Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pasta with Chicken Breast, Zucchini and Tomatoes

I never knew what I was getting into when I planted 3 tiny zucchini plants last May. As recommended by GardenWeb members I have planted 3 seedlings on top of mound that was around 8” in diameter and 3“ high. Now it occupies area about 3 X 6 feet! And are they ever prolific! I had to find all kinds of uses for this great summer squash and one of our favorite ones is wide pasta noodles with sautéed onions, garlic, zucchini and tomatoes. Very quick and light summer meal.
1 small chicken breast cut into thin strips
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced 1/4” thin
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbs. Olive oil
1 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. maple syrup
2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil or parsley
Salt and pepper
Wide noodles, penne or fettuccine
1tbs butter
Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain and toss with butter and keep warm. While the pasta is cooking heat olive oil in frying pan and sauté chicken breast pieces that were seasoned with salt and pepper for about 10 minutes or until light golden brown on all sides. Add onions, garlic, zucchini and tomatoes and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Season with balsamic vinegar, pinch of salt and pepper. Drop cooked pasta into frying pan with sauce and toss till pasta is well coated with the sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley or fresh basil and serve.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

San Marzano Tomatoes

San Marzano tomatoes were my biggest discovery and surprise in my garden this year. It is a paste tomato that is considered in foodie circles as the best variety grown for making sauce or paste and it has a fanatical following judging by articles and blogs on the Net. Jason L Morrow even started blog dedicated to this gem called, what else, San Marzano Tomato Blog. What an incredible article! It is worth reading to the end. It even has a recipes for sauces etc.
Anyway, I am hooked and it is one variety that I will grow every year from now on. I have planted only 2 seedlings that I started indoors from seeds bought from Thompson  & Morgan seed company. Problem is/was that packet had 300 seeds! Three Hundred Seeds!!! That’s for a farm and not a hobby gardener like me. It is even too many to give away. Until now I have harvested about 18Lb from both plants and I still have at least 6 weeks of growing season left. My freezer will be full of bags with sauces!

Here is a picture story of San Marzano tomatoes from harvest to freezer.

After quartering  7 pounds of  tomatoes for food processor there was hardly any juice on cutting board, that’s how dry they are, no need for hours of reduction on the stove.

This is straight from Cuisinart, check how thick the sauce is already.

The sauce after 45 minutes of simmer. No rapid boil is needed since tomatoes do not have much water.

After the simmer I used food mill fitted with smallest holes plate to remove skin and seeds.

All done in ONE hour!  I freeze the sauce in large freezer bags and just break apart small piece I need for whatever I cook.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summer Harvest Soup with Rice

Another delicious soup that is made with fresh local ingredients. Only drawback, as is the case with most soups or stews, is that it requires a lot of slicing and chopping. After more than 30 years of owning original Cuisinart and for the last 3 years its small brother, the Mini-Chopper, I still hesitate in using machines for soup vegetables even though it would make the job of chopping 10 times faster. Still, I do have a certain knife skills and I like the uniformity of knife chopped vegetables so I just keep slicing, dicing and chopping.
In this version I used onions, garlic, zucchini, tomatoes, parsley and thyme from my garden and from road-side farm stand I used corn and new small potatoes. Rice, oil and chicken stock came from my pantry.
Use any vegetable combination to suit your taste and have them chopped and ready. Heat oil in Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot. Sauté onions and garlic till garlic is fragrant and onions are translucent. Add rice and cook till lightly brown making sure that onions and garlic do not burn. Do not use more than a 1/4 cup of rice for 4 servings (rice triples in volume when cooked)! Add rest of vegetables and stock, bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Season with freshly ground pepper (I always use white), fresh or dried herbs and salt if needed. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Grilled Skewered Chicken Wings

This is about technique or “how-to” rather than a recipe.

I just love chicken wings, especially whole grilled wings with nice sweet and hot glaze like Char Siu. One problem with grilled wings is that the skin tends to stick to cooking grate no matter how much you oil it before cooking. I cook a bunch the other day but I wanted the skin intact and only sure way to do it is to keep them off the grill, suspended in the air. Easy to do! Just skewer them on flat skewer and rest them on something about 1”-2” high. Why I didn’t think about this technique before, after all I grill whole bunch of foods on skewers, not just meat but veggies and fruits as well and I keep these above the grill. As for the marinade and glaze use whatever you like. To cook them to “fall-off-the-bone” I grill them 15 minutes per side and since my skewers have a flat at the end they stay parallel to the grill. If you don’t have one use 2 bamboo skewers, that were soaked in water for an hour side by side and about 1-1/2” apart.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Char Siu Spare Ribs – Easy Way

This is basically same recipe as “Chinese Style Sticky Pork Back Ribs“, main difference being that the ribs are cut into individual pieces before marinating and cooking. They come out tender and browned on all sides, just a delicious and messy carnivore delight.

1 side of pork back ribs
1/3 cup Oyster Sauce
1/3 cup Hoisin Sauce
1/3 cup Buckwheat honey or other dark honey
2 tsp. or to taste Sriracha Sauce
2 tsp. crushed garlic

Remove the membrane from bone side of ribs and separate rib sections into individual ribs. Mix all ingredients and rub the marinade on all sides of ribs. Place in resalable bag, remove as much air as possible and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. Every now and then massage the ribs in order to redistribute the marinade.
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Bring ribs to room temperature. Remove the ribs from bag and place them on a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to make a bag with second sheet of foil on top. Reserve the leftover marinade. Seal the edges by folding them over several times, place on baking sheet and bake in middle of oven for 1-1/2 hours. Remove from oven and cut diagonal slots from corner to corner and fold open so that ribs are completely exposed. Brush on remaining marinade, increase oven temperature to 400 °F and bake until the meat is golden brown.

Serve and enjoy.

Biftek with Mushrooms, Onions and Potatoes

Czech Version of Minute Steak

Biftek is a Czech version of “minute stake” that is cooked in a frying pan. "Biftek" comes from French "le biftek", which is borrowed from the English "beefsteak", while the English "beef" is originally from the French "le bœuf" and Czech cooks adopted French version “Biftek. What a linguistic mess, ne se pas?
This meal is relatively fast and simple; by the time potatoes are cooked the meat, onions and mushrooms are done as well and as a bonus all in just one frying pan.

(Serves 2)
1 large sirloin steak cut in 2 equal pieces
1 medium onion, peeled
Cremini mushrooms, 8 – 12
Salt and Pepper
Hungarian paprika
4 medium Red potatoes

Trim the steak of extra fat and membranes, pound the steak with meat mallet or heavy frying pan till about 1/4” thin, season with salt, pepper and paprika. Lightly dredge in flour and set aside. Trim mushrooms leaving only about 1/2” of stem and cut in half. Cut onion in half and cut into thin slices.
Boil potatoes is lightly salted water till tender, about 15 minutes from time they start to boil. While the potatoes are cooking heat large heavy frying pan with 1 Tbs. of oil, add onions and cook while stirring until they start to turn color. Push on side of pan and place mushrooms cut side down in frying pan making sure that there is a coat of oil on bottom.  When nicely golden move mushrooms to the side next to onions. Add more oil if needed and start frying the steak for about 1 - 2 minutes. Turn over and repeat. If the steak is 1/4” thick it takes about 4 - 5 minutes to cook it to medium well done (hey, it is minute steak after all).
Serve on preheated plates with mushrooms and onions on top and potatoes drizzled with butter on side. Spoonful of Dijon mustard on top kicks it up a notch or two.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I am Back - New post on my Photo Blog

Yup, I am back. I have just published new post on my Photography blog so have a look. These days it is hard to tell if picture is real or “fabricated” in Photoshop. My fantasy landscape is far off the normal that it is obvious that it is basically a fake. Still, it is fun to play with.

I know that I haven’t posted any recipes lately but I have so many saved as draft but never got around to finish them and put them up oh my blog. They should be up in next few days.