Saturday, June 28, 2014

Company Chicken Salad

Grill an extra chicken breast or two for this really nice chicken salad with mango chutney, raisins and sliced almonds.  You can use poached chicken breast or any other leftover cooked chicken for this recipe.

Major Grey's Mango Chutney mixed with mayonnaise is the sweet secret ingredient in the salad.  If you do not have a mango chutney around, you can get a similar flavor with a tablespoon of apricot jam or fruit spread and 1/8 teaspoon apple cider vinegar. If you like curry, you can add a sprinkle of your favorite blend in as well. 

Spring Chicken Salad
Serves 2

6-8 ounces leftover, cooked chicken- skinned and coarsely chopped
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mango chutney
2 tablespoons raisins (or other dried fruit like cherries or chopped apricots)
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, roasted 
salt and pepper

  1. Combine chicken and celery in a medium bowl.  
  2. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, chutney and raisins.  (Note: This is not a lot of sauce and allows the chicken in the salad to stand out.  If you'd like, you can double the mayonnaise and chutney amounts for a more moist salad.)
  3. Add chutney mixture to chicken mixture and fold to coat chicken well. 
  4. Stir in raisins and nuts, reserving a little of each to top chicken salad as a garnish.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  
  5. Cover chicken salad and let sit for at half an hour to allow flavors to meld.  
Serve over lettuce, in sandwich rolls or pita.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Picnic Zucchini Roll Ups

This is the season for picnics, boating, fireworks shows and dining au pleine aire.  Finger foods make the easiest fare.  Zucchini Roll Ups can cover a lot of ground as a salad, side or even dip and crudité. 

If you are planning an outing these are best made all or in part a day ahead.  They keep well and prevent last minute crunch time in the kitchen. 

Zucchini Roll Ups

18-20 rolls

1 medium-large zucchini
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature so it mixes and spreads easily
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon each fresh, chopped herbs: mint, parsley, basil
Optional filler: roasted red pepper strips, steamed asparagus, julienned carrot, etc
18-20 pitted olives
18-20 cherry or grape tomatoes
18-20 toothpicks

  1. Slice zucchini on a mandolin or vegetable peeler into wafer thin slices.  You may cut the zucchini in half cross wise before slicing or cut the slices in half once cut, whichever is easier for you and your tools.  Aim to end up with 18 zucchini slice halves. 
  2. Brush slice with olive oil, salt and pepper each slice.  Place slices on a cookie sheet and broil 1-2 minutes per side.  Remove zucchini when they are just browning and still flexible.  
  3. Stack 4-5 slices and roll each slice.  Leave to cool. (You can continue at this point or refrigerate zucchini overnight and finish recipe the following day.)  
  4. While zucchini cools, prepare filling. Mix together cream cheese, ricotta and herbs.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  
  5. Finish by unrolling a stack of zucchini slices.  Place slices on a paper towel and turn over to remove a bit of olive oil.  This will make spreading the cheese mixture easier.  
  6. Using a spoon and butter knife or two spoons, dab a spoonful of cheese mixture on each slice and spread to cover slice completely with cheese.  
  7. If you are using a filler, like a piece of roasted red pepper, lay it on the cheese, perpendicular to the zucchini slice.  Roll and secure with a toothpick.  Add an olive to one end and a tomato to the other end of the toothpick to secure zucchini roll in place.  
  8. Store rolls in an airtight container and keep chilled until serving. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Mexican Cobb Chicken Salad

Buried under the bright green tomatillo salsa, crema and chopped avocadoes is a layer of sliced, cooked chicken and lettuce.  Also lined up in this Mexican-inspired Cobb salad are crumbled bacon, chopped tomatoes and two kinds of cheese, cheddar and queso fresco. 

Actually, we didn't have either queso fresco or its cousin farmer's cheese when we made this so we sprinkled in a mild feta.  A few blue corn tortilla chips did double duty as garnish and scoopers. 

Tomatillo salsa lends a bright lime flavor and crema adds a mellow note.  You can also pass some plain vinaigrette around for those who like a more dressed salad. 

Here's how to make the tomatillo salsa and crema to create your own masterpiece dinner salad.  You can use any fresh salsa instead if you are in a hurry but you will see from the various cooking methods provided that you can prepare this salsa alongside whatever you are cooking tonight whether stove top, grilled or in the oven and enjoy it the rest of the week.  Leftover Tomatillo Salsa can be used as base for a quick guacamole (add chopped avocado) or instead of your favorite hot sauce on burgers, tacos or grilled chicken.  Stir a few spoonfuls of Tomatillo Salsa into plain chicken soup to give it a serious lift.  

Tomatillo Salsa
Yields about 1 cup


1 pound tomatillos (about 6)
1-2 jalapeños  (two will make the sauce very spicy, OK to use 1/2 of one)
juice of one lime
1 cup fresh, chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt
optional: 1-2 tablespoons olive oil or water 
  1. Peel tomatillos and rinse them and the jalapeños in water.  
  2. Cook tomatillos and jalapeños by any one of these methods: cover with water in a medium pot, bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes OR lightly oil tomatillos and jalapeños with vegetable oil and grill alongside anything else on the grill, turning as they char and remove when softened OR roast at 425˚F in a oiled roasting pan until softened.  
  3. Once cooked, cool vegetables.  
  4. Remove seeds from jalapeños.  
  5. Place tomatillos and jalapeños in a food processor or blender with remaining ingredients.  Pulse until well blended to a puree.  
  6. If mixture is very thick add a little water or olive oil.  Taste for seasoning, add more salt if needed. 
If you cannot find crema in your grocery store, combine some sour cream or plain Greek yogurt with a little cream to create a pouring consistency. 

What Are Tomatillos, Anyway?

Tomatillos are in the nightshade family (as is the tomato).  They have a citrus flavor, pretty tart with a nice crunch.  Tomatillos are showing up in grocery stores more frequently.  You will find them near avocados and tomatoes or with international produce. They look like small green tomatoes with grey-green papery husks.  We use them raw, chopped up in a salsa where the lime juice breaks them down or we use them cooked as in the recipe above.  FYI: Tomatillos are the key ingredient in most enchilada sauces. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Anniversary Meringues

Last June, I recalled our niece's wedding with a dessert that echoes the flavors of the wedding cake, raspberry and lemon, in an Isles Flotant for Two.  This year, the anniversary tribute gets even simpler with make-ahead vanilla meringue cookies that sandwich raspberry sorbet and get a little crown of lemon curd.

Meringues are easy to make and can be stored in an airtight container for days.  The sandwich cookies can be made on the spot with a scoop of sorbet and a drizzle of warmed lemon curd.  If you'd like a softer cookie, make the sandwiches, wrap in plastic wrap and store them in the freezer until you are ready to serve.  Warm lemon curd in the microwave for 10-15 seconds and drizzle over the cookies or bring to the table for dipping. 

The basic formula for meringues is 1 egg white to 1/4 cup sugar.  A pinch of cream of tartar will help the egg whites form nice peaks when you whip them.  Here is the recipe using two egg whites, which makes about 14-16 meringue cookies.

Pure note: you can purchase good quality meringues if you do not have time to make them and assemble the sandwiches from there.  Check the label to pick ones that have few ingredients and ones that you recognize. 

Two Egg Whites Meringues
Yield 14-16 cookies

2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 300˚F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking pad.  
  2. Place egg whites in a large, very clean bowl.  Use a hand mixer or whisk to beat egg whites until they are frothy.  
  3. Add sugar, about a tablespoon at a time while continuing to whip mixture.  About halfway through adding the sugar, add cream of tartar.  Continue adding the sugar a bit at a time.  Beat until egg whites form stiff peeks.  Note: on more humid days, this will be more challenging. You can add bit more cream of tartar.  If, after 10-15 minutes, you still do not have very stiff peeks, proceed with the recipe.  There is enough air beaten onto the egg whites to create lift in the oven.  You will not be able to create intricate details or pipe your cookies but you will be able to spoon dollops onto the cookie sheet to make little puffs, perfect for a ice cream sandwich.  
  4. Stir in vanilla. 
  5. Next, spoon (or pipe) batter onto cookie sheet.  Each cookie should have 1-2 tablespoons of batter and be placed about an inch apart.  
  6. Bake at 300˚F for 20 minutes, puffed but not browned.  Do not open oven to check on meringues.  
  7. Turn off oven and allow meringues to cool slowly as the oven cools.  This will create a dry and crisp meringue. 
Store cookies in an airtight container.

Chocolate mint chip ice cream with chocolate sauce.
Frozen banana "ice cream" with butterscotch sauce