Saturday, July 30, 2011

Summer Souvlaki: Ohpa!

This dish is the result of my love of Mediterranean food and a desperate craving one night. Traditional souvlaki is made on a skewer with roasted vegetables and is served with pita. I am not a big fan of pita and I prefer thinly sliced chicken or lamb.

The joy of cooking is finding your own twist on dishes you love. I serve this with a nice garnish of pepperoncini and cucumber slices.

Summer Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce


2 chicken breasts or 1/2 lb leg of lamb, sliced thinly
2 pieces of flatbread
1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup cucumber, diced
1/2 cup tomato, diced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup kalamata olives
1/4 cup spanish olives
2 cups shredded romaine or spinach
1 roasted red pepper, julienned

Wrap bread in foil and keep warm in the oven.

In a large bowl, combine vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, thyme and pepper. Whisking constantly, add oil (pour slowly so the mixture has time to emulsify).

In a separate bowl, combine cucumber, tomatoes, onion, feta, olives and lettuce. Coat this mixture with 2 tbsp of the vinaigrette mixture and refrigerate.

Coat the chicken (or lamb) with the remaining vinaigrette mixture and grill. (This only takes about 3 or 4 minutes if sliced thinly.)

Remove flatbread from the oven.  Pour some tzatziki sauce over the flatbread (see recipe below) then top with vegetable mixture and chicken. Top with roasted red pepper and a little more tzatziki. Voila!

For tatziki sauce:

2 cups greek yogurt
1 cup cucumber, seeded and diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1tbsp lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, pressed
fresh cilantro, chopped

Combine All ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend well. Chill for 1 hour before serving.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Shrimp and Asparagus Fettucine

Time to tackle shellfish my friends. Shrimp and pasta always play nice together.

So let's talk ingredients. As with other seafood, shrimp is high in calcium, iodine and protein but low in food energy. A shrimp-based meal is also a significant source of cholesterol. Shrimp consumption, however, is considered healthy for the circulatory system because the lack of significant levels of saturated fat in shrimp means that the high cholesterol content in shrimp actually improves the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides.

Your choice of olive oil is especially important. When you are making an olive oil based pasta dish, there is nothing worse than a bland, oily taste. So choose an olive oil with a rich green color for the most robust flavor.

Now on to the yummy stuff! The key to a great dish is uniformity. Make sure your veggies are all cut to similar size to make for easy bites.

Shrimp & Asparagus Fettucine


1 pound shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1/2 pound asparagus, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
Salt & pepper to taste

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Be sure to salt the water before it begins to boil. This will add a subtle flavor to your pasta and make for a better texture.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsps of olive oil on medium heat. Saute onion and asparagus until onion becomes translucent. Add 2 more tbsp olive oil, garlic and shrimp. Cook until shrimp becomes pink throughout. Lower heat and add remaining olive oil. Add pasta and, using tongs or two wooden forks, combine all ingredients in the pan and let cook another 3-4 minutes stirring occassionally. Salt and pepper to taste during this time.

Remove from heat and toss with fresh parsley. Top with grated parmesan and serve with a light, flaky bread and some good wine. Mmmm!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Midweek Morsels: Key Lime Pie with Coconut Shortbread Crust

Hello fellow food lovers! Welcome to the first installment of our newest feature: Midweek Morsels. After our recent poll, y'all voted for one of my favorite recipes Key Lime Pie.

Although typically associated with the Florida Keys, the Key Lime originated in Southeast Asia and was brought to Florida by the Spanish. It is smaller, seedier, has a higher acidity, a stronger aroma, and a thinner rind than that of the Persian lime. And the flavor profile of a key lime is much more tart and bitter than other limes. Most Key Lime Pie recipes utilize large quantities of cream and/or eggs which pair beautifully with the Key Lime's flavor.

Most grocery stores carry key lime juice in the fruit juice section. Don't cheat and use regular lime juice! It will not taste the same. I promise.

Key Lime Pie with Coconut Shortbread Crust

Coconut Shortbread Crust

1 1/4 cup shortbread cookie crumbs
1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
6 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine coconut and shortbread crumbs. Add butter and combine well. Turn mixture out into a 9 inch pie pan and press into pan evenly throughout. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove crust from oven and allow to cool.

Leave oven on for baking the pie.

Key Lime Pie

4 egg yolks
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4 ounces key lime juice

In a stand mixer or with a whisk, blend egg yolks and milk until well combined. Slowly mix in lime juice and stir until smooth and creamy.

Pour mixture into cooled pie shell and bake for 10 - 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Allow to cool before refrigerating. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

*Disclaimer - The photo above is a stockphoto. 99% of the time I post pictures of my food. But SOMEONE forgot to take a picture of the pie before it got eaten....ahem...Richard.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Stone Soup Chili

Every culture has their one pot magic dish. If you aren't familiar with the childrens tale "Stone Soup" I'll quickly fill you in. A young man claims to have a magic stone that makes broth. He puts it into a pot of boiling water and tricks people into adding things to the 'soup' until it becomes a hearty stew. And SHAZAM! You've got stone soup.

In America, our stone soup is chili. This American staple is a mish-mash of everything from beans to ketchup. Chili recipes across the country are as varied as the country itself. The recipe used for American expeditions in the 1800's consisted of dried beef, suet, dried chili peppers and salt, which were pounded together and left to dry into bricks which could then be boiled in pots on the trail.

Nowadays chili is a full fledged industry. Cookoffs and cookbooks revolve around this once low class dish. To honor chili's rise to fame, (and because I promised a friend a vegetarian recipe) today's recipes are Stone Soup Chili and Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Muffins.

You can certainly add ground meat to this recipe as I do from time to time. And every once in a while I throw all kinds of random veggies in there. It is pretty hard to mess up chili, so don't be afraid to get creative.

Stone Soup Chili


15.5 ounce can kidney beans, with juices
15.5 ounce can pink beans, drained (Substitute 1 lb ground turkey or beef if you like.)
28 ounces diced tomatoes
14 ounces tomato sauce
2 cups button mushrooms, quartered
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bell peppers, julienned
1 tbsp cumin
1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp adobo sauce*
pinch of cinnamon
1 jalapeno, minced (optional)
shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

*You can purchase adobo chiles in sauce in the 'ethnic food' aisle of most grocery stores.

If you want to make this in a crock pot, simply saute onions, peppers and garlic (and meat if desired) and toss it all in. Cook on High for 4 hours.

Without a crock pot:

In a saute pan, saute onions, garlic and peppers on high heat for only about 3 or 4 minutes. Just enough to quickly carmelize them. In a large pot on medium heat, combine all ingredients except jalapeno and cheese. Stir well. Cover and let simmer for at least 1 hour. The longer you let it simmer, the more intense the flavor.

Garnish with jalapeno and cheddar or - my favorite - a dollop of greek yogurt.

Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Muffins


1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup corn
1/2 cup diced jalapenos
3/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk milk, butter and egg. Using a rubber spatula, mix in remaining ingredients except cheese. Gently fold in cheese.

Pour into well greased muffin pan and bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

*Don't use paper muffin cups. They will give the muffins a chewy texture and they don't pull away easily.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Go Nuts: Pecan Crusted Chicken with Honey Mustard Sauce

There is nothing better than the sweet, buttery taste of pecans. Traditionally used in desserts, these versatile nuts are quite underestimated in the world of savory dishes. But they make an excellent addition to fish and chicken dishes.

"Pecan" is from an Algonquian word, meaning a nut requiring a stone to crack. The antioxidants and plant sterols found in pecans reduce high cholesterol by reducing the "bad" LDL cholesterol levels. Pecans are a good source of protein and unsaturated fats.

Whether you pronounce it "Peh-kahn" or "Pee-can", these tasty little devils are just what you need to change up your family dinners.

Pecan Crusted Chicken with Honey Mustard Sauce


For Chicken:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 tsp salt
3 - 4 tbsps peanut or olive oil
1 egg white
1 tbsp water

For Sauce:
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard

Using a meat tenderizer, pound chicken breasts to about 1/2 inch thick. (Or you can butterfly the breasts if you're feeling fancy.)

In a small bowl, whisk together honey and mustard.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. In a food processor, combine bread crumbs, pecans and salt and pulse until you have a fine crumb mixture. Pour the mixture into a large, shallow bowl.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together egg white and water.

Dip chicken in egg white mixture and then in pecan mixture. Place in the pan and cook until brown on both sides and juices run clear.

Serve with honey mustard sauce on the side or drizzle it on top.

Tips For This Recipe:

*Don't let your oil get too hot! Burned pecans are not tasty.
*Taste test your honey mustard sauce. Adjust your amounts if you like it more spicy or more sweet.
*Be careful when chopping the nuts in your food processor. If you overblend, you'll end up with a paste.
*You can add more seasonings to the bread crumb mixture if you like, but don't go crazy. Let the natural richness of the pecans do the work.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July!

This holiday weekend, most people will be grilling. But the Fourth of July always makes me think of picnics. And when I think picnic, I think FRIED CHICKEN! So today I am presenting you with two tasty recipes. That's right, two for one! My fried chicken recipe is one that took many tries to perfect. It has a little bit of a kick to it and comes out super crunchy and juicy.

The second recipe, a southern bbq sauce, has been my closely guarded secret for awhile. But because I love you, you may have it. Enjoy and as always, share the love.

Crunchy Fried Chicken


1 pound chicken (legs, thighs, breasts)

For Brine:
1/4 cup salt
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 cup orange juice

For Frying:
1 large egg
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsps chili powder
1 cup flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Fill a large bowl halfway with water. Add 1/4 cup salt, oregano, 1 tbsp garlic powder and orange juice. Add chicken, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. This process (brining) is extremely important in creating juicy chicken.

In a large frying pan, heat enough peanut oil to partially cover chicken. (See Tips & Tricks for frying)
Heat a second, lightly greased skillet on high heat. Remove chicken from brine and rinse. Quickly sear the chicken on both sides.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients except bread crumbs. In another bowl, beat the egg. Put the bread crumbs in a third, shallow bowl.

Dip chicken in flour, then into egg and then into bread crumbs and carefully place into hot oil. Fry until golden brown (5 - 8 minutes on each side).

Southern Style BBQ Sauce


1/2 cup spicy brown mustard
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tbsps chili powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsps butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp liquid smoke

In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients except soy sauce, butter and liquid smoke. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer another 10 minutes. Refrigerate overnight. This will give the flavors time to develop properly.