Tuesday, June 23, 2009

pea ravioli

One of the more desirable effects that motherhood has, at least on me, is that it makes you a bit more creative in the kitchen. Your baby's preferences set up parameters that must be followed: no eggplant, sparing with the salt, finger friendly food only, please. And the challenge of presenting vegetables in a fresh, exciting way is definitely in the forefront of my mind. I don't feel like a meal is complete for Buckley unless there's something green (or yellow, or purple, or red). And we do meat at most once a day, leaving lots of space for other food groups.
This pea ravioli was a hit, both with mom and baby. Pureed peas are transformed into a portable, not-as-messy packet of deliciousness by some boiled wonton wrappers. Buckley ate them plain; I topped them with a quick cream sauce. You can finish them however you like, but make a ton--they are delicious, quick to cook, and freezer friendly.

pea ravioli

1 package wonton wrappers
16 oz green peas, frozen or fresh
3/4 c grated parmesan
1 large shallot, diced
splash of red wine vinegar
olive oil

If using frozen peas, boil in salted water until tender.
Process with shallot, parmesan, red wine vinegar. Drizzle oil with motor running until a smooth consistency is reached, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Place a small spoonful of peas in the middle of each square. Lightly trace around the edges with your finger, dipped in a small bowl of water. Seal edges, pressing out any air bubbles.
That gives you ravioli; from there you can fold over the point and twist the edges inwards for tortellini, if desired.
Boil for 3-4 minutes in salted water.

Monday, June 15, 2009

porcini e mozzarella

What do you do with a $4 mushroom?
It's a question that most people never face. And, technically, I brought the situation on myself. I mean, I did buy one and a half porcini mushrooms (total: $6) in a fit of excitement at the market.
Since my budget only allowed a small bit of this fungal treasure, I decided to keep it simple. The fresh mozzarella was on sale, too, so I grabbed a ball.

In need of a six o'clock snack to a) go with our cocktails and b) tide us over until a 9 o'clock dinner, I thought of the mushrooms. I sliced them oh-so-thinly, placed torn mozzarella on top, and sprinkled lemon thyme, salt, and freshly ground black pepper over the top. A drizzle of olive oil and a trip under the broiler later, we had an amazing little snack of just-tender porcini and blistered mozzarella. Best mushroom ever.

Porcini e mozzarella

1/8 lb porcini mushrooms (1 large or 2 small)
1/2 c fresh mozzarella
1 tsp lemon thyme leaves
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat broiler. Slice mushrooms vertically into thin slices. Arrange on oven proof plate. Tear mozzarella into pieces and lay over mushrooms. Sprinkle thyme and seasoning; drizzle with olive oil.
Place under broiler until golden and bubbly.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

how to make chicken and impress people

My opinion of chicken tenders changed the day I learned the secret of a certain House of Chicken.
Although the quality of chicken and the items you choose to bread it with do count for something, what really makes a tender, savory chicken finger is a brine. A salty solution that you employ as a sort of marinade, a brine can be composed of many different ingredients. It soaks into the meat and has a tenderizing as well as flavoring effect, although it is much more pronounced in a thinner cut of meat. In this particular method however, the secret/only ingredient is...pickle juice! I favor Claussen, or a similar flavored dill.
Let the chicken soak in the juice for a day, an hour, whatever you have to spare. Then flour, egg wash, and coat it in a crumby mixture of your choice. One day, I had just the ends of a baguette, so I supplemented with toasted, ground pecans and grated parmigiano. Needless to say, plain old breadcrumbs don't really do it for me anymore.
I don't deep fry the chicken; I usually just have about a half inch of oil in the pan. It also helps to put a lid over the pan when the chicken is cooking, so you don't burn the outside before you cook it through.

I nearly always serve this chicken with a green salad for lunch, and an additional side if we're having it for dinner. The nasturtiums are blooming vibrant orange and yellow in the garden, so of course they were included. If you've never had a nasturtium, they are edible flowers that have a spicy finish, much like arugula. I prefer to pair them with milder salad greens. They're oh-so pretty perched on a salad, and baby Buckley was almost as excited as I was to be munching on flowers.

chicken fingers

chicken tenders (or breasts)
pickle juice, to cover
1 c breadcrumbs
1 c toasted, coarsely ground pecans
1/2 c grated parmigiano
3-4 eggs
1 c flour

Marinate chicken in pickle juice for thirty minutes to one day (the longer the better).
Season flour and place in a shallow bowl. Add a few tablespoons of water to eggs and whisk. Stir breadcrumbs, pecans, and cheese together in a separate shallow bowl. Dredge chicken through flour, shaking off excess, then eggs, shaking off excess, then crumb mixture.
Heat 1/2 inch vegetable oil over high heat. Fry chicken on both sides until cooked through.