Friday, April 27, 2012

3rd Annual Brown Bag Challenge

Yesterday the staff of the R. Kirk Landon Child Learning Center participated in the 3rd Annual Brown Bag Challenge. As always, they were up to the task of preparing a dish from the ingredients they found in the brown bag. The challenge for me was to insure that the dish could be prepared within 45 minutes with little or no cooking.

Here is what each group prepared.

Upper left: Chocolate cover strawberry cookie bites
Middle Left: Apple, feta, walnut, and cranberries lettuce bites
Lower Left: Apricot drizzled Camembert with toasted baguette slices
Upper right: Inside out BLT's
Lover right: Hummus and Greek yogurt cucumber bites

I am always intrigued and wonderfully surprised by what the teams come up with.Two of the five were close to what I had in mind when I put the bags together. From the other three teams, I have learned a few new tricks!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Poached Shrimp Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing

Saturday morning I sat enjoying a cup of coffee while reading the Food section of the WSJ. Each week they showcase a chef and recipe. This week is was Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady's restaurants in Charleston, SC. The recipe featured was Butter-Braised Asparagus with Shrimp and Lemon Hollandaise Sauce. Since I love every ingredient in the recipe I knew it was a keeper, so I tore it out. I figured I'd get around to it later in the week.

Sunday I noticed that my local grocer that they had shrimp on sale. Since I needed a pound for my Monday client and I really didn't know what I was going to prepare for The Reg and my dinner, I got a pound for us . I decided that I would use the poaching liquid recipe from the WSJ recipe and make a salad with a bag of spring greens I had in the refrigerator.

I didn't have the four lemons the recipe called for, but the two I did have gave the poaching liquid plenty of citrus. I added the optional mustard and celery seeds which made for a well balanced flavor profile.

For the Creamy Lemon Dressing I used canola mayonnaise, lemon juice, water, salt and a pinch of oregano, basil, and lemon pepper. I didn't use specific amounts, just made it until it was the amount, consistency and flavor I wanted. It was delightful!

I piled the spring greens on a plate, added some sliced Easter Egg radishes and the shrimp and drizzled on the dressing. I added a couple of slices of feta crostini to complete the plate.

Yes, I will prepare the recipe the way Chef Brock meant for it to be prepared, but this made for a nice meal on a lazy Sunday evening!

Friday, April 13, 2012

No-Recipe Meal

My last post was about the need to read a recipe in its entirety. Today's post is about cooking without a recipe. 

Yesterday afternoon after I had baked meatballs for company this weekend and had gotten the base for chocolate ice cream made, I turned my attention to a more immediate subject...supper for Reg and me. Having had two client cook days this week, I knew that I had a few vegetables left that needed to be used so I opted to do construct a grilled veggie and quinoa meal. I did prepare the quinoa per the package instructions, but for the rest of the meal I just winged it.

Here's what I had. A partial piece of yellow bell pepper, a whole red bell pepper, asparagus, one eggplant, kale, and some grape tomatoes.

I prepared the quinoa using the leftover vegetable stock and proceeded to prep the vegetables. I cut them up into chunks, expect the tomatoes, drizzled them with a little olive oil and seasoned them with marjoram and a little salt and pepper.

I cranked up the grill to high and do it would get nice and hot. Since I had fresh corn on the cob to use as well, I threw those on first, husk and all. The corn had roasted about ten minutes when I put the rest of the vegetables in a grill pan and got them on the fire.

Notice how nicely the corn is roasting? I love to cook my corn this way. I can't even remember the last time I boiled corn in a pot. This is SO much better!

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, I cut the kale off the stems and rough chopped it. I threw it in a hot pan with just a little olive oil and cooked it down to a tender crisp texture. Once cooked, I added it to my prepared quinoa. I found a few Mediterranean olives in the recesses of my refrigerator so I chopped them and added them to the mix. To give it a pop, I added the juice of a lemon. Wow! What a difference that made!

It only took about ten more minutes for my corn to finish cooking and the vegetables to get done. Here's what I had after I finished my "No Recipe Meal."


 Reg, aka The Husband, commented on the nice differences in textures and flavors. I told him that I didn't want it to be "one note" and it appeared that I had succeeded. I think I have been watching too many episodes of Chopped!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Always Read the Entire Recipe!

When teaching classes at Viking, I always stress the importance of reading the entire recipe, not just the ingredients list, prior to starting to cook. Unfortunately I did not follow my own instructions yesterday while selecting recipes  for a client.

I am always on the look out for new recipes for my clients, especially my weekly client. I want to keep their menu fresh and exciting, so when I found a recipe for Baked Chicken Kiev on Pinterest I was excited.

I arrived at my client's home with my recipes and game plan in hand. Everything was cooking along just fine until I got to this recipe and read beyond the ingredients! Oy!! The directions had a compound butter being made and frozen, chicken being pounded, prepared butter being placed on the pounded chicken and refrigerated for two hours. Well obviously I didn't have that kind of time so I made some changes to the directions.

Here's the recipe as I found it on Pinterest, with the changes I made in red type.

Baked Chicken Kiev
recipe adapted from Alton Brown

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted and cooled for the coating
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder, plus extra for seasoning chicken
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning chicken
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 large whole eggs, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
2 cups Japanese bread crumbs (panko)
1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Combine butter, parsley, tarragon, garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in the bowl of a stand mixer and whip together. Place mixture on plastic wrap or waxed paper and roll into small log; place in freezer.

Cut butter into pieces. Chop herbs and combine with seasonings.

Place chicken breasts, 1 at a time, between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Squirt chicken lightly with water and squirt the top of the plastic wrap as well. Pound to no less than 1/8-inch thickness. Season each piece of chicken with salt and pepper.

Cut a pocket into each chicken breast.

Lay 1 chicken breast on a new piece of plastic wrap and place 1/5 of the compound butter and 1 tablespoon bread crumbs in the center of each breast. Using the plastic wrap to assist, fold in ends of breast and roll breast into a log, completely enclosing the butter; roll very tightly. Repeat with each breast. Place chicken in refrigerator for 2 hours, or up to overnight. Wrap up the remaining 1/5 of the compound butter to use for the breading.

Place butter pieces into pockets and sprinkle with herbs and seasonings.

Place egg and water mixture in 1 pie pan. Melt the remaining 1/5 of the compound butter and add it to the 2 cups panko and Parmesan cheese in a different pie pan. Stir the butter with the panko and cheese to fully combine.

Dip each breast in the egg mixture and then roll in the buttered panko. Gently place each breast on a baking sheet, sealed-side down, and bake in 350 degree oven until golden brown, approximately 15-20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Serve hot.

Bake for 35 minutes.

Here is a photo of how my version turned out. Not too bad!

Baked Chicken Kiev
Lesson learned...always read the entire recipe!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

According to Alton Brown...Serious Vanilla Ice Cream

I admit it. I love ice cream. It is my guilty pleasure, well one of many, but I am happy with a bowl of ice cream.

Growing up, my dad always had a bowl of ice cream after supper. He'd dish it up and sit a the kitchen table to enjoy it. I didn't always join him...I had to keep an eye on my figure and too much ice cream didn't make that an easy task.We were a vanilla kind of family, but there was always a topping or two in the refrigerator if we wanted to dress it up.

Last year I bought a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker and have enjoyed making different flavors, but vanilla is still my favorite. Here is a recipe I think is good. It came from Alton Brown, and you know anything of his just has to be great.

Serious Vanilla Ice Cream

Yield: 1 quart

2 cups half & half
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons peach preserves (not jelly)
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Combine all ingredients (including the bean and its pulp) in a large saucepan and place over medium heat. Attach a candy thermometer to the inside of the pan. Stirring occasionally, bring the mixture to 170 degrees F. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Remove the hull of the vanilla beans, pour mixture into a lidded container and refrigerate overnight to mellow flavors and texture.

Freeze mixture in ice cream freezer according to unit's instructions. The mixture will not freeze hard in the machine. Once the volume has increase by 1/2 to 3/4 times, and reaches a soft serve consistency, spoon the mixture back into a lidded container and harden in the freezer at least 1 hour before serving.

NOTE: If you do not have a thermometer, bring the mixture just barely to a simmer. As soon as you see a bubble hit the surface, remove it from the heat. Do not let it boil.

I made the base early in the morning and refrigerated it about 8 hours before churning it. I also gave it about three hours in my freezer and it was still pretty soft. We ate it anyway!!


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Kale and Apple Quinoa Salad

As the weather warms up, I am always looking for recipes that don't require a great deal of heating up my kitchen to prepare. I love eating salads in the warm weather and just last night found a new one to add to my arsenal, Kale and Apple Quinoa Salad. It's great served warm or at room temperature and since it does not have a dressing on it that will spoil, it is perfect for a picnic.

I found this recipe in a handout that I picked up from our local Fresh Market.

Kale and Apple Quinoa Salad

Serves 4-6

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup kale leaves, stems removed, rough chopped
2 cups quinoa, cooked and cooled
1 cup apple, cored and chopped
1/4 cup raw pecans
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 lemon, juiced
 Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cool for another 1-2 minutes. Add kale and cook for another 4-5 minutes, until kale softens and turns bright green. Remove from heat.

Toss onion-kale mixture with the cooked quinoa and add all remaining ingredients.

I did add a little more kale than it called for and used an entire apple. I also bumped up the pecans and cranberries because I really like them!

What is a favorite salad of yours?