30 May 2014

Pesto Chicken Plates

The state of my taste bud affairs as I write you is less than ideal, but I promise the dish on the table will exceed your expectations. At the moment I'm a food blogger with a cold. A cold where I'm stuffed up and can barely taste anything. In fact I just had a fresh brewed cup of  fair-trade-shade-roast-expensive hipster blah blah joe and all I got was liquid and warmth. The notes were widely detectable this morning but not now. So harumph to that. And to top it off, despite the caffine I do believe my bed and blanket are calling. 

But by golly, I still have stuff to tell you. We had dinner recently while it was still light out, which never ever happens; the sun remaining its bright Sunday self while we enjoyed...dinner? Granted, it was an early dinner, the kind you have on a day when you had brunch, but it's been a goal to share more savory meals with you around here (I don't want you to think I live on cookies), so as the days go longer, here's to more Spring mains. These pesto chicken plates are one of my new favorite things. They are Italian-ish, which is my favorite form of Italian, and simple, the way it should be.



You start with a couple boneless breasts I prefer to cook only a certain way. Low/slow. You save the pan juices. You make pesto. You set the breasts in a bowl to cool a bit and because they are inherently tender as cooked, they won't dry out on you. Then you do a little shred/tare dance with your hands, you dollop over some juices, you dollop some pesto and you stir and stir and it all melds together. You are possibly barefoot and it makes everything flow like you'd imagine an old Italian farm kitchen might. 

You can serve the chicken warm or a little warm or even a kind of chilled (I vote for a little warm). In the meantime, you roast some asparagus, season/dress some greens, grill a bit of bread, and let the same processor in which you made the pesto chop a handful of kalmata olives for you. Scrape those into a bowl with some cubed feta, lemon juice, Maldon salt and olive oil, spoon it around, and you've got a topping for your bread. And then, you plate. 

Don't forget the wine.


Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to take a nap and pray that my taste-buds will reawaken by the time decide I wash up that bushel of basil sitting on the counter to make this number yet again. Until soon xx MN : )


Pesto Chicken Plates Recipe 
(serves two with possibly extra)

Ingredients:

Chicken

2-3 boneless chicken breasts
salt + pepper
1/2 Tbs each butter and olive oil

2 c basil leaves washed and thoroughly dried (salad spun!)
1 clove garlic
scant 2 Tbs pine nuts very lightly toasted
2 heaped Tbs fresh grated parmesan
3-4 Tbs olive oil
sea salt + pepper
squeeze of lemon 

Extras

Small bunch asparagus
olive oil
salt + pepper

1 oz feta
8-10 pitted kalmata olives
Pinch Maldon or coarse salt + pepper
Squeeze lemon juice
1-2 tsp olive oil

Sourdough or Italian bread, sliced and lightly toasted under the broiler


Method:

-Toss asparagus with oil and a generous pinch salt/pepper. Roast on a baking sheet in a preheated 425 oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on thickness, shaking tray halfway, piercing with a fork to check for desired done-ness. Squeeze over lemon. Set aside to cool.

-For Chicken: Adapted from thekitchn. Pat dry and lightly pound breasts to even thickness, then season with salt and pepper. Heat up frying pan med-high. Swirl together butter/oil to melt. Add chicken; sear 60 seconds on one side. Flip, turn heat to lowest setting, cover with lid, and wait 10 minutes. Turn heat off and wait another 10. Take temp or pierce to check for near-clear juices. They will finish up as they rest. Remove to bowl or cutting board and tent lightly with foil. Reduce juices a bit in the pan by heating on medium and stirring. The breasts resting in the bowl will also release juice you can throw back into the pan too. 

 -While that cooks make pesto. In a food processor, combine half basil with garlic + nuts, pulse to break down, then add the rest of the basil and parm. Drizzle in olive oil until emulsified, scraping down sides. Add pinches of salt + pepper to taste and a squeeze lemon. Adjust with a little more oil, salt or lemon if needed and scrape into a bowl or jar. Drizzle a smidge oil and cover with plastic. More thorough instruction.

-Add olives to processor and pulse a few times to break up. Scrape into a bowl and add cubed feta, a little lemon juice and salt. Stir to combine, set aside.

-After chicken has cooled/rested a bit, use your hands to tear into small strips, shreds. Add some pan juices and a big dollop or two of pesto and stir. 

-Serve w/ bread, olive tapenade, asparagus and mixed greens


27 May 2014

Rhubarb Scones



I stood in the kitchen early Friday evening, worried about my lone rhubarb stalk and quarter quart of buttermilk bundled in the refrigerator as impending clouds of downpour inched over the neighborhood. I had my sneakers on, about to get some air. Now I was looking out the window, debating. It was sunny five minutes ago. Welcome to late May, I thought. And within the next few minutes, the solution to the wait-out, the buttermilk and the red stalk, surfaced almost by itself: freeze-ahead tender buttermilk scones with jammy pockets of sweet-tart rhubarb. Breakfast for tomorrow.


I loved everything about how these tender things baked up; I based the recipe on Nancy Silverton's Pastries From the La Brea Bakery's recipe for Strawberry buttermilk scones. And since I froze the dough, I especially loved that when I put them in the oven, there were no bowls to clean. In fact, I went back to bed for 20 minutes. If you opt to freeze and bake, you'll have to add a bit more time, 5-6 minutes, and you will appreciate the time on a Saturday morning. Put these in the oven, lay in bed a little more, take them out, and go grab an Americano while they cool. And with that, there are no dishes or french presses to clean. It's worth saying that we liked these so much and after confirming the freezing-ahead method had no impact on texture with this dough, I made more dough and froze it again two days later.



And I will probably do so again soon.


Rhubarb Scones
Makes 4

Ingredients: (Top photo)

Method:
Chop the rhubarb and toss it with the vanilla and a pinch of the sugar you'll be using (about 1/2 a tsp)

Combine flour, salt sugar, ginger, zest, baking powder and soda with a whisk well in a large bowl.

Cut in cold butter until it resembles coarse meal with pea size butter chunks; keep it cold, keep it solid.

Toss in the rhubarb mix, stir in gently.

Make a well in the center, add the buttermilk, working from the outside, stir with a spatula gently, to moisten the flour until moist clumps form. Dump the mixture onto a piece of parchment and with very lightly floured hands fold it onto itself one or two times, and pat into a 1 inch disk, do not overwork this. Slice into fourths and gently place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.**

Brush with buttermilk, sprinkle with Turbinado sugar and bake in a preheated 400 oven 25-30 mins until the tops and bottoms are nicely browned, and a skewer comes out clean. Let cool on the sheet on a rack 5-10 mins, then remove to cool on a rack alone.

**At this point you can freeze them on the sheet pan, loosely draped in plastic, until hard, an hour or two, and store in a freezer bag to bake the next day or days after. Add about 5 minutes to bake time.

21 May 2014

Broiler asparagus


Asparagus, I can't get enough. Each time at the market, I buy it. Even if I bought it the day before. Chances are it's gone. That's because I've been doing this. Sometimes twice a day. Sticking asparagus under the broiler for a quick char is nothing new, but here I tell you to halve it and do it in a skillet rather than dirtying up a sheet pan. Set the asparagus aside, then use the same skillet to make whatever else you're making. Like scrambled eggs.


I tend to get impatient standing at the saute pan, so I like the oven. Look, I've been an asparagus roaster (but that means waiting 15 minutes) and a blancher (prone to over or under-cook in a matter of seconds). I thought to do it this way one day when I left approximately 5 minutes to make my lunch, and haven't turned back since. There's no worrying about temperature here. After cooking, it's perfectly good at room temperature, or cold.


Which means, with Memorial Day around the corner, you can totally bring it to a picnic. Or a pool. Or a beach. Or your deck. Below with butter salmon a la Mr. Bittman, which I plan to post about as soon as I can get a photo taken before 7:45 pm. Asparagus for all. Get it  while it lasts : )








15 May 2014

Rhubarb and Raspberry Crostata



All of these Springs past I've avoided rhubarb "just cuz," until last Saturday when the first farmer's market appeared and there sat piles of spinach which I happily stuffed into a bag. I was late and they'd run out of eggs, so I grabbed a sweet potato, and turned attention to the big mound of red stalks in the center. Another girl was scoping out the red celery, too, and we both decided to try something new. I bought a stalk, and thought about what to make. Oh the options. Muffins, crumb cakes, curd. But then my eye caught sight of a clipped recipe from Bon Apetite from a few seasons ago. I love finding things on paper.

Karen Demasco, pastry chef of Locanda Verde, combines raspberries and rhubarb in tender crostata crust. She takes care of you through the process, so even if you shy away from pastry generally, I highly recommend giving this a shot. It's a dough on the softer side. Cold butter is a must as well as a chill after formation, but this dough, punctuated with some whole wheat flour and bound by a little milk and egg, isn't so much about flake than it is about a wonderful rustic tenderness with some crispiness, aka, crust/ crusta, which is the Italian derivative of Crrrostatttaaa : ). Crostatas and galettes are rather forgiving...my edges usually resist tidiness, and that's what I love about them.

My only changes were to halve both the crust and filling, therefore making a smaller tart (but I still baked it around 40 mins), and to use whole wheat pastry flour instead of hard whole wheat, which I then upped the ratio of since it is lighter (i.e., I used 1/2 c whole wheat pastry and 1/4 c all purpose since I halved the recipe). Demasco has you very briefly cook the filling so it will stay gelled, like jam, and despite never cooking rhubarb I found that process rather simple and quick. Rustic, jammy Spring fruit tucked into tender whole what dough..what's not to love? And the rhubarb...that's pretty tasty, too. 

I let it sit by the window in the light, crisping up and cooling down for a few hours before slicing in the evening for a rare midweek dessert. 

And saved a piece for breakfast, too.
 


Rhubarb and Raspberry Crostata

Notes: If you wish for a smaller tart as I did, simply halve everything below. This is the full recipe below.

crust

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp. whole milk

filling

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 4 cups 1/2'-thick slices rhubarb (about 1-1 1/4 lb.)
  • 1 6-oz. container fresh raspberries
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • Beaten egg
  • Raw sugar

 

Method:

crust

  • Combine both flours, sugar, and salt in a processor; blend for 5 seconds. Add butter; pulse until butter is reduced to pea-size pieces. Whisk egg and milk in a small bowl to blend; add to processor and pulse until moist clumps form. Gather dough into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap; chill at least 1 1/2hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.

filling

  • Dissolve cornstarch in 3 Tbsp. water in a small bowl; set aside. Combine rhubarb, raspberries, and sugar in a large heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until sugar dissolves and juices are released, about 4 minutes. Stir in cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil (rhubarb will not be tender and slices will still be intact). Transfer to a bowl. Chill until cool, about 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 400°. Roll out dough on floured parchment paper to 12" round; brush with beaten egg. Mound filling in center of crust; gently spread out, leaving 1 1/2" border. Gently fold edges of dough over filling, pleating as needed. Brush border with egg; sprinkle with raw sugar. Slide parchment with crostata onto a large rimmed baking sheet and bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly, about 45 minutes. Let crostata cool on baking sheet on a rack.

11 May 2014

Mom's Day Lunch


Happy Sunday, ya'll, I'm over on the ShopRite potluck blog today with a little menu lunch for Mom's Day, featuring asparagus scrambles, an arugula avocado salad and whole wheat lemony almond honey muffins. Make it today if you seek inspiration, or make it any other day you want to share with your special lady. I know I'll be repeating this one : ) Xxmn

02 May 2014

Sprouting Seeds



Hello! It's Friday and that means it's time to share : )

NY Times: She is always fun. 

Through the secret service (not really, just perks) I had the chance to see the first couple episodes of Louie this season. Check it out Monday!

Another thing my mom was right about

And then, last week, she gave me a bag of chia seeds.

Ch-ch-chia seeds. You've heard of them, perhaps you've already made chia pudding or experimented with chia eggs. I haven't gone there yet. I'm still on treating them like poppy seed's sister (with a much higher nutritional punch). I'm all for super foods like cacao nibs and chia seeds but I want them like I'd eat any other seed or chocolate chunk: in baked goods of course.

So here we go. First I made chia lemon muffins. Divine. This is simply this muffin batter with a tablespoon chia seeds added (and the raspberry/rosemary omitted). PS: that whole wheat pastry or spelt flour-yogurt-lemon-honey batter (inspired by Super Natural Everyday) is been my go-to base recipe all Spring so far for simple add ins like this. The perfect not-overly-sweet muffin that bakes up pretty fast, too is a nice canvas.

So if you have chia seeds on you or are thinking of getting them, do try giving the lemon poppy muffin a makeover. 


My mom also gave me some Q'ia. Have you seen this? I was intimidated at first. But after discovering it bakes right into granola, that bag found its place in my kitchen. And so ensues below a tale of two granolas, both superfoody by way of chia, hemp seeds and buckwheat groats.

For the version below just, I used the qia in my basic olive oil granola as well as some almonds and then added cacao nibs (I like these if you're looking) after it cooled. Super good. And if you want, you can bake some Q'ia into coconut oil granola, too. A long and low bake ensures nothing burns. The contrast of texture between the crisp/airy buckwheat groats (I had no idea) and crunchy oats, nuts, nibs and seeds makes it a stand-out yogurt dresser-uper in my book. 


 

To bake with Q'ia, simply replace some of the nut component of the granola recipe with a scoop of the groat/seed mix. Note: I don't recommend going too heavy on the chia in the granola though. If you scoop, I recommend sifting out some of the chia and hemp seeds so you have maybe 70% groats and 30% seeds in your add-in scoop. But before I just went ahead throwing Q'ia into my base granola I started with whole-foods maven Sara Britton's popular chunky chocolate buckwheat granola, which includes cocoa powder, buckwheat groats, and a little chia and after we finished that, the "seed" to do a non-chocolate version Q'ia granola sprouted. Chocolate and buckwheat work surprisingly well together. The buckwheat flavor of the groats too, is very mild. Check out Sarah's recipe here.

  

And via Food & Wine, I'll leave you with a good Spring Panzanella idea. With asparagus, torn toasty bread, briny feta and just-boiled egg this is a filling, flavor-bomb of a lunch. Sadly no radishes worth buying here yet to color up the plate, but soon. 

So tear up some bread, bake some granola and throw chia seeds into muffins this weekend. Enjoy! Until soon : )