Monday, March 29, 2010

Go-To Chicken Dinner

We all have a few dishes up our sleeves that make frequent appearances on the table.

So, the time has come for all y’all to meet one of mine: Roasted Chicken with Balsamic Vinaigrette.

The recipe is from Giada De Laurentiis, of Food Network fame. You know, the stunning Italian broad who weighs 90 pounds, rocks ensembles from Anthropologie and cooks while over-enunciating words in her gorgeous and bright California-chic kitchen.

Yeah, it’s her recipe.

Usually, Giada’s recipes are awesome, although I have made a few flops.

This one, though, is totally a keeper. And a bazillion Food Network Web site readers agree. You can check out the reviews when you click the link above.

This is great to make when you have a hectic day, because you can just marinate the chicken in the morning and pop it in the oven an hour before dinner. The main ingredients are always on hand in my cucina: lemons, balsamic vinegar, garlic, fresh parsley. Donzo.

Roasted Chicken with Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (4-pound) whole chicken, cut into pieces (giblets, neck and backbone reserved for another use)
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper in small bowl to blend. Combine the vinaigrette and chicken pieces in a large resealable plastic bag; seal the bag and toss to coat. Refrigerate, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove chicken from the bag and arrange the chicken pieces on a large greased baking dish. Roast until the chicken is just cooked through, about 1 hour. If your chicken browns too quickly, cover it with foil for the remaining cooking time. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Place the baking dish on a burner over medium-low heat. Whisk the chicken broth into the pan drippings, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the baking sheet with a wooden spoon and mixing them into the broth and pan drippings. Drizzle the pan drippings over the chicken. Sprinkle the lemon zest and parsley over the chicken, and serve.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Vegetable Rice Soup

I’m not going vegetarian.

But, I wanted some vegetable soup. So, this is what happened. I love the way all the vegetables work together to create a really delish flava. And the colors just make me happy.

You may need to add more liquid to the soup. Rice absorbs a lot of the broth.

Vegetable Rice Soup
Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 cup favorite rice, cooked according to package directions
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
¾ cup frozen corn
1 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ tsp. Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrots. Cook for about five minutes. Add zucchini, bay leaf and Italian seasoning. Cook for 3 to 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add tomatoes, broth and water. Bring mixture to a simmer. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes. Add corn and prepared rice. Remove bay leaf. Adjust seasoning, if desired.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spice Spice Baby

I love to get my veg on.

And so, I bring you another side salad: Spiced Chickpea Salad.

I’m a big fan of the chickpea. In fact, me and the delightful chickpea-creation hummus go way back. Plus, chickpeas are way healthy and all that. They’re chock full of minerals and protein and folic acid and fiber and things that those doctor types tell you to consume.

I made this salad in an attempt to use up a bunch of this and that lying about in my refrigerator. Cluttered refrigerators send me into convulsions. So does Payless Shoe Source and hoarders and leftovers.

Ick nast.

I also went a bit wild with the spices. I love spices. I buy crazy ones at The Spice Corner in Philadelphia's Italian Market.

OMG. It is made of awesome. And it will make you realize that McCormick and those grocery store evil empire brands seriously jack up their prices in a mean, mean, meanie way. Grrrrr.

When you walk into the Spice Corner, it smells just like heaven. And you can find a plethora of spices and dried beans and coffees and teas and baking supplies. It's kind of old-timey and homey and fantastic all wrapped into a little store. Love it.

Anyway, hope you love the chickpea salad. If you shun spicy flavors, you should from this awesome recipe. And get your head checked.

Spiced Chickpea Salad
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)
1 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove of garlic, minced
¼ cup red onion, chopped
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
½ tsp. coriander
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. to 1 tsp hot sauce (depending on taste)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients.

In a small bowl, combine the coriander, cumin, hot sauce, lemon, salt and pepper. Whisk in olive oil. Once combined, pour over vegetable mixture. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

The Corner Spice Market is located at 904 S. Ninth Street, Philadelphia. Phone is: (215) 925-1660

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Good Bowl of Soup

Tomato soup is so comforting.

My Moms never made it back in the day, because The Jersey Girl’s Dad is not a fan.

But I rock it out all the time. I always try new variations and recipes. The one constant ingredient is always fresh basil, but other things change from the type of tomatoes to the herbs. I like to shake it up this way and that.

This version is my very own. It’s really yummy – especially with a grilled cheese panini or as I call it, the Dinner of Champions.

My soup is very smooth. I added a carrot and a little half and half to make it velvety.

Hope you dig it.

And for the love of god, you gots to eat it with a grilled cheese!

Suzie's Tomato Soup
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
½ cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
½ tsp sugar
20 basil leaves, chopped
¼ cup half-and-half
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add carrot, garlic and onion. Saute for about five minutes.

Add wine, broth, tomatoes, sugar and basil. Season with salt and pepper Bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove pot from stove. Using an immersion blender, blend mixture until vegetables are pureed and mixture is smooth. Add half-and-half. Stir. Adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Actin' a Fool

Shopping on the Internets after a night of boozing?

Probably not such a grand idea.

But, the Jersey Girl thought it was an AWESOME thing to do a few years ago while visiting my sis Monica and b-i-l Jason down in Alexandria, Va.

Along with The Husband, we had just gone out for some good eats and major wine consumption, when talk turned to cookbooks. “The Silver Spoon” had recently been translated to anglaise, and as a collector of all things books and cooking, I knew this bazillion-pager was my soulmate. According to many published reports, “The Silver Spoon” is a super duper popular cookbook in the motherland a.k.a. Italy. It is also the self-proclaimed “bible of authentic Italian cooking.”

Yes, please.

I had spent the previous day perusing my sister’s copy from cover-to-cover and took to the book this same delightful evening of inebriation.

Not surprisingly, my next course of action was hijacking the laptop and placing an order on Amazon.

I was thrilled to see the book was a fab price – it was like 25 smackaroos.

But here’s the catch: Thanks to shaky fingers, blurred vision, mindless chitchat and a nightcap, no doubt, The Jersey Girl clicked “Overnight Super Expensive Really Majorly Concorde Fast Shipping” rather than my usual “Super Saver Free Shipping Get It Sometime Next Week” box.

Superb, Susan. Good job!

So, yeah. The book totally beat us home. But traffic on I-95 from D.C. is killer, OK.

And it cost about $70 when all is said and done because I think I added a novel or something to my purchase to get the free shipping.

Oh, the irony.

The Husband razzes me about this fine moment to this day.

It happened like three years ago.

Despite my shopping gaffe, “The Silver Spoon” is fabu.

Here is a rockin’ asparagrass recipe from its many pages. Yes, I know it’s ASPARAGUS. But the Jersey Girl has her own lingo in her own little world.

The recipe rocks. I blanched the asparagus for just about 9 minutes, instead of the 15 as called for in the recipe. I don’t groove on mushy asparagrass. I also ixnayed the toothpicks. Waste of time. You don’t need them. And, I cut down on the butta. Plus, I melted the butter. God, as I’m writing this, I guess you could say I didn’t really follow “The Silver Spoon” recipe too well. Ooops.

Asparagus Rolls
From “The Silver Spoon”
Serves 4

2 ¼ pounds asparagus, spears trimmed
¼ cup butter, plus extra for greasing
3 ½ ounces prosciutto, sliced
Scant 1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Cook the asparagus in salted, boiling water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an ovenproof dish with butter. Drain the asparagus and gently pat dry. Spread out the prosciutto on the counter, lay two large or three small asparagus spears on each slice, roll up and fasten each roulade with a toothpick. Place the rolls in the prepared dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan, dot with butter and bake for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Please note: The Jersey Girl blanched the asparagus for 9 minutes, did not use toothpicks, and used just 2 Tbsp. of butter, rather than ¼ cup.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Potato Perfection

Who doesn’t love mashed potatoes?

No one. That’s who.

But making them for a crowd can at times be a pain in the arse since you gotta get the dish all together right at the last minute.

Thankfully, my girl Giada De Laurentiis totally has an amazing solution with her Baked Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan Cheese and Breadcrumbs from her cookbook, “Giada’s Family Dinners.”

You can set it all up ahead and just pop the potatoes in the oven 20 minutes before eating.

This is pretty much a staple at Thanksgiving. But Mark and I had his parents and my parents over for dinner this weekend, so I whipped up a batch for the Moms and Pops.

These are pretty much my most fav mashed potatoes ever. And adults and the kiddies love the dish, too.

Baked Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan Cheese and Bread Crumbs
From “Giada’s Family Dinners”
Giada De Laurentiis
(Makes 6 to 8 servings)

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, plus ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
4 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. dried plain bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a 13 x 9 x 2 baking dish with the 1 Tbsp. of butter. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the potatoes until they are very tender, about 15 minutes. Drain; return the potatoes to the same pot and mash well. Beat in the milk and melted butter, then mix in the mozzarella cheese and ¾ cup of the Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs and the remaining ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the mashed potatoes. (The dish can be prepared to this point up to 6 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Bring back to room temperature before baking.)

Bake uncovered until the topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bowl of Goodness


Life so gets in my way of blogging.

Apologies for the lack of new posts, but here's a different one for you: Paprika Chicken Stew with Potato Pierogies. It's another Rachael Ray recipe. This was the first time I made it. Definitely a keeper.

The Husband also gave it two big thumbs up.

I was jonesin' for some pierogies, which is so random I don't even know what to say. But, I bought a box and this is what happened:

I pretty much followed the recipe to the T. I added celery, and I omitted the second dose of olive oil. You don't miss a thing without that extra oil, in my humble opinion.

Anyway, while the weather is still chilly at night, you may want to give this a whirl.

Paprika Chicken Stew with Potato Pierogies
From "Just in Time"
By Rachael Ray
(60 minutes prep and cooking time)
Makes four servings

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound smoky, good-quality bacon, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs, cut into chunks
Salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and grated or finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tbsp. sweet paprika
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram or oregano
1 fresh or dried bay leaf
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup sour cream
12 frozen potato pierogies
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup chopped or snipped fresh chives
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring up to a boil for the pierogies.

Place a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat with 1 Tbsp. of the EVOO, once around the pan. Add the bacon and cook until brown and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add to the skillet with the bacon, and brown all sides, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the onion, carrots, garlic, paprika, cumin, marjoram and bay leaf and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until the veggies are just tender.

Make a well in the middle of the pan and add the remaining 2 Tbsp. of EVOO. Add the flour to the EVOO and mix to form a paste. Add the white wine, scraping up all of the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken stock and tomatoes and cook for about 20 minutes, until the stew has thickened. Stir in the sour cream and remove from the heat.

While the stew is cooking, cook the pierogies in boiling water according to the package directions. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter and cook until the butter turns slightly brown and gives off a nutty aroma. Drain the cooked pierogies, add them to the pan, and cook until slightly browned on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Add the chives and turn the pierogies to coat.

Serve the stew in large bowls, sprinkled with lemon zest and parsley. Arrange 3 pierogies on top of each bowl of stew.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Special Request Live

Some of my fellow Catholic peeps have been knocking down my door for Friday night meatless recipes for this whole Lent thang.

It’s safe to say that I’m a pretty awful Catholic, although Peggy on “Mad Men” could probably be considered way worse than moi with the whole baby-out-of-wedlock/failure to acknowledge said baby/and choosing to not to tell the baby daddy about the baby until the baby is long gone in an adoptive home. Or, does her sister have the baby? I’m still not sure.

Anywho, Peggy totally has some major sin going on underneath her belt. Literally.

But, she does go to church.

Unlike me. Except, I will be going quite a bit this spring what with First Holy Communion coming up for my gorgeous niece Sophia and a Baptism for my other insanely beautiful niece Baby Lucia. And, my spring piano recital is held in a church. Does that count for anything?

As part of my quasi-Catholic existence, I do get on the bandwagon with Lent. I give up things: This year, for the second year in a row, shopping is my sacrifice. We’re in week 2 of Lent, and my head is about to explode, but my eye is on the prize: The Jersey Girl’s birfday is two days after Easter, and I’m sending some shoutouts to Jesus for some gift cards, preferable to J. Crew, Banana Republic, DSW, Macy’s. I’ll just keep the list short. And then, once this Lent situation comes and goes, I can make up for lost time. Or, I’m cleansing myself of the useless desire to buy mass quantities of things. Yeah. That’s it.

In addition, I do follow the no-meat-rule on Fridays. Maybe I think this act will save me from something. I don’t know.

So, in the spirit of Lent, I bring you: Garlic Shrimp Bruschetta. This can totally be served as an appie, but The Husband and I just ate it for the main sha-bang on Friday. Plus, I made Roasted Red Pepper Soup to go with it.

But, I have to say, if I was hosting some sort fabulous dinner party on a Friday during Lent, this could quite possibly show up on the menu as a starter.

The idea came from The Husband, who asked if could conjure up a Shrimp Bruschetta. He said that was all he wanted for din.

That’s it?!?!?

After the shock subsided, I got crackin’ on how I was going to do it.

First of all, you gots to peel the shrimp – tail and all. This task is not much fun. I used many other non-Catholic words to describe the job at hand while my hands were all freezing and shrimpy and slimy and up in some crustaceans. But, I try to keep my blog PG regarding the Jersey Girl lingo.

So, once your shrimp are all cleaned up and good to go, the cooking process is pretty fast. Have all your ingredients by your side. And use a super big pan.

You can make the toast portion of the recipe first. If you make it at the same time, keep a hawk eye on your broiler. It’s way easy to burn things up in there.

Garlic Shrimp Bruschetta
2 pounds large shrimp, deveined, peeled, tails removed and cleaned
8 fat cloves of garlic, sliced
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste.

In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic cloves and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. Garlic should be golden and fragrant. Add shrimp. Season with salt and pepper. Toss shrimp in garlic-oil mixture. Cook for about 5 minutes. Shrimp should turn a pink color.

Add wine. Bring to simmer. Let reduce for a couple minutes. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and parsley. Stir. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve shrimp warm over toasts. Ladle the broth/sauce over the shrimp-topped toasts.

(The sauce is to die-for. You should eat the bruschetta with a fork and a knife.)

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Favorite crusty Italian bread, sliced thin
1 garlic clove

Rub each side of the bread with a garlic clove. Place bread on a baking sheet.

Pre-heat broiler to high.

When broiler is heated, place baking sheet with bread under the broiler. Once browned, flip bread and brown the other side.