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.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Apple Strudel

Last Year's Post: Smoked Salmon Cakes
Two Years Ago:  Pretzel Chicken Bites

It's fall, and you want to make something with apples.  Why not an apple strudel?  Contrary to what you might think, apple strudel isn't complicated or difficult to make.  In fact, I think it's actually easier than making an apple pie if you use puff pastry. (Phyllo dough is also commonly used but a bit more difficult to work with.) It's a relatively light and healthy dessert because the portion size is small and it doesn't have much sugar.  I've found that people generally fall into one of two camps when it comes to apple desserts:  less sweet or more sweet.  As written, this strudel is lightly sweet.  If you're one of those who like sweeter apple desserts, feel free to increase the amount of sugar by a tablespoon or two.  Or, there's always ice cream - cinnamon ice cream would be particularly fabulous.

Strudel is best eaten warm, so you could assemble it in advance and refrigerate it, then bake it while you eat dinner.  The added bonus is that your house will smell great.  Apple strudel also makes a great breakfast or brunch treat on a weekend morning.

Apple Strudel
Serves 6

Note that the puff pastry needs to thaw for 30 minutes so plan ahead. 

2 large (or 3 small) Granny Smith apples
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting the work surface)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons raisins
¼ cup toasted pecans or almonds, chopped (optional)
1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry  (1 sheet), thawed for 30 minutes
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons powdered sugar  

Heat the oven to 375°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Peel the apples and cut into quarters through the stem end.  Remove the core from each piece and slice crosswise into thin slices.  Mix the sugar, 1 tablespoon flour and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add the apples, raisins and optional nuts and toss to coat.

Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork. 

Sprinkle a small amount of flour on the work surface.  Unfold the pastry sheet and roll out to a 16 x 12-inch rectangle. With the short side facing you, spoon the apple mixture onto the bottom half of the pastry sheet to within 1 inch of the edge.  Roll up like a jelly roll.  Place seam-side down on prepared baking sheet.  Tuck the ends under to seal.  Brush the pastry with the egg mixture. Cut five 2-inch long slits at even intervals in the top of the pastry (this will allow steam to escape and will help with slicing individual pieces later on).

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Let the pastry cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes. Lightly sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into slices along the slit lines.  Serve warm.