May 19th, 2013

Grilled Lemon-Thyme Chicken Salad, and we’re headed for Rome

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A cool, wet spring has made it positively lush in our little part of the world. Our backyard is a crazy jungle of vines, great leafed-out maples and catalpas, a plum tree dripping with the promise of a bountiful harvest. We’ve got knock-out roses living up to their name in a riot of red. Fragrant peony blossoms so huge they’ve tumbled over, spilling their petals onto the stone patio.

Perennial herbs, my kitchen delight—sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme—are all in profuse bloom too. In our garden, early crops of lettuces, spinach, arugula, scallions, and sugar snaps have taken hold.

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It’s been a beautiful time of year, so alive, so fleeting, that I’ve stopped to soak up whenever I could–before summer’s heat sets in.

It hasn’t been as easy as other years; commitments of work, travel, family, community have had our household on the move. Trust me, this is not a complaint. It’s simply how this cycle in life is spinning right now.

I do have some exciting pieces of news to share.
This week, I am happy to report, I clicked “SEND” and my cookbook manuscript whooshed off to the publisher.
Another step, complete. I will keep you posted as the process continues to unfold.

Next week, Bill and I leave for Rome. Fourteen days on an adventure that has little construct! It is rather unlike our other trips, where we’ve had A Plan. This time, we are surrendering to the moment, and we’ll see where it takes us. In a city steeped in history, the arts, cuisine, we’ll have no shortage of things to explore and experience.

What we do know: We have American friends, living there since 2008, with whom we’ll be staying. So, we have a most hospitable base of operations.

And, I will meet Rachel–food writer extraordinaire, Roman resident of nine years, creator of racheleats, –“in real life” as I used say as a child. We’ve come to know each other through our respective blogs. Now, we get the chance to expand that friendship. The world is an amazing place, isn’t it?

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Before I start packing for the Eternal City, I want to share a recipe that you might enjoy making for a picnic. In the States, Memorial Day is coming up–when many of us fire up the grill and indulge in those fleeting tastes of spring–and harbingers of summer.

The inspiration for this dish comes from Cooking Light, the food magazine devoted to healthy delicious eating. The folks at CL have invited me to be a part of their blogging community, and as our philosophies about food and health align, I am pleased to join.

The recipe uses ingredients of the season, many flourishing in my garden: sugar snaps, spinach, green garlic, and thyme.

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The success of this dish relies on a wealth of fresh lemon juice and thyme leaves, which both marinate the chicken, and infuse the vinaigrette. Don’t skimp! It doesn’t take long for the lemon and herb to permeate the meat. It’s pretty easy to place the breasts into a ziplock bag, add the marinade, swish, seal, and refrigerate—for about an hour.

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After a sear on the grill, that juicy chicken gets sliced, then tossed with baby spinach, yellow bell peppers and sugar snap peas. A pour of vinaigrette brings together simple vibrant tastes, appealing colors, and a harmony of textures. If you want to bulk it up a bit for a crowd, as I did for our Third Thursday Potluck, add some mezze penne–a smaller ridged pasta.

When I return from this adventure, I’m sure I’ll have some good food tales to tell. Stay tuned! If you have a Roman Tip to share—something you deem a “Can’t Miss”—art, food, culture, anything!–please let me know in the comments below.

Ciao!

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GRILLED LEMON THYME CHICKEN SALAD

adapted from Cooking Light

Marinade for Chicken:
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (3-4 large lemons, 6-8 small lemons)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
zest from 1 large lemon
2 heaping tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

3.5 lbs boneless chicken breasts (6-8 pieces)

Other Salad Ingredients:
1 lb. sugar snap peas
1 lb. yellow and orange bell peppers
1 1/2 cups dry penne pasta
1 lb. baby spinach

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Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 clove roasted garlic
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

METHOD:
Place marinade ingredients into a bowl and whisk well. Place chicken breasts into a one gallon ziplock bag. Pour in marinade, swishing it around to coat all of the pieces.
Seal and refrigerate for one hour. Don’t marinate more than an hour—the acid in the lemon will “cook” the meat.

Prepare grill.
Remove chicken from the ziplock bag, discarding marinade.
When coals are ashen, place the chicken onto the grill. Cook approximately 7 minutes per side, or until done.

Cook penne pasta according to package directions in lightly salted water. Drain well. Place in large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Heat a large skillet. Add one tablespoon olive oil. Saute sugar snap peas, in batches, until bright green–about two minutes.
Place in large bowl with penne.

Saute julienned bell pepper strips until caramelized–or–if using baby sweet bells, place them in the skillet whole and let them char on all sides. Remove and cut into julienned strips when cool. Add strips to large bowl with penne and sugar snaps.
Slice chicken breasts into 1/4″ thick strips.

Make Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette: Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until emulsified, or place ingredients in a small bowl and use an immersion blender to mix.

ASSEMBLY
Place spinach leaves in a large mixing bowl. Add penne, sugar snaps, sweet yellow bell pepper strips, and grilled chicken strips.
Pour lemon-thyme vinaigrette over the ingredients and toss well so that all of the salad elements are lightly coated with dressing.

Mound in a salad bowl. Garnish with lemon twists and fresh thyme, if desired.

Serves 10

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Posted in Meats/Poultry, Recipes, Salads | 25 Comments »




May 9th, 2012

Dillweed Forest

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Because one lone plant was most prolific last summer, with
Multiple blossomed whorls gone to vigorous seed,
Because the winter was mild and the sprouts hardy
A great patch of dillweed, tall and feathery, took hold in my front yard.

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This unexpected abundance has me both delighted and stumped. And while its beauty alone makes the little dillweed forest a welcome presence in our postage stamp garden, I’ve been seeking new ways to use this herb.

In pickling, certainly. Snipped into salads, baked onto a side of salmon, folded into a quickbread batter with cheddar cheese.

I welcome your suggestions.

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One way I’ve been enjoying dillweed is in this sauce that uses lush Greek yogurt.

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Simple–and versatile.

A quick whisk of herbs, coarse grain mustard, vinegar, and olive oil into a bowl of this plain creamy base readily transforms into a sauce, or dip, or dressing. You might relish a dollop of this on a falafel-pita sandwich, or as a cooling dip for a spicy grilled lamb kebab. It stands up nicely alongside a tray of crudites. Or potato chips!

Long ago, I would make something similar, using sour cream. Now, I prefer tangy and thick-bodied Greek yogurt in its stead. So accessible at the market, ( all the yogurt companies have added Greek to their repertoire) it makes a terrific substitute–healthier too.

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Today, I used it to dress potato salad–a springtime variation that combines new potatoes and asparagus. So seasonal, both vegetables take well to dillweed, and both work together in this somewhat different dish.

You actually plunge the asparagus tips right in with the potatoes, in the final minute of cooking.

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Drain and cool—just slightly. When still warm, the new potatoes tend to absorb the dressing better. That bit of heat blooms the herbs in the sauce. You can serve the salad immediately, if you like. Or serve it chilled.

It tastes fantastic, either way.

If you have any other of-the-moment garden veggies on hand, slice ’em up and put ’em in. The crisp bite of French radishes, for instance, would be exceptional in this dish. Cucumbers? Yes. Scallions, too.

And, remember–I’m on the lookout for more ways to use my dillweed forest. Please share!

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NEW POTATO-ASPARAGUS SALAD with GREEK YOGURT DILL SAUCE

1 1/2 lbs. small New Potatoes, cleaned and quartered
1 bundle fresh Asparagus, cut on the diagonal into small pieces

1 1/2 cups Greek Yogurt
1 T. Coarse Grain Mustard
1 T. White Wine Vinegar
1 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 heaping T. fresh Dillweed, chopped
1 T. fresh Chives, chopped
1 1/2 t. Sea Salt
1/2 t. Black Pepper

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add new potatoes. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes.
Add asparagus pieces and cook for another minute. Remove from heat and drain.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all the remaining ingredients.

Place slightly cooled potatoes and asparagus into a serving bowl. Spoon yogurt-dill sauce over the vegetables.
Toss and fold until well coated.

Garnish with dillweed.

May serve warm, room temperature, or chilled.

Makes 6-8 servings.

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Posted in Recipes, Salads, Vegetables | 33 Comments »




November 1st, 2010

Farro, for Spring or Fall

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This week I have been testing some recipes for an article for RELISH Magazine. It’s for a story that I’m writing about our Third Thursday Community Pot Luck that will run in May of next year (!)

With the many months that separate article submission and publish dates, it can tricky to test recipes, especially with peak of summer produce in the dreary heart of winter.

But, as luck would have it, this is a springtime story. And many of the vegetables that come to market in early spring also make a brief wondrous appearance in early fall.

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Like this gorgeous selection that I bought from Arugula’s Star of Neal Family Farms. Wide, crinkly leaves of Red Russian Kale, plump, oh-so-sweet sugar snap peas, and, without question, the prettiest-tastiest bundle of carrots I have eaten in a long time—if ever!

All of these lush veggies are the precise ingredients needed for one of our featured recipes, as created by Third-Thursday Potlucker Rhonda.

Rhonda is a self-effacing cook, loathe to recognize her talents in the kitchen. But she knows good food, and can craft some mighty tasty dishes.
It’s one of the benefits of being a part of the potluck: I get to sample so many good things, prepared with flavor profiles outside of my typical use.

I liked her dish so much, that I want to share it with you now, while you might have access to some of those early spring/early fall Cool Weather Crops. You won’t have to wait for next May to enjoy!

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Rhonda’s Farro Salad with Toasted Sesame-Sweet Garlic Dressing has a couple of those “outside-my-usual” elements: that nutty whole grain known best to the Italians, Farro, and a Far East flavor: toasted sesame oil.

That sesame oil is powerful stuff–a thimbleful imparts a rich roasted color and flavor to a dressing. Rhonda’s vinaigrette uses a tetch more than that, mixed with a neutral canola oil. She also sweats sliced garlic in gentle heat, to sweeten it, while toasting mustard seeds.

This results in a kind of sweet-sour dressing, garlicky, with a hint of the East.

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Farro is an ancient whole grain of the wheat family, long cultivated in Italy, and prized for its distinct nutlike flavor and soft but chewy texture. Some think it tastes like a combination of wheat berries and barley. I would agree, and say that both its texture and taste are superior.

If you can find Italian Pearled Farro, as I did at Whole Foods, I recommend it. You won’t have to soak it in advance, and it will cook easily in less than half an hour.

One cup dry will yield 2 cups cooked.

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The vegetable preparation is really a simple stir fry. Start with the sturdy kale on medium heat for a few minutes before adding the carrots. If you can find these burgundy colored carrots—deep red skins covering bright orange interior–buy them! They have a really earthy-sweet spiciness that is so delicious. Plus, their color just knocks me out.

Sugar snaps take no time to cook, so add them at the very last. Stir them around for thirty seconds–just long enough to brighten that green.

Combine all the elements—farro, veggies, dressing, by folding. This dish is terrific served warm, room temperature, or chilled. It tastes fantastic the next day. It travels well. And, with its vegan ways, it can satisfy a wide range of people. Like our Third Thursday Community Pot Luck friends.

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RHONDA’S FARRO WITH SPRING/FALL VEGGIES
and TOASTED SESAME SWEET GARLIC DRESSING

Farro and Vegetables
1 c. Farro, rinsed
6 c. Water, lightly salted
1 T. Canola Oil
8 leaves of Kale, stemmed and chopped
½ lb. Sugar Snap Peas, strung, and cut on the bias into threes
½ lb. Carrots, cut on the bias
Salt
Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

bed of Arugula, for serving

Add farro to a pot of boiling water and cook for approximately 25 minutes.

In a skillet on medium heat, sauté the kale until collapsed, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and red pepper flakes. Add carrots, and continue to cook—stir fry style—for another couple of minutes, then add the yellow pepper strips, and finally, the sugar snaps. The kale will be tender, and the other vegetables will be tender-crisp.

Fold into the cooked farro, along with the toasted sesame-sweet garlic dressing. Reserve a little dressing to enliven the salad later, or dollop on top when you serve it.

Delicious warm, room temp, or chilled over a bed of fresh greens, like arugula.

Toasted Sesame-Sweet Garlic Dressing
3 cloves fresh Garlic, sliced thin
1 T. Canola Oil
½ t. Mustard Seed
4 T. Cider Vinegar
1 T. Sugar
¼ t. Salt
1 Green Onion, coarsely chopped
10 T. Canola Oil
1 T. Toasted Sesame Oil

Gently heat a skillet and add 1 T. canola oil. Add sliced garlic and mustard seeds. Cook just enough to “sweat” the garlic—it will become softened, and sweeter. Remove from heat. In a food processor fitted with the swivel blade, place cider vinegar, sugar, salt, green onion, and cooked garlic-mustard seed mix. Pulse these together, then process, pouring in the canola oil, a little at a time. Finish with the toasted sesame oil. The dressing will emulsify nicely. Taste for seasonings and adjust. If you want peppery heat, add a pinch of red pepper flakes here too.

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Posted in Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Salads, Vegan | 23 Comments »




June 4th, 2009

Delicious Shrimp and Dill

The inspiration for this salad comes from the tallest member of the Bill and Nancy Belmont Farmette–Anethum graveolens —Dillweed. A gift from Tally May, this plant was maybe five inches tall when I put it in the ground eight short weeks ago, and now it’s in its glory: almost five feet of aromatic feathery leaves and whorls of pinpoint blooms–a kind of fireworks display in yellow.

The ancient Greeks regarded Dill as the plant of prosperity, its very presence indicated wealth.
So, I feel mightily blessed to have my one-and-only gracing the garden front.

It’s early June, and temperatures are already creeping up into the 90’s. My garden mesclun greens are plentiful, but in danger of turning bitter. With heat and greens and billowy dill, I ‘ve got the makings for a summery salad for dinner, no time to lose!

What other good things to build the salad?
Look to the season’s offerings, I remind myself: they all play well together.
So, we’ve got
Cucumbers, new potatoes, and sugar snap peas……
Plus,
some shrimp coated with dillweed and lemon zest, quickly seared in the pan.

Composing a salad—-laying out all the elements in mandala-like fashion on a plate—is a simple way to make a stunning presentation. It also gives it structure, a place for each ingredient to be.

This salad is delicious served chilled or at room temperature. It doesn’t take long to make and I find that combining chilled things (sugar snaps, greens, cukes) with warm things (shrimp, new potatoes) in the dish enhances flavors. For vegetarians like Bill, I substitute chevre for the shrimp.
Give it all a good drizzle of of the lemony-dijon-dill dressing. Enjoy! These garden lettuces and herbs are fleeting things.

Dilled Shrimp and Sugar Snap Salad
10 pieces Peeled and Deveined Raw Shrimp
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Lemon Zest
Fresh Dillweed–a few stems
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
Sugar Snap Peas—a handful, maybe 12-15 pieces
Cucumber—just a piece (less than half of one)
4-5 roasted Baby New Potatoes
Mixed Salad Greens, washed and dried

Place shrimp in a bowl and toss with olive oil, lemon zest, and sea salt. Wrap each shrimp with a sprig of dill.
Blanche Sugar Snaps in a skillet of boiling water for less than a minute–forty five seconds. Remove and chill.
Slice cucumbers and new potatoes.
Heat a skillet and drop in shrimp to sear for a minute one one side–then flip and sear on the other. Remove from heat and let the shrimp sit in the skillet.
Arrange lettuces on the plate.Add a ring of slice cucumbers and new potatoes, then sugar snaps.
Top with cooked shrimp. Drizzle with lemon-dill aioli and garnish with a few dill sprigs and lemon slice.

serves 2

Lemon-Dill Aioli
1 clove roasted Garlic
3 Tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 heaping Tablespoon chopped Dillweed
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
6 Tablespoons Olive Oil

In a small bowl, mash the roasted garlic with a fork and mix in the lemon juice, dijon, dillweed, and salt. Mix into a paste. Add in the olive oil, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is emulsified. Taste for seasoning and acidity—add more lemon if you like.

Here’s hoping this noble plant will reseed and return next spring!

Posted in Fish/Seafood, Recipes, Salads | 8 Comments »