Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pine Nut Crusted Chicken Cutlets with Chanterelle Mushrooms

Ahhh chanterelles . . . one of the best things about fall. We are lucky to have two edible varieties of this mushroom that grow in Southeast Alaska. The photo above shows the ridge-like and cross-veined gills characteristic of cantharellus cibarius.

The recipe below is an addendum to my latest Local Flavor column in the Juneau Empire.Click here for the full article, including my recipe for Sautéed Chanterelles with Pancetta and Pine Nuts. This versatile mushroom sauté was used as a topping for a lovely autumn meal:

Pine Nut Crusted Chicken Cutlets with Chanterelles (serves 4 to 6)

This scrumptious dish will wow your dinner guests with the colors, tastes, and smells of the season. If you don’t have access to chanterelles, don’t worry; cremini or even button mushrooms make a fine substitute. Serve with a steamed green vegetable like broccoli or green beans, and a buttery chardonnay.

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced into ¼” thick cutlets
½ cup pine nuts
2/3 cup bread crumbs
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Olive oil, for frying
8 ounces wild rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
Chicken broth, optional
2 cups Sautéed Chanterelles with Pancetta and Pine Nuts (click here for recipe)
Lemon wedges and fresh rosemary leaves, for garnish

First get the wild rice cooking. It takes at least an hour. Follow package instructions, adding bay leaves and garlic to the pot, and replacing water with chicken broth if desired.

If serving with a steamed green vegetable, get the vegetables cleaned, chopped, and set up in the steamer, so all you have to do is turn it on about 10 minutes before dinner is ready.

Prepare recipe for Sautéed Chanterelles with Pancetta and Pine Nuts. Set aside and keep warm. If mixture becomes dry, you can splash in a little chicken stock, or olive oil.

In a food processor combine pine nuts, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Grind to a very fine meal. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil, and preheat oven to 325. Dredge chicken cutlets in the meal, and lay flat on lined baking sheets.

In a large skillet heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Once oil is hot and shimmery, use tongs to add a single layer of chicken cutlets to the pan. Once the cutlets are golden brown on one side, flip them and brown the other side, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Return to baking sheet and set aside (the chicken will not be fully cooked at this point), Work in batches, adding more oil to the pan as needed, until all the chicken has been browned.

Once the rice is nearly finished cooking, place baking sheets on center racks in oven, 5 to 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Rotate pans halfway through cooking. If necessary, reheat mushroom mixture.

To serve, place a mound of rice on each serving dish, top with a few pieces of chicken, and a scoop of the mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with a few fresh rosemary leaves, and serve with lemon wedges, and steamed green vegetable if desired.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Japanese Daydream : Edamame Hummus

I owe this one to Trader Joe's, and to my brother and sister-in-law, Dan and Nicole. They shared their little tub of Trader Joe's Edamame Hummus with me on a recent summer visit to Seattle. It's one of those brilliant ideas that makes you wonder, "Why didn't I think of that?!"

Sadly, there's no "Joe's" in Juneau, so when the hankering hit, I was on my own. Luckily, I had inspected the label closely when first introduced to the stuff. It pretty much read like the ingredient list of any basic hummus, minus the garbanzo beans : tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, etc. Easy enough, right? But I wanted to give it my own thumbprint.

To me, edamame conjures happy Japanese daydreams on my tongue...I taste slick green kidney-shaped beans adorned with crisp crystals of salt, I smell the rich ferment of soy sauce, the deep nasal burn of wasabi, and the fruity fire of pickled ginger. Suddenly I'm at Shiro's or Maneki again, and the floaty warmth of hot sake fills my head. THAT is what I wanted my Edamame Hummus to do. A lofty goal to be sure, but I can say with confidence that I succeeded. Hummus may have origins in the Middle East, but this Japanese-inspired delight will take you on a journey back to your favorite sushi bar. Kanpai!

Japanese-Style Edamame Hummus (makes about 2 cups)

Serve with crispy rice crackers.

1 - 12 oz. bag frozen, shelled edamame (soy beans)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame tahini
1 tablespoon pickled ginger
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
1 large clove garlic, minced

Boil edamame in well-salted water, about 7 minutes or until quite soft. Drain, and rinse with cold water to cool the beans. Add to food processor along with remaining ingredients, and pulse until blended. Taste and adjust seasonings. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Butternut Bisque: Gearing up for the cold

This morning I rolled out of bed to a grey and breezy morning. The thermometer read 47 degrees. So I fixed myself a cup of tea, pulled my puffy coat out from it’s summer hibernation, donned my fuzziest slippers, and stepped outside. From my down-warmed perch on the porch, I watched the waters of Lena Cove ripple and swirl like a moving picture of the wind. Seagulls navigated the gusts, and a murder of crows flapped their way from one tree to another. I sat for almost an hour out there, and all the while I was utterly cozy, nestled in my black down jacket like an oversized raven.

How lovely, I thought to myself, to be so comfortable outdoors, feeling, hearing, and touching the weather rather than watching it through a window.

It’s getting colder and I feel genuinely happy about that. Much as I welcome the heat of summer, the shift in seasons is a beautiful thing, regardless of the weather it brings. Loving the cold, I’ve discovered, is about having the right gear. Noah bought me this coat in Wyoming last year, for Christmas, right before a cross-country ski trip into the heart of Yellowstone—commonly one of the coldest places in the lower 48. Temperatures barely brushed the positive side of zero while we were there. I loved that trip, and thanks to Noah and my new puffy, I was never cold.

Yellowstone N.P., Lone Star Trail (Where's Ginzo?)

“I am in love with this jacket,” I told Noah. “I can’t believe I ever went into the backcountry without one. Why have I ever been cold cold, ever?”

Loving the cold is about having the right gear on the inside too. People of the Northern regions, this is no time for gazpacho! It’s time to eat warming foods. Seasonal foods. Foods that are nutrient dense. Foods like root vegetables, winter squash, dried beans and grains, served in soups, stews, gratins, and with slow-roasted meats.

There are a lot of ways to think about warming foods, but any way you slice it, winter is approaching in the Northern hemisphere, and if you want to feel joyful about that, give yourself the right gear, both inside and out. You’re on your own with the puffy coat, but what I can do is give you this recipe for Butternut Squash Bisque. It’s like a down jacket for your tummy.

Butternut Bisque (serves 6 as a main course)

When I made this soup for one of the Thursday night feasts at Rainbow Foods, I got feedback from more than one customer saying, “I don’t like squash, but I loved this soup.” Luscious, smooth, and deceptively healthy, this is squash even your kiddos might like. Serve with Cheese Toast (recipe below) for a satisfying meal.

Dairy does not freeze or boil well. Soup may be frozen for up to 2 months, if you hold the milk and cream, and add it just before serving. When reheating the soup, take care not to let it come to a hard boil.

1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, roughly chopped
¼ cup sherry
1 med. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1” cubes
2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and cubed
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Few grinds of black pepper
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary
½ cup half and half
½ cup milk

1. In a large (5 quart) soup pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion. Saute until onions begin to brown in spots, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Add half the sherry and continue cooking until liquid has evaporated and onions once again begin to brown in spots, about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan by adding the remaining sherry and continue cooking until liquid has evaporated and onions are a rich brown, about 1 minute, stirring. This process is called caramelization, and caramelizing the onions will help bring out their sugars (i.e. sweetness).

2. Add squash, carrots, celery, and apples to the pot along with ¼ cup stock, and cook covered, stirring occasionally until vegetables have begun to soften, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Add stock, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce heat to medium low. Cook until squash is very soft, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Remove from heat, and add rosemary, milk and half and half to the pot. Using a blender, puree the soup in batches. USE CAUTION when blending hot liquids. Steam pressure can build up in the pitcher, causing the lid to pop off when you turn the machine on. The easiest way to avoid burns and a hot mess is to fill the blender no more than halfway when pureeing hot liquids, and start on a low speed, and gradually work your way up.

Serve warm with cheese toast (recipe below).

Cheese Toast (makes 6 hearty servings)

1 baguette or artisanal loaf, sliced into 12 – 1/4” thick pieces
1 cup grated cheese (Gruyere is best, but any good melter will do)
Olive oil, or olive oil cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray or lightly brush bread with olive oil. Sprinkle with cheese, and bake 12 to 15 minutes or until crisp and melty. Serve warm with Butternut Bisque.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Good Morning Granola

So I’ve been thinking about the most important meal of the day, and how to get better about eating it. The reason why, among many, is that September has become a kind of “cleanse” month for me.

Scratch that.

September has become a kind of lose the stress-induced spare tire and get ready for our summer vacation month. That’s right, our summer vacation is about a month away, and begins every October when the last cruise ship is long gone from Juneau, and we have a few months off before heli ski season starts up. For the last four years, Noah and I have been on a seasonal routine where we fit 12 months of work into 8 or 9, and try as I might, the heavy summer grind takes a minor toll on my bod.

Our summer eating routine reads like a primer on how to gain weight:

Step 1: Skip Breakfast
We are both so busy in the summer that a regular breakfast consists of caffeine, and maybe a yogurt.

Step 2: Get Ravenously Hungry Before Eating Again
It’s go go go until 2 o’clock rolls around and you’re so hungry you’re ready to raid the fridge, eat a bucket of fried chicken, or blow an extra 300 calories snacking-out while you procure some form of midday meal.

Step 3: Stress Out, then Veg Out
When you hit the ground running, and don’t stop for 12 to 14 hours (thanks to AK summer daylight), it’s hard not to have an extra beer or helping of whatever when you finally put your feet up.

Step 4: Eat Your Biggest Meal of the Day Right Before Bed
For Noah and I, when we have but a couple waking hours together each evening, we try to make dinner time special. Fire up the grill, open a bottle of wine, sit on the deck and share the stories of our day…usually around 8:30 or 9 at night. We eat healthy stuff, but dinnertime can definitely be too much of a good thing. Then it’s straight to bed for a repeat.

While looking at my charts, my doctor once remarked, “You’re kind of opposite most people. You gain a little weight in the summer and lose it in the winter.” Not like I’m putting on 20 pounds—more like 3 to 5, but still it requires management. Neither of us is overweight, but part of being beyond our twenties is staying on top of it, and this time of year I am getting ready for some serious play time…in a bathing suit.

So…breakfast. It’s true what they say, and I have learned (from the school of hard knocks) that when I skip it, I overindulge at dinner time. One of the quickest ways to shrink my lil’ pooch down is to go to bed just a little bit hungry. After a couple days my whole routine starts to shift, and I start to wake up with a real desire to eat. Within a week or two I’ve made friends with my pants button again.

Big, healthy, filling breakfast = smarter lunch, conscious snacking, and better discipline at dinner. And that = me strutting down the beach in a two-piece. No pooches allowed.

Good Morning Granola (makes about 5 cups)
A little bit of molasses and ginger gives this cranberry almond granola a rich mahogany spice. Sprinkle ¼ cup of this on top of your yogurt, add a diced banana, and you’ve got a 400 calorie breakfast that will carry you all the way to a healthy lunch.

Granola is one of those “technique” things. Once you’ve got the grain to nut to seed to fruit ratios down, as well as the right amount of oil and sweetener, and the correct baking time and temperature, the possibilities are endless. Feel free to plug in other ingredients to find your signature blend.

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
¼ cup chia, sesame, or flax seeds (or a combination)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ cup honey
¼ cup maple syrup (or all honey)
2 tablespoons molasses
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, diced (optional, for ginger lovers)

Preheat oven to 300. Grease a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large mixing bowl combine oats, almonds, seeds, salt, and spices. Stir to combine.

In a separate small mixing bowl combine honey, maple syrup, molasses, vanilla, and canola. Stir well until thoroughly mixed.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and toss to coat evenly. Spread the mixture evenly on baking sheet and place in oven on middle rack. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and toss with dried fruit. Granola will dry as it cools. Once cool, store in an airtight bag or container. Keeps for several weeks.
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