Southwestern Hasselback Chicken

Playing with hasselback chicken...
Hasselback potatoes and sweet potatoes are a special treat for the eye and the palate. Stumbling across a recipe for hasselback cajun chicken was a new and intriguing idea. Sometimes one doesn’t have everything on hand for a new recipe and that means it is time to play with it and make your own version. No green bell pepper. No andouille sausage and no cajun seasoning nixed the original recipe. Yellow and zucchini squash, red onion, a poblano chile pepper and an assortment of chile powders seemed like good way to try hasselbacking a chicken breast, but with a southwestern flair.

Roughly 50+ miles east of El Paso off I-10 is Fort Hancock, TX. It is a community of about 1,750 people in a green farming band along the Rio Grande in contrast to the sand, creosote and mesquite desert on the eastern side of the interstate. It is home to a modest trading post that has been in the same family for more than 100 years and to Chipotle Texas, a chile company that produces some wonderful chile powers and blends that make it worth a stop for several different kinds. My newest flavor blend is a Zesty Tomatillo Blend that is a bit on the mild side but has a wonderful complex flavor. Experimenting with it us an ongoing adventure. Visiting the store is a treat or you can also check out their website, www.chipotletexas.com and shop online.  The company now takes credit cards. Not too long ago, they would take your check for mail orders but wouldn’t ship your order until the check cleared. It is great that they have grown enough to be able to accept credit cards. If you are a chile fiend, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Hasselback is a term for making narrow slices almost through a base vegetable or meat, rubbing it with oil and seasoning it or inserting something into the cuts and then roasting it. The easy way to make the cuts is to put a chopstick or pencil on either side of what you are slicing to prevent your blade from cutting all the way through. Putting things into the cuts with out breaking the vegetable can be delicate work.

Below is the southwestern version of hasselback chicken stuffed with slices of poblano chile, red onion and squash. The Tomatillo Zesty Blend coated the chicken and was sprinkled in the cuts. It was mild and very tasty, but not quite spicy enough for my taste. Next time a little hotter chile powder will be added to ramp it up a bit. The chicken breast was cooked about 20 minutes at 450º on a foil lined baking sheet.

A few chile powders and blends in the spice pantry.

 

Southwestern Hasselback Chicken stuffed with squash, red onion and poblano chile and season with a tomatillo/chile blend. Served with baked potato and a kale salad.

Po’ que poke?

Poke (pronounced poh-keh) is trendy right now. We’re finding poke on menus, in specialty restaurants and even on food trucks. It is raw fish with an assortment of sauces and it is very good!
Running across a recipe for a “tuna and avocado tostada” was just another way of enjoying poke with a little  Mexican twist, so, por que no? (why not).

Toss 12 oz diced sushi-grade tuna with one tablespoon each soy sauce, orange juice, lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil. Stem, seed and mince one serrano pepper (two might have been better), and season with salt and pepper.

Mash one avocado with the juice of half a lime and a little salt. Spread the avocado side to side on 6 tostadas. Tope with the tuna drizzle with chipotle mayonnaise and sprinkle with shredded red cabbage and cilantro and crispy fried onions.

Po’ que poke. Delicious, light and refreshing.

Notes:  Make your own tostadas by baking corn tortillas in a 375° oven. Spritz the tortillas with a little cooking spray, turn at five minutes a couple of times until they are lightly browned and crisp.  You can use 6″ tortillas.  I used three 3″ tortillas and heaped on the poke and avocado to make a meal for one.

Make your own chipotle mayonnaise with two to three tablespoons of mayonnaise and a teaspoon or so of adobo from a can or jar of chipotles en adobo. Thin with a little water to make a drizzling consistency.

I was too lazy to fry onions and didn’t want to buy a whole can of fried onions this time.  Maybe nest time!

Have the guy at the meat counter get your tuna from the freezer, not the tuna that’s been in the display case for who know’s how long!  It will be frozen and easier to dice and better tasting.  Remember, you’ll be eating it raw “cooked” by the citrus juices in the marinade.

Lemon-Basil Chicken with Zucchini Noodles (and a new kitchen toy)

Many fun meals have been made using a small, hand-held, inexpensive OXO spriralizer to make colorful and delicious vegetable “noodles”. It has become more fun with the introduction of a three-blade option allowing a choice of three sizes of noodles. This new toy and discovering a new recipe calling for zucchini noodles made experimenting mandatory.

Six-foot long zucchini and yellow squash noodles for Leah’s bridesmaids’ luncheon with the first OXO spiralizer.
New OXO serializer with three blades for three widths of vegetable noodles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lemon-Basil Chicken with Zucchini Noodles. Baby patty pan and zucchini squash were irresistible      garnish on the zucchini noodles.

LEMON-BASIL CHICKEN WITH ZUCCHINI NOODLES
 Ingredients
¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (6 to 8 oz each)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ shallot, finely chopped
½ cup torn fresh basil, plus 2 tsp finely chopped stems
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
1-1/2 lbs zucchini noodles
Red pepper flakes for topping (optional)

Method
Spread ¼ cup flour on a large plate. Season chicken with salt and pepper and dredged in the flour; shake off excess flour.
Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add chicken and cook until golden and almost cooked through (5 – 6 minutes per side).
Push chicken to the edges of the skillet and add shallot and basil stems to middle of skillet.  Cook about 1 minute until soft, but not browned. Stir in remaining tablespoon flour and cook 1 minute to make a roux. Add chicken broth and lemon juice, bring to a boil while scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat and simmer, turning the chicken occasionally until cooked through (165°in thickest part of breast) and sauce is thickened (3 – 4 minutes). Turn off heat and swirl in 2 tablespoons butter until melted and add the lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.
Melt the remaining tablespoon butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini noodles, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until just softened (2 – 3 minutes).  It is easy to overcook the noodles and make them too soft! Toss in half the torn basil. Divide among 4 plants, top with chicken, sauce, remaining basil and red pepper flakes.

Fennel is my F-Bomb

Long ago, The Gourmet Dad, by Dean McDermott, caught my attention on a Denver bookstore shelf. It promised “Easy and Delicious Meals the Whole Family will Love.” It had great recipes that included  modified versions to appeal to children. A surreptitious photograph of book cover was taken to remember to look at the book in more detail after the trip.

Stumbling on that photo a couple of years later prompted a visit to Amazon and subsequent purchase of the electronic version of the cookbook. It does have some very good grown up recipes; even the kid versions sound good. The books photos attest to the plating skills of an accomplished professional chef and inspire emulation.

McDermott has a wife and five children which seems to a cadre of sous chefs in the house to help with the prep of the books “easy” meals.  There are no quibbles with the “delicious” description.

The below recipe with the Fennel F-word begged to be made. Seared scallops with it made it imperative! As a single empty-nester with no sous chests around, prep for most recipes takes some time. This recipe was worth the time on multiple levels. As a desert dweller, using watercress was a new adventure well worth the price for a handful. Who knew it has a peppery bite! It is always a thrill to try something new. McDermot’s instruction on searing scallops is simple and produces beautiful results. Gaining a new skill is always appreciated.

McDermott’s original recipe is for four salad servings topped with two scallops each. Hah! Reducing the volume of apple and fennel and upping the count of scallops to six per serving and the addition of a little garlic and  herb bread made in a meal instead of a side dish.  No point on shorting oneself on scallops, or fennel! A bonus was some leftover roasted shallot vinaigrette for another evening.

Seared scallops and apple and fennel salad justify the use of the F-word FENNEL!!!

Seared Scallops, Shaved Apples and Fennel
with Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette
 

Vinaigrette
Ingredients
4 shallots, peeled and cut lengthwise into quarters
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus ½ cup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 sprigs fresh thyme, minced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
Juice of 1 orange
Juice and zest of ½ lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salad
Ingredients
8 sea scallops
1 Honeycrisp apple, cored and thinly sliced (may substitute Pink Lady, Gala or Jonagold)
2 fennel bulbs, stem trimmed and shaved
Juice of 2 lemons, halves reserved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 bunch watercress, all but ½ inch of the stems removed
1/8 cup hazelnuts, toasted and crushed, plus 1/8 cup for garnish
Method
Preheat oven to 400°
Spread shallots on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the thyme and two springs’ worth of the rosemary. Roast the shallots until tender, 10 – 12 minutes.

Allow the roasted shallots to cool, then mince them. Combine them with the remaining rosemary, orange juice, lemon juice and zest and garlic in a small bowl and mix well. Whisk in the remaining ½ cup olive oil and season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper.

Pat the scallops dry and allow them to come to room temperature. In the meantime, combine the apple, fennel, lemon juice and lemon halves in a medium bowl and set aside.

Preheat a large sauté pan over high heat. Using a sharp knife, carefully score the top of each scallop in a crisscross pattern and season both sides with salt and pepper and a drizzle of grapeseed oil.

When the pan is hot, carefully place the scallops in it with the crosshatched side down. Do not move the scallops until they release from the pan, about 3 – 4 minutes to get the best sear and coloring.
Once the crisscross side releases and is a golden brown, flip the scallops and add the butter.  Once the butter has melted, baste the scallops a few times and then remove the pan from the heat. Residual heat from the pan will finish cooking the scallops to perfection.

Drain the reserved apple-fennel mixture and discard the lemon halves.  In a large salad bowl, toss have the watercress with the fennel-apple mixture. Add the reserved vinaigrette and 1/8 cup of the crushed hazelnuts and toss gently. Season with salt and pepper.
 
Arrange the salad on four salad plates, and top each with two scallops. Scatter the remaining watercress on top and garnish with the remaining hazelnuts and serve.

Notes: I forgot to buy hazelnuts, so I didn’t use them this time.  I wonder how pecans might work instead. The garlic cloves I uses were quite strong, but mellowed nicely in the dressing as it sat on the counter for a few minutes.

 

 

Chard No. 3

The “3 Ways to Use Chard” feature in Cooking Light magazine has been the source of some great meals over the past several days. Chard with Shaved Fennel started the binge. Fennel is always a siren’s call around here. Then came Charred Chard and Shallots, just because it was fun to say out loud and charring greens in the oven or on the grill is a taste treat that keeps greens interesting. Completing the trifecta was a Sweet Potato and Chard Salad. The clincher on that one is farro.

It wouldn’t be honest to say the chard binge is over. There’s another bunch in the crisper awaiting another chard challenge.

Sweet Potato and Chard Salad with a sprinkle of scallions.
The salad was just right with that second pork chop from the package!

SWEET POTATO AND CHARD SALAD
 Ingredients
10 oz  cubed sweet potato – about ½ inch
6 oz chopped rainbow chard
1 cup hot cooked farro
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp tarragon vinegar
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp sliced scallions

Method
Cook sweet potato in 4 cups water over medium-high heat. Bring water to a boil and reduce to medium low for three minutes. Stir in chopped chard and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain well.
Combine potatoes and chard, the cooked farro, olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper. Toss well to combine. Sprinkle with sliced scallions.

Notes:

This salad will be a hit at the next potluck dinner gathering.

Follow package directions for cooking farro. You can put the farro and water in the refrigerator overnight to soak and reduce it’s cooking time. This works with steel cut oatmeal, too. The texture and nutty flavor of farro made this salad extra special.

Good ol’ El Paso groceries… it took shopping in three stores to find tarragon vinegar. The Heinz tarragon vinegar was a disappointment.  It was very weak and not really vinegary nor was there much tarragon flavor. Even with more than the recipe called for, it was sad. Next time I’m out of town, I’ll search for a more potent brand.

Charred Chard

Doing fun things with greens keeps them exciting. Grilled romaine and steamed curly endive are welcome changes on the menu at my house.  I found a recipe for charred chard. I enjoyed saying charred chard out loud (I’m easily amused). Saying “charred chard” three times must have been a mystical incantation because then the recipe demanded to be made.

Charred chard and shallots compliment a pan-grilled pork chop and a few grape tomatoes.

Charred Chard and Shallots

Ingredients
1 lb rainbow chard
1/2 cup sliced shallots
cooking spray
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper

Method
Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. Trim stems from rainbow chard. Divide chard leaves and shallots evenly between prepared pans. Spray vegetables lightly with cooking spray. Broil on high, one pan at a time until most of the chard is wilted and some is partially charred – 4 to 5 minutes.

Chop cooked chard into large pieces. Place chard mixture on a platter, top with golden raisins, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Notes
Do you ever really measure 1/8 of a teaspoon of anything? I keep a jar with a mix of 40% coarse ground black pepper and 60% kosher salt right by my stove for seasonings. A pinch or two of the mix does the trick for most things.

Watch the chard as it broils. You want it mostly wilted with a little char, not a pan full of ashes! The charred chard retains some texture and can be strongly flavored. It needs a touch sweetness.

I didn’t have golden raisins on hand. I used grape tomatoes on the side for sweet balance and was very happy with it. I’ll be making this again when I pick up some raisins.

The recipe suggests adding chickpeas and crumbled feta to make a vegetating main dish. I expect substituting a mildly salty vegan cheese world work, too.
 

Meatless Monday Night

Pure luck: Found a good sounding salad recipe and had the main ingredients oh hand – fennel and red chard. A little thinking and the richness of baked feta balanced with the mild tang of a Cara Cara orange sounded like the rest of a meal.
Confession: Only dinner was meatless. It’s a start.

Wilted chard, fennel, baked feta, Cara Cara orange for Meatless Monday.

Wilted Chard and Shaved Fennel Salad
 Ingredients
1 lb. rainbow chard
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
¼ cup water
¼ cup chopped pistachios
2 Tbsp fennel fronds
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
¼ tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp kosher salt
Method
Coarsely chop chard leaves; thinly slice stems to equal 1 cup. (Reserve remaining stems for another use.)
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chard stems and fennel and cook, stirring often until starting to soften – about 3 minutes.Add chard leaves and ¼ cup water, cover until just starting to wilt – about a minute and a half. Drain. Toss with apple cider vinegar and salt and pepper.
Divide into four servings. Top each evenly with the chopped pistachios and fennel fronds.

Baked Feta
Ingredients
Block feta to allow 4 oz. per person
Olive oil
Method
Heat oven to 400º
Cut feta into individual servings. Brush all sides with olive oil.
Put feta on a foil-covered baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes. Turn on broiler and put feta under it for 2 – 3 minutes until it gets a little color. Carefully transfer to plates and garnish with a fennel frond or two. Serve warm.

Pizza and Salad for Breakfast or for Supper

Savory, rich, sweet, tart and a hint of bitter make an individual breakfast pizza or supper.

You can take a recipe for four and reduce it to a just-right serving for one or two. You can also play with it and have a good time. The original recipe called for refrigerated whole wheat pizza dough. I substituted a package of two ready-made bake-it-yourself crusts. I actually tried two different crusts on two different mornings – first, a  thin crust and, the second time with a thicker crust.  Both were good. When I followed the cooking directions for the thin crust, the time needed for the baked egg n the recipe made the crust more like a crispy cracker. Good, but not what I had expected. When I used the thicker crust, I baked it for three minutes, turned it over on my sheet pan, added the toppings and baked it 8 minutes to set the egg white and leave the yolk soft the way I like it! The recipe used lemon and oil dressed arugula as a garnish.  I like arugula, so I made it a side salad instead of a garnish by adding a few sliced grape tomatoes and a sprinkle of grated parmesan.  Next time I make this, I’ll sprinkle some crisp crumbled bacon or pancetta on top. Play with your food and make it yours!  Below is the original recipe for four servings from Cooking Light Magazine. It divides in to two or one serving easily.

Mini Breakfast Pizzas
Ingredients
12 oz. whole wheat pizza dough
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1-1/4 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
1/4 tsp ground pepper, divided
4 large eggs
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
4 cups packed baby arugula

Method
Let dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Divide dough into 4 pieces.
Place a pizza stone or large baking sheet in oven; preheat to 450º with stone or baking sheet in place as oven heats.
On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 7-inch circle. pierce liberally with a fork.
Arrange two dough circles on the hot pizza stone or sheet pan and bake for 3 minutes. Remove from oven and flip so cooked side is up. Repeat with remaining two dough circles. Depending on the size of your stone or pan and your oven, you may need to baked two pizzas at a time instead of all four at once.
Stir together ricotta cheese and lemon zest. Divide ricotta evenly among cooked sides of dough circles, sprinkle evenly with 1/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. (I question 1/8 tsp seasoning on 4 pizzas and used a light pinch of salt and pepper on each one after adding the egg as instructed below.) Top each circle with 1 egg and 1 Tbsp parmesan. Bake at 450º until whites are set and yolk is still a little runny.
While pizzas bake, Whisk together oil, juice, and remaining salt and pepper I (or to taste as I did!). Toss arugula in dressing.
Remove pizzas from oven, plate and top with 1 cup dressed arugula.

Who’d a Thunk It… Cauliflower = Seafood?

Vegetarian ceviche that’s really good!

It’s always fun to run across a recipe that my vegetarian daughter might like. I think this one qualifies.  It is a vegetarian ceviche made with cauliflower instead of sea food.  I took it to a Thanksgiving dinner as an appetizer. A couple of people asked me what kind of seafood was in it. I had to convince them that it was all vegetables!

Cauliflower Ceviche

Thanks to Beatriz Barranco, El Paso, TX and Taste of Home Magazine, November 2017

Ingredients
1 medium head cauliflower, finely chopped
1 cup catsup
1 cup orange juice
3 medium tomatoes chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
½ cup minced fresh cilantro
½ Tsp each salt and pepper
3 medium avocados, peeled and cubed
Lemon wedges, tortilla chips, hot pepper sauce, optional

Method
In a large skillet, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add cauliflower; cook uncovered until crisp-tender – 5 to 8 minutes.  Drain, spread out and blot pat dry.  While cauliflower is cooking, mix together catsup and orange juice.

In a bowl, combine cauliflower with tomatoes and onion.  Add catsup and orange juice mixture, cilantro, salt and pepper, toss to mix well.  Refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.

Before serving, gently stir in avocado cubes. Serve with tortilla chips, lemon wedges and optional hot pepper sauce.

Note:  I had to mess with it a little, of course. I prefer lime juice and lime wedges over lemon for this dish.  I found it to be a little too sweet for my taste, so I added the juice of a lime when I added the avocado cubes. It might be good to compare the sugar in various brands of catsup and use the one with the lowest sugar to start out with.

I had leftovers, and I had to experiment a little more.  I picked up a handful of shrimp, boiled, peeled and chopped them and added them to the “ceviche.”  I honestly couldn’t tell they added anything to the recipe.  It stands alone with the cauliflower and I’ll be making it again soon.

Even in the Desert, You Can Get a Craving for Seafood

When you live about 1,000 miles from the coast, seafood is something exotic.  We know about shrimp and sometimes see live lobsters can be found in a tank at the grocery store.  We get salt cod and a few varieties of frozen “fresh” fish are good, but pretty mundane.  Now that we have a Whole Foods market, we see different varieties of seafood that I hope to learn how to cook someday. In the meantime, I fall back on the tried and true.  I do grill the occasional swordfish steak and I love to sear ahi tuna with a crust of crushed wasabi peas when I’m feeling exotic. I’m more likely to do a soup or stew or to try a version of baked cod.  I found a new baked cod recipe in an article on sheet pan suppers and, of course I had to try it and am happy to share it.  It was a recipe for four servings that I was able to reduce to one serving successfully in keeping with my new search for how to make one or two serving meals.  I’m including the full recipe below, but have added a couple of notes about my experience

Sheet pan Provençal Cod, Potatoes and String Beans fulfill a desert craving for seafood!

Provençal Cod, Potatoes and String Beans
Ingredients:
1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced
¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp herbes de Provence, Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
8 oz yellow wax beans and/or green beans, trimmed
2 small tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
2Tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 6-oz cod fillets (1 to ½ inch thick)
Chopped fresh parsley for topping
Method:
Put a rimmed baking sheet in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 475°. Combine potatoes, 2 Tbsp olive oil and ½ tsp herbes de Provence in a large bowl; season generously with salt and pepper.  In a separate bowl, combine the beans, 1 Tbsp oilive oil and the remaining ½ tsp herbes de Provence; season generously with salt and pepper.

Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven; add the potatoes in a single layer on one side of the pan and the beans on the other side.  Roast until the potatoes and browned and the beans are tender – about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, olives, remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil, the lemon juice. ½ tsp salt and pinch of pepper in a small bowl; set aside. Season the cod all over with salt.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven. If potatoes and beans are done, remove and keep warm. If not done, push to their sides leaving a space in the middle.  Place the cod in the middle of the pan and top with half of the tomato mixture. Roast until the cod is opaque – 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle the potatoes with parsley. Serve with the remaining tomato mixture.

Notes: In my oven, the beans and potatoes were done at 20 minutes.  I left them on the the cod and the beans were a bit overdone by the time the cods was done. Check them while the cod is cooking, to be safe.

I could only find a long filet of cod with a narrow end. I folded the narrow end under the thick end sandwiching some of the olive and tomato mix in between.  It worked fine and was colorful and tasty.

This recipe reduced easily to one serving with a single cod filet and smaller portions of beans and potatoes.  I did the full recipe of the olive, tomato lemon mix and enjoyed what didn’t fit on the cod right out of the bowl with a spoon!