Thursday, August 28, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Lemon Rosemary Chicken on Panzanella Salad

Two! Two! Two mints in one!

This month the Barefoot Bloggers made Panzanella (tomato bread salad) as chosen by Melissa of It’s Melissa’s Kitchen and Butterflied Chicken chosen by Stefany of Proceed with Caution.

When this month's recipes were announced, my mind did a quick calculation:

1) a big tub of bread salad is too much for one person
2) an entire grilled butterflied chicken is too much for one person
3) I don't have a grill
4) I don't have a patio
5) None of this matters because
6) I can adapt the chicken to a serving for one because it's so basic; and
7) I can make a small portion of the salad; and
8) I can put the chicken ON the salad for a COLD chicken salad!

Jeffrey! Lunch is ready!

When you deconstruct classic and basic recipes such as these, you're left with a concept that is very easy to adapt. Ina's recipe for Grilled Butterflied Chicken is just a paste of lemon, garlic, olive oil, and rosemary, rubbed under the skin and then grilled. I had a container of recently made Moroccan preserved lemons from my bounty of meyer lemons earlier this summer and that is nothing more than lemons and salt. Add some garlic and olive oil, blend it in a blender cup, and you're good to go. I rubbed it on a chicken breast, marinated it, and then grilled it in a panini pan and let it chill.

Onto the salad. I made it almost as called for, although I typically despise cucumbers and bell peppers. Not a huge fan of capers either, but I was game because often, a dish is a success based on the sum of its parts. I made the salad and dressing as written, except I wouldn't budge on the bell peppers -- nasty.

I tossed it all, chilled, layered the grilled chicken on top, and served. This was a mighty fine tasting salad!

About this challenge:The Barefoot Bloggers join forces and cook or bake recipes by Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten each month, chosen in order by members, and present them for discussion on two Thursdays each month. Our Next Challenge: Ina's Smoked Salmon Spread. Hungry? Please join us at the table!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

PSA: Rite Aid Thifty Style Ice Cream Scoop

I'm calling this a "PSA / Public Service Announcement" for the benefit of the foodie community.

If you've ever had an ice cream cone from a Thrifty Drug Store, now known as Rite-Aid Drugstores, you know they are well-known not just for the inexpensive ice cream cones (when I was a teenager in the 1970s, a single scoop was 10 cents), but for the interesting cylindrical shape of the "scoop" -- which wasn't a scoop at all, but rather a slice of a "tube shape."

I don't know why the shape intriques so many, but I'm right with those customers who have asked many a scooper, over time, where and how they could get a Thrifty Ice Cream Scoop.

All one used to hear in reply was "They are made for and patented by Thrifty" (or Rite-Aid) and there was no further discussion. I'm sure over the years there has been many an employee who adopted one out to a family member, and now, from time to time, they show up for sale on eBay at astronomical prices. I've seen the bids open at $50.00, and it isn't unusual to sell at over $100.00, and the buyers are happy to get them. What price, nostalgia?

This PSA post is for the benefit of all. Hope is on the Horizon. Just by sheer luck I stumbled across the right search terms when I was trying to find another one of the scoops. The Thrifty version is actually a stainless steel trigger-mechanism device, not unlike an "ice cream caulk gun" as seen here.

As I said, these turn up on eBay starting at $50.00 on a fairly regular basis.

What you're looking for, however, is a reasonably priced alternative. This is called the Ice Cream Stacker. They, too, show up on eBay, but they are a reasonable facsimile, accomplish the same task in the same shape as the Rite Aid Ice Cream Scooper (see how I'm using all the right key words in my PSA?) and in keeping with Alton Brown's rule of "no single task gadgets", can be used for many things in the kitchen, from cookie and biscuit cutting to making stacked appetizers and sandwiches. Assemble your canapes or filo pastries, press, cut, and eject your stacked snack. Voila!

You can find an Ice Cream Stacker at a few sources online. I bought mine at Wrapables for $14.95. Fast shipping, I had it in 3 days. You can also find them at Nieman-Marcus, exact same product, for $15.00 each.

Now, I need to make space in my freezer for my ice cream freezer bowl, which is never ready because my freezer is always jammed. Then, I need to browse my Perfect Scoop cookbook.

Or I could just head to Rite Aid and buy a brick of ice cream to play with, which is much more likely.

Monday, August 11, 2008

SpaFlyer Sunday Brunch: Grilled Turkey Cheese Sandwiches

A simple and healthy sandwich of Swiss cheese, homegrown tomato, and smoked turkey, on hearty wheat bread, dipped in egg white and grilled until warm and toasty. Very tasty. Recipe made for SpaFlyer Sunday Brunch -- head on over for healthy spa cuisine.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Naan Pizza

In my continuing "clean out the freezer" mode I was able to whip together a tasty little morsel of pizza today for lunch, using a piece of frozen Trader Joe's Naan bread as the crust base.*

I'd also made a blender cup full of Pizza Sauce, another "use it up" task, over a month ago. I have too many cans of tomato paste. I'm not a big pasta fan and even when I make pasta, it's seldom a tomato based sauce. Still, when I see cans of paste on sale, I think I have to have it and I end up with too much of it in the pantry. I found a pizza sauce recipe that sounded tasty, adapted it for my taste, and my, it was EXCELLENT. Tomato pasta sauce, I don't like. Pizza sauce, I do. ::shrug::

Anyway, saw the sauce, saw the naan, saw the mushrooms -- pizza for lunch!

I coated the slice of defrosted naan with a thin schmear of butter, a thin schmear of pizza sauce, a few tablespoons of grated cheese, 4-5 shaved mushrooms, and baked. Voila, a mighty tasty pizza.

Kate's Pizza Sauce

1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
6 ounces hot water
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons honey
1-2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano or one handful of fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil or 2 teaspoons of pesto or one handful of fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
sea salt to taste

In a small bowl, combine tomato paste, water, Parmesan cheese, garlic, honey and mix thoroughly. Begin to add anchovy paste and all spices, and mix, tasting as you go. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes to blend and adjust seasonings a second time. I added more anchovy paste and honey, for instance. This is a flavor that adds a complexity and saltiness I love. I think many people only think they don't like anchovies -- it's a salty briny flavor that is wonderful and complex, and not fishy when used in this manner.

My jar of pizza sauce has kept very well, for weeks at a time. Easy to spread on toast for a quick Po' Folks Pizza for kids (which is a slice of toast, sauce, and a slice of cheese melted in a toaster oven).

*Do not even consider buying the bakery aisle packages of Naan from Trader Joe's. They are an abomination. Thick, tough, stale, flavorless --- blech. The frozen variety, however (which still pales in comparison to fresh Naan from a restaurant) is a passable pre-made Naan.

Used up: Pizza Sauce (tomato paste), Mushrooms, Frozen Naan

Saturday, August 9, 2008

No Flap, Jack ...

... these are pancakes.

I loved the pancake square technique suggested by Robin Sue at Big Red Kitchen so much, I wanted to leave my office and go home to make them. Immediately. I restrained myself until the weekend, but knew I'd be making these come Saturday morning, and make them I did.

I may never flap my jacks again.

This is SUCH an easy method, I wonder why it's never occured to me before, or why I've never seen it before? You simply butter a baking pan, add your pancake batter, and bake until set. Cut in squares, and serve.

As Robin Sue points out, it's easy to customize these pancakes by any number of additions (fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, etc), but I'm a purist. I like butter and maple syrup, and that's about it -- another reason recipe Robin's appealed to me. It was plain and simple.

I followed her recipe almost exactly, but for using vanilla bean sugar instead of plain, and, I wanted a thinner pancake with more crust to cake ratio, so instead of using an 8x8 pan, I used an 8x12 pan for a thinner, more crusty area bar. They cooked in 20 minutes and popped out easily.

In prepping my pancake squares to eat (I buttered the top of the entire pan), I recalled I had a jar of maple butter waiting to be used, and that was a mighty fine substitution for more butter and syrup. The maple butter is really just a big jar of maple icing, truth be told, and I ended up with Maple Bars which were scrumptious.

A huge plus: Because this is really a method more than a recipe -- really you could use your favorite pancake mix and a toaster oven and have hot breakfast before your hair is dry. Just shake up some pancake batter of your choice and pour it into your buttered pan, and if you place it into a toaster oven which shuts off with the timer, you'll bake them without burning (and get some crusty tops), and they'll be ready by the time your morning shower and toilette is finished. No standing over the stove with a spatula, rebuttering the pan, making people wait their turn for a hot pancake or lamenting over the rejects. These will also freeze like a breeze and I can pop one into a bento box for breakfast at work during the week.

Thanks, Robin!

Robin's Pancake Squares

3/4 cup milk
2 T. melted butter
1 large egg
1 T. sugar
1 cup flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease an 8x8 baking dish (for thicker bars) or 8x12 baking dish (for thinner squares). In a large mixing bowl, beat together milk, butter and egg. Add sugar, then gradually beat the flour in. Carefully stir in the baking powder and salt. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serves 4-6.