Tuesday, July 28, 2015

GRILLED CHICKEN PANZANELLA

















I’ve had my old reliable bread-and-tomato salad recipe for more than a decade now, but there’s always room for innovation. I usually serve my panzanella alongside grilled chicken, so when I saw a Serious Eats recipe that just put the chicken right into the salad, it seemed like the logical next step. I do so love a one-dish meal.

Through three rounds of trial and (not very much) error, I’ve evolved the perfect hybrid between old and new. From my previous version, I kept the herb mixture (cilantro and dill as well as basil) and the trick of adding a couple of tablespoons of water to extend the dressing without making it too oily. I also swiped a simple grilled-chicken marinade from other recipes in my arsenal, and used my usual stovetop method of toasting the croutons. The new recipe not only adds the chicken, but also crisp cucumbers and a sweet hit of balsamic in the red-wine vinaigrette. The result might be one of my favorite summer salads, colorful, juicy, deeply flavorful and perfectly filling.

2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 large garlic cloves, smashed, plus 1 small garlic clove, minced
12 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 to 1½ pounds boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (about 2 large), halved lengthwise
4 cups 1-inch cubed French bread
3 to 4 large ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large Persian cucumbers, halved and cut into ½-inch-thick half-moons
½ small red onion, sliced thinly
½ cup chopped basil
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  1. In a large zip-top bag or a large glass bowl with a lid, mix together the lemon juice, 2 smashed cloves garlic, ¼ cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add the chicken breasts, make sure they get thoroughly coated with the marinade, and let them marinate at least one hour.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bread cubes, toss well, and sauté until lightly toasted, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, and let cool to room temperature.
  3. Grill the chicken until cooked through, let cool to room temperature, and cut into 1-inch cubes.
  4. Place tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, herbs, and chicken in a large bowl.
  5. Whisk remaining 6 tablespoons oil, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, 1 small clove minced garlic, 2-3 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a medium bowl until combined.
  6. Pour about ¾ of the dressing over the salad and toss thoroughly to moisten. Add bread cubes, toss well, add remaining dressing if needed, season to taste with salt and pepper, and let sit for about 15 minutes before eating.
Serves: 4 to 6
Time: 1½ hours
Leftover potential: Good, but store bread cubes separately, adding to the leftover portions about 15 minutes before you eat them.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

BLUEBERRY PIE

















 Or, My First Pie, Part II.

Blueberry is not my favorite pie flavor; that honor goes to strawberry, followed by lemon meringue. As a child, I also favored banana and coconut cream, and of course French silk; now I lean more toward peach and apple. But since I didn’t start really liking blueberry baked goods until 2008 or so, blueberry pie has never really been on my radar. It is, however, A’s favorite pie. And more pressingly, we had 10 pounds of blueberries in the fridge, because I happened to have some very helpful out-of-town guests on hand when berry-picking day rolled around, and it turns out that when conditions are favorable, five adults can gather a heck of a lot of blueberries in a very short time. So, blueberry cake, jam, crisp, salad, crumble, oatmeal, and then pie.

There are a lot of blueberry pie recipes in the world, and not being a connoisseur, I wasn’t sure what to look for in a good one, but I trust Annie’s Eats and this one looked solid. I love lemon with blueberries, and cinnamon seemed like a good idea (I of course added a pinch of cardamom as well). It came out well—a bit on the juicy side, but not too runny. And it turns out I like blueberry pie quite a lot, especially when it’s my own handiwork.

2 rolled-out rounds pie dough
4 cups blueberries (If fresh blueberries are unavailable, you can use frozen blueberries without thawing, increasing the baking time by 10-15 minutes.)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
  1. Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan with one of the rolled-out dough rounds. Refrigerate pan until ready to fill.
  2. Place the blueberries in a large bowl, sprinkle with the lemon juice and toss to coat evenly. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, salt and cinnamon. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the berries and toss to distribute evenly.
  3. Immediately transfer filling to the dough-lined pan. Dot with butter pieces. Place the remaining dough round on top of the pie and and crimp the dough rounds together to seal the edges. Be sure to cut vents in the top crust to allow steam to escape during baking. Refrigerate the pie until the dough is firm, 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, beat the egg and water with a fork to make an egg wash. Brush onto the top crust just before baking.
  5. Bake the pie until the crust is golden and the filling is thick and bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely to set, 1 to 2 hours. Serve at room temperature or rewarm in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes just before serving.
Serves: 8
Time: 1 hour 45 minutes, plus cooling time
Leftover potential: OK; keeps for a few days in a sealed container at room temperature or in the fridge, although it will get a bit soggier over time.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

PIE CRUST


















I’m baaaack! I’ll skip the boring excuses because I have a huge backlog of recipes to record—starting with pie! I don’t usually post photos of myself here, but this picture is the best way to sum up how excited I was last month when I finally overcame my lifelong fear of making pie crust. It was an irrational fear, I’ll admit, born mostly of the difficulties my mother had with pie-baking when I was a child. Luckily, her mother was a pie master, so whenever she came to visit, Grandma would spend a day mass-producing dough for us to stockpile in the freezer. This was always hotly anticipated by me, because she’d make cinnamon-sugar-sprinkled cookies out of the dough scraps and I’d get to scarf them down straight out of the oven. (To this day, those cookies remain one of my most vivid and nostalgic food memories.) But from all this rigmarole, I got the idea that piecrust was tricky, even though dozens of people have since sworn to me that it’s not so hard.

Guess what? It’s easy. Granted, I may have overprepared, studying dozens of recipes and tutorials before following one solid authority (the always-reliable Smitten Kitchen) with military precision; I was so ready for frustrating disaster that surpassing my low expectations was probably inevitable. There are a host of pie-crust tips and tricks out there—use oil or shortening, freeze and grate your butter, add vodka or vinegar, mix in a food processor—but I’m pleased with this simple and sensible route. The recipe itself is just flour, sugar, salt, butter and water; the technique basically hinges on keeping everything cold, cold, cold. Stay calm and believe it will all work out. (Perhaps pie dough can smell fear?) I’ve rolled out three pie crusts now with no tearing or cracking, so I’m tempted to dub this method foolproof.

And of course I made pie crust cookies, and they tasted just like I remembered. My mother later told me Grandma always used lard in her dough, so it’s not an exact replica, but still enough to inspire a Proustian reverie.

Pictured is a blueberry pie; I’ll post the filling recipe separately, because this list of instructions is long enough. The level of detail will make you doubt my claims of simplicity, but it was helpful to me as a pie newbie. The one place where I fell down was sealing the two crusts together, and you can see there was some leakage as a result. The Smitten Kitchen instructions were sadly silent on how to add the top crust, and I foolishly tried to punt. Google would have set me straight, but instead I tried to fold the bottom crust over the top instead of vice versa, and didn’t think to use water to adhere them. I’ve clarified these fine points below to save you (and future me) from my mistakes. Fortunately, a leaky pie is still a plenty delicious one.

2½ cups (315 grams) flour, plus extra as needed
1 tablespoon (15 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (8 ounces or 225 grams) unsalted butter, very cold
  1. Fill a 1-cup liquid measuring cup with cold water and add a few ice cubes, or place in the freezer for 15-30 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. If your kitchen is warm, place the bowl of dry ingredients in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes.
  3. Dice the butter into ½-inch pieces. If your kitchen is warm, rechill the butter cubes in the fridge or freezer.
  4. Sprinkle the cold butter cubes over the flour and begin working them in with a pastry blender, using it to scoop and redistribute the mixture as needed. When all of the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas, stop. (This won’t take long, and it’s OK if the mixture looks uneven.)
  5. Remove any ice cubes from the water and drizzle ½ cup over the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber or silicon spatula, gather the dough together. Add more cold water a tablespoon at a time (you’ll probably need an additional ¼ cup or so) until the mixture comes together. Once you’re pulling large clumps with the spatula, use your hands to gather the clumps into one mound, kneading them gently together without overworking the dough.
  6. Divide the dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least two hours, preferably overnight, before rolling it out. (Dough will keep in the fridge for about a week, and in the freezer longer, well wrapped in additional plastic wrap or a freezer bag. To defrost dough, move it to the fridge for one day before using it.)
  7. When ready to roll out the dough, generously flour your work surface. Unwrap the chilled dough (if you’re making a double-crust pie, only take half the dough out of the fridge at a time). Put it in the middle of your work area and flour the top of it too.
  8. Start rolling out the dough by pressing down lightly with the rolling pin and moving it from the center out. (You’re not going to get it all flat in one roll, so be patient.) Roll it a few times in one direction, lift it up and rotate it a quarter-turn. Keep repeating this process, re-flouring the counter and the top of the dough as needed—you should be leaving no bits of dough on the counter or your pin. If the dough sticks to the work surface, run a bench scraper underneath the stuck part, peel it back, and flour that area before continuing.
  9. For a standard-size pie pan, trim your dough into a 12-inch circle with the tip of a knife.
  10. Transfer your crust to the pie pan. This should be no problem if you’ve worked briskly and your dough is still cool, but if you need help, you can roll it around your rolling pin and unroll it in the pan, or fold it very loosely into quarters and unfold it into the pan. Press the dough gently into the pan, making sure it is centered.
  11. For a single-crust pie: You should have a half-inch overhang; fold it under so that the dough becomes the size of the pan. Crimp the edge by forming a “V” with the tips of the thumb and index finger of one hand and pressing the dough into it with the index finger of your other hand, continuing around the edge of the whole pie. Return the pan to the fridge while you prepare your filling.
  12. For a double-crust pie: Place the pan with the bottom crust in the fridge while you repeat the rolling-out process with the other half of your dough. Before transferring the top crust to the pan, brush a little water around the edge of the bottom crust to help the two pieces seal. Gently tuck the top crust edge under the bottom crust edge, then crimp the two pieces together. Brush the top crust with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with a tablespoon or two of water), sprinkle with sugar if desired, and cut a few vents in it.
  13. Make pie-crust cookies with the excess dough: Gather the scraps into a ball, roll it out, cut it into circles using the top of a glass (or cookie cutters, if you’re fancy), continuing the gather the scraps, re-roll and cut it until you’ve used as much as you can. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and bake at 350 degrees until crisp and lightly golden brown around the edges, about 8-12 minutes.
Makes enough dough for one double- or two single-crust pies.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

BBQ CHICKEN PIZZA WITH CILANTRO SLAW

















So it’s official: I don’t hate cabbage anymore. I’m not apt to look at a recipe and think, “Ooh, cabbage!” but I’m willing to admit that there situations when its cool crunch is welcome. Each time I make fish tacos, I find myself piling on more and more cilantro-lime slaw, and maybe eating any leftovers straight out of the serving bowl with a spoon. And when I saw a photo of a barbecue chicken pizza topped with slaw in Cooking Light last year, it actually looked like a good idea. I always feel the need to serve a salad with my BBQ pizza since it’s the rare meal in my arsenal that’s pretty much vegetable-free, so why not just throw the salad right on top?

I didn’t use CL’s recipe, but I’m grateful for the inspiration. Fresh, crisp, colorful, and tangy, an easy cilantro-spiked slaw plays perfectly with the sweet heat of the barbecue sauce and elevates the pizza from good to fantastic. The first time I made this, I cautiously sprinkled a pinch onto each slice; now I pile on as much as the crust will bear. Trust me, as a reformed slaw-phobe: If you’re making this pizza, you should make the slaw too.

Slaw:
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil (or canola oil)
1 dash sugar
Salt to taste
¼ to 1/3 small head of cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, grated or julienned
1 generous handful chopped cilantro (or to taste)
  1. In a medium-large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, sugar, and salt to taste. Add the cabbage, carrot and cilantro and toss well.
  2. Let sit for at least 15 minutes, until the cabbage is softened. While it’s marinating, make the BBQ Chicken Pizza.
  3. Before serving pizza, top each slice with a generous spoonful of slaw.
Serves: 4 (you may have a little slaw left over)
Time: 5 minutes for the slaw, about 1 hour for the pizza
Leftover potential: Good! One of the things I like about cabbage is that, like kale, it makes a great do-ahead salad because it can sit in its dressing with no ill effects; the slaw will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for several days. Store it separately from the pizza, and spoon it on after you reheat the pizza.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

KALE COBB SALAD

















Meet our new favorite salad. I feel a little silly being like, “Hey guys, look what I just discovered!” when Cobb salad has been around since the 1930s, but the addition of kale makes it hip, right?

Having grown up with a horror of so many ingredients all mixed together, especially cold meat and eggs, I never really gained much familiarity with the classic salads of yore, and I certainly never saw a Cobb look remotely appealing until I paged to this recipe in Dinner: The Playbook (yes, again; and here is the original post at Dinner: A Love Story). It was so pretty, and I realized, Wait! I like avocado and bacon and tomatoes and cheese and eggs and chicken! I also love kale, and swapping it in for lettuce here isn’t just blind trend-following—it gives you a definitive green presence that stands up to the weight of all those hefty toppings and, better still, lasts for days without wilting so you can stash the leftovers all ready to go. We’ve already eaten this twice in one month, and it’s destined to become a year-round staple. I love the rainbow of wholesome ingredients and fact that it makes a perfectly easy, protein-packed work lunch that’s hearty without being heavy; A loves that it’s a satisfying meal with a variety of flavors and textures, especially bacon and blue cheese to help temper his kale skepticism.

I made a few slight modifications—omitted sugar from the vinaigrette, massaged the kale with half the dressing right away and let it marinate a bit (key, in my view, to a successful kale salad), and increased some of the toppings to make an even more substantial main dish—one egg and one slice of bacon per serving, and more tomatoes to amp up the color. And I went a bit easy on the cheese, because blue isn’t my favorite, although it definitely adds an important flavor contrast here. The original recipe says you can use feta instead, and the second time around I tried that and preferred it, with just a light dusting of blue for a hint of funk.

A came in just now to prod me to go to bed on time, but granted me a reprieve as soon as he saw what I was working on, saying, “The world needs to know about Cobb salad.” So there you have it! It may not be breaking news, but just in case you weren’t aware, Cobb salad—this one, at least—is delicious.


















1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup red wine vinegar
A squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large bunch Tuscan kale, stemmed and thinly sliced
2-4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 to 1½ cups poached, grilled, or roasted chicken breast, shredded or cubed
3-4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2-4 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions or minced chives
½ to 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (or quartered if large)
1 avocado, diced
¼ to ½ cup crumbled blue or feta cheese
  1. In a small bowl, mix the mustard, vinegar, and lemon juice, then season generously with salt and pepper to taste. Gradually whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.
  2. Place the shredded kale in a large bowl and drizzle with about half of the vinaigrette. Mix thoroughly with your hands until the leaves are evenly coated, and let sit for at least 15 minutes while you assemble the remaining ingredients.
  3. Portion out the dressed kale equally into four salad bowls. Top each portion with a quarter of the eggs, chicken, bacon, scallions, tomato, avocado, and cheese, then drizzle with a quarter of the remaining dressing and toss gently. (If you prefer, you can just mix all the ingredients together in a very large serving bowl and go from there. Or you can place each component in a separate bowl and let everyone assemble their own, salad-bar style, especially if you have picky eaters on hand.)
Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes (1 hour if you need to boil the eggs, cook the bacon and poach the chicken)
Leftover potential: Awesome. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

CHICKEN PARMESAN MEATBALLS

















I don’t get the big deal with chicken Parm, so it wasn’t the title of this recipe that drew me in—just the alluring photo of cheese-blanketed tomato-sauce-glazed chicken meatballs nestled alongside wilted spinach I spotted while paging through Dinner: The Playbook at the library. Apparently this is one of the most popular recipes at Dinner: A Love Story, but had somehow missed it until the book version. I figured meatballs are always a crowd-pleaser, and not surprisingly, our crowd of two was very pleased with this light, easy weeknight comfort meal.

Of course you can serve the meatballs with any vegetable side you want, but I like the red-and-green color contrast and the way the tomato sauce spills over and infuses the spinach. It’s pretty basic; I just heated 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; added 12 ounces fresh spinach, 1 minced garlic clove and a pinch of red pepper flakes; stirred until wilted and seasoned with salt and pepper. You can do it while the meatballs bake.

1¼ pounds ground chicken
½ cup dried breadcrumbs (I used panko)
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 egg, whisked
Grated zest of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
14 ounces pizza sauce (I just doctored canned tomato sauce with dried oregano and basil, but this sauce would be even better)
About 4 ounces fresh mozzarella (16 thin slices)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, using your hands, gently mix together the chicken, breadcrumbs, onions, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, fennel, egg, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Shape into 16 golfball-size balls and place a few inches from each other on a lightly oiled foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.
  3. In a small bowl, mix a few tablespoons of your pizza sauce with the olive oil. Brush this mixture on top of each meatball. Bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove meatballs from oven and turn on the broiler. Spoon some pizza sauce on top of each meatball, and cover each with a slice of cheese. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden.
  5. Warm remaining sauce in a small saucepan. Serve meatballs with a dollop of sauce.
Serves: 4
Time: 40 minutes
Leftover potential: Good. You can also freeze the baked meatballs after Step 3. Thaw them in the fridge the day you want to eat them, then heat up in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes before continuing with the remaining steps.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

ROASTED CHICKEN WITH SMOKED PAPRIKA, BLOOD ORANGE, AND GINGER

















 I messed up big time. I first made this dish (by Melissa Clark via Elly Says Opa) on May 7, 2013. I took a photo. I recall enjoying my meal. Then, for some reason, the recipe languished untouched in my “Try Again” file for the next year and a half—so long I couldn’t even remember why it was there anymore. Was it blogworthy? Was it worth revisiting? When are blood oranges in season, again?

At last, seized by a recent fit of New Year’s-inspired mental housecleaning, I spotted blood oranges at the farmers’ market and decided to release the recipe from its limbo one way or another. And the joke’s on me, because this is one of the most delicious chicken recipes I’ve made in recent memory, and we all could have been eating it on the regular for the past 18 months if I hadn’t been such a putz. An unusual assortment of super-flavored ingredients are pureed into a vibrant green paste somewhat reminiscent of Cuban mojo sauce, but with the spicy bite of ginger in there too. I actually wouldn’t say the smoked paprika and blood orange of the title are the dominant tastes (in fact, I don’t see much reason why you couldn’t just use a regular orange, except that blood oranges are cool and I never remember to buy them otherwise)—cilantro and jalapeno are at the forefront for me, but maybe that’s just because I can’t resist using double or more the quantity of cilantro (2 tablespoons just looks so scant!). I’ve always been a sucker for tomatillo salsa, green chutney and Peruvian green sauce, and this fit right into that family.

After some marinating (a whole day is preferable) and a stint in the oven, you get tender, burnished, brightly flavored roasted chicken and a sauce so fantastic you’ll want to make sure you have something to soak it up. I highly recommend baking a batch of Smoked Paprika Roasted Potatoes along with the chicken and then drizzling them with the pan juices. Throw in something green (asparagus or green beans or salad) and you’ve got a lively, mostly hands-off dinner for just about any season. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on it for so long.

1 teaspoon orange zest
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice, preferably blood orange
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2-4 tablespoons cilantro
1 jalapeño, seeded if desired, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
1¾ to 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, drumsticks, or whole legs
Sliced scallions, cilantro, and orange wedges for serving
  1. In a blender or food processor, combine the orange zest and juice, olive oil, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, ginger, salt, and paprika. Blend until pureed. Combine the chicken and marinade in a large bowl; cover and refrigerate 1 to 24 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place the chicken and its marinade in a 9-by-12-inch baking dish and roast until skin is browned and meat juices are no longer pink, about 45 minutes. Serve drizzled with juices and sprinkled with scallions and cilantro, with orange wedges for squeezing over the meat.
Serves: 4
Time: 1 hour, plus 1 to 24 hours of marinating
Leftover potential: Good.