Spicy Rice Noodles with Chicken, Basil and Lime

spicy noodles

We all need more recipes like this one. Pantry staples, a pound of ground chicken, and dinner is on the table in about 20 minutes.  And the best part is that it’s not a boring “I didn’t have time to think about dinner” dinner.  It’s sweet, tart, spicy and light.  Interesting enough for the adults yet familiar enough for the kids.

Here’s a thought about rice noodles.  You want to be careful not to overcook them lest they turn to mush.  For this particular recipe, soak them in hot water until they are just as you would like to eat them, tender all the way through but still a nice silky bite.  Then toss them with the hot chicken and sauce and serve right away.  If you let them sit around waiting, they will soak up any available liquid and dry out the dish.  That being said, this stir fry is tasty enough that you will still want to gobble up the leftovers the next day straight out of the frig, mushy noodles or not.

Adapted from one of my favorite chefs, Ming Tsai, and his recipe for Crazy Chicken RIce Noodles, in Simply Ming.

 

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4-6 ounces pai thai rice noodles

3 tablespoons asian fish sauce

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon sugar

1-2 teaspoons sambal (asian chili sauce)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 shallots, thinly sliced

1 pound ground chicken

1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts, chopped

a handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped

lime wedges for serving

 

1.  Soak the rice noodles in hot water until tender, about 20 minutes or according to package directions. Drain when ready and set aside.

2.  In a small bowl, combine fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and sambal and stir to combine.

3.  Heat a wok or heavy skillet over high heat.  Add the oil and the shallots and stir fry until they are golden brown.  Add the ground chicken and stir fry, using a spoon or metal spatula to break up the meat into small pieces, until cooked through.  Add the noodles and the fish sauce mixture and toss well.  Add the scallions and basil, toss again and serve immediately.  Serves 3-4.

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Two-Minute Salmon Scallopini

salmon scallopini

“Dinner will be ready in two minutes!!!”  How many times have I shouted this warning to family passing through my kitchen, foraging in the snack drawer or headed out the door?  Of course, I rarely mean literally two minutes….but this time I do!  These thin slices of marinated fresh salmon cook right on your dinner plate in two minutes flat.  Delicate and meltingly delicious, serve with crusty bread and a big salad of field greens for the quickest entree you will ever encounter.  A brilliant technique and recipe adapted from Abby Mandel in her excellent cookbook, More Taste Than Time.  The late Abby Mandel was a food columnist for the Chicago Tribune and was the founder of the fabulous Lincoln Park Green City Market. (a must-visit for foodies in Chicago May-October)

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3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon dry vermouth

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon orange (or lemon) zest

1/4 teaspoon salt

10-12 ounces salmon fillets, skinned, cut on the bias as thin as possible, about 1/16 inch (see note below)

minced fresh chives or parsley to garnish

freshly ground black pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees 15 minutes before baking.

2.  Mix the orange juice, oil vermouth, lemon juice, soy sauce, orange or lemon zest and salt in a large plastic ziplock bag.  Add the salmon and seal the bag, squeezing out excess air and turning bag to insure that salmon is well coated with the marinade.  Let marinate for 10 minutes.

3.  Arrange the salmon on 2 china dinner plates, covering the entire surface of the plate, except the rim ,, overlapping the fish as little as possible.  Brush lightly with a small amount of the remaining marinade.

4.  Bake just until the surface of the fish lightens in color, about 2 minutes.  Sprinkle with chives or parsley, fresh ground pepper and serve immediately.

Serves 2

note:  Put the raw salmon in the freezer for about 30 minutes until firm but not frozen solid….this will make thin-slicing a breeze (sharp knife necessary too)

note: Most china and ceramic plates can withstand the oven heat for this amount of time, but very fine bone china should be avoided.

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Saucy Beef and Lamb Meatballs

Meatballs

Familiar enough to qualify as comfort food, yet just different enough to be new and interesting.  I love the 50/50 combination of the beef and  lamb, and the sauce is perfectly spiced with the warmth of cumin, ginger and cinnamon. Serve these with toasted pita bread for an excellent make-ahead dinner.

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2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons finely minced onion

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons minced fresh mint, plus a bit more for garnish

1/2 pound ground lamb

1/2 pound ground sirloin

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup water

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add 2 tablespoons onion and garlic to pan; cook 1 minute stirring constantly,  Cool slightly,  Combine onion mixture, breadcrumbs, and mint, add lamb, beef, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and egg; stir gently.  Shape into 30 (1-inch) meatballs. (if you have time, put these in the refrigerator for an hour or so to firm up…this will make them easier to brown)

Heat pan to medium high with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and add meatballs.  Cook 4 minutes or so to brown them on all sides.  Remove meatballs from pan.  Add 1/2 cup onion and sauté for 2 minutes.  Add ginger, cumin, cinnamon and crushed tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in the water, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Return meatballs to pan and simmer for 20 minutes or until done. Garnish with additional chopped fresh mint.  Serves 6.

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Spice-Roasted Chick Peas with Collard Greens

Spice Roasted Chick Peas with Collards

Leafy greens are getting their due respect these days, don’t you think?  I grew up eating turnip greens and spinach in Mississippi, but not collards or kale,  swiss chard or broccoli rabe. I love them all, but I’m finding collards so versatile that they are becoming my go-to healthy, leafy green veggie these days.  This version combines collards with hearty, spicy-roasted chick peas for a wonderful vegetarian main course  (if you sub water for the chicken broth) or an excellent side dish to go along with roasted meat or fish.  Healthy for sure, but super tasty as well…the way it should be.

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1 bunch collard greens, washed and chopped

1/2 large red onion, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

1 cup low sodium chicken broth or water

1 15 ounce can chick peas, drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon Garam Masala

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon mustard seeds (optional)

salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat and add onions, sauté gently for 3 minutes.  Add collards and toss until they begin to wilt.  Season with salt and pepper then add the chicken broth and reduce heat a bit.  Simmer collards until tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. (add a little water if pan becomes dry before greens are tender)

Meanwhile, on a rimmed baking sheet, toss together the chick peas, olive oil, cumin, garam masala, red pepper flakes, and mustard seed. Add salt to taste ( amount will depend upon the saltiness of the brand of chick peas that you use)  Spread out into a single layer and roast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, until fragrant and lightly brown.  Scrape chick peas into collards and toss, check for seasonings.  Serves 4-6.  Can be made ahead and reheated stovetop or microwave.

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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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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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Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Black Peppercorns and Rosemary

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Black Peppercorn Rosemary Marinade

 

Use this quick and easy marinade and you will almost feel like you are eating a luxurious beef filet instead of a simple pork tenderloin.  If you love the warm, gentle spice of black peppercorns as I do, you will turn to this recipe for casual week-night suppers and elegant dinner parties alike. Adapted from Grilling, Where There’s Smoke, There’s Flavor by Eric Treuille and Birgit Erath.

 

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2 pork tenderloins

Salt

4 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns

3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon fennel seed

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

 

Trim the pork tenderloins, taking care to remove all silver skin, then sprinkle lightly with salt on all sides.  Place the rest of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse to a coarse paste.  Rub the paste over the tenderloins, cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours or more.  Preheat grill to medium high and grill for 15-20 minutes (depending on the size) or until just barely pink in the center. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.  Serves 4-6

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Leaping Frog Chicken

Leaping Frog Chicken“Every so often a recipe comes along that will change your life”  These are the words from Jane Daniels Lear that convinced me to try this recipe from Gourmet magazine (June 2009). The combination of garlic, lemon and smoked paprika make a killer marinade and the method of opening up and flattening a whole chicken is much easier than the traditional spatchcocking, or cutting out the backbone.  Give it a try over Labor Day Weekend and you will not be sorry!  Here is a link to the chicken prep procedure with detailed photos.  How to flatten a chicken for the grill.

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  • 2 chickens (about 3 1/2 lb each)
  • 16 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 6 tablespoons Argentinean ají molido or hot smoked paprika (pimentón picante)
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 lemons, each cut into 6 rounds

CUT CHICKENS:

  • Discard any visible fat from chickens. Rinse chickens and pat dry. Put 1 chicken, breast up, on a cutting board. Pull 1 leg away from body and with a sharp knife cut through skin between leg and breast until you hit joint (do not cut through joint). With your fingers behind joint, bend leg back until joint pops. Repeat with other leg. With kitchen shears, cut through rib bones (starting from thigh) on both sides of breast up to, but not through, shoulder joints. Open chicken, skin side up. Press on breastbone to crack and flatten with heel of your hand. Repeat with second chicken.

MARINATE CHICKENS:

  • Purée garlic with 1/4 cup oil, paprika, oregano, cumin, allspice, 2 Tbsp salt (preferably fine sea salt), and 2 tsp pepper in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  • Stir together 1 Tbsp marinade and remaining 2 Tbsp oil in a small bowl and reserve, chilled, for basting.
  • Put chickens in a large 4-sided sheet pan. Using a few lemon slices as spreaders, rub some of marinade all over chickens, then stuff lemon slices with remaining marinade under skin of breasts and thighs. Marinate, chilled, at least 8 hours (and up to 12).

GRILL CHICKENS:

  • Prepare grill for indirect-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium-high heat for gas)
  • Oil grill rack, then grill chickens directly over coals, turning once (more if flare-ups occur), until browned, about 5 minutes total. Move chickens to area of grill with no coals underneath (for gas, turn off 2 burners if necessary and turn remaining burner on high) and grill, covered, turning occasionally and basting with reserved marinade mixture, until chickens are cooked through, 40 to 45 minutes (do not baste during last 5 minutes; discard any leftover basting sauce). Add more charcoal as necessary. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.

Leaping Frog Chicken (on grill)

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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

 

 

Perfect S’mores Cookies and 3 More Great Recipes

Perfect S'more CookiesIn this post I am going to share 4 recipes that I use time and time again.  Each of them is featured on someone else’s food blog and since I make them exactly as  written, I am simply going to refer to you the source.  These are real keepers and only a click away.  Enjoy!

The aptly named, Perfect S’more Cookies by Baked By Rachel

Pay attention to her advice to press the marshmallows into the center of the dough when possible.  It’s an easy step that will help the cookies keep their shape.  These cookies are a huge hit around here.

Grilled-salmon-with-avocado-salsa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa from Laylita’s Recipes  

I haven’t photographed this dish so I have borrowed the lovely one above from Laylita’s Recipes.  Sometimes I use a whole side of salmon and serve it with the salsa on top for a beautiful dinner party presentation.

Sesame Noodles with Scallions and Cilantro

Sesame Noodles with Scallions and Cilantro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sesame Noodles with Scallions and Cilantro from Week of Menus.  

I like to add lots of veggies to these noodles.  They travel really well and sometimes we top them with grilled chicken or shrimp.

 

Caesar Salad

 

Homemade Caesar Dressing from Once Upon A Chef

No raw eggs here so no worries about that.  I like to make tiny little croutons to put on this salad…nice to get a little crunch with every bite!  In this photo, my  croutons are gluten free.  Udi’s White Bread, found in the freezer section of Whole Foods and other grocery stores, makes excellent croutons.  Just remove the crusts, cut into tiny cubes, about 1/4 inch, douse with extra virgin olive oil (enough to just soak through the bread cubes but not pool on the baking tray) Sprinkle with salt and pepper and put in an 250 degree oven and then you can just forget about them for a while…..1-1 1/2 hours…or until golden brown and crunchy throughout. (Pepperidge Farm Hearty White Bread is a good option for croutons if you don’t need/want gluten free)

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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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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Butter Rubbed Salmon with Savory Blueberry Sauce

blueberry salmon to post

Another excellent recipe from Pure Flavor, by Kurt Beecher Dammeier, this fantastic dish is over-the-top beautiful and rich. The blueberry sauce is lemony and buttery with just a hint of sweet blueberry flavor despite it’s gorgeous purple hue. I use the Lemon-Caper Rub for everyday cooking of almost any type of fish but I save the addition of the blueberry sauce for special occasions.

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1 2-pound salmon fillet, skinned

Lemon-Caper Butter Rub (see below)

Blueberry Sauce (see below)

Cut the salmon fillet into individual servings (or 2-bite sized pieces as I have done here).  Using a basting brush and about half of the butter rub, coat one side of the salmon pieces with the rub.  Refrigerate the salmon for 5 minutes, or until the butter just hardens into a glaze.  Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium high heat.   Lay the salmon pieces, butter rub side down, in the pan and cook until the bottom half of the salmon flesh is opaque, about 3 minutes, brush remaining butter rub over the salmon and flip the pieces,  Cook for another minute or so until the salmon is nearly opaque throughout but still very moist.  Serve hot, topped with blueberry sauce.

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Lemon Caper Butter Rub

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon capers, drained and mashed

1 teaspoon grated packed lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herb blend

1 tablespoon diced yellow onion

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together…may be prepared up to one week in advance.

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Savory Blueberry Sauce

2 cups low sodium chicken broth

1/2 medium yellow onion

1/2 sweet apple, such as Fuji

3-4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

In a small saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil, Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, apple, and thyme,  Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, turning over the onion and the apple until the stock is reduced by half.

With a slotted spoon, remove the onion, apple and thyme from the stock and discard.  Add the blueberries and bring to a boil, Reduce the heat to medium low and summer for 20 minutes or until the liquid is reduced to 3/4 cup.

Remove the pan from the heat.  Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper and stir.  Add the butter and whisk the sauce until the butter is completely melted, about 1 minute, Serve hot.  Sauce can be made up to several days ahead, refrigerated, and gently reheated over low heat before serving.

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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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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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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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Just One Perfect Spinach Cheddar Omelette

one more omelette to post

Eggs tend to go from runny to rubbery in the blink of an eye so I have been working on a simple but foolproof omelette.   I heard on PBS radio one day….it was probably The Splendid Table….. how eggs need to be cooked slowly, over very low heat… which meant that I was going to need a good non-stick pan if I didn’t want to use half a stick of butter.  So here is the method and as you can imagine, the possibilities are endless for adapting this with your favorite ingredients. (fresh herbs and goat cheese?)  Don’t be turned off by the lengthy instructions;  it is so quick and easy that I make one just for myself quite often. I’m just trying to be helpful with details but the whole process takes only a few minutes. The key here is that the pan should never get hot enough to color the eggs at all….gentle, slow and steady is the name of the game.

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an 8 inch good quality, non-stick skillet or omelette pan

plastic or rubber spatula

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons butter or olive oil

1 handful fresh baby spinach leaves, stemmed

2 tablespoons finely shredded cheddar cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Begin heating your skillet over low heat.  Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat well with a whisk or a fork. Have the spinach leaves ready and sitting nearby.

Add the butter or oil to the skillet and swirl it around to lightly coat the surface.   Pour the eggs into the skillet and gently tilt it to all sides to spread the eggs out evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  The eggs should be cooking very slowly; it will take a minute or two for the bottom to set but when it does, lay the spinach leaves over the top of the omelette (which will still be runny at this point) in a single layer.

Now you are going to flip the omelette over.  Begin by loosening the edges of the omelette with the spatula while gently shaking the skillet to see if the whole omelette will slip around in the pan, signaling that the underside is cooked though enough to hold the whole thing together.  When this happens, it will be quite easy to slip the spatula under the eggs and simultaneously shake the handle of the skillet and flip the omelette to the other side.  ( Imagine someone flipping pancakes in the air to get the idea of shaking the skillet…but of course we are going for a gentle flip here, one that will not send ingredients airborn and is controlled mostly by the spatula)

As soon as the omelette is turned, sprinkle with a light layer of cheese.  The second side will be cooked in less than a minute, at which point you can roll up the omelette, slide it onto a plate and enjoy!

eggs 2 to post

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Vietnamese Pork Stirfry with Garlic, Chilies and Lime

vietnamese pork to post

Don’t let the lack of a syrupy sauce fool you….this quick stir-fry is bursting with flavor!    Try it over rice or noodles, wrap it up in lettuce leaves or rice paper, or use as a topping for an Asian salad with fresh greens and cucumbers. I love the pork tenderloin here but you can substitute chicken as well.

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3 tablespoons peanut oil

1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed then cut into fine strips

4 scallions, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 red or green chilies, seeded and finely chopped

1/2 cup shelled, unsalted peanuts (note: if you only have salted peanuts, just rinse under water to remove the salt.  Fish sauce is quite salty so salted peanuts might overwhelm the dish)

grated rind and juice of 2 limes

2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

1/2 cups chopped fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves

 

Heat a wok or heavy pan and add 2 tablespoons of the oil.  Add the pork and sear over high heat until browned. (do not crowd pan…can do in two batches if necessary)  Remove the meat and juices to plate and set aside.

Wipe the work clean and return to the heat.  Pour in the remaining oil and add the onions garlic, ginger and chilies.   When the aromas begin to rise from the pan, add the peanuts and stir-fry for 1 minute.

Return the meat and its juices back to the wok, then stir in the lime rind and juice, followed by the fish sauce.  Add the fresh herbs and serve.

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Little Roasts of Boneless Chicken with Rosemary, Garlic and Lemon

more chicken to postThis technique, adapted from Fine Cooking September 2008, for roasting boneless chicken breasts produces wonderfully tender, well seasoned meat.  You’ll need an even number of boneless breasts with the skin on.  Since I rarely see this combination prepackaged, I  buy split breasts and cut the meat off the bone (as directed in recipe) reserving the tenderloins to make chicken fingers.  Of course, the butcher at your local grocery store can do that for you… which would make this a very simple dish to prep. This is a great dinner party main course because it needs to be prepped a whole day ahead.  And to dress it up, serve with this excellent Apple and Fig compote.

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4 Tbs. fresh rosemary leaves, minced
6 medium cloves garlic, minced

zest of one large lemon

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts
2 Tbs. olive oil

Salt and coarse-ground pepper

In a small bowl combine the rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, 2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper.

Cut the chicken breasts away from the bones, leaving the skin intact. With a paring knife, cut out the white tendon on the underside of each breast and reserve for another use. Rub the rosemary-garlic mixture all over the chicken, including under the skin, taking care to keep the skin attached to the meat. Stack two breasts so that the skin faces outward and each breast’s thicker rounded end is on top of the thinner tapered end of the other. Tie the breasts together with butcher’s twine, forming a little roast. Repeat with the remaining 2 breasts. Reposition any skin that may have bunched up while tying and season the roasts all over with 1 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper. Put the roasts on a rack over a small baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, overnight.

Let the chicken sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.

Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Sear the chicken until dark golden brown on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes total. Return the chicken to the rack over the baking sheet. Roast until a thermometer inserted in the center of each roast reads 165°F, 20 to 30 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes. Remove the strings from the chicken and carefully slice each roast on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick medallions. Serves 6-8

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chicken roast to post

The Best Ever Salt and Pepper Roasted Chicken with Herbs

 

chicken to post

 

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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Glazed Apricot-Dijon Pork Tenderloin Roasted with Caramelized Onions

 

Easy enough for a weeknight family supper but elegant enough for an Autumn dinner party, here is my new favorite recipe for pork tenderloin.  Go ahead and roast 2 tenderloins even if you don’t need that much because the leftovers are scrumptious. Recipe idea from Pure Flavor, by Kurt Beecher Dammeier, but I’ve adapted it for fool-proof results.

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2/3 cup Smucker’s All-Fruit Apricot Preserves

2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

extra virgin olive oil

2 pork tenderloins, trimmed

2 teaspoons salt

coarsely ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine the preserves, Dijon mustard, Whole-grain mustard, salt, black pepper and cayenne.  Set aside. (may be made up to one week ahead)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat  2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the sliced onions and sauté until they have softened and are beginning to show some color.  Meanwhile, season the pork tenderloins with salt and pepper. Transfer the onions to a baking dish just large enough to hold the two pork tenderloins.  Return the skillet to the heat and add a bit more olive oil if necessary.  Add the tenderloins, brown then on all sides, then remove them from the skillet and set them on top of the sauted onions.  Spoon the reserved apricot glaze over the pork and roast in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees.  (instant read thermometer is the way to go here…a very small yet worthwhile investment to make if you don’t have one already) Let the pork rest for 10 minutes before serving.  Cut tenderloins into 1/2 to 1 inch slices and serve with the caramelized onions. Serves 4-6

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Make Ahead Chicken Fajitas for a Crowd

When I make chicken fajitas for the family, I cook the vegetables and chicken at the very last minute.  Maybe it’s not the sizzling skillet served table side but close enough. When I have a crowd to feed, I really want to have the dirty work finished way, way in advance.  Here’s how I do it and still have super-moist yummy chicken.

1.  Day before (early):  Make marinade, Cut up onions and peppers, Marinate chicken for 3 hours.

2. Day before (later):  Cook vegetables, Cook Chicken Breasts, Cool then refrigerate together, in a large pan, covered tightly overnight.

3.  Day of party early:  Slice chicken, mix with vegetables in large Pyrex dish or roasting pan and cover tightly with foil. Wrap flour tortillas with foil and set aside. Get condiments ready.

4.  Party time:  One hour before serving place pyrex dish with chicken (still covered tightly) in 325 degree oven for 45 minutes then put the foil wrapped flour tortillas in the over as well to warm through…about 15 minutes.

Fajita Marinade 

5 cloves of garlic, minced

3 tablespoons Lowry’s Seasoning Salt

3 tablespoons ground cumin

2  1/2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

5 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 6 limes)

Combine all ingredients and whisk well.

For the Fajitas

8-10 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of any fat and pounded gently to create an even thickness.

4 large sweet onions, sliced

4 large red bell peppers, sliced

Olive oil

Flour Tortillas (or corn tortillas for gluten-free option)

Sour Cream

Salsa

Lettuce

Shredded cheddar cheese

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in your largest, heaviest skillet, cast iron is best, over medium high heat.  Saute onions and peppers, together or separately depending on the size of your skillet, until they are softened and just beginning to caramelize.  Remove to a large pan or pyrex dish and let cool while you cook the chicken.  Add a bit more oil to the pan and cook the chicken in batches, until golden brown on both sides and just cooked through.  I like to use an instant read meat thermometer to eliminate the guess work and I pull them off the heat between 150 and 160 degrees.  Pile the chicken breasts, as they are cooked, on top of the vegetables and when they are all finished, let cool then cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Early on the day you plan to serve the fajitas, slice the chicken into pieces, 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick then return them to the vegetables and toss to combine all, making sure to coat the chicken with the wonderful juices that will have settled to the bottom of the vegetables overnight.  Cover tightly with foil and return to the refrigerator until you are about an hour away from service.  It will take 45 minutes to an hour to warm the chicken mixture slowly, and tightly covered, in a 325 degree oven. Serve with warm flour tortillas, sour cream, salsa, lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, avocados and any other condiments you might like to add.  Serves 25

Mongolian Beef

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I wish that you could see the Mongolian Beef page in my copy of Chopsticks, Cleaver and Wok, by Jennie Low.  It is splattered, splashed and frayed.  That goes to show just how many times I have turned to this recipe over the years.  I like to use sirloin strip steaks instead of flank steak, which is what is called for in many Asian stir fry recipes.  It’s a bit more expensive, for sure, but I find that I can serve four easily with just two good-sized steaks and it has a wonderful texture when sliced very thinly and cooked quickly over very high heat.
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1 1/2 pounds strip sirloin steak
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 green onions, slivered
2 fresh red chili peppers ( or 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes)
Seasoning:
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
dash of pepper
1 tablespoon white wine (or dry sherry)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
Sauce:
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons catsup
  Cut each steak crosswise into three pieces.  Trim fat from edges and slice across the grain very thinly…almost paper thin.  (a good sharp knife and cold meat will make this easier) Place in a bowl.
Add seasoning ingredients to beef.  Mix well.
Combine sauce ingredients, mix well, and set aside.
Heat wok or heavy skillet and add half of the oil.  Add half of the garlic and stir fry for 10 seconds over high heat.
Add half of the beef, spreading it out quickly, and let it brown nicely on one side undisturbed (about 2 minutes)  Then stir fry for another minute or two until beef is browned on both sides.  Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining oil, garlic and beef.  (Cooking all of the meat at once will lower the heat in the pan too much causing the meat to simmer. I sometimes have to cook this in many batches when serving a crowd but I just do it ahead of time and reheat it gently at serving time.) Remove second batch of meat to the plate while you briefly stir fry the green onions and red chili pepper for a few seconds then add all of the meat back to the pan.  Add the sauce mixture, mix thoroughly and cook for one minute, stirring.  The sauce should thicken a bit to coat the meat nicely.  Serve with rice.  (serves 4)
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Grilled Peanut Chicken

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This recipe is adapted from a book that I found, about 20 years ago, in Crate and Barrel.  It was part of a display for  the summer grilling season and it has been my grilling bible ever since.  It is called Grill Book, New Foods and Flavors for the Grill.
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1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 cilantro sprigs, minced
1-2 teaspoons dried red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
Combine first nine ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Blend well to emulsify, adding a few drops of water if the mixture is too thick.  Mix the marinade and the chicken pieces and stir well to coat evenly.  Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator at least 4 hours and preferably overnight.  Thread chicken onto metal skewers and grill over a medium hot heat for 8-10 minutes.  It is best to let the chicken brown well on one side before you try and turn the skewers.  The marinade forms a nice crust that makes it easier to release them from the grill.  Then you can turn them several more times to grill all sides easily.  Serves 4-5
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