Thursday, August 19, 2010

Grilled Chicken and Peaches with Chipotle-Peach Dressing

Like many, I love grilled fruits and vegetables in the summer. There's just something about the caramel-y effect it has, the way it smells, and it's beautiful plated.

I made this dish (from Bon Appetit, July 2010) the other night when my family went out. I didn't want to work too hard on a dinner for one, but I wanted it to be more than a turkey sandwich or popcorn (don't judge). This recipe was as easy as it was tasty. It's great the next day, too!

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1/3 C peach preserves
  • 1/3 C peach nectar (**I didn't have this, nor could I find it. I just mixed peach preserves and honey. Same diff, right?)
  • 4 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles
  • 2 tsp EVOO, plus additional for brushing
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh cilantro plus sprigs for garnish
  • 3 large peaches, rinsed, fuzz wiped away, each cut into 8 wedges
  • 4 boneless chicken breast halves with skin (**I'm a boneless, skinless kinda girl. Do what you like!)
  1. Coat grill rack with nonstick spray. (I used a grill pan.) Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Stir preserves, next 3 ingredients, 2 tsp oil, and chopped cilantro in medium bowl; season dressing with salt and pepper. Transfer 1/4 C dressing to small bowl.
  2. Brush peaches, then chicken with oil and dressing from small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill chicken until cooked through, about 7 minutes per side. Grill peaches until slightly charred, about 2 minutes per side.
  3. Place 1 chicken breast on each of 4 plates. Surround with peaches. Drizzle dressing from medium bowl over chicken and peaches. Garnish with cilantro sprigs. 
Et voila!

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Coffee Table Book: Vicki Myron's "Dewey: The Small-Town Cat Who Touched the World"

If you know me at all, you know I'm utterly smitten with my boxer Banks. He's such a light in my life - full of funny faces (and noises), energy, and love. There's something about coming home to something that gets so darn excited to see you that just makes my heart melt.

That being said, I'm not a big cat person. They're warm and cuddly, but most of the time they act like you're on their time, and I've never really cared for that. I was also terrified of the family cat when I was a kid. Honest to goodness, I'd have to run up the stairs after turning out the lights because I knew Chance would be on the hunt for my ankles. I digress.

This book originally caught my attention on the new release shelf of the bookstore. Being the cheap-o, er, cost-conscious shopper that I am, I decided to wait on it, and then found it at the library's monthly book sale.

We are introduced to Dewey as a kitten when he is discovered jammed in a small farm town library's book shoot one frigid winter night. The book follows Dewey's introduction into his new life as the resident library cat. His relationships with the staff, patrons, and eventually town citizens, develop and eventually blossom. The author credits Dewey with bringing the town together. 

Much of the book focuses on the farm town's economical struggle and the author's own storyline. I really appreciated learning about the town's successes and depressions, but the author infused too much of herself into it. I do believe she had a lot to do with pushing Dewey into the spotlight and, thus, reminding the town about the wonderful resources a library can bring, but I didn't need so much background on her.

Conclusion: This is a light read that reminds us of the simple pleasures (love and joy, specifically) that animals can bring us as well as the fact that sometimes those little things are just what we (people, towns, communities, etc.) need to not only survive, but thrive. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cuban-Spiced Chicken Breasts with Chorizo and Rice

When my best friend and I went to Florida for her 25th birthday last year, we had dinner at Larios on the Beach, a delicious Cuban restaurant on Ocean Drive in South Beach. The decor draws inspiration from 1950s Old Havana and the food follows suit, complimented by sangria and mojitos. It was the first time me or my friend had tried authentic Cuban and we fell in love.

The following recipe comes from Bon Appetit (January 2007) and originally called for thighs. It's a little bit time-intensive (as the chicken needs to marinade at least four hours), but after that, it's straight-forward and leaves the house smelling great!


  • 1/4 C fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro stems
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lime peel
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp chopped seeded jalapeno chile
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 10 chicken thighs with skin and bone (about 4 1/2 lbs) OR about 4 lbs of chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 1/2 lb fully cooked Spanish chorizo (or Italian sausage), cut into 1/4"-thick rounds **After making this for a family of spice-loving people, we've all agreed a whole pound would be best. Just saying.**
  • 2 C finely chopped onions
  • 1/2 C chopped red bell pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 C arborio rice (or short-grain white rice)
  • 2 1/2 C (or more) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp saffron threads (I still haven't found these ...)
  • 1 canned piquillo pepper OR 1 whole canned pimiento pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 C coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • lime wedges
  1. Whisk first 11 ingredients in medium bowl for marinade. Place chicken in large resealable plastic bag; add marinade. Seal bag; turn several times to coat chicken. Refrigerate chicken for at least four hours and up to 1 day, turning bag occasionally. Using tongs, transfer chicken from bag to plate, allowing excess marinade to drip back into bag. Reserve marinade.

  2. Heat 1 tbsp EVOO in heavy large wide pot over medium heat. Add chorizo and saute until beginning to brown and fat begins to render, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer chorizo to medium bowl. Increase heat to medium-high. Add half of chicken, skin side down, to pot. Saute until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to plate. Repeat with remaining chicken.
  3. Pour off all but 3 tbsp fat from pot, discard excess fat. Add chopped onions; saute 4 minutes, scrapping up any browned bits. Add chopped bell pepper and chopped garlic. Saute until onions are translucent, about 2 minutes. Mix in rice, stirring to blend with vegetables. Add 2 1/2 C broth, tomatoes with any juice, paprika, saffron, and reserved marinade. Bring to boil, stirring to blend. Return chicken, chorizo, and any accumulated juices to pot, pressing chicken into rice.

  4. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Arrange piquillo pepper strips over chicken pieces. Cover and continue to simmer until rice is tender and chicken in cooked through, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if rice is dry, about 10 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  5. Transfer rice and chicken to large shallow bowl. Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges and serve. 
Et voila!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Orzo Salad with Lemon, Feta, and Pine Nuts

Originally, hubby and I had begun planning a Baltimore, MD wedding. With that being the case, we were driving all over the interstates attending vendor meetings. Being semi-educated, but mostly just indulgent, foodies, the food served at our wedding was important to us. (So was the cost.)

After a treacherous drive up to Baltimore, we arrived at our last catering meeting. I won't get in to too many details but the price they were asking for services/simple foods was astronomical and we knew before we even walked out that it wasn't going to work. Would you know, the representative still gave us a cooking mit and brand new cookbook - just for coming out. Who doesn't love a thoughtful freebie??

We haven't tried too many recipes out of this book yet, all in good time, but this is definitely one of our favorites! As the recipe summary says, "Close your eyes with each forkful of this salad, and you will be transported away to the Mediterranean seaside." Mmmmm, yes, please!

(Serves 4)

  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 C orzo
  • 1/4 C pine nuts
  • 1/4 C golden raisins
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped black olives (*ick, not in my dish!)
  • 3 tbsp chopped red onions
  • 1/4 C thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 2 oz. crumbled feta cheese
  1. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, and sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.

  3. Meanwhile, put the pine nuts in a dry small skillet over medium-low heat. Shake constantly until evenly toasted on all sides, about 5 minutes.
  4. Drain the orzo and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the dressing to the hot pasta and toss to coat. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add pine nuts, raisins, olives (*ick), red onion, and basil and stir to combine. Add the feta and toss lightly. Adjust seasonings with more salt and pepper, as necessary. 
Et voila!

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What's Cookin'?

Well, as you can tell, the cafe's gotten a little busy (to say the least). It's been packed up and shipped out (literally) to Japan! For the time being, I'll be operating out of one very hospitable, very familial kitchen in Manassas, Virginia.


A couple of other quick things to note:
1) I'm thrilled to let you know that I'll be preparing (and sharing!) more Irish recipes. Dear hubby was awesome enough to send me a beautiful brand new cookbook, The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews!

2) Speaking of dear hubby, we'll be back in each other's arms in 29 DAYS!