Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A whole lotta lemon...

It took me a few days, but I finally settled on what to do with my "precious" meyer lemons (just as they were starting to look like I maybe had waited too long!) - (1) Parmesan chicken topped with a gorgeous salad and lemon vinaigrette and (2) a Dorie Greenspan citrus sabl├ęs cookie recipe (I got her awesome Paris Sweets cookbook for Christmas). One dinner and one dessert :)

I have made this parmesan chicken recipe quite a few times - and have been meaning to blog about it for some time because it is a GREAT weeknight meal. I have been making traditional breaded chicken cutlets forever, and you'd think that this would taste the same, but the greens and lemon vinaigrette really pump up the flavor and dress it up a bit.

Parmesan Chicken (adapted from Ina Garten)
Ingredients
For chicken:
6 boneless, skinless chicken tenders
All-purpose flour
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon water
Seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Unsalted butter (I used Smart Balance lite in place of butter)
Olive oil

For salad & dressing:
Salad greens for 6 - I tend to like baby greens - arugula or spring mix usually
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (~2 lemons); I used 1.5 meyer lemons
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Steps
1. Pound the chicken between two pieces of waxed paper until fairly thin with a meat mallet.

2. Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a container large enough to coat chicken. It is probably about 1 cup of flour to coat chicken, but really depends on what size and shape container you are using, so just eye the amounts. You can always add more. In a 2nd container, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. In a 3rd container, combine the bread crumbs and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. I usually use about 1.5 cups of bread crumbs.

3. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing lightly.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through and browned on both sides. Add more butter and oil as needed and cook the rest of the chicken breasts.

5. Combine ingredients for dressing. Place one piece of chicken on each dinner plate - top with a mound of salad and then spoon some of the lemon dressing on top (I usually use about 4 spoonfuls). The dressing is a bit tart, so less is more until you taste it.


And now...for the dessert!

I'll leave you with a few pictures of these great, easy cookies - another blogger (Mary @ Alpineberry) made these cookies a few months back so I will point you towards her blog for the recipe (or the book). I used bright yellow crystal sugar on the outside to make them a little prettier. These cookies are ridiculously tender (evidence in the photo below) and my husband even liked them with his coffee (he usually detests desserts lacking chocolate!). I sent a bunch to my grandparents using these awesome bakery boxes I got for Christmas (Thanks Mom!) - you can find them here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Meyer lemons?

My husband and I got to leave the unbelievably cold weather that was the East Coast last week and hit up San Diego for a few days. Since it was a business trip, we really did not have a lot of time to check out too many things, but one of the things that I love about California is....farmer's markets! There seems to be at least one in some part of town every day! Crazy. Farmer's markets, street fairs and local festivals are a total hobby of mine - I love to check out the local food and take home goodies. During the summer, I always drag Tim to all the different street fairs and festivals in NYC - so much fun.

I knew what I wanted to bring back from Cali - Meyer lemons. I was determined to find a market and obtain a few of the coveted fruit that is impossible (or ridiculously priced) in our area. But, see, here is the problem - I was too excited and went with no plan, so...I only bought 3. Not that I'm home, I have no idea what to make with them! I just made lime bars, I love to make this lemon cake but that requires more than 3 lemons....I could make a great salad dressing but that just seems so unexciting.

Anyone care to chime in with ideas? These babies traveled 2500 miles with me and I totally hyped them up to my husband (I mean, who carries lemons home on a plane?, I had to tell him something about their amazing powers :). Hopefully I'll come up with something...stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Splash of Summer


I love limes - the color, the flavor, the freshness. Their taste and smell definitely remind me of summer. I like lemons too, but prefer the flavor in savory dishes rather than in desserts (unlike my mom who is in love with Ina Garten's lemon cake and any other lemon dessert). I saw a bag of key limes in the grocery store the other day and just feel the need to take a break from winter's heavy food for something lighter. I usually try not to buy too many non-local produce items but it is so rare that we see key limes in our stores, I had to go for it.


Key limes are smaller in size (foreground in above photograph) than the more commercially-available Persian limes and tend to be more tart in flavor. Wikipedia has informed me that regular Persian limes became more popular in the United States after key lime orchards in the Florida Keys were wiped out by a hurricane in 1926 (Persian lime orchards took a subsequent hit by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and now, most limes are imported to the US via Mexico).

This recipe is for a great lime square - similar to a lemon bar, except these are topped with a streusel-like crumb topping. Great as a snack. I even substituted 1/2 the white flour for whole wheat flour and could not tell the difference. I will say that juicing the key limes is a definite labor of love :) if you are crunched for time, use regular limes. It took me the entire bag of key limes to get the needed 1/2 cup of juice.

I really love this recipe, but it got mixed reviews on Cooking Light - likely because these bars are not super-sweet; they do have more of a tart flavor due to the key lime juice. If that is not what you are looking for, definitely go with the milder limes.


Streusel-topped Key Lime Squares (adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients

Cookie & streusel
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
1/8 teaspoon salt object
1/8 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
Cooking spray

Filling
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh key lime juice
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Steps

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Place first 5 ingredients in a bowl and beat with a mixer at medium speed until creamy (about 2 minutes). Lightly spoon 1 cup flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Gradually add flour to butter mixture, beating at low speed until mixture resembles coarse meal.

3. Gently press two-thirds of mixture (about 1 1/3 cups) into bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray; set remaining 2/3 cup flour mixture aside (will be used later as the streusel topping). Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until just beginning to brown.

4. Combine 2/3 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add lime juice and eggs, stirring until smooth. Pour mixture over crust and bake at 350° for 12 minutes.

5. Remove pan from oven (do not turn oven off); sprinkle remaining 2/3 cup flour mixture evenly over lime mixture. Bake an additional 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Remove from oven; cool in pan on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

What's In My Fridge II?

Here is the latest addition to my own little blogging event - What's In My Fridge? I started this last month as a way to challenge myself to use bits of leftover ingredients from my kitchen in a new and different way. Besides coming up with new recipes, it reduces my kitchen waste, which is one of my goals for the new year.

I really enjoyed my last recipe from What's In My Fridge? and this installment went just as well. This recipe is perfect for a fast weeknight meal as the ingredients only take a few minutes to throw together and the dressing is pre-made (although feel free to whip up your own dressing instead of using the pre-made stuff).


This recipe uses leftover chicken that I had made a few nights before (glazed with a soy & sweet chili sauce), but any cooked chicken would work. Like the last time, I made this as an appetizer, but it works really for any course. To make this more main dish friendly, you could make wonton chips and serve them along side of the salad.

Fresh Asian Chicken Salad in Wonton Cups

Ingredients
Fresh wonton skins
Non-stick canola oil spray (or other spray)
Leftover chicken
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
Slaw mix (I used broccoli and slaw)
Shredded carrots
1/2 lime, freshly squeezed juice reserved
"Asian" style salad dressing (I used Trader Joe's Sesame Soy Ginger Vinaigrette)
Sesame seeds, for garnish

Steps
1. Spray muffin pan with the non-stick spray and line cups with wonton skins.

2. Bake at 400-425 degrees until puffed, crisp and lightly browned (I left mine in one minute too long).

3. In the meantime, shred the leftover chicken into a medium bowl. Add lettuce, slaw and shredded carrots (the amounts should be to your liking - I used about 1/3 chicken, 2/3 vegetables). Lightly mix to combine.

4. Add lime juice and dressing, mix to combine. I lightly dressed my salad because I hate when my salad is soggy. Start with a little and add to taste.

5. Fill wonton cups and top with sesame seeds.

Enjoy!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Great Article

I know that I have posted about reusable bags (here and here) in the past - I love mine and use them for all sorts of things besides groceries (lunches, vacation, labtop bag, etc). This new article featured on Chow is awesome - it breaks down the different types of containers/packaging available and gives you the pros and cons of each type. Check it out.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sesame Noodles!

I'm a big fan of Asian flavors - I especially love Thai and Japanese cooking (lucky us being close to NYC, we have a ton of great restaurants to choose from!), and I find it challenging to try to make different dishes and styles of cooking at home. When I was living in Brooklyn, it was a bit easier to get all the ingredients that I needed, but the New Year has inspired me to get back into ethnic cooking.

I have made several sesame/peanut noodle recipes in the past - including this one (which is good, but not great) but this recipe from Tyler Florence just blew them away. It is the perfect mix of an easy and delicious weeknight meal, has great flavor and it makes for great leftovers too (perfect for lunches!).

It is labeled as sesame noodles but really it is more like a cross between a sesame and peanut noodle dish. And it is on the Asian-fusion side, rather than being really traditional-style dish. I served it as a side dish with a hoisin-glazed roast pork tenderloin and cucumber salad and the meal just hit the spot!

Cold Sesame Noodles (adapted from Tyler Florence)

Ingredients
1 pound Chinese egg noodles or spaghetti
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 handful of julienned carrots
Kosher salt
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed 2 tablespoons
light brown sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I didn't have the Sriracha handy, but this works just fine - put as much or as little as you like)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
6 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Steps
1. Cook the noodles in large pot of boiling salted water over medium heat until barely tender and still firm. Add the carrots and red pepper to the pot of noodles for the last few minutes of cooking (just to soften them a bit). Drain immediately and rinse noodles/vegetables with cold water until cool. Drain the noodles well and transfer to a wide bowl.

2. In a blender or food processor, process all remaining ingredients (except garnish) until smooth. Put mixture into the refrigerator and let it chill for about 1/2 hour. Pour the peanut sauce over the noodles and toss until well coated. Serve garnished with the sesame seeds and cilantro. You can also add some scallions to the top if you like.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My Christmas Gifts...

So I blogged about the gifts that I gave this year, but have not mentioned any of the awesome gifts that I was given this year! I am such a lucky girl - my husband is definitely someone you want to have around at Christmas time. This year, he definitely took my hints regarding my love for Etsy (maybe he read this post or this post?) and I guess he realized that I like to cook a bit :) My mom always gets such great and thoughtful gifts for me - we love to shop for each other. I thought a few of these gifts were such great finds that maybe some of you would enjoy them too - check them out!

Letterpress desk calendar from ilee via her etsy shop - it is even more gorgeous in person! I bought this as a gift and loved it so much that my husband got it for me as a gift! It is sold out at the moment, but she usually puts them back up as she makes them.

Notebook from Nantaka Joy. She sells beautiful things - including gorgeous notecards, like these and these. I love having a small notebook in my purse/bag all the time - this is the perfect size.

My mom hooked me up with this awesome ribbon box! It is from Martha Stewart Crafts, but can also be found at Michaels.

These salts with the spoons were also under the tree for me - so cute! I have been wanting to try different types of salt, so I'm pumped about this. These seem to be very reasonably priced to other salts I have seen available on the web for tasting and testing. Check out the website - http://www.clay-company.com/ for other great kitchen gift products.

I also was lucky enough to receive a bunch of great cookbooks, but I'm saving those for future posts...

I'm back! Happy 2008!

I know that I've been MIA for the last few days, but 2008 started a bit slow and sad in our house. For the last few years, we have left all the hype of NYC New Year's Eve behind and headed up to New England for some snowboarding. This year, there was a ton of snow! 12 inches of fresh powder the first night we were there - felt like we were out west.

On the last day of our mini-trip, Tim and I acquired the nasty stomach bug going around and it was time to go home. We found out the following day that we lost a very close member of our family and have spent the last few days recovering.

But...I'm happy to be back now. I'm really excited for 2008 - I have a lot of new and exciting things going on with my photography business, I'm so happy to have my vacation days back so we can do some traveling (we used them all up last year for our wedding), and I'm proud to say that 2007 taught me that I really love blogging! I actually crave this blog when I'm out of the loop for a day or so - is that weird?

I'll end this post with a modified recipe which encompasses one of my new 'resolutions' (more like, 'things to try') - moderately healthy baked goods :) I've changed this scone recipe to reduce the fat, white flour and sugar. I love scones and these came out quite nice - I might work on the texture just a bit as I like my scones a bit harder or drier, but these got lots of compliments from the mom and mother-in-law.
Cranberry, walnut and lemon scones (adapted from Epicurious)

Ingredients
2 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (1/4 cup + 1/8 cup) chilled unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup + 1/8 cup apple butter (I used homemade, but applesauce would do just fine)
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup (or more) chilled skim milk

Steps
1. Preheat to 375°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Whisk 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in bowl for glaze.

3. Whisk flours, baking powder, lemon zest, salt, and 3/4 cup sugar in large bowl. Add chilled butter; using fingertips, rub in until coarse meal forms. Mix in apple butter.

4. Mix in cranberries and walnuts.

5. Add 1/2 cup milk and1 tablespoon lemon juice. Mix with fork or hands until dough comes together in moist clumps, adding more milk if dough is dry (I didn't need any additional, likely due to the added moisture from the apple butter). Gather dough into ball; divide in half.

6. Press out each half on floured surface to 6-inch-diameter (1-inch-high) round. Cut each round into 6 wedges. Transfer to baking sheet; brush with glaze.

7. Bake scones until golden and tester comes out clean, about 18 minutes.