Saturday, February 28, 2015

Greek Lemony Grilled Chicken (that's Not Grilled) with Summer Peach Salsa (in the Winter and with Plums instead)

Dear Lauren,

It's nice to think we always have just exactly what we need on hand when we're ready to cook. But often, it just doesn't turn out that way. Dad and I shop almost daily and by that I mean, I make lists and Dad stops on the way home from work and shops. He likes it, I swear! It's always such a wonderful thing when I come upon a recipe I really want to make and I realize I already have everything here! Or mostly everything. Or enough that I can improvise. And I really love it that I've cooked enough and gained the confidence to try things off the cuff. I credit Dad, prolific cooking on my own, and the various cooking groups to which I belong for this extra bit of confidence. Also, I've eaten at a lot of great restaurants in many difference cities. Also, there are great cooks in the family. I have quite the imagination to boot. Etc.

All of this to say that I wanted to make some peach salsa but I only had plums. I needed jalapenos but alas, no fresh, hot peppers to be found. The salsa wanted a red onion but I had a sweet, white one. Dad was out of town! So, I decided to wing it and I'm so glad. This salsa is delicious and perfect with this chicken. I'm sure many people already know that a tiny bit of salt with plum is incredible but I didn't. Now I do.

Lemony Grilled Chicken (that's Not Grilled)
adapted from It's All Greek to Me cookbook

2 lemons, juiced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
5 green onions, white parts only, sliced thinly 

extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds chicken breast (about 3-4 breasts), sliced lengthwise in thirds like "chicken tenders", rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel, sprinkled with kosher salt and finely ground black pepper

Place all marinade ingredients directly in a gallon size Ziploc. Zip it and shake it until combined. Or you can use a whisk to combine the ingredients. It's up to you. Drop in the chicken tenders. Squeeze out the air from the Ziploc before sealing it. Place the bag in the refrigerator overnight.

Over medium high heat, add a little oil to a cast iron skillet. When hot, add each tender after shaking off as much of the marinade as you can. Leave about an inch between the tenders so they don't steam. Cook for about 4 minutes. Don't move the tenders around during that time. Then cook them on the flip-side for about 4 minutes. Remove from the pan to a serving plate and enjoy with the salsa (see next recipe). You can serve both the chicken and the salsa over a mixed greens or you can serve it over rice. You can also take warm pitas and make yourself some Greek-style tacos.

Summer Peach Salsa (in the Winter and with Plums instead)
adapted from It's All Greek to Me cookbook
2-3 ripe plums, pitted and chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 sweet white onion, chopped
1/2 bunch of Italian flat-leafed parsley, chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the first 6 ingredients together and then season with the salt and pepper to taste. Serve over or along side chicken or fish or anything you like. Feel free to experiment with the ingredients.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Carne Guisada - Love in a Bowl or a Taco, Your Choice

Dear Lauren,

This Carne Guisada is better than homemade. I call it Williemade. You can call it Dadmade. I really hope this recipe will duplicate what he made today. He just cooks and he never really follows a recipe unless he's baking. I've tried to write up his recipes before and sometimes some of the magic is missing. He assures me he's given me all the magic this time!

Carne Guisada
by Willie

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 pounds top round roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cups beef broth made with Better than Bouillon*
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon Penzey's Crushed Jalapeno Peppers*
1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 can diced tomatoes, with liquid
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 sweet white or yellow onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

flour tortillas
cooked white rice
pico de gallo

Brown meat in 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat to sear. Place meat in a slow cooker along with bouillon, garlic powder, cumin, crushed jalapeno peppers, black pepper and can of tomatoes. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or until the meat is tender. 

Heat oil in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add flour and stir constantly for 8-10 minutes until dark brown, but not burned. Add onion and green bell pepper and stir until the onion is soft or translucent. Add mixture to the slow cooker. Cook for an additional 2 hours on high heat. 

Serve meat in tacos or serve the meat and broth in a bowl over rice. Garnish with guacamole and pico de gallo.

*You can substitute products other than those named here, but it won't be the same. Just sayin'.


P.S. I ate this on a cold day and it warmed me to my core.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Marinated Mushrooms

Dear Lauren,

I've been placing bets with myself over who would do it first. Every morning I sit on the spot on the couch closest to the arm and in front of the ottoman. At night, Dad does. Every morning I balance my coffee cup on the arm like it's an end table. Every night, Dad does the same with a Diet Coke. The old sofa arms were rolled and a little flattened with age and made better end tables. The new sofas have track arms, but I like how they look.

Maybe I should go drink my coffee upstairs where the old couch is?

Yes, I spilled the coffee this morning. 

This has nothing at all to do with mushrooms, does it? 

I'm not much of a vinegar fan, but I had a baked chicken dish that I wanted to make and it called for mushrooms. Mushrooms can be kind of bland so I thought, "why not?" Let's marinate! The chicken dish was all the better for these mushrooms and I really think the orange zest I added helped, too. I'm still working on that chicken recipe, you'll have to wait for it!

Scrambled Eggs with Fresh Parsley
and Sauteed Marinated Mushrooms
Marinated Mushrooms

8 ounces mushrooms
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup wine vinegar (red or white - I used sherry wine vinegar)
lemon juice from half a lemon, about 1 Tablespoon
a heaping Tablespoon fresh chives, minced
a heaping teaspoon fresh tarragon, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
a heaping teaspoon fresh dill, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced

Clean the mushrooms and set them aside. You can slice, quarter, or leave them whole based on what you will use them for. Put all the rest of the ingredients in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and shake until well-combined. Taste and make adjustments for salt. Add the mushrooms to the bag and refrigerated for at least 4 hours. Serve.


P.S. I won $50 on the bet!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Vacation Fish

The salmon shown here is served with rice grits.
Dear Lauren,

Most years we have a family get-together somewhere in North America with my parents, my sister and her family, my brother, and my family. This year's trip will include Flagstaff, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon. We have all taken part in the planning this year and my part was to plan the menus. You'd think that would be a no-brainer for me, but apparently that is just what I have this year - no brain. So, with very little time left, here I am again, trying to get the meals planned.

This fish dish is a winner for an occasion such as ours, but I really cannot think of any occasion for which it wouldn't be a winner! It takes so little prep and cook time and it tastes delicious! 

Vacation Fish
Adapted from Trout David from Secrets of the Best Chefs
Serves 2

1 large fish filet, skin intact, about 1/2 pound (I've used salmon, the original recipe used trout, you can use whatever fresh fish that you like)
Salt and pepper
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Zest of 1 lemon, cut the lemon into wedges for serving
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (Whatever you like and have available. The author suggested oregano, sage, and basil. I had all of these in my herb garden and they were delicious with this dish!)
1/4 cup olive oil

Put your oven rack 1 inch from the broiler and preheat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Place the fish on the baking sheet, skin side down, and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl, and top the fish with this mixture. Let the fish marinate on the counter or in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes.

Cook the fish for about 5 minutes, until the fish is firm and there are a few bubbles in the herby olive oil. You can take two knives and make a small separation in the herbs and into the fish to see if it is done to your liking.



P.S. Lauren, I am looking forward to the day-trip you planned for us with All-Star Canyon Tours. Will Carson overcome his fears and get on the helicopter? Will any of us survive the Grand Canyon hike? Will the VIP treatment really be VIP? We will soon see!

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Dear Lauren,

The first time I ever had chilaquiles, I made them. I'd rather have something new in a restaurant first and then try my hand at it so I know what I'm aiming for. Wouldn't you? But, that fall the allure was just too great because I'd read that making chilaquiles with Thanksgiving turkey was a great way to use up leftovers and I loved the idea of it! The reality was even better and I became a big time chilaquiles lover from that day forward! I suggest you put chilaquiles on your list for Thanksgiving leftovers, too. Or, you can make them with rotisserie chicken or eggs, like I did today.

The green salsa is wonderful. Put it on your list of salsas to make and not just for chilaquiles. As you can see, the color of the salsa is excellent! So vibrant and pretty! Tastier than any green salsa I have ever made. 

Adapted from Secrets of the Best Chefs (Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez, Founder, Hot Bread Kitchen, New York City

For the tomatillo salsa:
1/2 pound tomatillos, husks removed, washed
3 Poblano chilies, skins charred and removed, seeded and deveined
3 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 small onion, chopped
Salt to taste

1 Tablespoon olive oil
Corn tortilla chips or strips*
4 fried eggs, or 8 egg whites made into 4 egg white omelets
Radish, sliced or chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
4 ounces queso fresco or cotija cheese, grated
Mexican crema or sour cream (optional)

Add the tomatillos to boiling water and cook until the tomatillos are soft. Drain. Add all tomatillo salsa ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until mostly smooth. Add salt if needed.

In a saucepan, add the salsa and 1/4 cup of water over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add tortillas strips or chips and cook for about 1-2 minutes until they have softened. Divide the mixture between 4 plates and top with egg and radish. Serve hot

*To make your own tortilla chips: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Get out a rimmed baking sheet and cover it with a sheet of parchment paper to make for an easy clean up. Stack your tortillas and cut in half. Stack them again and cut them in 1/2-inch strips along the short edge. Place the tortillas on your baking sheet and pour the oil on them. Toss them til evenly coated and then spread the tortilla strips in a single layer on the sheet. Bake for 4-5 minutes til crispy. Watch closely so you don't overcook them. Set aside. (You can also cut your corn tortillas in triangular shapes if you wish.)


P.S. Lauren, do you remember that first year I made chilaquiles with turkey leftovers? We lived in Valencia and I loved that house and Starwood Place, our street! Loved it, still my favorite!