake stands then toped it with finely chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, fresh dill and crumbled feta cheese…a quick drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper and it’s ready to serve with crispy pita chips.

Other toppings that would be good:

pine nuts, basil, oregano, cilantro, parsley, roasted red peppers, pesto, artichoke hearts, caramelized onions, whole chickpeas, red pepper flakes, roasted garlic, minced jalapeno peppers, the possibilities are endless…

Since I was going for simplicity here, I used a store bought hummus.  It takes about 1 1/2 cups to spread across this regular sized cake stand.  These are my two favorite brands:

Unknown images

Of course if you are feeding a big crowd, or simply have the time, you may want to make your own hummus which is quite easy with canned chickpeas, tahini and spices. Here’s a good one from Inspired Taste (hummus recipe).

 

 

 

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Asparagus Salad with Arugula, Fennel, Crispy Potato and a Creamy Italian Dressing

arugula fennel salad to post 2

In this tasty salad, think of the potatoes as you would croutons….not the main focus of the dish but a wonderful addition taste and texture wise. The real stars of this salad are the arugula, asparagus and fennel.  Put them all together with a light and fresh Italian Herb Dressing and you’ve got a dish that can stand on its own as a vegetarian main course, or compliment any grilled meat, poultry or seafood.  It also holds up well so it might be just the right thing to take to a potluck or picnic.

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1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon minced fresh herbs (parsley, dill, tarragon or thyme)

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 teaspoon honey

6 tablespoons extra vingin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed

1 small bulb fennel, quartered, cored and cut into thin strips

3 cups fresh baby arugula, stemmed

6 small new potatoes, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

For the dressing:

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, herbs, sour cream and honey.  Then drizzle in the 6 tablespoons of olive oil slowly and whisk until blended.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

For the salad:

Fill a non-stick skillet with a couple of inches of water and bring to a boil.  Blanch the fennel in this water  for about 3 minutes then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool.  Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook until crisp- tender. (the timing will depend upon the size of your asparagus)  Drain and rinse asparagus under cold water to stop the cooking and preserve its nice bright green color. Cut asparagus on the diagonal into 2 inch pieces.

Wipe out your skillet and return to the burner over med-high heat.  Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and swirl around the pan.  Add the diced potatoes to the skillet in one layer and let cook without disturbing until golden brown on one side.  Toss the potatoes, lower the heat to medium and continue cooking 8-10 minutes, occasionally tossing the potatoes, until tender on the inside and golden brown on all sides.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Place the arugula in a large bowl, add the asparagus pieces and fennel and toss with about 1/2 of the dressing. Add the crispy diced potatoes and toss again.  Taste and add additional dressing and/or salt and freshly ground black pepper if necessary.

Serves 2-3 as a main course or 4-6 as a side dish.

 

arugula fennel salad to post 2

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Grilled Garlic Lime Pork Tenderloin with Jalapeño Onion Marmalade

From Gourmet Magazine, September 1995, one of my favorite recipes for entertaining.  The Jalapeno Onion Marmalade can be made up to two days ahead, refrigerated, then gently reheated.  The pork needs to marinate for at least one day before grilling.  So you can see that this leaves very little work to do on the day you are serving this dish.
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Serves 6-8
For the marinade:
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil
cayenne to taste
4 pork tenderloins, about 3/4 pound each, trimmed
For the marmalade:
1 1/4 pounds red onions, chopped fine (about 4 cups)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 fresh jalapeno chilies, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons honey or sugar
3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
To make the marinade:
In a blender or small food processor, blend marinade ingredients with salt and pepper to taste.
In a large sealable plastic bag, combine pork with marinade.
Seal bag, pressing out air, and put in a shallow baking dish
Marinate pork, chilled, turning occasionally, at least 1 day and up to 2 days.
Prepare grill.
Let pork stand at room temperature about 30 minutes before grilling.
Remove pork from marinade, letting excess drip off, and grill on an oiled rack turning every 5 minutes until a meat thermometer registers 150-160.  (15-20 minutes)
Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Serve with onion marmalade.
To make the Jalapeno Onion Marmalade:
In a large heavy skillet, cook onions in oil with salt and pepper to taste over moderate heat, stirring until softened.
Add jalapenos and cook, stirring one minute,  Add honey or sugar and cook, stirring one minute,  Add vinegar and simmer , stirring until almost all liquid is evaporated.  Add water and simmer, stirring until mixture is slightly thickened and onions are very tender, (the recipe says about 10 minutes but I find that it takes quite a bit longer to get them very tender, about 25 minutes, and I tend to need to add a bit more water as the marmalade cooks down.)  Season with salt and pepper.
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Japanese Grilled Chicken Skewers with Scallions

yakitori to post

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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Slow Roasted Salmon with Shallots, Dill, Tarragon and Parsley

salmon to post 3

I first made this salmon as part of a recipe for Wild Salmon Salad with beets, potato, egg and mustard vinaigrette from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin.  Excellent dish, and I’ll post that whole recipe soon.  But her method of roasting salmon in a slow oven over a pan of water became one of my favorites. It’s quite foolproof and great straight out of the oven but also at room temperature or even cold.

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2 pounds wild salmon, skin on, bones removed

1 lemon

1/2 cup finely diced shallots

2 tablespoons minced fresh dill

2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon

1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove the salmon from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to bring it to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack.

Finely grate the zest of the lemon until you have 1 teaspoon.  Combine the lemon zest, shallots, dill, tarragon, and parsley in a small bowl, and stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Place the salmon, skin side down, on a baking sheet and season with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper.  Smear about a third of the herb mixture on the fish and turn it over.  Slather the skin side of the fish with the remaining herb mixture and season with a little more salt and pepper.

Place the salmon on a wire rack set on a baking sheet, or in a roasting pan.  Bake the salmon about 25 minutes, until medium rare, or medium. To check if the salmon is done, peek between the flakes.  If it doesn’t separate into flakes, it’s not ready yet.

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Roasted New Potato Salad with Arugula and Goat Cheese

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There are two secrets to this excellent potato salad.  One is to roast the potatoes very slowly so that they become meltingly tender and waxy (as opposed to the crispy/fluffy texture of my favorite Butter Roasted Potatoes).  And the second is to add the vinaigrette while the potatoes are hot, so that they soak in the flavors of the mustard and balsamic. This recipe is adapted from The Vineyard Cookbook, by Barbara Scott-Goodman.   I was planning on presenting this as the perfect winter potato salad but have decided that it will actually be a year-round favorite for me.

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3 pounds small red new potatoes, halved or quartered.

8 unpeeled garlic cloves

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (for roasting potatoes)

kosher salt

2 teaspoons whole grain mustard

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (for vinaigrette)

2 handfuls stemmed baby arugula

4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled

freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In a roasting pan (large enough so that potatoes can be spread out in a single layer)  toss the potatoes with the garlic cloves, salt to taste, and the 1/4 cup olive oil.  Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until potatoes are tender and light brown.  Lower the heat to 250 degrees if the potatoes are cooking too quickly.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk the mustard and vinegar together in a small bowl, Slowly add the olive oil, whisking constantly until the vinaigrette thickens.

Take the potatoes from the oven.  Remove the garlic cloves and squeeze them over a large bowl to remove the peel then scrape the potatoes into the bowl as well.  Pour the vinaigrette over the hot potatoes and gently toss.  Let cool slightly then add the arugula and toss again.

Heap the potato salad into a large shallow bowl or platter.  Sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese over the top and season to taste with pepper.

Serve warm or at room temperature.  Serves 6.

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Salted Caramel Shortbreads with Pecans

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A buttery, melt in your mouth shortbread base with a dollop of real caramel, a pinch of flakey sea salt and you have before you the Ultimate Caramel Cookie!  You will need a candy thermometer and several mini muffin tins for this but it’s actually a very simple recipe that yields extraordinary results.  Enjoy!

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For the shortbread:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup finely chopped pecans (see Note # 1 below)

For the caramel:

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

4 tablespoons heavy cream

2 tablespoons evaporated milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Flakey Sea Salt

Make the shortbread:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla, flour, and salt, then add pecans and mix until just combined. Do not over mix; mixture will be crumbly.

Press a heaping teaspoon of shortbread batter into each well of a mini muffin tin to form a flat base about 1/4 inch in thickness. (see Note #2 below)  Bake for 25 minutes, until the cookies are just firm to the touch.  Cool slightly then remove cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Make the Caramel:

Combine the sugars and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over med-high heat and attach a candy thermometer to the side of your pan.  Once the mixture reaches 240 degrees, remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, cream and evaporated milk…this will make the mixture bubble violently for a few seconds so be careful.  Stir in the vanilla and let cool a bit.  At this point, you are waiting for the caramel to reach a consistency that will be thin enough to spoon onto the cookies, yet thick enough so that it doesn’t  run off the sides.  This will take approximately 10 minutes.

When the caramel is ready, drop a teaspoon onto each shortbread base and let set for at least 15 minutes before you sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of sea salt.  Cookies keep 3 days covered at room temperature.  Makes about 5 dozen.

Note #1:  Here is my favorite gadget to use when I want nuts chopped finely, but not ground.( Nut Chopper)

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Note #2:  An inexpensive wooden  Tart Tamper,  will make very quick work of pressing the batter into the mini muffin tins to form the bases for these cookies.

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new coffee cup

The Best Ever Salt and Pepper Roasted Chicken with Herbs

 

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The good news is that my Best Ever Salt and Pepper Roasted Chicken with Herbs is also about the easiest ever roasted chicken!  The bad news is that you can’t have this for dinner tonight.  The secret to a super moist and flavorful bird is to season generously and let it sit in the refrigerator for 48 hours.  Another key factor is to buy the best, small, free range chicken you can find. (I found these at Whole Foods) My technique is based on the recipe for the roasted chicken from Zuni Cafe in San Francisco.

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Two 3-31/2 pound free range chickens

Kosher Salt

Course ground black pepper

8 sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme

Rinse chickens and pat dry inside and out.  (remove the fatty lump in the cavity as well as the packet of innards if present) Gently loosen the skin from the breasts and thighs so that you can tuck an herb sprig between the skin and the meat…being careful not to tear the skin.  Season all over with salt and pepper (around 3 teaspoons salt per bird) being sure to season the meatier parts more thoroughly than the boney parts. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine, cover loosely and refrigerate for 48 hours (and up to 3 days).

Remove chickens from refrigerator 1 hour before roasting.  Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Place a 10 inch cast iron skillet in oven for 10 minutes to get hot.  Wipe the chickens to dry thoroughly with paper towels.  Nestle the chickens into the hot skillet and roast for 40 minutes or until breast meat is between 150-160 degrees.  Let rest for 15 minutes then cut into halves or quarters with a heavy knife and serve on the bone.

Serves 4-6

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Cornucopia

crunchy corn to post

Here is a little something for your next get-together.  Instead of setting out a bowl of nuts or chips, serve Cornucopia!  (only 3 ingredients…corn, grape seed oil and salt)  They are wonderfully crunchy, but they are slow-roasted tender so they won’t break your teeth like those unpopped kernels at the  bottom of the popcorn bowl.  These nibbles are quite addictive  and to be honest, I don’t know how to make them….  I order them from Whole Food Farmacy and they ship them out overnight.  Even those of us who love to cook need a few shortcuts now and then…expecially this time of year!

Becky McKinney’s Chili

This is the chili that I grew up with and I’ve never even attempted to replace it because in spite of it’s simplicity, everyone loves it.  The secret lies in buying the best quality ground sirloin and the long and slow cooking time.  You will know when it is done….it starts off loose and watery but transforms into a beautiful thick and rich dish.  This is not a spicy chili so feel free to add cayenne pepper if you like.  I like to serve it mild and let everyone season it to suit their own tastes.  My frayed, splattered and yellowed recipe card attributes this recipe to Becky Mckinney so thanks to her wherever she may be.

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For Chili:

3 lbs freshly ground sirloin

3 cans Campbells Tomato Soup

3 cans diced tomatoes with the juice

3 cups chopped onions

3 cups chopped celery

2 cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

3 cloves garlic, minced

3-4 tablespoons chili powder

To Serve:

Chopped fresh tomatoes

Chopped scallions

Grated cheddar cheese

Sour cream

Hot Sauce

Saltine Crackers

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Brown the meat lightly in a large, heavy ovenproof casserole…such as Le Creuset.  Stir in next 4 ingredients and cook for 5 minutes.  Add kidney beans, garlic and chili powder and stir.  Cover and bake in oven for 3 hours, stirring once or twice.  Serve with toppings.

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“When Life Gives you Avocados” Guacamole

When avocados turn up at 10 for $10.00, there’s only one thing to do.  You don’t really need a recipe for guacamole, I know.  It’s one of those dishes thats all about the quality of the ingredients rather than the actual measurements.  But an idea that I read about in Ree Drummond’s, The Pioneer Woman Cooks worked really well for me since I was trying to prepare in advance for a lunch for 25.  She suggests that if you have homemade pico de gallo around, all you have to do if mash a few avocados and stir in a few spoonfuls for the perfect guacamole stat.  You can serve any remaining pico de gallo alongside as well, of course. Here’s the general idea:

You need equal amounts of :

1.  Finely chopped tomatoes

2.  Finely chopped red onion

3.  Coarsely chopped cilantro

4.  One or two fresh jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced

Toss this together in a small bowl and squeeze in half a lime a bit of salt and toss again.  Taste and adjust lime and salt if needed.  Set aside.  You can make this a few hours in advance.

When you are ready to serve, slice open several ripe avocados and scoop out the flesh.  Sprinkle with salt and mash it all around a bit with a fork.  Then stir in a few spoonfuls of the pico de gallo that you made earlier.  Taste and adjust with additional lime juice and salt…keeping in mind that if you are serving with chips, that will add salt too.  Or serve with my  Make Ahead Chicken Fajitas.

And here is a link to Ree’s step by step tutorial if you want more direction.  Pioneer Woman Pico de Gallo and Guacamole

Individual Vanilla Bean Banana Puddings

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As much as I love banana pudding, I never served it to guests until I figured out how to make it a bit more elegant.  Real vanilla beans and brown sugar take it to a new level and serving it in individual portions is key.  This is the perfect make-ahead dessert.
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2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold, unsalted butter
3 bananas (2 diced and 1 sliced)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
mini Nilla Wafers
Heat milk and vanilla bean in small saucepan.  As soon as it reaches a boil, remove from heat and set aside to let the vanilla bean infuse the milk.
     Whisk egg yolks and brown sugar together until fluffy.  Add cornstarch and whisk until smooth.  Remove vanilla bean from warm milk and discard.  Whisk 1/4 of the hot milk into egg mixture until incorporated.  Then whisk in the remaining milk.  Strain this mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until pudding is thick and starting to boil slowly.  Remove from heat and stir in the butter.
Dice 2 of the bananas (about 1/4 inch) and stir into the pudding.  Fill individual ramekins about half full then add a layer of mini Nilla Wafers.  Add pudding to reach the rim of the ramekin.  Cover each ramekin with plastic wrap, pressing wrap to make contact with pudding and refrigerate until cold.  Whip the cream with the confectioner’s sugar.  To serve, garnish puddings with banana slices, a dollop of whipped cream and a mini Nilla Wafer, if desired.
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