April 25, 2010

... Chicken and Prosciutto Club

Now this is what I call a sandwich!  Ciabatta bread, chicken, cheese, prosciutto, two different spreads, a few fresh veggies, almost more than you can get your mouth around... almost.

First up, season the chicken with a little s&p and cook it in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Once you get that started, spread the proscuitto out on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven until it gets nice and crispy.  When you take that out, trade the proscuitto for the ciabbata on the baking sheet and put that in the oven to get warm and toasty.

It sounds like a juggling act, but you can do it!  While you've got all that going, go ahead and mix up one of your two spreads.  Sure, sure, you could buy olive tapenade, but when you can make it so easily for so little, why would you?  Just take a can of black olives (I used most of a 6 oz can), a clove or two of garlic (depending on who you're dining with), the juice of half of a lemon and some olive oil.  This is another one of those 'make it how you like it' recipes.  Put it all in a food processor - or chop the olives and garlic pretty finely with a knife and mix in the olive oil and lemon juice.  Adjust it to taste and texture and there you have it!

Now comes the fun part.  Spread the olive tapenade on one side of the toasty ciabatta.  Put a piece of chicken on top of that... did I mention that we put a piece of provolone cheese on the chicken for about the last minute of cooking... until it's ooey and gooey?  Top that with a piece of crispy proscuitto and layer on some arugula and sliced tomato.  Sprinkle on a little s&p and cover it with the other piece of bread that you've added a schmear of mayo to.  We found a great garlic & herb mayo, but anything you like will do the trick.

Now tell me that doesn't look like one delicious sammie.  We mixed up the easiest and tasty fruit salad ever - frozen strawberries (thawed) and sliced bananas - and poured a glass of wine.

Speaking of wine, have you fallen in love with the new boxed wine like we have?  If not, you should.  4 bottles of wine in one little box for the price of 2 bottles and it keeps for weeks... or it's supposed to at least, we haven't quite gotten that far with any of ours.  This 'Wine 4 Grillin' box is from World Market, but several of our faves come in cardboard.  (I'm still a sucker for labels, though, so I'm excited to try this bottle out soon.)  

Chicken and Prosciutto Club
serves 4

Bake 8 slices prosciutto on a baking sheet at 400 degrees until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.

Season 4 chicken cutlets with salt and pepper.  Cook in olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until golden.

Form sandwiches with rolls, mayonnaise, olive oil, olive tapenade, arugula, sliced tomato, the chicken, and the prosciutto.

Taylor's Notes:
Interesting recipe layout, no?  This is just how it was printed in Real Simple.  Interesting as it may be, it's a really simple recipe (no pun intended) and it's quick, too.

If you're not a fan of olives, as I know a few friends who aren't, I think that you could easily replace the tapenade with pesto - or even just another layer of the mayo.  Sometimes arugula is a little hard to find, so you could always use spinach or even your favorite type of lettuce.  You know the drill, use what you like and make it your own.  And, as always...


April 21, 2010

... Shrimp Tacos with Citrus Cabbage Slaw

Who doesn't love a meal that's ready in twenty minutes and costs less than twenty dollars??  Top that Rachel Ray!  This is a tasty little number that's perfect for a weeknight meal when you've had a long day and really can't imagine slaving away in the kitchen for an hour.  (yeah, like I actually do that on weeknights...)

The citrus juices in the slaw really add a great burst of flavor.  Grilling the shrimp gives it a bit of a smoky flavor.  And all that together in a warm tortilla is just pretty darn fantastic.  Serve it with tortilla chips, black beans and a cold beer and you'll forget just how long your day was.

Shrimp Tacos with Citrus Cabbage Slaw
serves 4

1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons sour cream
kosher salt & black pepper
1/4 small cabbage (8 ounces), shredded
1 cup corn kernels (from 1 to 2 ears, or frozen and thawed)
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp
8 small flour tortillas, warmed

In a large bowl, whisk the orange and lime juices, sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Add the cabbage, corn, and jalapeno and toss to combine.  Let sit, tossing occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season the shrimp with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Cook until opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve the shrimp with the tortillas and the slaw.

Taylor's Notes:
As I mentioned above, we grilled the shrimp rather than cooking them in a skillet.  It really doesn't take much longer and the flavor and texture is totally worth it.  Just load those puppies up on a skewer, season them with salt and pepper, and grill them over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

I made the slaw about an hour ahead of time which allowed all the flavors to mesh together and also let the frozen corn thaw.  I ended up adding a little more sour cream to make it creamier - just another tablespoon, give or take.  Be sure to add enough salt, too, to bring out the flavors.  I probably added one teaspoon total.

So, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and make some tasty tacos of your own!


April 14, 2010

... Spiced Mini Burgers with Couscous Salad

I feel like I've been jabbering about lighter fare lately now that the weather's getting warmer, but don't you notice that your meals get a little lighter the later the sun is out?  Or is that just me?  Long gone is the heavy pasta, so long to the cozy comfort food... now it's all about chillin' and grillin'.

This is the second time I've made this recipe and it's just as good as I remember.  Mini burgers - a great reason to fire up the grill (yeah, ok, as if we need a reason!) paired with fresh, light couscous salad along side a few toasty pieces of pita bread (toasted on the grill, of course) and a dollop of creamy hummus.  You know what else it's great paired with?  An ice, cold brewski.  You know, if you like that sort of thing...

Spiced Mini Burgers with Couscous Salad
serves 4

1 (10 ounce) box couscous (1 1/2 cups)
1 pound ground beef
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
kosher salt and black pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 scallions, sliced
4 plum tomatoes, quartered
1 seedless cucumber, cut into half-moons
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 (8 ounce) container hummus (optional)

Place the couscous in a large bowl and pour 1 1/2 cups hot tap water over the top.  Cover and let stand for 5 minutes; fluff with a fork.

Form the beef into 12 small 1/2-inch thick patties.  Sprinkle with the cumin, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the patties and cook to the desired doneness, 4 minutes per side for medium.

Toss the couscous with the scallions, tomatoes, cucumber, lemon juice, the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Serve with the burgers and hummus, if using.

Taylor's Notes:
First off, I used ground turkey instead of ground beef.  I buy the 85/15 variety, not the 97% fat free, because honestly, I'm probably already pushing it with Rich buying turkey over beef.  Second, I mix the seasonings in with the meat instead of just sprinkling them on top.  If I have the time, I like to do that a couple hours in advance and stick it in the refrigerator for all the flavors to meld together.  Third, we rarely cook meat inside during the spring and summer.  Why else do you have a grill?!

The couscous salad is just as easy as it sounds.  You can really add in whatever veggies you like.  Last time I made this I even tossed in some crumbled Feta... wish I had remembered that before now.  :)  

The hummus really is a nice addition.  It adds a delicious creaminess to the meal when you add a little dollop on top of the burgers.  


April 11, 2010

... Pan-Grilled Pork Chops with Grilled Pineapple Salsa

When I came across this recipe, it looked so fresh and colorful, so Spring-y, that I couldn't pass it up.  It's finally time to hit the patio and fire up the grill.

Another great thing about this recipe is that you can make it inside or outside... or both like we did.  Flexibility is a wonderful thing, no?  Rich grilled the pork chops outside (because "the man is in charge of the meat", clearly) :) and I made the salsa inside... in a skillet, not a grill pan, because that's what you do when you're flexible (and don't happen to have the proper cooking gear).

Pan-Grilled Pork Chops with Grilled Pineapple Salsa
serves 4

4 (4 ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, divided
4 (1/2 inch thick) slices pineapple
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper

Combine pork and 1 tablespoon juice; let stand 10 minutes.  Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add pineapple and onion; cook 4 minutes on each side or until onion is tender.  Coarsely chop pineapple and onion; combine in a medium bowl with remaining 2 teaspoons lime juice, jalapeno, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.  Sprinkle pork with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.  Heat grill pan over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add pork; cook 4 minutes on each side or until done.

Taylor's Notes:
As I mentioned, I grilled the pineapple and onion in a skillet.  Not ideal, but it certainly worked and besides lacking the nice, brown grill marks, you wouldn't know the difference.  We left the seeds in the jalapeno which gave it a kick (and if you read this blog and know us, you know that's how we do) but you could certainly leave the seeds out if you like less heat.

Don't you love the internet?  When I forgot to bring the recipe to Rich's, it was so easy to just look it up online and jot down the grocery list.  The other great thing is that people make comments to the recipe after they've made it, so you can pick up on their coulda-woulda-shoulda's.  One gal mentioned that she paired it with cilantro rice and we thought that was such a great idea that we decided to try our hand at creating our own.  I know, right, we actually made up a recipe.  Go figure... or... Go Us!!  So, in case you think it's a great idea, too, here's what we did:
Cook white rice based on the package instructions.  Toss in about a quarter cup or so of fresh cilantro and squeeze in about half of a medium lime.  That's about it... easy, right?  And easy to adjust based on how much you like cilantro and lime.  I do think it could have used a little salt, so you might toss in a couple pinches.  Or, in the beauty of making up your own recipe, add whatever else you'd like!

Now, get out there, fire up the grill and enjoy the weather!

April 9, 2010

...Rigatoni with Sausage and Parsley

You can never have too many variations on pasta.  It's such an easy meal that looks and tastes as if it took hours to put together, but in reality it can be ready to eat in less than half an hour.

Sometimes it seems like the simplest recipes, those with the fewest ingredients, even taste best and when those ingredients are what you'd typically have around the house anyway, well that's even better.  Just a few quick steps to follow... cook the meat and onions, add it to the pasta, toss in some Parm and parsley...

and Voila! a great pasta dish that's easy enough and quick enough for a weeknight meal. 

Rigatoni with Sausage and Parsley
serves 6

1 pound bulk spicy Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
2 medium red onions, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 can (14.5 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
1 pound rigatoni (or other short tubular pasta)
3 cups packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish, if desired

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, cook the sausage until browned, breaking apart any large pieces with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium.  Add the onions; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are caramelized and the sausage is cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.  Add the broth; cook until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente according to the package instructions.  Drain; return to the pot.

Add the sausage mixture, parsley, and Parmesan to the pasta; toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.


April 8, 2010

... Blue Cheese-Stuffed Chicken with Buffalo Sauce

The fun thing about cooking is that it's not always perfect.  There's a lot of trial and error, several mistakes and it encourages you to bring out the creative side to fix what may not be just what you'd envisioned.  I found this recipe in Cooking Light and it had me at "blue cheese-stuffed."  It was a must-make if I'd ever seen one.  It seemed easy enough: mix up this gorgeous blue cheese scrumptiousness, stuff it in a chicken breast, coat it with breadcrumbs and cook it in the skillet.  What's difficult about that?  

This is where those mistakes I mentioned early come into play.  The recipe wasn't absolutely clear on how to cut the chicken.  Where do I put the pocket for the blue cheese?  On top?  In the side?  I went with the former as you can see above.  Then I proceeded with the rest of the recipe... dredge the chicken in flour, then in egg, then in Panko breadcrumbs.  Pop it in a skillet and cook it for a few minutes on each side.  Easy, right?  Well....

That's when the 'oops' set in.  I started to flip the chicken from side one to side two and what do you think happened to all that blue cheese scrumptiousness?  Yep, that's right... it came out in the pan.  Doh!  Lesson learned: when stuffing a chicken breast, make the pocket in the side of the chicken, not on top.  (Hey, I've never said I was a brilliant cook...)

So, while all that's going on, Rich had done a great job at making the Buffalo Sauce (although I'd more likely call it a tomato sauce) and we whipped up some blue cheese smashed red potatoes and broccolini to accompany the chicken.

The end result was actually pretty tasty... just not very blue-cheesy.  Next time I'll know better.

Blue Cheese-Stuffed Chicken with Buffalo Sauce
serves 4

1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon reduced-fat sour cream
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 (6 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons 2% reduced fat milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
6 tablespoons finely chopped drained bottled roasted red bell peppers
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl.  Cut a horizontal slit through thickest portion of each chicken breast half to form a pocket.  Stuff cheese mixture evenly into pockets.

Place flour in a shallow dish.  Combine milk and egg in a shallow dish, stirring well with a whisk.  Place panko in a shallow dish.  Working with 1 chicken breast half at a time, dredge chicken in flour, then dip in egg mixture, dredge in panko.  Repeat procedure with remaining chicken, flour, egg mixture, and panko.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon butter to pan; swirl until butter melts.  Arrange chicken in pan; cook 4 minutes or until browned.  Turn chicken over; place skillet in oven.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until done.

While chicken bakes, combine remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons butter, bell peppers, water, Worcestershire, and garlic in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer; cook until butter melts.  Remove from heat, and stir in hot sauce.  Serve sauce with chicken.

Taylor's Notes:
See above... make the pocket in the side of the chicken, not the top.  Other than that, just follow the recipe and Enjoy!

April 5, 2010

... Tuna Salad with Celery and Radishes

It's Easter Sunday and it's 84 degrees out... do you know what that means?  Swimsuit season is right around the corner!!  Ok, so maybe it's really around the corner, down the block, and around the next corner, but still, work with me.  

Regardless of how far away it is, it's never a bad idea to eat a little lighter.  This tuna salad really hits the spot. It's light, not creamy, and has a great amount of crunch with the celery and radishes.  The lemon and parsley add a kick and brightness.

I paired it with some crackers and it made for a great little lunch.  Side note... have you tried the new Wheat Thins Flatbread Crackers?  Well I did and I'll tell you, I'm not a huge fan.  Now, don't get me wrong.  The flavor was pretty good, but the darn things came completely broken in the package and didn't make for a great to a chunky tuna salad.  I think I'd prefer the big Wheat Thins next time... or one of my other faves, the Townhouse Multigrain Bistro crackers.

So, grab your cracker of choice, mix up some of this tasty tuna salad and feel good about sitting pool side this summer!

Tuna Salad with Celery and Radishes
serves 2

2 5-ounce cans tuna (in water; drained)
8 small radishes (cut into wedges)
2 stalks celery, sliced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

In a bowl, combine all ingredients.  Refrigerate in a container for up to 1 day.  Serve with crackers or crisps.