Sunday, March 25, 2012

Taste of Summer

Up to now, we had an incredible March weather, it was more like Summer then a Spring – temperature in upper 20’s every day and the food I served reflected that very much.

 Grilled Lamb, Potatoes and Red Peppers. The lamb shoulder chops were marinated overnight in olive oil, garlic, rosemary and crushed white peppercorns and then grilled for 10 minutes on each side for medium done.

Braised Lamb with Rice and Vegetables. The lamb shoulder chops were marinated same way (and at the same time) as grilled chops, seared on both sides and then braised in white wine for 1-1/2 hours. Red pepper and celery were added and cooked for another 15 minutes. Incredibly tender and tasty.

 Strawberry Dumplings with Ricotta Cheese and Butter. Recipe is posted here.

Pork Tenderloin Kebab. In this version I used what I had in refrigerator: pork tenderloin, smoked thick sliced bacon, onions, zucchini and red pepper. Hot peppers and grilled King Oyster mushrooms were served on side.

Grilled Rib Eye Steak, Potato and King Oyster Mushrooms. The potatoes were pre-cooked in microwave oven and finished on a grill.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

First Garden Post - 2012

As the saying goes, “Spring has sprung”, early and with a punch. All the garden birds are back about 2 weeks earlier than usual and we can’t look out the window without seeing at least 2 or 3 flying by. As soon as I filled the bird bath with water there were customers waiting to have a drink or to take a bath. Here are some pictures from out Japanese garden where the bath is located underneath Japanese maple.

American Robin

Northern Cardinal

House Finch

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Coq au Vin – My Way

I was hesitating what to call this meal that I have made with skinless-boneless chicken thighs, root vegetables and served over pasta. I had to come up with a meal whose main ingredient was chicken thighs. It was a case of checking what else is in pantry and vegie drawer in refrigerator. I didn’t want potatoes as a side and I didn’t feel for tomato based sauce either but wine based sauce sounded great. For vegetables, I picked carrot, celery, parsnip, shallots and garlic and as a side I wanted some dry pasta shapes. Coq au vin usually starts with rendering salted pork. I didn’t have any but I had bacon which I did use. The idea was to render the bacon, remove the crispy bits and use them as a garnish at the end. That was a plan, anyway. The problem was that this beautiful, crispy bacon was sitting next to the stove and every time I went by the stove, which was often, I had a nibble. Half way through cooking there were no bacon bits left for garnish. Next time I will hide the bacon in toaster oven. Even though only seasoning I used was salt and pepper the sauce has incredible depth from the vegetables and wine. I used Chardonnay.
This recipe is for 2 people using only 2 chicken thighs.

2 skinless and boneless chicken thighs, fat removed and seasoned with pepper and salt.
3 slices smoke bacon, roughly chopped
3 shallots or 1 small onion, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup chopped parsnip
Salt and pepper
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 cups white wine

In sauce pan, render the bacon until crisp, remove the bits to paper towel and pour off bacon fat leaving only 1 tsp. Save the extra bacon fat for other use.
Brown the chicken thighs on all sides, remove and keep warm while you cook the vegetables. In the same pan cook onions and mushrooms until they start to brown and then add all the vegetables and sauté until they start to caramelize. Pour in a cup of wine and scrape all fond (food that browned and stuck to pan) from the bottom. Put the chicken back in pan and simmer until almost all the wine has reduced. Add remaining 1 cup of wine and keep simmering until sauce is thick, about 30 minutes. Just before serving add ice cold butter to the sauce, stir till all the butter is absorbed by the sauce, then cook for 3 minutes. Serve over cooked pasta and garnish with reserved bacon bits.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Oriental Chicken and Noodle Salad

Oriental noodle salad is my favorite food that I go for at any food court in a mall that has a Chinese fast food joint. It is so simple to make! The regular noodle salad has only chow mein noodles and julienned carrots, celery, red pepper and sprouts but I wanted something a wee bit more substantial so I have added cooked chicken thighs but I have also omitted sprouts for a simple reason – I didn’t have any.  And yes, it is fast food, 20 minutes from start to finish.

2 bundles of dry chow-mein noodles
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
Salt and pepper
1 Tbs. peanut oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 carrot, julienned
1 celery stick, julienned
2 green onions, julienned
1/2 red pepper, julienned

1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. Hoisin sauce
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. Sesame oil

Coriander for garnish

Cook noodles till al dente, plunge in cold water to stop cooking, drain, cut into shorter pieces and set aside.
Cook the seasoned chicken pieces in hot frying pan with peanut and sesame oil for about 5 minutes or until done and set aside.
Mix all dressing ingredients in a mixing bowl then add vegetables, chicken and noodles and toss until everything is well combined.
Serve at room temperature garnished with chopped coriander.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil (al Limone)

This is one of my favorite get-to meals when I don’t feel like spending a lot of time in front of a stove. It can be prepared in under half-an-hour.
Serves 4 to 6
Table salt
1 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil , plus more for serving
1 medium shallot , minced (about 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2teaspoons finely grated zest and 1/4 cup juice from 3 lemons
1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus more for serving
Ground black pepper
2 Tbs. shredded fresh basil leaves
1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water; cook, stirring frequently, until al dente. Reserve 1¾ cups cooking water, drain pasta into colander, and set aside.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add shallot and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook until shallot is softened, about 2 minutes. Whisk 1 1/2 cups of reserved pasta cooking water and cream into pot; bring to simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat, return pasta, and stir until coated. Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
3. Cover and let pasta stand 2 minutes, tossing frequently and adjusting consistency with remaining 1/4 cup reserved pasta water if necessary. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, drizzling individual portions with oil and sprinkling with cheese.
Let the dish rest briefly before serving so the flavors develop and the sauce thickens.

From Cook's Illustrated