Monday, April 30, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Grilled Sausage with Onions and Peppers

Calling all carnivores!

Let me start with a confession: This Sunday, for the first time in many moons, I didn’t cook Sunday dinner…. Instead, thanks, Dad, we got take out Chinese! Did I feel guilty? Honestly? Not this time… Been doing a lot of additional cooking lately (will share photos from last week’s class soon!), and will be cooking a lot this week (kids coming back from school, private cooking class, and more…).
Still, I have a Sunday-dinner dish to share.  This classic dish—one of my family’s favorites (well, amongst those that are carnivores!)—is great summertime fare.
What is it about onions and peppers that makes them taste so well together? With just a light tough of oil—and salt and pepper—they’re fabulous. Simple, tasty, and fun, this combo is perfect. Last time I served grilled sausage and peppers, we had it with my Pistachio Pesto and Orzo, Roasted Asparagus and Orange segments, a big green leafy salad, fresh bread (and brownies for dessert!).
Serves 8 to 10

6  bell peppers (I like to combine the red, yellow, and orange-colored ones)   
4 red onions, peeled and sliced
Olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 8 links (4 ounces each) excellent quality Italian sausage (we get a local version which includes parsley and cheese…)
Flat-leaf parsley or basil leaves for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a bowl, combine the peppers and onions. Drizzle with oil, add salt and pepper, and stir well. Place in a baking pan in the preheated oven and cook until roasted, about 20 minutes (you want them caramelized but not totally mushy!). You can also do this on the grill.

Prepare your grill for cooking. Grill the sausage (or, you can bake them in the oven…but the grill flavors are so amazing), until thoroughly cooked.

Plate the sausage with the onions and peppers. Garnish, and serve!
They can be served warm or at room temperature (cover them with foil if not serving immediately).

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Midweek food musings: The salad, Part II

Strawberry and Fresh Greens Salad
At lunch yesterday,   I just finished eating the salad I made on Sunday (Poor Man’s Salad—I will share it next week, but it’s in Latin Grill--a great summertime-grilling season cookbook--which I co-authored with Chef Rafael Palomino!). That’s one of my top salad  picks for this season—but the one I’m sharing with you here is another favorite: The Strawberry and Fresh Greens Salad. 

It's really the texture that first got me; I love the contrast of the smooth, red leaf lettuce with fresh-sliced hearts of strawberries. And the color? Just so dazzling. And flavor--all you need is some excellent quality virgin olive oil, and a light white balsamic vinegar, some salt and pepper--and the rest is pure magic. This is simple--and sizzling. What more could we ask for in a salad? Last week I added some toasted almonds; I leave that choice up to you! Enjoy!

Strawberry and Fresh Greens Salad

Serves 4 to 6

1 bunch red leaf lettuce, washed and torn into bite-size pieces
10 ripe strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced lengthwise
Extra virgin olive oil
White balsamic vinegar
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup toasted almonds, optional (I toast raw almonds for about 7 minutes at 375°F)

Combine the lettuce and strawberries in your salad bowl. Just before serving, add olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and top with toasted almonds. You can also plate the salad, and then add the almonds, if desired.

Christine's Version of the Strawberry Salad

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Pasta Primavera

“This is unique. I really like it.” This is what my dad said upon trying this pasta. Whew! Here’s how it evolved:

Last week I mentioned that I usually decide on Saturdays what I’m going to make on Sunday. This week was different. I’m swamped with a writing deadline (I write ESL textbooks in my “other” life!) and so I really wanted something super quick, fresh, and, as always, beautiful and tasty. I also was feeling chilled by the much-needed rain that finally hit New York. So, what I did I do? I went to the market.

There I was inspired—as always—by what I saw: asparagus, just $1.99 a bunch, many colored peppers (such a fan of roasted peppers), and what my market calls Mexican zucchini.  I roasted my asparagus, roasted orange and yellow peppers, zucchini and red onions. Toasted some pine nuts (had those), added some Kalamata olives, sautéed a bit of cubed pancetta,  cooked up some campanelle pasta (bell-shaped, so pretty!), and put it all together. Served it with Poor Man’s Salad (hmmm…maybe I’ll share this one on Wednesday!), and a baguette of multi-grain bread. Worked well! AND I have more for us to enjoy today after work….

My style of Pasta Primavera--before plating and with a bit of steam coming off the top! 
Pasta Primavera

I use this title loosely; you can substitute whatever veggies you find, or are inspired by—and also vary amounts depending on your and your family’s preferences.

Serves 8 to 10

2 bunches fresh asparagus, trimmed
Extra virgin olive oil
2 bell peppers (I used 1 orange and 1 yellow), stemmed, sliced, and coarsely chopped
2 red onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
5 green zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup cubed and toasted pancetta (optional, of course!)
1/2 cup Kalamata olives

I pound campanelle pasta

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parsley or basil leaves (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Lay a single layer of asparagus on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and roast until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. (When cool enough to handle, cut into 2-inch sticks.)

Meanwhile, combine the bell peppers, onions and zucchini and add to a baking pan. Drizzle with oil and stir. Roast for about 25 minutes.

Cook the pasta in plenty of water until al dente (about 9 minutes). While the pasta is in the colander, add the roasted vegetables to the pot. Add the pasta and stir. Season for taste and serve. Add parsley or basil as you plate your pasta. 

Christine's Interpretation of Pasta Primavera!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sumptuous Sips: Planter's Punch

Sometimes you want something rum-ish: rum-based, tropical, kind of dreamy…Planter's Punch can fit that bill.

Recently I have had the opportunity to sample Alvin's punch--(that would be Alvin of Alvin and friends--whom I wrote about last month!) and wow, that is magical stuff...and honestly, it would be my first choice. However, sometimes I can't get out, and since Alvin's recipe is top top secret, I have to recreate my own! Honestly, everyone has their own interpretation. This is a variation on one I published in Calypso Coolers. Of course you can vary it according to your taste and liking, but this one can satisfy your need-for-the-tropics craving... ¡Salud! Happy weekend! (And ooh--for more sumptuous sips, great fiesta recipes, and a fun night out of cooking, cavorting and more, join me on April 26th at Don Coqui's where you'll be making a lovely array of springtime, Latin-infused tapas!) 

Serves 2
From Calypso Coolers, Arlen Gargagliano © 2006,
Stewart, Tabori & Chang
Photograph by Ellie Miller  
Serves 2 

Ice cubes
4 ounces dark rum (I’m a big Meyers fan…but Mount Gay is nice with this one!)
5 ounces unsweetened pineapple juice
1 ounce fresh lime juice
2 dashes grenadine
superfine sugar, to taste
club soda
Cherries (for garnish)

In a shaker filled with ice, combine the rum, the juice, and the grenadine. Shake briskly. Pour without straining into two glasses. Top with club soda, garnish with the cherries and serve. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

With Chef Johnson

Johnson may be a common surname, but everyone I know who has it (Karen, Liz, and the Brothers) are anything but common; Chef Johnson is certainly no exception.
If you are living in the Long Island Sound bordering ‘burbs of NYC, you may have already heard of this New Orleans-style, treat-packed,  truck-driving  man, who totes around not only his 5 year-old (part of his growing crew of male offspring!) but a selection of flavors and music that offer a small and tasty window to the south. While Mr. NO himself, Louis Armstrong, watches over from an old black and white photo,  Chef Johnson, who hides his gorgeous blue eyes behind sunglasses,  doles out servings of some of the best jambalaya I’ve had north of Louisiana, all to the tunes of Dr. John and more. Chef Johnson, after all, is not only a chef, but also a musician (hope he'll be giving us a concert one of these days!) and someone, like many of us, who likes to dance as he cooks.

But this isn't the only sensual treat gleaned from the Johnson Truck; it additionally offers one of the most perfect spring and summertime combos: picking up your warm and fresh-cooked fabulous food and enjoy it, with friends and family, al fresco, in Harbor Island.

You know, I'm thinking I could transfer one of my Sunday dinners to this waterside locale...especially since Chef Johnson's menu definitely has something for everyone--from those who like smokier and sparkier flavors, to even one his son's favorites: PB& J! Some of his other southern and not-necessarily-southern goodies: Johnson Jambalaya and Shrimp 'n' Grits Johnson, Slammin' Seafood Gumbo, Bayou Matzoh Ball Chicken Soup and so much more.   The only thing I might add to his selection would be some cold beer (but, alas, laws prevent that possibility)!
Actually the first time I enjoyed Chef Johnson’s fare was at Beer Necessities (another New Rochelle treat!) where I had his amazing chili mac and cheese, which can be found there in easy take-home packages (ah—marries so well with some of Beer Necessities amazing beer choices!). He's got variations like Mac Lobsta, Give Peas a Chance, Mac-Sparagus, Mac-Shroom and Brie, and more. Now I’m a big mac and cheese fan—with and without anything added—and have to say that his, like many of the other delights he serves up, is exceptional.
And maybe you're wondering where the recipe is. Well, my friends, I'm afraid you're going to have to visit the big green truck, and maybe Chef will share his secrets with you...

So when and where can you find this green truck? Well, happily, we don't have to go to NYC to find this roving restaurant. We’re lucky—locally (sorry far-away friends!)—to find him on weekends parked in Harbor Island Park (in the parking lot adjacent to the playground) around noonish until evening time, and he promises to be adding  more time as the season progresses.

Enjoy--and do let me know how you enjoy it!

With Chef Johnson--and his lobster!

All natural beef hot dog--with mustard on a toasted whole wheat bun, but sans onion and friends--which  I highly recommend including!

Karen--pausing before enjoying a spoonful of Johnson Jambalaya!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Linguine with Clam Sauce

Three steps often taken before Sunday dinner’s menu is determined:
1)      While I’m at work at school on Saturdays, I usually get a craving/inspiration for my Sunday menu. (This, of course,  could be adjusted depending on who’s joining us—and their dietary restrictions, as well as what's available and what looks good in the market.) I write down a tentative menu plan and shopping list. 
2)      I call my dad (ah yes...still looking for his approval at this “ripe” age!) and get a read on his feedback.
3)      If he’s equally inspired/enthusiastic, it stays, and I start planning for real.
This was exactly how my linguine with clam sauce menu happened. Inspiration this weekend came in part from this gorgeous summer-like weather--which probably should have sparked grilling. (Well, I have to say that I did grill sausage, peppers, and onions, too--but will save that recipe for another day!) I served all with roasted asparagus and chunks of fresh orange sections, and a red-leaf salad topped with sweet sliced strawberries and toasted almonds (I think I'll share both of those on Wednesday). Ah--if you live in or near New Rochelle, visit the Bread Factory for a fabulous experience--as well as a gorgeous assortment of fresh bread. I picked up some prosciutto bread, which was perfect for dipping in the luscuiously-light, cream-kissed,  wine-lemon clam sauce. AND one of my father's favorite shell-shapped pastries from our childhood: sfogliatella. The result? All were happy with all!   
Linguine with Clam Sauce

Serves  6 to 8 

Coarse Salt 
2 pounds Little Neck clams  
1 pound linguine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped red onions
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano 
Coarse salt
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup clam juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
juice from 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley, plus additional for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh-grated parmesan 

Rinse the clams in cold water (and discard any that are badly cracked or open).  Let them sit in a bowl of cold water for about 20 minutes. Scrub each clam clean under cold running water to remove remaining grit or sand. Rinse and drain again. Repeat the scrubbing process as needed until the clams are clean, and soaking water is free of grit. Drain and keep chilled until ready to cook.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the linguine and cook about 9 minutes, or until cooked al dente. Drain the pasta, but save about 1/2 cup of the liquid (I put my colander over a bowl in the sink, and pour it from there into a measuring cup). Transfer the pasta back into the pot, along with the liquid. Stir, cover, and set aside. 

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan, over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions start to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the oregano leaves, wine, and clam sauce. After the mixture is heated, add the clams and cover. Cook over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the clams open, about five minutes. (Discard any clams that don't open!)

Stir in the lemon juice and mix well. Add the cream, stir, and simmer for about a minute before adding to the pasta. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (you can also let your diners do this bit!)  Mix until well blended. Sprinkle parsley on top, and serve on individual plates. Sprinkle with parmesan and additional parsley if desired. 



Friday, April 13, 2012

Sumptuous Sips: Piña Colada

Time to celebrate: it's lucky Friday the 13th! Yes, we've just stepped into spring, but we are on the shores of summer...and that, in and of itself, is reason to celebrate! Hence my choice for this week's Sumptuous Sips: the creamy, dreamy piña colada.

Recently, neighbors were in Boricua (a.k.a. Puerto Rico!)….and, well, I was reminded of my first trip there oh so long ago (went with my Spanish class in high school, but that’s another story!) AND, I remember well my first piña colada. So, since my neighbors returned, rum in hand, I’ve been craving this rich-retro tropical cocktail (with umbrellas, of course—and if you want to totally take it back, maraschino cherries!).  Perfect as a dessert—or mid-afternoon drink—the blending of pineapple and coconut softly says weekend, beach, and relaxation.This is definitely going to be my choice for Friday's post-work cocktail! 

So, my friends, celebrate what promises to be a warmish weekend in the Northeast, with a barbecue—and get that blender going!  ¡Buen provecho! Enjoy!

Piña Colada

 (Adapted from Mambo Mixers, © 2005 by Arlen Gargagliano, Stewart Tabori & Chang)

Serves 4

8 ounces light rum
16 ounces fresh/unsweetened pineapple juice
3 ounces cream of coconut (or to taste!)
1 cup fresh pineapple chunks (optional), plus pineapple chunks for garnish
2 teaspoons shredded and sweetened fresh coconut (optional)
1 1/2 cup ice cubes

Combine all the ingredients (except the pineapple garnish!) in a blender and process until smooth. (Remember, you can always vary amounts depending on what you and your guests prefer!) Pour into chilled wine glasses, garnish with pineapple, and serve.

Ah...the luscious Piña Colada
Photo by Dasha Wright for Mambo Mixers! 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Midweek food musings: Salads, Part I

Salads. One name, so many varieties. My salads are always evolving…and I think that’s the way they should be.  In this, Part I of my salad installments, I share with you some of my recent favorites. 

What do I like to put in my salads these days? Well, I’ve just passed my cheese-in-salad stage (or maybe I'm just taking a temporary hiatus), but I'm totally into the fruit-and-nuts in my salad stage. It just seems that there are so many fruits—and nuts—that marry well with fresh greens! Last week I made a simple cucumber and green apple salad, with fresh lime, and a light cilantro-white balsamic vinaigrette. That beautifully complemented the cheese quesadillas (that's one of my super-quick dinner dishes--another one to write about at some point!). And, not only was it great at dinner, it was also wonderful to take to work the following day (cucumbers and granny smith apples can handle the all-night vinaigrette sit). The result? It was a great lunchtime treat--even after having been a side dish the night before. 

So here are my top five salad guidelines for a salad on the side: 

1) Think about what might complement the meal; salads should enhance, not fight against, your main players. For example, with chicken and fish, I often enjoy fresh lettuce greens topped with citrus--especially orange, clementine, or lately kumquats. 
2) Think about balance of flavor within the salad itself. I'm a big fan of nuts--especially toasted nuts--in my salads. First, many of my dinner guests don't eat meat/chicken/fish, so I like "beefing up" (sorry!) my salads with nuts. (Ah--but obviously you need to check for allergies BEFORE adding these crunchy can always put them on the side.) Balance of texture is equally important; it's nice to balance smooth and silky, or juicy but soft chunks (think citrus sections or even avocado) with crunchy.
3) Think about colors: your salad should look--as well as taste--good.
4) Use a vinaigrette/dressing that will enhance, not compete with, the flavors of the salad.
5) When possible, use fresh lettuce. Yes, I do use the bagged salads (especially during the week when I've just gotten home from being at school for sometimes 9-plus hours!) but the buttery flavor and snap of fresh red or green-leaf lettuce is simply sublime, and doesn't carry over into the bagged versions. 

Actually this one is Christine's gorgeous interpretation of my citrus/toasted cashew salad

Another recent fav: Leafy greens topped with kumquats and pomegranate seeds.
 Look at those colors! 

As far as vinaigrettes, lately I'm still on my citrus kick.  Here's a base citrus vinaigrette--but, as always, it can be varied depending on your taste, and what's available!

  • Light Citrus vinaigrette (about 3/4 of a cup--or enough for a salad for 8) 
  • 1 shallot, minced, or 2 tablespoons minced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar (I've been using--and still totally enjoying--Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (or more, to taste)  freshly squeezed lime or orange juice, plus about 1/4 teaspoon orange rind (optional) 
  • 1/4-1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (you can use canola, but I prefer the richness of olive)
  • Coarsely ground salt and freshly ground black pepper 
Whisk all the ingredients together. Taste and season accordingly. If it's too better--and sometimes, depending on the citrus, it can be--add a little bit of honey for balance...but you don't want to go overboard with the sweetness, either. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Easter Meets Passover!

Click here to link to the article! 
Am I cheating if I repost recipes from the newspaper last week? Well, since I made them for this Sunday's dinner, I figured it's okay. We adjusted the menu from the one that was published--and actually my brother Peter, who's an amazing chef, made the Matzo Ball Soup (pictured below).  In addition to being so delicious, that has to be one of the most curative soups ever made!

But actually it's a good thing I made the recipes again: I discovered that the paprika was missing from the Chimichurri-Marinated Brisket, not that it's so crucial, but it does add a bit of flavor that complements the rest of 'em. (And, by the way, we'll be making the chimichurri and more in my next interactive cooking class at Don Coqui --click for the menu and to make reservations--on Thursday, April 26th.)

But back to today's recipes, I've always been a huge brisket fan; I love the flavors, but also love the way that the house smells when it's cooking (I even called my neighbor Susan over yesterday to share the aromas--and yes, she joined us for dinner!)  The Marmalade-Glazed Carrots also smell lovely while baking. The Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts off the perfect balance, but in terms of flavor and color, to the other dishes. Okay--so you can look up the spinach and raisin dishes in the article (link posted under "here" in the caption) but I am sharing the brisket recipe here. If you do make it, please do send me a picture!

(And oh--on Wednesday I'll be starting a series on tips for creating salads that can enhance your dinners--or stand alone as main meals.)

Serves 6 to 8

Chimichurri (adapted from Mambo Mixers, 2005, Arlen Gargagliano)
(Makes 1 1/2 cups)

3 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
Leaves from 6 sprigs thyme
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
Leaves from 1 sprig oregano
15 basil leaves
1 bunch fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor blender, and process until smooth. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

One 5-pound brisket, trimmed of some of its fat
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 quart chicken stock
1 pound mini heirloom tomatoes, coarsely chopped ripe plum tomatoes, or one 14-ounce can plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
3 medium red onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

Rub about 1/2 cup of chimichurri all over the brisket. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, and up to 24.

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F.
Heat the oil in a Dutch Oven (or any heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, just large enough to hold the brisket snugly) over medium-high heat. Transfer the brisket to the pot and cook on both sides until browned, about 7 minutes per side. Then add the stock, tomatoes, bay leaves, onions and garlic. Cover the pot, and cook in the oven for 1 hour. Then uncover the pot and continue to braise for another hour.

Use a ladle to evenly distribute the juices. Check the meat for tenderness; pierce the center with the tip of a sharp knife (it will sled in easily when it’s completely cooked). Cover the pot and return it to the oven. Let it cook for up to 2 hours occasionally checking for doneness.
Once the meat has been cooked, transfer it to a cutting board and loosely cover it with foil. Slice the brisket across the grain, and transfer it to a warm serving platter. Top with the onion-tomato mixture.  (Remove the bay leaves just prior to serving.)

Peter's Amazing Matzo-Ball Soup
Sunday Dinner--Plated and ready to serve!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sumptuous Sips: Belize Cocktail

Adapted from my Caribbean Cocktail/Appetizer Collection: Calypso Coolers
( Arlen Gargagliano ©2006, Stewart, Tabori & Chang) 
Don't get me wrong: I'm so happy to be here in New York this time of year. And if you live here you know that lately every single day in the NYC Metropolitan Area has been just with sunshine, blue skies, and of course, flowers (and a smiling, full-faced moon). Still, the lure of the Caribbean (and yes, Central America) is--at least for me--always present in one form or another. Hence my inspiration in this Friday's drink: The Belize Cocktail. Pineapple juice, coconut, and rum have always made a beautiful combo. This cocktail is no exception. And what better way to celebrate this season--and holiday weekend?  (And I promise to share the recipe for tostones--pictured here--soon!) Happy Friday!

Belize Cocktail

Serves 2

4 ounces coconut rum (Hello, El Salvador and more--you know fresh coconut water is the most amazing/curative stuff--so if you've got that, forget coconut rum: use your favorite light rum combined with coconut water...)
4 ounces fresh or unsweetened pineapple juice
1 1/2 cups ice cubes
2 fresh pineapple wedges for garnish

Combine all of the ingredients--except for the garnish--in a shaker. Pour into a wine or cocktail glass,
garnish, and serve!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

With Chef Amy Magee

Chef Amy Magee is no ordinary personal chef! This CIA (Culinary Institute of America) graduate has worked her way into hearts—and stomachs—of many a client in Westchester and NYC via cocktail parties and full-size soirées, in addition to smaller, more familial gigs.

 With Chef Amy Magee in My kitchen!
Chef Amy, like many chefs, loves to cook. But what makes this chef especially interesting is her constant desire to learn and explore on behalf of her customers. Let’s say, for example, a client says, “I’m thinking about serving my 25 guests something from Mumbai, India.” This kind of request is the kind this chef loves: she gets to investigate, and put together a menu featuring spices, ingredients, and dishes that are not usually part of her repertoire. Chef Amy says she’s always inspired by her clients—and loves the journey of discovering new dishes. 

Whether she’s dropping off a meal for 12 to her customers, or cooking onsite for a party of 20 (and many more!), Chef Amy dedicates herself to her work wholeheartedly. The results? Always so delicious. How do I know this? Well, in addition to having the privilege of working with her from time to time, I have the EXTRA treat of being related to her thanks to my husband, Seth (I have been her sister-in-law for almost 24 years! Wow!). And do I need to tell you that every family should have at least one professional chef? (She’s great. Thank you, Amy!)

Oh—how can you reach Chef Amy? Write to her at , and do mention that you read about her here. Enjoy!

Chef Amy’s Apricot-Cranberry-Walnut Stuffed Chicken Breasts

This is a recipe for Amy’s apricot-cranberry-walnut stuffed chicken breasts. She serves it every year at a mock Seder for a private school in New York City. The head of the school is a lovely man who though not Jewish, decided to host a Seder for the non-Jewish members of the faculty and their families so they could experience the food, as well as the religious service. (There is also a Seder service with a rabbi and full meal for anyone who chooses to come.) This chicken breast recipe is such a success they request it every year! She’ll be making it today with potato pancakes, and fresh-roasted asparagus.

Serves 6
6 boneless chicken breasts, skin on
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek (white part only) cleaned and diced
1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup prunes, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup raspberry jam
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 400°F. 

Heat the olive oil in a medium-size sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until softened. Set aside and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, combine the apricots, prunes, raisins, dried cranberries and walnuts in a food processor. Add the leeks. Process until finely chopped; it will be paste-like (and the rich color of prunes).

Make the glaze: In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, combine the jam and balsamic vinegar and heat through, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. Set aside. 

Scoop the fruit and nut mixture into the pockets of the chicken breasts, and place them on a baking sheet, skin side up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Use a brush to apply a layer of the glaze to the top of the chicken breasts (save additional for drizzling over cooked pieces).

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Baste once during the cooking time. Allow to rest about five minutes, cut in half width-wise (as below), plate with seasonal garnish (like these pretty flowers), and serve! 

Chef Amy's Stuffed Chicken Breasts, Split, Garnished, and Ready to Serve!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Rosemary-Garlic Roast Chicken

Straight from the oven--and waiting to carve!

 Two of my favorite Rs? Roast chicken—and Rosemary! Roast chicken is one of those super-homey flavors that I crave when it’s coolish outside, and rosemary, well, need I say more? What I like about a Sunday dinner of roast chicken is that I can put it in the oven and pretty much leave it until it’s done. (Luckily my home office is next to my kitchen—so I can always check on it, and I can enjoy the gorgeous aromas that waft towards me during roasting time.) Yesterday I served it with pasta topped with roasted eggplant-tomato and pepper sauce (will share soon!). I paired both with a kumquat and toasted pine nut, citrus vinaigrette-topped leafy green salad (and a cool Pinot Grigio—that Dad picked!). Accolades from the crowd!

Rosemary-Garlic Roast Chicken

Serves 8 to 10 with leftovers

Vegetable oil (for lightly greasing the pan)
2  all-natural (I usually buy Murray’s) roasting chickens, about 6 pounds each (of course you can just cook one for a smaller crowd)
6 rosemary sprigs, plus sprigs for garnish (optional)
8 cloves of garlic, with skin on
2 to 3 shallots (or 1 to 2 red onions), peeled and coarsely chopped
Coarse salt and freshly ground black (or mixed) pepper
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 500°F. Lightly coat a roasting pan and rack with vegetable oil.

Remove giblets and neck from the chickens. Rinse and pat them dry. Place the chickens on top of the greased pan rack (though you’ll see I didn’t use one here!) or simply into the greased roasting pan. Place them breast side up in the pan (you can see that I put ‘em foot to head!).

Sprinkle the rosemary, garlic, and shallots on top. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle a bit of olive oil, and rub into the skin of the chicken.

Bake at this heat for about 20 minutes, and then lower the temperature to 375°F.

Roast until cooked, about 2 hours or until golden and a meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh (and not touching the bone) reads 165°F. Let them stand for about10 minutes before carving. Garnish with additional rosemary sprigs if desired, and serve. Store leftovers (excellent for arroz con pollo, sandwiches, and so much more!) in a sealed container in the fridge.

Plated--with pasta and salad