Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chicken Soft Tacos

Taco night can oftentimes be underwhelming and under-appreciated.  But done right, and taco night will easily become a family favorite. Of course leave it to Cook's Illustrated to turn ordinary chicken soft tacos into a ridiculously delicious meal.  And you can eat 2 tacos for only 350 calories!  I actually only ate one since we had some delicious and substantial sides to go along with them anyway (Guacamole Salad and Mexican Corn Salad in case you're wondering).

In order to produce the perfect chicken for the taco, boneless skinless chicken breasts are poached in a fragrant broth of garlic, chipotle chiles, cilantro, and orange juice.  Once the meat is cooked through, it is shredded.  Meanwhile the poaching liquid is turned into a flavorful sauce with the addition of Worcestershire sauce and yellow mustard.  I know it sounds weird, but always trust Cook's Illustrated.  The shredded chicken is then returned to the pan and stirred into the sauce to produce great flavored, but low fat chicken that is perfect for soft tacos, nachos, quesadillas, or salad.

One Year Ago:  Triple Tomato Risotto with Zucchini and Basil

Chicken Soft Tacos
Cook's Illustrated, Light and Healthy 2010
serves 6
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • 12 (6-inch) flour tortillas, warmed
  • desired toppings (we used tomatoes, spinach, and shredded pepperjack cheese)
Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Stir in the garlic and chipotles and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the cilantro, Worcestershire, and the orange juice.

Nestle the chicken into the skillet and bring to a simmer, cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until the thickest part registers 160-165 degrees on a thermometer, about 12-18 minutes, flipping them halfway through.

Remove the chicken from the pan and transfer to a cutting board.  Shred into bite-sized pieces using 2 forks. 

Meanwhile, continue to simmer the sauce over medium heat until thickened and reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, and whisk in the mustard and remaining cilantro.  Stir in the chicken, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with warm tortillas and desired toppings.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Jerk Chicken Burgers

Notice anything different?  I got a makeover!  I hope you all like the new blog design.  There are a few new features worth mentioning as well:  I created a recipe index, so recipes should be easier to browse and search.  I also created a new page, called Featured Recipes.  I'll post several recipes that may be inspired by the seasons, certain ingredients, holidays, etc.  Right now I'm featuring summertime fare, and if you are a new reader, you might enjoy reading what I cooked up last summer.  I'm also new to Twitter, so check me out there - just click on the little bird cupcakes to the right!  And finally, I have a button!  If you'd like to post it on your own blog, grab the code!

Now onto the burgers.  I am slowly but surely getting around to sharing the courses from my beer pairing dinner.  I had originally planned to pair the Sweetwater IPA with grilled jerk chicken, but I had a stroke of genius and decided to turn it into sliders.  I used a jerk chicken recipe and adapted into burger patties, then grilled them and served with pineapple-papaya salsa.  I love serving sliders because I think they are so fun and cute, and they were perfect for our multi-course dinner.  Plus, I got to make slider buns, which I love!

These had the perfect amount of heat, and they were balanced by the cinnamon and allspice in the recipe and the sweet salsa that accompanied them.  A huge perk was also prepping them ahead of time and allowing them to marinate; then I just had to throw them on the grill when it was time to eat.  Perfect for lazy summer entertaining!

One Year Ago:  Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta

Jerk Chicken Sliders
jerk marinade adapted from Gourmet, May 2002
makes 4 burgers
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 4 large garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4-5 habanero chiles, seeds and ribs removed, minced and divided
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground chicken
Whisk together the lime juice, soy sauce, olive oil, salt, brown sugar, half the garlic, the onion, and half the habanero peppers.  Pour into a 9x13 inch baking dish and set aside.

Transfer the chicken to large bowl.  Combine the scallions, the remaining garlic, remaining habaneros, thyme, allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Pour over the ground chicken and knead gently to combine.  Shape into 4-5 patties, and transfer to the marinade.  Gently turn several times to cover the meat well, then cover and refrigerate for several hours.

Prepare Grill.  Remove burgers from marinade and grill until cooked through, 5-7 minutes per side, turning once.  Serve with Pineapple-Papaya salsa.

Pinapple-Papaya Salsa
adapted from Gourmet, May 2002
  • 2 pounds fresh papaya, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 cups diced fresh pineapple (about 1/2 small)
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, and stir to combine.  Cover and refrigerate several hours, or overnight, to allow flavors to meld.  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary before serving.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese & Spicy Maple Pecans

Up until I made this salad, I had never tasted a beet.  They always seemed yucky, and  though I consider myself to be fairly adventurous in my tastes, I never had the desire to try them.  Even though Dwight Schrute loves them (Beets.  Bears.  Battlestar Gallactica).  This summer we joined a CSA, and we've got beets coming out of our ears, so I figured I'd better learn to love them - and now I do! My friend Michelle suggested that I start out eating them in a salad with some goat cheese.  She knows I love goat cheese!

This recipe is from The Pastry Queen, and she didn't disappoint.  Yes, its a little labor and time-intensive for a salad, but I ate this as my dinner, so I didn't mind.  If you want to serve this for company, the beets, pecans, and vinaigrette can all be prepared ahead of time.

The beets are roasted in a braising liquid containing chicken stock, white wine, sugar, vinegar, onion, and ginger.  Quite honestly I'm not sure that it really imparted that much extra flavor to the beets, but it did make for a flavorful component to vinaigrette.

Now that I know I love beets, I can't wait to experiment all summer with fun beet dishes!

One Year Ago:  The Infamous Cupcake Sliders

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Spicy Maple Pecans
adapted from Rebecca Rather, The Pastry Queen Parties
serves 8 as a first course, 4 as a main dish

Roasted Beets
  • 6 equal-size medium beets (about 2 pounds) washed and greens trimmed
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 1 knob fresh ginger (with peel)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
Spicy Maple Pecans
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup pecan halves, toasted
Beet Vinaigrette
  • 6 Tablespoon reserved beet braising liquid
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 cups arugula, spinach, or mixed greens
  • 8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
 Preheat the oven to 350.  Set the beets in a roasting pan or casserole dish.  Pour in the stock, wine, brown sugar, vinegar, onion, ginger, salt, and olive oil.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil or lid.  Roast until the beets are fork tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Use tongs to transfer the beets to a cutting board to cool to room temperature.  Reserve 6 Tablespoons of the braising liquid for the vinaigrette.

If you want to avoid red fingers, wear rubber gloves.  Cut off the stubble and tail, then peel the beet using your fingers or a peeler. Chop into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

To make the pecans. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.  In a frying pan set over medium heat, combine 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, the maple syrup, sugar, cayenne, and 2 Tablespoons vinegar.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and stir in the pecans.  Continue stirring until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the pecans, about 10 minutes.  Pour the pecans onto the baking sheet, and allow to cool before breaking them apart.

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the reserved braising liquid, lemon juice, both vinegars rosemary, mustard, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

To assemble the salad, Toss the beets with the salad greens and vinaigrette in a large bowl.  Divide evenly among serving plates and top with pecans and goat cheese.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Brie, Caramelized Onion, and Portobello Pizza

If I'm out at a restaurant and I see the words "brie" or "caramelized onions," its a pretty safe bet that I'll be ordering that dish.  I also really love mushrooms, so when Cara posted a recipe for Eggs baked in 'bellas, I was positively giddy.  I added it to my menu, and planned to make it that Friday night.  However, when the day came, all I could think about was pizza.  So in a stroke of genius, I decided to turn the dish into a pizza!  And since I'm pretty much obsessed with grilling pizza, it was obviously grilled pizza. 

And ohhh my goodness was this a good pizza.  The magically sweet caramelized onions paired beautifully with the creamy brie, earthy mushrooms, and salty proscuitto.  So so delicious.  I served this with a strawberry spinach salad and a wonderful Oregon Pinot Noir, and we were so happy.

I try not to be overly effusive in my descriptions, but this really was a truely magical pizza.  I like to make something fun on Fridays, and it was perfect for a "date night" type of meal.  I think it would also be great cut into squares and served as an appetizer.

One year ago:  Honey-Cumin Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Pizza with Brie, Caramelized Onions, and Portobellos
inspired by Cara's Cravings; onions from Cook's Illustrated

Caramelized Onions
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 pounds onions, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 Tablespoon water
Heat butter and oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat.  When foam subsides, add brown sugar and salt.  Add onions, and stir to coat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften and release some moisture, about 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are deeply browned and slightly sticky, about 40 minutes longer.  As they cook, if they are sizzling and scorching, turn heat down.  If they are still not browned at all after 15-20 minutes, raise heat.  Off heat, stir in water, and season with salt and pepper.

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms
  • 2 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed, caps wiped clean
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare grill.  Combine all the ingredients for the marinade, and brush the mushrooms with the marinade.  Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.  Grill, gill-side up, about 3-4 minutes per side, or until cooked through.  Remove from heat and slice into 1/2 inch slices.  Leave grill on.

  • pizza dough (homemade or store-bought)
  • 4-6 ounces brie, torn into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup torn proscuitto
  • 1/2-1 cup caramelized onions
  • grilled and sliced portobellos
Roll out pizza dough, and brush one side with olive oil.  Use an oiled paper towel to grease the grates of the grill.  Transfer the pizza to the grill, laying the dough oiled-side down.  Allow to cook until the bottom is crispy and lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes.  While it cooks, assemble the toppings and have them ready.

Brush the second side of the crust with olive oil, and flip the crust.  Scatter the caramelized onions over the crust, then sprinkle the brie over the onions (You may not use all the onions).  Arrange the mushroom slices over the cheese, and top with procuitto.  Close the lid to the grill and cook until the cheese has melted, and the second side of the crust is cooked through.  Remove from grill, slice and serve.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fried Green Tomatoes

Thanks so much for all the sweet comments, guys! I chose a winner with a random number generator, and the winner is Rachel!  Her favorite southern dish is fried chicken - I love it too!  Rachel, please email me when you get a chance (bettyjoslyn at gmail dot com)!

Speaking of southern foods, so many of you said fried green tomatoes.  And I have to admit, they are one of my favorites too.  I made them for the second course of our beer pairing dinner, and I topped them with a scoop of pimiento cheese (another one of my favorite southern foods!).  Like I said in the original post, while this was one of my least favorite beers, it was probably  my favorite pairing.  The creaminess of the cheese and tanginess of the tomatoes really cut through the bitterness of the pilsner.  It was a perfect example of food making beer taste better.

I used the trusty Lee Bros. for this recipe, and they didn't let me down.  I'm normally not one to fry food, but in this case I made an exception.  The tomatoes are first dipped in the Lee Bros special fry-dredge, then dipped in a milk-egg mixture, and then given another coating of the fry dredge.  They are so delicious, and so addicting.  The next day, I couldn't stop thinking about these, so I picked a few green tomatoes off of my own plant and made a batch for Joey and me to share.  I liked doing them this way because the tomatoes were pretty small, and it was like eating little chips.  :-)

Fried Green Tomatoes
The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook
serves 6
  • 3 lbs green tomatoes (about 6-8 medium)
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 cups peanut oil
  • kosher salt, if needed
  • lemon juice, if needed
Fry Dredge
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup corneal
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cut out the stem ends of the tomatoes and slice them 1/4-inch thick with a serrated tomato or bread knife.  Set aside.

Whisk together the milk and eggs in a shallow bowl or pie plate.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, until the temperature on a cady thermometer reads 365 degrees Farenheit.  If you use another sized skillet, fill with oil to a depth of about 1/3 inch).

Heat the oven to 225.  Set a bakers rack on top of a cookie sheet.

Spread the dredge in a large pie plate or baking pan.  Taste the tomatoes.  They should have a bright tartness like citrus fruit.  If they don't, sprinkle with a little salt and lemon juice.

Press 1 tomato slice in the dredge, coating both sides, and shaking off excess.  Dunk in the egg mixture, then dredge both slices again in the flour mixture.  Shake off aniy excess and place on a clean plate.  Repeat with more slices until you have enough for 1  batch (4-5 slices).  Using a spatula, transfer the slices to the oil.

As the first batch cooks, dredge the next set of tomatoes.  Once the tomatoes have cooked to a light golden-brown on one side (about 2-3 minutes), use tongs and flip.  Cook on the other side until they are golden-brown.  Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels, and allow to drain for 1 minute.

Transfer the slices to the baker's rack in the oven to keep warm.  Repeat with remaining tomato slices, and serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Pink Parsley - Blueberry Sweet Rolls - and a Giveaway!

I can't believe that my little blog is already a year old!  So is it called a birthday or a blogiversary?  Either way, I'm celebrating!  I thought about making a special dessert for the occasion, but then I thought about what I want on my birthday - and that's a good breakfast!  So I figured I'd do the same for my blog.

I found these blueberry sweet rolls on Tastespotting, and I knew I had to make them.  I started them Friday night, then got up bright and early Saturday so we could take them to our tennis match that morning.  I always think of cinnamon rolls as being a cold-weather treat, but the addition of blueberries make these particular sweet rolls perfect for summer.  The dough is a rich brioche, then cinnamon, sugar, and flour are sprinkled on along with the blueberries.  They are baked, then finished with a vanilla glaze that puts them right over the top.  So perfect.  I made a few small changes to the recipe, mostly with the technique, and I'm writing my version below.

By the way, do you like the candle?  I had Joey pick it up at the grocery store, and the cashier asked if someone special was turning one.  He tried to explain that my website was... I don't really think she got it, and he was a little embarrassed, haha.

Now, on to the giveaway!  I feel like part of what defines my blog is my love of southern cooking.  The Lee Brothers really exemplify what I stand for and love:  fresh ingredients, simple preparations, outstanding flavor.  So since The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook is my current favorite cookbook, As far as I'm concerned, its the Bible of southern cuisine.  I could spend hours reading through this, and I pretty much want to make every single recipe.  And I'll be giving away a copy to one lucky reader!  How about that?  My blog turns one and gives you a gift!  To enter, leave a comment telling me your favorite southern dish.  If you haven't ever had southern food, then tell me a southern dish you'd love to try.  The giveaway is open until Sunday, June 13th at 11:59 pm EST.  I'll choose one winner at random.

I hope you've enjoyed reading my blog over the past year, and I look forward to bringing you many more years of tasty recipes!

And now, something I've been waiting to do for a whole year!!
One year ago:  Anniversary Dinner - Salmon on Puff Pastry and Champagne Risotto

Blueberry Sweet Rolls
adapted from Food Blogga
  • 2 packets instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F)
  • 3/4 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees F)
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, or more, as needed
  • 1 Tablespoon melted butter, for brushing
Blueberry Filling:
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked over
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
Vanilla Icing
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • a few Tablespoons milk
 Combine the yeast, milk, water, butter, and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the sugar, salt, vanilla, and flour, and mix to combine.  Switch to the dough hook, and knead for several minutes, or until the dough starts to come together, but is still very sticky, adding flour as necessary (I think I kneaded it for close to 10 minutes).  Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to come to cool room temperature.  It will be very hard, but will soften as it warms up.  Roll out on a well-floured surface into a 12-10 inch rectangle.  Brush with melted butter.  Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and flour in a small bowl, and sprinkle over the dough.  Scatter the blueberries on top, and press into the dough.  Roll up long-ways, tucking in any blueberries that escape.  Use a dough scraper or a sharp knife to cut into 8-10 rolls.  Line them in a well-greased square baking dish.

Preheat oven to 350.  Cover the dish with a clean kitchen towel, and allow the rolls to rise for another 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Bake 40-45 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center roll comes out clean.  Place the dish on a wire rack to cool.

To make the glaze, whisk the confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract, and milk together until smooth, but not too thin.  It should coat the back of a spoon.  Drizzle over rolls, and allow the glaze to harden before serving.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Swiss Chard and Sweet Pea Manicotti

In the past year or so, I've really come to love greens - kale, collards, and most recently swiss chard.  It has a nice fresh, almost lemony flavor, and is definitely milder than kale or collard greens.  I really like greens prepares simply:  sauteed in some olive oil.  This recipe is definitely a little more decadent, and it doesn't really make chard the star of the show, but it does provide a nice light background flavor to an otherwise rich dish. 

The filling is made up of the chard, sweet peas, ricotta, and cheese.  It is then piped into manicotti shells, covered with fontina fonduta sauce, and topped with more cheese.  So yeah, not exactly a healthy vegetarian meal.  However, I took some liberties with the recipe and slimmed it down where I could.  I used park-skim ricotta and mozzarella, skim milk instead of whole milk, and increased both the chard and the peas.  I also added a little lemon zest, nutmeg, and crushed red pepper flakes.  I realize that its still pretty indulgent, but I'm okay with that every now and then.  Even with my modifications, this was still a really delicious meal.  With all the greens we are sure to receive in our CSA this summer, I'm glad to have this in our repertoire for a special occasion.

Swiss Chard and Sweet Pea Manicotti
adapted from Giada de Laurentiis, Giada at Home
makes 12 manicotti (serves 4 to 6)
  • cooking spray
  • 12 manicotti or cannelloni pasta shells
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 16 ounces Swiss chard
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • pinch red pepper flakes
Fontina Fonduta Sauce
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2-3 cups grated fontina cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Preheat the oven to 400.  Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add the pasta and cook until just tender, 5-7 minutes.  Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water.  Set aside.

For the filling:  Remove the stems of the chard using kitchen shears or a knife.  Chop the leaves into 1-inch pieces.  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook until soft, 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.  Then add the chard and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 2 minutes.  Allow the mixture to cool slightly, then add to the bowl of a food processor along with the ricotta, peas, mozzarella, Parmesan, basil, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Blend until smooth. 

Spoon the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip.  Pipe the filling into each shell and line them up in the prepared bakign dish.

For the fontina Fonduta sauce:  In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a simmer over medium heat.  Reduce the heat to low, and add the fontina.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, and basil.

Pour the sauce over the stuffed manicotti and sprinkle with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden.  Allow to rest 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Crab and Shrimp Campechana

While planning our beer pairing dinner, I knew I wanted to do a seafood first course.  First of all, the Allagash White that Joey chose is a nice light beer - a "patio beer" if you will - and I wanted to pair it with a nice light dish to complement it.  I also liked the idea of serving a cold first course.  I could completely prep it ahead of time; I even portioned it out into serving dishes.  When everyone sat down to eat, all I had to do was top with avocado and garnish with tortilla chips and lime wedges.

This was probably my favorite dish of the night.  Campechana is kind of a "seafood salsa."  The aromatics are sauteed with the shrimp, then simmered in a flavorful tomato sauce made up of Rotel, V8, and ketchup.  Horseradish, lemon and lime, and crabmeat are then folded in, and the mixture is refrigerated overnight.  Before serving, cilantro, parsley, and avocado are added, and its eaten like salsa:  with tortilla chips and lime.  its also just as addictive as salsa!  Its a very simple dish to put together, but seems impressive.  I will definitely be making this again and again this summer! 

adapted from The Pastry Queen Parties, by Rebecca Rather
serves 8-10 as a main course, double as an appetizer.
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped (2 cups)
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne 
  • 1 1/2 pounds extra large (16/20 count) shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
  • 1 (28-ounce) can Rotel tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle V8 juice
  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over
  • 4 ripe avocados
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • Lime wedges, for accompaniment
  • Tortilla chips, for serving
Heat the oil in a large pot set over medium heat.  Saute the onion, bell peppers, and garlic.

While the vegetables cook, combine the salt and cayenne in a small bowl.  Cut each piece of shrimp into 3 pieces, and add to a large bowl.  Toss with the cayenne/salt mixture.  

Add the shrimp to the pot and saute over medium-high heat for 2 minutes.  Add the V8, Rotel, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce, and bring to a simmer, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in lemon, lime, horseradish, and crab.  Refrigerate until cold, preferably overnight.

When ready to serve, peel and pit the avocados and cut into bite-sized chunks.  Gently stir in the cilantro and parsley, and ladle the campechana into small bowls or wine glasses.  Top each serving with avocado, and serve with lime wedges and tortilla chips.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Tomato, Mozzarella, & Pesto Paninis

Any combination of basil, mozzarella, and tomato is sure to be a winner in my book, so I'm completely kicking myself for not trying these paninis sooner.  I've owned The Barefoot Contessa at Home for over 3 years now, and I always drool over this recipe, but have never gotten around to making it.  I think the reason being is that I don't own a panini press, and I really wanted those cute little lines (yes, I'm that anal).  Well a few weeks ago, I had a stroke of genius, and decided to weight them down on my grill (I do realize others have thought of this before me, but I felt pretty inventive).  It worked like a charm, and we enjoyed some of the best sandwiches we've had in a long time. So simple, so delicious.

Tomato, Mozzarella, & Pesto Paninis
adapted from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa at Home
makes 6 sandwiches
  • 2 large ripe beefsteak tomatoes
  • 1 (16-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella
  • 12 slices bakery white bread, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • about 1 cup pesto
  • kosher salt
  • balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
Preheat grill.

Meanwhile, core the tomatoes and slice the tomatoes and mozzarella 1/4-inch thick.

Spread the bread slices out on a work surface.  Pour olive oil into a small bowl, and using a pastry brush, brush each bread slice with the oil.  Flip the slices over, and spread each slice evenly with pesto.  On half the bread, place a layer of mozzarella (about 2 slices per sandwich), followed by a layer of tomato.  Sprinkle the tomatoes with kosher salt and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Oil the grates of the grill, and working 3 sandwiches at a time, lay all the bread slices on the grill, and close the cover.  After 2-3 minutes, you should have grill marks, make sandwiches, by laying the pesto-only slices on top.  Weight the sandwiches down with either bricks wrapped well in foil, or heavy, oven-safe skillets.  Alternatively, you could lay a baking sheet on top and weight that down with bricks.

Grill an additional 1-3 minutes, or until the mozarella starts to ooze.  Repeat with remaining sandwiches.  Cut each sandwich in half, and serve warm.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Duck Breasts with Raspberries and Rose'

I have had a bit of an obsession with the Lee Brothers recently.  It all started last summer, when I made Cornbread Salad.  Then it got a little out of control when I tried their Strawberry Wine Coolers.  As of now, I have about 5 of their recipes waiting to be blogged.... so yeah.  Just slightly obsessed.  But seriously, who wouldn't be?  They have pretty much perfected southern cooking without relying on too much butter, lard, fat, etc.  They  make it what it should be:  fresh ingredients, simple preparations, fantastic flavors. 

This duck breast isn't necessarily a "southern" recipe, but it is decadent and delicious.  When I first bought Simple Fresh Southern, this was the first recipe that jumped out at me, and I'd been waiting for a special occasion to make it.  I made this for our anniversary dinner a few weeks back, and Joey said it was the highlight of the meal.  I was really nervous to make duck, but I had no reason to be.  Just make sure your skillet is nice and hot, and get a good sear on the skin.  I overcooked mine a bit, but it was still nice and juicy.  That's the good thing about duck - it has enough fat to be able to handle being a little overcooked.  I loved the raspberry-rose' sauce too.  It gave the duck a nice sweet contrast to the rich meat. 

This is most definitely a special occasion meal, and I look forward to celebrating again with it!

Duck Breasts with Raspberries and Rose'
from Simple Fresh Southern by Matt Lee and Ted Lee
serves 2
  • 2 large boneless duck breasts (10-14 ounces each)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces fresh raspberries (about 3 cups)
  • 1/3 cup finely diced shallot (about 1 large)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup rose' wine
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
Place the duck breasts on a small cutting board, and pat them dry with paper towels.  Score the skin and fat in parallel diagonal lines, making 4-5 1/4-inch-deep cuts on each breast.  Season both sides with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper.

In a small bowl, toss 2 1/2 cups of the raspberries with the shallot, thyme, vinegar, oil, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Save the rest of the raspberries for garnish.

Heat the oven to 450.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet or ovenproof pan over medium-high heat.  When a drop of water sizzles in the skillet, add the duck breasts, skin-side down.  Be careful not to crowd them, and sear until the surface is golden-brown, 4-6 minutes.  Turn the duck breasts over, and spoon off all but about 2 Tablespoons of the fat.  Scatter the marinated berries among them, and roast 6-8 minutes (6 minutes will be on the rare side, 8 will be closer to medium-rare). 

Remove from the oven and transfer the duck to a cutting board and loosely tent with foil.

Add the wine and sugar to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat, scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon.  Cook until the berries have collapsed and the wine has reduced to a thick syrup, about 2-3 minutes. 

Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer.  Slice the duck breasts on the bias and serve them bathed in the berry sauce.  Serve with reserved raspberries.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

BB: Grilled Herb Shrimp

Several weeks ago, we went to St. George Island with Joey's family for a week-long vacation.  We spent a wonderful week just relaxing on the beach, playing with Caroline, going for runs, and I read some great books.

While we were there, I was put in charge of meal-planning, a task that I was very excited to be given!  Our last night there, we picked up some fresh gulf shrimp to grill, and to me, they were the highlight of the meal.  I wish I had taken a picture of them, as they were so delicious, and I'm sure I"ll never be able to recreate them the same way up here.

However, Ina's Herb Grilled Shrimp come pretty darn close.  The marinade is a cinch to throw together, and they are incredibly flavorful.  I served them over her chive-risotto cakes and a big salad, but I think they would be wonderful on their own as an appetizer.  I used Cook's Illustrated's trick of sprinkling one side of the shrimp with a little sugar before grilling, and it gave them a great char and really brought out the sweetness of the shrimp.

Thanks to Penny of Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen for choosing this recipe.  It brought back some wonderful memories of our beach vacation, and it was a wonderful choice for May!

Grilled Herb Shrimp
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties!
serves 6
  • 2 pounds shrimp (16-20 count), peeled and deveined, but tails left on
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
Combine all the ingredients and toss to coat the shrimp.  Allow to marinate at room temperature for 1 hour, or in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Prepare grill.  Thread the shrimp on skewers, and sprinkle one side with sugar.

Grill the shrimp, sugared side down, for about 2 minutes, then flip skewers and grill until cooked through, an additional 1-2 minutes.