Apricot Chicken and Balsamic Broiled Brussels Sprouts

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This chicken recipe is a favorite from Simply in Season, a fantastic recipe book with recipes organized by what produce is in season. (If you want to do even more good as you cook seasonally and sustainably, buy it from Ten Thousand Villages, and support another good cause!) The Brussels sprouts recipe is a winner from my aunt, who even got my dad to like them! A rare success!

Apricot Chicken

Ingredients:

– 2 tsp butter
– 4 ripe apricots, pitted and halved
– 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
– salt and pepper
– olive oil
– 1 tsp ginger root, minced
– 1 green onion or 2 tbsp onion, chopped
– 1/2 cup dry white wine (or substitute with apple juice or water)
– 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
– 1/2 tsp grated lime peel (or a dash of lemon juice)

Instructions:

1) Melt butter in a frying pan. Place apricots in melted butter, cut side down, and cook over medium heat until light brown, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook several minutes more. Remove to plate.

2) Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides. Add 1 tbsp olive oil (or as needed) to pan, and saute chicken on medium-high heat for 3 minutes, then medium-low heat for 7 more minutes or until no longer pink inside. Remove chicken to plate.

3) Add ginger and onions to frying pan and saute briefly. Return chicken and apricots to pan, and add white wine, honey, and lime peel. Simmer 10 minutes to combine flavors. Serve alone, or over brown rice or cous cous.

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Balsamic Broiled Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

– about 1 1/2 lb brussels sprouts, halved

– 1/4 cup olive oil

– 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar

– 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)

– 1/2 tsp ground pepper

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix until evenly coated.

3) Spread on a a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper if you have it, this makes it easier to clean later!). Pour any dressing remaining in the bowl over the brussels sprouts.

4) Roast for 20-30 minutes. Toss once at about 15 minutes to ensure even cooking. When done, brussels sprouts will be browned and tender, and slightly crispy at the edges.

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The Best Basic Pizza Crust

I recently found the best pizza crust recipe ever. It instantly replaced my prior attempts, because of it’s ease, it’s crispiness, lightness, and doughiness. In my (humble, inexperienced pizza maker’s) opinion, it’s the full package. The photo below is from my first attempt, which turned out perfectly in spite of my minor deviations from the recipe. It’s a pretty forgiving dough, I’ve found. Enjoy!

Pesto-Asparagus White Pizza

Todd English’s Pizza Dough Recipe

(Recipe from The Figs Table. For the original recipe, see here. I’ve made some adjustments to the instructions, based on what I’ve found to be easiest for the inexperienced pizza maker, ie. me.)

Ingredients:

– ¼ cup whole wheat flour
– 3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling
– 2 teaspoons kosher salt
– 1 2/3 cups lukewarm water
– 2 teaspoons sugar
– 2 teaspoons active-dry yeast
– 2 teaspoons olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Mixing: Stir the flours and salt together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the water, sugar and yeast in and let sit for five minutes, until the mixture bubbles slightly. Add the olive oil and stir. Gradually (in 3-4 parts) add the oil-water mixture into the bowl, and knead until the dough is firm and smooth. (*1)
  2. Rising: Divide the dough into two to four balls, depending on how large of a pizza you’d like to make (*2).  Place dough balls on lightly-oiled parchment paper (*3), with enough room for dough to roughly double in size. Lightly rub the dough with olive oil, then cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm spot for about two hours. (If you want to freeze all or some of the dough, do this now. See below, *4.)
  3. Rolling: Dab your fingers in flour and then place one ball on a plain sheet of parchment paper (NOT floured or oiled). Press down in the center with the tips of your fingers, spreading the dough with your hand. Gradually work your way out, until you have flattened the dough out from the center to the edge, roughly the thickness of a flatbread. The outer edge should be a little thicker than the inner portion.
  4. Topping: top as desired. (Read on for the toppings for the pizza pictured above.)
  5. Baking: Preheat oven to 500 degrees. If you are using a baking stone, preheat with the stone in the oven. Transfer the pizza-on-parchment paper to the stone by holding the edges of the parchment paper. If you are not using a baking stone, simply slide the pizza-on-parchment paper onto a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, until crust is lightly browned and cheese is melted.
  6. Eating: Forks and knives, hands, sandwich method. All’s fair in love, war, and pizza.

Notes from Erin:

(1) The dough will be very wet and sort of difficult to work with. Fact of life, it will stick all over your hands. This is how it’s supposed to be. No worries.

(2) The pizza shown below used half of a recipe of dough, and fed 3 people. A quarter recipe makes more of an individual-size pizza, enough to feed 1-2 people, depending on how hungry the people are and/or how delicious the topping is.

(3) A quick once-over with cooking spray easily does the trick.

(4) To freeze: This is a freezer-friendly recipe. After the initial 2-hour rise, punch down the dough and wrap in plastic, then place in a zip-lock in the freezer. When ready to use, let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours, then proceed with rolling and baking.

(5) Rolling the dough on parchment paper makes rolling and transferring so much easier. The dough will stick to the paper, making it easier to roll because it won’t keep shrinking down on you. To transfer to the oven, move the pizza simply by picking up the parchment paper. And don’t worry about sticking; after baking the pizza will pop cleanly off the parchment paper.

And now for one delicious option for toppings:

Erin’s Pesto-Asparagus White Pizza

  1. Cut one chicken breast into bite-sized pieces, and fry in olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. (Optional; omit for vegetarian pizza.)
  2. Remove chicken from pan, and in remaining oil fry 1/4 of an onion, thinly sliced.
  3. Trim the ends off 8 stalks of asparagus, and cut stalks in thirds. Blanch in salted boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water. Pat dry with a clean towel.
  4. Roll dough from 1/2 recipe of pizza dough. Spread 6 heaping tablespoonfuls of pesto sauce over pizza, or more as desired, so that pizza is covered with a thin layer of pesto sauce.
  5. Evenly spread asparagus, chicken, and onions over the top.
  6. Top with 1/2 of a ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into thin rounds.
  7. Bake per instructions above.

P-B-M Grilled Chicken Sandwiches

Erin's P-B-M Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Everyone’s heard of a T-B-M, one of the greatest things America has co-opted and subsequently abbreviated  from foreign cuisine. But few have heard of the P-B-M: the Pineapple-Basil-Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich.

Don’t write it off too quickly; though it sounds weird, I promise that it is fantastic!

This recipe was added to my recipe book when I first made it for a group of friends on a spring break trip to Florida in college. I’m lucky enough to still be living with my college roommate, and in spite of all odds to still be friends with her to boot, so when her birthday rolled around this was her birthday dinner request.

Erin’s P-B-M Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Ingredients: (for two people)

– one chicken breast, halved (height-wise, so that each breast has the normal surface area, but half the thickness)
– two rounds of pineapple, cut about 1/2 inch thick, cored and quartered.
– 2 sprigs of fresh basil
– 1 lime, quartered
– 1 ball of fresh mozzarella
– salt and pepper, to taste
– olive oil
– 2 rolls or buns (I used pretzel rolls, my favorite!)

Instructions:

1) Brush the chicken breast halves with olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Grill (or saute) the chicken. When it is mostly cooked squeeze the juice from one quarter of the lime over each breast, then finish cooking.

2) Serve on bun, and squeeze juice from one more quarter of lime over the chicken if desired. Top with mozzarella, pineapple, and basil.

Cucumber-Apple Fresh Pickles

If the word “pickle” has you ducking and running, hang with me for a second! I promise I’m not from Portlandia. This isn’t what you think it is – there is no canning involved. These are refrigerator pickles, which means that you throw everything together, toss it is a jar, and chuck it in the fridge overnight. Done.

We Can Pickle That

Not only is this recipe easy, it is delicious – the apple and apple cider vinegar gives it a sweet flavor that is unlike the almost sickening sweetness of some of your average sweet pickles, and the ginger and red pepper gives it a wonderful Asian-influenced kick.

Need me to sell it more? Use these on pretty much anything you’d make at a summer cook-out: on bratwurst with ketchup and a dollop of roasted onions, on a burger with lettuce and onion rings, or on the meanest Asian salad ever (recipe to come!).

Cucumber-Apple Fresh Pickle

Cucumber-Apple Fresh Pickles

Ingredients:

– 1 cucumber (Japanese, Kirby, or just any old sort!)
– 2 tsp kosher or sea salt
– 1 apple (any crisp and sweet variety, like Fuji or Gala)
– 1/2 cup water
– 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar (or rice vinegar)
– 2 tbsp very thin matchsticks of peeled ginger
– 1/4 sugar
– a generous pinch or two of  crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions:

1. Slice cucumbers crosswise 1/8 inch thick and toss with sea salt. Let stand 30 minutes, then rinse and squeeze out excess liquid with your hands. Note: Don’t worry too much about squeezing out all of the liquid — you end up pouring more water over the mixture anyway.

2. Halve apple half lengthwise and cut out core. With a mandoline or sharp knife, slice crosswise 1/8 inch thick, then halve the slices.

3. Toss apple with cucumbers and remaining ingredients and place in a 4-cup Ball jar (or equivalent-sized container). Marinate, refrigerated, for 1 day (give or take).

Enjoy! And don’t miss the upcoming recipe for Erin’s Asian Salad – there’s sriracha involved!

Note: This recipe is based off a recipe from Alexandra Cooks. She is awesome. So is her recipe. I just made some tweaks to simplify it.

Swiss Chard with Lentils and Feta

As some of you might know, the other day I was given basically all the greens ever grown. My friends’ garden was on hyper-alert, and before I knew it I had an entire cooler filled with greens. Among this plentiful produce was at least 3lbs of swiss chard. I have already taken care of using up the parsley and mint and blanching and freezing the 3lbs of kale (saved to make this soup later!) to clear out some room in the fridge for my poor roommates. But even so, the fridge is still overflowing with leaves.

So, on to step 3 – take out the chard!

Chard

Isn’t it pretty?

Swiss Chard with Lentils and Feta

Ingredients:

– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1/2 cup small-dice yellow onion (from about 1/2 medium onion)
– 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
– 1 cup brown or green lentils
– 2 cups water
– 12 oz Swiss chard (about 1 bunch)
– 3/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
– 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
– 4 tsp red wine vinegar or 6 tsp balsamic vinegar
– 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic, and 1/4 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the lentils, stir to combine, and add the water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are just tender and the water has evaporated, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, trim the ends from the chard stems and discard. Cut off the stems at the base of the leaves and slice the stems crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. Place in a small bowl and set aside. Stack the leaves, cut them in half lengthwise, then coarsely chop into bite-sized pieces; set aside in another bowl.
  4. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large frying or straight-sided pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the reserved chard stems, season with a dash of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the chopped chard leaves, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the red wine vinegar and reserved lentil mixture until evenly combined. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, about 3 minutes.
  6. If serving immediately, keep feta separate and allow diners to sprinkle it individually, so that the cheese doesn’t melt and turn runny. If serving chilled, refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before stirring in feta.

Swiss Chard with Lentils and Feta

 

Swiss Chard with Lentils and Feta

Lemon-Cranberry Quinoa Tabbouleh, and Erin Gets the Green(s).

Summer has finally come to Chicago, having shamelessly cut Spring in line. Chicago Spring is pretty weak-ass and didn’t even try to fight for her place in line, so I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to see her come around. Maybe she’ll work on her left-hook over this year.

With the summer has come all of the fresh fruits and vegetables, and it is glorious. My best friend’s parents have a garden plot, and this week were suddenly up to their ears in produce. When they asked if I wanted any I jumped on the offer, but I could not have expected what showed up at my door – an entire cooler full of greens. Gobs and gobs of greens. After unpacking the bounty, this is what I ended up with in my refrigerator:

– 3 lbs of kale
– 3 lbs of swiss chard
– 3 varieties of lettuce
– 1 bunch of cilantro
– 1 bunch of mint
– 1 bunch of parsley

In other words, I was now up to my ears in greens too. In order to not evict my roommates from their share of fridge space, I knew I needed to get that situation under control.

Step 1: Take out both the mint and the parsley in one fell swoop. In other words, make tabbouleh.

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Lemon-Cranberry Quinoa Tabbouleh

Lemon-Cranberry Quinoa TabboulehIngredients:

– 3/4 cup quinoa
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 3 tbsp of lemon juice
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/4 tsp cumin
– a pinch or two of cinnamon
– 1 bunch fresh parlsey
– 1 bunch fresh mint
– 1 cup dried cranberries

Instructions:

1) Cook quinoa as directed on package.

2) Meanwhile, rinse and chop parsley and mint, and toss together in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

3) Once the quinoa is cooked and allowed to cool, add olive oil, lemon, salt, and spices to the pot and toss with a fork.

4) Stir quinoa and cranberries into the herbs, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Step 2: Blanch and freeze the kale. This is an awesome way to maximize fridge space, and to preserve produce for later use. Three pounds of kale cooks down to two small ziploc bags, individually packaged for  instant use when I want to make my favorite soup – Portuguese Kale, Ham, and Potato Soup.

Stay tuned for Step 3 – Swiss Chard with Lentils and Feta Cheese. Yum!

Groundnut Soup (Sierra Leonean Peanut Curry)

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I learned this recipe when I lived in Sierra Leone, and it quickly became a favorite. It is also a very nostalgic one for me, which was a bit of a problem when I made it this time around because the temperature margin between the weather there and here in Chicago is depressingly massive. (Damn you, Polar Plunge!)

This recipe also became an instant member of the Emergency Recipe list – the exclusive list of recipes that get me through The Dark Days of the Empty Refrigerator. (Be honest, we all get busy and/or lazy, and it happens.) All of the ingredients are basic and easy to keep in stock – you probably have them all in your pantry right now. Even the chicken isn’t an essential element – because of the peanut butter you’ll still get your protein serving.

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Ingredients:

–   2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
–   1 tbsp olive oil
–   1 large onion, finely chopped
vegetables as desired/available (carrot, celery, etc.)
–   4 tbsp tomato paste
–   2-3 cups water or chicken broth (depending on whether or not you added veggies)
–   ½-¾ cups peanut butter
–   ½-1 tsp cayenne

Instructions:

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1)   Prepare white rice separately.

2)   Fry chicken in the bottom of a medium-sized pan in 1 tbsp of olive oil.

3)   Once cooked (or mostly-cooked), add onions and any vegetables that you are throwing in, and fry briefly with the chicken.

P10507044)   Add the water or chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add tomato paste, peanut butter, and cayenne pepper.

5)   Simmer until vegetables are tender, or if you didn’t add any, until flavors have melded.

6)   Serve over rice.

Enjoy!

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Quinoa and Bean Summer Salad

Here’s another one from the Kinfolk Cookbook – a great, fresh salad that is also a complete protein, good as a side or a meal in itself. My tweaks to this one were minimal – I simplified some of the instructions for convenience, and added cilantro because, as we have already established, I love cilantro. This is a quick and easy recipe, great to whip up when you’re in a time crunch!

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa
2 tbsp olive oil
1 can (16oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (16oz) chick peas, rinsed and drained
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cucumber, diced
1 tomato, diced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

1) Prepare the quinoa as instructed on package. Cool.

2) Add all other ingredients to a large bowl and toss. Once quinoa is cooked and cooled, add and toss again. Serve.

Optional: add feta cheese.

Quinoa and Bean Summer Salad

Pumpkin and Chorizo Soup

This recipe happened completely by mistake.

MexPumpSoup2ZZ77We were having a couple of friends over for dinner, and my roommate was going to cook. Then, at 4:00pm, I got a text that she was hung up at work – and I was on KP.

The problem was, I had no idea what her plans were, and I had just been out of town so I had no groceries of my own. So, naturally, I threw a soup together with pretty much whatever we had in the fridge. And it was actually pretty good!

Ingredients

–  1 pkg hot chorizo
–  2 onions, finely chopped
–  3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
–  2 bay leaves
–  2 tsp cumin
–  1 tsp coriander
–  cayenne, to taste (optional, up to 1/8 tsp)
–  2 cups celery, chopped
–  2 cups carrots, sliced
–  8 cups broth (chicken, beef, vegetable)
–  1/2 head of cabbage, chopped
–  4-5 cups pumpkin puree, homemade or canned
–  ½ cup heavy cream (opt)
–  Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat a large heavy-bottom dutch oven or stock pot. Squeeze chorizo out of plastic tubing, and fry. (No extra oil is needed.)
  2. Once meat is mostly done, add onions, garlic, and spices, and sauté with the meat until onions begin to turn golden.
  3. Add the celery and carrots, and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until carrots begin to soften.
  4. Add broth and cabbage, and bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn heat down to a simmer, and stir in the pumpkin puree. Allow to simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the cream while simmering, stir gently for a minute or two, until evenly mixed. Remove from heat, add salt to taste, and serve.

Cilantro-Lime Lentil Salad

This recipe was an instant favorite when I first made it. It is (again) based off a recipe from The Kinfolk Table Cookbook (I did get it for Christmas!), Citrus Lentil Salad.

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Though I’m sure the original recipe is awesome, to be honest I doubt that I’m ever going to try it. Because I LOVED my version. (And other people evidently did too – the bowl was wiped clean at the a church potluck, and I got a lot of compliments!)

My recipe is the same as the original in essence, and really only has 3 differences:
– I used limes instead of lemons or oranges (because that’s what I had in the fridge!)
– I used shallots instead of scallions (ditto the above.)
– I added cilantro (because (a) I LOVE CILANTRO and (b) cilantro and lime ALWAYS taste good together.)

And though I’m clearly hugely plugging for my version, here is the even better reality of this recipe: It is SUPER tweakable. Go ahead, make it your own! If I ever get over this version, my next plan is to try it with orange juice/zest, fresh parsley, and dried cranberries.

And the best of it is, though this is a meatless salad it is still a good source of protein! This baby is just as valid a main dish as it is a side. So, here goes:

Cilantro-Lime Lentil Salad

Ingredients

1 cup green lentils, picked over
2 shallots, thinly diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine or apple cider vinegar
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime (about 3T)
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch cilantro

Instructions

  1. Rinse the lentils under cold running water in a fine-mesh sieve until the water runs clear. Place the lentils in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 3 inches. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
  2. While the lentils are cooking: zest and then juice the lime, and put both in a large mixing bowl. Chop the shallots and put them in the bowl as well, and then add the olive oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Stir it together – the oil will help stop the shallots from releasing the gases that make your eyes sting.
  3. When they are done, drain the lentils and rinse in cold water, and drain again well. Nobody likes a soggy salad.
  4. Place lentils in the large bowl and toss with the rest of the ingredients.
  5. Allow salad to rest refrigerated for at least 20 minutes to let the flavors combine. Right before serving, chop the cilantro and mix into the salad. Serve.