Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Buffalo Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Ok, first things first. This is a horrible picture; my photographer was taking the night off. I apologize for its less than appetizing look.

Second things second, this sandwich is not a Buffalo Chicken sandwich. It is a Buffalo Chicken Salad sandwich. Different, but still yummy. Very easy and very yummy, if you like the Buffalo Chicken flavor profile, that is.

We served them with a carrot and yellow pepper slaw, a la the carrots sticks you'd get with an order of wings. Clever huh?

Buffalo Chicken Salad Sandwiches (makes enough for four)
  • 3-4 cups cooked chicken, chopped into chicken-salad-sized pieces (see below for my baked chicken method)
  • 3-4 tablespoons lowfat mayo
  • 3-4 tablespoons lowfat yogurt (or use all mayo if you prefer)
  • several shakes of Frank's Red Hot, to taste
  • 2-3 oz. blue cheese
  • spinach
  • bread for four big sandwiches (or wraps if you prefer)
Stir together the chicken, mayo, yogurt and Red Hot; you are shooting for a chicken-saladesque consistency. (You know what you like.)

Spread blue cheese onto the bread. Put the chicken salad on top. Top with spinach and the other slice of bread.

Chicken for chicken salad

I hate rotisserie chickens at my market: they are soggy, too steamy and sort of blah in flavor. Plus they are expensive and you have to pick all that meat off the bones. Plus, no one at my house really likes dark meat.

What I do instead is roast bone-in chicken breasts. One large bone in breast (two breast halves) serves four. (You can use split breasts if that's all you can find - you want bone-in, no exceptions). Season the breast (skin on or off, depends on what you find at your market) with salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes. Let cool and then pick over for salad. This yields a lot more meat than you'd get off a rotisserie chicken, and those big hunks of meat are much faster to manage.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Week of June 24

We were away from home Sunday and Monday this week. So, any cooking ahead had to be done on a very busy Saturday. The garden is cooperating by producing prodigious amounts of lettuce (in addition to astonishing quantities of weeds), so there are a good number of menu items inspired by leafy greens. Also, it's supposed to be hotter 'n Hades for most of the week, so I didn't want my menus to require the oven or large pots of boiling water.

So, on Saturday, I roasted two large bone-in chicken breasts for chicken salad, baked potatoes for (and made) gnocchi, boiled some eggs and that was it. I also grocery shopped, to ensure everything was on deck for the rest of the week.

Anything with a * was prepped on Saturday. In general, lunch is leftovers from the meal made two nights prior.

On the road

Salade Semi-Nicoise: Garden lettuce, oil packed tuna, sauteed green beans, hard boiled eggs*, thinly sliced shallot & cherry tomatoes

Buffalo chicken* salad sandwiches
Carrot and celery slaw

Gnocchi* salad with goat cheese, asparagus & spinach

Grilled shrimp with lemon
Steamed millet tossed with thyme and parsley

Pizza night

Friday, June 22, 2007

Drink of the Week: Rhurbarbarita

Ole! Ayuh.

Blending the festive exuberance of a south of the border fiesta with the sober (ahem) frugality of any self-respecting Downeaster: I give you the Rhubarbarita. This is a quite marvelous combo of tequila and rhubarb juice.

Shake two parts rhubarb juice (see below) with one part tequila. Serve up or over ice. Salted rim optional.

Rhubarb juice is easy to make, provided you can find the rhubarb. For those of you who have a patch, this is a nice way to do something with all that rhubarb.

Simmer together:
  • 1/2 pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2" slices
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Strain (line a colander or strainer with a piece of cheesecloth and pour everything through) and chill. Makes about 2-3 cups juice. I make large batches and freeze it.

Rhubarb juice is nice by itself too. It tastes and looks a little like pink lemonade.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Banh Mi Tragedy ... Averted!

This was going to be the story of a sandwich, but it turned into a bigger story: a story of crushing disappointment, quick thinking, fortuitious planning (not) and ultimately, overcoming adversity. But at its heart, really it's still just a sandwich story.

So, we were going to make banh mi for dinner last night. What is/are banh mi you ask? They are yummy little Vietnamese sandwiches. Threads testifying to the wondrousness of banh mi can be found here. A basic definition is here. Very yummy and seemed like something we could make at home. And then I saw this post on Cookthink for a very easy banh mi-esque sandwich. Ergo, banh mi on the menu.

Now, the tragedy ... when we cut open the cryovacked bag which held the pork tenderloin we were going to grill, waves of stinky-stank-stink issued forth. This has never happened to me before, but ick - our pork (our organic-no-antibiotics-or-hormones-added-EXPENSIVE-pork) was rotten. It was really foul - we'll leave it at that.

So, what to do?

Well. Due to some overzealous provisioning, we had a fairly sizable leftover piece of grilled sirloin leftover from Sunday. So, we sliced it up thin, tossed it with fish sauce and a wee bit of five-spice powder (available at the supermarket), and we were off to the races.

There is no picture of the actual sandwich. By the time we made them, we were too hungry to stop to play paparazzi. Here is a lovely picture of the "before" however.

This is a very general recipe. The basic idea is: asian-spiced meat, shredded carrot or cucumber, green herbs, lime juice, baguette-y bread. If you can get some Vietnamese cold cuts, definitely give them a try.

Banh Mi de la Casa

Per sandwich:
  • 2-3 oz. cooked pork, beef, chicken, or fried tofu - spiced with five-spice powder and a little lime juice or fish sauce
  • 1/2 carrot, shredded, toss with a squeeze of lime juice
  • small handful herbs, rough chopped: thai basil, mint, cilantro, scallion
  • minced hot chilies (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (trust me)
  • 6" or so of baguette
  • Lime juice and or/fish sauce
Prep your ingredients. Slice the baguette in half, but all the way through and open the bread up like a book. Warm the baguette in the toaster or oven. Smear the baguette with mayo, sprinke with chilies, if using.

Layer the remaining ingredients into the sandwich. Sprinkle with a little lime juice and/or fish sauce. Eat.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Week of June 17

Happy Father's Day folks!

We celebrated the day as everyone should: an outdoorsy activity (kayaking), yard work (vegetable gardening) and grillin' a big hunk of red meat.

We're entering a bit of a dry spell here and are keeping our fingers crossed that the wet stuff will fall from the sky soon. In the meantime, our peonies don't seem to mind. This is a blossom from the garden. (The bowl's mouth is 7" across.)

Anything with an * was made on Sunday, (f) means it's from the freezer, everything else is made in the moment. I've decided to stop posting lunch, in that it's usually leftovers from two nights prior. I will make note of anything unusual or out of the ordinary.

Father's Day Dinner
Grilled sirloin with chimichurri sauce *
Truffled lima beans *
Swiss chard with mustard seeds *

Mediterranean combo: Tabouli-type salad *, baba ghanoush *, baked feta, chopped vegetables

Banh mi
Asian vegetable salad

Black bean soup *

Turkey burgers (f)
Green salad

Nacho night

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Semi-Make-Ahead Pizza

I love pizza. We don't have a great takeout place nearby, so to properly scratch my itch, I have to make my own. I have toyed with a few different crust recipes and have now found my favorite: Matthew Amster-Burton's adaptation of a Julia Child recipe. Matt's full post on Bacon Jalapeno Pizza (yum!) and the Cornmeal Pizza Dough is here.

I make the dough ahead and then throw it in the freezer. You do need to plan ahead enough to defrost the dough, but that's about it. Go here to get the original dough recipe. The only thing I do differently is put the dough right into a baggie and throw it into the freezer.

Making the Pizza

On the day you want to make pizza, take the dough out and leave it on the counter for the day (at least 8 hours). Before and after (12 hours out of the freezer) below:

When you're ready to make the pizza, put your baking stone (you do have one, don't you?) in the oven and preheat it for at least 30 minutes (1 hour is better) at 450 degrees.

Lay a sheet of parchment paper on the counter and put the well risen dough in the center. Flour the dough well (it will still be very damp). Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out on the parchment paper (I always shoot for a circle, but my pizzas usually look a little like the state of Ohio). Add more flour if needed: you're aiming for an evenly thin circle of dough 12-14" in diameter.
Cut any excess parchment away and put the pizza on a peel or baking sheet. Dress your pizza to your taste (this pizza had asparagus, radicchio and sliced hot green peppers in addition to mozzarella and tomato sauce).

Slide your pizza into the oven. It will take no more than 8 minutes to bake through.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mint Ice Cream

I finally got my copy of The Perfect Scoop! In celebration, I made a batch of Mint Ice Cream. The recipe worked very well and we've been enjoying the results every night.

My batch lacked seriously minty mentholation in that I used a combination of mints from my garden: peppermint, spearmint, orange mint and apple mint. I had mostly orange mint available so that is the primary flavor. The flavor of orange mint is a lot softer than the mint you see in the supermarket (which is usually peppermint or spearmint).

I served my ice cream with World Peace Cookies from Dorie Greenspan's Baking. It's an excellent combination: reminiscent of Girl Scout thin mints. (Yes, those are crystals of Maldon sea salt on the cookies. )

Monday, June 11, 2007

When Good Greens go Bad

I have a large patch of arugula in my garden. Those of you who garden know that when it starts hottin' up out there, arugula has the potential to get firey! This is a picture of an arugula patch that is about to go bad. All its wonderful healthy properties will still be there in a week or so, but any deliciousness will be completely gone, the leaves rendered bitter through the act of bolting. It's generally brought on by hotter weather.

Bolting is when a lettuce or any type of green goes from leafy and salad-ready to bitter. Generally this is the next step in the plant's life cycle and it followed shortly by flowering and seed production. Circle of life and all that ...

To save part of this arugula patch from bitter ignominy, I have turned it into a batch of Argulua and Potato Soup. This technique can be used with any green (even those supermarket-wussypants greens like baby spinach or farmed watercress). A tougher green like kale or collards can be used too, but they'll need to be cooked a little first (see variation below). I pretty much made this recipe up as I went along, so measurements are rather approximate. You will need a blender to make this soup.

Cream of Arugula Soup (4-6 servings)
  • 3 medium russet potatoes
  • 2-4 cups chicken broth
  • 6 loosely packed cups of arugula (one of those big clamshell boxes of prewashed baby arugula should work, you also use spinach or beet greens or finely shredded swiss chard)
  • 1/2 - 1 cup of milk (optional)
Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks. Put in a medium saucepan and cover with broth by about 1/2" or so. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked through and fork-tender.

Put half the arugula into the blender jar. Pour on some of the potato-cooking water and toss in a few of the potatoes. The arugula will wilt down when you cover it with the hot liquid. Be careful not to burn yourself and you blend the soup until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat the process with the rest of the potatoes and arugula. (Don't put in all the liquid if you don't need to. You'll want to use it to adjust the thickness if needed.)

Once all the soup has been blended, stir it together in the bowl to combine. Add more cooking liquid if the soup's too thick. Taste for salt and pepper, and add if needed. If you feel the soup needs it, add a little milk for richness. Serve hot or chilled.

Hearty Greens Variation
Instead of using a tender green like arugula or spinach, you may use tougher greens like collards, kale, or mustard greens. Use one large bunch of greens, wash them well, cut the leafy parts off the tough stems (discarding the stems) and slice them finely or chop them. You want little pieces or fine shreds.

Start the recipe, using a large soup pot instead of a saucepan. When the potatoes are mostly cooked: not quite fork-tender (usually about 12 minutes into cooking if I've cut the potatoes into large chunks), toss in the greens. Continue to cook until the potatoes are soft. Puree in the blender as follows.

This is a much heartier soup and is really nice with some crumbled bacon or cooked sausage or sauteed chorizo on top. Serve hot.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Broccoli, in the Slow Lane

This way to cook broccoli is one I originally found in Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book (although I have since seen it elsewhere). You cook broccoli florets over medium heat for about 30 - 45 minutes. After the long cooking, the broccoli breaks down and becomes sweet (really!) and soft and melty. It makes a nice filling for a galette, but it also good over pasta (orchiette is nice) or on crostini.

Slow-Cooked Broccoli
  • about 8 cups broccoli florets, cut smallish (2-3 large broccoli crowns or 1-2 large bunches)
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & pepper
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Toss in broccoli, garlic and chicken broth. Stir broccoli occasionally - it will go from bright green to a deep olive. After about 30 minutes or so, the broccoli should be olive in color, very soft and lightly browned in spots. If it's still got any resistance when you stick a fork in it, let it go longer. It should be melting soft - not soggy but silky (see before and after pictures). Add salt and pepper to taste.

I will admit, this is not the most photogenic of vegetable preparations, but it's quite good.

Week of June 10

What a beautiful Sunday! Too gorgeous to be inside for long. Therefore, the make-ahead portion of this week's menu is pretty light: I am making pizza crust, quinoa salad and some soup. The rest of the week's meals are coming from the freezer (chili), or are quick-cook items (garlicky chipotle shrimp, fritatta, pizza).

An * shows what was made on Sunday.

Orange, radish and onion salad

Quinoa salad * with radicchio, red peppers, mushrooms, herbs and feta

Arugula and potato soup *
Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches

Sunday leftovers

Garlicky chipotle shrimp
Roasted cauliflower with dukka
Brown rice

Monday leftovers

Quinoa salad * with cucumbers, red peppers, mushrooms, herbs and feta

Tuesday leftovers

Pizza night (crust *)

On your own

Potato and chorizo frittata

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Vegetable Galette

If I had put Broccoli Galette in the title line, you'd never have read this post, would you? This is a great dinner or lunch. You can make a galette with almost any vegetable: roasted zucchini, squash or peppers, caramelized onions, slow-cooked broccoli. The original recipe, from Baking with Julia, used sliced tomatoes with parmesan and basil - very nice.

The galette pastry is a great dough to have in your repertoire as it works well in savory and sweet preparations.

Basic Vegetable Galette

Cornmeal Galette Dough (from Baking With Julia)
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream, yogurt or cream
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons butter, cut into 8 or so slices
Stir the sour cream into 1/3 cup of ice water and set aside.

In a food processor, blend together the flour, cornmeal and salt. Toss the butter onto the flour mixture and pulse in the food processor until the butter is cut into the flour mixture.

While pulsing the food processor, pour the sour cream mixture through the feed tube until absorbed. The dough will be very wet. Scrape the dough onto a sheet of wax paper. If you want two small galettes (6-8"), divide the dough into two pieces. For a large galette (14" or so), leave the dough in one piece. Wrap the dough in wax paper and put into the fridge. This dough is really damp and is easier to work if it's cold. You can also wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and freeze the dough for later.

To make a galette:

On well-floured surface, roll out the dough into two 9-10" circle, or one 15" circle (about 1/8" thick). If the dough is too cold and cracks, let it rest for 10 minutes on the counter. If you

Put the pastry on a baking sheet and lay your filling on the center (you will need about 2-3 cups of filling for a large galette, about 1 1/2 cups for a small one. You want to leave 2" or so uncovered; this gets folded back over the top (see picture above). This galette had 3 cups of slow-cooked broccoli in it and was sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese (if I'd had any, I would have put some goat cheese on this one).

Fold the uncovered dough over the filling; it will pleat itself neatly into place as you fold it over. Bake the galette at 425 until browned, about 20 minutes.

Filling tips:
  • Any flavorful vegetable preparation will work well. In the past I have used: roasted peppers, zucchini and squash, thinly sliced potatoes, caramelized onions, asparagus. Just make sure that any raw ingredients are sliced thinly enough to cook through in the short baking time.
  • Cheese is a nice addition. Good choices: cheddar, goat, feta, parmesan, mozzarella, dry ricotta.
  • Your fillings shouldn't be too wet. This dough isn't very thick and doesn't put up much of a fight against runny ingredients. If you are using dampish ingredients (sliced zucchini or mushrooms, for instance), put a thin layer of toasted breadcrumbs under the vegetables.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Gougeres, Part Deux

A few weeks ago, I made a batch of gougeres from the Chocolate & Zucchini cookbook. I froze half the batter at that time. Tonight, I made gougeres from the batter in the freezer. I am pleased to say they came out just great.

This is a great secret weapon for last-minute entertaining. Make a batch and stash it in your freezer. You won't be disappointed!

Week of June 3

A bunch of new dishes this week. The galette (think free-form tart) for Sunday dinner is based on a recipe from Baking with Julia (crust) and Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book (slow-cooked broccoli). The ice cream is from David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop. I am very eager to try the savory bread pudding recipe. Also, the pizza crust for Friday is a new method and recipe and I am optimistic about the results.

Anything with an * was prepped on Sunday.

Long-cooked broccoli and parmesan cheese galette *
Salad - with home grown lettuces! *

Mint ice cream (from The Perfect Scoop) *
World peace cookies (from Baking: From My Home to Yours) *

Chicken sandwiches (leftover chicken from Saturday night)
Caesar salad

Borscht with sour cream and chives *
Fennel salad

Sunday leftovers

Savory bread pudding with asparagus and beet greens (inspired by 101 Cookbooks) * (prepped dry - will pour on egg-milk mixture Tuesday)
Carrot slaw with chive vinaigrette * (shredded carrots & made the dressing)

Monday leftovers

Gnocchi salad with feta, cherry tomatoes, black olives and arugula

Tuesday leftovers

Trader Joe's Indian food
Basmati rice

Wednesday leftovers

Pizza with vegetables (crust recipe via Culinate) * (made dough on Sunday - put into freezer and will thaw on counter on Friday)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Nepalese Potato Salad

I will be the first to admit that I am 100% certain that this resembles not at all anything eaten by the Nepalese. I will also be the first to admit that I don't care, cause this salad is yummy.

Dave and I were in Burlington, Vermont a few summers ago and stopped at their very nice farmer's market. We built a picnic out of various items we found there; one of them was a version of this salad (it was labeled Nepalese potato salad).

I did a little web research and I tinkered with what I thought should be in the salad and this is my current version. You should get puckeriness from the lime juice, heat from the chilies, saltiness from the salt (duh) and a smoky-nutty effect from the asafetida (optional) and toasted sesame seeds.

Nepalese Potato Salad (Aloo Achar)
  • 1 pound potatoes (I have made this with russets, red skins and fingerlings - all good, but different, try red skinned first. I have also made a variation where I used roasted potatoes instead of boiled; VERY good)
  • 4 tablespoons ground toasted sesame seeds (you can buy toasted sesame seeds at the supermarket near sushi-making supplies)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 or more hot green chiles, finely minced (I like this very spicy, so I usually use 2 or 3. If you have a group with mixed tolerance for heat, you can pass extra minced chilies on the side.)
  • 4 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • pinch ground asafetida (optional - you can find this at Indian markets)
  • 10 whole fenugreek seeds (you can find them at Indian markets)
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro, minced

Boil the potatoes in a big pot until fork tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, mix together the chiles, salt, lime juice, sesame seeds, and the sesame oil in a large bowl. This will be the dressing.

In a small skillet, heat a little oil. When hot, toss in the asafetida and fenugreek. They will sizzle and darken. As soon as they darken, toss them into the bowl with the dressing. Stir the cilantro into the dressing. Taste for salt, sour, heat, etc.

When the potatoes are done, drain and peel if desired. Cut into chunks while hot and toss with the dressing. This is best eaten after it's had a few hours to sit. It holds for several days, but may need a spritz of lime juice to freshen it up.

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