Saturday, September 3, 2016

Pistachio Muffins

I worked in Delaware for 15 years and, as you may remember reading, I started working in Center City Philadelphia again last year.

I couldn’t be happier.  

Except for one thing.

When I worked in Delaware, I could walk to a place that had the best (BEST) pistachio muffins. So every so often, I would take a stroll and buy a few to satisfy my inevitable craving.  Despite the  plethora of bakeries and eateries in Center City, I have not been able to find pistachio muffins.  

Giant, bless their hearts, carries them every now and then.  More then than now.

So, considering this distance and dearth dilemma, the only thing a girl could do is to bake her own. 

So I did.

Pistachio Muffins
Adapted from a few recipes

1 box of instant pistachio pudding (3.4 ounce package)
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup wheat flour
¾ cups granulated sugar
½ cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Dash of sea salt
1/4 cup pistachios, ground pretty finely
2 eggs
1 cup of milk
½ cup canola oil
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and add liners to the muffin pan. In a large mixing bowl mix all dry ingredients – pudding, flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and most of the ground pistachios (save a little for topping).  In a separate bowl mix wet ingredients, medium mix eggs, almond extract, milk, oil and lemon zest.  Combine wet and dry ingredients and hand mix until incorporated. Sprinkle on the reserved ground pistachios and some coarse sugar, which adds a nice, subtly sweet crunch.

Fill muffin cups and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick done.

These muffins are so good.  The ground pistachios add a little munch, the zest brightens things up, and the almond extract contributes a natural nutty note.  Bonus, they freeze beautifully!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Grilled Tuna with Nectarine Red-Onion Relish

It’s grilling season.

Although for some, especially those with easy-to-fire-up gas grills, grilling never stops and continues through all seasons.

I grill on a Weber charcoal number and I prepare the charcoal in one of those chimney things.  I’ve had a few gas grills but, we don’t get along.  I singed my hair once standing too close investigating why the goofy thing would not fire up.  

It eventually did, as my hair discovered.  

I don’t have much luck with lawn mowers or weed-wackers either.  I've resorted to a manual push mower and a crew of very nice people with heavy equipment.

Younger daughter did fix my weed-wacker, so beware.

These disclosures bring me to the point of this story.  We had dinner at M.'s house this past week and she made grilled tuna. Grilled tuna itself is a treat but top it with a fruity relish and, my friends, you have a genuine taste-bud dance party! Serving fresh fruits with meat not only makes for a pretty presentation but the bright notes of the fruit accentuate and complement the smokiness of grilled meats and fish.  I suspect you could use this combination of ingredients with any seasonal fruit you have on hand.  Substitute cilantro for the basil and add some jalapeño for a more spicy and savory relish.

Nectarine Red-Onion Relish
From:  The Thrill of the Grill

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
6 ripe but firm rectories or peaches, peeled and cut into 8 slices each
1 medium red onion (for the color as much as the flavor) sliced into long, thin pieces
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup julienned fresh basil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons lime juice (one lime)
1/4 cup olive oil
Sand and freshly cracked pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently.  The larger bowl allows you to toss the ingredients together nicely without sending some precious bits over the sides.  Chill until ready to serve.  This is a slightly runny relish and will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Pasta with Creamy Mushroom-Pea Sauce

Before I write about our latest Dinner Club gathering, I have to say I skipped a week.  Oh, I was present alright but I forgot to take a photo of the absolutely delicious Butternut Squash Lasagna that C.’s daughter’s made.    

C.’s daughter, a farmer who grows the most wonderful vegetables and herbs, has been cooking at Pendle Hill, a local Quaker Retreat House, honing her farm-to-table brilliance.  Anyway, for reasons I can’t fully recollect, I forgot to take a photo as we sat down for dinner, which is so not like me because I am usually annoying everyone, delaying dinner, attempting to get the best shot in the best light.  However, we did have a guest that evening, a wonderfully talented creator of magical things who stayed with C. while she built spectacular Rammed Earth Walls as part of the Central Park Swarthmore project.  

Maybe the talk of the gorgeous walls and the fascinating construction process threw me off. 

Maybe it was this damn rain because it has rained the entire month of May, except for maybe two days, Mother's Day being one of them and I took advantage of the sunshine to sand a badly damaged farmhouse table.

I am not exaggerating.

So, the week after the photo fail, it was my turn to cook and to lift our dreary and drenched spirits, I decided to make the ultimate comfort food, pasta. Apparently, I was not the only one because when A. arrived and asked what we were having she said she was hoping for pasta. That’s the wonderful thing about Dinner Club…we wait all week to have a delicious meal prepared for us and we really do anticipate whatever delight is served.  

It’s a lovely thing we have going.

I made Pasta with Creamy Mushroom-Pea Sauce from, a site packed with recipes, menu plans, wine and spirits guides, cooking tips and techniques, nutrition news and much, much more. I made this recipe several times and it’s always a big hit.  

This recipes calls for prosciutto and I mistakenly got it sliced.  Just ask for 2 ounces of prosciutto at the deli counter and dice it up, it will hold up much better.  Bacon will work well too but the Italian stuff is much fancier.  Also, I’ve made this recipe with different kinds of mushrooms and all work well but the chanterelles and creminis give the dish an earthy and deep flavor.  I like this recipe a little creamier so I added a bit more cream.  Oh, and don’t be tempted to use Half & Half instead of heavy cream….you’ll be disappointed because there is something so satisfying, velvety and luscious when proper cream mingles with white wine.

This recipe is quick, delicious and a little fancy.  Perfect topped with some Parmesan cheese and served with a crisp Pinot Grigio or Rose.

Pasta with Creamy Mushroom-Pea Sauce
From EatingWell:  May/June 2007

8 ounces whole-wheat pasta, such as fusilli or rotini
3 cups shelled English peas, (4 1/2 pounds unshelled) or frozen peas
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces sliced prosciutto, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups quartered cremini, or sliced chanterelle mushrooms (about 6 ounces)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup whipping cream
Lots of freshly ground pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and peas; cook until the pasta is tender and the peas are cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook prosciutto, stirring, until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they release their juices and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the mushrooms; stir to coat. Add wine and let simmer for 1 minute. Add broth, return to a simmer and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in cream and pepper.

Drain the peas and pasta; return to the pan, add the mushroom sauce and toss to coat.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Braised Chicken with Artichokes and Olives

We seem to have trends at dinner club. For a while, we religiously cooked from the Jerusalem cookbook and, thankfully, every now and then a meal or dessert from one of the Ottolenghi books graces our table.  Lately, NYTimes Cooking seems to be the reliable go-to, and for good reason.  The recipes are interesting, satisfying, flavor-packed, fairly easy to follow and the introductory comments are both informative and often entertaining.  

I am behind in my posts, so it's a good thing the chicken that A. made three (yes, three) weeks ago was completely delicious and memorable (what else is new….all of our meals are so good), and it was courtesy of NYTimes Cooking, Braised Chicken with Artichokes and Olives.

What can go wrong when you braise chicken and add a Mediterranean brew of artichokes, garlic, mint and olives?  And, if those flavors are not temping enough, introduce the bright notes of white wine and lemon juice and, by golly, you’ve got yourself a tasty little dish.

Really. Tasty.

A note about the artichokes…they are a lot of work and frozen artichoke hearts are just as good and way less effort than the peeling, slicing and scooping required in this recipe.  The good folks at NYTimes cooking are probably gasping at the thought but, we’re all busy and why not benefit from shortcuts when someone has already gotten to the heart of the matter, or in this case, the artichoke.  

Seriously, this recipe is crazy good and once you surrender to the fresh artichoke alternative, it’s also pretty easy, especially for a fancy week-night meal.You’ll want to serve this with crusty bread so you can sop up all the garlicky/lemony/winey/savory juices.  
We started the evening with a wonderful bottle of rose...crisp and light, the tasting notes describe this wine as "a subtle rose, with deep pink color; notes of strawberry and cherry; light body and a dry, refreshing finish."

Braised Chicken with Artichokes and Olives
By:  NYTimes Cooking

1 ½ lemons
3 medium artichokes, about 1 1/2 pounds
3 ½ pounds bone-in chicken pieces
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, halved
Pinch red pepper flakes
¾ cup dry white wine
⅓ cup pitted olives, halved (use black, green or a mix)
2 large rosemary branches
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, as needed
Chives or mint leaves, for garnish (optional)

Use frozen artichoke hearts OR to use fresh artichokes squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into a large bowl of water. Discard the outer leaves of each artichoke. As you do so, and as you continue cleaning the artichokes, dip them into the lemon water to stop the cut sides from browning. Use a paring knife to peel the base and stems. Slice off the top third of each artichoke. Slice the artichokes in half lengthwise. Using a teaspoon or grapefruit spoon, scoop out the hairy chokes inside, pulling out any prickly purple leaves as well. Slice each half into three pieces. Put trimmed artichoke pieces in lemon water until needed.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. In a large (12-inch) ovenproof skillet with a lid, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces and sear in batches until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Add artichokes and garlic to pan, adding more oil if needed, and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and red pepper flakes; cook 1 minute more.

Pour in wine and stir in olives, rosemary branches and grated zest of 1/2 lemon. (Do not discard after zesting.) Return chicken to pan. Bring liquid to a simmer.

Cover pan and transfer to oven. Cook until chicken is tender, 30 to 35 minutes. (Check white meat after 25 minutes and remove from oven if done.) Transfer chicken to a plate and place skillet over medium-high heat. Simmer until pan juices thicken and become saucelike, about 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in butter.

Return chicken to pan and sprinkle with cheese. Adjust oven heat to broil and place pan in the oven until cheese is melted and golden, 2 to 3 minutes. (Watch carefully to see that it does not burn.) Squeeze juice of remaining lemon half over pan and serve garnished with chives or mint if you like. A. used parsley because parsley makes everything better.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Chicken Tacos with Chipotle

It was a New-York-Times-State-of-Mind Dinner Club last week.

First, M. served to-die-for Chicken Tacos with Chiptole.

Then A. presented the most beautiful Pistachio Poundcake With Macerated Strawberries.


And I wonder why those pesky 3-5 LBS just linger.

Chicken thighs are used in the taco recipe and are simmered, cooled, shredded then added to a mixture of sautéd chipotles, garlic and adobo sauce. The result is the most succulent, perfectly spiced and balanced chicken that has ever graced a taco.  Mix in the suggested toppings and, let me tell you, this is not your average taco.  It makes me sad to think that the taco experience of most people is limited to chain-restaurant fare, except perhaps for those who live in California, where there are the best little stands sprinkled along the highways.  

Miners in Mexico used to snack on tacos and soon stands, referred to as taquerías, sprung up in Mexico City selling the little envelopes of deliciousness. Since then, tacos have become wildly popular in the United States and are frequently featured in NYTimes cooking and other popular cooking sites and shows.   

Then there was the pistachio poundcake.  With macerated strawberries.  And whipped cream.  

I cannot resist anything with pistachios and I bet you can’t either so here's the link to the poundcake recipe.

As I read through the taco recipe, one reader said (I like reading the comments section because that’s where you see reader short cuts and ingredient workarounds)…”25 ingredients!  Are you kidding me for a weeknight dinner?” And, to be fair, there are a lot of ingredients in the taco recipe but don’t be deterred….so worth it!  As you are reading you may ask…what exactly is an allspice berry.  Well, it’s just the whole version of ground allspice, like pepper. About five allspice berries equals about one teaspoon of ground allspice, so about 1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice will do the trick if you don’t have whole on hand!

Chicken Tacos with Chipotle
NYTimes Cooking

4 large bone-in chicken thighs, about 1 1/2 pounds
3 scallions, left whole
1 bay leaf
1 thyme branch
3 black peppercorns
1 allspice berry
2 cloves
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 or 3 chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped
3 tablespoons adobo sauce, from the can
½ cup broth (use broth from simmered chicken)
8 fresh corn tortillas

1 small white onion, finely chopped, soaked in ice water for 10 minutes and drained
Thinly sliced serrano chile
Thinly sliced radishes
Sliced avocado
Crumbled queso fresco or mild feta cheese
Crème fraîche or Mexican crema
Cilantro sprigs
Dried oregano
Lime wedges

Put chicken thighs in a saucepan and cover with 3 cups water. Add scallions, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, allspice, cloves and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Simmer for 30 minutes, then remove chicken and cool. Shred chicken with your fingers, discarding chicken skin and bone. Strain broth and reserve. You should have about 2 cups shredded chicken.

Put olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add diced yellow onion, season with salt and cook until softened and a bit browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cumin and cook for 1 minute more. Add chopped chipotle chile and adobo sauce and stir to combine. Add shredded chicken, salt lightly and stir to coat. Add chicken broth and simmer for 2 or 3 minutes, until sauce has thickened somewhat. Keep warm.

Heat the tortillas over steam or by your favorite method, keeping them soft and pliable.  Build the tacos quickly: Put a spoonful of the saucy chicken in the center of each tortilla. Top with a teaspoon of chopped white onion, a few slivers of serrano chile, some radish and avocado slices, a teaspoon of queso fresco and a teaspoon of crème fraîche. Add a few cilantro springs and a small pinch of oregano. Serve immediately with lime wedges on the side. 
Then we had the poundcake.  Good grief, was that ever good!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Lemon Poppy Breakfast Biscuits

I am having a hard time finding pre-made low carb breakfast alternatives.  Eating Egg Beaters every day, regardless of how I gussy-up the concoction, is getting boring.  

So I turned to my trusty friend, the Internet, and found many good alternatives, including the recipe below adapted from the blog, 

All I can say is oooooh baby.  These little low-carb morsels of lusciousness are so incredibly good and at about 4.5 grams of carbohydrates, they definitely make the quick breakfast, low-carb cut!

Sorry Egg Beaters.

You can find almond flour and coconut flour in the organic section of most supermarkets or in Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.

Lemon Poppy Breakfast Biscuits

3/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
3 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
6 ounces cream cheese, softened (I used half sour cream and half cream cheese)
1/2 cup confectioners sugar or stevia
1 large egg, room temperature
Zest of one lemon
2 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, coconut flour, poppy seeds, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sweetener, egg, lemon zest, lemon juice and stevia extract. Beat in almond flour mixture until well combined.  Form by hand into 8 to 10 even balls. Flatten with the palm of your hand to about 1/2 inch thick circles. Bake about 20 minutes, until set and just barely brown around the edges. Remove and let cool on pan.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Greek Quiche With Artichokes, Kalamata Olives, Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Feta

For various and sundry reasons, Dinner Club has been meeting on Monday nights instead of Wednesday night for the past couple of weeks.

I feel like my circadian rhythms are all discombobulated, but it's nice to be together regardless of the day. 

Younger daughter has always wanted to go to Greece, and I don’t blame her.  It seems that visiting Greece may be a bit like traveling through time with its archaeological sites, museums and ruins scattered about the country.  Greek cooking also has long and deep roots that can be traced back 4,000 years. And, did you know, the first cookbook in history was compiled in Greece in 330 B.C.? 

The pure and simple combination of herbs, spices, fresh vegetables, cheeses and good olive oil typically evident in Greek fare are, however, subordinate to the social dimension of the dining experience and a movie that comically illustrates this is My Big Fat Greek Wedding. 

If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s hysterical.  Basically, a girl, Toula Portokalos from a very traditional Greek family falls in love with — gasp — a Protestant boy named Ian Miller.  When Ian announces that he doesn’t eat meat, Aunt Voula retorts “What do you mean he don't eat no meat? Oh, that's okay. I make lamb.”

All this brings me to Greek inspired meal we had at C.’s house, who herself has visited Greece some years ago.  It was a delicious quiche made with Kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, feta and artichokes.  Feta is a tangy, salty-brined cheese, made in Greece, that seems to make its way into all kinds of dishes, including desserts and one of the most delectable little triangles of goodness ever, spanakopita.  I toss it in salads and omelets and am never disappointed.

A bundt cake is the subject of another very funny exchange in the movie.  Ian’s parents were invited to the Portokolos house for dinner and when receiving the bundt cake from Mrs. Miller, Maria, Toula’s mother, looks at it skeptically.   Mrs. Miller explains “It’s a bundt.”  Maria, then tries many times, unsuccessfully, to say bundt and finally Aunt Freida whispers to her “It’s a cake.” Maria then says, very enthusiastically, “It’s a cake! I know! Thank you! Thank you very, very much.”  As Maria is walking away, she says to Aunt Freida, “There’s a hole in this cake!”

The cake is presented after dinner with a potted flower in the hole.

Without knowing what we were going to have for dinner, I made a Blueberry Lemon Bundt Cake for dessert. I did not fill my cake’s hole with a flower but A. brought us each a little potted flower to celebrate spring!

Don't you just love when the universe lines up?!

Greek Quiche With Artichokes, Kalamata Olives, Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Feta

1 pre-made pie crust
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Medium Red Onion
2 cloves Garlic
1/4 cup Sun-dried Tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/4 cup Kalamata Olives, roughly chopped
1 cup Artichokes,marinated in oil, roughly chopped
1/2 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup Milk
4 eggs
3 Tablespoons fresh Oregano
1/4 tsp .Salt
1/2 tsp. Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. In medium saucepan, add 1 tablespoon olive oil over and warm up on medium-high heat. Once warmed, add diced onions and cook until just starting to turn translucent, about 6 minutes. Add minced garlic and sun-dried tomatoes and let cook for a few minute longer. Remove from heat, add kalamata olives, artichokes and let rest.

Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, milk and spices, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Add the onions, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes mixture to the pie crust. Top with 1/2 cup feta cheese.  Pour egg and milk mixture over top, not worrying if everything is covered.  Bake until top just starts to turn golden brown, about 40-50 minutes.  Serve with crusty bread and a beautiful salad.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Turkey and Zucchini Burgers with Green Onion & Cumin

It was back to the Jerusalem cookbook this past week.  A. made Turkey and Zucchini Burgers, and just like everything else from this beautifully illustrated book, these little morsels are delicious.  I wanted seconds, but stopped myself and instead finished up the pappardelle that escorted the burgers to the table.  

Note the recipe calls for grated zucchini. 

I have a story about zucchini.  

I had lunch with a friend at V Street on 19th Street in Philadelphia.  V Street is a wonderful vegetarian restaurant that serves all kinds of delicious fare and, bonus, employs some of the friendliest most polite servers I have ever encountered.  

Anyway, I really wanted an item on the menu — Dan Dan Noodles — but it was pasta. I explained to the waiter that I was watching carbs and asked if he could suggest a yummy alternative.  He told me they could make the dish with zucchini pasta. Hmmmm, that sounds interesting, and let me tell you, the dish was not only scrumptious but also game-changing.  I got to thinking….I have a tool to make veggie pasta, a Veggetti, that I unearthed during my recent basement excavation. So I whipped it out and am starting to experiment as part of my low-carb extravaganza.  

If you have not seen the infomercials for the Veggetti, let me explain.  First, there are two versions, a fancy crank model and the more modest hand-held version.  I have the latter that I purchased at Target for $10 in the “As Seen on TV” isle.  Basically, you hold the Veggetti over a bowl, insert your vegetable of choice (typically carrots, zucchini, parsnips, potatoes or cucumbers), and twist the vegetable clockwise against the blades.  This action produces the most delicious little ribbons of pasta that you either boil or sauté and top with you favorite sauces.  

Sorry to digress from the delectable turkey burgers but I just had to tell you my zucchini story.  Oh, and the sauce that accompanies this dish can be served on top of anything.  It would be wonderful dolloped on a baked sweet potato or grilled chicken!

Turkey and Zucchini Burgers with Green Onion & Cumin
From:  Jerusalem Cookbook

1 lb ground turkey
1 large zucchini, grated
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons chopped mint
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
 ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sunflower oil for searing, about 6 Tablespoons

Sour Cream & Sumac Sauce
½ cup sour cream
2/3 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 ½ Tablespoons olive
1 Tablespoon sumac or za’atar which can be found in a Mediterranean food store
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

First, make the sauce by mixing all ingredients together, stir well and chill until needed.

Preheat the over to 425°.  In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the burgers except the sunflower oil. Mix with your hands and then shape into 18 burgers, each weighing about 1 ½ oz.
Pour enough sunflower oil into a large frying pan to form a layer on the bottom of the pan.  Heat over medium heat until hot, then sear the burgers in batches on all sides.  Don’t crowd the burgers, they won’t brown properly.  Add more oil as needed until all burgers are golden brown. 

Transfer the seared burgers to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the oven for 5-7 minutes.  Serve warm with the sauce spooned over or on the side. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Grilled Asparagus with Romesco Sauce and Apple Balsamic

A few years ago each of us bought the Jerusalem cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi and for the next several months, a meal from the popular publication graced our Dinner Club tables.  C. hosted an entire New Year’s dinner inspired by the delights.

Last week was a M. kind of week.  First, it was her turn to cook dinner for the crew, then she hosted a birthday dinner for Mr. M. featuring the NYTimes Guinness Cake as the finale, a true masterpiece….and quite tasty.

The recipe that M. prepared for Dinner Club was not from our trusty favorite, Jerusalem, but from a later cookbook, NOPI, written by one of the Jerusalem chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi and head chef of the London restaurant with the same name, Ramael Scully.

Many cooks have grown to love the striking, exotic, aromatic and flavorful simplicity of other Ottoglenghi recipes but this new book looked a little intimidating.  So, I decided to read the cookbook reviews of Nopi and one review states…“the book even begins with a disclaimer from Ottolenghi, who writes ‘most of the recipes here will be more challenging for most home cooks.’”

Well M. was not deterred.  She turned to page 18 and whipped up the recipe for Grilled Asparagus with Romesco Sauce and Apple Balsamic.  And, if that weren’t enough, she grilled shrimp to serve along side.

Then, later that week, the birthday Guinness Cake. Sigh.

Grilled Asparagus with Romesco Sauce and Apple Balsamic

Romesco Sauce
1 dried ancho chile soaked in water for 30 minutes, drained, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 oz. whole almonds, toasted
1 3/4 oz crustless sourdough bread, cut into cubes
3 medium plum tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 tablespoon of good quality sherry vinegar
5 teaspoons of olive oil
I medium red chile, seeded and coarsely chopped

2 1/4 lbs asparagus, woody ends trimmed
2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup apple juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 oz sliced almonds, toasted
Coarse sea salt and black pepper

Place all ingredients for the romesco sauce in a small bowl, along with 1 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper.  Stir well, cover, then leave in the refrigerator to marinate for 4 hours, or preferably, overnight.  Transfer to a food processor and blitz to form a paste.  Place in a small plan and warm through just before serving. 

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil and add the asparagus.  Blanch for 1-2 minutes, until a dente, then drain and refresh under cold water.  Set aside to dry.

Place the balsamic vinegar, apple juice and sugar in a small pan and place over high heat.  Cook for 4-5 minutes, until the mixture has reduced by half and has a thick, sticky consistency.  

Place a ridged grill pan over high heat.  Toss the asparagus with the olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt and grill for 1-2 minutes so both sides get scorched.  Plate the asparagus, either on a bed of the romesco sauce or with the sauce on the side, and drizzle the balsamic mix over the asparagus.  Wonderful served with grilled shrimp or chicken.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Chicken Francaise

Perhaps you have a profile on Facebook.  If so, like me, you receive posts from old friends, new friends, work friends, friends of friends, famous people who are not really friends but are kinda like friends because you follow them, and George Takei.  And, also like me, you have probably “liked” various home improvement, self improvement, motivational, retailer, museum, garden center, community theatre and recipe-sharing pages.

I’d like to talk about the recipe-sharing pages. I really only follow a few, because I see the posts of my many friends, acquired through the circumstances mentioned above, and I react — with the new Facebook emoticons — to the mini-videos of recipes that pique my interest.  Like the Chicken Francaise recipe that appeared on

Did you know most cooking for those videos is done on a little table-top burner?

So, the history of Chicken Francaise is a bit interesting, because the dish appears to be French but is commonly associated with Italian cuisine.  As the story goes, back during the 1939 World’s Fair, the light, white and airy cuisine served at a newly-opened French restaurant dethroned the very popular saucy, starchy, heavier, Italian classics.  An Italian chef, who was not happy about the usurping, decided to create a lighter, buttery, French-like dish to lure people back to Italian fare.  That dish was Chicken Francaise, meaning “chicken in the French manner,” made with white wine, chicken broth, garlic and butter. 

Very adaptable, like many other Italian dishes, you can substitute veal or shrimp with this classic and because it is lighter, enjoy it with a dry white wine or a light red, like Pinot Noir.  

I tweaked the recipe below a little after reading some other versions (thank you Rachel Ray!).  Also, this recipe doubles easily! I served a side of risotto with green peas.

Fairly easy, so delicious and a little fancy-pants.    

Chicken Francaise 
Adapted from

2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless (I used Purdue thin-sliced chicken breasts)
1 cup plain flour
2 eggs
1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped
2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup white wine (don’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink!)
1 cup chicken stock
3 garlic cloves, peeled and passed through garlic press
Olive oil to coat the plan, more if needed as you proceed
4 tbsp butter, 2 of which coated with flour (the flour will help thicken the sauce)
1 lemon, cut in half.  Cut one half into slices.
Salt and pepper

Butterfly cut your breast (open the breast like a book). Place cling film on a board, add your breast spread open, sandwich it in cling film and flatten using the flat side of a meat mallet or the underside of a saucepan.  You can also place the breast in a ziplock bag before pounding or buy the Purdue thin-sliced breasts.

Crack the eggs into a dish large enough to fit chicken breast.  Season eggs with salt and pepper, give them a light beat. Chop the parsley (keep a few sprigs for garnish) and add half to egg wash.  Add the Parmesan cheese to egg-wash, mix well.

Add the plain flour to a plate.  Toss 2 pats of the butter in the flour and set aside.  To a frying pan on moderate heat, add the olive oil and the uncoated butter pats. Coat the chicken in the flour, shake off any excess flour.  Dip the chicken in the egg wash, make sure it's totally covered and place in hot oil and cook for about 4 minutes each side (depending on thickness).  Flip over once brown and cook the other side.Transfer chicken to a hot plate and rest.

To the same frying pan on full heat, brown the lemon slices.  Then, carefully add the white wine, crushed garlic, squeeze of the other half of the lemon, chicken stock, the remainder of chopped parsley, the flour-coated butter and reduce for 2 minutes on full heat.  Return the chicken to the sauce and continue heating chicken on medium heat. Plate the chicken, and reduce the sauce until it looks a little thicker (not too thick) and pour over the chicken.