Chicken–Quick Pesto & Marsala Breasts

QUICK PESTO CHICKEN 

(You’ll need one large breast for two servings)

  • large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Prepared Pesto—you can get it in a jar or sometimes in the Italian Pasta refrigerated section
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 T butter
  • ½ C Dry Marsala
  • About 1 cup prepared poultry or pork gravy
  • 1/3 to ½ C diced, fresh tomatoes
  • Chopped herb for garnish—parsley, green onion
  • Parmesan Cheese–optional

Cut each breast in half thru the middle.  You can pound them a bit if you wish.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and layer in a bowl and refrigerate an hour or so.  When your ready to serve heat a large skillet in med high heat and melt the butter.  Add the breast halves 5 or 6 at a time—do not crowd too munch in the pan.  Fry until golden brown on the first side—then turn over and brown on the other side.  Add the wine or broth and let reduce.  Pour the prepared gravy and the tomatoes over the chicken and bring to a simmer.  Make sure the breasts are completely done thru—you can test them by making sure they are firm to the touch or if you’re not sure—cut one open at the thickest point.  Remove the breasts to a platter and pour the sauce over the chicken—top with copped herbs.

Wedge Salad w/Bluecheese Dressing & Toppings

Iceberg Wedges with Home-made Blue Cheese Dressings 

I’ve become a huge fan, once again, of the perennial Wedge Salad.  I get really tired of restaurants serving the same “spring mix” or “rocket” greens all the time.  The crisp and refreshing nature of iceberg lettuce is just awesome to me right now.  This salad was light and beautiful and we ate every bite! 

PREPARING THE LETTUCE:

To make the lettuce crisp—remove the outer wilted green leaves, cut out the core and cut the head in half.  Place the halved heads into a sealable plastic bag with a small amount of water and refrigerate at least 4 hours before service. 

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
    • 2 T lemon juice or seasoned rice vinegar
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles

                        Salt and pepper

                        ½ t garlic powder

                        ½ t dill weed

                        1 t. dry parsley and or chive—I dried my own blend from my garden

Salad TOPPINGS:

Yellow and red grape tomatoes cut in half

Bacon bits (I bought already cooked bacon from the store)

Hard boiled egg

Thinly sliced green onion

Sliced Radishes

(Add your own touches)

Potatoes Anna in a Muffin Tin

Adapted from Epicurious:  Mini Potatoes Anna—in muffin tins

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 12-24 small tender thyme sprigs plus 2 teaspoons coarsely chopped leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 3/4 pounds small waxy potatoes (such as Yukon Gold or German Butterball), each slightly larger than a golf ball (I used Russets but soaked the slices in water in advance.)  4 large baking potatoes filled twelve-hole baking tin.  I left the potaloes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Special equipment: A standard 12-cup muffin pan; a mandolin—I don’t have a mandolin so I sliced them by hand and thinly as I could—they came out great!

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Brush muffin cups all over with butter. Line bottoms with parchment-paper rounds. Arrange 1-2 small thyme sprigs in center of each round. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon butter into bottom of each cup.
  • Add chopped thyme and garlic to remaining butter in saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Using mandoline, slice potatoes crosswise into very thin rounds (less than 1/16″ thick), placing them in a large bowl as you work. Pour herb butter over and season with salt and pepper; toss to coat well.
  • Divide potato slices among muffin cups, layering overlapping slices to create a circular pattern. Lightly press center of each to make compact. Drizzle any remaining butter and seasoning from bowl over.
  • Cover muffin pan tightly with foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake until potatoes can be pierced easily with the tip of a knife, about 35 minutes. Remove foil; invert a rimmed baking sheet over pan. Turn, lightly tapping on counter, releasing potatoes onto sheet. Rearrange any slices that may have fallen out. Using a metal spatula, carefully turn cakes, thyme sprigs facing down. Discard parchment. DO AHEAD: Potatoes can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.

Increase heat to 425°F. Uncover cakes if needed. Bake until bottoms and edges are golden and                       crispy, 25-30 minutes. Carefully turn cakes, thyme sprigs facing up.

Crostata di Ricotta–Ancient Roman Cheesecake with a few changes

This is a recipe from a very old Time/Life Cookbook on Italy–(Foods of the World Series) and I love these books.  When you’re doing an Italian dinner I really love to serve this as dessert–it’s not too sweet and really tastes Italian.  It’s easy to make and lasts several days–in fact–I nearly always make it a day ahead.  This is a recipe that was written about by historians in Roman times.  For years when I made it, it was quite crumbly and hard to cut so I’ve altered the recipe a bit by taking out some of the ricotta and replacing it with cream cheese–I also use dried, sweetened cranberries in the place of the raisins and I really like the result.  (I will however give you the option if you really want to keep the pie authentic.)  Here’s my recipe:

  • 4 Cups Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese–softened
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 generous T of Flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract–sometimes I use almond extract
  • The Zest from one orange–or sometimes I use lemon
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 T Sweetened, dried Cranberries–or you can use a combination of raisins, currants, candied fruits, etc
  • 2 T Slivered or sliced almonds–you can use pine nuts but they burn when I’ve used them!  (Save for last to sprinkle on top)
  • 1 egg white mixed with 1 T water–sugar or caster’s sugar–save for the end to brush on the top of the pie

METHOD:  Make a pie shell using a pate brisee which is very similar to the Italian pasta frolla (you could also use American pie crust dough if you’re good at that)–and save enough of the dough to cut into strips to form the top crust.  You can use a 9 inch spring-form pan or I like to use a more shallow, 11″ French, removable bottom, quiche pan.  Mix the two cheeses, the flour, the sugar, salt, the extract and the zest together until smooth.  Beat in each egg yolk one at a time–and fold in the fruit(s) at the end.  (I mix this in a stand mixer with the batter paddle attachment.)  Pour the cheese mixture into the pie shell and top with strips of the save pie dough.  Brush the top with the beaten egg wash and sprinkle with the nuts and the extra sugar.  Bake in a 350 degree oven until the cheese mixture is set and the crust is golden brown–it takes about an hour.  I let the pie rest until cool and them wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap and cut later on.  I love to serve this very plainly–on a nice, small plate with a small bunch or table grapes on the side.  DESSERT WINE–this crostata goes great with many Italian dessert wines, i.e., Moscato of Asti, Reciotto, Vin Santo or Brachetto–you’re in for a treat!

Tres Leches (3 Milks) Cake–Drew’s easy way

So this cake was so easy to make and quite unusual–it went great with a compote of fresh berries on the side–no need for frosting nor for more cream.  If you know how to make a white or yellow cake from scratch, by all means do it yourself.  I made my cake in a 9X13 Pyrex cake pan sprayed with Baker’s Joy which is a cooking spray with flour added to it.  Bake your cake whether you use a mix or your own and when the cake is out of the oven–let it rest 5 minutes.  I used a meat fork and put quite a few holes all over the top of the cake–then you pour this mixture over it:

  • One can Borden’s Sweetened condensed milk
  • One Cup whole milk or regular evaporated milk
  • One Cup heavy whipping cream

In a bowl–mix the 3 dairy products together and pour evenly over the top of the warm cake.  Let it rest for about 30 minutes on your counter and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight–the cake will absorb all the milk and become incredibly moist and a bit hard to serve!  But you’ll love it!

Jumbo Shrimp, bacon-wrapped & laced with a silky Mornay Sauce

I had this dish in a Tapas Restaurant in LA many years ago and never forgot how awesome it was.  It’s very rich but just bursts with great smoky flavors in your mouth that make you very happy!  I think there’s a recipe already posted in here for Mornay sauce–it may be attached to the Cauliflower recipe.  Anyway Mornay is a white sauce that is flavored, in this case with sharp cheddar, and drops of hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce plus white pepper.  It should be velvety and shiny and you should know how to make it.  Here’s how you prepare the shrimp:

  • I used three one-pound bags of large shrimp like 16-20 or 25 per pound–the bigger shrimp you can afford the better they are.
  • I nearly always get cleaned, deveined shrimp with tail on–sometimes I get them already peeled too–just check the package to get what you want
  • Get some high-quality smoked bacon, thick sliced and you’ll need about a pound of that if not a bit more
  • Cut each slice of bacon in thirds and wrap that piece around the middle of each shrimp–I secured the bacon with toothpicks which I think is necessary–just warned your guests that each shrimp has a toothpick in it
  • Place the wrapped shrimp on a baking tray sprayed with cooking spray–not too crowded.
  • Roast in a hot oven–375 degrees for 8 minutes and then turn up to “Broil” for another 5-8 minutes.  When the bacon is just starting to get crisp and begins to shrink around the shrimp they’re done.  Do not wait for the bacon to fully cook or you’ll over cook the shrimp–better the bacon a bit underdone than the shrimp being overdone.
  • Place the cooked shrimp on a platter and drizzle the Mornay Sauce over the top–garnish with threads of basil–this is a gorgeous appetizer!  Three is a full serving but everyone will want more than three!

Gazpacho Valenciana from Sra. Concha

So in 1971 I had one of the great fun experiences of my life–I was 23.  My dear old friend Graig Larsen and I signed up for a semester abroad program thru the Univ. of San Francisco in Valencia, Spain.  It was a 6 week course at the University in Valencia in spoken and written Spanish–it was a blast.  We lived in a small high-rise apartment about a mile from school and we had to walk each morning thru what had been, I’m quite sure, a battle field–a series of vacant lots complete with barbed-wire fences which we skipped over.  (This was still post-civilwar Spain and Franco was still in power.)  The Lady of the house was a grey-haired Señora Concha who lived with a younger daughter who spoke a bit of English.  We shared a small room with two single beds, had a minuscule bathroom–the only one in the house, and had three meals a day.  We were served very garlic-laden gazpacho nearly every night but never really got tired of it.  It had a smooth, creamy texture but with a bite from the fresh garlic, a bit of chile, and some red wine vinegar.  Made in a blender–it also had several large chunks of day-old bread in it along with some olive oil.  The bread and the oil emulsify and create that delicious, smooth texture.  It’s one of those things I never make the same twice but I’ll try to give you the basics here–you have to have a very heavy duty blender–I have a Cuisinart blender–you can’t use a food-processor.

In the bottom of your blender place the following:

  • about 2 C fresh, red-ripe tomatoes cut into quarters–you use all of the tomato–skins, seeds & all
  • I use 1 good-sized Anaheim chili–seeded and coarsely cut–you could use regular green bell or a combination of your favorite peppers, but not too much
  • 2-3 large cloves peeled fresh garlic
  • The equivalent of about 4 slices, stale white bread broken up–I used some cheese-topped Italian bread but cut off the crust
  • 1-2 pinches salt and taste later for seasoning–I use Drew’s salt
  • 1/4 t white pepper
  • several dashes Mexican hot sauce but not if you used hot chilis
  • 2 T Vinegar–I use Seasoned rice vinegar but any kind of vinegar you have will work
  • 1/4 to 1/3 C Good olive oil
  • Now fill the blender jar to the 5 Cup mark with V-8 juice or canned tomato juice
  • Nicely diced cucumber for garnish plus one ice cube in each bowl

Turn on the blender, first on low then on high–you want it to blend until all the seeds and skins from the tomatoes are completely ground up.  The bread and the oil will emulsify to form a thinker, creamy texture.  I chill it in a pitcher in the fridge several hours before serving–I got all fancy and placed flower petals on top with the cucumbers. You’ll need to play around with this recipe a bit before it’s just right for you but it nearly always tastes the same to me–Enjoy!

 

 

Quiche Lorraine Classic

My recipe for Quiche, in general, is actually not for quiche but for and similar French dish called Tarte au Fromage.  The difference being that with my recipe you make a white sauce to incorporate into the custard.  I love this addition because it keeps the filling in tact after baking and allows the quiche a several-day shelf life in the fridge.  A regular quiche recipe is made with just eggs, cheese and cream and begins right of the bat to separate and become soggy, ruining the bottom crust.  Many people have an old recipe of this great item, native to Alsace-Lorraine, in France, so forgive me if it differs slightly from this one–I’ve changed some of the amounts of the ingredients over the years.

  • Make a pie shell in the bottom of a removable bottom French tart pan.  I use a 10 inch pan.  (I show you how to make a pie shell in a previous post–just put “pie shell in the search bar and it will pull it up.)
  • 3 T Butter or  margarine
  • 3 heaping T flour
  • 1 1/2 C whole milk
  • 1 C grated mixed cheeses–I usually use Fiesta Blend or if I’m feeling rich I use Swiss
  • Seasoning: 1 large pinch Drew’s salt plus 1/4 t ground white pepper–or add salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 eggs–beaten
  • 1/2 C Sour Cream
  • 1/2 C diced ham or cooked bacon
  • 1/4 C finely diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 C finely diced onion–any kind
  • 1/2 C Cubed or crumbled very tasty cheese like any bleu cheese or pepper jack

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan and stir in the flour to form a roux–you don’t have to cook or brown the roux.  Add the milk and the seasonings and cook over medium heat stirring constantly with a wire whisk until the sauce thickens–it should be quite thick.  Allow it to bubble or simmer for a minute or two to make sure the flour gets fully cooked.  Taste the sauce for seasoning.  Remove from the heat and stir in the first cup of grated cheese and whisk until very smooth–set aside to cool while your preparing the pie shell.

Form a pie shell in the French removable bottom tart pan and make a decorative edge that sticks up about 1/4 inch above the rim of the pan.  Evenly distribute the ham, onion, red pepper and cubed or crumbled–high flavor-cheese–in the bottom of the quiche shell.  In a separate large bowl beat the eggs and the sour cream together until smooth.  Slowly incorporate the white sauce several spoons full at a time into the egg mixture.  (Be careful–if your sauce is too hot it will scramble the eggs.)  You may want to taste the custard again at this point for salt.  Pour the egg/white sauce mixture over the items in the bottom of the tart shell and fill the shell clear to the top–the mixture should be thick and a bit stringy.  (NOTE: make sure you carry this type of pie pan carefully holding at all time from and around the sides of the pan–you mustn’t try to carry it from the bottom or the gooey quiche will be pushed up and out and you’ll have a huge mess on your hands.)  Place in the center of a pre-heated 475 degree oven and bake 40-50 minutes until the tart is browned and the custard is set.  This quiche is so big sometimes I get 15 appetizer-sized portions out of it or 8-9 entree sized portions.  The quiche will shuffle up at the end but immediately falls which is what it is supposed to do.  Happy Cooking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stacked Salad with Lemon Zest/Thyme dressing

This is a salad I saw someone make on television many years ago and I’ve made it over and over ever since.  It’s easy to do–you need some “rocks” glasses that are are about an interior circumference of 2 1/2 2 3/4 inches.  You need something kind of heavy in the bottom so I usually use one layer of lox but I’ve made them all vegetarian also using several layers of thinly sliced mushrooms in the very bottom–here’s what you need:

In the bottom of a rocks glass start with

  • A small sprinkling finely diced red onion and capres
  • On thin layer of smoked salmon or lox
  • one or two layers of very thinly sliced cucumber–peeled or not
  • one or two layers of VTS yellow zucchini
  • one layer only of VTS red onion
  • one or two layers of VTS Roma tomato
  • one or two layers of VTS white mushrooms
  • Other choices:  grated carrot, VTS beets–they do bleed a bit, VTS colored bell peppers, etc.

When your stack is about 2 inches deep–stop!  It will not un-mold properly if you try to get it higher than that.  Give a squeeze of lemon in each glass and cover with plastic and place in the fridge for several hours.  The longer they sit the better they’ll un-mold.  While they’re chilling make this dressing:

  • about 1/4 C fresh lemon juice–it’s about 1 and 1/2 lemons
  • fine zest of one lemon–zest the lemon before you juice it
  • 1 T seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/3 C good extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large pinch Drew’s salt or equivalent
  • about 1/2 t fresh thyme leaves
  • As always shake all the ingredients in a lidded jar

When you’re ready to serve, place the rocks glass upside-down in the center of a large plate and allow the stacked salad to fall out of the glass–if it sticks at first just let it sit there for a moment or two–it nearly always drops out in good time!  Drizzle a small amount the lemon dressing on and around the salad–your guests will be delighted.