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Monday, January 25, 2016

Recipe Review from 1/18/2016

A small rant regarding recipes calling for fresh herbs when it looks like this outside:

I've noticed an increase in the use of fresh herbs across recipes sources.  Which is fine if you live in a place they are readily available (Florida) in January, but not so much where winter blankets the land for nearly 6 months out of the year.   Buying fresh herbs at the standard grocery story is cost prohibitive for what you get.  .5oz/1oz = $3.00, more if it's organic.   For 1 tsp or tablespoon that is generally used as a finishing touch.   I recently purchased some cilantro for a dish, it was $1.00 for a bunch, I like the taste of cilantro, so I thought what the heck.  By the time I got around to using it mid-week, it was a small bag of decomposing mushy leaves.  Yeah, that worked out well. 

I hear the arguments that fresh tastes better, I can freeze what I don't need (but then it's not fresh any more), and there are all sorts of gizmos and gadgets to help keep the produce in tip top shape.  Never mind the fact it's been shipped from California or Mexico.  People, it ain't fresh the moment it's picked and shipped 2000 miles.  

Yo. Magazine editors.  Let's get realistic here. Perhaps on your salary you can afford fresh herbs every week.  But for the rest of us home cooks just trying to put a decent dinner on the table?  Not happening...

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest....

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L) Chicken and Seared Avocados (S) Tuscan Soup
Mon (Yoga) leftover chicken and avocados
Tues (Vet AM/Block) Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
Wed - leftovers
Thurs (yoga) Salmon
Fri (Block) leftovers   grilled cheese

Lunches (Husband) Sandwiches  (Me) Tuscan Soup

Tuscan Soup (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)  gluten free
The Husband ordered us a bag of fresh dried Northern Beans, and I had this recipe bookmarked as one way to use them.  It's a tiny bit putzy (it's a Cooks Illustrated recipe, it's going to be a bit putzy) and a bit simple on the ingredients.  Perhaps too simple.  I ended up adding the spinach for some color and flavor. 

My other substitution was I used ham instead of pancetta.  Mixed thoughts on this substitution - I didn't have access to a chunk of pancetta, only the little thin slices and decided mid-assembly to use ham.  It added flavor sure, but it became more like a ham and bean soup than pancetta...but there's not much difference between the two. So...there it is.

6 oz pancetta, cut into 1" cubes  (I used ham)
12 cups water, plus extra as needed
2 cups (1 lb) navy or cannelli beans
1 large onion, unpeeled and halved
       plus 1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
       plus 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
1/4 cup EVOO, plus extra for serving
1 spring fresh rosemary  (I used dash of dried)
Balsamic vinegar, for serving
6 oz fresh baby spinach, washed  (my addition)

1) Cook pancetta (ham) in a dutch oven, add large halved onion, unpeeled garlic cloves, bay leaf and beans.  Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer(!) until beans are softened.  This took about 1 1/2 hours for my beans.

2) Remove from heat, drain liquid into a large bowl and set aside.  Discard onion, garlic, bay leaf. 

3) In same Dutch oven, saute diced onion in 1 tbsp olive oil until soft.  Add minced garlic cloves and rosemary; cook until fragrant.  Add reserved liquid and beans.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, add spinach and allow to wilt.  Drizzle with olive oil before serving.

Skillet Chicken with Seared Avocados (Ckng Lght, Jan/Feb 2016)  gluten free
Don't be put off by the ingredient list below.  This dish comes together very quickly and easily.  I did substitute chicken thighs for chicken breasts (I think they taste better).  The overall flavor of this dish reminded me of fajitas.   The seared avocados were new to me, and worked very well in this dish.  Husband really liked this one - I will probably bookmark this and try a variation on the grill later this summer. Some cornbread as a side would be outstanding.   This made enough for two meals plus enough for an additional dinner for one.  Recommended!

1 tablespoon olive oil
photo from
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chile powder
Cooking spray
2 small ripe avocados, halved and pitted
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 medium red onions, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rings
4 green onions, trimmed
1 poblano pepper, sliced
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 to 3 tablespoons water
8 cilantro sprigs
4 lime wedges
1 teaspoon aleppo or other coarse red pepper (optional) 

1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt, black pepper, and chili powder. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes. Turn chicken over; cook 1 minute. Remove chicken from pan (chicken will not be fully cooked).

3. Wipe pan clean with paper towels. Coat pan with cooking spray. Increase heat to high. Sprinkle avocados with sugar. Add avocados, cut side down, to pan; cook 2 minutes or until charred. Remove avocados from pan. Recoat pan with cooking spray. Add red onions; cook 3 minutes or until charred. Turn red onions; add green onions and poblano. Cook 3 minutes. Separate red onions into rings; toss with green onions and poblano. Stir in lime juice and soy sauce. Nestle chicken and avocados into onion mixture. Place pan in oven; bake at 450° for 7 minutes or until chicken is done.

4. Remove pan from oven. Combine sour cream and water in a small bowl until thinned to a saucy consistency. Drizzle sour cream mixture over chicken and avocados. Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and aleppo pepper, if desired.

Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rabe (Ckng Lght, Jan/Feb 2016)
This comes together very quickly, is a great way to use up some leftovers, and pretty darn tasty.  I used some leftover chicken andoullie sausage, and subbed broccolini for the broccoli rabe.   I had some asiago cheese to sprinkle over the top.  Yum!   This made enough for two of us for about two meals.  

Recipe notes:  If broccoli rabe is a bit bitter for your family or if you have trouble finding it, chopped broccoli would be a delicious substitute. Serve with extra lemon for more zip.

2 quarts water
photo from
8 ounces uncooked multigrain penne pasta
1 pound broccoli rabe, trimmed and coarsely chopped  (I used 1 pkg of broccolini)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 (3-ounce) smoked chicken sausages, each diagonally cut into 8 pieces
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 ounces pecorino Romano cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup) 

1. Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add pasta; cook 7 minutes. Add broccoli rabe; cook 2 minutes. Drain pasta mixture, reserving 2/3 cup cooking liquid; keep pasta warm.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add sausage to pan; cook 6 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add 2/3 cup reserved pasta water, pasta mixture, pepper, and salt to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until slightly reduced. Stir in juice, and sprinkle with cheese.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is so funny that you should mention Florida. In Miami it might be different, but here in Orlando, really fresh herbs and vegetables are really HARD to find.

I stopped buying Rachel Ray magazine because there are just too many ingredients that I just can't get here. We don't have cheese shops. We don't have butchers and we are just starting to get some fancy bakeries.

I feel like I live in a great food wasteland. Cilantro I can grow through the winter, but our summers are so humid that most herbs in the garden go moldy.....that is if the deer don't eat them first. LOL

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