Thursday, August 13, 2009

One of My Favorites -- Grilled Chicken Saltimbacca

This is one of my personal favorite recipes to make in the summer. I usually have fresh sage on hand and it is so easy to make. A real "Fast Food" type of meal. Little prep, little clean up, a lot of flavor.
Chicken breasts, prosciutto, lemon, sage and olive oil. (you can add salt and pepper, too, if you like)

Fresh sage. It's a unique taste and texture, but is absolutely wondrous when it's cooked. I've been wanting to try deep-fried sage leaves as a tasty garnish, but haven't had a chance yet.

Fresh proscuitto.

Lemon juice. The ultimate summer taste and smell. As I was rolling this lemon on my cutting board to release the juices, the oil came spraying out of the peel. I just massaged it into my hands and kept going, taking time to sniff the fragrance every so often.

So, mix the fresh lemon juice and olive oil together. Add salt and pepper here if you like.
Coat the chicken breasts in it. (If the breasts are on the thick side, you might want to pound them a little thinner. I should have done that with these in order to reduce and even out the cooking time.)
Place about three large sage leaves or 4 smaller leaves on each breast.

Then wrap each breast in a slice of proscuitto. If the breasts are large enough and you have enough proscuitto, you could use two slices for each breast.

Heat up the grill (I covered mine in foil, but you could grill them directly on the rack if you oil it well enough. You definitely don't want the proscuitto sticking to it and pulling off of the chicken.

Grill until the chicken is cooked all the way through (These took about 15 minutes, turning once.)

They turned out just perfect.

Trying to cut down on time and expense, I just served this with store-bought mustard potato salad. Salads go really well with this too.
So there you have it. My favorite summer-time grilled entree. It's really great for entertaining, just fancy up the sides a bit. A nice tomato and cucumber salad. A frozen berry dessert. It's quick, easy and so little clean up.
Everyone should have time to cook this -- About 35 minutes in all.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Gordon Ramsay's Pasta with Pancetta, Mushrooms and Leeks

Let me start by saying, I loved making this recipe. It was the perfect weeknight dinner.

medium pasta shells, pancetta, crimini mushrooms, leeks, olive oil, salt, pepper, creme fraiche, and parsley.

Rinse and slice the leeks.

Clean and slice the mushrooms.

Chop the pancetta. (This pancetta was thinner than I wanted. The evil Giant Eagle only sold it prepackaged and nearly shaved.) This would have been better if I had a slab of pancetta to chop.

Cook and drain the pasta shells.

Saute the pancetta in the olive oil just until it starts to turn a golden brown around the edges, but do not let it get crispy like bacon.

Add the leeks and the mushrooms.

Saute until the leeks soften up and the mushrooms start to shrink. Season with salt and pepper.

Toss the leek mixture with the pasta and add a generous dollop of creme fraiche.

Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Carlo and I loved this dish. The kids even liked it since the pasta shells were kid-friendly. The creme fraiche was the perfect finishing touch. It added just enough accentuation without masking any of the subtler flavors.

We were discussing what we liked about the dish and what, if anything, we would change about it. Here's what we thought would be good. This dish would dress up really nice with some fettuccini instead of the shells. Also, we thought that instead of using the baby bellas, we could by full sized portabella caps, grill them and add them to the dish. We even thought about using a grilled cap to hold a nest of fettuccini on top, or even to cap off the pasta with the grilled mushroom. And then we decided that a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan would have been a nice addition, too.

35 Minutes. That's all it took. This was a definite winner and has earned its way into my permanent recipe collection.

"Pasta with Pancetta, Mushrooms and Leeks" ... Done.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Gordon Ramsay's Menu - Mexican Flavors -- Beef Fajitas with Sour Cream & Guacamole -- Melon with Tequila & Lime

So, the next recipe from Mr. Ramsay is for Beef Fajitas. Sounds easy enough. Everyone knows what goes into them. How to assemble them. Sounds easy enough, right? Now, remember, he claims that nothing should take more than 45 minutes, start to finish. But I think he realized that he really pushed the time limits with this recipe ...

Well, sure. All recipes can be made quickly when several people help. But this cookbook was about preparing food quickly for your family so they could eat healthily. You all know I have twin nearly-four year old boys. Someone has to watch them while I'm cooking. So my husband is watching them and trying to keep them out of the kitchen while I'm cooking. For this recipe, he took them to the store. So, just two hands preparing this food. Even if they were there to help, I would only have my husband, because I'm not having A & J chop any peppers anytime soon.

For the fajitas - Skirt steak (I should have used a more tender cut of beef, Ramsay's recipe calls for tenderloin), red pepper, yellow pepper, olive oil, chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. (I also added an onion that I happened to have on hand.)
For the guacamole - two avocados, lime juice, garlic, chile (he says to use a red chili, I used canned chopped mild green chiles), shallot, plum tomatoes and cilantro.
For the melon - one honeydew melon, tequila, lime, honey and mint.
Slice the steak into strips. It was a beautiful piece of meat, but more tough than I prefer.

Mix together the salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika and cumin. Toss half with the beef strips and let sit while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
Slice the peppers (and onion) and toss with the remaining spice blend.

Saute the veggies until just softening.

Add the beef and sautee until the beef is cooked through.

Cut up and mash the avocado.

Mix together with the tomatoes, shallot, chiles, garlic and lime juice. Set in fridge until ready to serve.
To assemble, warm some flour tortillas, heap the meat and veggies on the torilla, top with the guacamole and the sour cream. I had some shredded cheese on hand, too, and also used that.
Roll up and eat. Frankly, I've had better. The chili powder marinade was actually bland. There was some heat to it, but not a heck of a lot of flavor. The guacamole was good, but the recipe made way to much, and as you know, it quickly discolors so storing didn't work for very long. The meat was tough and chewy. I know that's my fault, but the skirt steak I bought was earmarked for "fajitas," but I suppose it needed a real marinade, not just powders. It might has been better tasting it I cooked it before slicing it, but I'm not sure if that would have made a big difference. It was really lack luster in taste.

Dessert was my saving grace.
I used a melon baller to scoop out the flesh.

Place in a bowl and add the tequila, lime juice, honey and chopped mint.

It was perfect. The tequila added just the right zip without overpowering the melon. I also made a non-alcholic version for the twins (just omitted the tequila and added an extra squirt of lime juice and honey). They gobbled it up.

How long? One Hour And Forty-Five Minutes!! An entire hour of prep time with all the chopping and slicing and melon-balling. I guess if I had one person chopping the veggies and another slicing the steak, another using the melon baller, I could have probably finished it in under 45 minutes. I guess I should just grow two more sets of hands.
"Beef Fajitas with Sour Cream & Guacamole, and Melon with Tequila & Lime ... Done"

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