Mother’s Day Chicken Salad

27 Apr

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A couple weeks ago I spent some time kicking my standard chicken salad recipe into a new gear. Extra herbs – dill and basil – plus really good sweet pickles and pickled beets for an extra flavor and color. My how it turned out – despite the interesting pink color, this salad full of moist chicken, crunchy celery and scallions had an extra boost from the sweet, herby, spicy and fresh additions.

I enjoyed mine in an open faced sandwich over watercress. However, it’s perfect on it’s on it’s own, in a full two-sided sandwich or in a salad with baby greens.

I think this recipe is perfect for a Mother’s Day lunch. It’s also perfect for a picnic or a lunchbox.

Mother’s Day Chicken Salad 

  • 2 whole split chicken breasts, bone-in, skin on
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup good mayonnaise
  • 1 cup small-diced celery 
  • 4 scallions, diced
  • 2-3 tablespoons dill, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet pickles
  • 1/4 cup chopped pickle beets

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts, skin side up, on a sheet pan and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside to cool.

When the chicken is cool, remove and discard the skin and bones and cut the chicken into 3/4-inch dice. Place the chicken in a bowl and add the mayonnaise, and remainder of ingredients. Mix well and taste for seasoning. At this point, add more components you may want more of!

 

Grilled Rack of Lamb with Blackberry Balsamic Reduction

26 Apr

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Tis the season for lamb chops. We enjoyed rack of lamb on Easter weekend to celebrate the come of spring. In an effort to put a different spin on them, I made a sweet and tangy blackberry and balsamic reduction to pour over the medium rare individual chops. They were messy and juicy – just perfect. We ate them with our hands – like any lamb lover would do.

Grilled Rack of Lamb with Blackberry Balsamic Reduction 

  • 2 racks, lamb
  • olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 spring rosemary, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Pulse rosemary, kosher salt, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a food processor to form a coarse paste, scraping down sides. Rub oil all over chops, then coat evenly with rosemary mixture. Allow to sit for 4-6 hours.

Oil grill rack, then grill chops in 2 batches, covered only if using a gas grill, turning once, 4 to 6 minutes per batch for medium-rare. Remove the lamb from the grill when internal temperature is 135-140 for medium rare. Allow to rest for 10 minutes and then slice into individual chops. 

While grilling, boil balsamic and blackberries together with a whole sprig of rosemary. Once reduced (to cover the back of a spoon), remove the rosemary. Spoon over lamb chops.

 

Grilled Asparagus and Cherry Tomato Salad with White Truffle Vinaigrette

25 Apr

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A couple weekend’s ago I was preparing a fancy meal for friends and wanted a different vegetable side dish idea with lots of luxury. This is it! Grilled seasonal asparagus with sweet grilled tomatoes with salty cheese and an truffle oil vinaigrette. So delicious and perfect for this time of year. Everything becomes sweet and salty and drizzled perfectly with the stand out truffle oil.

Grilled Asparagus and Cherry Tomato Salad with White Truffle Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 lb. asparagus, tough ends trimmed
  • 2 pints (4 cups) cherry tomatoes
  • 7 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped shallot
  • 2 Tbs. apple-cider vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs. white truffle oil
  • 1/2 oz. finely grated pecorino (1/2 cup using a rasp grater)

In a small heavy saucepan, boil the balsamic vinegar until reduced to about 3 Tbs., about 15 minutes.

Heat grill. Drizzle asparagus and tomatoes with  2 Tbs. olive oil, 1 Tbs. reduced balsamic vinegar, and season with 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Skewer tomatoes for easy grilling – or use a grill basket.

Grill until asparagus is tender and tomatoes begin to char and pop.

In a small bowl, whisk the shallot, cider vinegar, lemon juice, and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the remaining 3 Tbs. olive oil and the truffle oil until blended.

Arrange the asparagus and tomatoes on salad plates. Drizzle with the remaining 1 Tbs. reduced balsamic vinegar, and then the truffle vinaigrette. Sprinkle the pecorino on top.

 

 

Domino Potatoes

20 Apr

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I know it’s Monday morning and you’re probably forcing yourself to think about salads, but a potato will always make a chin up. Especially when they are sliced super thin, doused in butter and seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh rosemary. This is basically a classic Pommes Anna with a funny vertical twist. It’s easy and crowd pleasing. Make note for your next search for a non-boring side.

Domino Potatoes

  • 4 Idaho (baking) potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons chilled clarified butter
  • coarse salt
  • pepper
  • fresh rosemary sprigs

Preheat your oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat, use a nonstick baking sheet or a medium-sized baking dish.

Cut off the two ends of one potato and reserve them. Trim the 4 sides of the potato to form an even brick. Slice of potato about 1/8 inch thick on a mandoline, keeping the slices in order if you can (just like a line of shingled dominoes). Stack in a casserole dish vertically.

Drizzle with butter. Season with salt and pepper. Add a sprig of rosemary for aromatics.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are browned on the edges and tender in the middle when tested with a skewer. Serve immediately.

Spring Pea Crostini

15 Apr

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While in the mountains, I couldn’t resist making this really springy appetizer. I made it last year and felt that I didn’t share it enough. So, I made it again with mountain views and grilled (not broiled) bread. It was the perfect treat for Happy Hour at 6pm after a long week and drive to the mountains. As you can imagine, they didn’t last long.

You must try this bright green crostini!

Sweet Pea Topping

  • About 2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • small handful of basil
  • 1 sprig of fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Pulse everything together into a nice chunky paste. Taste for seasoning.

Crostini

  • good crusty bread
  • more olive oil
  • prosciutto

Slice the bread into thick pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Broil until toasted. Top with pea mixture, a slice of prosciutto and more pepper. And, a splash of lemon olive oil, if you have it.

Grilled Serrano Ham Wrapped Shrimp

13 Apr

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It’s beautiful outside. Tulips are blooming and the snow ball tree in my neighbor’s yard is bouncing in the wind like fluffy clouds.  It’s a perfect night to grill this delicious appetizer of fresh shrimp, wrapped in Spanish Serrano and drizzled (heavily) with red hot chili oil. So simple, yet so tasty and perfect. Well, a sprinkle of fresh parsley could help….but it’s too much work when staring at the shrimp.

But, it’s Monday. I actually just finished a chicken salad sandwich paired with an old glass of wine and a good amount of Netflix. This appetizer is worth dreaming about…for the weekend to come.

Easter Pastel Deviled Eggs

7 Apr

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Over the Easter weekend, I promised my friends I’d prepare a couple new variations on deviled eggs. So in the spirit of Easter pastels, I put together some fun new versions. I was particularly proud of their artistic look. They were equally as tasty. I think the group came to a consensus that the sriracha was the fan favorite – but you pick for yourself.

 Easter Deviled Eggs

  • 1 dozen hard-cooked eggs
  • 1/2-3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon dijion mustard
  • 1 heaping teaspoon, white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Halve the eggs  and transfer the yolks to a mixing bowl. I cut mine vertically to give the eggs a different look – you’ll need to trim the bottom to get them to stand up!

With a stand up mixer, whisk the yolks to a smooth consistency. Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, white pepper and salt, and mix until smooth. Taste and season accordingly.

Divide the mixture into thirds to create creative options! Mix and fill!

Pea & Prosciutto – mix in 1/3 yolk mixture with a cup of Sweet Pea Topping. Top with a small piece of prosciutto.

Sriracha & Black Sea Salt – mix in 1/3 yolk mixture with a teaspoon (or more to taste) of sriracha. Season with black sea salt.

Smoked Salmon and Chive – no need to mix – just top with smoked salmon & chives

 

 

 

 

Mountain Easter – Coconut Strawberry Cheesecake

5 Apr

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This afternoon, I returned home from a long, fun filled and chilly weekend in the North Carolina mountains. Between a lot of gossiping, dog walks and a (singular) hike, we spent our time enjoying a good amount of food and drink. Friday night cocktail hour was entertained by grilled shrimp in serrano ham and a grilled crostini with pea puree. After a trip into Boone to Appalachian Mountain Brewery on Saturday night, we enjoyed an afternoon board game with a display of pastel deviled eggs — followed by a late night dinner of grilled rack of lamb, domino potatoes, grilled asparagus and tomato salad and this stunning Coconut Strawberry Cheesecake. Life is far from hard on these escapes with great friends, comfortable living, breathtaking views and an awesome kitchen to cook in.

I made this cake on Friday morning before headed off to the mountains. This dessert is awesome because it can be prepared in advanced, then decorated prior to serving. I recommend a white chocolate bunny once your friends devour your decorative malted milk eggs the night before…

This cake is light, delicious and perfect for spring. The creme of coconut is a totally new ingredient to me — you can find it in The Fresh Market cocktail section next to the margarita mix!

I’ll post more recipes from the weekend over the next several days!

Crust

  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, divided
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Filling

  • 3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup canned sweetened cream of coconut (The Fresh Market sells “Coco Real” in a squeeze bottle)
  • 1/4 cup coconut rum (I used a guava rum because it was already in the house!)

Topping

  • 3 1-pint containers strawberries, stemmed, sliced

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush spring form cake pan with 2-inch-high sides with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Blend crumbs, coconut, sugar, and remaining butter in medium bowl. Press mixture over bottom of prepared pan. Bake crust until lightly browned at edges, about 10 minutes. Cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

For filling:
Using electric mixer, beat first 4 ingredients in large bowl until blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in cream of coconut and rum. Pour batter over crust. Place cake pan in large roasting pan. Add enough water to roasting pan to come 1 inch up sides of cake pan. Cover roasting pan with foil.

Bake cake 1 hour. Remove foil. Bake until cake is pale brown, puffed, and just set in center, about 40 minutes. Cool cake in water bath 2 hours. Remove from water; run knife around cake to loosen. Chill cake in pan 3 hours before removing from the pan. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.)

Decorate with strawberries!

 

Spiced Lamb Burgers

28 Mar

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Last weekend I experimented with this interesting Bon Appetit recipe for Spiced Lamb Burger. The ingredients are pretty typical of a standard lamb burger – filled with cumin and coriander and other Middle Eastern spices. But, the preparation had me wondering. This recipe asks you to fill a pita with the raw meat mixture and cook it on the grill. While there is the missed crispy burger factor, the juices of the burger fill the crispy pita was delicious juices.

This is a fun Spring grilling menu – baked fries, a good green salad and this lamb burger. Or, a super casual Easter menu!

Spiced Lamb Burger

  •  pounds ground lamb, preferably shoulder
  • 1 medium onion, very finely chopped
  • ¾ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  •  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • 8 thick medium pita breads with pockets

 

Using a fork, mix lamb, onion, parsley, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and ¼ cup oil in a large bowl. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

 

Spring = Deviled Eggs!

24 Mar

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This weekend was warm enough to leave the backdoor open and cook without shoes on. It was perfect in every way. So, I celebrated with some impromptu deviled eggs.  Simple boiled eggs, halved with the hard yolk mixed with mayo, dijon mustard, salt and white pepper. I added fancy garnishes – pickled peppers with parsley and large sails of parmesan crisps.

I was terribly generous and shared them along with a glass of wine and a bit of yard pick up. These were a fantastic tease for Spring and a grilled lamb burger we had a couple hours later. I’ll share that recipe this week too.

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