Friday, December 30, 2016

Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken

Last Year's Post: Hot and Sour Soup
Two years Ago:  Korean Seafood Pancakes

I had a love/hate relationship with my slow cooker for years.  I originally bought it thinking it would be great for cooking a meal during the work week, but then I realized that if you have an 8-5 job very few recipes call for cooking the 10-11 hours that you'll be gone.  So, it turned into more of a weekend or day-off type of meal prep when the recipe particularly benefits from low and slow cooking.

Boneless skinless chicken thighs are one of those things.  They're perfect for the slow cooker because they stay moist while they become fall-apart tender.  It's actually the only way I cook chicken thighs because they can turn tough and chewy when cooked faster at higher heat. No one likes chewy chicken.

This is a simple yet very flavorful recipe for teriyaki chicken.  You could even just buy a bottle of teriyaki sauce if you're really pressed for time, but the homemade sauce allows you to control sodium and vary the other ingredients according to your family's taste.  More garlic, anyone?  Tip of the day:  Trader Joes has excellent soy sauce that has one of the lowest sodium levels I've found.

Don't be tempted to substitute cooking sherry for the dry sherry because it tastes bad and it has sodium.  Salted wine?  No thanks.  Buy a bottle of dry sherry at the liquor store and keep it on hand - it tastes much better, it's not expensive and it keeps forever.

Kids love teriyaki, so this is a great family meal when paired with white or brown rice and some sauteed sugar snap peas.  Leftovers make an excellent lunch the next day - warm, cold, or in a sandwich with some sliced cucumbers.

Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken
Serves 4-6

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry sherry
3 cloves minced or grated garlic
Slice green onions, for garnish
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, brown sugar, sherry and garlic together.

Place chicken in the slow cooker, cover with sauce.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4-5.  Serve with green onions and toasted sesame seeds on top.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds

Last Year's Post: Italian Grilled Seafood Salad
Two Years Ago:  Cheddar Olives

A few years ago a relative made this recipe for Thanksgiving dinner.  I've spent most of my life avoiding Brussels sprouts because I'd only had them whole and steamed, which makes them taste like little cabbages.  Yeck.  But, it was Thanksgiving and I wanted to be polite so I tried them and was surprised to find that I really like them prepared this way.  They're tender but still crisp, and very delicious.  We had them last night with smoked turkey and wild rice and it was excellent.  They make a great side dish for any meat or poultry just like any other green vegetable.

Brussels sprouts are a superfood  - they're a good source of protein, iron and potassium, plus they contain Vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.  If you can find a recipe that you like, they're a good addition to a healthy diet.  As my mom would say, "try it - it could be your new favorite thing".  Classic mom line.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds         
 Serves 6

1 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

In a food processor fitted with a slicing disk, slice the Brussels sprouts (or halve and thinly slice by hand).

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the shallot and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, 2 minutes.  Add the Brussels sprouts. ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper to the skillet and cook, tossing often, until the sprouts are tender, 4-6 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar and poppy seeds.  Serve immediately.

To prep ahead: slice the sprouts up to 2 days ahead and refrigerate, covered. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Spiced Pecans

Last Year's Post:  Sugar Snap Pea Salad
Two Years Ago:   Kale and Pancetta Salad

Just a warning, these pecans are addictive.  They're a perfect nibble with a cocktail, and make a great gift.  But actually I like to make and keep a batch in the freezer for a different reason entirely - they're great in salads.  We had a green salad with smoked turkey, apple, blue cheese and these pecans last night, and the salty/sweet/spicy notes of the pecans really added that extra something.  I could also see adding them to your favorite chicken salad sandwich, or a cold pasta salad.

They're really easy to make as long as you keep your eye on them while they're baking and stir them occasionally so they don't get too brown on one side.  The salt and sugar don't melt, but they do stick to the nuts and give them a nice additional crunch.  Just be sure to stir the nuts well so the spices and sugar are evenly distributed before they go in the oven.

My suggestion is to make the recipe once as written, then increase the cayenne if you want them spicier.  As written, they have a little kick but not enough to prevent you from probably eating too many.  Like I said, addicting.

Spiced Pecans
Makes about 2 ½ cups

1 (10 ounce) package pecan halves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 300d.

Place pecans in a medium bowl.  Melt butter in a heavy small pot, then add cumin and cayenne and stir until aromatic, about 15 seconds.  Pour Over pecans.  Add sugar and salt and stir to coat.  Transfer to a foil-lined baking pan and spread out in one layer.

Bake until the nuts are toasted, stirring every 5 minutes, about 20 minutes total.  Let cool.

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or freeze for 30-60 days.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Baked Egg Bowls

Last Year's Post: Southwest Eggrolls (baked not fried)
Two Years Ago:   Bang Bang Turkey

These egg bowls are basically little quiches baked in a roll.  They're great for a birthday or holiday breakfast and really fun if you're entertaining a group for brunch.  Set out a number of fillings and let everyone choose their own, then have a big pitcher of the beaten egg mixture at the end to fill each roll as they're done.  Put them on one or two big baking sheets lined with parchment (and have everyone write their initials on the parchment next to their bowl so you can remember whose is whose) then serve Bloody Marys, Bellinis, Mimosas or a variety of juices while they bake.  Complete the meal with a big fruit salad and you're done because the egg bowls are quite filling.

I particularly like that beaten eggs are used rather than cracking an egg on top of each one and trying to pull each bread bowl out of the oven at the exactly right second when the egg yolk is cooked just to that person's preference (and hopefully the whites are fully cooked).  Who needs that kind of pressure?  Although the individual bowls are especially cute, you could also use longer loaves and cut them into pieces for serving.  But I love the idea of letting each person make their own.  Here are some ideas for fillings to set out:

Meats:  diced ham, cooked hot or mild Italian sausage, cooked crumbled bacon, cooked chorizo
Vegetables: diced red onion, sliced green onions, sauteed diced bell peppers, chopped spinach, sauteed mushrooms, chopped kale, diced jalapenos
Herbs:  cilantro, parsley, basil, thyme
Shredded cheeses:  mozzarella, Gruyere, fontina, pepper jack

Assembly is easy.

The only caution is to be careful when you're tearing out the insides of the bread so you don't go too far and rip a hole. That would be bad.  I used Asiago telera rolls because I liked the size and shape and thought the Asiago might add some extra flavor.

The other thing I like is that the edges of the bread get crispy while the bottom remains soft.  If using rolls, you could toast the top of the roll (or not) to serve alongside the bread bowl for those who might want to eat it like a sandwich (can you say kids?).   Be sure to let the rolls cool for at least 10 minutes before letting anyone chomp into it like a sandwich because they're quite hot and retain the heat remarkably well when enclosed.  Speaking from experience, burning the roof of your mouth is not fun.

Baked Egg Bowls
Serves 10
Note:  any type of cooked meat, vegetables, cheeses and herbs may be substituted.

10 round Kaiser or Telera rolls, or 2 (1-lb) Italian of French baguettes, 14”x4”, unsliced
8 oz. hot or mild Italian sausage
1 medium red or yellow sweet pepper, chopped
½ cup sliced green onions (about 4 total)
10 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup whipping cream or half-and-half
¼ cup snipped fresh basil
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups shredded Gruyere or mozzarella cheese (6 oz)

Preheat oven to 350d.

Line a 15x10x1-inch baking pan with parchment paper.  Using a serrated knife, cut the top off the rolls (or cut a wedge into the top of each long loaf, cutting to about 1 inch from each long side).  Use a spoon or your fingers to carefully remove the inside of each roll or loaf, leaving about a ¾” thick shell.  Arrange bread shells on the prepared baking pan.

Remove casings from sausage if present.  In a large skillet, crumble and cook sausage until just cooked through; add peppers and green onions and sauté one minute more. Remove from heat; drain off any fat.

In a large glass measure combine eggs, cream, basil and salt. 

In each bread shell, layer the sausage mixture and divide up 1 cup of the cheese. Carefully pour egg mixture into bread shells.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  Bake, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes or until eggs are set and the top is lightly browned. 

Let stand for 5 minutes to cool slightly.  If using long loaves, carefully cut into 5 slices each using a serrated knife.

Prepare Ahead: cook the sausage, peppers and onions in advance; cool store covered in the refrigerator.  When ready to bake, proceed with the remaining instructions.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Wheatberry Salad

Last Year's Post: Turkey Farro Salad with Candied Chickpeas
Two Years Ago:   Beer Cheese

Wheatberries are literally the entire kernel of wheat, minus the hull.  They're an excellent source of protein, potassium, dietary fiber and iron. But that's not why I like them so much - it's because they're a wonderfully chewy grain that makes a substantial salad that doesn't wilt, and they're a neutral canvas that absorbs the flavors of the vinaigrette.  In this recipe, the vinaigrette delivers a garlic and vinegar profile while the veggies and almonds add flavor, color and texture.  It's one of my favorite salads and is perfect served along side any roasted or grilled meats or poultry.

Wheatberries are very trendy right now in grain bowls and added to salads in restaurants, but 10 years ago when I first found this recipe they were pretty exotic and found only in natural food stores.  That's still your most likely place to find them, but I've seen them occasionally in the bulk food aisles of regular grocery stores.

Be aware that wheatberries need to soak overnight (or cook longer) to soften the hard outer covering and even then they cook for 90 minutes.  Your best bet is to make this salad the day ahead - it tastes better the next day anyway because all the flavors have a chance to blend.

Wheatberry Salad
6 servings

This salad gets better as it sits, so try to make it the day before serving.  

1 cup wheatberries                                                    
6 cups water or low sodium chicken broth                
½ teaspoon kosher salt                                             
1 bay leaf                                                                    
½ cup chopped artichoke hearts                                  
½ cup quartered cherry tomatoes
½ cup diced roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
3 tablespoons sliced green onions
¼ cup toasted sliced almonds
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or cilantro

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (don’t use bottled)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

In a saucepan with a well-fitted lid, put the wheatberries, water, salt and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered until the wheat berries are pleasantly chewy (about 90 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat, discard the bay leaf, let the berries cool in the liquid. 

When cool, drain and put the wheat berries in a large bowl.  Add the remaining salad ingredients.  Make the vinaigrette by whisking all the ingredients together.  Toss with the salad.  Let sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature (or longer, refrigerated) before serving.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Three Sisters Quesadilla

Last Year's Post: Dried Fruit Sauce (Mincemeat Sauce)
Two Years Ago:  Couscous with Turkey or Chicken

Time for a change of pace (and effort) after the big meal.  "Three Sisters" is an agricultural term for three of the main crops of Native America:  squash, corn and beans.  They historically benefit from being planted together - the corn provides a stalk for the beans to climb, the beans provide nitrogen for the other plants, and the squash spreads along the ground providing shade and preventing weeds.   I read somewhere that plants that are grown together usually also taste good together.  I don't know why that would be true but it's definitely true in this case, making an excellent vegetarian base for empanadas, soups, stews, tarts, or a quesadilla.

As written, this quesadilla is mild yet flavorful and filling.  If you want, you could increase the spice level in one of several ways:  use a hotter chili powder, substitute Pepper Jack for the cheddar cheese, add jalapenos, or use a spicy salsa.  Either way it's a fast, delicious and healthy option for meatless Mondays or Black Fridays.

Three Sisters Quesadilla
Serves 4

1 cup dried black beans (or 1 15 oz can black beans)
1  teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika or chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 zucchini or other summer squash, cut lengthwise into quarters and thinly sliced
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 ear of grilled corn, kernels cut from the cob (or 1 cup frozen corn)
cilantro leaves to taste
4 medium flour tortillas
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Greek yogurt or sour cream, for serving
Sliced avocado, optional
Lime wedges, optional

Cook the beans, if starting with dried beans. If using canned beans, drain, rinse and drain again.  Toss with smoked paprika or chili powder and cumin.  Season to taste with salt.

Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a nonstick pan and heat on medium-high. Add the squash pieces and sprinkle with the salt, then cook, stirring and tossing until the pieces go limp and start to turn golden. Sprinkle with the pepper flakes and keep cooking until the squash has released most of its water and has caramelized with some edges becoming crispy and brown.  Add the corn to the pan and for an additional minute.  Remove from pan to a bowl but do not clean the pan.

To assemble the quesadillas, lay out one tortilla, and sprinkle one half with cheese. On top of the cheese, add beans, corn, and squash to taste along with cilantro leaves, then sprinkle a small amount of cheese over the vegetables.    Fold the other half over the filling.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the same pan. Place one quesadilla into the pan and cook until the edges turn brown–about 1 minute, then carefully flip the quesadilla and cook until the underside is golden brown and the edges are crispy, about another minute. Repeat with the other quesadillas.

Cut into wedges and serve with salsa, yogurt or sour cream, optional avocado and lime wedges.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Whipped Goat Cheese and Green Olive Dip

Last Year's Post:  Split Pea Soup
Two Years Ago:   Cornmeal Herb Scones

It's the holiday season in addition to football season, which means lots of parties and appetizers.  Anyone can show up with a premade veggie tray with ranch dip, but this goat cheese dip is much more interesting and sophisticated.  You can choose to serve it with pita chips and crackers, or veggies - but not boring old mini carrots, celery sticks and cherry tomatoes.  Try sweet and colorful mini bell peppers, zucchini sticks and jicama sticks for something different.  (I found precut jicama sticks in the produce section of my grocery store, which helped speed things up quite a bit.) The dip is quite tangy from the goat cheese, olives and yogurt, so sweet vegetables such as sweet peppers, zucchini and jicama complement it well.  OK, grudgingly, carrots would go really well also.

Use any type of green olives than you want, but if you choose olives stuffed with garlic you might want to hold off on the garlic in the recipe until you taste it.  Note that I made a half recipe for the photo above - a full recipe makes almost 2 cups of dip.

Whipped Goat Cheese and Green Olive Dip
Makes 1 ¾ cups dip

½ cup green olives, pitted
8 oz plain goat cheese
½ cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
Pita chips or crackers
Cut up fresh vegetables

In a food processor pulse olives until roughly chopped; set aside half of the mixture.  To remaining olives in food processor, add goat cheese, yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt.  Process about 1 ½ minutes or until extremely smooth and slightly aerated, scraping down sides as necessary. 

Transfer to a serving bowl; drizzle with additional olive oil, if desired, and top with reserved olives.  Serve immediately with pita chips, crackers, and/or vegetables.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Lemony Green Beans with Toasted Almonds

Last Year's Post: Dutch Baby
Two Years Ago:  Brussels Sprout Leaf Salad

It's holiday season, and that means some big meals are coming up.  Skip the green bean casserole this year and make this fresh take on green beans that's a nice balance to the other heavier dishes on the table.  Lemon adds brightness while the Dijon adds some zip, although you might consider leaving the Dijon out if you have some picky or young eaters.  This is a great side dish for ham, turkey, roast beef, or any other holiday centerpiece.

One of the major advantages of this recipe is that you can make it in advance, which frees up time and cook top space for other things right before the big meal.  Just cook the beans and make the vinaigrette in advance, then toss them together right before serving. It's meant to be served at room temperature which makes it great for a buffet table, and it's easy to carry the components to someone else's house and just assemble at the last minute.

Be sure to buy the most beautiful fresh green beans you can find.  If they're very thin haricot verts, you may need to lessen the cooking time a little.  The best way to figure out the cooking time is to start tasting after a couple of minutes and keep on tasting every minute until they're done how you like them.  I personally like beans that are crisp-tender, which is how this recipe is written.  Note that I made a half recipe for these pictures; two pounds of green beans would easily serve 6 as part of a large holiday dinner.  The recipe may be doubled or tripled.

Lemony Green Beans with Toasted Almonds
Serves 6

⅓ cup olive oil
1 tsp lemon zest
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp Dijon mustard (optional)
Kosher salt
2 lbs thin fresh green beans
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, optional Dijon mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt, then the green beans, and cook until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Immediately transfer the green beans to the ice water to cool; drain and pat dry.

Toss the beans gently in the lemon vinaigrette. Top with toasted almonds and serve.

Make Ahead: Prepare the beans and dressing and refrigerate separately up to a day ahead. Toss together just before serving.

Friday, November 4, 2016

White Chicken Chili

Last Year's Post: Baked Potatoes with Broccoli Cheese Sauce
Two Years Ago:  Sausage and Lentils

Chili is a great way to entertain a crowd, especially if you get together with a few friends who bring a couple of different kinds.  Set up a condiments bar, provide some beverages, and you're good to go.  This is a twist on your normal chili that both adults and children love because it's mild but flavorful.  In fact, The Lawyer had a standing request for many years to bring this chili to every pot luck at work  because his co-workers loved it that much. He usually made a triple or quadruple batch in a slow cooker at work and almost never had any left to bring home.  I brought it to work myself for a chili pot luck and noticed more people went back for seconds of this chili compared to the other, more assertive recipes.

Quick story:  The Lawyer had the brilliant idea to add green food coloring one time when he brought it for a St. Patrick's Day pot luck.  For some unknown reason the food coloring was sucked up by the chicken pieces with the result that the chili looked absolutely normal in color except it contained brilliant green chunks of chicken.  His co-workers ate it anyway. (You just can't make this stuff up.)

The nice part about it is that the people who like spicy chili can spice theirs up with minced jalapenos or shredded pepper jack cheese from the condiment bar, so everyone gets what they like.  Other suggested condiments (or garnishes) include minced red onion, chopped cilantro, shredded Cheddar, sour cream, corn chips, and crumbled toasted corn bread.  People always have fun at a party when they can pick and choose their own ingredients, right?

This is very easy to make on the stovetop or in a slow cooker; I've included instructions for both.  You'll notice that it calls for low-sodium chicken broth and a lower sodium brand of beans if you can find it - the reason is that canned beans have a significant amount of sodium and you're going to dump in the whole can undrained (the liquid in the can adds flavor and helps thicken the sauce).  People can always add salt later if they want.

White Chicken Chili
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized cubes
¼ cup chopped onion
1 cup less-sodium chicken broth
1 can (4 oz) chopped green chiles, drained
1 can (19 oz) cannellini beans, undrained (look for a lower sodium brand if possible)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
2 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro

Suggested Garnishes:
Chopped cilantro
Minced red onion
Shredded pepper jack (or other hot) cheese
Shredded sharp Cheddar
Minced jalapeno
Crumbled toasted cornbread
Sour cream
Corn chips

Heat oil in a 2-3 quart saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add chicken and cook 4-5 minutes, stirring often, until just cooked through.  Remove with a slotted spoon.

Add onion to saucepan and cook 2 minutes.  Stir in broth, green chiles, spices and cilantro; simmer 30 minutes covered.

Stir in cooked chicken and beans; simmer 10 minutes.  Serve with optional garnishes.

Slow cooker version:  cook chicken separately in advance.  Add remaining ingredients (except the chicken and beans) to a slow cooker and cook on high for 1-2 hours or low for 2-3 hours.  Add the chicken and beans in the last half hour or so of cooking.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Halibut with Cucumbers and Ginger

Last Year's Post: Chicken Schnitzel Sandwiches
Two Years Ago:  Chicken and Caramelized Broccoli Ramen

Halibut is a very mild white fish that's perfectly suited for clean eating.  This recipe pairs the halibut with a refreshing and crunchy cucumber, red onion and pickled ginger salad that provides both flavor and textural contrast to the mild and tender fish.  The meal is very flavorful while still very light and healthy, plus it's very quick and easy to make.  Although optional, thinly sliced green onions and sesame seeds elevate it to something special.

Another option would be to add some thinly sliced jalapeno or Fresno chiles to the cucumber salad if you want some heat.

Halibut with Cucumbers and Ginger
Serves 4

1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped pickled ginger
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more for oiling the fish and grill
4 (5-6 oz) pieces of halibut
Salt and pepper
Thinly sliced green onions, for garnish
Black and/or toasted white sesame seeds, for garnish
Hot cooked rice

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over high heat, or use a stovetop grill pan.

In a bowl, combine the cucumbers and onion and ½ teaspoon salt.  Let stand for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the ginger, vinegar and 1 tablespoon canola oil.  Set aside.

Lightly brush the fish on both sides with oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Oil the grill rack.  Place the fish, skin side down, on the grill and cook, turning once, until just opaque throughout, about 8 minutes total. 

 To serve, top each fish piece with green onions and sesame seeds.  Plate with hot rice and cucumber salad on the side.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Mahogany Chicken with Smoky Lime Sweet Potatoes

Last Year's Post:  Grain Bowls with Halloumi Cheese
Two Years Ago:   Korean Sliders

This recipe won the $100,000 first prize for National Chicken Cooking Contest a few years back, which says something.  Not only that, the woman who created it - Camilla Saulsbury - also won a $50,000 national burger contest, a Food Network $25,000 Recipe Showdown, and a $5,000 Top Chefs desserts challenge.  Apparently she knows what she's doing.  She once said that she felt her greatest strength was being able to envision flavors that will go together well, and it's very evident in this dish.  There's richness and complexity in the chicken basting sauce, and smokiness, cumin and lime in the sweet potatoes.  On top of that there's a bright finishing sauce of olive oil, garlic and cilantro.  The overall result is a complex and completely delicious dish.  One bite and I knew why this recipe won.  I loved it, and I don't normally even like sweet potatoes.

The actual title of her recipe is"Mahogany Broiled Chicken with Smoky Lime Sweet Potatoes and Cilantro Chimichurri" if you want to look it up; I shortened the name for simplicity but didn't change the recipe.  My guess is that she broiled the chicken because the contest rules might not have allowed for grilling, but my first thought was to grill the chicken and it came out great.  My other suggestion is to go easy on the garlic in the cilantro sauce until you taste it because raw garlic is pretty strong, especially if you're serving it to kids.  The chipotle and adobo are both in such small amounts that they add a very nice smokiness without being hot; if you like spicy food you may want to add a little bit more.  I personally thought it was perfect.

print recipe
Mahogany Chicken with Smoky Lime Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4

1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt, divided
¼ teaspoon pepper, divided
5 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup plus 1 ½ teaspoons lime juice, divided
1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1” cubes
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2” pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon chopped canned chipotle pepper
1 teaspoon adobo sauce (from canned chipotle)
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon lime zest
Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

In a small bowl, mix together chopped cilantro, olive oil, minced garlic, ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together brown sugar, mustard, hoisin sauce and vinegar.  Reserve 2/3 of this mixture for basting.  To remainder, add ½ cup lime juice and stir in chicken; cover and refrigerate.

Place sweet potatoes in a heavy saucepan filled with boiling water.  Cook, covered, over medium-high heat until tender, about 15 minutes.  Reserve ¼ cup cooking liquid, then drain potatoes and return to the pot with the reserved cooking water.  Add butter, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, remaining 1 ½ teaspoons lime juice, cumin, lime zest, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Mash potatoes.

Preheat the broiler.  Thread chicken on bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water for 30 minutes.  Broil about 6 inches from heat, basting with reserved sauce until done, about 8 minutes. 

To serve, divide potatoes among plates and top with chicken skewers.  Drizzle with cilantro sauce and garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Tuscan Barley Soup

Last Year's Post: Chicken Limone Pasta

I made this soup for a friend who was scheduled for knee surgery so she wouldn't have to worry about having a warm, comforting supper when she got home. When I brought it over to her house and described the contents, her husband gave me a skeptical look and said "sounds healthy". But after they had it for dinner he made a point of calling me to tell me how delicious it was, which made me very happy.  (It's an accomplishment when you can make something that's very healthy AND delicious, even for the skeptics.)  This soup has no less than six different vegetables (interestingly, no potatoes or tomatoes) and the nutritional benefits of barley.  I chose to add some Italian sausage but you could certainly leave it out to go vegetarian.

Your chopping skills will get a workout with those veggies - I timed myself and the prep took about 30 minutes (including time out for pictures, of course).  This would be a perfect little project for the weekend so all you have to do is warm it up during the week when you're tired and it's raining or snowing, and it tastes even better after it sits for a day. Add some crusty bread (and maybe a nice glass of red wine) and you've got yourself a delicious meal.

So, the six vegetables are:  carrots, zucchini, parsnips, leek, fennel and kale.  A somewhat unusual combination, but interesting, don't you think?

After all that chopping, the rest is easy - saute some Italian sausage, toast the barley in the same pot, then dump everything else in and let it simmer for about 50 minutes.

90 minutes after you start, you have an enormous steaming hearty pot of deliciousness.  Not bad.

Tuscan Barley Soup
Serves 6-8

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese and chopped chives would make a nice garnish.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 sweet or spicy turkey sausage links, casings removed
1 cup pearl barley
12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced into ½” rounds
2 medium parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced into ½” rounds
2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into ½” sliced
1 fennel bulb, cut in half, cored, and thinly sliced (longer pieces may be cut in half)
1 medium leek, white and light green part only, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 bunch of Tuscan kale, center stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
1 Parmesan cheese rind, optional
1 dried bay leaf
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prep all the vegetables before starting.

In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces, until cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Remove the sausage and reserve.

Add the barley to the pot and cook stirring constantly until lightly toasted, about 4 minutes.  Add 10 cups of broth (reserving the rest for later), carrots, parsnips, zucchini, fennel, kale, cheese rind (if using), bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the barley is tender, about 50 minutes.  Add the sausage back in during the last 10-15 minutes of cooking.  Stir the pot occasionally and add additional broth if needed to make the soup your desired consistency.

Remove the Parmesan rind and bay leaf, then season the soup with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.