Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Last Supper of Summer

Although I squawk about the coming cold, I really do love the change of seasons and Autumn is one of my favorites. I am sorry to say goodbye to Summer, with all the lovely produce and the warm weather, but I'm excited about this new season, too. I am all excited about creating my October dinner menus & have already picked my First Rainy Day of Fall soup for the year. Tonight, in honor of the Autumnal Equinox, I am making pumpkin waffles for our first fall dinner. Last night, for the final supper of summer, I thought a salad was appropriate, so we had a chicken piccata salad with roasted kale and fresh blackberries. I picked up a mini pie from Achatz, a Michigan 4 Berry pie. I had tried their cherry pie before and been unimpressed, but a friend was singing their praises the other day, so I decided to try again. I remain unimpressed. Grand Traverse Pie Company's pie, on the other hand, is dangerous for me to have in the house!

The original salad recipe is Rachael Ray's, but I've tinkered with it a little bit. You could probably do a very successful vegetarian version with fried or baked tofu or vegetarian "chicken" & veggie broth instead of chicken broth. You can also lessen the amount of olive oil in the salad and grill or broil the chicken instead of breading without destroying the meal. Low sodium broth is a good idea, too. I almost always use that instead of the regular sort.

Chicken Piccata Salad
1 1/2 lb. small red potatoes, quartered
12 oz. green beans, halved
1/4 c. + 2 tbsp. olive oil
3-4 tbsp. capers
Chopped parsley
Juice & zest of 1/2 lemon
Salt & pepper
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c. flour
2 chicken breast cutlets (the fancy, thin sort you usually see with chicken piccata)
1/4 c. chicken broth
Splash of dry white wine

Cook the potatoes until they are almost tender, but still firm. Set aside in a colander with a slotted spoon and add the green beans to the same water. Cook a couple minutes, then drain. Cool veggies slightly. Whisk together 1/4 c. olive oil, 1-2 tbsp. capers, 3-4 tablespoons chopped parsley, lemon zest, and half the lemon juice. Add the vegetables, along with salt & pepper to taste. Toss gently. Season the flour with a little salt & pepper. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil. Dredge the chicken in the flour, then dip in egg. Dredge once more in flour, then fry until it is golden brown and cooked through. Remove from skillet and cut into strips. Put broth and wine in skillet and deglaze the pan. Add 2 tbsp. capers, 2 tbsp. parsley, rest of lemon juice. Put salad in 2 shallow bowls or on 2 plates. Top with chicken and drizzle with sauce. Serves 2, with lots of potato-green bean salad left for the next day's lunch. Or 4, if you add a couple more chicken cutlets. 

My default kale recipe is raw Tuscan Kale Salad, but when the weather gets cooler, sometimes it's nice to have warm kale, instead. Plus, this stuff is completely addictive. Completely. Again, you can cut the olive oil by half. Just make sure to toss the kale well so that it all gets a hint of oil. 

Roasted Kale
1 big bunch curly kale
2 tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Tear kale leaves into bite-size pieces (if you hate throwing away the stems, they can be added to a pot of veggie trimmings you are simmering to make broth---if you don't want to make it right away, just keep a gallon zipper freezer bag in your freezer and toss various veggie ends in until the bag is full). Toss with the other ingredients. Let sit 5-10 minutes. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast 2 minutes. Stir and roast another 2 minutes. Serves 4. Or 2 kale-greedy people.

If you want to make dessert of the blackberries, they are excellent with a dollop of dulce de leche. You can usually find this Latin caramel confection in the grocery, but if you can't, you can also make it by removing the label of a can of sweetened, condensed milk, lowering it carefully with tongs into a pan full of boiling water, and letting it boil, on its side so that it can roll, for 3 hours. Make sure there is always plenty of boiling water in the pan, as lots of water around the can prevents it from overheating and bursting open. If you see the level of water dropping, simply add more boiling water. When the 3 hours is up, you will need to exercise still a bit more restraint, as it's extremely important to allow the contents of the can to cool to room temperature before you open the can. If you skip this cooling step, you could get an eyeful of burning milk caramel as it geysers out from the can. Anyway, at the end of the 3 hours, remove the can carefully with tongs from the water and ALLOW TO COOL to room temp. It is superb, once cooled, but if you hurt yourself making it, you will not enjoy it nearly as much as you will if you are patient.

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