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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Escarole Soup

This week has been pretty crazy. First, I totaled my second car in three months, the bought a new car. Also, tropical storm Isaac came barreling towards Florida but it turned West and only dumped us with rain and wind. Thankfully, despite it moving westward, FAU cancelled work on Monday! Woohoo!!!

Exciting week all around...

Also, for anyone who lives in the SE US, I highly recommend checking out Annie's Organic Buying club. For $45, you get a two week supply of organic produce. Here's how it works: every other week you stop by a coordinator's house and pick up a huge box of produce. Its different every week depending on what's available locally and in season. Its a really good value and it pushes me to try new produce. Case in point: escarole.

I don't think I've ever had escarole before receiving it in my produce box a month or two ago. At first, I just thought it was another lettuce, like one would find in a spring mix, but after a bite or two I realized the texture and taste wasn't really ideal for raw noshing. I did a little research and found this amazing recipe for escarole soup.

And this soup is the amazing. I've made it twice now and it keeps getting better. 

Escarole Soup adapted from:
1 tsp olive oil

1 lb. hot Italian sausage, casing removed and cut into bite size pieces
5 large garlic cloves, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes (I used a palm full, but we like spicy food)
1 head escarole, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
3 cups chicken broth/ stock
3 cups canned beans, such as great northern (white) or navy, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 stick unsalted butter (you can go a little light on this if you want)
2 tblsp. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 plum tomatoes, diced
Salt and fresh pepper to taste
Heat oil in a deep 12 inch skillet (or dutch oven) over moderately hight heat until hot but not smoking. Brown sausage, stirring, for 7 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring, until the garlic is softened about 2 minutes. Add escarole and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add beans and cook, stirring for 1 minute.
Add stock and bring to a gentle boil. Stir in butter, cheese, tomatoes, and half of parsley and cook, stirring, until butter is melted and stew is heated through. Season with salt and pepper.
Ladles stew into bowls and sprinkle with remaining parsley. Serve with extra-virgin oil and Parmesan. 
The soup will get better as it sits for a day or two in the fridge and the flavors meld. 


Bonus photo: Hurricane Breakfast 
(Waffles, Champagne Grapes, Starfruit, and a Caramel Latte)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Crispy Honey Crunch Chicken Breasts

When given a choice between steak, pork, seafood, or chicken, my husband will always choose chicken. It kind of baffles me. I grew up eating a different meat every night, seldom having one type of meat twice in a row (except for Thanksgiving when we had leftover turkey for a month). Not my husband. He would eat chicken every night of the week without complaint.

Because of this, I've become very good at making a vast variety of chicken dishes so that I don't become too bored. Chicken Alfredo with spinach on Monday, General Tso's Chicken on Tuesday, Chicken Quesadillas on Wednesday, BBQ Chicken on Thursday, and then maybe something with sausage (Pasta a la vodka with sausage) on Friday for some variety. This is how it goes.

Therefore, I'm always on the lookout for new chicken dishes that are quick to make on a weeknight. Here is one of my new favorites. This is an especially quick meal to make if you do a little prep beforehand. It is also good for using up some of those spices from the back of your pantry. Adjust the spices to your liking.

Crispy Honey Crunch Chicken Breasts
Chicken & Breading:
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (or 6-8 cutlets)
2 cups flour (wholewheat is good too)
4 tsp salt
4 tsp pepper
3 tbsp ginger
2 tbsp nutmeg
2 tsp thyme
2 tsp sage
2 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
4 eggs
8 tbsp water

several cloves of garlic
1 cup honey
1/4 soy sauce (low sodium)
1 tsp black pepper

First, slice the chicken breasts so that you have two cutlets. Then, place one slice at a time between two sheets of cling wrap and pound them out with a large blunt object (I have a meat hammer, but you can use a jar or heavy pan). This can be done beforehand or you can just buy cutlets (but I think the price they charge for cutlets is outrageous).

Sift together the flour and spices in a large flat bowl or pan (pie pans work well for this). In another flat bowl,  scramble the eggs together with the water to make an egg wash. 

Heat enough oil in a large pan with enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Then, take one chicken cutlet and cover it with the flour mix. Next dip it in the egg wash, and then back into the flour, patting the flour into the meat. Shake off the excess and put it into the hot pan to cook. Do this will all the chicken, careful not to over crowd the pan. When the chicken is brown (watch closely so it doesn't burn) place on a cooling rack laying in a baking sheet and keep it in a warm oven. Finish all the chicken.

Next, drain the oil out of the pan and add a tablespoon or so into the pan with the garlic. Cook the garlic for a minute and then add the honey and soy sauce mix. Carefully cook the honey mix down into a thick sauce. Remove the honey sauce from the pan.

If desired, add some greens into the hot pan (I used arugula) to wilt. Just stir the greens around for a minute or two and let them pick up the leftover sauce in the pan and golden bits from the chicken.

Serve the chicken on a plate, top with greens and sauce, and a side of roasted potatoes. Enjoy!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Summer Fun: Strawberry Peach Lemonade and Cold Brewed Ice Coffee

Summer is wrapping up and back to school supplies are on sale all over town. But before its too late, its time to taste some of the fantastic flavors of the summer before its too late.

I was reading a list the other day of 50 things to do before the end of summer. Sadly, I hadn't done more than a hand full of them. But with summer being a year-round season in FL, I don't feel too badly. Plus, as any Floridian knows its best to do "summer fun" in the winter when you don't want to just sit inside an air conditioned building.

On my list of summer completes:
Outdoor concert
Frozen Custard
Watching thunderstorms roll in
Eating fresh produce
Summer fruit pie
Make lemonade from scratch...

Strawberry Peach Lemonade
1 cup sugar
4 large lemons (3/4 cup of juice)
1 cup strawberries
1 large ripe peach

Combine the sugar with 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Boil the sugar and water for a minute or until the sugar has completely dissolved into the water. Set aside to cool.

Squeeze the lemons. Put the strawberries and peach (minus the pit) into a blender. Add the lemon juice to the blender and pulse until completely liquid. Strain the lemon and fruit mix through a mesh strainer into a pitcher to remove seeds and pulp. Add simple syrup (sugar mix) and add another 4 cups of cold water. Serve over ice.

Also really good with Malibu rum!

If you're at all like me, you enjoy a nice glass of iced coffee on summer mornings. But if you've ever brewed yourself a pot of coffee in the hopes of making yourself some iced coffee, you've likely been disappointed by the results. Cold coffee, but bitter and in need of a lot of additives to make it drinkable.

The trick to good iced coffee it to "cold brew" it! It allows the mellow cocoa flavors to develop without the bitterness of cooled hot coffee.

Cold Brewed Ice Coffee
1 cup coffee grounds
4 cups water
Cream and sugar to taste

Put the coffee grounds into a large bowl with the 4 cups of water, stir. Let it sit (covered) overnight, or at least 6 hours. Strain with a coffee filter in a mesh strainer. This is your coffee base. This can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

To make in the morning: Mix your coffee base with 1 cup of water. Cream and sugar. Add ice as desired. Enjoy!

Takes less time to make in the morning than brewing normal coffee or stopping into dunkins!