Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sauteed Lemon Chicken with Pesto White Beans

Got Pesto?   If so, you're going to be feeling pretty awesome at this moment because this menu is super-quick and you can skip right past the next few paragraphs to the recipe.

If not, with tomato season almost here - translating into basil season also - it's time to make some.  

Basil is a summer garden essential that's fairly difficult to kill.  Try growing it even if you feel like a "black thumb".  Especially if you've got a Trader Joe's nearby, skip the packaged basil and buy a basil plant.  For the same price as a 4 oz box of picked basil, you can buy a hearty and mature plant that will give you the same amount of pick-it-yourself basil as well as replenshing your supply within a week or two.  Just make sure to not cut off all the small leaves.  (Cut above any cluster of 3 or more leaves)  Short of Trader Joe's super good deal on basil plants, you can certainly buy the pre-picked boxes of basil at any grocery store or go to a good nursery and buy a healthy looking plant.  (I'm not an awesome gardener, so I'll let the Desperate Gardener give you the scoop on how to plant and take care of your new baby.)

Once you've got the basil, it's a breeze.  Walnuts or pine nuts (the gold standard, especially now at $20 a lb), olive oil, garlic and parmesan cheese complete the picture.  It freezes very well.  You can freeze small amounts in ice cube trays or use 1/2 cup bowls for the perfect side pasta dish amount.  Another alternative is to freeze it in a larger container covered with a layer of olive oil and just spoon off the amount you need then place back in freezer.  Download my "Rock Star" recipe collection for an easy recipe for pesto along with tons of other recipes for tapenades, marinades and other freezable condiments.

Pesto - Check!

CWYG Stats

Veggie Box Items - asparagus (side dish)
CWYG List Items - chicken breasts, white beans, lemon, olive oil, white wine, salt and pepper, pesto (additional ingredients are:  basil, parmesan cheese, walnuts, garlic)

Sauteed Lemon Chicken with Pesto White Beans
NOTES:  You want the chicken to be thin for this recipe.  Since part of CWYG is not buying recipe-specific items, just use the boneless-skinless chicken breasts and either partially freeze them (if you've just purchased them and they're not frozen) or partially thaw them if they're frozen.  Having them partially frozen is the secret to being able to cut them correctly and safely.  Cut each breast in half horizontally at the point where it becomes significantly thicker.  You'll have a pointed, almost triangle section and a rounded rectangle section from each chicken breast.  For the triangle sections, carefully slide a knife parallel to the counter through the thickest part to cut it into two cutlets.  For the rounded rectangle sections, do the same thing, but if they are very thick, you may want to make them into three cutlets each. 

I served this with asparagus since it's still in season, but you can serve this with any grilled or roasted veggie or a salad.

1 can or 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans, drained well
1/2 cup pesto
1 lb chicken breasts, cut as in "Notes" above
kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp cold butter
Grilled or Roasted seasonal veggies or a salad to serve

Toss white beans with the pesto in a small bowl.  Taste and season with salt or even a little lemon juice to brighten the flavor.

Sprinkle one side of the chicken cutlets with kosher salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet until butter starts to slightly brown.  Add chicken seasoning side down in a single layer with at least 1" space between each cutlet.  Brown for 3 minutes then turn.  Cook the other side for 2 minutes.  Remove from pan and keep warm.

Add white wine and lemon juice to pan and cook for a couple of minutes until the liquid is reduced by half.  Turn off heat and stir in butter to emulsify.  

Serve chicken on top of pesto beans and drizzle with sauce.

Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, TablaVie Cooking Classes

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Quinoa Tabbouleh

A bin full of green things.  I'm starting dinner late.  What to do?  Quinoa is super quick, right?  But I only had about 3/4 of a cup and four people to serve.

So now what?  Cucumbers, a jar of roasted red peppers and a handful of the prolific mint from my plant outside.  Tabbouleh comes to mind and with several lemons still on my counter, I realize I have everything to make it and within 20 minutes.

There are two schools of thought on tabbouleh, the "more grains than greens" version and its antithesis. My typical nature is to go against the grain (really, no pun intended) so with my lack of a decent quantity of quinoa, I decided to do "more greens than grains".

It turned out to be so good, that even my 8 year old loved it (with the addition of some golden raisins because he had previously enjoyed quinoa salad like that before).  It tasted great and just felt healthy to eat.  You really can't go wrong with raw chard, herbs, lemon and olive oil in the healthful department, but the addition of roasted red peppers really bumped up the flavor.  Leftovers the next day were bumped further with some oil-cured olives and feta which really made it a hearty main-dish salad.

CWYG Stats
Veggie Box Items -  chard, cilantro, green garlic, mint (garden)

CWYG List Items - quinoa, lemons, olive oil, roasted red peppers

Quinoa Tabbouleh
Have the quinoa cooked ahead or allow an extra 10-15 minutes to let it cool.  This entire dish can be made up to one day ahead.

1 cup plus 2 tbsp water
3/4 cup quinoa

1 bunch chard, leaves shredded and stems reserved for other use
3 tbsp lemon juicezest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves, torn or shredded
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
oil-cured or kalamata olives, pitted and chopped, optional
2 oz crumbled feta, optional
1/4 cup raisins, optional

Bring water to boil over high heat and add quinoa.  Lower heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes.  Check to see if most of water is absorbed.  If it is, turn off heat and place a folded kitchen towel over the pan and place lid over it.  This will allow the quinoa to steam out remaining water and will make it fluffy.  Using a fork, separate the grains and cool for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare all the remaining ingredients.  Mix the chard, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in a large bowl.  Squeeze the chard a bit to break it down.  Add the cooked quinoa, the red peppers, herbs and any (or all) of the optional ingredients.  Mix well and serve warm, cold or room temperature.

Monday, May 23, 2011

What Do I Do with Fava Beans? Two Ways...

Being the dropoff point in our town for Riverdog Farm's CSA, I am also the go-to girl for "What do I do with..." questions.

Until recently, the questions were minimal.  Everyone seemingly sailed along cooking away on their fall and winter veggies then Spring arrived.

"What is fennel and what do I do about it?"

"So many leeks, what do you do with them?"

and in the last two weeks..."What do I do with Fava Beans?" at least 5 times.

So I thought I would address it once and for all.  You can come back here anytime and see what to do because hopefully you will encounter these funny little guys and buy them just for the sheer novelty if nothing else.

High-fiber (85% of RDV), high iron (30%) and low-sodium, this healthy legume is a testament to the fascinating world of nature.  Packaged in what looks like a fleece-lined sleeping bag, there are four to five large, light green beans which contain even smaller beans. 

Once removed from their cozy bed, the most common way to prepare them is to double peel them. This means removing them from the pod then removing the light green slipper by blanching them which reveals a smaller, greener bean.

The method is simply popping the individual beans, after removing them from the pod, into boiling water.  When they've cooled enought to handle, slip off their light green slipper. After all this work you'll find a small, dark green bean that resembles and has the texture of edamame.  Count on 1 cup of peeled fava beans for each pound of beans you buy.

 Add these little green guys to spring salads (radishes, shaved asparagus, spring onions), risotto (classic version with favas and asparagus), and vegetable soups for extra fiber and a vegetarian source of iron.

My previous favorite way to make them into a side dish was to add them to a saute of bacon, shallots and garlic (see pic above).  With a simple squeeze of lemon juice, this is the perfect partner for grilled chicken or fish.

This was my favorite. Until last night.

I discovered a new method that is less work and a totally different flavor profile.  I had remembered reading about grilled favas on 101 Cookbooks a couple of years ago, but didn't really think it would be good.  Having favas in my fridge that I had to use and not having the Sunday night fortitude to do the double peeling process then proceed to make something else, I thought "What the heck..." and proceeded with the grilling.

You don't peel the little slipper off so it gets nicely charred and offers a bit more of a hearty texture plus I tossed them with a bright lemon, chile and mint dressing that really brought out the grilled flavor.  These were so good, I pushed aside the steak I had on my plate and got a second serving of these instead.  Note:  since you don't double peel them this way, there is a bigger yield.  So for every pound you get 2 cups of edible beans. 

Here it is:
  1. Heat grill to high.
  2. Toss the whole pod favas into olive oil to coat.  (About 2 tbsp)
  3. Place them on the grill.
  4. Grill til charred on one side then flip.
  5. Char the other side and remove from grill to cool slightly.
  6. Mix 2 tbsp olive oil, red chile flakes, garlic, and juice of 1 lemon in a large bowl.  
  7. When favas are cool enough to handle (but still very warm), remove from pod but not slipper. 
  8. Toss the favas with the lemon chile flake mixture.
  9. Toss in some fresh mint if you have it available.  (Dried oregano might be a good stand-in)
  10. Eat! 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Farro Salad with Sugar Snap Peas and Radishes

Should you find yourself in Napa Valley.  A must-see, off-the-beaten-path place is the Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Co.  It's an old house that at one time housed an olive mill.  It's a cool respite from the heat in the summer and an even-keeled 55 degrees or so in the cold, damp winters.  Inside you will find not only the least expensive locally made olive oil in Napa Valley, but you will find a plethora of imported Italian goods along with the very-kind, Italian speaking family running the place.

On my last trip in, besides the requisite oil-cured olives ($4.50 for almost a pound) and fennel pepperoni ($1) I found a bag of farro.  I had been reading recipes in magazines about it and saw Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos make a fabulous looking Shrimp, Farro and Cucumber salad.  So, always open to new grains, I thought I'd give it a shot even though it's not in my pantry normally.

(NOTE:  It's NOT gluten-free contrary to many opinions.  It's Emmer wheat which of course is still wheat and contains gluten.  However, since I do occasionally eat gluten, I was okay eating it.)

The directions I saw for the above salad were about as straightforward as pasta, however on the package (by the way, look carefully if you buy Farro directly imported, the English is there among all the small print.) it says to soak it for 12 hours. Not having that kind of soaking time, I struck the middle ground and soaked it for an hour or so then cooked it for about 20 minutes.  I also laid it out on shallow pans to cool so it would separate and not be gummy.

Farro is not on The List so unless you want to add it, feel free to make brown rice or quinoa and use in place of the farro.

CWYG Stats

Veggie Box and Personal Garden - Radishes, sugar snap peas, green garlic, English peas, mint

CWYG List Items - shallots, lemons, olive oil,

Farro Salad with Sugar Snap Peas and Radishes
1 cup farro, uncooked or 3 cups cooked brown rice
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 bunch radishes, cleaned, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 lb Sugar Snap Peas, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh English peas, optional just use a few more Sugar Snaps instead
1/4 cup thinly sliced green garlic or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
2 tbsp olive oil
fresh mint, optional (use parsley, basil, or oregano)
salt and black pepper to taste

Rinse farro well.  Soak it for an hour, drain and rinse.  Add to a pan with 2 cups of water and 2 tsp salt.  Bring to a low simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes but testing after 15.  You want the grains to be slightly chewy and definitely NOT mushy.

If you don't want to soak, simply cook longer.  It may take up to 45 minutes so just keep checking.

Mix with remaining ingredients. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with additional chopped mint.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Spring Vegetable and Sausage Soup

A quaint little tapas bar in San Rafael helped me come up with this recipe. I have to say I was sadly not impressed with the chef's interpretation of most dishes. If there was flour involved, they were pasty at best and he seemed to not like salt.

However, I had one dish that was supposed to be a handmade pasta with veggies and housemade Harissa-flavored sausage. Once I pushed the handmade pasta aside, I was left with a new awakening in the area of soups.  I know, I know, I just said yesterday  I was tired of making soups, but the well-reduced broth and tiny pieces of fennel and carrots along with the spicy sausage that I found below the pasta were so full of flavor, I couldn't stop thinking about it and the only way to remedy that was creating it myself.  (Sort of how you can't get rid of an annoying song in your head until you find another better one to replace it.)

I had chickpeas bubbling away on the stove and a multitude of veggies hanging out in the fridge.  So I set out making my mise-en-place of all.  Chard, fennel, leeks, carrots, celery tops, garlic.  That along with a pound of chicken breast-based Italian sausage and the cooked chickpeas made a very tasty meal.  Of course to mimic the Harissa sausage, I pulled out the now apparently ubiquitous tube of paste from my fridge and squeezed in a little with the tube not far away at the table to add more to my own serving.  (I'm totally obsessed, I think.)

CWYG Stats
Veggie Box - fennel, carrots, chard (stems and leaves), leeks, green garlic

CWYG List Items - chicken broth (Better Than Bouillon), garlic, garbanzo beans, Italian Sausage, mint (garden) 

North African Spiced Spring Vegetable and Sausage Soup
A big appeal for this soup was the tiny bits of everything melding together, so keep everything small (no bigger than the beans.) Feel free to serve this over penne or rigatoni as a light sauce.  I think it would actually be tasty and would have enjoyed it at the restaurant as such if the chef had used a lighter hand with the flour when making it.

Olive oil
2 leeks, finely chopped and rinsed (or 1 yellow onion, finely chopped)
1 bulb fennel, fronds and core removed, thinly sliced then chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks of celery (or the leafy tops from about 6 stalks)
6 cloves garlic, minced (I used both green garlic and regular because I had both)
1 tsp red pepper flakes or a big squeeze of Harissa paste (if you by some chance have this on hand, don't go buy it)
1 lb Italian Sausage
6 cups strong chicken broth (I used Better Than Bouillon Organic and doubled the normal amount)
1 bunch of chard, stems and leaves separated and thinly sliced and kept separate in two piles
1 1/2 cups (1 can) chickpeas, drained
salt to taste

 Optional Fresh Tomato Mint Salsa:
1 tomato, chopped (if you happen to have early season tomatoes that are good, otherwise skip this)
a couple of sprigs of mint, chopped
zest of a lemon
more olive oil

Saute the leeks, fennel, carrots, celery, chard stems and garlic in the olive oil until softened.  Add the red pepper flakes and the Italian Sausage.  Saute until the sausage is cooked through and total broken up into pieces about the size of the veggies. Add the chicken broth and let cook for 10 minutes on high to reduce the stock further and cook the veggies through.  Add the chard leaves and the chickpeas.  Cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the chard is totally wilted into the soup.  Taste and salt as necessary.

For the fresh salsa, mix everything together and serve over the top.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Meatless Monday: Kushari - Egyptian Lentils and Rice

Kushari with my beloved Harissa beside it.

You spell Koshari, I spell Kushari.  It's spelled many different ways, but the memory of an evening spent in a toga was the inspiration for dinner tonight

Barely pinned into a toga, with braided hair and gold jewelry, boys in white sheaths and Nemes headresses, Kyle in a Shendyt we arrived along with a large platter of this fabulously simple meal to contribute to the end-of-school Egyptian dinner which culminated a year of studying ancient cultures.

Having not tried the finished product, I wasn't prepared for just how good it would be.  It's about as basic as it gets - lentils, rice, macaroni, tomato sauce, and fried shallots all layered together.  It's eaten all over Egypt and is the national dish with some restaurants specializing in this one meal.

I've had my lentils in my cabinet for months and I've been wanting to use them for a meatless Monday meal.  Lentil soup is really just boring and since it's warming up, I just can't get myself to make soup anymore, so that was out.  I've done bean cakes so that didn't seem very original.  Then I remembered this spectacular meal as I saw the brown basmati sitting there alongside the lentils.  I had whole grain pasta in my pantry of course along with the canned tomatoes, onions, garlic and shallots necessary.  It was all there.  I simply left off the garbanzo beans since they were still in their dry form.

With so many elements we were able to customize for each person.  Kyle and I are watching the simple carbs so we skipped the pasta. The sauce was a bit like a marinara and perfectly mild for the boys.  Then the harissa paste I bought a few weeks ago  offered the perfect spice to the finished product for Kyle and I.  (I have to admit as I type this, I'm salivating a bit just thinking about the tangy spicy paste...I think I'm addicted.)

CWYG Stats
Veggie Box - nothing

CWYG List Items - lentils, brown rice, pasta, onions, garlic, shallots, canned tomatoes, olive oil,
apple cider vinegar

Kushari - My Way
There's really not much of a recipe, but I'll offer what I did.  One thing to note, the sauce really should have a good dose of vinegar to make it more true to the Egyptian sauce but I totally forgot this fact and really missed the punch that it offered the first time I made it.  (The harissa added a little but it wasn't as good as that vinegary tomato sauce.)

2 shallots, peeled and very thinly sliced
canola oil for frying shallots
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes or 1/2 tsp cayenne, optional
1 small onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, pureed (or just use tomato sauce or puree if you have it on hand)
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 cup green or brown lentils*, cooked in water or broth until tender (about 30 minutes)
2 cups brown rice, cooked (My favorite method for cooking)
8 oz small pasta, such as macaroni or pennette cooked according to package

1 1/2 cups chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained well, optional

Pour enough oil in a 1 qt saucepan to make about 1" deep.  Fry the shallots in batches until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels and salt well.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil then saute the onion until softened.  Add the garlic and saute for minute.  Add the chile flakes or powder then the tomatoes.  Cook for a couple of minutes, covered, to limit spattering.  Add the vinegar.  Cook for another minute, then taste.  Add more vinegar and salt until it tastes good to you.  (Unless you've actually had this in Egypt, you probably won't have a grid for what it's "supposed" to taste like, so go for balanced but tangy.)

You can either lay out all the elements and let every make their own, or simply layer the ingredients in this order:
  • rice
  • lentils
  • pasta
  • chickpeas, if using
  • sauce
  • shallots
 *Other colors may break down to much and become mush instead of being individual little "coins".

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Simple Supper - Grilled Chicken and Charred Potatoes with Caesaresque Salad

Sunday suppers need to be simple.  With grilling season in full gear here in Northern CA, simple means throwing something on the grill, sipping a glass of wine and enjoying the view from our backyard of green hills and orchards while the kids enjoy the last few strands of sunlight.

Last night, potatoes were my inspiration for our meal.  I had only 7 small potatoes in my veggie box, but they are little German Butterballs, an heirloom variety that are very tasty.  Knowing that wouldn't come close to feeding my family, I decided to throw on a couple of  chicken breasts and make a simple salad. It turned out to be delicious and the perfect end to the weekend.

CWYG Stats:
Veggie Box - Lettuce, potatoes

The List Items - chicken, chile powder, salt, olive oil, garlic, parmesan, worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, lime juice

Grilled Chicken and Charred Potatoes with a simple Caesar

new potatoes (I had 7 which were about 1 1/2 pounds)
kosher or sea salt
olive oil
boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used 2 large so about 1 lb)
ancho chile powder (or pepper or regular chili powder)
2 cloves garlic, minced, divided use
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Romaine or other hearty lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
(NOTE: If you only have mixed greens then just use lemon juice, salt and olive oil instead of the Caesar dressing)

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Boil potatoes in well salted water until you can just insert a sharp knife into them.  Drain and toss back in the saucepan over the heat long enough to dry out the pan and the potatoes.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt to coat.  Grill while you're grilling the chicken until the potatoes are completely softened and charred on the outside.

Season each side of the chicken breasts with a heavy sprinkle of salt and chile powder.  Grill for about 10 minutes per side or until no longer pink and 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer.  Remove and let stand under foil for 5-10 minutes before slicing.  (This let's the juice redistribute and makes chicken more juicy.)  Slice the chicken and toss well with the lime juice, half the garlic and a big glug of olive oil.

For the salad, whisk the remaining garlic, Dijon, worcestershire sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper in the bottom of a large bowl.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil then toss with the lettuce and cheese til well coated.

Serve the sliced chicken on top of the salad.  Drizzle the potatoes with additional olive oil and any leftover lime juice mixture from the chicken.

Copyright 2012 TablaVie Personal Chef Service

All photos and recipes may not be used without express permission from Christi Flaherty, owner and creator of Cook What You've Got Concept and blog.
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