Friday, August 18, 2017

Grilled Spiced Salmon with Corn Relish

Last Year's Post: Mexican Chicken Pasta
Two Years Ago:   Roasted Tomato Californian

It's corn season, and this is a fun and different way to use fresh corn.  Almost nothing says "summer" more than grilling so celebrate the end of summer and the fleeting corn season with a healthy and delicious salmon and corn dinner.

I made fairly drastic changes to a recipe I found in the New York Times that featured halibut, but I'm sure the halibut would be equally good.  Their recipe called for pre-cooked corn which made no sense if you're going to be grilling anyway, does it?  If it's not corn season, just use frozen thawed corn - Trade Joes even has a bag of frozen roasted corn with nice char marks already on it that would be perfect.

Note that the recipe says to marinate the fish with spices for up to 3 hours, although I'm not sure why.  I think you could skip that step and go directly from rubbing on the spice mix to the grill, letting the fish sit and marinate on the side while you grill the corn.

Regarding the spices, they're fairly potent so use your discretion regarding how much to add to the salmon and how much to add to the corn relish.  I preferred a light hand with the spices so I could taste them more as a background note to the fresh salmon and corn. If you really like the spices in Indian food, by all means increase the amount.  Just remember you can always add more later but you can't take some out.

The yogurt might seem like an unusual addition but the neutral creaminess goes really well with the spices and the rich salmon.  If you skip (or shorten) the marinating step, this is a really easy weeknight dinner.  Start the grill, rub the spices on the salmon, then start some rice.  Grill the corn, then put the salmon on the grill while you (or a helpful friend) make the corn relish.  Start to finish, I would say this shouldn't take any longer than about 45 minutes.

Grilled Spiced Salmon with Corn Relish
Serves 4

2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground fennel seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 salmon fillets, 5-6 ounces each
2 lemons (1 juiced and 1 quartered)
1 large or 1 small ears fresh corn, shucked (about 2 cups of kernels)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves plus more for garnish
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
Hot cooked rice

Combine cumin, coriander, fennel, ½ teaspoon black pepper and ½ teaspoon salt.  Rub salmon fillets with juice of ½ lemon, then sprinkle on some of the spice mix (light to medium as preferred), leaving at least 2 teaspoons spice mix for the corn relish.  Rub the spice mix in, then refrigerate the salmon for up to 3 hours.

Preheat a grill to medium-high.  Brush the ears of corn with the vegetable oil, then grill for 2 minutes per each of 4 sides until grill-marked and tender.  Remove and let cool.

Place the salmon fillets on the grill skin side down for about 5 minutes, then carefully flip with a spatula (the skin should come right off).  Grill another 3-4 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 140d.  Remove and let rest for 5 minutes.

While the salmon is grilling, prepare the corn relish:  stand the ears of corn upright and cut the kernels off the cobs.  Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet, then add the chopped onion and sauté until tender.  Stir in 1-2 teaspoons spice mix (depending on preference) and sauté, stirring, until you can smell the spices.  Add corn kernels and the juice of ½ lemon.  Cook briefly to heat through, then add the cilantro and stir to combine.

To serve, place some rice on each plate.  Top with a salmon fillet and corn relish.  Add a dollop of yogurt or sour cream on the side and garnish with a lemon wedge and cilantro sprig.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Chicken Paillards

Last Year's Post:  Spanish Omelet
Two Years Ago:   Cold Sesame Noodles with Cucumber

Paillard (pie-yar) is just a fancy term for a chicken or veal cutlet that's been pounded until it's thin and then grilled or sauted.  It's often cooked in a skillet with the pan drippings used to make a sauce, but I like this particular recipe because it's healthier - the additional flavor comes from seasonings, greens and a mustardy vinaigrette instead of a butter sauce.  It's a very quick, elegant and healthy weeknight dinner.

My inspiration for making it this week was the container of baby kale that I found at the grocery store.  Baby kale?  Totally cute, ridiculously healthy, tender and delicious.  If you can find it, try it, but if you can't, use arugula for a similar tender-yet-slightly-bitter taste.

All you have to do is toast some nuts, gently pound the chicken, make the vinaigrette, cook the chicken for about 4 minutes, and toss the greens.  I think it took less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

One last note about pine nuts:  I added them here because I thought they would go perfectly, and they did.  However, there must be a worldwide pine nut shortage because they're expensive and hard to find at the moment, so feel free to substitute toasted almonds or walnuts.

Chicken Paillards
Serves 4

2 large or 4 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garlic powder
Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon grainy mustard
8 cups baby kale, baby arugula, or mixed greens
Shaved parmesan cheese
½ cup toasted pine nuts

To make the dressing, whisk the lemon zest and juice, mustard, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a bowl until combined (or shake in a small jar).  Season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.

Preheat a grill pan, outdoor grill, or large nonstick pan to medium high.

If using large chicken breasts, cut each in half horizontally to make two cutlets.  Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound gently using a meat hammer until each is an even thickness and quite thin – about ¼”.  Remove the chicken pieces from the plastic and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, massaging it into both sides with your hands.  Sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

If using a nonstick pan, coat lightly with oil.  Grill or sauté the chicken pieces for 2-3 minutes per side until cooked through.  Place on individual plates

Combine the greens with just enough dressing to coat lightly, then mound on top of the chicken.  Top with parmesan shavings, toasted pine nuts and additional freshly ground black pepper.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Zucchini Parmesan

Last Year's Post:  Savory Kale and Corn Galette
Two Years Ago:    Spanish Shrimp

It's summer, which means fresh tomatoes and zucchini are everywhere.  If you have a garden or made a recent trip to the farmer's market this is a perfect way to use some of them up.  I recently made a similar recipe for zucchini roll-ups stuffed with ricotta and topped with a tomato sauce that was very good but pretty fussy and time-consuming so the idea of simply layering the zucchini, cheese and sauce was appealing.

The original recipe didn't have ricotta cheese, which made it a nice light side dish.  Adding the ricotta makes it a satisfying vegetarian entree. It's your choice either way.

If you don't have a bunch of fresh tomatoes, you could always used good quality canned tomatoes.  To make it even easier,  you could buy a marinara sauce at the store.

First you thinly slice the zucchini, then bake until tender. Layer the zucchini, sauce, and ricotta mixture (if using) with Parmesan and bake.  I wanted to use a pretty oval baking dish for the pictures, but couldn't quite figure out how to layer the rectangular zucchini slices in an oval dish.  Next time I think I'll just bake more zucchini and overlap them every which way, if that makes sense.

This is not only healthy, but truly delicious.

Zucchini Parmesan
Serves 6

For the tomato sauce:
2 to 2 ½ pounds fresh ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped 
2-4 garlic cloves, to taste
Salt and pepper
1/8 teaspoon sugar
2 sprigs fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

For the zucchini parmesan:
2 to 2 ½ pounds zucchini
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks
2 garlic cloves, grated
3-4 sprigs fresh basil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 

Line 2 sheet pans with parchment.  Trim ends off zucchini and cut in half crosswise, then cut into thin lengthwise slices about ¼ to 1/3” thick.  Season both sides with salt and pepper and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Arrange zucchini slices on baking sheets in a single layer and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.  Roast for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned and tender.  Remove and let cool.  Reduce oven to 375d.

While the zucchini cooks and cool, make the sauce:  if you have a food mill, quarter the tomatoes.  If not, peel, seed and chop them.  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add onion.  Cook, stirring often until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar and basil sprigs.  Increase heat to medium-high.  When tomatoes are bubbling briskly, stir and reduce heat to medium.  Cook, stirring often, until tomatoes have cooked down and are beginning to stick to the pan, 15-25 minutes.  Remove basil sprigs; taste and adjust seasonings.  If using a food mill, put sauce through medium blade.  If not, pulse sauce in a food processor until just coarsely pureed.  Stir in chopped basil.

To assemble and bake:  place the ricotta, egg yolks, grated garlic and basil in a small food processor and pulse to combine.  Set aside. Oil a 2-quart dish with olive oil or nonstick spray. Spread ¼ cup tomato sauce over the bottom of the dish.  Arrange a third of the zucchini slices in an even layer over the tomato sauce.  Spoon a third of the remaining sauce over the zucchini and sprinkle with ¼ cup Parmesan.  Repeat one additional layer, then spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the second layer.  Add one more layer of zucchini, sauce and Parmesan.  Drizzle on the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. 

Bake 30-35 minutes until bubbling and browned.  Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.  

Friday, July 28, 2017

Grilled Shrimp Quesadillas

Last Year's Post: healthy white bean dip
Two Years Ago:  chicken quinoa salad with nectarine vinaigrette

Ahhh, summer.  Ideal summer foods are light, simple and tasty.  If they involve grilling, so much the better.  These shrimp quesadillas fit the bill in every way - they involve a grand total of five ingredients (not counting vegetable oil, which really shouldn't count) plus two brief grill visits to create something pretty special and very delicious.

You start by grilling some shrimp and red onion.  While they grill (a total of maybe 10 whole minutes) you could a) sip a glass of wine and enjoy the breeze or b) shred some cheese for the next step.  If you're really good you can do all three at the same time, but stay close to the grill - those shrimp go fast.

When the shrimp and onion are done, the onion is chopped and the shrimp sliced in half to form crescents.  Dump the cheese, onion and shrimp on flour tortillas and grill until pretty, folding partway through.  Serve with your favorite salsa or pico de gallo - just nothing too hot or bold that might overpower the shrimp.

A note about this recipe - it's from Rick Bayless, one of my favorite chefs.  He calls for a young Manchego cheese, which is Spanish.  He probably specifies young cheese because it gets stronger as it ages and again, he doesn't want to overpower the shrimp.  It was very good with Manchego but you could certainly substitute Monterey Jack if you felt like it.  You could also add lobster or crab in addition to the shrimp to make the quesadillas really special.

One quesadilla per person makes a light dinner with a side salad, or you could cut them into small pieces to use as an appetizer or part of a Mexican party table.

print recipe
Grilled Shrimp Quesadillas
Makes 6 quesadillas

½ medium red onion, cut into ½-inch rounds
12 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp
 ¼ cup vegetable oil, divided
3 cups (about 12 ounces) shredded young Manchego cheese
6 (8-10 inch) flour tortillas
Salsa, for serving

Heat a gas grill to medium-high on one side, medium on the other, or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the charcoal is covered with white ash, then bank the coals to one side. Using an oil mister or pastry brush, oil each onion round on both sides and lay on the hottest side of the grill. Cook, flipping them half way through, until soft and grill-marked, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool, then cut into ½-inch pieces.

Place shrimp on skewers for easy cooking.  Oil the shrimp on both sides and lay the hottest side of the grill. Cook, flipping halfway through, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes total. When the shrimp are cool enough to handle, cut them in half through the back making two crescents.

Lay the tortillas on the cooler side of the grill. Top each with about ½ cup of cheese and cook until the cheese starts to melt.  Divide the grilled onion and shrimp among the tortillas. When the cheese is about half melted, fold the tortillas in half, enclosing the filling. Cook the quesadillas until the tortillas are lightly grilled and the filling is warmed through, about 2 minutes per side. Serve with your favorite salsa.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sicilian Grilled Swordfish

Last Year's Post: Chinese Chicken Salad
Two Years Ago:   Grilled Salmon with Kale and Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

If you like swordfish, you're going to love this recipe.  Relatively thin swordfish steaks are quickly grilled and then soaked in a lemon, olive oil and oregano sauce.  Since they're thin and pierced with a fork before pouring the sauce over the hot fish, the flavor permeates throughout the fish while the sauce keeps it wonderfully moist and tender.  If you can't find thin swordfish steaks, just ask you fishmonger to cut a thick one in half horizontally (or do it yourself).

Because it's easy to overcook swordfish until it becomes dry and tough and particularly if it's thin, I strongly recommend buying an instant thermometer if you don't have one already.  They're invaluable for testing the doneness of meats and poultry in addition to fish.  The new thermometers read the temperature within a second or two after insertion so you don't need to fool with one of those thermometers that stay in the food in your oven or grill and you can quickly test the temperature in multiple spots which is particularly helpful with something like chicken or turkey.

I served the swordfish with an orzo salad on the side with black olives, roasted tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and lemon dressing to continue the Sicilian theme.  Leftovers made a great lunch salad the next day.

Sicilian Grilled Swordfish
Serves 4

Note: If you can only find thick swordfish steaks have the fishmonger cut them in half horizontally for you.

4 relatively thin (1/2” or so) swordfish steaks, 5-6 ounces each
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, cut into quarters

Preheat a grill (or indoor grill pan) to medium-high.

For the sauce, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Set aside.

Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat for 2 minutes on the first side, then flip and turn for another 1-2 minutes until almost cooked through and the internal temperature reaches 120d.  Remove to a flat dish, prick holes in the fish with a fork, and pour the lemon sauce over the fish while it’s hot.  Cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes to soak up the sauce and finish cooking.

Serve the fish with sauce poured over and a lemon quarter on the side.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Spanish Chicken Salad with Manchego and Smoky Almonds

Last Year's Post:  Spiced Carrot Soup (Hot or Cold)
Two Years Ago:   Baked Falafel

This is a sophisticated salad that's incredibly easy to throw together in the time it takes to toast some almonds.  But there are a few somewhat unusual ingredients that are key:  Manchego cheese, smoked paprika, piquillo peppers and really good sherry vinegar.  Manchego cheese is a Spanish cheese similar to Gruyere that you can find in most good cheese shops.  Smoked paprika can be found in some spice aisles and at Penzeys, my favorite spice store.  Smoked paprika is very Spanish and makes the salad much more interesting so don't be tempted to substitute regular paprika.  Piquillo peppers can be found in most grocery stores next to regular jarred roasted red peppers.  I think they have a brighter and more interesting taste than regular roasted red peppers but if you can't find them, regular roasted peppers would be fine.

And finally, sherry vinegar.  Sherry vinegar is my favorite vinegar ever since I had the opportunity to sample a really good quality one from Spain, and I'll never go back.  Please don't buy one of those little bottles from the grocery store.  Take the time and effort to get a high-quality bottle from your local gourmet store or online - the difference in taste is amazing.  I bought this one online from iGourmet.

Anyway, after you buy the Spanish ingredients it's a very quick salad to assemble because you use precooked deli chicken.  The only cooking you do is to toast the almonds.  Stay nearby and stir frequently while they toast because they can burn fast.

Spanish Chicken Salad with Manchego and Smoky Almonds
Serves 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup sliced almonds
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 cups salad green, preferably red and green
½ cup drained piquillo peppers from jar, cut into thin strips
4 cups shredded deli chicken meat
1 cup Manchego cheese, cut into cubes or strips

Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add almonds and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes.  Watch closely so they don’t turn too dark.  Transfer almonds to paper towels and sprinkle with smoked paprika and salt.  Let cool.

Whisk shallot, vinegar and oil in a small bowl (or shake in a small jar with lid) to blend.  Season dressing with salt and pepper.  Place salad greens in a large bowl.  Add dressing and toss to coat.  Divide among plates, then top with rows of chicken, peppers, cheese, and almonds.  (Alternately, toss everything together except the almonds and divide between plates, then sprinkle almonds on top.)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Grilled Korean Shrimp

Last Year's Post: Coconut Chicken Fingers
Two Years Ago:   Ravioli with Fresh Corn

If you like Korean food or spicy food in general, you'll love these shrimp.  The sauce gives them big, bold flavor with enough kick to make your lips tingle for a few minutes so be sure to serve them with a nice cold beverage. I particularly like the look of the shrimp and onions after grilling.

They're very quick and easy to make (no marinating) and would be perfect as part of a summer grilling party - serve one or two shrimp with green onions on mini-skewers for each person.  Larger skewers could be served over a big green salad, or with fried rice, or as I did over a tangle of noodles with garlic, olive oil and parsley.

The Lawyer said this picture looks like music.  :-)
The only unusual ingredient is Gochujang, which is a thick, dark red Korean spice paste that's essential to Korean cooking.  At one time I would have hesitated to post a recipe using it, but I recently found it in the Asian section of my local Fry's store so it's getting much easier to find.  If your grocery store doesn't carry it, you can find it at your local Asian market.

One of my favorite parts of the recipe is the green onion - crispy-charred and spicy from the basting sauce, they taste sort of like spicy fried onions.  This is a unique and unusual twist on grilled shrimp that's completely delicious.

Grilled Korean Shrimp
Serves 4

16 colossal (U10-12) or 20 extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 green onions, trimmed, white and light green part cut into 2 inch lengths
Kosher salt

Gochujang sauce
1/4 cup Gochujang paste (Korean red pepper paste.)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Wooden skewers, soaked

Using 2 skewers side by side, alternately thread on pieces of green onion and shrimp, beginning and ending with green onions. Sprinkle the skewers lightly on both sides with the kosher salt. Whisk the Gochujang sauce ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat (400°F).

Put the skewers on the grill over direct medium-high heat and cook for three minutes. Flip the skewers and baste with the sauce.  Cook for another two minutes, flip the skewers, and baste again. Cook for one more minute. Remove the skewers to a platter, and brush one last time with sauce (or serve with additional leftover sauce on the side).   Serve hot or at room temperature.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Spaghetti with Lemon and Walnuts

Last Year's Post: Grilled Lobster Tails
Two Years Ago:   Southwest Grilled Shrimp Salad

If spaghetti with marinara and meatballs is classic winter comfort food, then this is its summer cousin - spaghetti with a light but very flavorful sauce of lemon, garlic, parsley and walnuts. It's definitely an unusual combination for spaghetti, don't you think?  You can serve it either warm or at room temperature, making it even more appealing for warm summer months.  And of course you could add some grilled chicken or shrimp if you really want, but I find it very satisfying as a vegetarian entree.

I think of this recipe as being minimalist in concept but definitely not in taste.  Just because it doesn't have a long list of ingredients, don't be fooled.  Each ingredient plays an important part for big impact: fruity olive oil, fragrant lemon zest and bright juice, mellow garlic slices, grassy parsley, crunchy toasted walnuts, grated Parmesan, and freshly ground black pepper.  Because there are so few ingredients, be sure to use the best you can find.

The original recipe called for adding the parmesan into the pasta while it's still in the pan, and stirring to make a "creamy sauce".  I found it made big gooey clumps of parsley and half-melted cheese instead, so I adapted the recipe to add the parmesan later.  Same tastes, happier result.

Spaghetti with Lemon and Walnuts
Serves 3-4

May be served warm or at room temperature.

8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for drizzling
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 ½ cups chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Zest from ½ lemon
2 ½ ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 2/3 cup)
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 lemon, cut into quarters, for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 teaspoon salt.  Add pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions.  Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid, then drain the pasta.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook 2 minutes until pale golden-brown.  Place the pasta in the skillet, tossing to coat.  Add the parsley and toss, adding some pasta water if the pasta looks dry.  Taste and adjust salt if needed; sprinkle with pepper. 

Divide among shallow bowls and garnish with lemon zest, parmesan and walnuts.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil and add lemon quarters on the side for squeezing.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Thai Chicken Salad (Copy Cat Panera Spicy Thai Salad with Chicken)

Last Year's Post: Salmon Nicoise Salad
Two Years Ago:   Muffuletta

This is my favorite Panera salad by far.  I think it's the spicy peanut drizzle along with the crunch of Romaine, edamame, wonton strips and nuts that makes it so satisfying while still low-fat and healthy.  Although I found several versions of the recipe online that supposedly re-created the salad, a lot of them had strange variations (yogurt in the sauce?  I mean, really.)  I KNOW this salad and wanted to re-create it as faithfully as possible so I combined various elements from all the recipes and was very happy with the result.  (OK, true confession, I substituted peanuts for cashews because that's what I had on hand.  Same difference.)

As you go through the Panera ordering line, the server first tosses the greens with dressing, then adds a scoop of edamame/carrots/red pepper and another scoop of sliced chicken.  The peanut drizzle, wonton strips and nuts go on last.  Can you tell I've ordered it a few times?  This recipe mimics that process.  The only thing I couldn't tell is whether they marinate their chicken before cooking, but I found an interesting marinade in one of the recipes so I tried it.  The resulting flavor is delicate but complements the salad very well.  If you don't feel like marinating the chicken I don't think it will impact the salad much with all those other big flavors, which means you could make it quickly any night of the week using a grilled or rotisserie chicken breast from the deli.

The good news is that the only somewhat unusual ingredient is Thai sweet red chile sauce, which you can find in the Asian condiments at any grocery store.

Start by marinating and cooking the chicken, if applicable, so it can cool.  You could also do this in advance.  Then saute the veggies so they can cool which only takes a few minutes, or it can also be done in advance.  Make the salad dressing and peanut drizzle, then you're ready to assemble.

Thai Chicken Salad (Copycat Panera)

Chicken Marinade:
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, grated
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 small lime, juiced
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts

Vegetable oil
1 small carrot, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup shelled edamame (defrosted if frozen)
8-10 cups Romaine hearts, chopped (about 3 hearts)  
½ cup chopped cilantro
4 green onions, sliced
1 cup wonton strips
½ cup chopped cashews or peanuts

1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup Thai sweet red chili sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Pinch of salt and pepper

Peanut Sauce:
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Thai sweet red chili sauce
2 tablespoons water (more if needed)

In a ziplock bag, combine all ingredients for the chicken marinade.  Add the chicken and massage the bag to coat the chicken on both sides, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Cook the chicken on a grill or in a 350d oven for about 30 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165d.  Set aside to cool, then cut into bite-sized pieces.

Preheat a nonstick skillet to medium, and then add a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil.  Cook the chopped carrot, red pepper and edamame until charred and slightly soft.  Cool mixture and set aside.  In a small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients; taste and adjust seasoning as needed.  In a second small bowl, combine all the peanut sauce ingredients; thin with a little additional water if it seems too thick to drizzle. 

In a large bowl, combine the Romaine, cilantro, and green onions. Toss with enough dressing to barely coat.  Divide among serving bowls, and then top with chicken and vegetable mixture.  Drizzle with the peanut sauce and top with wonton strips and nuts.

Friday, June 16, 2017


Last Year's Post:  Tomatillo Salsa Verde
Two Years Ago:    Farro and Kale Salad

This is another installment in my occasional and erratic series of famous sandwiches of the world.  Past posts have included pan bagnatbanh miItalian tunachicken schnitzel, and buffalo chicken sliders to name a few.  Cubanos originated in Florida and are made with Cuban rolls, roast pork, ham, pickles, Swiss cheese and mustard, all pressed together on a griddle or grill until warm and crisp.  Outside of Miami they also often include salami.  Although the most authentic version calls for yellow mustard, I used a combination of both whole grain and Dijon mustards for different textures and flavors.  And again although Cuban bread is authentic, you probably won't find it outside of a Mexican market in most cities.  Any soft oblong roll will work - just don't use a hard crusty French roll because it won't compress and crisp they way it should.

If you can find roast pork in the deli, that's great, otherwise plan to make Cubanos with the leftovers next time you make a pork roast or tenderloin.  Use the best quality Swiss cheese you can find, and slice everything as thinly as possible.  Placing cheese on both the top and bottom of each roll ensure the whole thing sticks together as the cheese melts.

Cubanos are like the best ham and cheese sandwich you've ever had, all crispy and warm and gooey.  There's a reason they're famous.

Serves 2

2 (8 to 10”) Cuban rolls (or soft Bolillo or hoagie rolls)
4-5 ounces roast pork, leftover or purchased from the deli
4 thin slices of smoked ham
6 slices best-quality aged Swiss cheese
Yellow mustard or Dijon mustard
2 medium dill pickles, thinly sliced lengthwise
2 tablespoons softened butter or olive oil

Preheat a Panini press or large skillet over medium heat.

Split the rolls lengthwise.  Slice the leftover pork as thinly as possible.

Spread a thin layer of mustard on the top and bottom of each roll.  Tear each piece of Swiss cheese in half and place 1 ½ slices (3 rectangles) on the bottom and top of each roll.  Layer the pork, ham and pickles on the bottom of each roll.  Close the sandwiches, pressing gently together.

Brush the top and bottom of each sandwich with softened butter or olive oil.  Place the sandwiches in the press, using moderate pressure, for about 8 minutes until crisp on both sides.  If using a skillet, use a second pan to press on the top of the sandwiches for about 4 minutes, then flip to crisp the second side.  Sandwiches should be somewhat compressed but not completely flat.

Slice sandwiches in half and serve.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Indonesian Grilled Swordfish

Last Year's Post: Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sliders
Two Years Ago:   Mini Shrimp Tacos

This recipe is from Ina Garten of Food Network fame.  She claims that it started as her famous Indonesian Ginger Chicken recipe and then she tried it with swordfish.  I've never tried the chicken version although I did notice several of the ingredients are different between the two recipes.  With the omission of honey (from the chicken recipe) and the addition of mustard I'm not even sure this would be considered Indonesian, but whatever.  That's what she calls it.  In any event, it's moist, tender and full of delicious flavors.  If you like swordfish, you'll love this recipe. The marinade doesn't overpower the swordfish but somehow makes the fish taste more delicate.  Don't ask me how that works!

If you happen to look at the swordfish recipe on the Food Network site, note that it has an error regarding the marinating time.  On the video Ina says to marinate no more than 6 hours or the fish will start to break down, but the printed recipe states to marinate at least 6 hours and up to overnight.  Many comments stated that the marinating time should be no more than 6 hours.  I marinated the fish for about 5 hours and it was great.

If you're making the recipe for less than 6 people, I suggest that you make the full amount of marinade and save a small amount separately, then brush it on cut-up vegetables and grill them along with the swordfish.  Onion, zucchini, red peppers and mushrooms are particularly nice and are easy to grill when cut into pieces and threaded on skewers.  Serve the swordfish and vegetables with rice or couscous on the side for a very healthy and delicious dinner.

Indonesian Grilled Swordfish
Serves 6

1/3 cup soy sauce
¼ cup canola or peanut oil
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup minced ginger root
2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Six (6-8 ounce) swordfish steaks, 1” thick
Lemon wedges, for serving

Combine all ingredients except the swordfish in a gallon zip-top bag. Seal the bag and squeeze/massage ingredients to combine.  Open the bag and add the swordfish steaks; reseal and shake to coat the steaks thoroughly.  Refrigerate for 4-6 hours (no more than 6 or the swordfish will start to break down), turning the bag occasionally.

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high.

Remove the fish from the marinade allowing some of the ginger to stick to the fish, and discard the marinade.  Season the fish lightly with salt and place on the grill.  Cook for about 5 minutes per side until the internal temperature is 125d.  Allow to rest for a few minutes before serving with lemon wedges on the side.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Chicken Tikka

Last Year's Post: Blackberry Hoisin Ginger Pork Tenderloin
Two Years Ago:   Red-On-Red Chicken Salad

We all love chicken, but sometimes you can get tired of the same old recipes.  Get out of your chicken rut with Chicken Tikka, a dish popular in India and Pakistan in which chunks of boneless chicken are marinated in spices and grilled.  The marinade often includes yogurt, but this particular recipe omits the yogurt from that step and adds a small amount of yogurt to a very delicious cilantro-mint chutney for dipping.  Don't confuse chicken tikka with chicken tikka masala, which typically includes tomatoes, yogurt and a bunch of heavy cream to make a rich sauce for the chicken.  Delicious, but not very healthy.

The chicken tastes quite exotic from all the spices but is not particularly spicy-hot.  If you like heat, add more cayenne to the marinade or add more chile to the chutney. And don't be tempted to skip the chutney - it really makes the dish.  I like   to serve the chicken with some grilled veggies and basmati rice for a very healthy and balanced meal.

If you have leftovers, you can easily make a pasta salad by combining the chicken with cooked penne pasta, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, chopped bell pepper and a little leftover chutney for the sauce.

Chicken Tikka
Serves 6

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 ½ ” cubes
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons garlic, grated
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
4 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Mini bell peppers, zucchini and/or onion pieces, optional

Mix together canola oil, garlic, ginger, spices, lemon juice and salt in a large dish or large zip top bag. Add the chicken and stir into marinade until evenly coated. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours, turning periodically.

Thread the chicken onto skewers. Thread the vegetables on a separate skewer.  Grill chicken for 4 minutes over medium-high heat, flip and grill an additional 2 minutes until cooked through. Grill vegetables 2 minutes, flip and grill an additional 2 minutes.  Serve with cilantro-mint chutney.

Cilantro-Mint Chutney
2 c. of cilantro, loosely packed
1 c. of mint leaves, loosely packed
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1/2 t. garlic, minced
1/2 t. ginger, minced
1/2 t. ground cumin
1 t. serrano chile, minced
1/2 t. sugar
1/2 t. kosher salt
2 T. lemon juice
2-3 T. plain yogurt

Put all ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and process until nearly smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Chicken Tikka Pasta Salad: Mix any leftover chicken pieces with cooked penne pasta, chopped English cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped bell pepper and a little of the leftover cilantro-mint chutney.
Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Byerly's Chicken Cherry Pasta Salad

Last Year's Post: The Best Crisp Waffles
Two Years Ago:   Crab Fried Rice

I love salads in the summer whether they're lettuce or pasta based, just as long as they're cold.  I had some really fun pasta I wanted to use in a salad this week and was doing some web surfing when I stopped at this recipe.  Byerlys!  The best grocery store in the universe!  And they actually published the recipe for one of their most popular deli salads!  If you're not familiar with Byerlys I feel sorry for you but at least you don't know what you're missing.  It's a high-end grocery store chain in Minnesota that reminds me of a cross between Whole Foods and your local grocery store, only better.  They have the best seafood, meats, sushi, etc.etc.etc.  I so miss Byerlys.

Anyway, the salads in their deli case are very popular and the chicken cherry pasta salad is maybe their number one seller.  That's why I was so excited to see the recipe.  The reason why the salad is so popular is the great combination of flavors and textures, and in particular the salad dressing which is creamy and ever-so-slightly sweet.  It goes very well with the cherries and chicken while the celery and walnuts add crunch.  Everybody likes this salad.  Really.

The only things I changed from the original recipe are that I used my fun pasta shape, and I used rotisserie chicken breast rather than cooking chicken from scratch.  If you want to cook chicken breasts that would be perfectly fine, it was just really easy to use rotisserie chicken breast meat from the deli.  One of the interesting things about the recipe is that you make it in advance, using only some of the dressing, then refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.  The dressing gets absorbed by the other ingredients during this time, which is why you add the rest of the dressing along with the fresh spinach and toasted walnuts right before serving.  So, it's a great make-ahead salad as well.

One thing to know about Byerly's - they don't skimp.  As in, this salad has a LOT of chicken in it compared to most deli salads.  That makes it really good, but you could get by perfectly fine with less chicken.  Also, they garnish their salads in the deli case with extra stuff so to honor them I included an optional garnish of a few cherries and walnuts on top.  Make a big bowl of salad for your next gathering (be sure to garnish!) and watch it disappear.

Chicken Cherry Pasta Salad
Serves 4

1 pound rotisserie chicken meat, cubed
8 ounces medium-sized pasta such as shells or bow ties
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
½ cup chopped red onion
2.5 ounces dried cherries
¾ cup mayonnaise
¾ cup creamy poppyseed dressing
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups baby spinach, stems removed
½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to directions.  Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again.  In a large bowl, combine chicken, pasta, celery, onion and cherries (reserve a few cherries for garnish, optional).  In a smaller bowl, combine mayonnaise, poppyseed dressing, salt and pepper.  Fold 1 cup of dressing into the salad, reserving the remaining ½ cup.  Refrigerate the salad and reserved dressing separately, covered, several hours or overnight.

Just before serving, fold in spinach and walnuts (reserve a few walnuts for garnish, optional); add remaining dressing as needed.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Spoon into serving bowl and top with reserved cherries and walnuts, optional.