Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chicken Scarpariello with Seafood Pasta and Pesto Bread

I return this week with an entree worthy of some time spent in the kitchen. As always, my policy remains true to keeping things simple, nothing terribly time-consuming or convoluted .... just some good ingredients and a few steps to getting things plated. The list below looks like a lot, but it's all staple ingredients, easily handled, and the small amount of added prep really just allows more time for an extra glass of wine while cooking.

This is a meal that is prepared in stages, and especially when you are cooking alone. You want everything to come together at more or less the right time, so that you are ready to plate the food and serve it while it is nice and hot.


INGREDIENTS

For Chicken:
- 1 Chicken breast (get an organic or home-grown one, yes??!!)
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 onion, chopped (white or yellow)
- 1 Tbsp fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary (leaves only)
- 1/4 Tbsp butter

For Pasta:
- Vermicelli (eyeball how much you need .... with pasta, often less is more ... it's easy to overshoot)
- Shrimp (for a single eater, 4-6 pieces), pealed and de-veined
- 3 black olives, halved and pitted
- 1/4 cup Bell pepper (green, yellow, and/or red)
- 1-2 cloves garlic (to taste)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Grated Parmesan to top (don't use the canned variety!!)

For Pesto:
- 2 cups fresh chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/8 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
- 1 Tsp kosher salt
- 2 slices of ciabatta, foccacia, tuscan or other similar bread

... and, one large bottle of white or red wine ....

pour a glass, put on some music, and let's get to work ....


1. FIRST: make pesto ....

... chop parsley and mince garlic. Place in food processor, along with pine nuts, salt and oil. Mix until a spreadable consistency (not exactly pureed, but smooth and uniform) .... if you've ever had or made pesto, you know what this looks like. Place in a bowl, cover and chill.

2. SECOND, begin chicken ...















... chop chicken into pieces ... add oil to skillet and raise to medium heat ... when you reach temperature add chicken and sear until roughly 2/3 done ... remove and place on platter ...















... add chopped garlic and saute on medium heat until not quite browned, then remove and spoon over chicken on platter ....

... add vinegar and wine to skillet, continuing over medium heat. Bring to a boil, scraping bottom of skillet and reduce to simmer, adding chicken and garlic back to skillet. Cook the chicken the rest of the way. When it's finished, plate chicken.

... add parsley, rosemary and butter to skillet. Stir while butter melts, combining ingredients. After a minute or less, the sauce should come together; spoon over chicken.















3. FOR PASTA:

... put water on to boil. Then, chop vegetables and herbs, and thaw/peel/de-vein shrimp if necessary. Add olive oil and garlic to skillet and saute until garlic not quite browns. Add green pepper and olives, stirring the saute mixture regularly. After a few minutes, add shrimp. Saute all ingredients for 5-7 minutes (or until done) over medium heat.















... at this point, remove pesto from fridge and slice bread. Toast if desired.

... when pasta is finished boiling, drain and add noodles to skillet. mix and toss pasta together, then plate. grate fresh parmesan over top of the plate. Spread pesto on bread, plate all, and serve!!

Tonight's music: Donald Fagen's The Nightfly and Miles Davis' Kind of Blue

Tech Tip: none this week! ... actually, for anyone who reads this blog, I would like to extend an invitation to submit technology issues, problems, etc., that involve everyday computing, as well as new media- and Web 2.0-related topics. To get an idea of what I have addressed in past posts, browse through the archives.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Winter Salad

After a brief holiday hiatus, I return with more recipes, music and technology tips. This week I offer a simple winter salad that serves as a fine accompaniment to a variety of cuisines commonly found in the colder months of the year. These include white and red pasta dishes, poultry, fish, beef, soups, and a variety of vegetable entrees.

Salads are often underrated as a dish in general. Further, most chain restaurants serve an abomination that typically consists of iceberg lettuce, cold and hard cherry tomatoes, boxed croutons, and ice cold cucumber slices with thick ranch dressing. Sound familiar?

What a disaster.

Don't misunderstand, some mid-level restaurants get it right, and the nicer the place, the better your chances are of getting a quality salad that is actually a meaningful creation rather than a formula. Further, people with an aversion to the idea of a salad would change their mind if they had a really good one.

Some things to keep in mind when you are making your own salads:

- Serve vegetables (minus greens) near room temperature. This involves letting them sit a short while after removing them from the fridge.
- For dressing: less is usually more. Salad content will suggest whether an oil and vinegar based dressing or a creamier type is better (for instance, a salad with steak in it will be much better with blue cheese dressing than olive oil and balsamic vinegar).
- Sometimes, a rich palette of ingredients negates the need for any dressing.
- Try different types of greens. Spinach is your friend (unless you're allergic)
- Seasonal fruit and nuts are great in salads year-round.
- Soft cheeses can be great.
- Avoid olives in jars if possible; visit the olive bar and try some different varieties.
- Don't underestimate the power of freshly ground black pepper.
- Chopped fresh herbs such as cilantro or flat-leaf parsley can be a fantastic addition to a salad.
- WASH YOUR GREENS, and then DRY THEM. Dripping wet greens in a salad are awful. Invest in a salad spinner to quickly dry lettuce. Otherwise, use a clean cloth and hand-dry the leafs before chopping/breaking them up.

Now, onto the food.

INGREDIENTS

These proportions are approximated for a single eater, so increase accordingly if you are feeding a lot of people.

- Salad greens (red or green leaf, boston, romaine, arugula, spinach, or a mix will all do fine, just stay the hell away from iceberg, which is only good for shredding or sandwiches).
- Goat cheese (crumble to taste, but don't overdo it)
- 1 handful Craisins
- 1 handful pistachios (crushed almonds or walnuts will work nicely too)
- 1 apple, cubed
Vinaigrette: 1 Tbsp stone ground mustard, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp maple syrup*

*Equal proportions work well for most diners here. However, depending how your mustard is spiced, you may want to use more, or season the dressing with salt to suit your taste. Further, adjust proportions if you like it more savory or more sweet.

In a large bowl, combine the greens, vegetables, cheese and nuts. Drizzle dressing over salad, taking care not to drown it. Serve immediately.

Music: since this is a recipe intended to accompany something else, I don't have the usual 'tonight's music' feature. However, I will suggest Linda Thompson's Versatile Heart and Mark Knopfler's Kill To Get Crimson as excellent winter listening.

Tech Tip: have you ever been confronted with the need to create a website, but don't have the means or know-how to host it yourself? If so, you may consider checking out Google Sites. One of many free hosted services offered by Google, Sites enables users to create template-based websites from scratch.

A major startup issue for individuals trying to establish a website is front-end design. Not everyone is a graphic artist, or is familiar with techniques of color, layout, etc. Google Sites makes this a non-issue with its site templates, which of course users can customize if they want. Once established, simply share the site's URL to other users or companies.

As with all Google services, users must have an account to use them (which is free).