Monday, October 9, 2017

Cajun Chicken Cutlets over Fusilli

This is by no means an original idea: Cajun Chicken Cutlets over Fusilli. Allegedly, Chili's serves something like this, according to the land of Pinterest. But I haven't been to a Chili's since 1999, so don't quote me. I'm sure it has a way catchier name on the Chili's menu.

This was really really good. Eveything works perfectly together. I love the final addition of fresh tomatoes and parsley right before serving. Keeps it light.

Be sure to get your hands on a fab cajun seasoning. Mine is from a wonderful market in my hood called Bagliani's. It is way better than the McCormick seasoning, I would say quite confidantly.

Believe it or not, The Husband cooked me something like this way way way back in the day when he was trying to woo me and I actually agreed to let him do anything in the kitchen.

Here is my way, which is the only way.

Kidding! (Not really).



Cajun chicken cutlets over fusilli
Makes 4-6 servings

2 lbs. thin chicken cutlets
4 Tbsp. cajun seasoning, divided
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp. butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2
Pasta water
1/2 lb. to 3/4 lb. fusilli pasta
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
Parmiggiano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

In a rectangle glass dish, whisk together 3 Tbsp. cajun seasoning and 3 Tbsp. olive oil. Add chicken cutlets. Massage cajun oil all over chicken cutlets. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.

In a grill pan over medium heat, cook chicken cutlets in batches, about 3 minutes each side. Set aside and keep covered.

In a large pot of salted water, cook fusilli pasta as instructed on the package.

As the pasta cooks, heat a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter. Add garlic and cajun seasoning. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add a couple of ladles of pasta water, 1/2 and /1/2, lemon zest and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle bubble. Once pasta is cooked, add it directly to the saucepan. Heat through for another minute.  Add more 1/2 and 1/2 or pasta water if you want it saucier. Turn off heat and toss with a handful of cheese.

To serve: Place a spoonful or two of pasta on a plate. Top with one or two pieces of chicken and then top with fresh tomatoes and parsley. Add more cheese if desired.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Late Night Pasta

During the school year, my din din often goes down around 10 p.m. with a glass of vino and some DVR'd trash TV.

Piano teachers get on the clock once the school dismissal bell rings out, so this leads to some interesting eating times.

Me - I like to fine dine when everybody packs up and leaves and my brain is clear of Mozart, scales and phrasing. The kid is in bed. Oh, and the school forms are signed. The school lunch is packed up. The laundry is started. The great room is tidied. The mail is sorted.

I mean really, does it ever end?

So yeah, then I eat dinner.

Here's a perfect recipe for such cirumstances:

Spaghettini with Prosciutto, Peas and Arugula.

It comes together in 20 minutes and is just right for good eats after a working momma finishes her day.

My recipe serves one, but you can easily double or quadruple it for the fam.




Spaghettini with Prosciutto, Peas and Arugula
Serves one

4 ounces spaghettini
Olive oil
1 fat scallion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1-2 thin slices of proscuitto, chopped
1/4 cup frozen peas
2 cups arugula
1/4 cup half and half
Pasta water
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmiggiano to taste, grated

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook your pasta as instructed on the package.

In a large saucepan, add olive oil. Heat over medium heat. Add scallions, garlic, red pepper flakes. After 3-4 minutes, add the prosciutto. Raise heat slightly. Saute for five more minutes. Season with pepper and a little bit of salt. (The prosciutto brings saltiness to the game.)

Add half and half and a ladle of pasta water. Add peas. Cook until peas are heated through and the sauce bubbles a bit.

Add pasta and arugula. Toss. Add another ladle of pasta water. You can add a splash of half and half, too, if you desire.

Turn off the heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil.

Top with parmiggiano.

Enjoy with your fave wine, a mindless show and solitude.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Italian Cooking for Stoonads: Aglio e Olio

Last time I made Aglio e Olio it was so outrageously delish I said to self: This should go on the blog.

Then my other self replied: Really, Susan. What jackass doesn't know how to make pasta with a bunch of oil and garlic?

My reply was something like: I never really made Aglio e Olio until adulthood. My moms never made this. Not until reading Lidia Bastianich cookbooks from cover to cover did I really understand what to do. Maybe the people will want this recipe.

Sure, I had seen this classic yet basic dish on menus at Italian restaurants forevs, but I never order pasta with garlic and oil when dining out because it defeats the purpose to me. (When I actually go to a lovely restaurant, I like to get all wild and crazy: Risotto, lamb, lobster. You feel me?)

This is as basic as it gets, I think. Of course, I could be wrong. There is something that happens at just the right moment to make a pasta dish magical. So maybe you do need some instruction on what to do.

In my opinion, the key to success with Aglio e Olio is to use a great olive oil (I love Cento); fresh fresh fresh flat leaf parsley - and a lot of it; and a good amount of the water in which your pasta cooked. And of course, high quality pasta is a must. I always use DeCecco or Barilla and sometimes fiddle around with the high falutin gourmet stuff. But really DeCecco and Barilla are my go-to brands. And cook the pasta to instruction. A timer is your friend, my friends.



Aglio e Olio Spaghettini
Serves 2

1/2 lb. spaghettini or thin spaghetti, preferably DeCecco
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling, preferably Cento
6-8 cloves minced garlic
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Pasta water
To serve: Olive oil and grated parmigiano cheese

In a large pot of salted water, cook your spaghettini to the directions on the box to al dente.


As soon as you add the pasta to the water, add 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat. Immediately add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook slowly over medium heat. Do not burn the garlic!!


Once the garlic and pepper are fragrant, add two ladles of boiling pasta water to the saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer.


Using a pasta ladle, transfer cooked pasta directly to the simmering garlic sauce in the pan. Toss gently so that the pasta is coated in the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another minute or two. Add another ladle or two of pasta water. You do not want dry pasta! Drizzle with more olive oil and top with parsley. Toss. Turn off heat. Serve with parmigiano cheese.


Perfection!


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Popcorn Chicken is the Best

So this tidbit slightly horrifies me: Popcorn chicken was invented by KFC.

And my son lives for Popcorn Chicken.



Deep breaths, Susan.

Nothing against KFC, just the thing is The Jersey Girl does not do fast food. Oh yes, I ate my fair share b-b-b-back in the day. But I gave that shiz up for Lent in 1997 and haven't gone a day with it ever since. A great decision, I must say.

So my 6-year-old first got his hands on some popcorn chicken at school. Which is comical. Fast food. School lunch. Same thing? Argh. I hope not. My ignorance is bliss.

But he talked on and on (he tends to do that) about this mysterious Popcorn Chicken. Mommy, have you had Popcorn Chicken? Popcorn Chicken is the best. It looks like popcorn. It tastes like popcorn. Mommy, is popcorn actually in Popcorn Chicken? Mommy, we MUST make Popcorn Chicken.

So Pinterest to the rescue. Yeah, I am one of THOSE moms. I pin a good game, but do I really follow through on my 8,000-plus pinning acqusitions? Probably not.

The Baked Popcorn Chicken recipe from Tastes Better from Scratch is the bee's knees, for sure. Three out of three kiddos approved. And this is a great recipe to get your kids in the kitchen "helping" out. Banging the bejesus out of cornflakes is super fun. See below:




I served the popcorn chicken with ranch, spicy mustard and of course, ketchup for the kiddos. BBQ and buffalo sauce are also great dips. And I'm not gonna lie: The grownups got their popcorn chicken on, too. Enjoy!





Baked Popcorn Chicken
By Lauren Allen
Taste Better from Scratch

Ingredients:

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces (about 2-3 large breasts
2 large eggs
¼ cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 1/2  cups corn flakes cereal lightly crushed
½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon paprika

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place chicken pieces in a bowl or ziplock bag and add flour, stirring or shaking to coat completely. Set aside.

Add eggs and milk to a bowl and stir to combine. Set aside. In another shallow bowl combine crushed cornflakes, salt and pepper, garlic powder and paprika.

Dip each piece of flour-coated chicken into the egg mixture, followed by the cornflakes, gently pressing the cornflake mixture into the chicken. Place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Flip chicken and return to oven for an additional 7-8 minutes or until cooked through. 

Serve warm with BBQ sauce, ranch, or your favorite dipping sauce.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Jersey Fresh Turkey Chili

I thought up this recipe recently while jazzercising in my basement. Yes, I am an exercise hound. I get my fitness on solo each day with trainer guru type video vixens demonstrating routines all fab and done up with their motivational speak while my pathetic asthmatic lungs gasp for air and I  sweat profusely in my-oh-so-uncoordinated manner rocking designer Old Navy leisure wear. It ain't pretty, but it gets the job done. And I love it. Exercise is such a high.

I will admit, while visions of Jersey Fresh Turkey Chili danced in my head I found myself a few steps behind the Comcast OnDemand - or is it Xfinity OnDemand - workout gal. If she were instructing me in real life, I probably would have gotten a lecture or two. Or maybe she would make me drop on the spot and do twenty pushups - which  I would kill. Totally.

But whatevs, this chili rocks! And the fitness peeps would probably dig it because it is totally healthy and it does not make you feel like a disgusting fat slob after eating it. Yay. It doesn't have that whole heavy factor that so many chilis have.

Yes. You may notice I top it with sour cream and cheese. That's how chili is SUPPOSED to be enjoyed according to legend. Or according to me, the creator of this awesomeness. Honestly, the four toppings: chopped Jersey tomatoes and scallions, shredded cheddar jack cheese and a dollop of sour cream are like a quartet of perfection. Don't mess with it! Trust me.


Jersey Fresh Turkey Chili

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 jalapeno peppers, minced
1.3 lbs. ground turkey
2 tsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. chili powder, divided
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
2 small or 1 large poblano pepper, chopped
2 corn ears, cooked, with kernels stripped from the cob
1 15.5 oz. can black beans, rinsed
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

To serve:
Fresh tomato, chopped
Scallions, finely chopped
Sour cream
Shredded cheddar jack cheese

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and jalapeno. Saute for 4-5 minutes until glistening.



Add ground turkey. Brown the meat, stirring occasionally. Season with cumin, 1 Tbsp. chili powder and salt and pepper to taste.


Add bell and poblano peppers. Cook for about five minutes so that peppers soften.



Add corn, beans, broth, remaining Tbsp. of chili powder and water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer partially covered for 30-35 minutes. The corn kernels will separate as the chili simmers.

Stir in cilantro. Adjust seasonings if necessary.

Serve in bowls, topping each serving with fresh tomato, scallions, sour cream and cheese.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Tomato, Zucchini and Fresh Corn Soup

I know it's 1,000 degrees out with a humidity level that is absurd, but this soup recipe is so necessary right now for the amazing tomatoes, zucchini, basil and corn that are rocking it in Jersey markets or in your garden. And, I'm holding out hope for some cool summer nights on the horizon, no?



Tomato, Zucchini and Fresh Corn Soup features roasted zucchini as the star, with corn, tomatoes and basil as the secondary players. All come together in a marvelous act. You will definitely want encore bowls of this yumminess.

You can also make the soup with just a can of chopped tomatoes or a bag of frozen corn if that's what you got. But when you have your hands on the good stuff - out right now - this soup is your everything.

It totally freezes beautifully, too.



Tomato, Zucchini & Fresh Corn Soup
From "Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day"
By Kate McMillan

2 zucchini, trimmed, halved and sliced
3 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
4 cups (32 fl. oz./1 l.) vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup (6 oz./180 g.) corn kernels (from about 2 ears)
1/3 cup (1/2 oz./15 g.) chopped basil

Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Toss the zucchini with 1 tablespoon of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Set aside.

In a large, heavy pot, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stir to combine, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Puree half of the soup in a blender. Return to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Return the soup to a boil, add the corn and cook for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and stir in the basil. Serve. Serves 4-6.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Eggplant Only in My Dreams

One of the benefits of my insomnia is that I dream colossal epic dreams that I remember quite vividly upon waking up no less than three times per night usually over a 6-to-7 hour rest, if you can call it that. Tossing and turning to settle; craving water; trying to find zen after crazy adrenaline triggered by copious amounts of asthma meds; dozing in and out; waking up to use the potty; tucking in the sheets; feeling hot; feeling cold; stretching; uber focusing on every creak, snore, breath that torments my ears as signs that others are at rest while my non-stop mind is not; pep talking to psyche myself up for some shut eye; making mental lists; worrying; fluffing pillows; pacing; refilling my water glass; anticipating the drill-like sound of the alarm (which I always beat by waking up before its shock-to-the-system buzz). This pretty much sums up my daily sleep situation for my whole entire existence. About once every month or two, I will crash and burn, sleeping hard and unscathed until like 10:30 in the morning. Then I wake up startled, heart racing, wondering what in the hell just happened.

My dreams stay with me for very long periods of time. I feel like this is a blessing because so many people forget their dreams instantly. I have dreamt of my deceased grandmothers; I knew I was having a baby boy without a doubt because of my dreams; I dream of people I haven't seen in ages and then that day I see them; I dream multi-chaptered dreams of my friends and family. And I remember so much. Plot lines. Character development. Dialogue. Costumes. Sets. The twists and turns. So many details. It's a bit trippy. But I accept this as my sleep reality: Little sleep and a whole lot to think about.

Last night, I dreamt of this: Eggplant on a bed of arugula, topped with goat cheese, a plum tomato salad and a drizzle of balsamic. The colors, the plating, the taste - all there in my dream. Vividly. I woke up wanting to eat this immediately. Of course, I needed to make this happen ASAP.



My dreams always mean something. I think. Probably not. Although, I have read that people who remember their dreams more than three times per week are considered out-of-the-ordinary genius masterminds as opposed to common folk who actually sleep a solid eight hours, feel well-rested and remember nada.

So clearly I am a major rock star omniscient smarty pants.

I tell this to myself daily as I walk into rooms with a purpose, the task at hand slipping from my mind in a blink of an eye. Why am I here? I'm so existential. Or when I leave the grocery store only to immediately create a new list of items because I forgot this or that.  Or when I run back to the house halfway down the street to double check that I locked the door or to grab my phone mocking me from the kitchen island.  But, but, but.... I'm a dream erudite. Who cares if I'm a total moron in real life.

So, Summer Eggplant Salad. That's what I'm calling this dish. It is a wonderful salad fit for a dinner party or a fancy shindig or just you and The Husband on a Monday. Cause that's how we do. You can prepare the tomato salad and grill the eggplant ahead of time. And then plate it right before serving. I love how this dish highlights so many Jersey Fresh goodies at this time of year: Eggplant, tomatoes, basil and parsley. The goat cheese and balsamic are some decadence thrown in for good measure.

Summer Eggplant Salad
Serves 8

Eggplant layer:
1 medium-large eggplant, cut into 8 to 10 half-inch thick slices
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat grill pan over medium-high heat.


Brush each side of eggplant slices with olive oil. Season each side with salt and pepper to taste. Grill each side of eggplant for 6 to 10 minutes per side until nicely marked. Set aside.



Tomato salad:
4 plum tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup red onion, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Gently mix all ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.



To assemble salad:
8 grilled eggplant slices
Tomato salad
4 cups baby arugula
8 Tbsp. fresh goat cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Balsamic vinegar

On eight salad plates, place 1/2 cup of baby arugula. Season with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

On top of arugula, place a slice of eggplant.



On top of each eggplant slice, place one Tbsp. of goat cheese.



Spoon 1/4 cup of tomato salad onto the goat cheese. Lightly drizzle 1/2 tsp. of balsamic vinegar onto each finished plate.


Serve and enjoy!