Friday, August 26, 2011

London Calling

And I'm answering!

The Hubs and I are off for our first non-family related vacation in five years.
Enjoy the end of Summer and I'll be back after Labor Day!
(And keep yourselves safe on the East Coast... we're really hoping we get out before Hurricane Irene hits.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Quick Chicken Soft Tacos

I've been doing a lot of variations on salsa this summer. In the winter I sometimes find salsa to be too light and unsatisfying, but in the hotter months I find I'm using it left and right, on eggs, on top of fish, and this time, to fill a soft taco.

For this dish I used a little leftover basmati rice for The Hubs, as he likes more of a burrito than a soft taco, but I made mine using just the chicken and Corn & Black Bean Salsa.

First I took two chicken breasts and cut them into bite-sized pieces. I sprinkled them with salt, ground cumin, and chili powder and rolled them around until evenly coated. (About 1/2 tsp each.)

Then in a non-stick pan on medium-high heat and with a bit of olive oil, I cooked the chicken until opaque, about 5-7 minutes.

This salsa is really the clincher of the dish, as it has the most flavor.
A little sautéed shallot, corn, 1 pat of butter, black beans (from soup), and a heap of fresh cilantro.

Sweet, savory, and bright all at once.

This would also taste fabulous with some of my Avocado Purée slathered on the tortilla before filling it (which is how I ate the leftovers for lunch the next day!) but all told this dinner took under 20 minutes start to finish. 
And The Hubs had seconds, so you know it was pretty good.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Breakfast Zucchini Pizza

Take home your leftovers whenever possible.
Because really, you've paid for your meal, you may as well get to eat it all!
Granted, some things are harder to rejuvenate the next day, but in general, I'm all for doggy bags. Especially as I am more of a Grazer than a 3-Squares-A-Day type of gal.

Below see a gorgeous half zucchini pizza from Franny's that I just could not finish the night before.
Now known as Breakfast Pizza.

I opted to add a poached egg because I like the runny yolk and soft white, but if that's not your style an egg fried in bacon fat would be a perfect topper for this (including some crumbled bacon, of course.)
You've got carbs, vegetables, and protein ready to go.
Just make sure to use a skillet to re-crisp your pizza crust while your egg is cooking.

I do not understand countries that don't believe in doggy bags.
Like my dear beloved Italy, a country that knows not to waste stale bread because they can thicken soups with it or make a panzanella salad, but they don't believe in taking home leftovers.
Luckily I'm writing this in the USA, so doggy bags are go!
Get creative with your leftovers next time.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Linguine a la Cioppino

This is an alternate use, or use for any leftover Cioppino base that you may have on hand.
Lately I have been devouring cioppino, a.k.a. Italian fish stew. I just love it as a light dinner of fish poached in a light but flavorful tomato base with a hunk of bread to sop up the remains.
Also, once you have made the base and have it in your fridge, dinner only takes 10 minutes.
And as previously stated, in the summer, having any source of heat at a minimum is best.

This time around I only had enough for one, so I decided that just using it as a base for pasta and clams might be good.
And it was.

Above you see the sand and grit that was expelled from the clams when I put them in a bowl of cold salted water for half an hour. 
Do not skip this step, as you definitely do not want all of that crud in your food!

With the pasta already dropped into boiling salted water, I brought the leftover cioppino stew base up to a simmer and added the cleaned clams.
Put the lid on the pot and let it bubble for 6-7 minutes, or until all the clams have opened.
Give the pot a jiggle every few minutes if the clams are cramped for space to open.

I prefer to remove the shells before serving so there's less mess while eating.
Discard any clams that do not open.
Add the cooked pasta to the cioppino sauce for the last minute of cooking.

This really could have served two people in the end, so I'll remember that for next time.
But it turned out quite nicely, kind of like a cross between red clam sauce and marinara, but with the undertone of fennel.
Nice change-up from the usual fish stew.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cilantro & Lime Chicken

It's a fiesta in your mouth!

Or, you know. Dinner.
My thanks to Google and for helping me find this dish.

To start with, create the marinade.
1/4 cup lime juice, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 6 cloves of garlic (yowza!), 1 TBSP honey, 1 TBSP evoo, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper.
And as I had a leftover jalapeño, I threw that in for good measure as well.

Place your chicken (I had 5 boneless chicken thighs, the recipe suggests 4 chicken breasts) in the marinade and allow to soak for about an hour.

This recipe said anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight, but I find anything that sits in citrus too long starts to cook like a ceviche and break down, so I just went with an hour or so.

Prep your pan with a bit of olive oil on medium-high heat and drop in your chicken.
(Tho if you have access to a grill, that will give this dish a much richer flavor.)

Make sure you discard the marinade as you do not want to eat anything that has had raw chicken soaking in it.

This is a nice change-up from the usual things I make, with a decent tang and a bit of zip from the jalapeño I added.
Give it a whirl!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Rosemary, De-Thorned

If you don't cook with rosemary that often, you probably just have some dried rosemary in your pantry for those rare occasions a recipe calls for it.
Or maybe that's just me, but I use it in such small quantities here and there that I never use up all the fresh rosemary I would buy, and I can only infuse so many bottles of olive oil with leftovers!
Unfortunately, dried rosemary is immensely prickly, and you can't chop it up the way you can with fresh (tho frankly even fresh rosemary is quite prickly!) so you probably end up with spiky twigs in your finished dish.
Here is my forehead-slapping-ly obvious solution:

The good ol' Mortar & Pestle.
Place however much dried rosemary you need at the bottom, and add a pinch of kosher or sea salt (not table salt, as that is too fine to assist in breaking down the rosemary.)

Give it about a minute or so of really solid grounding, rubbing it against the sides as if stirring vigorously.

There may be a few stubborn twigs left (probably stems anyway) but you should be left with an only slightly coarse yet pungent powder that will dissolve nicely into gravy, or that you can use to stuff a roll of pork, chicken, or lamb, and not worry about anyone getting stabbed in the tongue.
It seems obvious, but if you don't use your mortar and pestle that often, you can forget that you have one!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Turbot with Avocado Purée & Pineapple Salsa

OK, I have come up with the finishing element to round out my previously posted meal:
avocado purée.

1 ripe avocado, 2 TBSP fresh lime juice, 2 TBSP diced shallot or red onion, 1/4 cup cilantro, 1 seeded jalapeño pepper, and salt to taste.
Place everything in a food processor and blend until smooth.
If your avocado is still a bit under-ripe, you can add 1 tsp of low-fat mayo or greek yogurt to help bring about a creamier consistency.

This meal was made with 2 rather huge turbot filets, which I seasoned with salt and a bit of chili powder before sautéing in a combination of butter and olive oil.

I had issues turning the huge filets over. 
So much for presentation.
I added a splash of white wine to the pan after turning the fish, for just a little extra touch of flavor in the fish itself.

As the side dish (tho the Hubs preferred it on top of his fish) I made what was almost my new favorite pineapple-mango salsa, except I didn't have any ripe mango, so it's just 1/3 of a cored pineapple with 1 seeded jalapeño, half a medium shallot finely diced, the juice of one lime, salt, and a little drizzle of agave.
It's best to let the shallot and jalapeño mellow in the lime juice and a couple pinches of salt while you dice up the pineapple, so they are not as sharp when bitten into.
This salsa is better if you make it a few hours ahead as well, so the flavors and juices can really combine.

Not-so-sexy shot of the avocado purée on the plate, awaiting the hot fish on top.
Drizzle any pan juices over the fish.

The richness and zing from the avocado purée is exactly what this meal was missing before. 
Fish with fruit salsa may be great hot weather food, and even diet food, but I needed a little something more substantial to round everything out, and I was quite pleased with this finished dish.
Try it out!