Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year and a Girly Cocktail!

After purchasing a new bottle of Frangelico to make Giandua Souffles, I searched my trusty cocktail books and found this recipe for a "Russian Quaalude." This wonderful cocktail tastes like dessert and goes down quite easily (which I payed for the next morning), so be careful! It's a perfect choice for those who don't like the taste of alcohol, like me. In addition, you can make these in festive shot-form by first pouring 1 ounce of Frangelico into a 3-4 ounce glass, slowly pour 1 ounce Irish cream over the back of a spoon (aka., "float") to layer it on top of the Frangelico. Next, float 1 ounce vodka over the Irish cream. Voila! Now you're ready for a party! Happy New Year!


Russian Quaalude

Makes 1 delicious cocktail.

Ingredients:
4 parts vodka (2 oz.)
2 parts Frangelico (1 oz.)
2 parts Irish cream liqueur (1 oz.)

Directions:
Combine ingredients with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake well and pour into chilled glass.

Recipe from The New York Bartender's Guide, by Sally Ann Berk.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Romancing the Tin

Many years ago, before my first child was born, my husband and I visited Northern Italy. As we were young and broke, we backpacked across this romantic region of Italy. Besides the amazing architecture, museums, cathedrals, and breathtaking vistas, we fell in love with Caffarel Gianduia 1865 chocolates, (a sublime mixture of milk chocolate and hazelnuts). In fact, one of a handful of treasures we brought back from Italy, was a tin of these magnificent "boat" shaped confections.

In 1826, Pier Paul Caffarel began making chocolates in an ex-tannery located at the edge of old Turin city centre. In 1852, Caffarel introduced it's new confection, called Givu, meaning "stub" in Piedmontese dialect, which became known as the original Turin Gianduiotto. In 1865, during the Turin Carnival, Gianduia (the masked character that is the official representative of the city) handed out Caffarel Gianduiotti to the spectators. From then on, the character Gianduia became associated with the chocolate; hence, Gianduiotto Caffarel became known as Gianduia 1865. The factory has since relocated to Luserna San Giovanni (the birthplace of Pier Paul Caffarel). Here is a look inside!



So, when I ran across this "Giandua Souffle" recipe, by Giada de Laurentiis, I had to try it! These individual chocolate souffles, made with milk chocolate and hazelnut liqueur, are amazing! You want to know what the best part is? You can make them up to 2 days ahead, before baking! It's no wonder they wound up on my holiday menu! Well, even though my Gianduia tin is empty, I still have it and this treasured recipe! Buon Natale!


Giandua Souffle

Makes 6, 6-ounce ramekins

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar, plus 1/4 cup, plus more for ramekins
1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur (Frangelico)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces milk chocolate, chopped or chips, plus 6 ounces, chopped or chips (this is by weight, click here for more on food scales)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
Pinch salt
4 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, if you are going to bake them now. Butter and sugar 6, 6-ounce ramekins, or more if using smaller ones.

Heat the butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, hazelnut liqueur, and vanilla in a double boiler over medium heat until the butter melts. (Click here for more on double boilers.) Remove the butter mixture from the heat, add the 3 ounces of chocolate, and let sit until it melts, about 3 minutes. Place the chocolate mixture in a pie dish and place in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up. Use a spoon to form the chilled mixture into 6 evenly-sized  balls (truffles) about the size of a walnut. Reserve in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, place the flour in a double boiler and slowly whisk in the milk. Add the salt. Heat the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly until thick, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks and continue to whisk constantly. Don't curdle the eggs! Turn down the heat, if necessary! The mixture will thicken to the consistency of mayonnaise in another 3 to 4 minutes. Like this:


Stir in the 6 ounces of chocolate and set aside to let the chocolate melt.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl or stand mixer. Using a hand or stand mixer, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add in the 1/4 cup sugar and continue whipping until firm peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the warm chocolate mixture.

Place a ball (truffle) of the chilled chocolate mixture in each of the ramekins.


Spoon the souffle mixture over the truffles and up to the rim of the ramekins. (At this point the souffles can be covered and kept refrigerated for 2 days.)

Place the ramekins in a hot water bath (a baking pan, filled with hot water, about 3/4 way up the ramekins) and bake until golden on top and the souffle has risen, about 30 minutes (40 minutes if refrigerated). (The souffles won't rise as high if they were previously refrigerated. That's okay. They sink quickly anyway!) Remove from the oven. (Click here for a tip on how to remove hot ramekins from a water bath.) Serve immediately. Delicious!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Bacchus, Dionysus, and why Semele was Stupid

The holiday season is in full swing at my house and the wine is flowing! I guess we should thank Bacchus, the Roman God of the Vine! Bacchus is also known as Dionysus, the Greek god of the grape harvest, winemaking/wine, fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, and theatre. He was also the youngest and last god (or demi-god) to be accepted into Mt. Olympus.

Dionysus' mortal mother, Semele, was the daughter of King Cadmus of Thebes. She had an affair with Zeus, the king of all the gods, and became pregnant. When Hera (Zeus' wife) got wind of it, she pretended not to believe Semele. Semele freaked out and demanded that Zeus reveal himself to save her honor. What she didn't know was that mortals could not look upon undisguised gods without dying. (Dumbass!) Upon her death, Zeus rescued the unborn baby and sewed him into his thigh until he was fully grown. (Gross!) No wonder Dionysus needed a drink!

So, in honor of Dionysus and the holiday season, I want to share this delicious and unusual recipe for "Fontina and Prosciutto Stuffed Pork Chops with Fried Polenta Squares and Roasted California Grapes." Although I am still on the fence about the effectiveness of brining, I do recommend it in this recipe because it is the only seasoning of the pork chops. The polenta should be made ahead, even days ahead, making it very convenient for company. Roasting the grapes concentrates their natural sweetness and look like pretty little ornaments on each plate! All in all, this is a wonderful combination of flavors and makes a beautiful and festive presentation!


Fontina and Prosciutto Stuffed Pork Chops with Fried Polenta Squares and Roasted California Grapes

Serves 4

Ingredients:
For the Polenta
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup polenta/yellow cornmeal (I recommend Quaker yellow cornmeal because it cooks in 5 minutes!)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
All-purpose flour, for dusting the squares before frying
Extra-virgin olive oil
8-inch by 8-inch baking dish or pan

For the Brining
4 bone-in pork loin chops, 1 1/2-inch thick
1 quart water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 fresh thyme sprigs
5 whole cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

For the Stuffing
4 sliced prosciutto
4 slices fontina (about 3 ounces)

Finishing the Dish
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
1 pound California red grapes, on the vine and cut into 4 smaller clusters/bunches (I don't use the entire pound of grapes, rather a handful-size cluster for each plate.)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 parsley sprigs, for garnish

Directions:
For the Polenta Squares
Bring the water and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal in a slow steady stream. Lower the heat and continue to whisk until the polenta is thick and smooth, about 20 minutes. (If you use Quaker yellow cornmeal, it will only take about 5 minutes.) Remove from the heat and stir in the cream and butter until fully incorporated. Fold in the Parmesan and season well with black pepper. Pour the polenta into a buttered 8 by 8-inch baking dish or pan. Cover and chill a few hours.

When you're about to cook the pork chops, cut the polenta into 6 squares. (You will have 2 leftover.) Dust each square with flour, shaking off any excess. Once the pork chops are browned and placed in the oven, heat a skillet with a generous coating of olive oil. When the oil looks shimmery, fry each polenta square on each side until just beginning to brown. Set aside on a paper towel-lined plate until ready to serve.

For the Brining
Make the brine by combining the water, sugar, salt, thyme sprigs, cloves, and allspice in a re-sealable bag. Add the pork chops, seal up the bag and put in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

For the Stuffing
Drain the pork chops and pat dry. Using a paring knife, make a horizontal cut into the center of each chop to make a pocket. Wrap each piece of fontina with one slice of prosciutto.


Stuff a wrapped slice into each pocket and secure with a toothpick. (I've made this again and skipped the toothpicks and it was just fine.)

Finishing the Dish
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Set 2 large cast iron skillets (if you don't have cast iron, use what you have) over medium-high heat and add a 2-count of extra-virgin olive oil into each skillet. Add 2 chops to each of the skillets and cook for 4-5 minutes until golden. Turn the chops, push to 1 side and set grape clusters in each pan. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season the grapes with salt and pepper before putting the pans in the oven.


Roast chops for 5-7 minutes until cooked through and cheese has melted. Remove from the oven when done and set chops and grape clusters aside on a plate. Tent with foil to keep warm.

Consolidate juices into 1 pan and set over medium heat. Add the chicken stock to the pan, scraping the bottom to extract all the flavors. Whisk in the butter to thicken sauce. Season with salt and pepper. To serve, set 1 fried polenta square on each plate and top with 1 chop on each plate. Garnish each plate with a grape cluster and drizzle with the pan sauce. Garnish each plate with a sprig of parsley and serve. Enjoy!

Recipe highly adapted from Tyler Florence.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Licky Toffee Pudding

Well, since today is my birthday, I hope I can get away with telling this funny story! Last Saturday night, my poor husband had to work on a big project and didn't get home until well after 10pm. He ate dinner and quickly fell asleep watching TV. I didn't have the heart to wake him, but left a nice plate of "Sticky Toffee Pudding," all decked out with toffee sauce and a dollop of creme fraiche. The next day, I asked if he enjoyed his bedtime snack, in which he said he did. I then mentioned how good it was with the creme fraiche, when he replied, "There wasn't any creme fraiche?" It took us a few perplexed seconds, before we began laughing! My kitty must have gotten there first! I hadn't thought of that...oops!

This is a fantastic dessert, originating in Australia via Britain. It takes a little time, though; so, pick a lazy afternoon to make it. It's definitely worth the time, and is excellent during the holidays!


Sticky Toffee Pudding

Serves 12 to 14, it's really rich!

Ingredients:

For the toffee sauce
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream

For the pudding
6 oz pitted dates, cut into thirds (make sure there aren't any pits!)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup boiling water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
7 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (chocolate chips work well, too)
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (optional, but I like it)
Creme fraiche for serving (optional, Trader Joes carries it, if you have one)

Directions:

Butter a 9" round cake pan with 2" sides and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Do NOT use a springform pan, as the toffee will leak out during cooking, or else wrap the outside of the pan tightly with aluminum foil.

For the toffee sauce:
Combine the brown sugar, butter, and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved and the sauce is bubbling. Pour half the sauce (about 1 cup) into the prepared cake pan and set aside the rest to serve with the pudding.

For the pudding:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the dates and baking soda in a small bowl and add the boiling water. Set aside.

Cream the butter, salt, brown sugar, and vanilla together in a large bowl (or stand mixer) until white and fluffy. Beat in the eggs a little at a time, sprinkling in 1 tablespoon of the flour when you have added about half the beaten eggs. (This helps stop the batter from curdling; however, if it does, it's okay, it will come together again when the rest of the flour is added.) Mix in the dates and their soaking water. Sift the remaining flour and baking powder over the mixture, then fold in gently but thoroughly. Stir in the chopped chocolate and the expresso powder. Pour the batter into the pan.


Bake until the top is golden and firm and the sides have shrunk away slightly from the pan, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pudding and turn it out onto a serving plate.

Reheat the remaining sauce until bubbling. Cut the warm pudding into wedges, spoon the sauce over the pudding, and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche. This can be made a day before serving, just rewarm the cake and sauce.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Bien Dans Sa Peau

Bien dans sa peau, or, feeling comfortable in his or her skin is a concept I've embraced from one of my favorite books, French Women Don't Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano. This delightful book discusses how to eat for life and not get fat, by balancing eating, staying active, and happiness! No dieting? (except for this soup...) I'm sold! The idea is you feeling comfortable in your own skin, e.g., waist band a little tight (not comfortable), zipper not zipping (not comfortable), etc. In addition, it's not about what the scale says, it's about how you feel in your clothes. For those "non-zipping" times, like after the holidays, I suggest Mireille's recipe for "Magical Leek Soup." It just takes a weekend and you will feel renewed and ready to get back on track!

(I love leeks, and they are a natural diuretic!)

Magical Leek Soup (Broth)

Serves 1 for the weekend

Ingredients:

2 pounds leeks

Directions:

Clean the leeks and rinse well to get rid of sand and soil. Cut off the ends of the dark green parts, leaving all the white parts plus a suggestion of pale green. (Reserve the extra greens for soup stock.)

Put the leeks in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes. Pour off the liquid and reserve. Place the leeks in a bowl.

Eating Instructions:

The juice is to be drunk (reheated or at room temperature to taste) every 2 to 3 hours, 1 cup at a time.

For meals, or whenever hungry, have some of the leeks themselves, 1/2 cup at a time. Drizzle with a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Season sparingly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, if you wish.

This will be your nourishment for both days, until Sunday dinner, when you can have a small piece of meat or fish (4 to 6 ounces), (need information regarding a kitchen scale? Click here!), with 2 vegetables, steamed with a bit of butter or olive oil, and a piece of fruit.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Simple Jacques

Jacques Pepin was born in France in 1935. Pepin's love of cooking began at his parents' restaurant, Le Pelican, where he worked in the kitchen after school. At age 17, he moved to Paris and began working in some of the best restaurants at the time. In 1956, he worked as a chef for the French Navy, and then became personal chef to three heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle. In 1959, Pepin came to the United States, where he began working at Le Pavillon in New York City. After a few years, he was hired as director of research and new development for the Howard Johnson's restaurant chain, while simultaneously earning his Bachelor and Master of Arts degree in French literature at Columbia University. In 1970, after leaving Howard Johnson's, he opened a soup restaurant called La Potagerie, and later was in charge of food operations at the World Trade Center. Jacques has since published over 20 books, numerous articles for The New York Times and Food&Wine magazine, and hosted 9 acclaimed public television cooking programs. Busy man!

I read an article a few years ago, where Jacques was discussing how his food philosophy is simplification, inspiring his Fast Food My Way series of books. To his surprise, they have become his most popular cookbook series out of all his books! His belief that good food does not have to always be complicated has really resonated with people around the globe. A great example of this is his recipe for "Butternut Squash Velvet." This elegant soup takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, can be made ahead, and even freezes well! Although this chic velvety soup is effortless, it truly elevates any occasion, and would be a thoughtful beginning to any Thanksgiving feast!


Butternut Squash Velvet

Makes 5-6 cups.

Ingredients:
For the Soup
1 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, cut into 2-inch pieces
3/4 cup dices (1-inch) onion
1 cup sliced, leek, including some of the lighter green inner leaves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken stock, low-sodium if store-bought
1 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
For the Garnish
1/4 cup crushed pistachio nuts
A few sprigs of fresh chervil, dill, chopped fresh tarragon, or chives

Directions:
For the Soup
Put the squash, onion, leek, olive oil, salt, pepper, stock, and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover partially, reduce the heat to low, and boil (I think he means simmer) gently for 20 minutes.


Emulsify with an immersion blender (See Gadgets) until smooth. You can use a regular blender or a food processor, but an immersion blender is more convenient. (The soup can be prepared to this point a day ahead, covered, and refrigerated or frozen.)

At Serving Time
Add the cream and bring the soup to a boil. Serve garnished with a sprinkling of crushed pistachios and a sprig of fresh chervil or dill or a sprinkling of tarragon or chives.

Recipe from More Fast Food My Way, by Jacques Pepin.

Friday, November 13, 2015

There's No Place Like Rome! There's No Place Like Rome!

This recipe is not named after Dorothy's dog, but rather a trattoria in the center of Rome. This is a great pasta recipe to have up your sleeve, especially around the holidays. I find that when preparing for a full blown holiday meal (e.g., Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.), I often overlook the fact that I need to feed my company the night before. What to do? Nothing is easier than pasta, right? Only one problem: the men in my family find pasta dishes unsubstantial. The solution: add Italian sausage! Don't let the ingredients fool you. They may seem simple, but the result is divine! This recipe is easily doubled, to suit your needs, and served with a big green salad, wine, and crusty bread, and the result is a surprisingly quick, satisfying and elegant meal.


*Because it is a cream sauce, you need to serve it right away! Also, don't skip the addition of the fennel seeds!

Rigatoni alla Toto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (if necessary)
1 cup dry white wine
6-8 whole fresh basil leaves
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1/8 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds, or ground fennel (but freshly crushed is better)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Kosher salt
1 pound rigatoni
1/2 cup freshly grated or shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving (this dish really needs real Parmigiano-Reggiano)

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sausage and red pepper (if using) and brown on all sides, breaking up the sausage as you stir. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the basil, crushed fennel, and cream and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the sausage is cooked through.

While the sauce simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the rigatoni in the boiling water until al dente. Drain well and add to the sauce and toss. Add the 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss well. Serve immediately with additional Parmigiano-Reggiano sprinkled on top. 

Adapted from Rome, at Home, by Suzanne Dunaway.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Fall for Cashmere Potatoes

The first frost of the season is predicted for tomorrow. Brr! Fall is officially here. It's time to resuscitate my beloved cashmere sweaters that have been whimpering in my closet all summer long. Hooray! In honor of the occasion, I want to share a wonderful recipe for "Roasted Rosemary Potatoes" from the king of Italian cashmere, Brunello Cucinelli

Brunello Cucinelli headquarters in Solomeo, Italy.

Cucinelli began his luxury brand in 1978, which now consists of the finest Mongolian cashmere, silk, suede, and shearling. His headquarters are located in a completely restored medieval hilltop villa in Solomeo, Italy. Complete with a castle, church, piazza, and amphitheater, it also contains what can only be described as the world's most historic and, of course, luxurious cafeteria. The cafeteria is decked out with crest-bearing china, bottles of local wine, and Cucinelli's own olive oil. However, the food is not created by world-famous chefs, rather three Umbrian women who make everything from scratch and traditional, like these potatoes. 

This recipe caught my eye because the potatoes are parcooked in vinegar water, which sets the starches prior to baking. They are then tossed with garlic, rosemary, olive oil, salt, pepper, and white wine. The result is a more refined and elegant dish that has become a favorite in my household. I make them whenever I roast pork, and always with Arista (Tuscan Roast Pork Loin). While the Cucinelli brand is far beyond my means (Thank God for JCrew), I can always make this luxurious recipe and dream.


Roasted Rosemary Potatoes (aka., Cashmere Potatoes)

Serves 8

Ingredients:
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
3 pounds waxy potatoes (such as Yukon Gold; about 5), peeled, cut into 3/4" wedges
4 garlic cloves, smashed
6 small sprigs of rosemary
1/4 cup dry white wine (*Cooking Tip: You can always use shelf-stable Vermouth, which I always have tucked away in my kitchen.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring vinegar, 1/4 cup salt, and 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add potatoes and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes; drain.



Transfer potatoes to a large rimmed baking sheet and toss with garlic, rosemary, wine, and oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast potatoes, tossing occasionally, until completely tender and just beginning to brown, 35-45 minutes. 

Recipe from the June 2013 Bon Appetit.

Monday, October 5, 2015

We Don't Truss Lawyers

Thomas Keller is a multiple 3-star Michelin Guide chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author. He owns many restaurants, Bouchon, Per Se, and Ad Hoc; but, The French Laundry in Yountville, California is where the magic began. He has received numerous awards, and is considered one, if not the Best American Chef. No wonder his recipe for Mon Poulet Roti is hands-down the best roast chicken EVER! Believe it or not, it is also the simplest I've ever made. The keys to this recipe is a dry chicken, a "rain" of salt, and being able to truss a chicken.  Can't truss?  Watch this:


Got it?  Now make this juicy, crispy, delicious chicken!


Mon Poulet Roti:

Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients:

For the chicken:
One 2-3 pound fresh chicken (if the chicken is slightly larger, like 4-5 pounds, roast it for an additional 15 minutes in the oven)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons minced thyme (optional)

To serve:
Unsalted butter (optional)
Dijon mustard

Directions:

"Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.

Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird.

Now, salt the chicken-I like to rain the salt over the bird so that it has a nice uniform coating that will result in a crisp, salty, flavorful skin (about 1 tablespoon).  When it's cooked, you should still be able to make out the salt baked onto the crisp skin.  Season to taste with pepper.

Place the chicken in a saute pan or roasting pan and, when the oven is up to temperature, put the chicken in the oven. I leave it alone-I don't baste it, I don't add butter; you can if you wish, but I feel this creates steam, which I don't want. Roast it until it's done, 50 to 60 minutes.  Remove it from the oven and add the thyme, if using, to the pan. Baste the chicken with the juices and thyme and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board." (When I make this, I don't baste the chicken until cut and served, otherwise it ruins the crispy skin.)

Remove the twine, carve it up how you like it (with bones/deboned), and serve with fresh butter to slather over the meat (optional) and dijon mustard on the side.  I like to serve this with mashed potatoes and those amazing french green beans called harticot vert. You won't believe how good this is!  Thank you, Keller!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Meatless to say, it's Delicious!

The unthinkable has happened. In my meat-centric household, my oldest kid has decided that meat is no longer an option. Gasp! My first question was to ask if The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair (a novel that exposed unsanitary conditions in the meatpacking industry in the early 20th century) was to blame? Nope. I still don't know what the catalyst was; but, it has created a challenge for me to satisfy both my newly vegetarian kid and my meat-and-potato husband. After a few laborious days of making two separate meals, I realized I needed to give meat the heave-ho on occasion for my sanity. I began searching vegetable-based cuisines and determined that Mexico could be the bridge that brings us all to the table, meatless yet satisfied!

For centuries, Mexico's cuisine was based on vegetables, grains, and legumes. In fact, contrary to popular belief, meat plays a minimal role in the day-to-day lives rather enjoyed on special occasions and Sundays. I've been relying heavily on my Rick Bayless cookbooks, enjoying some recipes and some not-so-much. I found one recipe in particular that was surprisingly delicious: "Garlicky Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Smoky Tomato-Chile Salsa!" Portobello mushrooms are first marinated in a flavorful onion/garlic/lime/cumin mixture then grilled alongside onions, tomatoes, and poblanos that become a wonderfully smoky salsa and compliment the mushrooms perfectly! A few corn tortillas, cilantro, and a dash of hot sauce is all that's required to create one of the best tacos you'll ever have. Drunken Pintos provide protein and round out the meal nicely. It's so good, no one will miss the meat!


Garlicky Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Smoky Tomato-Chile Salsa

Makes 12 tacos, serving 4 as a light meal

Ingredients:
1 medium white onion, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds (keep the rounds intact for easy grilling)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon cumin, preferably freshly ground
Salt
6, 4 to 5-inch (about 1 3/4 pounds total) portobello mushrooms, stems removed and caps wiped clean (you can use a spoon to scrape out the dark gills on the underside of the caps, though it's not really necessary) (I scrape them out.)
A little vegetable or olive oil for the onion
12 ounces (2 medium-small round or 4 to 6 plum) ripe tomatoes
3 medium (about 9 ounces total) fresh poblano chiles
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
12 warm, fresh corn tortillas (I throw them on the grill a few seconds to heat them up.)

Directions:
Marinating the Mushrooms
In a food processor or blender, combine 1/3 of the onion, the garlic, 3 tablespoons of the lime juice, the cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Process to a smooth puree. Lay out the mushroom caps in a nonaluminum baking dish. Using a spoon, smear the marinade over both sides of each mushroom cap. Cover and let stand for 1 hour, or store covered in the refrigerator up to 24 hours.


Preparing the Salsa
Heat a gas grill to medium-high or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the coals are covered with gray ash and very hot. Either turn the burner(s) in the center of the grill to medium-low or bank the coals to the sides of the grill for indirect cooking. Set the cooking grate in place, cover the grill and let the grate heat up, 5 minutes or so.


Brush or spray the remaining onion slices with oil and lay in a single layer in the center (the least hot part) of the grill, along with the tomatoes. Set the chiles over the hottest part. Roast, turning everything occasionally, until the chiles' skin (but not the flesh) is blistered and uniformly blackened all over, about 5 minutes, and the onion and tomatoes are softened and browned in spots, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on their size and the heat. When the chiles are done, remove them and cover with a kitchen towel. (I put them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.) Set the tomatoes aside on a plate. Finely chop the onion and scoop it into a bowl.

When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, pull off their skins. Use a mortar to crush them, or place them in a food processor or blender and pulse until coarsely pureed. Add to the chopped onion.

Rub the blackened skin off the chiles, then pull out the stems and seed pods. Chop into small bits and stir half into the tomato-onion mixture along with the remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice and cilantro. Taste, season with salt, usually about 3/4 teaspoon, and then scoop into a serving bowl.


Grilling the Mushrooms
Remove the mushrooms from the marinade, spray or brush them with oil and lay grill side up over the hot part of the grill. Cook until browned in spots, about 5 minutes, then flip and move to the center of the grill-the cooler part-and continue grilling until they feel a little limp but still have some body, about 10 minutes more.


Serving the Tacos
Cut the mushrooms into 1/4-inch strips. Scoop into a warm serving dish and mix with the remaining chopped poblanos. Season with salt, usually about 1/4 teaspoon. 


Set the mushrooms on the table along with the salsa and hot tortillas-everything you need for making wonderful soft tacos.

Recipe from Mexico: One Plate at a Time, by Rick Bayless.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Savor Summer with a Savory Summer Tart!

Continuing my month of recipes that utilize the best the season has to offer, I must include this fabulous recipe for "Wild Onion and Spinach Tart!" I don't know if the title of this recipe gives it justice? Perhaps I should call it "Kick-Ass Summer Tart," because that's what it is! This recipe, that I was fortunate enough to run across, is from Amy Crowell of Edible Austin, and includes a fantastic "no-roll" pastry crust enhanced with Parmigiano-Reggiano and freshly ground black pepper, a base of salsa- or jalapeno-flavored cream cheese, sauteed wild onions (I used leeks) and spinach, mozzarella cheese (I used Monterrey Jack), all crowned with home-grown or farm-fresh local tomatoes! The filling is light and luscious and packed with a wonderful melange of flavors! This is perfect for a light al fresco summer supper, along with a green salad, glass of wine, candles, and the wind gently blowing by! You'll LOVE it!


Wild Onion and Spinach Tart (aka., Kick-Ass Summer Tart)

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
For the crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
2-4 tablespoons ice water

For the filling
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup wild onions (bulbs and/or leaves), finely chopped, or 1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise (To clean leeks, see Techniques.)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups firmly packed spinach or other tender greens
4 large eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half or whole milk (I used heavy cream, because I had some!)
1/3 cup jalapeno- or salsa-flavored cream cheese, at room temperature (I mixed 3 spoonfuls of my favorite salsa to 1/3 cup plain cream cheese.)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella (I used Monterrey Jack because that seems more appropriate for this recipe.)
1/4 cup finely crumbled feta, optional (I didn't use.)
4 small tomatoes, thinly sliced (I used 2 home-grown tomatoes.)

Directions:
For the crust
In the work bowl of a food processor, add the flour, Parmigiano, salt, and pepper. Pulse to combine. Add in the butter using a few short pulses until the mixture contains pea-sized lumps. Add 2 tablespoons of the ice water and pulse, adding more water gradually by tablespoons, if needed, just until the dough is moist enough to clump together in a ball.

Hand press the dough gently and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a 10"-diameter tart pan. (I used a 9 1/2" tart pan and it was fine, no overflow of filling!) Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the filling
In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to turn golden, 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, stirring frequently, just until wilted, about 2 minutes. Into a fine-mesh sieve or strainer set over a medium bowl, transfer the mixture and, using a wooden spoon, gently squeeze out most of the excess moisture; set aside.

*To make ahead of time, stop here until ready to proceed.*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt; set aside.

To assemble the tart
Remove the tart pastry from the refrigerator. Spread the cream cheese evenly over the bottom of the tart shell.


Sprinkle the mozzarella and the feta, if using, evenly on top.


Spread the onion/spinach mixture evenly over the cheese.


Pour the egg mixture evenly over the spinach mixture. Arrange the sliced tomatoes on top.


Bake the tart until the center is puffed up and lightly browned and no longer wet to the touch, 35-45 minutes. Allow the tart to rest for 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Confessions of a Cookbook Junkie

I wasn't looking for another cookbook...I already have a bookshelf full...but...I just happened by a bargain book bin and just had to take a peek! There it was, laying right on top, my newest resident to join my cookbook microcosm: edible: a celebration of local foods, by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian (cofounders of Edible Communities Publications)! Edible Communities, Inc., is a publishing and information services company that creates community-based, local-foods publications in distinct culinary regions throughout the United States and Canada, concentrating, of course, on eating local and seasonally. I was immediately drawn to this book because three-quarters of it focuses on stories about local farmers, fishermen, distillers, wine-makers, ranchers, butchers, chefs, and artisans dedicated to creating the best quality products utilizing local and seasonal ingredients. The remainder of the book provides a modest seasonal recipe collection. So, it's really more of a book than a cookbook...right?

Perhaps it was guilt that prodded me to make my purchase, I have two kids, a husband, a house to take care of, a garden to try to manage, etc....a real life. I don't always have the pleasure to eat only local fresh ingredients. As long as I can get my beloved harticot verts from Guatemala, I'm happy. I honestly don't have the time to think about where they come from, I'm just happy they're available. However, maybe I do care... After all, this year I'm growing tomatoes in large pots that are overtaking my deck, zucchini stuffed into the very corner of my yard, apples in espalier form, poblanos snuggled next to my basil and lavender, and my very own harticot verts happily swaying in the breeze! (Take that, Guatemala!) Apparently, I do like to know where my food comes from! So, this month, in an attempt to join the "movement," I am dedicating Dinner Night to my favorite seasonal recipes that utilize and enhance the bounty of the season, either from my garden or local providers!

My first recipe, courtesy of Edible Cape Cod, is for a fantastic "Grilled Chicken and Peaches with Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese!" Seriously, this is one of the best new recipes I've tried this summer! It is so satisfying with it's simple grilled chicken breasts, peaches macerated in Cognac and grilled, served on a bed of baby lettuce and goat cheese medallions, then topped with caramelized onions and a drizzle of honey! The creative combination of flavors is surprisingly delicious! I served it with a bottle of Barton & Guestier Vouvray 2011 (***see note below) and was absolutely thrilled! You have to try it!


Grilled Chicken and Peaches with Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese

Serves 4

Ingredients:
For the Caramelized Onions
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more if needed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon light brown sugar

For the Grilled Chicken and Peaches
2 medium peaches, peeled, pitted, and halved (You better use local, if available!)
1/4 cup good brandy, such as cognac, optional
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (get fresh ones from your butcher, not the previously frozen abominations they sell already packaged...remember, it's all about fresh here!) 

For the Goat Cheese and Greens
2 cups local young mixed salad greens
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, optional
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more if needed
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons liquid honey
1 goat cheese log (12 ounces) (I used 8 ounces and it was plenty), sliced into 12 equal rounds (Use unflavored dental floss to cut the goat cheese, it's brilliant!)

Directions:
For the Caramelized Onions
In a large saute pan, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. When the butter stops foaming, add the onions, salt, and pepper. Stir well and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the pan and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove the cover from the pan. Stir in the brown sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are a deep golden brown, 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Place the onions into a bowl; set aside.

For the Grilled Chicken and Peaches
If using the brandy, while the onions are cooking, place the peaches and brandy into a large bowl; toss well to combine. Preheat a gas grill on medium heat or prepare a moderately hot charcoal fire. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper evenly over both sides of the chicken breasts. Lightly grease the grill rack. (I just drizzled a little olive oil over the chicken breasts instead.) Place the chicken breasts on the rack and cook for 5 minutes. Turn each breast over and cook until the chicken is no longer pink inside, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate, tent the plate lightly with foil, and allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes.

Remove the peaches from the brandy and pat dry with paper towels. Place the peaches cut-side down on the grill. Grill until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the peaches from the grill. Sprinkle the grilled side of each peach half with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper; set aside.

For the Goat Cheese and Greens
In a medium bowl, toss together the salad greens, oil, lemon juice, if using, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Plating the Dish
Place equal portions of the salad greens on 4 plates. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the honey evenly over the greens. Place 3 slices of goat cheese over the greens on each plate. Slice the chicken breasts on the diagonal, keeping the slices from each breast together. Fan each chicken breast over the greens and cheese on each plate. Scatter the caramelized onions evenly over the chicken. Place the peach halves grilled-side up next to the chicken and greens. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of honey evenly over the components on each plate. Sprinkle each plate with a pinch each of salt and pepper, if desired.

(The perfect bite!)

*** I strongly recommend a bottle of Barton & Guestier (aka., B&G) Vouvray Chenin Blanc 2011 to serve with this dish. It's floral notes, peach and pear flavors go very nicely and it's not expensive!


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Truffle Butter - Your New Best Friend

Truffles are extremely expensive, and many people (including myself) just can't afford them. So, for us "peasants," truffle oil is the way to go. I know this is extremely controversial among chefs; although, I know plenty that use it. The controversy is spawned by the fact that most truffle oils don't contain any truffle, rather a synthetic product (2,4-dithiapentane) that mimics the flavor and aroma. Many chefs and people in the know turn their nose up saying it tastes unauthentic, metallic, and rancid. Whatever.

Don't fret, because I've got good news for you! There are some affordable truffle oils that do contain truffles! My favorite is Truffieres de Rabasse Black Truffle Olive Oil and is a bargain at $12.00 for 1.86 ounces! Taking into account that a little goes a very, very long way, it is a steal! Remember to store your truffle oil in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator. FYI: If stored in the refrigerator (which is what I do), it may take on a cloudy appearance which in no way affects the quality. 

Whatever kind of truffle oil you purchase, my recipe for truffle butter will change your life! I like a slice on a perfectly grilled steak! Absolute perfection! It will keep for months in the freezer, so try some in your mashed potatoes, tossed with pasta and asparagus, add some to risotto, etc. Having this truffle butter in your freezer is one of the best investments you could make! Enjoy!


Truffle Butter
Makes 1 log

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1/4 cup shallots, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1 pound unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons truffle oil

Directions:
Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and shallots and gently sweat until translucent, but not browned. Deglaze the pan with the wine, raise the heat to medium, and reduce until almost dry. Remove the pan from the heat. Place the garlic/shallot/white wine mixture in a small bowl and chill in the refrigerator until completely cold. In a stand mixer (or by hand), whip together the garlic/shallot/white wine mixture with the butter, parsley, and truffle oil. 


Once whipped and completely incorporated, place the mixture in a log shape onto an approximately 12"x9" piece of parchment paper. Fold the parchment over the butter, and using a ruler or bench scraper, drag towards you to create a uniform log shape. 


Roll up the log and twist the ends. Store in the freezer until ready to use.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Col du Tourmalet!



With the Tour de France 2015 entering week two in the beautiful Pyrenees mountains, I am giddy with excitement! Today's stage 11 will no doubt be as enchanting as it is perilous. While my favorite riders are Sagan, Van Garderen, and Quintana, it appears that spindly Chris Froome may very likely take the yellow jersey in Paris...again...sigh. Anyway, to celebrate the beauty of the Pyrenees, I want to share this wonderful recipe from Jamie Oliver that utilizes the region's most famous cheese, "Roquefort Salad with Warm Croutons and Lardons." This fantastic, main course salad is a real showstopper, and one of my absolute favorites! Roquefort, homemade croutons, bacon, walnuts, and a mustardy vinaigrette - what's not to love? A lovely bottle of wine, such as Savagnin from Jura, makes this an excellent summer meal! 


Roquefort Salad with Warm Croutons and Lardons

Serves 4 as a main

Ingredients:
For the Salad:
Olive oil
8 ounce piece of smoked streaky bacon, the best quality you can afford, rind removed
2 thick slices of sourdough bread, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 large handfuls of lamb's lettuce, watercress or rocket, washed and spun dry
2 large handfuls of radicchio, washed and spun dry
A large handful of shelled walnut haves, sliced
A bunch of chives, finely chopped
3.5 ounces Roquefort cheese

For the Dressing:
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Put a large frying pan on a high heat, and once hot, add a good couple of lugs of olive oil. Cut your bacon into half-inch lardons, and add to the pan. Fry, stirring occasionally, for around 3 minutes, or until you've got a good bit of color on the bacon and a lot of the fat has rendered out. Turn the heat down a little and add your bread to the pan, making sure you spread the croutons out so they take on some color. Fry for another 3 minutes, or until they've sucked up all the wonderful flavor and are lovely, crisp and golden.

Put the extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and a good pinch of salt and pepper into a clean jam jar. Put the lid on and give it a shake, then have a taste and make sure you've got the balance right. You want it to be slightly too acidic at this stage, as you'll get quite a bit of saltiness from the bacon and French dressings tend to be quite sharp.

Once your dressing is made, get everyone around the table so they're ready to tuck in as soon as the salad is ready. Put your salad leaves on a big platter, tear in the radicchio, then pour over the wonderful, thick dressing. Scatter over most of your walnuts and chives and all the croutons and lardons. Quickly mix it all up with your clean hands so that every single leaf is coated.

Use the tip of a knife to crumble off little nuggets of Roquefort and let them fall straight on to your salad. Finish by scattering over the rest of the walnuts and chives from a height, and tuck in!

Recipe from Jamie Oliver's Food Escapes.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Pizza on the Grill

It's no secret that I love to grill and barbecue, especially in the summer. Not only does it keep my kitchen cleanup to a minimum, it also keeps my house cooler in the sweltering heat of summer. Until recently, I avoided recipes for pizza on the grill. I honestly thought it sounded like a disaster waiting to happen. Well, I gave it a go, hoping I wouldn't have to make an emergency call for take-out. Turns out, it's a brilliant way to cook pizza! Not only did my pizzas turn out with a delicious smokey flavor, it was actually quite fun! 

I made a simple tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil pizza for my kids, and a "Chicken Fajita Pizza" for me and my husband. Both were delicious! If you are planning to fire up the grill on this fourth of July, skip the boring hot dogs and burgers, and give this a try! Your guests will have a blast designing their own pizzas! All you'll need is a nice green salad, some ice-cold beer, and peach cobbler/vanilla ice cream, to ensure a fourth of July that is as memorable as it is fun!


Grilled Chicken Fajita Pizza

Makes 2 large oval pizzas

For the Pizza Dough for the Grill:
1 cup warm water (100-110 degrees) (My hot tap water is hot enough.)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

For the Chicken Fajita topping (Amounts are for 1 pizza, double for 2):
1 leftover, cooked chicken breast from my chicken fajita recipe, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 cup leftover, cooked onions and bell peppers from my chicken fajita recipe, chopped into bite-size pieces
Enough of your favorite salsa to spread over the dough (I like Roasted Tomato-Jalapeno Salsa)
Freshly grated Monterrey Jack and sharp cheddar cheese, to top the salsa
1 avocado, diced
Sprinkle of chopped, fresh cilantro

Directions:
For the Pizza Dough for the Grill
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water and stir to dissolve. Let the mixture stand until the yeast mixture begins to foam, 5-10 minutes.

Turn the mixer on low and add the salt and olive oil. Add the flour, a little at a time, mixing on the lowest speed until the flour has been completely incorporated. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium and let it go until the dough gathers into a ball, about 5 minutes. If the dough seems too wet, add a little more flour. If the dough seems too dry, add a little more water, etc. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.

Turn the dough into a large bowl that has been lightly coated with olive oil, to prevent sticking. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about an hour.

To Grill the Pizza
Have all your toppings ready and available! (It's good to be organized, as the pizzas cook quickly!) Divide the dough into two balls on a lightly floured surface.

Prepare a charcoal (or gas) grill to high heat on one side of the grill. (E.g., if using charcoal, pile the charcoal on one side of the grill.)

When your grill is ready, roll out one dough ball to a 1/4" thickness in an oval/rectangular shape. (The oval shape allows the pizza dough to cook on the hot side of the grill, and heat and melt the cheese on the other cooler side of the grill without burning the dough.) Brush the dough on one side with olive oil. Place the oiled side of the dough directly over the hottest part of the grill. Brush the top side of the dough with olive oil. Continue to cook the dough on each side until slightly charred and puffed, only a couple minutes per side. Remove the dough to a cutting board.

Spread the salsa (or tomato sauce,...whatever you wish) over the dough. Top with the cheese, chicken, onions and bell peppers. Return the pizza to the cooler side of the grill. Cover to allow the cheese to melt and toppings to heat, approximately 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat and top with the avocado and cilantro.


Repeat the process with the second pizza and desired toppings.

Happy 4th!
Love you, Tom!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Chicken Girdles!

Being a fourth-generation native Texan, I LOVE fajitas! According to The Tex-Mex Cookbook, by Robb Walsh, it was Mama Ninfa Laurenzo of Houston, Texas, who originated the first commercial fajita in the United States in 1973. Mama Ninfa was born Maria Ninfa Rodriguez in 1924. She lived on a farm in the Rio Grande Valley, not far from where I am from. No doubt Mama Ninfa was familiar with Hispanic ranch hands marinating and grilling less desirable cuts of beef, such as the skirt steak. Butchers in the Rio Grande Valley called the skirt steak "fajita" from the Spanish word "faia," which means belt or girdle in Spanish. Over time as fajitas became all the craze, the term fajita began to mean any grilled meat served with flour tortillas, giving birth to "chicken fajitas."

I have tried a plethora of recipes for chicken fajitas over the years, even Mama Ninfa's. But the recipe that I always return to is Robb Walsh's from The Tex-Mex Cookbook. I like the simplicity and flavor better than more complicated recipes I've tried. I like my chicken fajitas with grilled red onion, red and yellow bell pepper strips, topped with pico de gallo, a generous dribble of Cholula hot sauce, and a dollop of sour cream. Delicious, or as my dad would say, "Hot Damn!" Robin's Tex-Mex Rice and Drunken Pintos make perfect accompaniments!


"Chicken Fajitas"

Serves 4, generously!

**Don't worry if you have leftovers. Make a "Grilled Chicken Fajita Pizza"!

Ingredients:
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
4, 7-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt, to taste
1 red onion, sliced into 1/4" strips, drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper
1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1/4" strips, drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into 1/4" strips, drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper
8 warm flour tortillas (I always grill a few extra, just in case!)
Condiments of choice (e.g., pico de gallo, hot sauce, sour cream, avocado slices, guacamole, etc.)

Directions:
Combine the onion, oregano, lemon juice, and olive oil in a blender. Puree until smooth. Transfer the puree to a bowl (or plastic freezer bag) and turn the chicken breasts in the mixture until well coated. Cover and marinate for about 4 hours in the refrigerator.


Heat a gas or charcoal grill. Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill over a hot fire, turning once, for 2 minutes each side. Move the chicken to a cooler part of the grill and cook, turning as needed, for 6 to 8 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and loosely cover with foil. 

At this point, grill the onion and peppers until charred and just beginning to soften. (I find using a grilling skillet or basket works very well, see Gadgets.) When done, remove to a platter or bowl. 

Smells amazing!

Next grill each tortilla until slightly charred on each side, and just beginning to puff up. (Up to 30 seconds each side, depending on how hot your grill is.) Wrap in foil or place in a tortilla basket to keep warm.

When they puff up they're done!

Once the onions, peppers, and tortillas are done, slice the chicken into long strips against the grain. Salt to taste. Serve with desired condiments and let everyone help themselves! 

Recipe adapted from Robb Walsh and combined with my techniques.