For the third (or fourth, or fifth…) time, I’d like to attempt restarting this blog. I took a long hiatus from cooking most anything interesting, partly because of my repeated attempts to fast (more and less successful over the past year) and partly because of my increasingly busy schedule. Still, cooking remains a big passion of mine, bigger than almost anything else. So now, when I can, I’d like to go back to posting some things I made long ago, as well as whatever I make when I can manage something interesting.
The other night, it was this salad. See, neither my husband nor I are big salad eaters. I don’t mind it when it’s well composed, but I can almost never manage to make one at home that measures up to the ones you can get at a restaurant. My husband’s issue is that he just really hates lettuce, because it doesn’t taste like anything and he sees it as a foil for salad dressing, which he doesn’t much like either. So the few salads I’ve made at home have been those with little to no lettuce, and those seem to be well-received. This particular night, I really wanted something with plenty of fresh, crunchy vegetables and a little chicken for texture and protein.
It takes a little longer than usual to make if you do chop and shred everything as indicated, but if you’re feeling lazy I imagine you can just use all of the vegetables whole or in larger pieces.
Three-Pea Chicken Salad
(serves 2-3 as a main course; 3-4 as an appetizer; the amount of dressing is enough to dress the salad very heavily. I suggest tossing the salad with a few spoonfuls at a time until you reach the amount of dressing you prefer.)
- 1 c. string peas
- 1 c. sugar snap peas
- 1/2 c. green peas
- 1 red bell pepper, minced
- 1 lb. chicken thighs
- 3/4 c. Greek yogurt
- 1/2 c. mayonnaise
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of 1 lemon (optional)
- 1 clove of garlic, grated
- 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon (or 1 tbsp. fresh minced)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place chicken thighs in a small pot and cover them with water. Sprinkle in some salt, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Take the pot off the heat and let the chicken thighs cook in the hot water 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through. When cooked, take out of the water and let cool.
- Heat a separate pot of water to boiling, and salt it. Add string peas, snap peas, and green peas, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until vegetables have turned bright green. Meanwhile, prepare a bowl of ice water. When vegetables are done, drain and add to bowl of ice water to rapidly cool them.
- Drain the vegetables. Pick out the string peas and snap peas and shred them with a knife. Add shredded peas, green peas, and red bell pepper to a bowl. When chicken is cool, shred it as well and add it to the bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients: yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon zest (and juice, if using), garlic, salt, and pepper. Toss with vegetables and chicken.
This was dinner tonight. Around here, we love pasta, and we love our goat cheese. And as for vegetables, ahhh, well we can take them or leave them, and try to make them as delicious as possible so they’ll be more fun to eat. This is a perfect recipe for those who like the taste of goat cheese, but find it a bit too strong and, well, goaty. Thinning it out with chicken broth and a bit of the salty, starchy pasta cooking water makes a luxurious and creamy sauce to coat the pasta with.
Pasta with Goat Cheese + Veggies (2 servings)
- 4 oz. linguine
- 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small bell pepper, diced
- 1 medium yellow squash, diced
- 1 tomato, diced
- 8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
- 4 oz. goat cheese
- 1/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
- Bring a pot of water to boil. Salt generously and add pasta. Cook 10 minutes, or until not quite al dente, still slightly chewy.
- In the meantime, heat 2 tbsp. of the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper and cook 2 minutes. Add squash and tomato and cook another minute or two, until vegetables have softened somewhat. Remove vegetables to a bowl and set aside.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the saute pan. Add chicken and cook until browned on all sides. Add to bowl with vegetables.
- Deglaze the pan with a few tablespoons of chicken broth and then add the goat cheese. Stir until the goat cheese melts, adding the remaining chicken broth.
- Add chicken and vegetables back to the pan and stir until coated. Heat until bubbling and cook another few minutes, until the pasta is done.
- Measure out 1/4 c. of the pasta cooking water and set aside. Drain pasta and add to the saute pan. Toss with tongs until well coated and let cook for two minutes. If the sauce looks thick and stickier, add the cup of pasta water and cook a further two minutes, until the sauce is silky and coats the pasta well.
I have a peculiar issue with my food preferences. I generally dislike fruit in with my savoy dishes. Spinach and strawberry salads have become quite popular, as well as Caribbean salads with mandarin oranges, and I always wonder why you would want to spoil your fruit with salad dressing, and vice versa. Then, I tried a Chinese chicken salad with avocado and mango. I don’t consider myself a convert by any means, but I’ve learned there are some circumstances when fruit with savory foods can be quite delicious.
Part of the reason I have typically shied away from the better-known African and Middle Eastern dishes is because it is common to see dried fruits, particularly raisins (or sultanas), and apricots, in the dishes. Still unconvinced about the merits of fruit in a savory, spiced dish, I added carrots and sweet potatoes for a milder sweet flavor.
North African-Style Chicken (2 servings)
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 sweet potato, diced
- 1 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1/2 tsp. ginger
- 1/4 tsp. turmeric
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- pinch saffron
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
- 1/2 c. Israeli couscous
- 1 1/4 c. chicken broth
- 1/2 c. frozen (or 8 oz. fresh) spinach
- Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook until fragrant. Add remaining vegetables and saute about 5 minutes, or until sweet potatoes have begun to soften.
- In a small bowl, whisk together all the spices. Add the chicken and toss until thoroughly coated by the spices. Add to the saute pan and cook, stirring often, until it is browned on all sides.
- Add the chicken broth with the spinach and bring to a boil. Add couscous and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until couscous is cooked and liquid has been absorbed.
I used to hate enchiladas. I used to hate corn tortillas in general, so, that pretty much ruled out enchiladas. Nowadays I can eat restaurant enchiladas, but I still don’t really like making them at home. Sure, I found a type of corn tortillas I will eat – a soft, pillowy, chewy corn tortilla made locally here. But cold, they crack when you roll them, and even warmed up, I don’t do so well with them. The obvious solution? Layer the tortillas in a casserole dish with filling, cheese, and sauce, and bake it. Bonus: this is easier to remove from the pan.
Green Chicken Enchilada Casserole (4 servings)
- 1 package corn tortillas
- 2 c. prepared salsa verde
- 2 c. shredded pepper jack cheese
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 zucchini, sliced into matchsticks
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced
- 1 tsp. each cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Place one layer of tortillas on the bottom of an 8″x8″ casserole dish. Place half the filling on top of the tortillas, and sprinkle with some of the cheese. Repeat layering with tortillas and filling, ending with a layer of tortillas on top.
- Spread salsa verde over the top of the tortillas and top with the rest of the cheese.
I found myself in a conundrum the other night, having decided on making paella for dinner, but finding that I didn’t really have the time to wait for the rice to cook. Since I was already making “mixed” paella, a version virtually unknown in paella’s homeland of Valencia (but popular elsewhere in Spain), I decided it wouldn’t matter if I ditched the rice in favor of a quicker-cooking grain. I haven’t experimented enough with other grains to know which would offer a good texture, so I chose Israeli couscous, a more pillowy, chewy version of the small-grained pasta.
The original Valencian paella was a rice dish prepared in a large, shallow pan that included fresh butter beans, tomatoes, saffron, paprika, olive oil, and snails. Over time, additional meats such as chicken, rabbit, and duck could be added and still considered authentic. Valencians who live on the Mediterranean coast make a seafood paella, which replaces land proteins with any combination of shrimp, lobster, mussels, and cuttlefish. Spaniards living outside of Valencia mixed these two forms, and chefs in Spain and worldwide have now created paellas with any number of different vegetables and proteins. The version I threw together is below.
Mixed Paella (4-6 servings)
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 2 onions, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 lb. fresh chorizo, crumbled
- 2 boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, diced
- 1 1/2 tsp. each paprika and smoked paprika, or to taste
- 1 pinch saffron
- 3-4 c. chicken broth – start with 3 cups and add additional broth if needed; I used 4 cups and it was a bit too brothy
- 1/2 lb. raw, shelled shrimp (about 4 per person)
- 1 1/2 c. Israeli couscous
- 3/4 c. frozen peas
- 3/4 c. frozen spinach
- Heat olive oil in a 12-inch saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for several minutes, or until softened. Add chorizo and break up with a wooden spatula. Cook about five minutes, or until cooked through.
- Add chicken, and cook another three minutes. Add spices, and cook a minute or two, until fragrant.
- Add chicken broth and bring up to a boil. Add shrimp, couscous, peas, and spinach. Cook 8-15 minutes or until couscous is done and broth has evaporated.
Okay, so, this is barely a recipe. But it is delicious – a combination that I wouldn’t have believed I would be eating a few years ago, back when I didn’t like pesto and had never heard of goat cheese. I suppose the only interesting thing about the recipe is that my husband made it. Now, I’m not going to launch into some stereotypical nonsense about men being idiots in the kitchen. It just so happens cooking is not really where his best skills lie – more from lack of interest than lack of ability. I keep assuring him he could learn to cook, and he keeps cutting up onions the long way.
So, he’s rarely in the kitchen. That said, he didn’t really need any direction on this, so that means that anyone looking to throw together something quick and easy (and green) need look no farther.
Pesto Chicken Pizza (serves 2-4)
Feel free to add more vegetables and/or omit the chicken.
- 1 ball of whole-wheat pizza dough
- 1 package of pre-made pesto, or about 3/4 c. homemade
- 2 boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 oz. goat cheese
- Preheat the oven to 425. Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal and stretch the dough out onto the surface. If it begins to shrink back before it has reached your preferred size, let it rest 10-15 minutes, and try to stretch it further.
- Meanwhile, set a pot of water to simmer. Poach the chicken in the water until fully cooked, and then dice.
- Spread pesto sauce on the pizza dough, then arrange chicken pieces, goat cheese, and diced onion on top. Bake for 10-20 minutes, or until crust is a deep golden brown.
This is a recipe. It is for chicken. It was tasty. Also, you can put it together in about a half hour, which is nice. There’s really not much more to say about it, but if you like kind-of-Asian-inspired cooking, this is for you!
Sweet-Hot Chicken and Spinach (2 servings)
Note: I found that although the sauce ended up being balanced and tasty, the chicken itself was way underseasoned. Some similar recipes suggest a brief marinade in soy, ginger, and garlic – brining it would get similar results. Also, I used ginger preserves because they were on hand as a shortcut, but you can use some minced fresh ginger and any sweetener you like (sugar, honey, agave nectar) as a substitute.
For the chicken:
- 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 c. cornstarch
- 1/4-1/2 c. vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 1 bell pepper, sliced into strips
- 1 tbsp. ginger preserves
- 2 tsp. soy sauce
- 2 tsp. rice vinegar
- 1 1/2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1/4 c. water
For the spinach:
- 2 c. frozen chopped spinach
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. ginger preserves
- 1 tsp. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. rice vinegar
- Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Coat chicken in cornstarch. Shake off the extra and brown on all sides in the oil. Remove to a plate. Pour off all oil except just enough to film the pan. If you have a lot of cornstarch in the oil, as I did, just go ahead and rinse the pan quickly and heat a little extra oil.
- Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes to the oil. Cook a few minutes or until fragrant, and then add the onion and bell pepper. Cook for five to ten minutes or until soft and browned on the edges.
- Meanwhile, heat sesame oil in a separate skillet over medium-low heat (sesame oil has a fairly low smoke point, so you can’t put it over high heat easily). Add minced garlic and saute until fragrant, then add spinach. Saute for a few minutes, stirring occasionally while you finish the chicken dish.
- When onions and bell peppers are ready, add remaining ingredients for chicken and toss until sauce is well-mixed and coating the vegetables. Add the chicken pieces and toss until coated. Turn down to warm while you finish the spinach.
- Add remaining ingredients to spinach in pan, and toss until liquid has evaporated.