Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Thai Style Chicken and Penne with Broccoli

This recipe is an original and family favorite.  I came up with the initial recipe several years ago, but I have made some minor adjustments, though still retaining it's allure and harmony with the palate.  I enjoy the simplicity of the dish, along with the complex flavor profile that is presented, when combining items from one or more cuisines to make one mellifluous meal.
 I used a Thai ingredient call to complement an Italian pasta, any will do, Penne and Penne Rigate are two of my favorites for this.  Fettuccine also works well.  After the initial prep and marination time, this will come together quickly.  It even tastes amazing at room temperature.  I prefer to grill the chicken over hot coals, but it is not necessary.
A grill pan serves well for depth in flavor and for aesthetics.  This is soon to be one of your family's favorite dishes too!  The ingredient call sounds scary if unfamiliar with Thai cooking, but please trust, the proof is in the final product. This photo is my recipe served family or buffet style, but feel free to mix the chicken in with the pasta and broccoli for no-fuss serving, or arrange the chicken sliced atop or whole pieces along side the pasta/broccoli for even more exciting plating adventures!


1 1/2 lbs. chicken cutlets or breasts cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 lb. fresh broccoli florets
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1/3 c. green onions, thinly sliced, divided
4 tbsp. fish sauce, divided
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced, divided
3 tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves, rough chopped, divided plus more for garnish
2 limes
2 tbsp. Sambal Oelek
1 tbsp. lemongrass paste* if you cannot find, get a whole piece or use fresh  juice of half lemon and zest
1 Thai chile, if desired for extra spiciness(optional)
olive oil for drizzling
For Chicken:
Place in a resealable bag, 2 tbsp. fish sauce, juice of 1 lime,1 tbsp. cilantro leaves, half of garlic and a heavy drizzle of olive oil.
Shake bag around to blend.
Add chicken.
Press out excess air and marinate for 15 minutes to 1 hour.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions in salted water, stopping a little short of al dente, adding the broccoli during the last two minutes of about 7 minutes.
Drain and rinse the pasta and broccoli briefly in cool water to slow the cooking process.  Set aside.
Grill or sear the chicken until no longer pink, set aside to rest several minutes before slicing.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter along with a small drizzle of olive oil.
Add remaining garlic, 1/2 green onions, and sambal oelek.
Cook for several minutes until fragrant, stirring often.
Add coconut milk, lemongrass paste, juice of second lime and fish sauce.
Optional:  (Here is where you add the Thai chile, split in half and diced, seeds removed for less spicy.)
Turn to medium high and bring up to a boil.
Check seasonings, adjust according to taste.
Reduce to heat to medium and add pasta broccoli blend.
Add remaining cilantro and green onions.  Fold pasta/broccoli blend into coconut milk until heated through and the liquid is absorbed.
Ways to Serve:
1.  Fold in the chicken to serve as an all-in-one meal or family style.
2.Leave the chicken cutlets whole and serve along side pasta.
3. Slice the chicken and serve atop the pasta/broccoli blend.
Garnish with cilantro leaves, sliced green onion tops and lime wedges, if desired.
Serves 6 to 8.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Pawpaw Beignets with Cinnamon Sugar and Blue Agave

  It's Pawpaw or Asimina Triloba season and the race is on.  This fragrant and unique tropic style fruit is the largest fruit native to the Americas.  It's growth spans mainly along the Eastern United States and even up into parts of Canada. The harvesting period for pawpaws ranges from late August to Early October, depending on your region.  This sumptuous gem is a combination of flavors, akin to a banana, a melon and muted tones of pineapple. Pawpaws have many colloquial  references, including Indian banana, poor man's banana, Kentucky banana, custard apple and banango.  A friend of mine noted that the smell of a more firm pawpaw is very much like the smell of a cut pumpkin, and I agree.   The fully ripe pawpaw bursts with tropical fruit scents, like mango and pineapple, and wonderful citrusy notes as an afterthought.  The best tasting pawpaw is one that is admittedly not the most appealing to the eye.  I have tried this fruit in many stages, and the ugly state wins by a landslide.
Pawpaws have a very volatile shelf life, about 2 days once fully ripened. However, you may place them in the fridge to retard that process and keep them for about two weeks.  One thing I did notice was that the ones kept in the fridge for such a duration looked fine, but seemed a bit dry and not as fragrant as the one left to age naturally on  the countertop.  The pulp of the pawpaw however, may be frozen and used at your convenience, which is an awesome plus.  The process is a somewhat arduous task; peeling, removing the seeds and accumulating pulp, but well worth it.
Pawpaws have a system of seeds that run though the middle. They resemble kidney beans, and are about the same size as well.  The seeds are toxic to humans, so discard accordingly.  After the work, alas comes the play, which leads us to my take on the French Beignet, featuring pawpaws.  I made a 'master batch' of spiced pulp and used a portion to make these beignets, but you may use the pulp as is.
Dry Ingredients:
1 c. AP flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. pawpaw puree
3 eggs
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp.vanilla extract
Oil for frying
Cinnamon Sugar and Agave Nectar for garnish.
Heat about two inches of vegetable or canola oil until appr. 350 degrees.
Meanwhile prepare the batter.
Combine dry ingredients.
In a small sauce-pot or pan, heat puree and sugar to boiling over medium high heat.
Remove from heat and add dry ingredients.
Beat in eggs, one at a time and stir with wooden spoon until thick and batter pulls away from sides of pot.
Stir in vanilla.
Drop in oil using a tablespoon and without crowding, fry until golden, about 2 1/2 minutes.
Drain on paper towels and toss with cinnamon sugar while hot.
Drizzle with agave and serve immediately.

Spasagna, Two Comforts in One

 Spaghetti and Lasagna are two of America's favorite recipes to create at home and order out.  What do you get when you combine the two? This wonderful and family friendly recipe I created called Spasagna.  This is simply your favorite recipe for spaghetti, layered with mozzarella like lasagna and finished with a garlicky and cheesy topping consisting of store bought garlic bread pulverized into tiny pieces, tossed with shredded Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, fresh parsley and olive oil, smothering the whole shebang and baked.  This topping rocks and helps to lend to a one dish meal, cutting the carbs by using the garlic bread as a garnish of sorts as opposed to a side item.
Everything in this recipe is essentially cooked already, so it is basically heating the Spasagna through to melt the wonderful sheet of mozzarella in the center.  I discovered this sheet of  fresh mozzarella put out by BelGioioso, that unrolls as would a sheet of paper.  It is fun and easy to use, the price around 6 dollars per 8 oz, I however caught mine on sale.   If you cannot find this in the deli section of your grocer, simply get the ball of mozzarella or burrata and slice thinly and layer accordingly.
1 1/4 lb. cooked ground beef, drained of excess fat
1 lb. spaghetti cooked just under al dente, about 6 minutes
2-23 oz. jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce or homemade,  preferably one chunky, one regular, reserving 2/3 cup for the top.
1 to 3 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
2/3 c. sweated onion, small diced
1 palmful fresh mixed herbs like parsley, oregano, sage, thyme and marjoram
1 8 oz. roll of fresh mozzarella
sugar to taste, optional
For Topping:
1/2 lb. day old garlic bread, pulsed in processor into smaller, uniform pieces
1/2 c. fresh parsley, rough chopped
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat to 375*F.
Combine the spaghetti ingredients down to the palmful of of herbs, sugar to taste if desired.
Drizzle baking dish with olive oil or spray with cooking spray and place half of the spaghetti  mixture in dish.
Unroll the mozzarella cheese and place it on top of the spaghetti.
Add Remaining spaghetti.
Spread  reserved sauce over spaghetti.
Top with parsley garlic bread-bread crumbs and cheese mixture.
Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 35 minute,or until dish is hot throughout and bubbly.
Remove foil and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Let dish rest for several minutes before serving.
Serves Plenty!!! (8 to 10 as a main dish)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tapping into Ancient Roots...Preservation of Fish/ Whole Fish-Bone Broth

Last summer, I could proudly say that I had consumed more fish during those several months, than I had for the whole year; perhaps as much as two.  I have a family of  recreational fishermen, including a brother in law, whose proclamation is that of an  "Angler".  He is quite efficient I might add, an avid hunter as well, who affords me the wonderful wild game by seasons from squirrels to wild turkeys to venison, plus volumes of striped bass and catfish with heads the size of small children, yeah he's good.
Another brother in law favors striped bass, wall eyed bass and perch.  On any given day off during the summer, he would set out mid morning or evening to bring  back the catch of the day.
During last summer, my sister Gayle and I would clean anywhere from 25 to 50 fish collectively, maybe two or three times throughout the weekend; scaling, butterflying and soaking, frying some fresh and bagging and freezing piles for later.
I like to consider days like that live labs of sorts, helping me hone my skills and efficiency, making me a stronger chef .
I try my hand at fishing, licensed and all , but I haven't reeled any in yet!  I even accompanied the guys on some of the bait runs. We meet up with another avid fisherman, usually late night or early morning because of how the dams and bait run, who travels extensively for the ritual of catching the infamous 'shiner' or"'LY's" which are a small and plentiful bait fish, found also in schools and near rocks at the dams and lakes.  Larger fish called shad are also a part of the haul, but aren't as sought after as the smaller previously mentioned bait, but finds itself in the throw nets.
When meeting with the bait-man, he pulls out a large cooler.  Upon opening the lid, he reveals hundreds of these small and fresh beauties, glistening with ice, lustrous, all their tiny eyes are clear and they smell fresh, not fishy!
I was stoked and reminded of the photos of fishermen from other countries and their baskets or small boats of fresh fish, on their way to market, home or both.  I was reminded of the sardine and other fishes feasted upon regularly in Italy and the Mediterranean, or packed in salt and dried along the African Coasts.  I wanted to see if they were as palatable as the similar ones I'd seen.  I wanted to see why we weren't eating those too!  The fishermen chuckled when I said, I want some to take back home to the lab,  that being my kitchen. I was inspired instantly and set to work.
The above photos illustrate what I did with the larger shad, about 4 or 5 inches long.
 I scaled and gutted them all, rinsed and sprinkled them with kosher salt.
I placed them in a 200 degree convection oven for around 6 hours, until they were completely dry.
I let the fish cool out in the open for about 1 hour.
I then broke the fish up into manageable pieces and used my mortar and pestle to turn the whole fish into a powder.
 I mixed the powder with a mug of hot water and drank it.  I also added it to my Ramen bowls.
  I finally had a lasting fish stock on hand, and it's shelf life was extended considerably! I keep the fish whole in a zip lock type bag, and pulverize when I need them.  I dried these fish last summer and they are still wonderfully intact and I get to drink  a whole fish anytime and reap the benefits of the whole thing, wasting none and loving the copious amounts of goodness it is for my mind, body and soul.  Oh, the fishermen were amazed at what I came up with, they added some credits to my resourcefulness, and were reminded of yet another reason I was good to have around!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Turnips Gratin a la Jarlsberg

There once was a turnip in a garden.  The owner of the garden watched the turnip, that was planted last season, grow... long after the harvest of the others like it.  The turnip grew and grew as the summer turned to fall, then winter.  The owner would peer out into the now barren garden space and see the bright green tops beaming valiantly above the cold and lonely ground.  The owner watched the snow fall and cover the turnip. The owner watched the rays from the sun shine and melt the snow away.  The owner thought about pulling it up and mashing it with potatoes.  The owner thought about this for months. 
 One day the owner did indeed pull up the turnip and headed inside to make good on the thoughts the turnip had evoked. The turnip was huge by any standard, but slightly disfigured on one side.  The injury had probably happened when the turnip was just a 'pup', marring it and affecting it's normal growth.  The turnip healed it's wounds inflicted by the garden tool used to work the soil, but also gained an appearance much like that of a cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites.  By a supermarket standard this turnip was not a winner.  The turnip was not acceptable.   Something in the owner made her keep going past the back stairs of her home and down the lane to her sister, who once made an amazing soup from turnips and leeks.   The owner decided that this was a job for a person who liked challenges. 
You probably guessed it already, I'm the neighbor and here is what I did with this turnip.
This was a large turnip so, I had to peel and slice first before parboiling for 15 minutes in salted water with a splash of organic vinegar and a bay leaf.  After par boiling the turnips, I shocked them in cold water, then medium diced the turnips.  The regular supermarket turnips will most likely only be a fraction of this size, (this one being about the size of a grapefruit) so these extensive steps may not be necessary.

6 cups diced and par-cooked turnips, about 5 minutes
1/3 c. thinly sliced onion
1/8 tsp. turmeric
1 tbsp. or less olive oil 
1/2 c. shredded Jarlsberg cheese
Chives for garnish
2 tbsp. cooked crumbled bacon for garnish, optional 
Turn on broiler.
Heat oil and butter on medium high heat and add turnips, onions and turmeric.
Continue to cook, stirring and tossing constantly until the turnips show signs of browning on most sides, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and spread into oven safe dish.  Garnish with bacon.
Sprinkle cheese evenly over top, then chives and place under broiler until slightly browned, about 2 minutes.
Serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings.

For more wonderful turnip recipes, search "turnips" on this site!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Leftover Makeover: Tex Mex Fried Chicken Noodle Bowl

This is a fast and satisfying dish for two involving leftovers, and an homage to 'souping' up a plain package of my college hero, Ramen.  This would be a long awaited addition to my early installments of 'Dormitory Gourmet', economical, (but also small), one to two person/one dish meals.
  I had a piece of fried chicken(thigh), corn on the cob, diced tomatoes and sour cream.  All these items, sans the fresh herbs that grow in my herb garden were from a part of another dish during the past week, the corn being from the night before.  The chicken was 'new' from store bought batch night before last.
 I keep Ramen on hand because it's convenient and a neutral food that kids can hardly fuss with, usually!
 I pulled the chicken from the bone in large pieces, then diced it, keeping the crust to help thicken the cream sauce that would coat and marry the ingredients together.  I cut the corn from the cob in planks, trying to keep it as whole as possible.  Sour cream contributes to the creamy sauce and robust spices like cumin, smoked paprika, coriander and red pepper flakes give it Latin/ Mid Western flair.
1 piece fried chicken, de-boned and diced, about 1 cup
1 pkg. Ramen, remove seasoning packet and reserve for another use if not chicken
1 3/4 c. hot tap water
1/8 to 1/2  tsp. or to taste powdered chicken bouillon or base*
2 heaping tbsp. sour cream, regular or light, whichever you have
Cumin, smoked paprika, coriander and red pepper flakes  to taste
1 piece corn on the cob, cut from cob
2 heaping tbsp. diced tomatoes, can or fresh, I used canned
Fresh or dried chives
Fresh Parsley, rough chopped
olive oil for drizzling
Sriracha if desired
*if you do not have Chicken flavored Ramen
Place Ramen, chicken base and water in pan and bring to a boil.
After about two minutes, add chicken.
After about one more minute, reduce heat and stir in sour cream.
About 1 minute more and well blended, add spices and herbs.
Turn off  heat and fold in veggies.
Fold until well blended and drizzle with olive oil.
Makes 2 to 3 servings.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Tri Color 'Pepper Steak' Style Venison Chili Beans

Well hunters and huntresses, Fall is here, and it's time for some free roaming, grass fed greatness that is venison again!  I have secured my position in the wild game rally for this year's season.  I have been clearing my freezer to make room for my future deer and readying my mind for some new and exciting dishes to bring to you, including the one I present today.
I was so elated when I caught a Kitchen-Aid grinder attachment at a steal towards the end of last year.  I was finally going to be able to make my own quality market type grounds at home.  I have an antique grinder, you know the kind you attach to a good sturdy farmhouse style table, like the ones we used when I was a girl and helping with the cutting, grinding and curing of our livestock.  Yep, it brings back memories, wonderful ones, but I am glad I have the automatic kind, just to make things a little easier from time to time.
 I do all the butchering for my wild game, a fact for which I am proud, as not to underestimate a 'wonder' that is 'woman' as my hidden tattoo suggests!! I used my grinder to prepare the protein for the recipe above.  This way, you can control exactly what goes into your finished product and know it is a labor of love.
I used three types of beans for this  recipes and oodles of peppers, both in the form of a homemade salsa, furnished by my sister Linda's bestie, some green peppers gifted from a local garden, as well as some mini sweet peppers from the supermarket. I simmered this chili for hours, to develop the depth of these wonderful flavors and scent the house with some country and comforting aromas, but you will be ready to enjoy this in about an hour if you wish.
A crock pot will certainly be ideal, especially considering how busy the day can get, including but not limited to work, school, kids, chores, after school activities, after school sports, appointments, deadlines, canoodling and that mysterious thing referred to as peace of mind! weening the dish from the sometimes off-putting gaminess that is meat from the wild.   I soak all my cuts in a salted and acidic bath containing lemon or vinegar at least overnight.
Bold and warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger lend well to the flavor profile of this dish and venison as a whole. These hearty beans will stand up to a long simmering and absorb the flavors like little protein packed sponges, but don't just take my word for it...Plus a fresh and bright or crunchy garnish helps every meal an individual's own, no bowl will be the same, and it exceptional the next day!!!
2 lbs. ground venison or desired protein
1 medium onion, small diced, about 1 cup
4 oz. uncooked smoky bacon, small diced
1 green pepper, small diced, about 1/2 cup
1/2 c. red, yellow and orange mini sweet peppers
3 tbsp. chili powder
2 to 4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 soft beef bouillon cube or 4 c. beef stock concentrated down to 2 c.
2 c. homemade or organic chunky salsa
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. Chinese 5 Spice
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. hoisin sauce
1/4 tsp. celery seed
1 15 can Garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can Pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz.can Black Beans, drained,but NOT rinsed
Fresh Thai Basil for Garnish
Garnish Bar: Optional of course
Fresh chopped onion
Shredded cheese
Sour cream
Diced Cucumber
Slivers of Radish
Fritos/Doritos/Tortilla Chips
In a heavy bottomed sauce-pot or dutch oven, over medium high heat, brown and render bacon pieces, about 4 minutes.
Add onions.
Cook with bacon for several minutes, until the onions are fragrant and translucent.
Add fresh peppers and cook for about 3 minutes.
Add garlic, spices and sauces and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let go for an hour.
If desired, here is where you can add the beans and simmer for about 10 minutes or until heated through and serve.
Simmer chili mixture for about 1 1/2 hours, then add beans and continue to low simmer for about 2 more hours.
Crock-pots cut the hassle altogether,  just let it go all day on low setting adding everything at once.
Serve with crackers or crusty cheesy or buttery bread.