Saturday, April 23, 2011

Whole Lemon Muffins with Dried Cherries

Sometimes I think my taste buds have split personality. For example when I made these muffins last October (lured in by a recipe involving pulverizing an entire lemon - skin, pith and all. Woo hoo!) I remember being completely let down by them when they came out of the oven. I'm not much of a baker so after spending the morning dusting my kitchen with flour, I just wanted to throw the whole batch away. BUT because I'm also a serious food hoarder (seeking therapy), I decided to freeze them just in case the aliens should attack or something and we were in a real bind for breakfast.

Cut to six months later. This morning to be exact. We were working (the advertising industry doesn't believe in Easter - or in holidays in general) and I was too busy to make anything. I checked the freezer and found these muffins. Of course I didn't have much hope since I didn't like them the first go around and they'd been in the freezer longer than any sperm on record in a sperm bank. But I thew them on a pan and put them in a 325 oven anyway.

And thank God. They were delicious. In fact I wished I could rewind time and taste them again that first fateful day when I considered throwing them out. What was wrong with me? Was it the weather? The hormones? We'll never know. All I know now is that I love them. Now and forever. Amen.

By the way - Happy Easter to those lucky enough to enjoy it with your families - and to those having to celebrate without them!!!

Whole Lemon Muffins, adapted slightly from Rebecca Rather

1 medium lemon (preferably unwaxed, organic)
1 cup unsalted butter/2 sticks (at room temperature)
1 1/4 cups sugar plus 2 tablespoons (Rebecca uses 1 1/2 cups)
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Generous grating of fresh nutmeg, or 1/4 teaspoon from a spice jar (Rebecca doesn't add this)
2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups plain whole or reduced fat plain yogurt
1 cup dried tart cherries (Rebecca uses walnuts)

GLAZE, optional (Rebecca uses but I don't)
1 cup powdered sugar
2 freshly squeezed lemons, juice of
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prep Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 55 mins

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F Grease 12 texas size muffin cups with butter or cooking spray or line with paper muffin wrappers.
2 Wash and dry the lemon. Cut into quarters and remove the seeds. Process the quartered lemon (all of it!) in a food processor fitted with a metal blade for 1 minute or more, until it is completely ground up. Scrape the lemon into a bowl.
3 Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter in a large bowl on medium high speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sugar and beat on medium high until light and fluffy. Add the eggs all at once and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the vanilla and nutmeg and beat for about 30 seconds. Mix together the dry ingredients. Beat one third of it into the creamed mixture just until incorporated. Add half the yoghurt and do the same. Repeat, ending with dry ingredients. Gently stir in the lemon mixture then use a spatula to hand fold the dried cherries into the batter.
4 Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (mine took longer) until they are slightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack.
5 Combine glaze ingredients and drizzle over the warm muffins. Glaze will harden in about 15 minutes.
6 These are at their very best served warm, but if wrapped tightly in plastic wrap once cooled, they will still taste great for up to 3 days. They can be frozen for up to 3 weeks (or if you're me - 6 months!!)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lemony Grilled Chicken with Avocado and Orange Salsa

I've been very inconsistent lately. A bad blogger. Boo on me. There are many reasons for this (work, planning vacation, True Blood reruns) but the honest to God's truth is I've been striking out in the kitchen. Does this ever happen to you? I mean I've definitely had my share of duds on the stove top but not a whole string of them in a row. I was going to share some of these culinary disasters but decided not to. Life's too short to waste lamenting crap recipes.

This is the recipe that helped me get my groove back. The 'salsa' is heavily borrowed/inspired by one of Giada's and it was originally meant to be served over fish (the fish at the Randall's fish counter terrified me so I made a last minute decision to switch to chicken.) I actually loved the salsa with chicken but while we were eating, Kris leaned over to say how amazing he thought it was and then, in a trying-to-be-casual manner politely suggested it might be even better over fish. Okay Giada. Okay.

Coriander Scented Grilled Chicken with Avocado and Orange Salsa

Chicken and Marinade:
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon coriander
dash of garlic powder
juice of 1 lemon, plus the roughly chopped spent lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
healthy pinch salt and pepper

Combine bay leaves, coriander, garlic powder, lemon juice and chopped up remains, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large ziploc. Mix to combine then add the chicken. Refrigerate for 8 hours, flipping over halfway through.

Remove from fridge half an hour before grilling.

Prepare a stovetop or gas grill by oiling grates, then turning to medium heat. Once hot, remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off excess and add to the grill. Grill for 4 minutes (or until grill marks appear) then carefully flip over. Season with salt and pepper and continue grilling the second side for 5 minutes or so until cooked through.

Let rest for five minutes, then serve with the salsa spooned over and rice as a side dish (you can doll up the rice with chopped green onion, red onion, cilantro, etc.)

Avocado and Orange Salsa:
zest of 1 orange
zest and juice of 1 large lemon
2 oranges, peeled and segmented
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup minced flat leaf parsley
1 scallion, chopped
2-3 teaspoons capers, rinsed
1 avocado, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all gently together in a medium bowl. Serve over grilled chicken OR fish. Serve with rice if desired.

Molly Wizenberg's British FlapJacks (Granola Wedges)

Confession. Remember when I told you I attended a blogger conference at SWSW where famed Orangette blogger Molly Wizenberg was a panelist? Well, while I'm a huge fan of her blog and even own her first book, A Homemade Life, I'd never actually made one of her recipes before. Talk about a poser.

I've redeemed myself by making this delicious recipe of hers - a genius spin on granola bars. Not sure where the British or flapjack part comes in but it makes it more fun to say at least. These are dangerously easy to make and even easier to eat. I'll even go as far as to call them life saving. (When we were in Houston for the Final Four, we got back to our hotel room late to find out they didn't have room service after 10:00. Seriously. We were too tired to run out so we feasted on some of these bars I had brought along on a whim. Boom. Starvation averted!)

Another confession. I have yet to open her book that I bought over a year ago. It's on my list of things to do along with shaving my legs more often and sending thank you cards. Wish me luck with that.

British FlapJacks
Bon App├ętit | March 2010
by Molly Wizenberg, additions in italics are mine and I used salted butter.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup golden syrup*
2 1/3 cups quick-cooking oats (not instant or old-fashioned)
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 8 x 8 x 2-inch metal baking pan. Combine first 3 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan. Stir constantly over medium-low heat until butter melts, sugar dissolves, and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Add oats and salt; stir until coated. Fold in cinnamon and cranberries if adding. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and spread out in even layer.

Bake until top is golden (edges will be darker), about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 5 minutes. Cut into 4 squares; cut each into 4 triangles (mixture will still be soft). Cool completely in pan before serving.
* A type of syrup popular in Great Britain; available at some supermarkets, specialty foods stores, and British import shops.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Salmon over Roasted Tomato Couscous with Capers, Kalamata Olives, and Citrus Dressing

My husband and I just booked a vacation. A REAL vacation. The kind you scrimp and save for. The kind you justify because it's been years since you've taken a vacation, much less a turn-off-the-cell-phone, toes-in-the-sand-vacation. I am beside myself with joy. Literally. And I haven't been this motivated to work out since prom. Okay I didn't really work out before prom much like I probably won't do much working out before this little escapade...

But I might eat a little healthier beforehand. Especially if I can whip up more numbers like this salmon and couscous. I swear to the Lord himself I loved it as much as a double cheeseburger. On second thought that might be the vacation high talking but it was dang close, I assure you. So tell me - what are y'all's big summer plans?

Salmon over Roasted Tomato Couscous with Capers and Kalamata Olives
* Serves 2.
* This looks like a lot of steps and intimidating but it's not. Most things can cook at the same time and don't need tending. The couscous takes 5 minutes once your water comes to a boil! Line your roasting pans with aluminum foil and spray with Pam for easy, throw away clean up.

Ingredients and Steps...Objects are easier than they appear

Roast Veggie Mix:
2 pints roasted cherry tomatoes
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives

Add the tomatoes to a large rimmed baking sheet. Toss with just enough olive oil to coat, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Roast on 350 for 25 minutes. Add the chopped pepper, toss and continue roasting another 15 minutes or until the tomato skins have popped and the little suckers look a little deflated. Remove and set aside to let cool for 10 minutes. Toss with capers and olives and set aside. In the meantime, carry on with the next few steps...

Citrus Herb Dressing:
Juice and zest of 1 healthy sized lime
2-3 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
pinch salt and pepper

Combine juice, zest, parsley and honey in a small cup or bowl. Drizzle in the oil while whisking or stirring furiously with a fork to 'emulsify' then season with salt and pepper and stir again. Set aside.

1 large salmon fillet - enough for two people.

Place the salmon on a small, aluminum lined, nonstick-sprayed pan. Drizzle with a teensy amount of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put in the oven (at 350) alongside the tomatoes and peppers, towards the tail end of their roasting. You'll only need about 18-20 minutes of roasting time for the salmon, depending on how 'done' you like it, so keep an eye on it. There's no harm if the veggies finish first and need to set out before the salmon's done. If for some reason the veggies end up finishing at the same time, it's fine. Just let the salmon (and the veggies) rest for five minutes before serving. Cut the salmon in half, use a spatula to 'scoop' off of the skin. Be sure to start the water boiling for your couscous in the last few minutes of cooking the salmon, instructions below.

1 cup water
1 teaspoon olive oil
good pinch sea or kosher salt
3/4 cup couscous

Add the water, olive oil, and sea salt to a medium pot with a lid. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, kill the heat, stir in the couscous, return the lid and let rest for 5 minutes on a cool burner or surface. Remove the lid and scrape with a fork to fluff. Stir in half the roasted tomatoes mixture, including the juice, reserving the other half for the garnish/topping.

To plate, put a nice serving of the couscous on a plate, top with half of the roasted salmon, and drizzle with some of the citrus dressing. Add additional roasted veg mixture on the side or over the top, as desired. Serve right away.