So, it’s the first day of fall, but yes, I’m in denial. I’m not quite ready to give up on summer yet. April, May and most of June was a washout. Cold, damp, and definitely not the start of a … Continue reading
Once the summer is in full swing, I tend to use my grill almost every day. Outdoor cooking and dining poolside is a treat after the cold, nasty winters. But although once Memorial Day is behind us, and we consider the summer season to have begun, it unfortunately hasn’t. Springtime on Long Island can be frustrating—teased by one day of sunny, warm weather, and followed by three days of chilling rain.
Today was not a day for outdoor cooking, yet I’m tired of the heavy foods I’d cooked all winter to keep warm. This is what I came up with today. The prep time was minimal and the result was sweet and tasty.
Chicken breasts with truffle infused apricot sauce
2 split bone-in chicken breasts (4 pieces)
½ cup apricot preserves
¼ cup honey
3 tablespoons black truffle infused balsamic vinegar
¼ cup truffle infused olive oil
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon tarragon
Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400º
In a saucepan combine the apricot preserves, honey, vinegar, oil, garlic, pepper, tarragon, and cinnamon sticks. Heat on medium until it begins to bubble. Remove from heat and set aside.
Line a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet with foil. Brush some of the glaze under the skin of the chicken and another layer of glaze over the top. Bake for 20 minutes. Baste with glaze and bake for an additional 20 – 25 minutes.
Reheat the remainder of the glaze and use it as a side sauce for the chicken. Alternatively, pour remainder of sauce over the chicken after plating.
Comfort food—nothing soothes the soul better. For me, comfort food is anything my mom made for me growing up when I was under the weather, or needed warmth. For my children, it was the same—Yiayia’s cooking was what they craved. Yiayia is no longer with us, but her spirit lives on in her wise words, the traditions she taught us, the advice that still rings in our ears, and in her delectable food.
This lemon chicken and potato meal has always been one that I’ve made in my home, just as my mom had. Yet, when my children would have it at her home, they would savor every bite. I think this might have been for two reasons. First reason – her gas stove. Even though I would cook the food exactly the way she did, it never came out quite the same. The natural juices came out pulpier when she made it. She never used chicken broth – only water. I add the chicken broth in hopes of replicating the flavor she achieved with her gas stove. Don’t get me wrong. Mine comes out tasty. We all enjoy it. But it’s not exactly like my mom’s. Which brings me to the second reason. I call it the Yiayia Effect. Everything she did or made was special to her grandchildren—even more so now that they only have their memories to draw on. And I suppose this is why certain foods are comfort foods. Not only for the delicious flavor but also for how they make us feel inside.
Yiayia’s Chicken and Potatoes
4 split chicken breasts, bone in
3 pounds of medium sized potatoes, quartered
1½ cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
5-6 cloves garlic, sliced
2 large lemons
2 tablespoons dried oregano
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven – 350º
Place the chicken breasts in a roasting pan. Pour the chicken broth in the pan and arrange the quartered potatoes around the chicken. Drizzle the olive oil over the chicken and potatoes, and add a pat of butter on top of each breast. Squeeze the juice from 1½ lemon over the chicken and potatoes, reserving ½ to be sliced and placed over the dish before going into the oven. Sprinkle the garlic, salt, pepper and oregano evenly and place in the oven. Bake until the chicken is tender and the potatoes are crisp, about 1½ hours. Flip the chicken over once or twice during while roasting for optimal moistness.
Today was one of those days that I had no idea what I would cook for dinner until I got home and looked in my fridge. After work, I’d run a few errands. Well to be truthful, I went shoe shopping. By the time I left the stores, I wasn’t in the mood to stop at the grocery store. I usually make several trips a week because I like to buy my food fresh, so I was sure there was something in the house I could make a meal from.
I love wine in my food, and many of my recipes require it, but I wanted to do something different – something a little on the sweet side. I swapped out the wine for Amaretto, and came up with this. Anything with mushrooms and shallots can’t be bad. Plus, it took less than an hour to prepare from start to finish.
2 Pounds chicken cutlets, sliced thin
3 Shallots, sliced
½ Pound of sliced mushrooms
1 Tablespoon milk
1 Cup flour
Dash of salt and pepper
1 Teaspoon dried parsley
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons olive oil
½ cup Amaretto liquor
3 Cups chicken broth
1 Tablespoon dried tarragon or 2 tablespoons of fresh
1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
Prepare two separate shallow dredging bowls. In the first, whisk together the egg and milk. In the second, mix the flour, parsley, salt and pepper.
In a large heated skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and add the olive oil.
Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour, then the egg, and then the flour again. Add the dredged chicken into the skillet and brown, about 5 – 7 minutes per side.
Transfer to an oven safe dish and place in preheated oven (325 degrees) while the shallots and mushrooms sauté. Add the mushrooms and shallots to the skillet and sauté in the same butter/oil used to brown the chicken. Stir often, lifting any bits from the bottom of the skillet. Sauté until tender, about 7 – 10 minutes.
Add the Amaretto. When it comes to a boil, add 2 cups of the chicken broth. Bring the sauce to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Add the tarragon. Season with a couple of dashes of pepper.
Make a slurry from the cornstarch and 1/4 cup of the remaining chicken broth. Whisk it into the Amaretto sauce and bring to a high simmer. If the sauce is too thick, add the remaining broth. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon. Add the last tablespoon of butter and whisk.
Remove the chicken from the oven and add it to the skillet with the sauce.
Summer is the best season for flavor. The fruits and vegetables are fresh, especially if you buy locally grown, in-season produce from your local farms. For me, walking outside to my herb garden and clipping sprigs of oregano, tarragon, and fragrant leaves of basil and mint makes a world of difference in the flavor of my food. Even for the timid cook, or the person who claims to cook only because they have to, seasoning with herbs can make creating a meal an easy and painless task.
Cooking relaxes me. I love playing with flavors and combinations, but I also savor the foods I grew up with. The tried and true. The recipes handed down from yiayiá to mamá and now to me. I watched my mother cook, throwing in a little of this and a little of that, never measuring. Tasting as she went along. That is how I learned to cook. So read your cookbooks with an open mind and with your taste buds in consideration. If a recipe calls for an ingredient or a seasoning you don’t care for, don’t discard the recipe; tailor it to your liking.
This past Monday, Memorial Day, I announced I would have a lazy day by the pool. The rest of the weekend was fun, but filled with commitments and I wanted to do absolutely nothing – a rarity for me. I told my family that I would just grill some hamburgers and make a quick salad when we were ready for dinner. My niece said, “A lazy day by the pool. I could use that. I’ll come over.” Then her mother, my sister, said that her husband would be working on getting the boat ready for the summer and she wanted to come over, too. Then, I called my friends who live across the street, because, after all, they’re not company, and why shouldn’t they join us for a “lazy” day by the pool. Next thing I know, my niece texts me and asks if my husband’s nephew is coming because she has a present for his children. Now why didn’t I think of that? Sophia and Ryan would love to swim.
Well, needless to say, my lazy day by the pool and hamburgers for dinner turned into a little bit more.
Jack Daniels hamburgers with pretzel buns, lemon-tarragon grilled chicken, olive oil and herb rubbed lamb chops, Greek salad, grilled corn salad, lemon roasted potatoes, and tomato bruschetta.
Actually, it was a simple dinner for the 13 of us. I kept it as uncomplicated as I could and restrained myself from making more side dishes and appetizers. I don’t think I could have sat around doing nothing for too long anyway. Watching everyone have a good time at my home gave me joy. A trait passed down from my mother.
Olive Oil and Herb-Rubbed Lamb chops
8 – 10 Lamb chops, rib or round bone
1/3 cup Olive oil
2 Tablespoons dried oregano, or ¼ cup loosely packed fresh, snipped
2 Tablespoons dried basil, or ½ cup fresh, shredded
2 Tablespoons fresh dill
4 – 5 mint leaves, shredded
2 – 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
½ Teaspoon each of salt and pepper
Juice and zest from 2 lemons
Combine all the ingredients (minus the lamb) in a bowl and mix together. Rub the herb mixture onto each lamb chop. Place in a marinating bag or container and add the rest of the mixture. Marinate overnight. Grill or broil.
Lemon Tarragon Chicken Marinade
2 Pounds thin sliced chicken cutlets
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
¼ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup of honey
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon dried tarragon, or several sprig of fresh, leaves pulled off stems.
Combine all the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken and marinate at least 4 – 5 hours, overnight if possible. Grill.
Lemon roasted Potatoes
5 Pounds of potatoes.
1/3 cup Olive oil, or enough to coat potatoes
Juice and zest of 2- 3 lemons
3 – 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons dried oregano, or 1/3 cup fresh
2 Tablespoons dried parsley, or ¼ cup fresh
Fresh basil if you choose
2 Tablespoons semolina
* Note on the herbs – the amounts are estimates. Add as much or as little as you like. More of something you love, less or not at all of something you don’t care for.
**This is a recipe that can be played with. For another variation, skip the lemon and add grated cheese. Or keep the lemon and add tarragon and shallots, omitting the oregano.
Peel and quarter medium sized potatoes. Place in a roasting pan and add the olive oil. Toss to coat thoroughly. Add the lemon and zest and toss again. Add the herbs, garlic and seasonings. Add the semolina and once again, toss to coat. The semolina will give the potatoes extra crispness. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 450 degrees for 25 minutes. Turn the potatoes and roast for another 20 minutes.
My Throwback Thursday post for this week goes back to one of my very first Livejournal posts. I’d been asked many times by busy “twenty somethings” for quick, healthy meals. Claiming they were spending too much money on take-out, and consuming more calories than they should, they were looking for an easy solution for the cooking challenged population. With years of juggling school, dance and tennis, I always had meals for the grab & go schedule. Whatever your circumstances, we all seem to lead hectic lives—the key is to be organized and do a little prep work. I buy a couple of my favorite lettuces; usually romaine, green leaf and red leaf. I cut, wash and spin them dry. My family pulls from that bag of lettuce all week. We make wraps and salads. I make sure I have a variety of cheeses, fresh veggies, croutons, grilled chicken and salad dressings. No one wants to eat the same thing every day. One day make an Asian inspired salad or wrap, the next day it can be Mexican or Italian. To buy that same salad at the deli would cost eight or nine dollars and would not be tailored to your exact tastes. Add what you like—shredded carrots, sliced mushrooms, and bean sprouts. All these ingredients are available pre-sliced if you need to save time. I also prefer to make my own salad dressings. They taste better, there are no preservatives and it is more cost effective. Pre-made salad dressings are usually high in sugar and sodium, have several additives and most are high in fat. Healthy means buy ingredients not products. I always have grilled chicken in my fridge. Not only is it a perfect addition for the salad and wraps, but also it’s great for making a Panini. I own a grill pan with a Panini press weight. I use it more often than any other pan. I like the stovetop Panini press feature better than the electric models, but both work well. Below are my signature salad dressing and my chicken marinade. Make plenty of the chicken—slice into salads, wraps, paninis, or eat it warm off the grill with a side of fresh vegetables.
Lemon Tarragon Chicken Marinade
1 pound thin sliced chicken cutlets
¼ cup olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
½ cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup of honey
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
Combine all the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken and marinate for several hours or overnight if possible. Grill the chicken on an outside or stovetop grill.
Don’t get too worried about measuring, I rarely do. Trust your tastes. If you don’t like garlic, omit it. If you love honey, add a little more.
Honey Lemon Basil Salad Dressing
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ rice wine vinegar
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup honey
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 large clove garlic, crushed
¼ cup fresh basil
Emulsify all ingredients in a small food processor or blender. I sometimes make this dressing by simply whisking the ingredients. Shred the basil if not emulsifying.
If you choose not to use honey, substitute a teaspoon of sugar.
You are ready to assemble a tasty salad. What would you put in yours?
Today, mine will have lettuce, tomato, dried cranberries, raw walnut pieces, crumbled goat cheese and sliced grilled chicken.
I have friends that say they cook because they have to and try to get out of it as often as they can. I use cooking to get out of everything else I’m not in the mood to do. If I need to dust, vacuum, or clean out a closet I’ll start cooking instead. After all, my family needs to eat. It’s the perfect justification for putting off the more boring chores. I’ll cook pasta salads and make salad dressings to have on hand for lunches for the week. I’ll bake something or play around with new marinades for the grill. Anything so I don’t have to push the mop plus everyone benefits from a good meal. I do get around to cleaning the house, I would never let it go, I just procrastinate like a child doing homework. So with all this playing around, I have a couple of new recipes I would like to share with you. Some were inspired by dishes I tasted in restaurants and others by what I found in my pantry. I am having success with my herb garden and have been using my fresh herbs in my dressings, sauces and marinades.
I have my standard favorite marinades for chicken, but wanted to try something different. When we go to Thai restaurants my husband always orders the chicken satay. I came up with my own marinade for the satay and my family loved it. Usually peanut sauce or peanut butter is used in Thai cooking. I don’t love peanut butter, so I subbed cashew butter. It has a softer taste. Use the peanut if you prefer. This is great for dinner or as a party appetizer.
2 pounds chicken cut in strips 1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar 1 teaspoon chiplote sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar 1 teaspoon cumin
1/3 cup cashew butter 1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup ketchup 2 tablespoons fresh basil, shredded
1/3 cup vegetable oil 2 cloves crushed garlic
Setting aside the chicken, whisk all the other ingredients together. Pour over chicken and marinate for at least four hours. For best results, marinate overnight. Before you are ready to grill, soak bamboo skewers in water for 20 minutes so they do not burn. Ribbon the marinated chicken onto the skewers and grill. Grill time will depend on your grill. Keep in mind that the chicken ribbons are thin and will cook quickly.
*If you wish, set aside some unused marinade to use as a dipping sauce. Do not use any sauce that has touched the raw chicken.
We were at a BBQ and the salads were all catered from a deli. My daughter liked one that had sundried tomatoes in it and asked me to try it. I thought it was pretty good but could have had more flavor. Since she liked it so much I decided to go home and play with a recipe for this pasta salad. My family loved it and I use it often for our backyard parties.
Sundried Tomato Pasta Salad
3 ounces dehydrated sundried tomatoes
1/3-cup olive oil
2 tsp. Balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves minced garlic
4-6 fresh basil leaves, shredded
¼ tsp sugar
1 tbl. tomato paste
1/4 cup water or white wine
I often make sundried tomatoes as an appetizer. When I do, I rehydrate them by bringing a small saucepan of water to a boil. Remove from heat and soak the dried tomatoes for 5 minutes. Drain and gently squeeze out the excess water. Dress with the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, basil, sugar, tomato paste and liquid. The measurements are estimates. I never measure. I test and add. You can measure and make something exactly the same way and it will come out different. You must taste. After you dress the tomatoes, separate half and put in a small food processor. The mixture will look like a paste. It should be a medium to loose paste. You may need to add some additional olive oil to the food processor to get the proper consistency. In the meantime, boil the pasta. It should be al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool. Mix in the paste, coating the pasta. The whole sundried tomatoes should be sliced into halves or thirds and mixed into the pasta as well. The oil and herbs that dressed the tomatoes go in for flavor and moisture.