August 25, 2012

Linguini & Roast Chicken

Do you ever have those moments when a completely random thought pops into your head out of the blue for no apparent reason at all?   This happens to me so frequently, that I'm starting to wonder if this is normal...  Well, that is how this recipe ended up here.  

I used to make this for dinner once or twice a month about 10 years ago, then because I had it so often I got sick of it and haven't made it since.  As soon as I tasted it again I realized WHY I ate it so often.  It's really, really good. 

It is about as uncomplicated as you can get, but the flavors are amazing.  The pan juices from the chicken are the sauce for the pasta with a few little goodies thrown in.   Let's talk about the sauce for a minute... 
I know some of you are going to groan that I would suggest tossing pasta in a little bit of chicken fat, but fat is FLAVOR. 

I'm not suggesting you dive into a block of lard with a knife and fork.  The amount of fat is roughly a few tablespoons and unless you've had a triple bypass already, it won't kill you, so live a little...  have a salad for lunch & all will right with the world.

I would normally give you a free pass to use a store-bought roasted chicken, but not this time.   It's the juices from the roasting pan that make this dish.  The deep, roasted flavor that you can not get from anything other than roasting your own chicken.   If you try to use a store-bought chicken anyway, I'll know... 
so don't even think about it

Linguini with Roasted Chicken & Pine Nuts
-recipe adapted from Claudia Roden
  • 3 1/2 - 4 pound chicken
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 pound linguini
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed & chopped
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 stalks celery, cut in half
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Lay the celery in the roasting pan & set the chicken on top of it.  Rub chicken with the oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Place the garlic & the sprigs of thyme around the chicken and roast for 1 hour or until juices run clear.   Let chicken rest 10 - 15 minutes before cutting.

While the chicken is resting, boil the pasta.  Remove 1 cup of boiling pasta water to soak golden raisins.  Let the raisins soak for a few minutes while you get on with the sauce. 

Pour the juice from the roasting pan into a small saucepan.  Add the rosemary, pine nuts and drained golden raisins.  Let the sauce simmer for 5 - 10 minutes.   While the sauce is simmering, pull the meat (and the lovely crispy skin!) from the chicken and set aside.

Drain pasta, toss with chicken and sauce in a large bowl.

August 20, 2012

Doubly Virtuous...

It's that time of year again.  Shopping for school clothes,  temper tantrums over getting up early once more, begging and pleading "please don't make me go", etc...  and that is just the teachers.

Granola is hardly a revolutionary breakfast, but it is a great way to start your day & when turned into bars it's a hand-held portable breakfast which can come in very handy when you've hit "snooze" one too many times.

Now, before you roll your eyes at the mere mention of granola, let me preface it by saying you do not have to be a Birkenstock wearing, tree hugging, peace-lovin' hippie clad in tie dye to appreciate it. 
(Just because I happen to be a few of those things has nothing to do with it...)

It's that perfect mixture of oats/almonds/coconut toasting in the oven & the scent of it lingering in the kitchen that really gets me excited for what's about to happen.  Then, it becomes a bit of a treasure hunt.  I've stated before how I buy things, put them away and then stumble upon them when I'm looking for something else...  well, this is where that comes in handy.

Most of us have some sort of dried fruit tucked away in a pantry and in the baking cabinet there are always lovely additions lurking in there somewhere.   I happened to have some of these ingredients already on hand so I threw them into the mix and others I actually had to go out for. (the OATS!)

The list of ingredients is a suggestion.  I used a ton of dried fruit because I had it.    The recipe is very flexible, you can add in or take out whatever you like.  If you have kids,  get them involved with making this.  They are more likely to eat something if they've had a hand in it...  literally.   They can help measure the ingredients, mix the granola, etc.

Making your own granola ensures that it has exactly what you want in it and a fraction of the sugar that the store-bought variety contains.  Sprinkled over a bowl of Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey on top,  it is breakfast perfection.

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (can be made GF, make sure the label says gluten-free)
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, small dice
  • 1/2 cup dried figs, small dice
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates, small dice
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup green pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine oats, almonds, coconut and salt in a large bowl.   Add oil, then honey to a 1 cup measure and pour over mixture.  Oil will prevent honey from sticking and it will all pour out easily.   Stir to evenly coat oat mixture.

Bake, stirring once, for approximately 25 - 30 minutes until mixture is golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to cool, stir occasionally or it will become a solid mass.
(I learned this the hard way the first time I made granola, so I'll save you the heartache)

Once mixture is cooled, combine all ingredients in a large bowl, stir to thoroughly combine and store in an airtight container.

Granola Bars

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter + extra for baking dish
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 6 cups granola
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Coat bottom of an 8x8 glass baking dish with non-stick spray and line with parchment paper.  Butter parchment paper inside baking dish & set aside.

Melt butter, mix in honey and brown sugar. 
In a large bowl, combine granola & melted butter mixture.  Stir to combine.

Pour mixture into prepared pan & with wet fingers press down firmly on granola.

Bake for 20 - 30 minutes, cool completely and let set for 3 hours before cutting into squares.  I usually let mine set up overnight before I cut them, but if you can't wait make sure they are completely cooled before cutting them or they will fall apart.

August 14, 2012

I'll have what she's having...

I'm not really sure why,  but when I think of strawberry daiquiris, I think of the 80's.   Things like parachute pants and rubber bracelets,  big hair and Duran Duran.  Considering I was barely a "tween" in the mid-80's and not yet the cocktail connoisseur I am today, there really is no basis for this. 

But, here's the thing... no one seems to tip back fruity drinks with little umbrellas anymore, everything is a "skinny" something or another now.  Not that there's anything wrong with watching your caloric intake, but sometimes a girl needs a drink.  A proper drink- made in a blender, served in a pretty glass with a little garnish.

I'm sure most of us can't even remember the last time we had one (unless of course that's because you had MANY), which is a shame because it really is one of those great summer drinks.
Well, I intend on bringing this little libation that could back into the spotlight.

If you've never had a strawberry daiquiri made from actual strawberries, then you are in for a treat.  The drinks made from that bottle of  chemical-laden red stuff can not begin to compare with one made from fresh ingredients.  The sweet fragrance of ripe strawberries filling your kitchen is enough to start your mouth salivating.

There will be no sickly sweet, artificially flavored mixes that are a most unnatural and slightly unnerving shade of red.  Just berries, rum, some sugar & a splash of lime juice blended with some ice & you are well on your way to one of the best things you can put in a glass.

It is summer so get some local berries and throw them in the blender, saunter out to the porch/patio/deck, put your feet up and put on some of your best 80's tunes...

Strawberry Daiquiri
  • 4 cups strawberries, hulled & halved
  • 1 cup white rum
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup
  • 1 cup crushed ice

- Throw everything into the blender & let it rip... 
If you like your drinks a little "slushier" (yes, that's a word now) add in another 1/2 cup or so of ice.


August 10, 2012

On the Lanai...

I have this nonsensical love of the Golden Girls, to the extent that I kind of want to be them when I grow up.  Not any one of them in particular (although Blanche certainly had lots of fun), but more of an amalgamation of them.  

Dorothy's intelligence and dry wit, Rose's willingness to always see the good in people, Sophia's crass humor and we've already covered Blanche's obvious contribution to the mix.

I can fully appreciate sitting around the kitchen table with an entire (yes, an ENTIRE) cheesecake to work out life's woes with your best pals, but my fascination is the lanai...  Just the word makes you relax a bit , doesn't it?  (go ahead, say it aloud...  I'll wait)

I remember hearing that word as a fourteen year old kid watching this show and not even knowing what it was, but liking sound of it. 
Eventually, when I pieced together what a "lanai" actually was, I thought to myself  "oh yeah, that's for me"...

As the afternoon sun starts to set, turning the sky a beautiful blush pink, the palm trees sway in the warm coastal breeze and I am sitting out on the lanai with a crisp white wine and a few friends.

Nothing could be further from my current reality, but this is what I envision as my "someday".    When the crowded streets, honking car horns, screeching brakes of city buses and  shrieking sirens get to me,  I close my eyes and go here.

In my "someday", I set out trays of little nibbles for my friends and I to pick upon while we sip our wine and solve the world's problems...  before we head back inside to give that cheesecake a proper send off.

A tartine is an open faced sandwich.  A single slice of bread, toasted and topped with whatever suits you.  It can be sweet or savory, eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack.  It is great for when friends pop over, because you can top it with anything you have in the house.
Cheese, meat, thinly sliced vegetables & eggs are all common toppings and most of us generally have these hanging around the kitchen which makes this a snap to put together.

  • Country or Sourdough bread, sliced (nothing too porous)
  • 2 Bosc pears, peeled & cored
  • 1/2 bottle (750 ml) red wine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 piece cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 inch piece ginger, peeled & thinly sliced
  • 3 oz. gorgonzola dolce
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 1 oz. sliced almonds, toasted
  • sprinkling of thyme leaves

1. Combine wine, cinnamon stick, star anise, peppercorn, ginger, sugar & pears in a medium saucepot.

2. Bring to a simmer and cook pears for about 15 - 20 minutes.   Let cool completely in liquid.
    (the longer they sit, the darker they will get)
3. Once pears are cooled completely, remove from poaching liquid.  Strain and put liquid back on heat to reduce down until thick and syrupy. 

4. Thinly slice pears and set aside.
5. Toast bread, top with gorgonzola, pears, honey, reduced poaching liquid and sliced almonds.

  • prosciutto (about 3 slices per piece of bread)
  • parmesan
  • fig jam
  • baby arugula

    1. Toast bread, top with fig jam (homemade or store bought).
    2. Arrange prosciutto on top of jam, add a sprinkling of baby arugula leaves and top with a smattering Parmesan curls.

August 04, 2012

Plum Crazy...

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like every year summer goes by even quicker than it did the year before. 
I wait and wait all winter for stone fruit season to arrive,  daydreaming about all of the amazing things I'll make...  fantasizing about juicy peaches, ripe plums and perfect nectarines. 

Awaiting that first taste of summer, sinking my teeth into the perfect bite, juice dribbling down my chin... 
and then it's August.

When did that happen?!   I realize I barely had a chance to make any of the delectable things I spent so many hours, days, weeks thinking about.  And here we are again, summer more than halfway gone.
So, upon this rather startling revelation I decided I had better get it in gear if I was going to accomplish at least a few of the things I had set out to do.

For those of you who may not know, a crostata is a single-crust, free-form pie.  This is good news for the likes of me as I find rolling out multiple pie crusts in the heat of August a nearly impossible feat. 
If I had central air-conditioning and a marble slab in my kitchen, I'd be much more agreeable.

Plum Crostata

for the dough:
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter (not margarine) cubed into small pieces & chilled
  • zest of one lemon
  • 3 tbsp ice water

In the bowl of a food processor,  pulse together dry ingredients until well combined.   Add in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  I usually keep my butter in the freezer for this so it stays really cold as it is being incorporated.   Add in ice water, pulsing machine until it almost forms a ball.  Do not over work dough.  Remove from food processor and flatten into a disk.  Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.   You can do this a day ahead.

for the filling:
  • 6 ripe plums, sliced 1/4" thick ( I used red & black plums)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon (or 1 whole, if small)
  • 5 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour 
Mix all ingredients together and set aside.

for glaze:
1 egg
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp sanding sugar

assemble crostata:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove dough from refrigerator and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly floured.  Press out the dough until it is approximately 11 inches in diameter. 

You can roll it out with a pin if you like but I chose to just press it out.  My kitchen was very warm and the dough was getting a little too soft, as the butter in the dough was beginning to melt so I had to go with it.  I had already put it back in the refrigerator once...  It was just too warm of a day (lesson learned). 

Place fruit in center and bring up edges of dough to the center, pleating dough as you go.  If you really want to impress, lay fruit in a circular pattern and then fold dough over.  If dough breaks, don't sweat it...  just pinch it back together.  It's supposed to be "rustic", right? 
Well, mine certainly was! 
(The crust didn't hold in a few spots,  let's just say that gave it "personality")

Brush crust with honey/egg mixture and sprinkle sanding sugar on crust.
Bake for 20 - 30 minutes until crust is golden brown and fruit is bubbling.

A scoop of vanilla ice cream on this would be divine...  just sayin'