the thin chef

Archive for the ‘vegetables’ Category

Super Fast Lemony Chicken with Tender Greens

One of the first meals I ever cooked away from home was chicken piccata, a dish I grew up eating a lot (I requested it all the time). It’s still a staple in my kitchen today, and I love to play around with the technique and flavors to create new-ish recipes inspired by the classic rendition.

A few nights ago, I wanted something super easy and fast for dinner since I had already spent the whole day in the kitchen testing, photographing, and editing recipes for the second issue of edible Orlando. I looked in the fridge; a few chicken tenders, a half-drunk bottle of Chardonnay, a half a bag of arugula, and about a quarter of a box of chicken stock stared back. Just enough, I thought, for some kind of piccata-esque meal.

You can use spinach or watercress here instead of (my current obsession) arugula, and you could easily do this with chicken breast cutlets or even thin slabs of tofu for a vegetarian version. If you don’t have wine for the sauce, that’s OK, too. Just replace it with more chicken stock. Fresh herbs would be nice here—dill or parsley if you have them. If not, it’s lively enough as is. You could pair this with some orzo or brown rice to round out the meal.

Super Fast Lemony Chicken with Tender Greens
I prefer chicken stock for this recipe, as opposed to chicken broth, because it makes a richer sauce. Kitchen Basics makes my favorite kind, and Progresso also has one that’s pretty good. Look for low-sodium since you’re reducing it.
serves 2

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Coarse salt and ground black pepper
6 chicken tenders
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup Chardonnay or other dry white wine
1/4 cup chicken stock
3 big handfuls arugula or other tender greens

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place flour in a shallow dish and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken tenders in flour mixture, coating evenly, and shaking off excess. Place coated chicken in the hot oil. Cook until golden brown and cooked through. Set chicken aside on a plate.

Add lemon juice, wine, and chicken stock to the pan; scrape any brown bits from the bottom with a spoon. Simmer sauce until reduced and slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Taste, and add salt and pepper. If the sauce tastes too tangy, add a splash of chicken broth, and keep simmering until reduced. Turn heat off.

Add chicken tenders and arugula to the skillet, and toss gently to coat everything in the sauce and to wilt the greens. Serve immediately.

Posted by on October 27th, 2010 3 Comments

Thai-Inspired Beef & Tofu Salad

Well, so much for my 40 nonstop days of blogging. I’m getting back on track today, though, with this delicious and healthy salad we had for dinner a few nights ago. Mark Bittman writes a column for Cooking Light about using less meat in main courses, without making the meal completely vegetarian. This salad combines skirt steak (I got ours from Deep Creek, an awesome local, grass-fed ranch) with tofu to top a green salad dressed with a tangy Thai-style dressing.

We try to keep the meat to a minimum in our house—we do love it, but to eat mostly organic (or grass-fed, free-range, responsibly raised, etc.) it can get really expensive. And, of course, it’s just better for you to eat more veg than meat. So I love recipes like this one that call for only 4 ounces of steak, total (a mere quarter-pound). It’s just enough for the flavor and satiety that comes from a bite of juicy beef, but not so much your stomach feels like a brick afterward.

If you don’t dig tofu, you could go the surf-and-turf route, and toss in some wild-caught shrimp. Or, just do the steak. The recipe is technically for 4 people, but because it’s all we had for dinner, we ate two servings each, and I only cooked about 5 or 6 ounces of tofu. Another note: I left the oil out completely when cooking the steak, because my pieces were nicely marbled, and the rendered fat from the beef was enough to cook the tofu. You be the judge of whether you need the whole tablespoon, or, really, any at all. I also cooked the beef and tofu separately, because we like tofu nice and brown, and I didn’t want the meat to overcook.

Thai-Inspired Beef & Tofu Salad
adapted, ever so slightly, from Mark Bittman’s recipe in Cooking Light
serves 2 as a main course

6 ounces firm tofu, cubed
6 cups fresh salad greens, such as romaine, Bibb, arugula, baby spinach, or a mix
1/2 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1  cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1  tablespoon fish sauce or low-sodium soy sauce
2  teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon mirin or brown sugar
1 serrano pepper, minced (optional)
1 tablespoon peanut oil (optional, depending on the marbling on your steak)
4 ounces skirt steak, trimmed of excess fat and cut across the grain into thin strips
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Place tofu cubes on several layers of paper towels on a cutting board or countertop. Cover with additional paper towels, and top with a baking sheet and weigh down with a coffee mug or can of soup. Let stand 30 minutes.

Combine lettuce, herbs and cucumber in a large bowl. Combine lime juice, fish sauce, sesame oil, mirin and serrano pepper in a small bowl, and stir to combine. Drizzle half of the dressing over lettuce mixture; toss to coat.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook 3 minutes or until the beef is browned, stirring only once or twice. Remove the beef with a slotted spoon, and add tofu to the pan. Cook until browned on all sides, about 4 minutes.

Add beef and tofu to the bowl with the dressing, tossing to coat. Pour tofu mixture over lettuce mixture; toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Are you in Orlando? Need plans this weekend? Come see edible Orlando publisher Kendra Lott and me at the Edible Orlando Cooking Stage at the Orlando Home Show! We’ll be doing cooking demos of Thanksgiving dishes from the current issue. Lots of other great local chefs and food personalities will be there as well, making delicious local food. Click here for tickets! See you there!

Posted by on October 21st, 2010 1 Comment

Food52

photo from Food52.com

I got some fantastic news today: My cauliflower recipe was chosen as a finalist on Food52.com. Are you familiar with the site? It’s a wonderful community of home cooks, sharing recipes, as well as insightful articles, tips, and inspiration.

They spotlighted my blog a while ago, which was so very lovely. And today, I found out I’m a finalist for the cookbook. Cue the happy dance. Amanda Hesser, one of the finalists, wrote Cooking for Mr. Latte (which I actually just referenced here last week). When I read that book, it stoked the little foodie fire in me and encouraged it to become a full blown passion. Amanda has always been a huge influence on me, and someone who I often look to for inspiration. So seeing pictures of her cooking a recipe I made, and reading the words that she and Food52 cofounder Merrill Stubbs wrote about it…well, to say it made my day is an understatement.

If you feel so inclined, try the recipe (if you haven’t already) and lend me your vote. If my recipe “wins,” it gets a spot in the second Food52 cookbook, which is published and bound—a real book! But regardless, make sure to take a look around Food52 and see for yourself what a fabulous community it is.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a tasty Thai-inspired recipe!

Posted by on October 14th, 2010 2 Comments

Pasta with Greens and Lemon-Butter Sauce

You already know my love of pasta. It’s comfort in a bowl. I love short cuts, long strands, sheets of lasagna, and especially wide, slurpy papardelle. The name of the noodles derives from the verb “pappare,” to gobble up—which is what I do when I see a bowlful of this pasta.

I have an unabashed love of Trader Joe’s, and I stock up whenever we’re in a city that has one. My friend Sarah turned me on to their spinach and chive pasta, which I get every time. And last trip, I also grabbed a bag of lemon-pepper papardelle. Lemon, and pepper, and my favorite pasta? Yes, please.

I was waiting to cook the pasta until I could think of a sauce or preparation that would let the flavor of the noodles shine through, but also compliment them. I picked up bags of organic, locally grown arugula and watercress at the co-op last week, and I was reminded of a recipe from one of my favorite books, Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser. It involves pasta, lemon zest, creme fraiche, and arugula, and it’s fabulous. This is my take on it.

Pasta with Greens and Lemon-Butter Sauce
serves 4

1 pound long pasta, such as papardelle, linguine or fettucine
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 tablespoons unsalted, room-temperature butter
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large handfuls arugula
1 large handful watercress, thick or tough stems removed and discarded
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Cook pasta per package directions. Just before pasta is done, ladle out about 1 cup of the cooking water, and set aside. As the pasta cooks, combine the lemon zest and butter in a small bowl, mashing and stirring to combine. Drain pasta, and place in a large bowl. (I like to warm the bowl with very hot tap water so it doesn’t cool the pasta.)

Add butter-zest mixture, lemon juice, and olive oil. Use tongs or two large forks to toss the pasta together until it’s coated in the butter, oil, and lemon juice. Add greens, 1/2 cup reserved pasta water, and salt and pepper to taste. (Need guidance? Start with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and go from there.) Toss again until the greens are wilted and the pasta is coated in “sauce.” Add more pasta water, if needed, to keep the pasta slicked but not wet. Serve immediately.

Posted by on October 7th, 2010 3 Comments

Greek “Bruschetta”

In Birmingham, there is a Greek restaurant. It will remain unnamed because I have nothing very kind to say about it, but it’s an institution, and it has a lot of fans. It was very close to where Jason and I lived, so we tried to like it. We really tried to like it 4 or 5 times. But it just wasn’t very good or very authentic. However, they did have one dish that had a really nice idea behind it—Greek bruschetta. A thick slice of bread topped with fried eggplant, roasted peppers, and feta cheese. The flavors were there, but it wasn’t executed very well, mainly because of the copious amounts of grease from the eggplant and olive oil on the bread, both of which literally dripped down my forearms as I ate it.

Anyway. I do love the idea of putting Greek flavors on a thick, toasted slice of bread, so I made my own version. It was not swimming in oil, but it did have lots of great flavors. A quick, delicious lunch, for sure. Do me a favor, though, will you? Please use fresh, fresh, fresh tomatoes that are bursting with juice. And please only use imported (read: sheep’s milk) feta, which has a superior nutty, briny flavor. Don’t buy the grocery store brand, even though it’s cheaper—you can taste the difference, and the extra dollar or two are Worth. It.

Greek Bruschetta
Serves 1

I’m fortunate enough to grow oregano outside, but if you don’t have fresh, just sprinkle a touch of dried right on top of the bread, so the moisture of the oil and tomatoes can rehydrate it a little bit. As an afterthought (meaning 4 bites in) I realized roasted red pepper would be a lovely addition. If you have any on hand, pile them on.

1 thick slice good, crusty bread
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Pinch hot red pepper flakes (optional)
3 slices ripe tomato
1/2 roasted red pepper, cut in half, and patted dry with a paper towel (optional)
3 to 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices feta cheese
4 (or so) leaves fresh oregano, torn into pieces

Preheat toaster oven (or broiler). Brush bread with olive oil, coating well. Broil for just 1 minute or so, until the bread is golden. Remove from oven, and top with tomato slices, roasted red pepper (if using), and feta. Return to oven, and broil for 2 more minutes—watching closely the whole time—until the cheese is softened and golden. Sprinkle fresh oregano over top, and eat immediately.

Posted by on September 3rd, 2010 4 Comments

Zucchini Carpaccio

I’ve seen this beautiful zucchini preparation a few times recently in magazines and around the internet, so when I picked up two pounds of the pretty green squash from our co-op, I thought I’d give it a try myself.

I love cooked zucchini, but thinly sliced, zucchini is also really tasty raw. Simply dressed with lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil, and studded with fresh basil and mint, it’s a lovely little salad. I sprinkled some feta over top (my crazy cheese-hating husband doesn’t like it, which is why it’s only on half), which added a perfect creaminess and saltiness. It would probably also be delicious with shaved parmesan or creamy fresh ricotta (or both).

Summer squash is crazy abundant right now, and this is the perfect use for it. It’s a perfect accompaniment for just about anything, but I imagine it would be most delicious next to some grilled fish. If you don’t have a V-slicer or mandoline for cutting the zucchini, you could always peel them into long strips with a vegetable peeler, or just use your best knife skills to cut them as thinly as possible.

Zucchini Carpaccio
Serves 4

2 medium zucchini, stem tops and bottoms removed, sliced paper thin
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
4 mint leaves, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Arrange zucchini slices on a serving plate. Sprinkle with lemon zest and juice, then drizzle with oil. Season with salt and pepper, and evenly distribute herbs over the plate. Top with feta.

Posted by on August 20th, 2010 No Comments

Sushi Rice Risotto

In an effort to eat more cleanly, more locally, more healthfully, Jason and I have cut meat out of most of the meals we eat at home. I was a vegetarian for about a year in high school (and even flirted with veganism until I remembered how much I love cheese), and even though I do enjoy eating meat—hello, did you read my last post about bacon?—I am usually completely satisfied with meals created without it.

Perusing the recipes at vegetariantimes.com, I stumbled upon this brilliant idea to cook sushi rice like risotto (it’s short-grained and high-starch, after all, just like arborio or carnaroli), using miso broth instead of stock. I didn’t follow their recipe exactly…I just took the method and tailored it to the vegetables I had on hand. Even if you don’t love miso soup—Jason doesn’t—the nutty, salty flavor adds a perfect something extra to the flavor. And of course, I used copious amounts of garlic and ginger for even more flavor.

Totally satiating, a bowlful of this vegetarian risotto is a perfect dinner paired with sliced cucumbers simply dressed with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and toasted sesame oil.

Sushi Rice Risotto
Serves 4

3 tablespoons white miso paste
2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
3 or 4 large cloves garlic, minced
6 green onions, sliced (about 1 cup)
1  1/2 cups short-grain sushi rice
2/3 cup sake or dry white wine
1 pound baby bok choy, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Combine miso with 6 cups water in a saucepan, whisking to combine. Bring broth to a simmer, and adjust heat to keep at a simmer.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add pepper, and cook until just tender. Transfer to a plate, and set aside. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in the stockpot over medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, and green onions. Cook, stirring constantly, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add sushi rice, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add sake, and cook 1 or 2 minutes, until liquid is almost completely absorbed.

Ladle in 1/2 cup miso broth; cook and stir until broth is almost absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring often and allowing rice to absorb most of liquid before adding more. When rice is mostly done, stir in bok choy, stirring until wilted. Keep adding broth until rice is tender and cooked through. Add red pepper back to pot, stirring to combine. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper, as needed. Add sesame oil, and serve immediately.

Posted by on August 19th, 2010 2 Comments

Avocado Toast

I really thought I had turned over a new leaf with this here blog…I had three, count ‘em, three consecutive posts in less than as many weeks, which was quite a feat (for me). And then…and then. Then I didn’t post. And now it’s been 10 days, and I know it’s not as bad as 3 weeks, which has been the average span between posts in the past, but it’s not exactly the regular pattern I was hoping I’d started. Anyway…there’s always tomorrow. (Or today, as the case may be.) I’m trying for regularity. Fingers crossed.

Earlier this summer, Jason and I were on an avocado kick, where we’d eat at least one a day. Calorie-wise, it’s not the best idea to consume so many of these little green orbs, which are, in essence, all fat. But we were comforted by the fact that it’s heart-healthy fat, which somehow seemed to excuse the actual fat grams. I digress. I have always loved avocados, with their silky texture and their barely there flavor. I used to say, when I was little, that they tasted like water, which I now realize makes zero sense. I’ll eat them any way I can get them, and sometimes they’re brilliant with just a squeeze of lemon and a bit (or a lot) of salt on top of a saltine cracker.

Or, on toast. One day, I found myself craving this simplest form of avocado consumption, but I was lemon-less. So I reached for the closest acidic thing my pantry could offer, which happened to be rice vinegar. So then I sprinkled it with soy sauce, because—let’s be honest—those two Asian condiments sing a bit louder when put together. And the whole thing was delicious. So, this isn’t exactly a recipe, but more of an encouragement… go get a ripe Hass avocado (no offense to my sweet Sunshine State, but the avocados that grow here are not so good), smoosh it on some toast (the crustier the better) and then sauce it with some rice vinegar and soy sauce (organic tamari if you have it). A few drops of sambal olek or sriracha definitely don’t hurt. Chow. Enjoy. Try to keep it to one avocado, for your girlish figure’s sake.

Posted by on August 13th, 2010 No Comments

Miso-Edamame Dip

I remember the first time I had edamame…I was at Fuji Sushi in Winter Park with my best friend Lainie and her mom, Becky. Becky ordered edamame for the table, and I after one bite, I was hooked. The fuzzy little pods covered in flakes of sea salt gave way to smooth, chewy, chartreuse-colored beans, and they seemed so exotic and interesting. These days, I see edamame all over the place, not just in sushi restaurants, but also on menus in upscale bars and cafes.

Nutty-tasting and healthful, edamame is such a versatile vegetable. It’s great tossed into stir fries, cooked into succotash, or just eaten from the pod as a snack. Lately, my favorite way to eat the little green soybeans is in this simple, six-ingredient dip. It’s great with corn chips, pita bread, cucumber slices, or slathered onto a hunk of crusty bread as a sort of East-meets-West bruschetta. It requires no cooking, and comes together in a snap, which is practically a requirement in my kitchen during these steamy August days.

Miso-Edamame Dip
Makes about 2 cups

If you’ve never used miso (fermented soy bean paste) before, it’s a versatile and delicious ingredient to have on hand. I get it at an Asian-foods market, but I’ve seen it at Whole Foods and other health food stores. It keeps for a long time in the fridge, and it adds a subtle salty-nuttiness to everything it touches, which I just love. Cilantro-haters, take note: you can sub mint or parsley. It will change the flavor slightly, but it’ll still be delicious.

2 cups frozen shelled edamame, completely thawed (almost 1 full 16-ounce bag)
4 green onions, sliced
1/4 to 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup lime juice
2 heaping tablespoons white miso paste
1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients except oil in a food processor. Pulse until very finely chopped, scraping down the sides of the bowl every few pulses. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in oil, processing until the dip is well combined and creamy-looking, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

Posted by on August 3rd, 2010 10 Comments

Quinoa Salad with Vegetables

One of the best parts of my former job as a magazine editor was working with the wonderful, talented ladies in the company’s test kitchen. All culinary school grads, these women create dishes that not only look beautiful in the magazines, but also taste as good (or sometimes even better) than they look. I worked closely with two of these gals—Loren and Chantel. We spent many long, tiring, but ultimately fun and rewarding days together, and I miss them so much. They became friends and colleagues, which I think is a difficult balance to actually attain.

The food they make is creative and always delicious. I had a really hard time at photo shoots waiting to eat the leftovers. (Sometimes I would sneak a bite, but I think they always knew.) There are many recipes of theirs I have tried, but I want to share this recipe with you, one that Chantel created, because I’ve made it many, many times, and it’s always wonderful. I often make substitutions according to what I have on hand, but the quinoa, dressing, and crumbled pecorino stays the same. There’s something magic in that combination. The recipe below includes my suggestions for substitutions I’ve made.

Chantel and Loren, I miss you girls. But you’re often in my kitchen with me when I cook your recipes, which makes me miss you just a little bit less.

Chantel’s Quinoa Salad
Serves 8 to 10

1/3 cup white quinoa (feel free to use all white, if that’s all you can find)
1/3 cup red quinoa
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and roasted, cut into 1-inch pieces (green beans work here, too)
1 cup cooked yellow split peas (I often use green when I don’t have the yellow on hand)
3/4 cup crumbled pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans (walnuts and almonds also work nicely)
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion (green onions are fine, too)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon roasted garlic puree (sometimes I use a small clove of very finely minced garlic)
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Place quinoa and red quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve. Rinse under cold running water, using your fingers as a rake. Drain well. Cook quinoa, uncovered, in a saucepan of salted boiling water, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain in the fine-mesh sieve.
  2. Fill the saucepan with 1 inch of water, and bring to a simmer. Set sieve with quinoa over saucepan (sieve shouldn’t touch water). Cover with a folded kitchen towel, then place a lid on top (lid does not need to fit tightly). Steam until quinoa is fluffy, and dry, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and remove lid. Set aside, still covered with towel, 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  3. Place cooked quinoa and red quinoa in a large bowl. Add asparagus, split peas, pecorino, pecan pieces, and red onion. Stir gently to combine.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, roasted garlic puree, salt, and pepper. Pour dressing over quinoa mixture, and gently toss to combine. Serve immediately, or keep in fridge for up to 4 days.

*Note: If you’ve never made quinoa before, the cooking method above is my favorite way to make it, no matter how you’re planning on eating it. It ensures fluffy, separate grains. Also, quinoa (if you didn’t know) has a very high protein content, so this could really be a one-dish complete meal.

Posted by on August 1st, 2010 2 Comments