Sunday, October 18, 2015

Chicken Saltimbocca

Considering it’s October, I am amazed that the sage in my garden is still productive.  The leaves aren’t as vibrant as those that love the bright summer sun but they’re just as flavorful.  I planted it a while ago and it just keeps coming back, year after year, growing and coaxing me to add a savory zip to both hot and cold dishes!

It was my turn to cook last week and as I thought about what to make, rewarding the sage plant for its diligence and perseverance seemed fitting.  So I did a quick search for a chicken and sage recipe and Chicken Saltimbocca appeared.

It’s a NYTimes Cooking recipe and I haven’t made or tasted anything from NYTimes Cooking that wasn't fantastic!

Saltimbocca is Italian for “hops in the mouth”  and with the chicken, marinated in olive oil or wine, spices, prosciutto, sage and cheese, the flavors of this dish truly do hop in your mouth!  Veal or Chicken Saltimbocca is believed to have originated in ancient Rome during a time when the swanky rulers would host elaborate feasts, featuring meats, spices, cheeses and wines abundant in the area, to showcase their riches and wealth.  There are many different versions of Saltimbocca recipes but I like this version from NYTimes Cooking because it’s quite tasty also also relatively easy to make. Basil is sometimes substituted for sage but I think the sage gives this dish less sweet, more earthy flavor that is so incredibly satisfying and downright good! The recipe calls for garnishing the dish with some fried sage leaves and they provide a welcome and crispy surprise.

We had a bonus dinner crew gathering last weekend…it was a girl’s weekend at the shore and, continuing on the Italian theme, we made homemade pizzas.  Look how stunning:
Traditional Margherita

Fig Jam, Caramelized Onions and Parmesan Cheese

Sautéed Mushrooms and Manchego Cheese

All three were delectable and devoured in no time flat!  

Our salad featured freshly-harvested greens from M.'s garden....just so delicious.

And for dessert, A. made the most often viewed and wildly popular recipe in NYTimes history, Plum Torte. Again, delicious and just as tasty with a cup of tea for a quick mid-morning snack.

The next day, we strolled along the Block Party in downtown Ocean City.  It was a delightful day -- quite crowded -- and we all walked away with some goodies, including some to satisfy our appetites, like this soft shell crab cake sandwich from IKE's.  Yum.

Chicken Saltimbocca
by:  NYTimes Cooking

1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 4-ounce pieces
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chopped sage, plus 24 large sage leaves
2 garlic cloves smashed to a paste
1 pinch red pepper flakes, optional
Olive oil
6 thin slices proscuitto
6 slices fontina cheese (about 4 ounces)

Using a meat mallet, pound the chicken to flatten a bit. Salt and pepper each piece on both sides and place on a platter. Sprinkle with chopped sage, garlic, red pepper flakes (if using) and olive oil. Massage in the seasoning to distribute, cover and marinate at room temperature for one hour, or refrigerate for up to several hours.

Heat a wide skillet over medium heat and add 3 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil looks wavy, add the sage leaves and let them crisp for about 30 seconds. Remove and drain.

Brown the chicken breasts in the oil for about 2 minutes per side, then transfer to a baking dish large enough to fit them in one layer.

Top each piece with 2 sage leaves, a slice of prosciutto and a slice of fontina. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling. Garnish with remaining sage leaves.  Serve with spinach sautéed in olive oil, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and a pinch of nutmeg!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Salmon Chowder

 Last weekend was a weather washout.  Hurricane Joaquin thankfully veered east but a nasty Nor’easter bit the east coast in its arse and would not let go.  As a fledgling and part-time Jersey Shore resident, I was a wreck, and my mom made me promise I would not head east to survey the situation (really, what could I do?), so I relied on reports sent via Facebook, text and Instagram from my OCNJ neighbors and local news reporters. Veteran shore-house owners tell me that once I get a few storms under by belt, I won’t be as fretful…perhaps that’s true.

Here is a hauntingly beautiful photo from one my community correspondents.
A few days before the Nor’easter hit, we had dinner at C.’s house.  The Salmon Chowder she served was not only delectable, but it warmed our innards just the way a good soup should.  Summer food is tasty, fun and casual, but each year we look forward to making our favorite soups, stews, muffins and breads with the delicious fruits and vegetables that define fall…pumpkins, butternut squash, parsnips, pears, figs and cranberries, just to name a few.
I make a mean butternut squash soup and who doesn’t like butternut squash soup?

Anyway, this Salmon Chowder recipe is courtesy of  C. modified a bit…she baked a piece of fresh salmon instead of using canned, eliminated the cheddar cheese, added tomatoes, red peppers and fresh garlic from her garden.  Below are some of her other garden jewels.

As you can see, this recipe is hearty and very easy to make.  C. had it for lunch a few days after our dinner and said it aged beautifully and was still quite delicious.  Serve with a crispy, crusty bread — perfect for dipping! 

Salmon Chowder
Adapted from

3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cups diced potatoes
2 carrots, diced
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
One nice piece of salmon, baked and shredded
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn
One tomato, diced
1/2 pound Cheddar cheese, shredded (if desired)

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onion, garlic, celery and red pepper until onions and peppers are tender. Stir in potatoes, carrots, broth, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and dill. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat. Cover, and simmer 20 minutes.

Stir in salmon, evaporated milk, corn, and cheese. Cook until heated through.
I made a topless Pear and Fig Pie for dessert….it was so good but I could not find fresh so I had to use dried figs.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ginger Pork Meatballs with Coconut Broth

So, if I told you that our crew had meatballs for dinner your mind would naturally drift to red sauce (or gravy in my half-Italian world) served atop a mound of your favorite pasta.

You wouldn’t think that meatballs would be (or should be!) simmered in a delicious infusion of coconut milk, lemongrass, saffron, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce,Thai chilis and ginger.


Well, lucky for us, that conclusion would be flawed.

We had dinner at A.’s house last week and she made Ginger Pork Meatballs in Coconut Broth.  She drooled over the recipe when it appeared in her Instagram feed compliments of who, thankfully, spotted the recipe in Bon Appetit magazine.

Let me tell you a little about this dish.  First, the meatballs were so full of flavor that I quickly abandoned my initial reaction of wanting to bless myself for the blasphemy of meatballs being prepared in coconut sauce.  They melted in your mouth just they way their traditional counterparts do after being cooked in gravy for a several hours.  The broth is so flavorful -- creamy and sweet and savory -- that you will want to ditch your manners to slurp it through a straw but, no worries, the rice served with the dish happily soaks up the flavors and your palate won’t miss a thing.

One of the allures of this dish is that you don’t have to buy a ton of disparate ingredients for both the meatballs and the sauce.  The replication of the ingredients is perhaps the reason why the meat and the broth complement each other so nicely, kind of like first cousins…a little different but with a lot of commonalities. The meatballs reminded me of Chinese dumplings filing, which then reminded me that pork and ginger enjoy a long and wonderful relationship and I forgot all about the meatball/gravy thing.  This recipe, introducing coconut, takes full advantage of and capitalizes on that harmonious bond!  

Now all meatballs are made with breadcrumbs that act as a binding agent.  One gluten-free reader of the Shutterbean blog suggested that when a recipe calls for breadcrumbs she simply pulverizes a few rice cakes in her vitamix for instant, gluten-free breadcrumbs. Readers are so generous with their tips!

This is the perfect flavor-packed, warm, satisfying dish to add to your impending autumnal cool-down meal repertoire.   A., of course, improvised a bit by adding sautéed shallots to the meatballs, coconut cream and saffron to the broth and she tossed in diced baby boc choy and tomatoes right before serving.  Otherwise this dish was prepared as seen in the Instagram feed.  A. served the dish in a beautiful handmade casserole dish most by the host herself!


2 pounds ground pork
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1  13.5 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup thinly sliced ginger
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 fresh red Thai chiles, slit but kept intact, plus thinly sliced chiles for serving
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, outer leaves removed and stalk cut into 1 inch lengths
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
kosher salt

For serving
thinly sliced mint
steamed jasmine rice

To make the meatballs, preheat oven to 425F. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.  Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Form the mixture into 40 1 1/2 inch meatballs and arrange them on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake until the meatballs are golden brown and just cooked through, about 15 minutes.  KOPO note…I would sauté them, but that’s just me.

Meanwhile, make the broth by combining the coconut milk, stock, ginger, garlic, slit chiles, lemongrass, lime zest and juice, fish sauce, and turmeric in a large saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and season with salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat so the broth is simmering. Discard the lemongrass.
Add the meatballs to the broth and simmer until cooked through and tender, about 15 minutes. Season the broth with more sugar, salt and lime juice if necessary. Serve with sliced herbs and thai chiles, lime wedges and rice.  

We enjoyed this dish with a flavorful Pinotage from South Africa.  The wine had some tasty mocha and coffee undertones and maybe not the best choice (by me) for a spicy-inspired dish but it was enjoyable nonetheless.