Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chicken tetrazzini with tarragon and white wine

I meant to make this last week, when Steve brought home a rotisserie chicken from the Pig, but I didn't get to it before we went camping for the weekend and the chicken's unofficial "eat by" date came and went.  So, he bought another one tonight and I went to work.  It's this recipe (Martha Stewart has a better one than Giada De Laurentiis - go figure) with a few tweaks.  For one, I added half a chopped onion just because I had it in the fridge.  I also only made half the recipe using only the dark meat from the rotisserie chicken, and instead of the proportions of wine, broth and milk indicated here, I used one cup each of milk and white wine, in that order.  It just seemed like more trouble than it was worth to heat one cup of water for broth while I was already multi-tasking the rest.  While the sauce was reducing down, I added about two teaspoons of dried tarragon because I didn't feel like going out to the backyard to feed mosquitoes snip fresh thyme.  So, it's more Franco-Italian than Italian.

I liked it well enough and Steve liked it well enough, but I think next time I'll use more salt.  (For that I didn't check the recipe; I think I just went with about half a teaspoon, figuring the Parmesan would add some as well.)  I really like how tarragon adds an aromatic quality to dishes in which you don't normally expect that, but between that, the wine (and no broth) and the peas, I couldn't help thinking that more salt would have balanced the flavors. 

Whatever I make will most likely involve broccoli, tomatoes and/or zucchini, since they're the next things I need to rotate out of the fridge.  Until then...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Big Salad

I used to make this salad all the time, several years back, and settled on this name during a Seinfeld kick.  I never actually saw Elaine eat the "big salad" she liked to order at the diner, but I figured that if it's big, then it must have a lot of stuff on it.  Some of the variations on this salad had grated Parmesan and/or croutons instead of the chick peas, but this version has long been my favorite.  And with all the canned ingredients, half the work is already done!  Here's the per-person recipe I made for Steve and myself the other night (and for myself again last night):

3 oz. fresh spinach leaves, washed and dried
2-3 tbsp Ken's Northern Italian dressing
3 oz. canned corn
2 oz. sliced black olives
1 Roma tomato, diced
4 oz. chick peas
pinch of salt
4-5 turns of fresh ground pepper

Place the spinach leaves on a plate and drizzle with the dressing.  Scatter the corn over the spinach and follow it with the olives, then the tomato, then the chick peas.  Finish with the salt and pepper.

Steve wanted feta cheese on his, so he added, I want to say, about 2 tablespoons.  I didn't, but I might one day.  Maybe if I make Greek dressing instead of using the Italian?

And last night I was lazy and didn't bother chopping the tomato - just rinsed and dried the spinach and then followed with the rest.  This is a very easy recipe to make on a hot day when you want something healthy but not enough to hover over a hot stove.  Since the 10-day forecast says we'll be having more days like this, I'll probably be making this again in the near future...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mushroom Celery Risotto

This isn't the first time I've cooked since my last post, but the efforts in between were a replay of my ratatouille and a batch of jambalaya that I forgot to photograph before storing the leftovers in the freezer.   It was time to cook again when I realized the leftovers were all gone.

I decided on this because I had some celery in the fridge that I was tired of looking at.  It's a lot like my spinach risotto except for the celery and mushrooms.  The recipe was as follows:

2 tbsp olive oil
5-6 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
3 cloves garlic
8 oz. frozen sliced mushrooms, thawed (undrained)
1 cup arborio rice
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1-2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Heat the olive oil in a 2 qt saucepan over medium heat.  Add the celery and garlic and cook until the celery is tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Add thawed mushrooms with liquid and stir well.  Add rice to the vegetable mixture and stir; cook for 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring chicken broth to a boil.  After completing the above steps, begin adding the broth, one cup at a time, to the vegetable and rice mixture.  With each cup, stir well and add the next cup once all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice.  Continue until rice has absorbed all the broth.  Add nutmeg and pepper and stir.  Grate the Parmesan over the risotto and stir well to melt.

This dinner was right on time.  Most of my "dinners" this week have been snacks in front of the TV, and I was ready to eat a real meal.  Steve seemed happy about it too, and I'm especially happy to have leftovers for tomorrow's lunch.  If you have any celery and no idea what to do with it, give this a try!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hoppin' John

A simple Labor Day repast with ample leftovers to keep me from having to cook again until Thursday or Friday.  Red peppers are courtesy of our new friend Steve W., who brought them to our weekend camping destination from his home in Goose Creek.

Hoppin' John: it's not just for New Year's anymore!

2 cups chicken broth
1 lb frozen black-eyed peas, thawed
2 tbsp canola oil
12 oz frozen okra, thawed
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 red bell peppers, diced
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground whole oregano
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
2 tsp chipotle Tabasco sauce
2 cups basmati rice

Bring chicken broth to a boil, add thawed black-eyed peas and simmer over medium heat until tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of water to a boil, add rice, reduce heat to medium-low, stir well, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 15 minutes.

Once these have been cooking for a few minutes, heat canola oil in a wide, shallow saucepan over medium heat.  Add okra, stir well and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, oregano, salt, cayenne, bell peppers and onion, stir and cook until all vegetables have softened, about 5 more minutes.  Add chipotle sauce and black-eyed peas with any remaining broth to the sauce pan and cook until broth has reduced by half, about 5 more minutes.

Once everything is cooked, make a shallow bed of rice on each plate, top with black-eyed pea mixture and serve.

So as you can see, I know quite a few ways to make beans and rice.  The veggies and seasonings make all the difference, especially with this recipe.  The chipotle hot sauce gives it a nice Liquid Smoke flavor that I miss when I don't have any of this sauce on hand.

When I was plating this up, Steve put spoons on the table and was surprised to discover that I wasn't serving this up in a bowl - because you're supposed to??...Oh, well.  Mine's the only hoppin' john with okra that I've ever eaten, so I guess all bets are off.  Still, the leftovers got me through a long afternoon, and I'm guessing that they'll do the same again tomorrow.

Marinated chicken and zucchini

Don't have a fancy name for this recipe because it happened off-the-cuff.  While meal planning on Friday night for our weekend camping trip, I didn't have any ideas for the chicken, so Steve suggested white wine, black olives and red bell pepper.  So I made that using a red pepper from the backyard, and the side was a marinated zucchini dish that I've made a couple of times before.  Well, once again at the campsite, we ended up leaving our stuff in the cooler and partaking of a huge Labor Day weekend feast of barbeque chicken, green beans and peach cobbler.  And I'm not one to quote Rachael Ray, but...yum-o.

So, when we got home around noon on Sunday, Steve threw the foil-wrapped chicken and zucchini on the grill, and they did their thing while we trimmed back the wisteria and watched birds.  Up to this point, the preparation was as follows:

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, not split (about 1.5 lbs)
1/2 can black olives, split in half
1 small red bell pepper, julienned
salt and pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine

Prick holes in the chicken breasts with fork or a sharp knife.  Place in plastic storage container, add remaining ingredients and turn chicken pieces to make sure they come in contact with all the seasonings and vegetables. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

1.5 medium-large zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
salt and pepper
2 tsp dried Italian herb mix
2-3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2-3 tbsp olive oil

Combine all ingredients in plastic storage container.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

...so when we got home, two foil-wrapped packages went on the propane grill for...oh, I don't know, maybe 30 minutes?  I'll have to ask Steve when he's done mowing the lawn.  But both turned out surprisingly well.  I really didn't know what to expect with the chicken, since I almost never cook it in such a simple marinade where wine's involved.  But it was very flavorful and perfectly juicy - and I almost never find that to be true of a cooked chicken breast, which is why I prefer the dark meat.  The zucchini I thought might have all the liquid pulled out by the salt and vinegar, but it turned out just fine as well.  And I was very happy to see that Steve took care of the leftover chicken breast for lunch today, so that's all for that recipe until the next time!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Black beans and rice

What a busy week.  I actually made this on Friday for lunch and haven't been able to stop long enough to write about it.  This is a very simple vegan take on Cuban black beans and rice that I like to whip together when I don't have a lot of free time to spend in the kitchen:

3 cup basmati rice, rinsed
2 tbsp canola oil
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 can black beans, drained

Bring 1.5 cups of salted water to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, add rice, stir well and cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 13-15 minutes or until all water has been absorbed.

Meanwhile, heat canola oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add bell peppers and stir well.  Add garlic, cumin, oregano, salt and cayenne and cook until peppers have softened, about 5 minutes.  Add beans, stir well and cook until beans are warm, another 5 minutes.

Remove lid from rice, rake all of it with a fork and spoon desired amount onto plates.  Mix desired quantity of beans and peppers into rice on plates (or just top the rice with the beans).

I'm hungry again just writing about it, and I haven't been able to cook much since then.  Hopefully that will change tonight...