Chicken Cacciatore

chicken first

You know that saying, “You don’t appreciate what you have until you almost lose it?” This time last week I thought I had completely lost my blog. Life was spinning out of control with busyness, and I neglected to renew the domain on WordPress. Then one day, about two weeks after it had expired, I tried to access my site and couldn’t. To say I had a meltdown is an understatement. But then reality inserted itself into my teeth gnashing and moaning and groaning (okay, I tend to exaggerate a little). Stop, hold the presses, I didn’t lose a family member. All the pets are okay. Jeannine, you’re getting this upset over a website?

chicken mug

I calmed down, contacted the support people at WordPress, who were extremely helpful, and as you can see, Jeannine’s Cuisine is up and running again, this time with automatic renewals scheduled. And, as a result, I did some serious thinking about what this blog means to me and why.

chicken beer

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post. It was an extremely busy summer and moving into fall it wasn’t much better. I actually considered putting the blog on hold until I retired. But I think everyone needs a creative outlet of some sort and this little blog, that I only manage to post to once in a while, is mine. It’s not a business, and may never become one, although it was, and perhaps still is, my goal. I’ll cross that bridge when the time comes. However, it is a way to express myself and share what I love with friends and family. Yes, I did get upset, because each time I do a post I’m creating something that is essentially me- my thoughts, my cooking, my photography. And I get to share it with others. How cool is that?

Enough philosophizing. Let’s move on to the food, shall we? Aren’t you glad autumn is finally here? I know some people love summer and dread the coming of winter. But I’m one of those that needs summer so I can enjoy the transition to fall. Today’s recipe is perfect for today’s damp cloudy weather.

Vegetables

Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian. This dish is a stewy chicken dish with onion, mushrooms, herbs, tomatoes, and bell pepper. Serve it with a side of pasta or some bread to soak up the sauce if that’s your thing, or if you are watching your carbs, it’s just as good by itself.

top down recipe

Slow Cooker (or not) Chicken Cacciatore

Serves 4-6

No slow cooker? No problem. Just make the recipe in a Dutch oven, bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour. This dish is great for using up end of summer tomatoes, but if you don’t have any or can’t get decent ones, just substitute a 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes, chopped. To peel and seed the tomatoes, drop them in boiling water for 1 minutes. The peel will come right off. Cut in half horizonally and squeeze the seeds out.

3 tablespoons butter or other fat of choice, divided

2 pounds chicken thighs

1 onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1/2 pound mushrooms, stems discarded, sliced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

8 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 tablespoon each of finely chopped basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram (or use 1/2 teaspoon dried)

Season the chicken very well with salt and pepper.  Do not fear the salt.

Raw Chicken

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large sauté pan. Brown the chicken in the pan, in batches as necessary, about 5 minutes. The chicken should be golden brown. Transfer chicken pieces to slow cooker as you go.

Chicken

If you are cooking this dish on the stove, remove the chicken until you cook the vegetables, then add it back to the pot with the tomatoes.

Melt the remaining butter in the pan and sauté the onion, pepper, celery and mushrooms until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes more. Pour the vegetable mixture over the chicken in the slow cooker.

Add the tomatoes, paprika, herbs, and a little more salt and pepper to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 hours. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Adapted from The Paleo Slow Cooker by Arsy Vartanian and Chris Kresser

Greece on My Mind — Fish with Ouzo

Ouzo Fish 1

During my military career I had a wonderful opportunity to live in Athens, Greece, for 3 years.  I remember Athens as a big city with lots of traffic and lots of angry drivers.  But I didn’t care.  It was Greece! 

santorini 2 

Greece has been in the news quite a bit lately and it hasn’t exactly been portrayed in a positive light; however, during my time there, I made friends who are still special to me to this day.  I experienced a culture unlike any I had ever encountered.  But, most important, I discovered a cuisine that has pretty much driven the way I cook and eat since that time.  When people ask me what my “specialty” is, I usually reply: I don’t really have one, but I cook Mediterranean food more often than not. 

Ouzo Fish 2

I love Greece and Greek food.  Even when living there and eating it almost everyday, I never tired of it.  And as for that terrible traffic?  I learned to drive and shout at the other drivers just like the locals.  Besides, where else can you eat “small fishes fried” (smelts) washed down with an ice-cold Mythos beer while gazing upon the blue ocean and equally blue sky?

santorini 1 

Years later I became friends with a man who was encountering some personal difficulties.  I advised him to think about what he wanted to be doing 5 years later and use that goal to formulate his decision. A couple of weeks later he told me he had decided what he wanted to be doing 5 years down the road.  When I asked what that was, he told me he wanted to be discovering Greece with me.  Say what?    

Ouzo Fish 3

I wasn’t exactly looking for a mate at the time — I’d just returned to the U.S. after a long period overseas, had just bought a house…excuses, excuses.  Well, he did something right, because in November we will have been married 13 years.  And yes, we did go to Greece together.

Nafplion

Today’s recipe reminds me of everything that I love about Greek food, but it’s not as heavy as some of the typical dishes can be.  It’s wonderful for summer and is ideal for a weeknight meal, as it’s a snap to make.  This dish can be served over rice or with some hearty bread to soak up the delicious sauce. 

Ouzo Fish 4 Fish with Ouzo

4–6 servings

I used halibut for this dish, but any white fish filet will work, such as cod, tilapia, or even catfish.  Ouzo is an anise-flavored Greek liqueur that is usually diluted with water until cloudy and served as an aperitif with a bowl of olives.  It really is the ingredient that sets this dish apart.

1/3 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 onion, diced

2 bay leaves

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, not drained

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup water

2 pounds halibut filets or other white fish

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 bunch dill, chopped

1 tablespoon Ouzo

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the garlic until fragrant, but not brown. Add the onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes, then add the bay leaves.  Add the tomatoes, mushrooms and bell pepper, and season with salt and pepper.  Add the water and simmer for two minutes.

Season the fish with salt and pepper and place on top of the simmering vegetable mixture, nestling the filets down into the sauce.  Simmer for 4 minutes.

Add the lemon juice, dill and ouzo to the pan and simmer an additional 2 minutes.  The fish should flake easily with a fork.  Taste the sauce for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Inspired by Culina Mediterranea by Daniel Rouche

santorini 3    

Serious Comfort Food: No-Boil Macaroni and Cheese

Mac Post header

Okay, I surrender. I’ve had enough! Bring on Spring. I promise I won’t even complain when the heat and humidity of July roll around. It’s cold and gray, which wouldn’t be so bad if we had some snow coming down. Snow day! But so far, winter has been one long drawn out gloomy stretch of 20-30-degree days, some rain or sleet spitting out of the sky occasionally, usually during morning rush hour, and not much else.

Mac Fork

Days like this call for drastic measures. It’s time to get out the gardening books and dream of nicer days to come…flowers, fruits and vegetables, green leaves, and birds singing.

Mac one dish

It’s also time for some serious comfort food. Macaroni and cheese comes to mind, and this recipe does not disappoint. Rather than preparing the sauce and boiling the macaroni separately, the hot sauce is poured over the dry macaroni and baked. It couldn’t be easier and the result is delicious. The macaroni still has a nice bite to it, and the sauce cooks up perfectly creamy and cheesy.

Mac Recipe Header

No Boil Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 6

You could easily vary the type of cheese used to add some variety. When making the sauce, adding a little of the liquid at a time, 2-3 times and whisking between each addition before adding the remaining milk/water, will make a smoother sauce and prevent it from breaking.  

Mac 2 Dish Side 

4 ounces (1/2 cup or 1 stick) butter, divided

1/4 cup flour

3 cups milk

3 cups water

1 tablespoon salt, plus more for seasoning

1/2 teaspoon pepper, plus more for seasoning

1 pound elbow macaroni

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt half of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until a paste forms, about 1 minute. Slowly add the milk a little at a time, whisking between each addition before adding the remaining milk and 3 cups of water. Bring saucepan contents to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring frequently until mixture thickens to a thin glossy sauce, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove from heat.

Toss the pasta and 1 1/2 cups of the cheese in a 9×13 or other 3-quart baking dish. Pour the sauce over the pasta, submerging the pasta. Do not stir. Cover the dish with foil, place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Or you can do what I did and just wipe out the saucepan and use that to avoid dirtying up another pan. Add garlic, Panko, and parsley and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Take the dish out of the oven and remove the foil. The pasta will be almost tender, but there will still be a lot of liquid. Don’t worry it will cook. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and the Panko mixture. Place the pan back in the oven (without the foil) and bake until the edges are bubbling and the top is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Allow pasta to stand 10 minutes before serving.

Mac Full Casserole

Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2013

 

 

 

Quinoa Cabbage Sauté with Lemon, Cabbage, and Dill

Quinoa 1 

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.  I can’t believe it’s the 17th of March and when I got up this morning I was faced with this:

March Winter

The pansies I oh so carefully planted last weekend are buried in the stuff.  I just hope they survive.  Where is Spring?  It’s not supposed to be 23 degrees in mid-March!  Nevertheless, it’s still Saint Patrick’s Day, meaning all things Irish. It’s also a great reason to stock the fridge with Guinness.  Okay, I’ve never needed a special reason to stock up on Guinness, but for those who do, now is your chance.

Quinoa 2

Today’s dish is another repeat.  Not a repeat on the blog, but another amazing dish that I liked so much I wanted to make it and eat it a second time in short order.  It’s not actually Irish, but it does contain cabbage, so I guess we can go there.

Quinoa 3

I am not a vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m also not strictly a meat person.  Hmm, what DO I mean by that?  Well, I would never be happy having a chunk of meat with a side of vegetables for dinner every night.  My food has to have something extra.  It could be a sauce, a burst of lemon, perhaps some heat, but you will almost never see me eating a plain piece of protein seasoned with salt and pepper and that’s it.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good steak, simply seasoned, but make that on occasion, not as a steady diet.

This dish is a vegetarian dish with a lot going on.  The quinoa and chickpeas provide protein, you get some nice saltiness from the olives and the lemon really brightens it up.  I eat this with a small container of plain Greek yogurt on the side for lunch and find that it fills me up just fine until dinner.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Quinoa 4

Toasted Quinoa Sauté with Lemon, Cabbage, and Dill

4 Servings

I have only made this recipe with red quinoa; however, I see no reason why you could not make it with any variety.  If you can’t find Savoy cabbage you could also use regular green cabbage.  If your pan is not big enough to cook all the cabbage at once, you can cook it in two batches.  I used Castelvetrano olives from the olive bar at Whole Foods for this, but Cerignola or even pitted Kalamata olives would also work.  This is a very flexible recipe that can be altered according to what you can find or have on hand.  

1 1/2 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided plus more for seasoning

1/2 cup red quinoa

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/2 head (approximately 1 pound) Savoy cabbage, thinly sliced

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

3 ounces pitted large Green olives, halved

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill

Greek yogurt or sour cream for serving

Bring water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium size saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir in quinoa and return to a boil.  Cover saucepan, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Uncover the pan, raise the heat to high and toast the quinoa until dry, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, about 5 minutes.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Add the cabbage and 1 teaspoon salt and sauté until the cabbage is soft and golden brown. If the pan appears too dry, add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.  Add the quinoa, raise the heat to high, stirring it into the cabbage until for about 2 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients, except for the yogurt.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with Greek yogurt or sour cream.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine

Thai Beef and Mint Stir-Fry

Thai Beef 1a

Although I no longer cook professionally, I will always be extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to do so.  Not many people get the chance to leave a perfectly well-paying job to pursue a lifelong dream.  I was lucky that I had a very supportive husband as well as a military retirement pension to fall back on when things got tight, and boy did they at times.  The pay isn’t great, especially in the beginning, and the work is sometimes grueling, but for those with the passion, it can be a very rewarding career.  Some of the colleagues with whom I went to culinary school have become very successful in the profession, and I am so proud of them.

Thai Beef 1

I made some wonderful friends in culinary school as well as learned to be a much better cook. I credit school for setting me on the right track to eating real food rather than boxed and bagged items off the grocery store shelves with ingredients I can’t pronounce. 

The philosophy at L’Academie de Cuisine was simple – learn to prepare classic French cuisine and you can cook anything; however, the staff at the school neglected to tell me one thing, which turned out to be the biggest benefit of all – we didn’t just learn to cook French food.  Yes, we started with soup a l’oignon, making it with water at the beginning so they wouldn’t waste perfectly good stock on a bunch of non-cooks.  And the week we spent on puff pastry dragged on and on – wellingtons, cheese straws, soup with a pastry crust…  But because our pastry instructor was from Thailand and her husband was Indian, we also learned how to make all sorts of Asian and Indian dishes.  Curries, salads, appetizers, you name it – they were all delicious and a nice break from the cassoulet and beef bourguignon we typically made for lunch each day.

Thai Beef 3

My first exposure to Thai food was actually in Budapest of all places, where a Thai colleague with whom I was traveling introduced me to a variety of his native dishes.  We had just spent a week in Kiev and were desperate for some food with some flavor.  The dishes I later learned to prepare in school hooked me on Thai food for life, although I rarely make it at home.  This dish reminded me of culinary school, but unlike many of the dishes we prepared there, it is very easy to prepare and makes a nice lunch or light dinner.

Thai Beef 4

Thai Beef and Mint Stir-Fry

4 Servings

This dish was originally described as a salad to be eaten warm or cold over chopped Napa cabbage.  I turned it into “Thai tacos” by serving it warm wrapped in the Napa cabbage leaves.  You could also serve it over hot bean thread noodles or rice.  If you can’t find Thai chiles you can use 1 or two serranos.

1 pound flank or skirt steak

3 stalks celery

2 tablespoons coconut oil

Salt

Pepper

2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped

2 Thai chiles, finely chopped

5 plum tomatoes, cored and cut into thin wedges

2 scallions, but into 2-inch lengths

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise

Juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 cups mint leaves

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

To facilitate slicing the beef very thin, you can place it in the freezer for up to 40 minutes.  Cut the steak against the grain into very thin slices, then cross wise into 2-inch lengths. Slice the celery by placing it on its side and slicing at a 45-degree angle to achieve V-shaped pieces.  Separate the cabbage leaves and set aside for serving.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat and add the coconut oil.  Heat the oil until it melts then swirl to coat the pan.  Add the beef, season with salt and pepper, and sear, stirring until it browns.  Add the ginger, garlic, and chiles and stir-fry for 1 minute.  Add the celery, tomatoes, scallions and red onions and stir-fry until the celery begins to soften, 3-5 minutes.  Stir in the lime juice, fish sauce and the sesame oil.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro and the mint.

To serve place a spoonful of the beef mixture onto a cabbage leaf, fold over and eat out of hand.

Adapted from Café Pasqual’s Cookbook – Spirited Recipes from Santa Fe by Katharine Kagel

 

 

Chinese Five-Spice Chicken

Five Spice Chicken 1

I don’t know about you, but about this time of the year I am looking for ways to get dinner on the table — fast.  All the decorating, package wrapping, and card sending don’t leave much time for leisurely experiments in the kitchen. 

Confession — I absolutely love the idea of Martha Stewart.  Many years ago I attended a wedding shower where one of the gifts for the bride-to-be was her original Entertaining book.  All it took was one look through that book, and I was hooked.  I purchased Entertaining as soon as I could afford it and proceeded to cook my way through it, hosting as many dinner and cocktail parties as I could manage.  That book was eventually followed by the Martha Stewart’s Christmas book.  Well, that one sent my fantasies of a perfectly decorated house, gifts made at home, and a constant stream of adoring visitors to my country estate right through the roof.  Reality check — There was no country estate, I was active duty in the Army, and had a work schedule that absolutely did not allow for meticulously creating Christmas puddings, pomanders, and conserves, as much as I would have liked to do so.

Five Spice Chicken 2

So, as much as I would love to be making something much more elaborate, a quick seared chicken dish is much more my speed when my “to do” list is the size of the New York City phone book.  I’ll save the elaborate Martha projects for the holiday itself.  Meanwhile I’m cooking from Weeknight Paleo, 9 Weeks of Quick and Easy Gluten-Free Meals, by Amber Beam.  I found a chicken dish that looked like it would have some flavor, but more important it was a breeze to prepare.  I made the original idea my own by eliminating a matchstick salad and using the salad dressing ingredients to create a sauce to go over the chicken and the rice I served it with.  It’s full of flavor – but maybe a little too much for some.  This dish is spicy.  If you want to tame the heat you can cut back or eliminate the chili garlic sauce, the cayenne or both.  I collect condiments like some women collect shoes, so I had an Asian Chili Garlic Sauce in the pantry.  A variety of choices is available at any supermarket with an Asian section.    

Five Spice Chicken 3

Chinese Five-Spice Chicken

4-6 Servings

This dish is extremely adaptable.  If gluten is not a problem for you, regular or sodium soy sauce and hoisin sauce would work fine.  Gluten-free soy sauce, also called tamari, and gluten-free hoisin sauce are available at Whole Foods.  If dairy is a concern, use all coconut oil in place of the butter. This dish can be made with chicken breast instead of thighs; you will need to cut back the cooking time to 4-5 minutes total.  

2 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon finely peeled and chopped fresh ginger

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce

2 tablespoons Asian chili garlic sauce

1/4 cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons gluten-free Hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Place the Chinese five-spice powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a Ziploc bag, shake a little to blend spices then add the chicken thighs, making sure the thighs are unrolled if they were rolled in the package.  Shake well until chicken is completely coated with the spice mixture.

Melt coconut oil and butter in a large sauté pan. Remove the chicken from the Ziploc bag and brown in the pan until it reaches a temperature of 165 degrees, about 3 minutes per side on medium high.  Remove the chicken from the pan, and set aside on a plate. 

Turn the heat down to medium, add the ginger and the garlic to the pan, and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute.  Add the soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, vinegar, Hoisin sauce, honey, and sesame oil to the pan and reduce until sauce is thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan and turn over a couple of times to coat the chicken with the glaze.  Simmer about 5 minutes to rewarm the chicken.  Serve sprinkled with chopped cilantro.    

Adapted from Weeknight Paleo, 9 Weeks of Quick and Easy Gluten-Free Meals, by Amber Beam