Grilled Chicken Cutlets with Zucchini, Corn, and Cherry Tomato Sauce

ImageThere isn’t much that’s better in the food world than in-season produce. Everything tastes so much better when it’s in season, and late summer is prime time for zucchini, corn, and tomatoes.

Adam and I went to Connecticut to spend Labor Day with my parents, and my mom and I whipped up this dish on Saturday night. It was easy peasy. The only labor intensive part was the chopping, but as I told my mother, I am a prep whiz.

This was delicious. The warm corn and zuchinni sauce wilted the arugula and the salty cheese on top. Sooo good.

I might try it next time with breaded chicken cutlets — kind of a play on a milanese. The grilled cutlets were good, but I could have used a little extra crunchy texture in there.

Hurry — go grab the last of the summer harvest and try this one. It’s a winner. And don’t be shy with the spice. It was a perfect addition to this dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon, zested; 1/2 a lemon, juiced
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 5 – 6 tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, chopped
  • 4 6-8 ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 ears corn, kernels cut from the cob
  • 2 small or 1 medium zucchini – halved lengthwise, seeded and diced
  • 1 bunch scallions, whites sliced and greens reserved for another use
  • 1 small red chile pepper, such as Fresno, seeded and finely chopped, or about 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh herbs, such as mint, parsley, tarragon or basil, chopped
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • A chunk of parmigiano reggiano, shaved into curls with a vegetable peeler, for garnish
Directions

  1. In a shallow dish, combine the lemon zest and juice with half of the garlic, 3-4 tbsp. of the EVOO and the thyme.
  2. Preheat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to medium-high.
  3. Butterfly the chicken pieces: Open them up like a book by cutting into them horizontally without going all the way through. Once butterflied, pound the meat into thin cutlets; season with salt and pepper. Turn them in the lemon-thyme marinade. Let stand.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tbsp. of EVOO, 1 turn of the pan, over medium-high. Add the corn and lightly brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the zucchini, scallion whites, chile pepper and the remaining garlic to the corn; season. Cook to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the butter and stir to melt, creating a creamy sauce. Remove the zucchini-corn sauce from the heat and toss with the tomatoes and herbs.
  5. Grill the chicken 3 to 4 minutes on each side, then transfer to plates.
  6. Top each chicken cutlet with a cup of the baby arugula and some of the warm zucchini-corn sauce. Top with the parmigiano reggiano curls.
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New England Lobster Rolls

ImageNow, don’t get me wrong. I love crab. Living in Baltimore there is no shortage of crabby goodness – crab cakes, crab dip, crab pretzels, crab pastas, crab eggs benedict. Pretty much anything you can think of to add crab to, we do it here.

But the focus on crab in Maryland steals the spotlight from one of my all-time favorite summer meals. Lobster rolls.

A traditional lobster roll is filled with lobster meat soaked in butter and served on a hot dog roll.

I’m a fan of the butter-only lobster rolls, and whenever I go to Connecticut and order one, that’s the kind you get.

But I also love the not-as-traditional (but equally New-England) version that contains diced celery, mayonnaise, and a little lemon juice. These are the kind I usually make at home.

Don’t even attempt to make your own lobster roll unless you can find New England-style hot dog buns. These rolls have straight-up, white sides and a soft texture. You need the straight white sides so you can slather them in butter and toast them grilled-cheese style to get the golden buttery goodness of a warm toasted hot dog roll filled with cool lobster.

Ok, my mouth is watering now.

New England Lobster Rolls

Ingredients

  • New England-style hot dog rolls
  • Butter
  • Mayonnaise
  • Chopped Celery
  • Lemon
  • Chilled lobster meat

Directions

I don’t have a recipe for these per se. First, you need to obtain your lobster meat. You can buy a lobster, steam it, and pick the meat off of it, you can buy it pre-steamed or pre-picked. It all depends on how lazy you want to be (and how much money you want to spend; convenience is expensive when it comes to lobster).

Cut the lobster into good-sized chunks (you don’t want it too small), add a little celery, a little (I use very little) mayonnaise, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Butter both sides of the hot dog roll and toast it in a pan on both sides, until the sides are golden brown.

Pile the lobster salad into the roll (I usually put a leaf of lettuce in my roll first) and dig in. I usually eat mine with Cape Cod potato chips; french fries work well too.

Bolognese

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I’m really not posting many summery recipes, am I?

To be honest, I’m not that great of a summer cook. The majority of our summer cooking is done on the grill, and involves simple seasoning (olive oil, salt and pepper) or bottled sauces. Occasionally I stumble across a winning marinade.

But as I see it, summer cooking just doesn’t require that much culinary expertise, absent how to grill something effectively (and Adam’s got that part down).

In the summer we eat a lot of salads, sushi, burgers, and similar things that are quick and easy.

But last night I felt like cooking, and my husband requested hamburger helper.

Do you see what I’m dealing with? Hamburger helper? Really?

So I wasn’t making hamburger helper, but I could appreciate the fact that Adam wanted a) ground beef and b) pasta.

I threw together a quick bolognese sauce, bought some fresh tagliatelle, and had a really good winter dish … in the summer.

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It’s ok. Our air conditioning was making in cold in our house.

This was easy to throw together (especially since the supermarkets these days cater to lazy people and sell pre-chopped mirepoix) and it really hit the spot. Oh, and I think ultimately Adam was happier with this than he would have been with hamburger helper.

Bolognese Sauce

Ingredients

    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 onion, finely diced (1/2 cup)
    • 1 carrot, finely diced
    • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
    • 4 ounces pancetta, finely diced (optional)
    • 1 pound ground beef, or a combination of beef and pork (I used just beef)
    • Coarse salt
    • 1/2 cup red or white wine (I used beef stock; didn’t have any wine)
    • One 28-ounce crushed tomatoes (San Marzano if you can get them)
    • 1/2 cup cream or milk (I left this out)
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1 pound spaghetti or other pasta
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Heat a saucepan over low heat. Add the olive oil, onion, carrot, and celery and saute over low heat until lightly caramelized, about 12 minutes. Add the pancetta and beef and cook, separating the meat into small pieces, until browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain off most of the fat. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt.
  2. Pour the wine into the beef mixture to deglaze the pan; stir to loosen the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the wine is almost evaporated. Add the tomatoes and stir in the cream, black pepper, and red-pepper flakes. Gently simmer for about 40 minutes, until the sauce has reduced and thickened.
  3. Start cooking the spaghetti when the sauce is within 10 minutes of being done. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the spaghetti and a generous pinch of salt to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain.
  4. Stir the butter into the bolognese sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the pasta and serve with grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Chicken Piccata

ImageOh, Giada. You know how I feel about you. But, you also know how I feel about your lasagna. I have a similar love affair with your chicken piccata. I love the buttery, lemony, salty aspects of chicken piccata. Know what I don’t love? Capers. So when I eat chicken piccata, I just push the capers to the side. In my mind, they’re just there to make it look pretty.

When I asked my husband what he wanted for dinner on Sunday night, he said chicken piccata. So I sent him out to buy capers, which proved to be a more challenging task than I had anticipated (this is what happens when one’s husband has zero familiarity with the layout of the grocery store). Don’t even get me started on what happened when he discovered there are different varieties of capers.

I didn’t make this on Sunday night. And then on Monday night I decided to make chocolate chip cookies instead of dinner. So Tuesday night dinner it is (promise!).

I generally serve my chicken piccata with parmesan orzo (orzo with butter, parmesan, and parsley) and a green veggie.

Chicken Piccata

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.
  2. In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.
  3. Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.

The Prodigal Chef (and Swedish Meatballs)

ImageWow. I hadn’t realized it’s been two years (two years!) since I’ve posted on this blog. Time flies. What’s happened in the last 2 years? I got engaged, planned a wedding, got married, went on a honeymoon, got promoted, got superbusy, and stopped cooking as much (much to my husband’s chagrin).

I realized, while making cookies (instead of dinner) last night, that I miss cooking.

So I’m going to make a concerted effort to cook more and blog more.

I’ve made this Swedish Meatball Recipe several times. It’s a favorite of Adam’s. It’s not exactly ideal for the 90 degree weather we’re having in Baltimore right now, but file it away for the fall. Oh, and serve them over egg noodles. It’s the only way to eat these.

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Swedish Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2 slices fresh white bread
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons clarified butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • A pinch plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 pound ground chuck
  • 3/4 pound ground pork
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
  2. Tear the bread into pieces and place in a small mixing bowl along with the milk. Set aside.
  3. In a 12-inch straight sided saute pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sweat until the onions are soft. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the bread and milk mixture, ground chuck, pork, egg yolks, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, black pepper, allspice, nutmeg, and onions. Beat on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Using a scale, weigh meatballs into 1-ounce portions and place on a sheet pan. Using your hands, shape the meatballs into rounds.
  6. Heat the remaining butter in the saute pan over medium-low heat, or in an electric skillet set to 250 degrees F. Add the meatballs and saute until golden brown on all sides, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs to an ovenproof dish using a slotted spoon and place in the warmed oven.
  7. Once all of the meatballs are cooked, decrease the heat to low and add the flour to the pan or skillet. Whisk until lightly browned, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the beef stock and whisk until sauce begins to thicken. Add the cream and continue to cook until the gravy reaches the desired consistency. Remove the meatballs from the oven, cover with the gravy and serve.

Lasagna

Lasagna is one of those dishes that I never get right. It’s always too saucy, or not saucy enough. The noodles are too mushy, or too hard. I have tried many iterations of lasagna over the years to disappointing results. So I kind of just gave up on making it. Baked Ziti? Chicken Parm? Eggplant Rollatini? Give me the other Italian casseroles all day long. But lasagna stymied me.

Until I found this recipe.

Now, my dislike of Giada De Laurentiis is not a secret. First of all, her head is too big for her body. Plus she is always wearing low-cut shirts (Adam calls her “Giada De LaBoobies). I don’t like her personality, but I’ve yet to try a recipe of hers that wasn’t good.

So, I would have been content to let other people make lasagna, but Adam (who’s now my fiancé by the way) really likes it, so I figured I’d give it one last try. I read lasagna recipes until my eyes were blurry. Finally, I found this one.

It was phenomenal.

And I’m not really a lasagna person, but this was so good.

It was also really time-intensive and involved, but if you have a Saturday or Sunday morning with nothing to do, it’s well worth it.

So Giada, I guess you’re not all bad.

Classic Italian Lasagna

Ingredients

For the Bechamel Sauce:

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for the lasagna
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk at room temperature
  • pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • salt and pepper

For the Lasagna:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 pound lasagna sheets, cooked al dente
  • 2 packages (10 oz. each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (*I only used one and thought it was plenty)
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Bechamel Sauce: In a 2-quart pot, melt 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When butter has completely melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick, smooth, and creamy, about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg and tomato sauce. Stir until well combined and check for seasoning. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
  3. In a sauté pan, heat the extra-virgin olive oil. Add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Brown meat, breaking any large lumps, until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat and drain any excess fat. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
  4. In a medium sized bowl, thoroughly mix the ricotta and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  5. Into the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish, spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Arrange the pasta sheets side by side, covering the bottom of the baking dish. Evenly spread a layer of all the ricotta mixture and then a layer of all the spinach. Arrange another layer of pasta sheets and spread all the ground beef on top. Sprinkle 1/2 the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into 1/4-inch cubes and top lasagna.
  6. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place lasagna dish on top, cover, and put on the middle rack of the oven to bake until top is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue to bake for about 15 minutes.

Green Bean Casserole

You might think I’m a little bizarre, but for me, Thanksgiving is all about the green bean casserole. Sure, turkey’s good too, but green bean casserole is where it’s at. I’m not really sure what it is — I don’t even LOVE green beans all that much. This Thanksgiving I made a trip across several states to visit Adam’s family in Michigan. They don’t generally have green bean casserole at Thanksgiving, but that wasn’t going to fly with me. So, I made it myself (don’t worry, I shared). I decided to stray from the canned cream of mushroom and frozen/canned green bean version. This one was SO MUCH BETTER. I will never open a can of condensed soup again. Make it from scratch, it’s worth it. I’ll probably make it again before Thanksgiving 2011 rolls around.

Fresh Green Bean Casserole

For the Topping:

  • 4 slices white bread, each slices torn into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 cups canned fried onions (about 6 ounces)

For the Beans and Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed, and halved
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound white button mushrooms, stems removed, wiped clean and broken into ½-inch pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups chicken broth
  • 1½ cups heavy cream

1. For the Topping: Pulse bread, butter, salt and pepper in food processor until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with onions; set aside.

2. For the Beans and Sauce: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees F. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add 2 tablespoons salt and beans. Cook beans until bright green and crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Drain beans in colander and plunge immediately into ice water to stop cooking. Spread beans on paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain.

3. Add butter to now-empty pot and melt over medium-high heat until foaming subsides. Add mushrooms, garlic, ¾ teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; cook until mushrooms release moisture and liquid evaporates, about 6 minutes. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in broth and bring to simmer, stirring constantly. Add cream, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until sauce is thickened and reduced to 3½ cups, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Add green beans to sauce and stir until evenly coated. Arrange in an even layer in 3-quart (or 9×13-inch) baking dish. Sprinkle with topping and bake until top is golden brown and sauce is bubbling around edges, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.