Monday, July 10, 2006

Sundried Under A Full Moon

Now that the kidlets are with their father for the summer, the cuisine changes slightly. We spent the weekend traveling, eating out at places like Cracker Barrel and Olive Garden. Last night, we discovered a little Chinese place nearby with a kitschy old school Chinese restaurant sign. We were delighted to discover that the menu contained even more kitsch, with a funky cocktail menu offering drinks like Singapore Slings, Mai Tais, Zombies and Cocaine Ladies. Woohoo! We settled for hot tea & dinner, pleasantly surprised by how tasty it was. The MSG ratio has got to be way high, though, because it tasted just like the Chinese food J ate as a kid in 1960s Erie, PA. We had cha siu & crab rangoon for our appetizers. Then, J had Moo Goo Gai Pan & I had Szechuan green beans with pork. These will be lunch later this week.

Tonight, I was in the kitchen. I made:

Chicken with Sundried Tomato Cream
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sprinkled w/salt & pepper
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 minced cloves garlic
1/4 c. oil-packed sundried tomatoes, patted dry and chopped (or snipped w/kitchen shears)
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 c. dry white wine
3/4 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. thinly-sliced basil

Heat oil and brown the chicken in it. Drain on paper towels, then set aside. Add garlic, tomatoes, pepper flakes to same skillet. Sauté 1 minute. Add wine & bring to a boil, scraping pan to deglaze. Cook until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and cook through. Remove chicken to a platter and keep warm until sauce is ready. Stir cream and 2 tsp. of the basil into the sauce. Bring to a simmer, then purée until almost smooth. Serve over chicken, garnished with the rest of the basil. Serves 4. (This recipe is my adaptation of one found in the October 2002 issue of Gourmet)

Parsley Potato Pancakes
1 onion, diced
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 c. mashed potatoes
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 c. flour
2 lightly beaten eggs
1 c. minced fresh parsley
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. cayenne (or, if like me you find you are out, a dash of hot sauce works okay, too)

Cook onion in 1 tsp. hot oil until tender. Mix with mashed potatoes, lemon juice, flour and eggs. Add the rest of the ingredients. Put 1 tsp. oil in a skillet & heat. Drop rounded teaspoons of the batter into the skillet & flatten slightly. Cook 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towel. Makes about 14. I always have trouble with mashed potato pancakes sticking, but this recipe didn't give me that problem. If you have the same problem, give this a try.

Green Beans with Toasted Pecans and Goat Cheese
1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. cider vinegar
2 tsp. finely-chopped onion
1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. pecans
Salt and pepper, to taste
12 oz. fresh green beans
1 1/2 oz. crumbled goat cheese (or blue cheese, like Maytag...I used what I had on hand)

Whisk mustard, 1/2 tbsp. olive oil, vinegar and onions together to make the dressing. Heat the rest of the olive oil in a skillet. Add pecans, salt and pepper. Sauté 1 minute and drain on paper towels. Chop, when cool. Or, use a 1/2 c. bag of pecan chips & save yourself the work. Blanch the green beans, leaving them in the boiling water 3 minutes. Drain. Plunge into an ice bath very briefly. Drain. Toss with dressing. Add cheese and half of the nuts, tossing to blend. Salt & pepper to taste. Sprinkle with rest of nuts before serving. Serves 2-3. (This is my adaptation of a recipe from the Dayton Junior League Cookbook)

Our favorite component of the meal was the green beans, but it was all good and went well together. Now, off to bed, where we'll drink our nicely chilled smoothies. This recipe is my adaptation of one I found on the Weight Watchers website,

Raspberry-Peach Smoothie
12 oz. fat-free plain yogurt
2 peaches, cut in chunks (or 1 cup frozen peaches)
1 c. raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
A smidge of sugar or honey

Purée everything together in a blender. Chill before serving.

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