Friday, April 24, 2015

One Pot Chicken Orzo Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette

Can I tell you how long I've been wanting to share this recipe with you? It's been months since we improvised this little dinner number (you know, back when blood oranges were in season), and yet here I am, only just now letting you in on the secret. I love a warm pasta salad, and this one can be pulled together using just one pan. Orzo is tossed with a citrusy vinaigrette, shredded chicken, cilantro, toasted almonds, and sweet little pomegranate seeds, and the results are pretty darn good.
Serves 2-3

1 cup orzo
1 large chicken breast
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup juice from a blood orange juice
(regular orange would work fine too I bet)
2 Tb balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat a dry saucepan over medium heat. Once heated, toss in slivered almonds and toast for a few minutes, stirring and tossing occasionally, until the almonds begin to turn golden brown. Once toasted, remove the almonds to a bowl, and wipe out the saucepan.

Place the chicken breast in the same saucepan, season with salt, and cover with enough water to cover the chicken by about two inches.

Place the saucepan on a burner over high heat, and bring the water to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil reduce the heat, and let simmer for 10 minutes or so, until cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the water to a cutting board. Return the water in the saucepan to a boil. Once boiling, add in the orzo and another pinch of salt. Cook the orzo according to package directions (about 8 minutes).

While the orzo cooks, whisk together the blood orange juice, the balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt until the salt is dissolved. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil to make your dressing. You can also shred your chicken breast once it's cool enough to handle.

When the orzo is done, strain and return to the saucepan. Pour in about half of the salad dressing and toss in the shredded chicken. With the burner on medium-low, toss the orzo, chicken, and dressing and cook until the orzo has absorbed some of the dressing and the chicken is warm. Taste and add more dressing as desired.

Once warmed through and dressed to your liking, remove from the heat and toss with the chopped cilantro, about half of the pomegranate seeds, and a couple cracks of black pepper.

Serve warm (though I imagine that it would be good cold as well), topped with the remaining pomegranate seeds and almonds.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Texas Pimm's Cup

On a trip to London a couple of years ago, I ordered a Pimm's Cup on a whim while browsing around the Borough Market, and I was hooked. Pimm's is a gin-based liqueur that's traditionally mixed with lemonade, mint, cucumber, and strawberries to form one of life's perfect drinks. Since it's sometimes fun to riff on a classic, I tried giving it a Texas twist (or more accurately, a Mexican twist, beloved by Texans). Along with Pimm's and lemonade, I added a good splash of Lime Topo Chico, a sparkling mineral water imported from Mexico. I'm not sure if it can be found outside of Texas, but if you're in the Lone Star State or if you ever see a bottle, please buy it immediately!  The combination was a delicious one, as it adds a little fizz to the drink while keeping the sweetness of the lemonade. It's crisp and refreshing, perfect for sipping on a beautiful Texas spring day!
Serves 1

2 oz Pimm's No. 1
3 oz Lime Topo Chico
3 oz Lemonade
a few English cucumber slices, cut into half moons (regular cucumber will also work)
1 strawberry, thinly sliced
mint leaves, thinly sliced into ribbons

Fill a tall highball glass half full with ice.

Toss in a few cucumber slices, strawberry slices, and a good pinch of mint leaves.

Pour the Pimm's, lemonade, and Lime Topo Chico into the glass, and stir.

Serve with a straw, and enjoy!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Pan-Seared Salmon over Arugula Salad

As much as I miss Boston, can I tell you how thrilled I am that warmer weather has arrived in Texas while winter lingers long past its welcome in New England? Hopefully this post finds you enjoying warmer weather as well, but if not, I'll try sending a little Texas sunshine your way, because Spring has arrived. And with the arrival of spring, so returns my excitement for making salads again!

One of the first meals we cooked in our new house was this beautiful recipe from Serious Eats. While perfect without a single tweak, I couldn't help myself from throwing in a few more things here and there. I've added a splash of soy sauce for the pan-seared salmon. And into the salad, I tossed cucumber slices for a little extra crunch and mandarin oranges for a little sweetness to balance out the bite of the arugula. I feel like mandarin oranges are a little "un-cool," but you know what? They taste good, and they add a pretty pop of color as well.
Serves 2

2 4-6 oz salmon fillets, skin on
2 tsp soy sauce
3-4 cups baby arugula
1/2 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 can of mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 avocado, diced
1 Tb lemon juice
2 Tb olive oil + 1 Tb olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in a tablespoon or so of olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Once the oil is hot, place the salmon in the pan, skin side-down.

Cook for about 6 minutes, until the skin has crisped nicely. About 1-2 minutes into the cooking process, pour a good splash of soy sauce over the top of each fillet.

While the fish cooks, make the dressing by whisking together lemon juice and a pinch of salt until the salt is dissolved. Then whisk in the remaining 2 Tb of olive oil.

Once the salmon skin is nice and crisp and the fish is cooked about halfway through, gently flip the fillets, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until a thermometer inserted reads 130-140 degrees (130 is medium).

While the fish finishes, toss the arugula, cucumber, and avocado with the dressing. Divide onto two plates and scatter with the mandarin oranges.

Once the fish is done, remove from the pan, and place on top of the salad, skin side-up. Serve immediately, and enjoy!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Night with Gemma

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I made it into the big city for a date night at Gemma. It was a chilly, drizzly evening (as so many have been this month), but inside the restaurant was cozy and warm. We sidled up to a little table for two and started with a round of cocktails while browsing the menu.
My husband sipped on a Fennel Rickey while I tried a Muddled Kumquat Caipirinha. I wished for a little more sour kick from the kumquats, but it was very good!
The food was the real star of the show, though (along with the wine on tap)! I started with a beautiful shaved vegetable salad. Crisp romaine leaves were topped with creamy-tangy dressing, parmesan, and paper-thin but still crisp shavings of carrot, a couple radish varieties, and kohlrabi. We each opted for one of their homemade pasta dishes for our main course. I honestly didn't think we would find good homemade pasta after leaving Boston, but both the pappardelle and the ricotta cavatelli tossed with rich, braised meats were wonderful. Along with glasses of red wine, it was perfect fare for a chilly evening.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Green Frittata

March has been a happy month around here between pie for Pi Day, Irish Soda Bread for St Patrick's Day, and the first day of Spring! To celebrate the change in the seasons, I whipped up a frittata chock full of vegetables (plus a handful of grated cheese for good measure). It's perfect for a quick dinner or weekend breakfast! And wouldn't it be lovely for an Easter brunch? Here's to looking forward to warm weather and sunshine!
Serves  6

1 Tb olive oil
1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and leaves sliced into ribbons
1 bunch of asparagus, tough ends removed and sliced into 2" pieces
4-5 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp herbes de provence

9 eggs + 3 egg yolks
1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half
1/2 cup gruyere cheese, grated
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 Tb panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 tsp salt
black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Heat oil in a large (10") oven-proof skillet (I used cast-iron) over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, herbes de provence, and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally for 8 minutes or so. The mushrooms should be browned and the extra moisture evaporated.

While the mushrooms cook, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, cream, salt, and pepper. Then stir in the breadcrumbs and grated cheese.

Once the mushrooms are browned, add the asparagus and swiss chard to the pan, stirring for 3-5 minutes until the swiss chard has just wilted. 

Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables, stirring to combine. If you need to, shake the pan a bit or carefully tilt it to make sure that the eggs settle all around the vegetables. 

Smooth the top of the frittata with your wooden spoon, and then place it in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the eggs are set and cooked through.

Remove from the oven when done, and let cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve sprinkled with a little pinch of grated parmesan if desired.