Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dining Al Fresco

Last week I finished my school year, hopped on a plane that afternoon and landed in Rhode Island ready to start my next summer teaching job. The next morning I searched for a Starbucks in Dunkin' Donuts territory.  Without any luck I reluctantly pulled into a Dunkin' Donuts and ordered an egg and cheese on an english muffin to partner up with my iced coffee (black, not regular!). By the time I opened it I was too far away to turn around when I realized they'd put sausage on my egg and cheese.  Blek.  To top it off, the bottom muffin was stale and hard and completely inedible.  The cheese all stuck to the sausage leaving me with microwaved egg and half a soggy muffin. Are you serious?  I know Rhode Islanders love their Dunkin', but I'm simply not impressed. Give me Starbucks any day. Needless to say, I tossed it in the first trashcan I found. 

It wasn't until this weekend that I actually feasted on good eats.  I'm thankful to have a food savvy group of friends and family so close by!  While enjoying myself (and the laundry facilities) at my in-laws' beautiful home, my father-in-law and I tag teamed one of my all time favorite outdoor meals.  The weather, against the forecast of the local weather man (no surprise there) held out, allowing for us to enjoy each others company and dinner out on the patio overlooking Narragansett Bay.  What a way to spend a Sunday!

To make this dinner that much better, I had a chance to play with a fun kitchen toy.  I think the moment I arrive home I'll be out purchasing a mandolin.  I've known about them, seen them used on TV, even heard how much people fancy them.  I've simply never had the pleasure.  It made prepping for this meal a total cinch- and it's already a breeze to put together!  While you don't need one for this recipe (I've been making this for years without one), it absolutely would make it more fun and easier to get an even thickness on the vegetables.

You'll need:
Your favorite white fish (Monterey Bay Seafood Watch)
a variety of vegetables- cherry tomatoes, onions, zucchini work nicely
very thinly sliced lemons
white wine
salt and pepper
sturdy tin foil

To assemble: layer the thinly sliced lemons and a few onions on the bottom of the foil.   Top with the fish, then add the rest of the onion, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, a pat of butter, a few splashes of white wine and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. 

Gather the edges and fold over the tops of the tin foil packets.  Place on a heated grill for about 20 minutes or so.  When you can smell the fish becoming fragrant, it's ready. 

Carefully unwrap and sprinkle some fresh herbs over the top. If the lemons are sliced thinly enough, you'll be able to eat the entire thing, rind and all. The tomatoes burst in your mouth and the flavors that the wine and butter impart on the fish is practically heaven. As my mother-in-law Kandee suggested, some fresh bread to soak up the juices is perfect or even some white rice, but I've been known to simply slurp away!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Portabellas, Pistachios and Pesto

It's hot.  Steamy.  The sun is strong, the pools are open and school is out.  While the summer solstice isn't officially here until tomorrow, it feels like the peak of the summer season already.  In fact, at 7:28 am tomorrow morning, the Northern Hemisphere will begin it's summer solstice resulting in the longest day and shortest night of the year.  It also happens to fall on a Meatless Monday! 

What better way to celebrate summer than to fire up your grills and spend time outside celebrating the beginning of a new season?  Get your sun tea brewing on the porch, grab a handful of fresh basil from your garden and get ready to cook up a special treat.

Portabella mushrooms have long stood in for red meat as a tasty alternative to a traditional burger. I am by no means claiming to have invented some great new idea. However, just as there are a hundred unique ways to dress up a regular ground beef burger, there are certainly some snazzy ways to dress up a portabella burger.  Last week Ladd and I topped ours with a thick slice of fresh mozzarella, farmer's market tomato, slathered it with freshly made pistachio pesto and sandwiched it between a whole wheat bun.  The resulting burger was one even my meat-loving husband enjoyed. 

Make your burgers by giving your mushrooms some time to make friends with a balsamic and olive oil marinade for about 30 minutes.  In the meantime, slice up your tomato and mozzarella.  Grill the mushrooms, toasting the buns the last few minutes of cooking time.  Top the mushrooms with a thick slice of cheese and place on the toasted buns.  Add the tomato and drizzle a generous spoonful of pistachio pesto. 

Pistachio Pesto
  • about 1/3 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1 cup or so of fresh basil
  • roughly 1/4 cup olive oil
  • just under a 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
Add everything except the olive oil to a food processor and begin blending.  Slowly drizzle in olive oil until everything comes together into a vibrant green sauce.  If it's too chunky, add a little more oil.  Season with more salt and pepper if necessary.

Happy eating- and don't forget your sunscreen!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Happy Chicken

Every time I watch a food show in which chicken is being cooked, there is inevitably a comment about how people get bored with chicken, or want new ways to cook chicken.  It bothers me.  How can chicken become boring?  I never hear about steak getting boring or pork either!  In my opinion, not that you asked, chicken is far more versatile than either of those proteins.  It's like a blank canvas just waiting for a splash of color.  It's good fried, shredded, sauteed, baked and roasted.  It tops salads, pastas, stir fry and sandwiches.  Bored with chicken?  Impossible. 

But let's just say you are. Bored that is.  And let's also say that you're looking for something different than the usual roast chicken, or whatever it is you may often do with your chick.  This quick recipe is perfect for a weeknight meal and you probably have most of it already in stock.  Honey balances out tart balsamic vinegar and frozen orange juice creates a perfect orangey-sweetness that sticks to the chicken.  The chicken starts out on the stove, then finishes off in the oven giving you just enough time to steam some veggies and set the table. 

Honey-Orange Chicken
serves 4

4-6 bone in chicken thighs (you can use breast or boneless, skinless if you prefer)
1/2 cup or so of frozen orange juice
3 tablespoons of honey, give or take
few splashes of balsamic
few sprigs of fresh thyme, pulled from the stem and chopped
salt and pepper

Serve with brown rice and a veggie of your choice.  I like to garnish with a little green onion as well.

Preheat your oven to 375.  Warm up an oven safe skillet and either spray with non-stick cooking spray or drizzle in some oil.  Salt and pepper your chicken thighs.  In small sauce pan mix together the orange juice, honey, balsamic and thyme just until it begins to bubble and thicken up a little.  Give it a quick taste to make sure it's just right.  Put your thighs in the hot skillet skin side down for a few minutes.  Flip your chicken over and baste with a generous amount of the glaze.  Cook for a few minutes more.  Baste again then place the whole skillet in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes (use a thermometer for the right temp: 160 degrees), basting with more sauce half way through. 

What are some other not-so-boring ways you cook chicken?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Link to Check Out

My monthly post on Farm to Table is up!

About a month ago I was invited to a tasting at the Silver Diner in Clarendon.  They are rolling out a new menu featuring fresh and local foods.  This is a diner I'll frequent for sure!

Check out the write up:

And take a look around their blog.  It's amazingly informative and full of great articles and photos from knowledgeable folks all over the country.  If you care about food, you'll love this site.  Guarantee it!

And just because she's pretty...  

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Back to Reality

This past weekend my husband and I lived life to the fullest during our weekend trip to the city that never sleeps.  My sister-in-law, Ashley, welcomed us in style and we took down NYC like professionals.  From the BEST pastrami on rye at well known  Carnegie Deli to catching an evening on Broadway watching Chicago, it was a weekend I will remember fondly for a long time.  

In all honesty, I have not eaten food so good in one weekend, maybe ever.  One night at Knickerbocker Bar and Grill, we enjoyed ourselves so much we actually closed the place down.  The pianist and bassist stayed until the very last moments playing only for us.  It was a perfectly quintessential New York night. 

The train ride home along the eastern corridor brought reality back into focus, which meant I would need to actually cook for myself instead of enjoying being waited on. There was a lot we did well while on holiday; there was an equal amount we didn't do so well.  We neglected the right kind of hydration, ate in abundance with no regard to whether it was deemed healthy, and slept half as much as usual. So dinner was something I was putting a lot of effort into.  By effort I mean only during the thought process stage.  I didn't actually want to labor over some elaborate meal at all.  The dish needed to be healthy, packed with good nutrients, and put me back into feeling like I was doing my body some good.

The idea of a salad for a main meal makes some people cringe.  Clearly, they haven't had salad at my house.   It is not just throwing some greens in a bowl, slicing up a tomato and pouring on some overly sugary dressing from a bottle.  Not here.  Not in my kitchen.  Instead our salads involve a variety of vegetables, fruit, protein and a drizzle of good quality olive oil along with the best balsamic vinegar we've ever had.  If you haven't picked up a bottle of William Sonoma's aged balsamic vinegar, I highly (very highly) recommend doing so.  Now.  It's been aged 25 years and is so good you could almost drink it straight up (yes, I've done so).  

Because I wasn't 100% ready to dive back into uber healthy/ detox mode, I decided to indulge in a five cheese piece of Texas toast along with salad.  I simply couldn't help it.  

To make this healthy bowl of goodness for two:

1 bag of mixed greens (spring mix, baby lettuces, your choice) split between two bowls

Top with:
1 bell pepper, sliced into rings
1/4 large red onion, chopped
2 pears (1 for each salad), sliced thinly
1 carrot peeled, then shredded
1 small bag of sugar snap peas
sunflower seeds
Gorgonzola cheese
1 grilled chicken breast, sliced on a bias

Drizzle with:
good quality extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar