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Sorry for the dearth of posts, y’all. I’ve been sick as a dog the past several days and nothing prevents me from cooking like the inability to taste anything. Here’s one thing I made Sunday, when I was starting to be able to breathe through my nose.

One thing that drives me nuts about all the food articles in the summer is that it seems like no one can write about anything but GRILLING. I get it, grilling is fun (or is it?), but for those of us who live in tiny apartments with no outdoor space much less a grill, it can be a bummer. I usuall skip all mention of grilled stuff, leaving me with potato salad recipe after potato salad recipe. And here I am, offering something grilled. Sort of.

I have this grill pan I got ages ago (cast iron) and I rarely use it. But I wanted to make a fruit salsa to go with my tostadas, and I realized I really, really like grilled fruit. You could easily not grill the fruit in this recipe and it would still be tasty.

I also cheated and bought pre-marinated chicken from Trader Joe’s — pollo asada — and used that here instead of marinating my own. It was super easy, I will say that. For a vegetarian version, I would just use some nice spicy black beans cooked with some onion and garlic.

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It’s amazing what a week of not walking will do to your system (or I should say, not walking the absurd amount most New Yorkers do…). Getting back from Oregon, I felt sluggish and bloated. Now, that may have had more to do with the red-eye flight than anything else, but I wanted to have a fresh dinner to combat that memory of having eaten a bag of Doritos snack mix on the plane. Gross.

I cooked two boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a nonstick pan (flattened a bit to be a more uniform thickness), just with a touch of oil and salt & pepper to season them. After they were done, I put them on a plate and tented foil over it to keep them hot. I added about 1 1/2 T. of butter to the pan, browned it (careful to not burn!) and then threw in some capers, fresh thyme, and the juice of 1/2 a lemon. This was a fantastically nutty, tangy quick pan sauce to top the chicken with, and I served it with some brown basmati rice cooked in chicken broth with garlic and shallots. At the end, I stirred in some chopped spinach and basil for greenery and herbage.

This won’t fix jet lag, but it’ll make you feel pretty good otherwise. I still have at least one more Oregon-related post in me, but photo editing has taken a back seat to unpacking, running errands, and alas, working.

Often a visit to the farmer’s market yields a selection of fresh things that, while delicious, do not naturally go together. It’s like an episode of that infuriating show, Chopped. Make an appetizer out of candied ginger, arugula, swordfish and peanut butter! OK! But I digress. Whenever I shop places that don’t have a predictable, repeatable selection of foods, I make bad decisions. I don’t know what my problem is. For that reason, I never darken the door of those “make your own salad” places. I think I am a pretty good cook…but somehow I can’t direct someone else to combine salad ingredients that taste good together.

So last week I came home with sugar snap peas (divine right now) and radishes. OK, not such an unusual combo but I had a lot of them. They were great together raw on a salad but then I wanted to do some kind of stir fry for dinner. I am not in the habit of cooking radishes, so I went trolling the internets for recipes. I did find a cooked radish / snap pea dish on smitten kitchen….but it was heavy on dill and I loathe the stuff. So I went Asian with it, made a bit of a citrus & ginger sauce for the veggies, made some rice and cooked chicken breasts with garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil. I know daikon would have been more appropriate, but come on people.

This doesn’t really deserve a formal recipe…I just sliced a bunch of radishes and trimmed the snap peas (yes, “a bunch”) and stirred together about 1/4 c. OJ and the juice of 1 lime with about a tablespoon of grated ginger. I threw the veggies in a pan with a bit of vegetable oil, added the liquid, let them cook until they were crisp-tender (just a few minutes will do) and then served them alongside the aforementioned chicken and rice. Quick and easy weeknight meal.

I can’t believe I haven’t done a post on Tortilla Soup before. It is absolutely one of my favorite soups on the planet. A bit spicy, a bit tangy with lime juice, tomatoey-chickeny broth…and all my favorite toppings, including tortilla chips. This soup is great with or without the actual shredded chicken, but use the best quality chicken broth possible, homemade if you can. You don’t want to compromise this because of funky chicken broth. The best part is that it’s really, really easy to make. You can simplify even more by adding the corn straight to the soup (or not at all) and just topping with avocado instead of making a relish (or salsa? what’s the difference?), but I figured I’d have a little fun with it. If that’s not your idea of fun, well, I get it. I’m a weirdo.

Like most soups, this gets even better a day or two later, so make a big batch and take it for lunch. Recipe after the jump.

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eggplant

…and it’s November. I’ve been MIA, doing various things, including tackling the GREs. But I’m going to make an effort now, even with the Yankees on in the background. I am such a fair weather sports fan — suddenly I find myself yelling “go Damon!” at the TV, when a month ago, I had no idea who Johnny Damon was. Who cares! Go Yankees!

Anyway, here is a nice wintry stuffed vegetable dish I made last week. I love these recipes where there are a few constants, but pretty much all the ingredients are interchangeable. Stuff a pepper, a tomato, or an eggplant with this filling. Make it vegetarian. Put the filling in a pita instead of a veggie. Whatever floats your boat. I went a little Mediterranean with the flavors this time, but you could easily swap for Italian by changing the herbs & cheese.

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chickenpotatoes

Sometimes I get a notion to cook something a little fancier than usual. I came across a recipe on Epicurious for cornish game hens with bacon and figs, and it sounded pretty amazing. I set out to purchase ingredients. No cornish game hens to be found, well, that’s OK, I’ll just use chicken. But no fresh figs!? I’ve been seeing pints of fresh figs at my favorite fruit & veggie deli for the past few weeks and now they don’t have any? No worries, I’ll trek up to the fancy grocery store and buy some figs. NO FIGS. OK, on to plan B. I was wracking my brain to think of what to use instead… and I picked pears. The recipe called for thyme and I thought thyme, pears, and bacon sounded like a pretty delicious combination. Whaddya know, it worked!

I served the chicken with mashed red potatoes, topped with goat cheese and caramelized onions with balsamic (the very same onions I used on a pizza not too long ago. I think these onions will go on everything from now on). This dish would be great for a meal to impress.

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IMG_2036One of the best ways to maximize a small budget is by making food that is all about big flavors. Extreme subtlety is best left to dishes that contain ingredients of the utmost quality — something you’re not going to get as easily on a budget. That being said, this dish is no compromise. A light, healthy take on Sweet & Sour Chicken, a classic Chinese-American restaurant staple, usually sticky and dense.

This recipe comes courtesy of Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen (a great resource for everyday Asian recipes), via Simply Recipes. I, for one, always have a hunk of ginger on hand, and the ingredients here are so simple it’s almost hard to believe! I used chicken breast, but you could save even more by using boneless, skinless thighs. I would have taken more process pictures, but to be perfectly honest, chunks of chicken doused in egg white and cornstarch look kind of revolting, and don’t do justice to the deliciousness of the finished product! The only other modification I made was to add a small diced onion to the mix. You could definitely throw in any veggies hanging out in your crisper.

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So add this recipe to the “what do I do with all that leftover chicken” category. Shredded, slathered in chipotle tomato sauce, and nestled into a tortilla with a variety of deliciously fattening acoutrements, and we have a winner. Burritos can be made in an infinite number of ways; mine is merely one. Lettuce is not necessary but could be added, as could spanish rice instead of brown, pinto beans instead of refried black, cotija cheese instead of jack. Hell, you could use salsa verde! Or, get really crazy and throw in some peppers and onions! Oh yeah, I was going to do that with these burritos. Oh well. I don’t think I would have had room for the peppers and onions anyway, considering all the condiments I piled in there.

Also, guacamole is not exactly playing to my recession eating strategy – it’s expensive! But if there’s anything I have a weakness for, it’s guacamole, so I just had to get it. The burrito would still be mighty tasty without. This could of course easily be made sans meat, or with pork or beef.

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Sunday dinner. The last chance to cook something nice before the week starts and any overly complex recipes are deferred to next weekend. I saw the new recipes from Gourmet for March and everything about the Panfried Smashed Potatoes sounded amazing. So I decided to pair them with the rest of the broccoli I had and a chicken recipe I stumbled across this week with cardamom and honey.

The potatoes were delicious – crispy on the outside, cheesy and salty. I used small Yukon Golds instead of red potatoes, with no discernible downside. The chicken came out perfectly too, despite a sputtering oil burn I sustained on my arm (beware hot oil and chicken with a marinade!) and a slightly longer cooking time in the oven than I’d anticipated. I made 4 chicken breasts so that I would have some leftovers to make chicken sandwiches tomorrow and probably Tuesday for lunch. I realized my problem with leftover chicken is more about reheated leftover chicken – when it’s part of a chicken salad or sliced on a sandwich it doesn’t seem to have that gamey flavor that grosses me out.

Two cardamom-centric recipes in one day! It’s a really interesting spice…glad I’ve added it to my repertoire.

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img_1641As I’ve been making my way through the food books and blogs out there recently, I’ve noticed that one topic comes up again and again: how to roast the perfect chicken. Almost everyone has a different technique, whether it’s stuffing herbs under the skin, the fat vs. no fat debate, cooking it on its own or with vegetables, rotation, temperature, basting, etc. etc. Roasting a whole chicken can be a very economical way to cook chicken, provided you have a plan for the leftovers. Shredded, cubed or sliced, it can be used in any number of ways – in tacos or burritos, as chicken salad, on a salad, or as versatile sandwich meat. You get the idea. The carcass (great word) can be used to make chicken stock. Just freeze it and use it whenever you’re ready to make your stock (and then freeze the stock until you’re ready to use that. freezers are a great invention).

I’ve only used 2 techniques so far for my roasting trials. First is Alice Waters’ method, which involves salting the skin of the chicken 1-2 days ahead of cooking and then roasting with just a bit of oil under the bird, 20 minutes breast side up, 20 minutes upside down, and 20 minutes back around again. The second method I tried was courtesy of Ann Burrell (Secrets of a Restaurant Chef for you Food Network junkies), which involved making a paste of oil, garlic, salt, and copious amounts of herbs, and then rubbing it all the way under the skin. Definitely the messier method, but didn’t require the forethought of the first method.

I have to say, in this case, Alice Waters for the win. The skin was crispier, which, to me, is basically the whole point of roasting a chicken. This time around I did just pieces of chicken, so I reduced the cooking time from 1 hour to about 40 minutes with tasty results. I made a compound butter with sage, garlic and thyme and lemon zest to add some flavor to the chicken.

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