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Archive for May, 2008

This is a fantastic dish, compliments of the Pax Christi church cookbook. (Thanks, Auntie Mary Ann!)

The pan-sauteed chicken is topped with a zesty fresh tomato sauce made with fresh basil and capers. Mashed potatoes and a spinach salad were excellent accompaniments.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup dry white wine

6 Roma or plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped

3/4 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons capers

6 large basil leaves cut in thin strips

(1) Trim chicken. Using a meat mallet, lightly pound chicken between sheets of wax paper to 1/2 inch thickness. 

(2) Mix flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Coat chicken. 

(3) Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook through until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a platter and keep warm.

(4) Add garlic and wine to skillet and stir up any brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and chicken broth, bring to a boil, and reduce the liquid by about half. This should take about 5 minutes. Stir in capers and basil and heat through, another minute.

(5) Pour sauce over the chicken and serve. 

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I’ve always shied away from attempting pizza at home, mainly because of the dough. Any time I’ve worked with the yeasty stuff, I end up screwing it up. And as you can tell from the photo, I didn’t exactly have much luck rolling my dough into a perfect circular pie. However, this pie turned out to be supreme.

I picked up a pound of fresh pizza dough from Whole Paycheck (er, Whole Foods) and was pleasantly surprised that it only cost $2.99. Their dough is very tasty and much more so than the $.99 stuff I tried once from Trader Joe’s. I also lucked out on my pick of jarred pizza sauce: “Enricos: since 1938, All-Natural Pizza Sauce” for $2.49, also found at Whole Paycheck. I had thought about making my own sauce from scratch, but figured the taste trade-off wouldn’t be that great, especially on a busy weeknight.

My overall inspiration for the pizza came from Everyday Food and a recipe for hamburger and grape-tomato pizza. It substitutes provolone cheese for mozarella, which afforded a more richer flavor to the pizza. I also liked the combination of halved grape tomatoes and ground beef, to which I added some sliced white mushrooms.

The Joy of Cooking provides excellent instructions on handling the dough prior to adding toppings. I recommend reading the section if you have the classic book at home. I sprayed my cookie sheet with a light cooking oil and they sprinkled it with cornmeal – this made it very easy to remove the pizza when finished. Another deviation from the Everyday Food recipe – I baked on the second from top rack in the oven for 16 minutes to get a crispy finish.

Overall: great flavor alternative to the standard pepperoni pizza and an easy, cost-effective substituteto ordering delivery.  – Devin

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It’s Tuesday and dinner is my turn. And yes, I DID end up with Rachael, but I didn’t leap to her immediately.

My Mom had emailed to tell me she saw local Watershed chef Scott Peacock on TV with Martha Stewart making chicken and dumplings. She said it looked delicious and was planning to try it, and I found myself greatly in the mood for chicken and dumplings the more I thought about it. I quickly found Scott’s recipe online and, while it made my mouth water like crazy, it was a little more involved (time-wise) than I prefer to tackle on a weeknight.

Unfortunately my appetite was now roaring for chicken and dumplings, so I headed on over to Food Network to find a good substitute. A quick “chicken and dumplings” recipe search found two top results by Emeril Lagasse. I skipped those because I routinely discount any Emeril recipe as worthless — he always calls for exotic ingredients and lots of my time, so I don’t even read through his recipes anymore. Plus his show is really annoying. BAM! However, the next chef with a 5-star chicken and dumpling rating was Miss Rachael. I checked it and it instantly looked like a winner, plus it was full of vegetables and carried no cream or milk or anything heavy! Now don’t get me wrong. I adore heavy. I looooooove heavy and rich meals. However, I’ve found that on weeknights I prefer to eat healthily…otherwise I find it harder to sleep. So recipes like this one really appeal to me.

This was a pretty easy meal with lots of fresh and fun things in it that was actually fun to prepare. CHEF’S TIP: I find the cooking process so much more enjoyable if I do all my chopping and prepping before cooking a single thing. If I chop and prep as I cook I end up a frazzled, exhausted mess, trying to keep everything going without burning anything, etc. However, if I take a few minutes, or several minutes, before starting the actual cooking process to do ALL of my chopping and prepping I find the actual cooking far less rushed and far more enjoyable. Then I can just enjoy an adult beverage while I leisurely toss pre-prepped ingredients together!

This recipe called for potatoes, carrots and celery in with the chicken and dumplings, which I loved. Devin and I both adore celery so I doubled the amount of celery the recipe called for. Otherwise I really didn’t touch a thing, although I did have to add a little bit of chicken stock prematurely to keep the veggies from burning/sticking to the bottom of the pan. Oh, and I actually did not put in any salt or pepper because our poultry seasoning includes salt and pepper and we found the dish entirely satisfactory with just that.

I was skeptical about the dumplings, which were made from biscuit mix (I chose Martha White’s Extra Rich Buttermilk, but then mixed it with water instead of milk) and fresh chopped flat leaf parsley. The recipe calls for them to steam in the pot with all the other ingredients on medium-low heat for 8 minutes or so. I was afraid it would be gooey and yucky but the dumplings turned out great!

I served the final dish with some simple fresh steamed broccoli.

While it is difficult to photograph a dish like this without making it look like goop, trust me when I say it turned out quite nicely, and was bursting with fresh veggies, tender chicken and tasty dumplings! It’s the type of dish that you can eat far too much of without even realizing it, because it’s that light and delicious.

Highly recommended.

– Nate

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We just got back from a fantastic trip to Chicago to see Devin’s brother graduate. I had never been to the Windy City before and was nearly overwhelmed (in a good way) by everything we got to see and do. We had unbelievable food, stayed in an amazing hotel, went on an INCREDIBLE architectural boat tour and enjoyed wonderful company all weekend long. Mixed in with high-brow attractions like the Hancock Signature Lounge and Art Institute of Chicago I was fortunate enough to sample Chicago’s infamous hot dogs.

I was floored.

For those poor souls who do not know what a Chicago dog is, let me please fill you in. Poppy seed bun. Steamed or boiled all-beef hot dog. Mustard. NO ketchup. Onion. Freakishly green pickle relish. Dill pickle spear. Tomato. Sport peppers. Celery salt.

Amazing.

Chicago Dog

This photo was taken at our favorite Chicago dog stop….Downtown Dogs near the Magnificent Mile, 804 N Rush St at E Chicago Ave, Chicago 60611, 312-951-514.

Downtown Dogs

We did our research and asked everyone from Chicago where the best dogs were. Downtown Dogs was Devin’s brother’s favorite, and boy was it a good recommendation! The combination of tastes was just unbelievable. Oh, and before I go and look like a fool to true Chicago folks, I will admit that the hot dog pictured above is technically NOT a Chicago dog but in fact a “char dog” because the dog is grilled, only difference. We got the traditional Chicago dogs as well.

The “restaurant” itself was very interesting. It was about the size of our kitchen and had maybe six or eight barstools available for eating. Also, it had a very strong “dog” motif used throughout, including dog wallpaper and dog photos taped to all the windows.

About to enjoy a Chicago Dog

The smile pictured above is one of polite restraint, as I was quite ready to lay into my second Chicago dog after being introduced to the sheer perfection of the first. I highly recommend making a trip to the Windy City to try these excellent dogs. And if you’ve been to Chicago and had a Chicago dog, you should try Downtown Dogs next time you’re in town.

– Nate

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Tomato Chickpea Curry

Once again it’s Wednesday and I have mustered up the energy to cook after a traffic-y commute home. I’m usually only SUPER-excited about cooking on the weekends, when there’s more leisure time than I know what to do with. But there are these occasional stray weeknights where I manage to pull something together even when I don’t feel like it.

And tonight, I needed RACHAEL. She always fills me up and never lets me down. This afternoon I decided that tonight I’d be in the mood for something Asian, something light, something fantastic. I thought it would be neat to do a very lime-y, cilantro-y dish, light and tangy, but couldn’t find a recipe that tickled my senses, so out with that idea . . . for now. Instead I drifted towards the idea of a creative curry, something new and exciting but warm and familiar at the same time. Safe and delicious without being a dish we made last week. Boy oh boy, I searched up and down Epicurious.com and Food Network, two of my fav recipe websites, and I just couldn’t find something that looked easy and delicious without requiring 24+ hours of marinating or soaking. I was not initially thinking “Rachael Ray” when I decided on a curry, but I thought I’d zip on over to her magazine website to give it a try. (On a side note, Rachael’s magazine website, as opposed to any of her multiple other websites, seems to have the most organized and helpful recipe collection. By far.) Sure enough, she had plenty of curry dishes and several that looked new and exciting. I settled on a “Roasted Tomato and Chickpea Curry” and started salivating almost immediately.

I absolutely adore tomatoes and chickpeas, so I knew that I was not going to go wrong with this dish. A couple of changes, if you’re looking at the recipe. I opted out of homemade roasted tomatoes . . . I’m certainly not against the practice and have had excellent results in the recent past roasting my own tomatoes . . . but tonight, Wednesday night, I just didn’t feel like it. I substituted it for two cans of peeled diced tomatoes, partially drained. Also, I adore garlic, so I threw in 3 or 4 cloves instead of the prescribed 1. Finally, between the choices of ground turkey and ground chicken, I chose turkey because I was in the mood for extra-light-and-healthy.

This dish is very simple and hard to mess up. And delicious. I used the Cuisinart to mince the onion and garlic and let those two go in a little olive oil in my favorite big pot. Once those were a little browned and VERY fragrant I threw in the ground turkey and spices. I mixed those up and let everything cook through slowly before throwing in the tomatoes, chickpeas, chicken broth, lemon zest, salt and pepper.

Couple of notes: Rachael says 1 teaspoon salt, I think I would have used about half that in retrospect. The final dish was not at all overly-salty but it was getting there and that’s one thing I don’t like to risk. Also, always remember to rinse your chickpeas or other types of beans, as they are canned in horribly salty preservative water that could dilute your dish and is certainly not healthy for you. Finally, let me dote on the lemon zest. The lemon zest MADE this dish in a big way. Boy, it added that fresh and tangy taste I was looking for at the beginning of my quest, and I’m so glad Ray-Ray thought to add it in. Delish!

Okay, back to the recipe. I simmered the dish for 10 minutes, and the final step is adding in 1.5 cups of plain unsweetened yogurt, which really gives the whole thing a little more pizzazz. I served the curry on top of yummy Basmati rice (and no, you may not substitute Uncle Ben’s for Basmati rice…trust me, it is worth an extra trip to the grocery!) and had al dente broccoli on the side. We always strive to have a fresh green on the side. I remember growing up whenever our cats ate rich foods they would go chew on grass, which I suppose made their stomachs feel better. Humans are the same way! Every delicious meal can be so much more enjoyable with a nice and simple green to balance things out. I’ve served really fantastic dishes that are forgotten because of their rich after-effects, so it’s always nice to include something green and stabilizing.

This dish will definitely be going in the recipe folder for future use.

– Nate

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This is perhaps one of my all-time favorite recipes. The fresh sweet corn, cilantro, roma tomatoes and black beans are tossed in an unbelievably tasty and unique sauce of cinder vinegar, olive oil, garlic and onion, and a little fresh jalepeno.  And the secret ingredient is one tablespoon of Red Chile Honey. The entire blend is incredible. It easily works as a side salad or a salsa atop tacos, salads or chips.

I am always surprised (and very pleased) when the salsa gets lots of attention at dinner parties. Literally every time I put a bowl of this out, people rave about the flavor. And it’s hard not to love, especially during sweet corn season – there’s not much better than fresh corn off the cob!

My mom found this recipe on a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. She also brought back a jar of the special Red Chile Honey from a small cooking company down there. Now that I’m nearly out of that jar, I’ve been looking for a recipe to recreate the honey. Here it is:

Red Chile Honey
1 Cup Honey
1 Tablespoon Red Chile Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/4 Teaspoon Garlic Salt
 

This is not a difficult recipe, but it can be more time-consuming than it looks at first glance with all the prep work: lots of chopping, shucking and de-kerneling the corn cobs and sauteing the onion/garlic. It’s well worth it, however! And the flavors get better the longer it sits – so make it the night before serving if you can.

Here is the crowd-pleasing recipe for Corn, Tomato and Black Bean Salsa: (Yield 2 1/2 Cups)

1/2 Cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 jalapeno chile, minced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Red Chile Honey
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup fresh corn kernels (about 3-4 ears)
3 large ripe Roma tomatoes
1 cup cooked, rinsed black beans

1. Lightly saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft.
2. Place the chopped cilantro, cumin seep, jalapeno, vinegar, honey and salt in a mixing bowl and combine well.
3. Add the corn, tomato, black beans and sauteed ingredients. Stir to combine thoroughly. Let the salsa stand for 30-45 minutes to blend the flavors.

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Tip: Toss tainted teflon


So one of my favorite Calphalon non-stick skillets finally succumbed to an occasional bout of stupidity. It was only a matter of time, I suppose. In the frenzy of preparing a meal for our writers’ group, I inadvertently used a metal spatula to flip my roasting chicken breasts, severely scraping the bottom of the pan in the process.

I wish there was something I could do to salvage the pan. But by all accounts, it must be tossed.

Teflon pieces are highly toxic and can easily contaminate food in a scraped pan. Once the scratch/tear has started, it will continue to peel away. 

Here is a NY Times article talking about the environmental and health concerns surrounding teflon. 

-Devin

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