Sunday, May 30, 2010

Chicken with Tarragon and Leeks

This recipe rocked. Really, that's all there is to it. =) I know, I know, the pictures kind of...well...are horrible. It must have been bad lighting that day.

Ok, I guess I'll explain. I liked this recipe for a lot of reasons:
1) It has tarragon and chicken - yum.
2) It can be made in the crockpot.
3) I can cook a chicken in the slow cooker first and then use that meat - making my meal extremely budget-friendly.
4) It reminded me of what I always hope a chicken pot pie will taste like, but it never does. It was thick, rich, delicious, comforting, easy...
5) It has leeks - always a good thing.
Do I really need to go on?

I mean, it's not like it's something you'd serve at a wedding, it's a home-cookin' comfort it's-been-a-busy-day kind of meal. Still, with that said, I loved it. My husband loved it. My kids loved it. I'd make it again any day!

Fresh tarragon really made a difference with this one - really, a big difference. It took it from a goulash of flavors to a "Oooo - what is that flavor??" meal.
By the way, leeks are very easy to work with - they're in the onion family, and there's nothing scary about an onion. Here's a great tutorial (although I cut them a little larger than she does here for this recipe): How to cut a leek.

I changed the meal into a little more of a stew rather than separate ingredients. I cooked the chicken in the slow cooker and then shredded it and followed the recipe as directed (only I just threw in the chicken until it looked like a good amount, I didn't use 8 chicken thighs like the recipe calls for). I also threw in a bunch of sliced mushrooms that I had on hand for the last hour or so. Thought it was a nice touch.

5 stars.

Recipe here and below.

Chicken with Tarragon and Leeks
Serves 4 Hands-On Time: 15m Total Time: 4hr 30m


1 1/2 pounds baby new potatoes (about 16)
8 small skinless chicken thighs (1 1/2 pounds)
3 leeks (white and light green parts), halved lengthwise and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup dry white wine
Kosher salt
1 10-ounce package frozen peas
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon


Place the potatoes on the bottom of a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add the chicken, leeks, wine, and 1 teaspoon salt.
Cook, covered, until the chicken and potatoes are tender, on high for 3 to 4 hours, or on low for 6 to 7 hours.
Transfer the chicken and all but 4 of the potatoes to plates. Using a fork, smash the remaining potatoes into the cooking liquid to thicken.
Add the peas and cream and cook just until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Spoon over the chicken and sprinkle with the tarragon.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Ok, the name of this food alone is going to make it seem very intimidating. However, I want you to stop for just a moment and look at the actual food and recipe itself - it doesn't get easier...or tastier, I might add! And let me tell you: it's even better than it sounds!! I saw this on Smitten (of course) and knew instantly that I needed to make it. I love eggs, they're a comfort food to me - and tomatoes+eggs=a delicious thing. I thought the combination of ingredients was genius. This recipe was especially exciting to me because it was very budget-friendly as well! I will say - it surpassed my expectations. I found myself going back for more and more...and more the next day. I think it might be my new ultimate comfort food - Frosted Mini Wheats at 11:00pm just took a back seat. No really, I liked it that much.
I served it with Naan bread and thought it was brilliant. I made one recipe and it fed our family of 4 with just a few left-overs, so if you are cooking for 4 adults you may want to increase the amount you make.

I do have to admit that everything was going great until I dropped all the eggs in, as the recipe indicates and my pot looked like this:
A little unnerving to see that many eggs swimming in a pot of tomatoes, I have to admit. But I have faith in Smitten, so I proceeded. In just a few minutes my pot was perfection and I had a delicious meal waiting for me. Thank you, Smitten Kitchen, for bringing me food I didn't even know I loved.

For a hilarious review about why you should make Shakshuka - and for the recipe, click here. You can also scroll down for the recipe.

5 stars.

Shakshuka [Eggs Poached in Spicy Tomato Sauce]

Adapted from Saveur

Serves 4 to 6

1/4 cup olive oil
5 Anaheim chiles or 3 jalapeƱos, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped (I was nervous and only used 2 Anaheims; I would go for 3 or 4 next time for a more moderate but still gentle kick)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
Kosher salt, to taste
6 eggs
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Warm pitas or naan bread, for serving

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.

Put tomatoes and their liquid into a medium bowl and crush with your hands. Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt.

Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and parsley and serve with pitas or naan bread, for dipping.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Escarole Calzone

Deborah Madison has done it again. I was first introduced to Deborah Madison when I purchased her cook book, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. You don't have to be a vegetarian to by her book, it's just a great way to incorporate vegetables and whole-foods-cooking into your normal meal rotation.
I quickly fell in love with her recipes that showcase a large assortment of foods and flavors. Her recipes are well-thought out; as you bite into each dish each flavor compliments another. Her recipes are intelligent recipes, if you know what I mean. The kind where you think 'Hmmmm, I never would have thought to put this-or-that in here, but it makes all the difference...brilliant!" the whole time you're eating it. Eating her food is truly an experience and I keep going back for more.
With that preface, I introduce to you her Escarole Calzone which, quite literally, blew me out of the water. It was unbelievable! Walnuts! Escaraole! Olives! Capers! Fontina cheese! Balsamic Vinegar! What an amazing assortment of flavors.
Now, it was a bit of work to make your own dough and do all the chopping, so you could potentially take shortcuts like buying pre-made dough, OR you can plan ahead and make the dough a few days in advance and then freeze it after it proofs the first time and it works just fine (which is what I did). I really liked her dough recipe. I even brought some over to friends already cooked and they froze them and then ate them a month later and said they were delicious! So many options...
As far as actually eating it, the blending of flavors was amazing, so much to munch on, so to speak. I thought the olives made the dish (I used Kalamata), and I also loved the kick of the red pepper. I loved feeling like my pizza wasn't just about sauce and cheese, it was about flavors blended together and spices sizzling on my tongue. The recipe was so well thought-out and just so yummy. Mmmm. I savored every bite of this deliciousness!
Not all of mine turned out beautifully, some of them were just so-so looking, but once I got the technique of putting my thumb down and then pulling over the dough right next to it and pinching it, they all turned out nice and pretty!Oh yeah, my grocery store was out of escarole, so I used kale, but you could also use endives or other types of leafy greens.
5 stars.

Deborah Madison's Escarole Calzone

For the pizza dough:
1 1/2 C warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 to 1 cup whole-wheat flour, to taste
3 to 3 1/2 cups flour

For the filling:
1/2 cup walnuts
salt and freshly milled pepper
2 bunches escarole, separated at the base
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to finish
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata or Nicoise olives
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
3/4 cup grated mozzarella
3/4 cup grated fontina
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1 to 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Pour 1/2 cup of the water into a mixing bowl, stir in the yeast, and set aside until the foamy, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining water, olive oil, and salt, then beat in the whole wheat flour followed by enough white flour to form a shaggy dough. Turn it out onto the counter and knead until smooth, adding more flour as needed to keep it from sticking. For a crisp, light crust, pizza dough should be on the moist side, which means it will be slightly tacky.
Put the dough into an oiled bowl, turn it once to coat, then cover with a towel and set aside to rise until doubled in size, 40-60 minutes. Turn the dough onto the counter and divide into 6 equal parts. Shape each piece into a ball, set on a lightly floured counter, cover with a towel, and let rise for another 20 to 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a baking stone, heat it at the same time.
Discard any escarole leaves that are yellowed. Wash, then coarsely chop them. Heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat with the garlic and pepper flakes. When the garlic is fragrant, add the escarole and saute, turning it frequently with tongs until tender, about 7 minutes. (You may need to do this in two batches.) Remove to a colander and press out as much liquid as possible. Combine with the remaining ingredients except the oil, seasoning to taste with vinegar and plenty of pepper.
Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Use two to make into rolls or breadsticks. Roll the rest into four thin 6 1/2 inch circles and set them on a floured pizza peel or the back of a sheet pan. Let them rest for 15 minutes. Place the filling over half of each circle, leaving a 1-inch border. Brush the edge with water, fold the top down, then crimp the edges. Slide the calzone onto the baking stone and bake until browned on top, 15 to 2o minutes. Brush with olive oil to make them shine.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sweet Potato Fries

Mmmm mmmmm mmm! Is there anything you could make that could sound more delicious? How about if I mentioned that the dip is plain yogurt mixed with maple syrup and cinnamon? Yes, it really just got that much better!
What I love about these is that they're notchyer average side dish. They mix things up a little. Play with the amount of salt on the fries and the and the syrup/cinnamon mixture until you get it just how you want it.I find that broiling them for the first 4 or 5 minutes and then shifting it to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes creates a good combination between crispy/moist fries. They're really just so easy.
I served this with the Caribbean Halibut with Mango Salsa. Talk about a dinner with some flavor! It was a lot of chopping, so maybe I'd only serve them together again on a special occasion, but it was delicious. Worth it, even.

These really are so fun. I've made them 2 or 3 times now, which is sayin' something! 4 stars.

My friend, Heidi, from Made by Heidi gave me this fabulous recipe. Thanks, girl!

Sweet Potato Fries with Sweet Cream Sauce
3-4 Sweet Potatoes, sliced long-ways
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil for basting
Kosher Salt to taste

1/2 Cup Sour Cream or Plain Greek Yogurt
Maple Syrup to taste (1-3 Tablespoons)
Cinnamon to taste

Slice sweet potatoes long ways, into about 1/2 inch spears. Toss or coat with olive oil. Line a cookie sheet with foil and place a cooling rack or metal rack on top of it. Place the sweet potatoes on the rack and sprinkle kosher salt to taste on top. Broil for 4-5 minutes, and then turn the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Let roast for 20 minutes, checking often as cooking times will vary depending on oven and thickness of fries.

While fries cook in the oven, mix together the sour cream/yogurt with the maple syrup and cinnamon to taste. Place in refrigerator.

Serve the fries with the dip. Enjoy!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Caribbean Halibut with Mango Salsa

Just that title is enough to make my mouth water. I'm a big believer that seafood can be delicious (delicious), but it needs to be done right. You need to pick a good fish. You need to cook it well. You need to have a fantastic recipe. This recipe is right up there with Emeril's Salmon for me. Just so much flavor, and so perfectly paired, it just can't be beat.When you first read the recipe you may think it's not worth all that chopping plus you have to blacken it and then put the fish in the oven. However, I usually do the chopping for the salsa in the morning, so all you have left is to marinade and preheat your oven in the evening. It's fast and really, just delicious. The blackening process sears in all the flavor without actually having to fry it, which I think is brilliant. Then, the oven gets it nice and moist. Mmmm, my mouth is watering right now!If you don't like heat, then just reduce the jalapeno amount. I think they give it a great flavor, so I wouldn't throw them out all together. And the salsa, the SALSA. You just can't forgo that on this dish, the flavors pair together beautifully. They just can't be separated.
I've made this dish with Haddock and Tilapia and both turned out just fine. Haddock is a very 'un-fishy' tasting fish, if you are skiddish about cooking fish.

Here's that perfect texture when it's just ready to come out. Still moist and plush looking, but cooked through and just getting a little flaky.I find that as long as the fish is pretty close to room temperature when you begin cooking it, the timing is pretty spot on, let me know if anyone finds anything differently!

I'm not sure where this recipe came from as I got it years ago from a friend and we altered the recipe until it was perfect.

5 Stars. For sure.

Caribbean Halibut with Mango Salsa:

4 Halibut or Swordfish steaks (about 6 oz)

3 limes
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped, divided in half

2 garlic cloves, pressed

1 tsp olive oil

¼ tsp salt

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Caribbean jerk seasoning (or a combination of seasonings to your liking)

1 recipe mango salsa (below)


For halibut and marinade, rinse halibut and pat dry with paper towels. Zest limes to measure 1 teaspoon (set zest aside for salsa). Juice limes to measure 4 tablespoons juice. Finely chop jalapeno pepper in a food processor, combine 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, half of the jalapeno pepper, garlic, oil, salt and black pepper: whisk until blended. Place halibut and marinade in a resealable plastic food storage bag; turn to coat. Marinate in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

For halibut: Preheat oven to 400F. Remove halibut from bag being sure some jalapeno remains on the top of the fish. According to taste, season the tops with Caribbean Jerk seasoning. Add a little olive oil to a skillet and heat over high heat on stove. When the oil and pan are hot, place halibut top side down on the skillet and blacken for 1 minute. Remove from skillet and place halibut in a greased pan with right side up again. Cook for 8 minutes or until halibut flakes easily with a fork. Serve topped with mango salsa.


Prep: 20 minutes Chill: 2 hours

1-1/2 C chopped, peeled mango (papaya, peaches, plums, and/or pineapple will also work)
1/2 C chopped red or green sweet pepper
1/4 C thinly sliced green onions (2)
1/4 C snipped fresh cilantro or parsley
2 tablespoons lime juice or lemon juice
1 to 2 fresh jalapeno or serrano peppers, seeded and finely chopped, or 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Anaheim pepper

In a medium mixing bowl stir together fruit, sweet pepper, green onions, cilantro or parsley, lime juice or lemon juice, and jalapeno, serrano, or Anaheim pepper. Cover; chill at least 2 hours before serving.

Serve as a dip for chips or fresh vegetables or as a condiment for tacos, quesadillas, burgers, steaks, chicken, or fish. Makes about 2 cups.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

How to slice a mango (the easy way)

What, you thought I was gone forever? =) So, I may have had a bad case of moving states, laryngitis, pink eye, looking for a house, and finals all at the same time. But I'm back and I have some recipes with your name written all over them! But first, how to slice a mango.
The other day I was eating dinner at a friend's house with a few people. I watched as 2 women painstakingly cut a couple of mangoes and I nearly cried for them because it was just so difficult. Ugh, that stringy fruit, that impossible pit in the middle. It can be tricky.
However, there is an easy way, people! Really, there is. And it doesn't even involve skinning the thing. It dawned on me that many a good cook is probably unaware of how desperately easy (and kind of cool) cutting a mango can be, so I thought I'd share here for those who are still not sure of what I'm talking about.
So without further ado, I present to you: How to cut a mango.
Step 1: Locate where the seed/pit is. Many people do not realize that this quiet little unassuming mango is actually giving away all its secrets. Hold up your mango and look at it, there should be a region that seems a little more peaked and oblong than the rest of the mango:
If you still don't see it, here's some visual help:Ok, so that's the seed/pit thingy.
Step 2: Cut just to the left and right of that region by about 1/3 of an inch, on this line:
See how the line is just to the left of the shiny portion? I'm going to cut there, with the intent of just grazing or missing the pit of the mango, like so:
Then, I'll cut the other side in much the same fashion, letting the seed guide my knife, so that I don't cut through it or too far away from it. The goal is to get as much mango as possible with as little stress as possible:
Voila:Step 3: Ok, now for the fun part, cutting it. Alright, you've now successfully maneuvered your way around the pit (phew!). It's time to cute this juicy fruit up into pieces. Score it (up and down way first and then side to side, it's just easier with the grain of the mango itself). You'll want to ensure at this point that you don't push too hard and cut your own finger by going through the mango skin. That's not too difficult, just thought I should mention it.
Next, the best part:
Step 4: Take your fingers and push the middle of the skin and your mango will POP open, like a flower:
Isn't it pretty? Then you just skim your knife along the skin of the mango and the pieces will fall off.
And that's it. No skinning, not trying to wrestle with that dang pit. Just pretty, delicious fruit.

Now, go buy those mangoes and go to town! I'll have a delicious mango salsa recipe all ready for you tomorrow!