Author Archives: saltandserenity

Sticky Chicken Lettuce Cups with Corn Salad

chicken and corn saladConsider this post to be a Public Service Announcement (PSA) warning you about the dangers of drinking and grocery shopping. You would think that I had learned my lesson last year while visiting my friends Marla and Ed in Florida. After a delicious dinner which included several bottles of wine, we stopped in at the local Publix under the guise of getting some milk. Ed led me down the “Aisle of Eden” (candy aisle), and convinced me that buying the family sized bag of Twizzlers was a stellar idea. Waking up in the morning with a killer headache, and viewing the empty candy bag on the couch made me realize that perhaps our judgement was less than sound.

And yet I fell victim to drinking and grocery shopping again this week. After dinner, my husband and I stopped in at the supermarket to pick up a few ingredients I needed to make Bobby Flay’s sticky chicken in lettuce cups with a grilled corn salad. Cilantro was on my list. I was excited to see a small clamshell package of it, as I usually buy a big bunch and end up throwing out half of it once it starts to go slimy and ferment in my vegetable drawer.

Yesterday afternoon I pulled out all the ingredients to make dinner. I opened the package of cilantro and saw these huge spiky leaves. I looked at the package again closely.culantroWhat the hell is culantro?

In my defence, I only had one glass of wine with dinner, but, full disclosure here, I forgot my reading glasses. So, let’s amend that PSA to also include the dangers of shopping without your reading glasses.

Culantro, in case you’re curious, grows in southern Mexico. It is sometimes referred to as cilantro on steroids, as it has a very intense cilantro flavour. The leaf is quite tough so it is not really meant to be used raw but rather added to soups and stews.

A quick trip to the grocery store, with my reading glasses this time, and I had everything I needed to make the mint cilantro dressing for the grilled corn salad.corn salad dressingThe sticky glaze for the chicken simmers on the stove for about 20 minutes.making sticky saucegrilling chicken and corncutting corn off the cob corn salad 625 sqLettuce wraps are the ultimate in guilt free healthy eating. chicken and lettuce 625 sq Click here to print recipe for Grilled Corn Salad with Cilantro Mint Dressing.

Click here to print recipe for Sticky Glazed Chicken Thighs in Lettuce Cups.wrap

 

Slice and Bake Cheese Sables

with wineSome mammals develop an extra layer of insulation to keep them toasty during the winter. For mammals with fur, this extra layer consists of a thicker or longer winter coat of their fur. When spring and summer roll around they naturally shed that extra layer. Other mammals, like me for instance, pack on a cookie layer to keep them warm during the polar vortex. Sadly, that extra layer does not magically shed when bathing suit season rolls around.

 In order to help me shed my cookie layer I declared my kitchen a bake-free zone during the month of January. But, as anyone who knows me can attest, I can get a little cranky if I go too long without baking. I was having some friends over for drinks this week so I thought I would break my rule and bake some savoury cheese sables. (Sable is what the French refer to when talking about crumbly butter cookies) It didn’t really feel like cheating since these cookies are sugar free!

I came across a recipe for Cheese Sables with Rosemary Salt in the January 2015 issue of Food and Wine Magazine. The dough came together very quickly and I rolled it into a log and chilled it. Slice and bake cookies make me very happy. slicingThey are topped with some rosemary salt as soon as they come out of the oven.adding rosemary salt While they looked quite beautiful, when I picked up a cooled biscuit to taste, it fell apart in my hands. I am not quite sure what I did wrong. Perhaps it is nature’s way of telling me that until I shed my cookie layer, and I need to lay off all biscuits, be they sweet or savoury!with rosemaryI carefully transferred them to a platter and served them anyways. They were messy but still quite delicious. If anyone has any ideas about what went wrong, let me know. I have a few suspicions. I used Manchego Cheese instead of the Parmesan called for in the recipe, so perhaps that was a factor. I also baked them while on holiday in Florida, on a very humid day, so perhaps that was what caused them to crumble.

Click here to print recipe for Slice and Bake Cheese Sables with Rosemary Salt.

Blood Orange and Belgian Endive Salad

on platter 2Cutting into a blood orange always brings to mind that famous quote from Forrest Gump; My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Same thing with blood oranges. Sometimes you cut into them and the inside is pale pink, at times they are mottled pale orange and brilliant red, and, when all the stars are aligned just right you get this:making vinaigretteI get such a kick out of slicing into these oranges and finding this brilliant scarlett surprise inside. Tart-sweet and slightly berry-like they’re only available from January to March, so slice into one now and see what’s waiting for you.

Blood oranges have been popular for many years in Italy and Spain, where they grow with wild abandon. I decided to give my salad a Spanish twist by incorporating Sherry vinegar in the dressing, smoked paprika in the spiced nuts and some manchego cheese shavings to top it all off. It would also be delicious topped with some soft goat cheese or some  thinly sliced shards of Parmesan.

For the lettuce element of my salad I settled on Belgian endive, sliced lengthwise into wedges, instead of chopped up crosswise, the way I ususally do it. I added some arugula to ramp up the bitter flavours. If you are not a fan of bitter, and prefer a gentler flavour, use boston lettuce mixed with some red leaf lettuce.

Making your own smoked spiced nuts is easy to do. I decided on a combo of pistachios and almonds. Supporting cast members include sugar, salt and smoked paprika. Feel free to add some cayenne if you like things a little caliente.mise en place for smoked nuts 2Egg whites are whisked until frothy. whisking egg whiteNuts are added and mixed until coated with egg whites. The egg whites help the spices adhere to the nuts.coating nuts in spicesSpread out nuts on baking sheet and bake in 350°F oven for 15-20 minutes. You won’t need all the nuts for the salad. Store the leftover in an airtight container. They are great with cocktails or a glass of wine or just for late afternoon snacking!

Neatly breaking down the oranges into perfect little segments takes a bit of practice but with a sharp knife in hand, you should be fine.

in bowl

Click here to print recipe for Blood Orange and Endive Salad.

 

 

Winter Farro Salad

in bowl fAlthough I have posted about farro herehere, here, here and here, I am of the opinion that you can never have enough good farro recipes. I just adore this nutty versatile grain. I discovered this winter version in the November 2014 issue of Bon Appetit. Associate Food Editor Claire Saffitz had a similar version at the NYC restaurant Charlie Bird. They simmered the farro in apple cider to infuse it with a lovely tart-sweet essence.apple cidercooked farroThe cooled farro is tossed with crunchy julienned apples and celeriac.celeriacYou have to believe that the first guy to come across one of these gnarly roots was in an extremely weakened and ravenous state. It would have taken quite a leap of faith for someone to come across this in the wild and decide that eating it was a sound idea. 

This knobby root is Celeriac (also known as celery root). I have often come across them in the supermarket, but had no idea how and where to use it. However, in January, when fresh local stuffs is in short supply, you need to go outside your comfort zone and embrace the ugly! Celeriac has a mild delicate taste, rather like a cross between celery and parsley. Beneath that grody exterior lies a heart of snowy white goodness. 

Taming this beast is not difficult. Slice off the top and bottom so it sits flat on the cutting board. Slice around the sides and hack off the brown outer skin. Julienne it for raw salads or cube it for simmering in soup. If you are using it raw in a salad, store it in water with a splash of lemon juice after cutting to prevent it from oxidizing and turning brown.  Drain and mix into salad just before serving.peeling celeriac

cutting celeriac into julienneSalty black olives and shaved Pecorino Romano cheese are added as a welcome balance to the cider sweetened farro. Italian parsley leaves provide a verdant fresh punch. I added some pickled red onions because I love how pickling tames their bite. A final garnish of toasted pine nuts and this salad is ready for it’s closeup!serving bowl 3 625 sq

 Click here to print recipe for Winter Farro Salad.

Ultimate Potato Latkes

platter of latkesI realize that Chanukah ended last week and I’m a little late to the party, but you may forgive me when you find out that I am sharing the ultimate latke recipe with you. So, if you only make latkes once a year, do yourself a favour and bookmark these for next December. You will thank me!

The first time I posted about potato latkes on this blog Taylor Swift was dating  Jake Gyllenhaal. The second time, a month later, Taylor and Jake were still being spotted canoodling in public.  The third time I posted about latkes, Taylor was keeping company with Harry Styles. My final latke posting was last November and Taylor was trying to make Harry Styles jealous by stepping out with Douglas Booth.

From the above paragraph you might conclude that: a) For a woman over the age of 50, I have an inappropriate fascination with Taylor Swift. (Sadly true!), and, b) I also have an unhealthy love of potato latkes (also, sadly true).

I used to believe that I had the very best latke recipe. And then I tried the Cook’s Illustrated version and discovered that I was wrong! These latkes were light, not at all heavy or greasy. The outer crust was crunchy to the point of almost shatteringly crisp and insides were creamy, tender and pillowy soft. These are everything that all self respecting latkes aspire to be.

Leave it to Cook’s Illustrated to crack the code and perfect the latke.  A typical tuber contains 80% water by weight! The secret, it seems, is to rid the potato of as much of it’s water content as possible. This means a little extra work to squeeze out all the moisture that potatoes exude, but trust me, the effort is worth it.

Russet potatoes are the best variety to use. Grating them by hand on a box grater will give you the best texture. Just scrub the potatoes. No need to even peel the potatoes, just scrub well.gratingThe grated potatoes are mixed with a small grated onion and some salt. The mixture is transferred to a tea towel and all the moisture is wrung out. Let the drained liquid sit for 5 minutes and all the potato starch will sink to the bottom of the bowl. Drain off the liquid and save the starch. This starch is what will hold your latkes together. No need to add any additional flour or matzoh meal.sqeezing out liquidThe potato mixture gets heated in the microwave for 2 minutes. This allows the potatoes to release even more moisture and assists in making the latkes crispier and prevents them from becoming greasy by absorbing too much oil. microwavefrying

Click here to print recipe for Ultimate Potato Latkes.

stack of latkes