Almond-Crusted Chicken

I have been feeling dreadfully uninspired in the kitchen lately which is probably due to weekend trips that have kept me from my Saturday morning trips to the market. But I am happy to say that after getting some amazing news which is sure to impact the rest of my life, I have perked right back up and am glad to say I’m out of the culinary doldrums.

My most reoccurring food challenge is to give Caleb food that feels hefty enough to satisfy the appetite of man who works fourteen hour days in the hot, humid Charleston sun while also satisfying my desire for food that doesn’t sit like a rock in my stomach and clog both our arteries. I’ve begun making one true ‘man-food meal’ a week – heavy, meat and potatoes stuff. The rest of the week, I focus on what I always do – well-rounded, healthy meals.

This almond-crusted chicken works wonders in my house because it gives Caleb the feel of fried chicken while eliminating the actual fried element. He loves for me to use the leftovers in his sandwich for lunch the next day. Imagine almond-crusted chicken on toasted focaccia bread with a slice of provolone and sundried tomato pesto. I’m salivating already.

Almond-Crusted Chicken

6 chicken cutlets
2/3 cup crushed roasted almonds
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 egg, beaten
salt to taste, if desired
olive oil

  • Using cutlets cuts out the meat pounding process here. If you’ve had a frustrating day, just use boneless skinless chicken breasts and pound away until breasts are about 1/4″ thick.
  • Set oven to broil.
  • Combine flour and crushed almonds in a shallow dish. Add a dash of salt if you wish. (Feel free to use almond flour or rice flour here. Either would a lovely substitute.)Ground Almonds

Dip chicken in egg and transfer to dish with flour and almond. Even and thoroughly coat.

Place chicken on greased baking baking sheet and lightly drizzle with olive oil.
Pre-Oven

Cook under broiler for 4-6 minutes on each side, until golden and juices run clear.
Fresh Out The Oven

I served with one of my favorite veggie sides – spinach aglio e olio (aka spinach with garlic and olive oil, add a splash of lemon juice and white wine). I have to confess that I used a cheat in this meal – French brie ravioli that I did not make. I pick up my pasta from the farmers market and freeze any excess. Rio Bertolini’s makes wonderful fresh pastas, ranging from squid ink spaghettini and saffron papardelle to the most amazing raviolis you can imagine. The brie ravioli is no exception and I served it simply with a quick creamy basil sauce.

  • Plated
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Poached Shrimp with Warm Fennel & Beet Salad

Served - Adjusted

After a few days of slackened attention to healthful eating, last night’s dinner was refreshingly light and flavorful. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m a huge fan of beets. I’m such a huge fan, I’ve been purchasing two bunches each week, slicing, roasting and using to snack on at work. With fresh shrimp sitting in my refrigerator for two days, I had no choice but to make something shrimp-y and I had just so happened to have a hankering beets, fennel and shrimp – all together.

Shrimp is one of those things a person has to like for me to be friends with them and even for non-shrimp lovers, it’s hard to resist fresh Lowcountry shrimp. We’re kind of known for it, i.e. shrimp and grits. All too many people prefer their shrimp fried which often ruins the delicate, sweet simplicity of this fruits de mer. I, on the other hand, adore poached shrimp. As opposed to boiling, which is an all too violent approach to shrimp, poaching gently simmers your desired food item in just about any liquid found to be palatable. Typically, I poach shrimp in butter and sauvignon blanc, but wanted something a little different this time. I chose to poach in a coconut milk combination which yielded such subtly vibrant flavor. 

I have to admit that I’m terrible at measuring ingredients. Mostly, I eyeball anything I can and operate in the kitchen with a monitor-and-adjust attitude. Take this ‘recipe’ with that in mind. Taste it as you make it so you’re finished product is to your liking. 

PS – the leftover poaching liquid made a great base for a Tom Kha-ish soup! 

Poached Shrimp

1 lb. fresh shrimp, deveined 
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup sodium-free stock
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T fresh basil, chopped
1/2 T lemongrass paste

  • Combine all ingredients except shrimp in a pot. Stir and thoroughly combine. Slowly bring to a simmer.
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  • Allow to simmer for 5 minutes, turn off heat and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  • Bring poaching liquid back to a simmer and add shrimp, leaving peel (you can remove after poaching). Keep a watchful eye over the shrimp and remove from liquid as soon as it is just barely cooked. 
  • I warmed a large kale leaf in a pan with a tiny bit of olive oil, served the shrimp atop the leaf and poured a little poaching liquid on top.

Warm Fennel and Beet Salad

1 large beet, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 bulb fennel, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
splash lemon juice

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  • In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. 
  • Add sliced beet and cook for a about 3-5 minutes or until just softened. 
  • Add minced garlic and sliced fennel and cook until the fennel gains translucence. The beet will make the fennel a lovely shade of magenta. 
  • Add a splash of lemon juice, stir to combine and serve alongside the coconut milk poached shrimp. 

    Wanna know a secret? When I made this last night, I accidentally added a much too large splash of lemon juice and it ended a little too tart for my liking. Don’t do what I did. Be conservative with your splash and only add more if you think it needs it.

Served - Adjusted

The little bit of a tan in the top corner, that’s a PBR. Yep, Pabst Blue Ribbon. I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s still my everyday beer of choice, Caleb’s too.

 

 

 

 

Chilled Cucumber Soup

I’m a huge fan of just about any cold soup. Vichyssoise speaks to my soul and any sort of gazpacho is a regular summer craving of mine. With an excess of cucumber in my refrigerator, kindly given to me by Caleb’s mother from their garden, I couldn’t think of a better way utilize the cukes than a summer soup. I’ve been eating a variety of cucumber salads since spring and thought I should change it up. There are so many cool cucumber soup recipes floating around and while they’re all similar, they tend to differ slightly when it comes to flavor and quantity used. After reading over twenty recipes I whipped this up. Like most things I come up with, this is easily altered to suit individual taste; simply add, omit, increase or decrease desired herbs and you’ll have a new concoction. My end result is well balanced and somewhat on the Thai side of the flavor spectrum.

Chilled Cucumber Soup
5-6 cucumbers, peeled and chopped
2 small banana peppers, seeds removed and thinly sliced
2 c plain Greek yogurt
1 T lemongrass paste
1 T basil
1 T dill
1 T mint
Ingredients

  • In blender or food processor combine half of cucumbers, half of yogurt and 1 pepper. Pulse on high until well combined.
  • Add in herbs. Combine.
  • Add remaining cucumbers, yogurt and pepper.  Pulse until thoroughly blended.
  • Chill for at least two hours or until cool.
  • I chose to serve with a spoonful of coconut milk and chopped canary melon.Served

Flatbread and Muhammara

My most recent food obsession is muhammara. I was first introduced to it a couple weeks ago while at lunch after church. In the words of my pastor, “This is what they serve in heaven.” This stuff is outstanding. It’s kind of like hummus but it’s not. It originated in Syria and is popular in Lebanon, Turkey and the surrounding areas. The key ingredients are roasted red peppers, walnuts and pomegranate molasses. You may also see it referred to as pomegranate hummus or pomegranate muhammara.

Muhammara

 

I regret to say that I have not been attempted to make this myself, preferring for the time being, to buy it by the pound from the Middle Eastern restaurant/deli near my church. What makes this so wonderful is it’s subtle sweetness and mellow character. With the large quantity I’ve been purchasing, I’ve quickly run out of pita and while this is great with fresh vegetables, it’s best with a simple flatbread. So while I cannot provide you with a self-tested muhammara recipe (although there are many out there), I will give you a quick, healthy flatbread recipe that could be used for a number of dishes whether you’re preparing a Greek, Middle Eastern or Indian meal, enjoy snacking on flatbread or use it to sop up soup or sauce.

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Easy Whole Wheat Flatbread

1 1/2 c unbleached whole wheat flour (I prefer King Arthur here)
1 t baking powder
1 t sea salt
1 1/2 c plain Greek yogurt (I prefer Fage)
olive oil

  • In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.
  • Stir in yogurt with spoon until well combined. Using hands, form into a near-ball shape.
  • Lightly knead dough on floured surface for about one minute. Then divide into six balls. Let sit for about ten minutes.
  • Flatten and create rounds about the size of a small pita.
  • Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. Cook rounds one by one, for about 1-2 minutes on each side or until browned and slightly puffed.
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My iPhone takes is old and takes crappy pictures. But you get the idea.

 This one puffed up nicely so it’s too bad I left it on the heat too long. It’s okay, my grandma would just tell me it’s high brown.

 

 

Tuna Tacos – Fourth of July Weekend Part I

For a person who likes to spend hours in the kitchen making dinner, quick on the go meals can be challenging. This three day weekend has been full of friends, errands, vet visits and fireworks, leaving little time for cooking. With that said, I wasn’t unsatisfied with what I threw together.

Between running errands on Saturday, I fixed up tuna tacos. I simply seared a couple tuna steaks, pulled apart the cooked tuna and served atop kale, cucumber and sliced avocado, then topped with plain yogurt (I prefer Fage), diced yellow tomatoes, shredded Mexican cheese and salsa. As with anything you eat, the fresher the better; I wouldn’t touch this if it was made with canned tuna.

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Sriracha White Wine Sauce

Like most people cooking on a budget, I often turn to pasta to create a filling meal which can quickly become repetitive. While I prefer to use a carb curfew (refraining from carbs after 6:00 PM), this doesn’t work well when it comes to satisfying a hungry Mr. Wonderful. With that said, I’m continually making new sauces to liven things up. After deciding I needed to use up some shrimp, I whipped up this sauce and served with linguine and wilted spinach on the side. I also chose to poach the shrimp in the sauce. The mint and sriracha make for a bright sauce that is full of flavor yet light enough for our hot and humid Lowcountry evenings. And who doesn’t love sriracha?
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1 c  dry white wine (Francis Coppola Sauvignon Blanc is my preference)
Splash lemon juice
½ c reserved pasta water
Splash cream
1 T sriracha
¼ c finely chopped fresh mint

  1. In a large pan, bring wine to a low boil for about 5 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in a splash of lemon juice simmer for 5 more minutes.
  3. Add ½ c of pasta water.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and add a splash of cream (do not use milk instead – it will not be the same), gently whisk.
  5. Add sriracha and stir until even distributed.
  6. Remove sauce from heat. Stir in mint. Serve.

*Pasta water is great for stretching sauces and doesn’t create a watered-down consistency due to the starch from the pasta. Right before you drain pasta, use a measuring cup to scoop out 1 cup of the water. If your sauce seems too thick, just add pasta water until you reach the desired consistency. It’s also great to keep in the refrigerator for when you have leftovers that need reheating.

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