Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Roasted Pesto Chicken

I love making pan seared salmon that I finish in the oven with a generous dollop of pesto. I usually make my pesto in large batches and freeze the leftovers.. Since I had an endless reserve in my freezer I thought i'd experiment and get creative with it and EUREKA.... pesto stuffed chicken was born.

Whenever I roast any chicken,  I gently detach the skin from the meat and rub a good amount of butter and herbs between the two layers. This time I rubbed pesto and it was divine. The chicken was juicy, and bursting with flavour while the skin remained crispy! This is such a must try it for yourself!

Pesto Ingredients:
2 cups packed fresh THOROUGHLY washed basil
2 cloves garlic
2/3rd cup extra virgin olive oil plus extra for sauteing
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
juice of half a lemon
good pinch of salt to taste
freshly ground cracked black pepper

Throw the parm cheese, basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, garlic and oil into a food processor and blitz to your desired pesto-like consistency. Reserve.

Roast Chicken Ingredients:
1 whole chicken
1 onion, peeled and halved
1 carrot, halved
1 celery, halved
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 450. 
In the meantime was the chicken, pat dry and rub the lemon on the skin and in the cavity. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (inside and outside the cavity). With the tip of your fingers, gently seperate the skin from the meat of the chicken and rub pesto as far back and into the thighs/wings as you can.

Place in a roasting pan and stuff with onion, carrot and celery. Tie the legs with butcher string and rub butter all over the exterior. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce to 350 until the bird reaches an internal temp of 160 (remove and it will carry over cook to 165).

The key to crispy skin is LEAVING IT ALONE! Don't baste... the fat excreted from the skin during the cooking process will baste it for you!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Baked Cannellini Beans, Baby Tomatoes and Kale

I've finally been able to bury the childhood stigma of "beans beans the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you T%#T" aside and embrace this delicious superfood that's packed with protein!

One of my favourite beans to eat are the velvety pale cannellini variety. They're incredible in pastas, soups, spreads and salads. Their pillowy soft texture and subtly sweet taste makes this bean extremely versatile.

I sauteed some garlic and shallots, added baby tomatoes and kale then slow baked them with the beans and some parm cheese... This dish alone with a generous piece of hearty rustic bread is deeeeelish.. but I took it a bit firther and served it with fish-yumyumyumyumyumyuyuym! This is perfect with simple grilled meats, fish or poultry. Love, love, love these beans!

1 cup dry cannellini beans that have been soaked according to directions OR 1 can cannellini beans drained
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 shallot, finely minced
1/2 cup homemade chicken stock or water
1.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1.5 cups chopped kale
1/2 cup baby tomatoes
2 sprigs thyme
1/4 cup freshly grated parm cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

In the meantime, saute garlic and shallots in olive oil until soft and golden. Add the tomatoes and cook until they start to collapse slightly in their skins. Add the kale and cook until it wilts. Add the beans, mix well and add the chicken stock OR water. Add the thyme and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, set the broiler on high. Sprinkle the cheese over the contents and broil for 3 minutes or until cheese melts and browns a little. Drizzle your finest extra virgin olive oil on the dish before serving!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Banoffee Pie

I don't think I've ever made an easier dessert that tasted this good. This dish is effortless and perfect for summer because it's served chilled. I've never made it before but thought it would go down a treat for the dinner party I had the other night...and boy did it ever! Even people who weren't keen on dessert went for seconds and some for thirds...before I knew it the entire pie was finished...crumbs and all!

It is a very decadent dessert but it's also balanced. The dulce de leche, whipped cream and graham cracker crust make it taste rich but the fresh banana, cooling temperature and coffee in the whipped cream gives the dessert a certain harmony. It really is a wonderful recipe and something you can make in advance and requires zero fussing about because it's served as is!

400 grams graham crackers, blitzed in a food processor
3/4 cup butter
1 can sweetened condense milk (buy about 5 so you can make it all at once and store the rest!)
3 bananas, cut on a bias about 1/2" thick
1/4 cup chocolate chips or shaved chocolate
1 pint whipping cream
1/4 cup strong coffee (room temperature or chilled)

Keep the condense milk in its can and place in a pot of water. You want the water to be thrice as high to ensure the cans are always immersed. Boil and reduce to a strong simmer. Cook this way for 2.5 hours, making sure to check that the cans are always covered....if not they'll explode. Let cool and reserve.

Melt the butter and add to the graham cracker crumbs. When combined, place in a 9" spring form pan and make a crust. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Whip the cream and coffee together until it forms stiff peaks. I don't add sugar to this because everything else is sweet. But if you think it needs sugar than add A LITTLE but I urge you not to!

Remove the spring form pan from the fridge and spoon the condense milk (now the dulce de leche) over the crust in one gooey layer. Place the bananas on top of the condense milk- I like them to overlap a bit.
Put the whipped cream on top and finish with more bananas haphazardly dropped in from a couple inches above and chocolate shavings (I save that for right before serving so the bananas don't discolour...but if you want to do it ahead of time add a little lemon juice to them to keep from browning).

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ridiculously Delicious Chicken Tenders

I need to start of by apologising for this rather thoughtless photo. I was so hungry and excited about my chicken tenders that I forfeited any possibilities of plating this in a way that looks as delicious as it tastes!
They are almost as effortless as buying a box of frozen ones...well maybe not, but the result and lack of preservatives/mystery ingredients makes it worth while!

I marinate the tenders in chopped rosemary, garlic, buttermilk, thyme and mustard then dredge them in parmesan panko breadcrumbs. That's it- The rest of the work relies on your oven! You can make a big batch and freeze them for future use and if you're feeling particularly naughty you can fry them but I really don't think there's any reason to as they are so incredible baked!

4 Chicken breasts cut into 1 inch wide strips
1 tablespoon dijon
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon buttermilk
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
2 large cloves garlic grated on a microplane
2 cups panko crumbs
1/4 cup finely grated parm cheese (or cheddar)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup flour
2 eggs (beaten with a dash of milk or water)

Line a baking sheet with a ovenproof rack.

Mix the buttermilk, garlic, rosemary, mustards and olive oil. Reserve. Salt and pepper your chicken and toss in the mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix the panko and parm cheese together. Remove the chicken from the mixture, toss into the flour, then toss into the egg and then the panko mixture. Shake off any excess and place on baking sheet. Repeat until you're finished dredging all you tenders.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the tenders have cooked through.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sauteed Mushroom and Leeks

This is a delightfully simple side dish that you can make in advance and serve alongside fish, chicken and any meat dish. The mushrooms give it a meaty and earthy flavour and the leeks help soften the overall taste by adding a caramelized sweet flavour and velvety texture. This is super duper delicious!

1 package crimini mushrooms (or any variety you like)
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 leek, washed well and cut into thin strips
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet and add the mushrooms (this helps them brown). Cook the mushrooms until they've reduced in size and are releasing their juices. Remove and add a bit more oil if necessary. Saute the garlic and until it softens and is a pale brown colour. Add the leeks and cook on medium low until they've wilted. Return the mushrooms to the pan and season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summery Fresh Asparagus Linguine

I recently felt like I haven't been eating enough veggies which inspired my ultra aggressive grocery adventure last week. I bought every green vegetable in sight- kale, collard greens, broccoli, cabbage and asparagus. I managed to get through most of it over the week except the asparagus and I knew I had to cook it or it would have to be tossed. My mother raised me to avoid wasting food as much as possible..she was the best at re purposing leftovers and making dinner out of whatever spare ingredients we had in the fridge and pantry.

Inspired by her kitchen savviness, I used what I could from my asparagus and made the most divine pasta that smelt and tasted of summer. I LOVE this pasta dish and it literally cooks in minutes!

1 bushel asparagus, cleaned and cut into bite sized pieces on a bias
dry linguine (enough for four people)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (this is the base of your sauce so don't be alarmed at its quantity)
4 cloves garlic cut into thin chips/slivers
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
a handful of freshly chopped parsley
1 lemon zested
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese

Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add your pasta. When the pasta is a minute away from being cooked, add the asparagus. Reserve 1/2 a cup of cooking liquid and drain.

Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add the garlic and chili flakes and saute on med-low heat until the garlic has softened and is a pale gold colour. Add the pasta and asparagus along with reserved pasta water and toss well. Place in a large serving bowl and fold in the parm cheese and lemon zest. Top with fresh parsley and serve immediately!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Chicken Pesto Pizza

When my sister visited, we wanted to do a lot of eating at home and why not?! Even though there are endless restaurants in Manhattan, we simply wanted to enjoy sitting around the table and eating at our also helps that it's the height of summer and fresh produce is in full bloom. Equipped with a fragrant bushel of basil from the Union Square farmers market and lovely free range chicken, I decided to have a pizza night. We did have the traditional tomato sauce pizza and all the fixings under the sun (although my favourites are the classic margarita and napoletana) but I thought we'd make things a bit more interesting with a chicken pesto pizza...delish..
I like making my own dough and found another recipe that rivals the other pizza recipe I featured several months back! My darling nephew Thomas is allergic to nuts so I omitted the pine nuts from the pesto. Oh, I can hear the collective "gasp" from my fellow food purists- but I actually preferred it this way. So it was indeed a happy omission! I found that the pesto sans pine nuts is less heavy and dense, making it brighter and allowing the fresh summer notes of sun kissed basil and garlic to shine through.

Of all the pizza we made that night (about 6 large ones!) this was by far our favourite!

Dough Ingredients:
1 (.25 ounce) package of dry active yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (about 105-115 degrees F)
4 cups bread flour
1.5 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more to coat the bowl

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the yeast, lukewarm water, and 1/2 cup bread flour. Mix well and let sit until bubbly, about 30 minutes.Whisk together the remaining 3 1/2 cups bread flour and salt in another bowl so it will be evenly distributed.
Once the yeast mixture is nice and bubbly and looks like foamybeer, add 3/4 cup cold water and olive oil. Using a dough hook, turn the mixer on and add the flour in increments.
Mix the dough for about 5 minutes, until the dough starts creeping up the dough hook and comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Place the dough in a large bowl lightly greased with olive oil. Turn to coat all sides of the dough with oil. Cover the bowl loosely with a clean tea towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Punchdough down, and let rise another hour.
Divide the dough into 4 equal disks. Lightly flour a work surface. Using your fingers or heels of your hands (and a rolling pin, if you prefer) stretch the disks out to a 10-inch round. Repeat with the remaining 3 pizza dough disks.

Topping Ingredients:
2 chicken breasts cut into bite sized strips
1/2 cup thinly sliced crimini mushrooms
1 ball fresh buffalo mozzarella
2 cups packed fresh THOROUGHLY washed basil
2 cloves garlic
2/3rd cup extra virgin olive oil plus extra for sauteing
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
juice of half a lemon
good pinch of salt to taste
freshly ground cracked black pepper

Throw the parm cheese, basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, garlic and oil into a food processor and blitz to your desired pesto-like consistency. Reserve.

Sprinkle salt and pepper on chicken and add to a skillet with about 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Add one tablespoon of pesto and cook until the chicken is almost fully cooked (you want it undercooked because it will finish in the oven). Toss in the mushrooms and reserve. With a fork poke holes throughout the dough and spread about 1/4 cup pesto (don't use it all at once..eyeball it as you may need less) on your prepared pizza dough. 
Bake in the oven until the dough is golden and almost ready to be removed. If it's dry add a bit more pesto and top with chicken and fresh mozzarella. Put in the middle rack with the broiler on high. The cheese will bubble and melt and Presto Pesto! You're ready to feast!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Farmers Market Soup

After enjoying afternoon tea at my favourite little gem Lady Mendl's Tea Salon, I went to the farmers market at Union Square with one task: Get eggs....
I left the farmers market with lima beans, eggplant, yellow string beans, garlic, celery, carrots, kale and zucchini. I would have kept on going if the heat wave (100 degrees), high heels and over-sized purse didn't interfere with my shopping.

I went home feeling inspired by the sights, smells and sounds of the market..I wanted the farmers market experience in a pot. And so I began to cook in this vain. What I ended up with was a minestrone of sorts- big chunky lima beans, soft leaves of kale, eggplant, string beans and so much more enveloped in a deliciously rich tomato soup. I topped it with fresh shavings of parmigiano reggiano and called it a day.

2 cans crushed tomatoes in basil
1 Italian eggplant, cut into small cubes
2 carrots, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
1/2 pound string beans
2 small zucchini cut into 1/2 inch half or full moons
1 medium size onion finely diced
1 cup pastini
1/2 pound fresh lima beans, shelled from its pod
1 bunch black tuscan kale, cut from its stalk
1 stalk celery cut into 1/2 inch slices
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
10 fresh basil leaves
1 rind of parmigiano reggiano  
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 teaspoons sugar

In a large dutch oven heat olive oil and saute onions until soft and golden. Add the garlic and sweat on low heat until the garlic softens. Add the carrot and celery and cook for three minutes. Add the parm rind and cook two minutes more. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a boil and 1 cup of water. Reduce and simmer on med-low heat for an hour. Add the dried oregano, basil, one teaspoon sugar and a good amount of salt (about 2 teaspoons). Taste. If it still has a sour taste from the can tomatoes add another half to 1 teaspoon sugar.

Add the pastini and lima beans and cook 5 minutes. Add the eggplant and cook two minutes. Add the string beans and cook two minutes more. Add the kale and zucchini. Simmer until they've just cooked through. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper and stir. Serve in a bowl with freshly ripped basil leaves, parm shavings, a good drizzle of top quality extra virgin olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Boneless Leg of Lamb

I come from a very large close knit family consisting of  my parents, grandmother, two older sisters, one younger brother 2 neices and 2 nephews! After my sister Audry and kids visited for a week, my eldest sister Patricia, her husband and son came for a long weekend! Whenever my family makes the trek to New York, I like to make something that gravitates us towards the dining table so we can eat, catchup up and eat some more!

I made a boneless roasted leg of lamb that I removed from the netting in order to place sweetly roasted garlic cloves in its cavity...delicious..

1 head of garlic plus 4 cloves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 rosemary sprigs
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 thyme sprigs

Cut off 1/2 inch from the top of your head of garlic. Place in a piece of tinfoil that's large enough to cover the entire clove generously. Pour 2 tablespoons on top of the garlic and tent with tinfoil. Roast in a 400 degree over for 30 minutes or until garlic is soft enough to be squeezed out.

In a mortar and pestle or by knife pound or chop the 4 cloves of garlic, thyme and rosemary together. Mix in the balsamic vinegar, two tablespoons olive oil and mustards.

Remove the lamb from the elastic netting and season with salt and pepper and rub with the garlic and mustard mixture and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Open the lamb so the inside of the roast is visible and spread the roasted garlic on it with your hands. Fold it back together and tie it in place with butcher string. Place in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes and then reduce to 325 degrees and cook until it's to a temperature to your liking. I prefer my lamb medium rare (140 on a meat thermometer). Take the lamb out when it's about 5 degrees off from how you like, cover it with tinfoil and let it rest about 10 minutes. It will carry-over-cook and ensure that the juices circulate within the meat.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble

Strawberry and rhubarb is my favourite pie/cobbler/crumble combination. They are soul mates really- the strawberries add this sweet tartness and the rhubarb transforms into this gooey thick's just divine! I love making it in a crumble form because the crispy bite contrasts perfectly with the soft sweet filling. This is perfect served cold, warm or room temperature! But you mustn't forget to put a big scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top to make this recipe even more superb.


For the topping: 
1 1/3 cup flour
 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cups oats
 2 tablespoons sugar
 2 tablespoons brown 
Zest of one lemon
1/4 pound (1 stick or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup chopped pecans

For the filling: 
1 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces 
1 quart strawberries plus a few extras, hulled, quartered
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons cornstarch 
Pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 375°F and prepare topping. In a mixing bowl, combine flour,oats, baking powder, pecans, sugars and lemon zest and add the melted butter. Mix until small and large clumps form. Refrigerate until needed.

In the meantime, prepare the filling. Toss rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. 
Remove topping from refrigerator and cover fruit thickly and evenly with topping. Place pie plate on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake until crumble topping is golden brown in places and fruit is bubbling beneath, about 40 to 50 minutes.