Monday, July 21, 2008

Barefoot Contessa Chicken Parmesan With Greens & Lemon Vinaigrette

Ina Garten never fails to impress me.

She moves effortlessly about her kitchen, creating masterful dishes using fresh, fantastic ingredients that cause lucky diners to swoon.

Her Chicken Parmesan with Greens and Lemon Vinaigrette struck me as being simple yet oh so elegant, and delicious - of course.

Barefoot Contessa Chicken Parmesan With Greens & Lemon Vinaigrette

4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 extra large eggs
1 tbsp water
1 1/4 cups seasoned dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
unsalted butter
olive oil
salad greens for 6, washed and spun dry
1 recipe Lemon Vinaigrette, recipe follows

Pound the chicken breasts till they are 1/4 inch thick. Use a meat mallet or rolling pin.

Combine flour, salt and pepper on a dinner plate. On a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tbsp of water. On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread crumb mixture, pressing lightly.

Heat 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Add more butter and oil, and cook the rest of the chicken breasts. Toss the salad greens with the lemon vinaigrette. Place a mound of salad on each hot chicken breast, serve with extra Parmesan.

Lemon Vinaigrette

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Simple Beef Fajitas

While in the pursuit of eating better, there's nothing more satisfying than creating your own dinner, at the table.

Sliced peppers - in various colors, diced tomatoes - bright red and juicy, shredded lettuce - crisp and the usual shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream.

Tortillas that have been wrapped in a damp kitchen towel and left to heat leisurely in a low oven and strips of beef, sauteed with plenty of onion made sweet by slow cooking.

Dinner - hands on.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Jamie Oliver's Pasta Bianco

There are recipes that wait patiently and quietly for their time in the light - after having made this dish, I wondered why it took me so long to do so.

Jamie Oliver describes this recipe as being the most basic dish to make, using the simplest sauce. Don't let the seemingly difficult preparation hold you back - it's really quite effortless.

It's silky, it's luxurious - the garlic butter and Parmesan literally caress the pasta.

Jamie Oliver's Pasta Bianco

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated
1 1/2 ounces butter
1 lb tagliatelle or fettucine
2 or 3 handfuls freshly grated Parmesan cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small shallow pan, slowly fry the garlic in the butter without coloring for a few minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the pasta, and cook according to the package instructions. When it's done, drain it in a colander over a bowl so you save some of the starchy cooking water. Reserving this water and using it to finish off a pasta sauce is absolutely critical to getting any pasta sauce right, especially this one.

Get yourself a big, warmed pasta or salad bowl and pour your melted garlic butter into it so that the whole surface is covered. Then toss in your cooked pasta with about 5 or 6 tablespoons of the reserved cooking water and the Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. With tongs or two forks, toss the pasta around. The butter, garlic, water and Parmesan will form a really creamy sauce.

What you need to do next is get everyone round the table. You may have to keep feeding the pasta with a little of the reserved cooking water, so the sauce stays silky and delicate and not too sticky. Once you get the consistency right, serve the pasta into bowls and pass round a big chunk of Parmesan cheese and a grater.

There are many ways of varying this sauce - you can lay some prosciutto over, or stir some chopped tomatoes into your garlic butter before removing from the heat, or you can incorporate different cheeses, but the key is to get simple, well seasoned, delicate pasta coated in a butter cheese sauce.

Once you get this pasta exactly right, try to make it with a bit more speed the next time - the quicker you can do it and get it right, the better the pasta will be.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Best Ever Carrot Cake

There are times (a multitude, really) when a boxed cake mix will not do.

The labor involved with creating a moist, many textured cake such as this, lends a part of your soul to the end result as you chop and grate and fold.

Best Ever Carrot Cake

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 3/4 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups shredded carrot
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnut (optional)
8 ounces crushed pineapple, drained

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9x13 pan. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Make a well in the center and add sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla. Mix till smooth. Stir in carrots, coconut, walnuts (if using) and pineapple. Pour into pan and bake for about 45 minutes, the center may sink a bit. Frost with either store bought or homemade cream cheese icing.

Chicken Gyros With Yogurt Dill Sauce

In a quest for healthier living lies fresh herbs, thick yogurt, a squeeze of fresh lemon and positively voluptuous chicken breasts.

A perfectly light lunch or dinner choice.

Chicken Gyros With Yogurt Dill Sauce

1 cup plain nonfat yogurt

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1 large garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 pound skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

4 pita bread rounds, heated

Stir yogurt, 2 tablespoons dill, garlic and 1 teaspoon lemon juice in small bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper.

Place chicken in medium bowl. Sprinkle with oregano, 1 teaspoon dill and salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sauté until brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to plate.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet. Add onions; sauté until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Return chicken and any juices to skillet. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Stir until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Arrange pita rounds on plates. Top pita rounds with chicken mixture. Spoon some yogurt sauce over chicken. Serve, passing extra sauce separately.


Quesadillas With Guacamole

A recipe where there needn't be.

For a most unpretentious meal, serve these quesadillas (which have taken hardly a moment to prepare) with a cold beer and guacamole on the side.

Quesadillas With Guacamole

To make the guacamole, take 2 or 3 ripe avocados, 2 or 3 ripe deseeded tomatoes and a few deseeded red chilies.
Toss it all into a food processor with a handful of peeled and chopped spring onions and a good handful of fresh cilantro.

When it's been chopped nice and fine, add a few more chopped tomatoes, a good pinch of salt, and another avocado half, roughly chopped, to give some texture.
Put it all into a bowl and season carefully with salt, freshly ground black pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice or lime juice.

If you buy ready made, spruce it up a bit with a squeeze of lemon juice, a little extra salt and a bit of chili to give it a kick.

Take some soft tortilla shells.
Grab a few handfuls of grated cheeses like mozza, cheddar, or what have you. Chop a few chilies and a bit of red pepper and parsley, toss with the shredded cheeses. Lay a tortilla in a hot dry skillet and sprinkle the cheese mixture generously over the tortilla. Lay another tortilla overtop and allow to crisp for about a minute or two on each side.

Slice into wedges and serve with sour cream and guacamole.


Layered Finger Jello

There's nothing quite like watching a child's eyes light up at the presentation of this treat - adults love it too!

Layered Finger Jello

For each colored layer:

1 3 oz package jello

1 pkg or 1 tbsp unflavored gelatin

1 cup boiling water

For the white layer:

1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

4 packages or 4 tbsp unflavored gelatin

2 cups boiling water

Mix each jello color separately in containers. Let stand till room temperature, stirring occasionally. Mix up white layer and also let stand till room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Pour first color into a 9x13 baking dish. Refrigerate till firm. Put 1/3 of white mixture on top of first colored layer. Refrigerate till firm. Repeat till finished.

If all mixtures are at room temperature, it should only take about 7 minutes or so to firm up each layer so you can add the next.