Monday, July 30, 2012

Rosemary Lemon Sorbet

Oooooo-wee it's a hot one! Forgive me for sounding like a hill billy but when it's 105 degrees, it just comes out. This however, is a very sophisticated yet simple summer dessert that will cool you off in no time. You'll need an ice cream maker of some sort, however. I have a nice 2 quart Cuisinart one I love (you can check them out online here). It has a bowl you can keep in the freezer so it's always ready to be used, no ice necessary! And it's less than $100.

Feel free to swap out the rosemary for another herb. Thyme would be really nice or even mint.

1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
1-2 tablespoon rosemary, minced
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 sprigs rosemary

First thing you will do is make a rosemary simple syrup. In a medium sauce pan, put the water and sugar and let it come to a simmer to ensure all the sugar dissolves. Once almost all the sugar is dissolved, put the rosemary sprigs in the sugar water. Turn off the heat and let cool down with the rosemary still in the syrup.

Once the syrup is cooled completely, mix with lemon juice, zest, and minced rosemary. Put in your ice-cream maker and follow the manufactures instructions. Let hard freeze for a few hours and serve.

Stay cool out there friends!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Peach Salad with Caramelized Red Onions & Mozzarella

Oh my oh my! This salad is one of my summer time favorites and since speciality vinegars are wildly available these days, it's a cinch to make. You could add leftover roasted chicken or pork loin and it would be fabulous.

3-4 cups clean greens, whatever your family likes
2-3 fresh peaches, sliced
1/2 cup pearl sized mozzarella balls
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or pecans
1/2 cup caramelized red onions (recipe to follow)

Peach vinaigrette:
3TLB peach balsamic vinegar or white balsamic
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 TLB agave nectar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a bowl mix vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper, agave and then slowly stream in olive oil while continuing to whisk.

Caramelized red onions:
1/2 of a medium sized red onion, cut in slices
1 TLB olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1-2 TLB balsamic vinegar

In a small skillet, heat oil for a minute or so on medium high heat. Add sliced onions and salt. Let soften and caramelize for at least 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Then add the vinegar and lower heat and let cook for 5 or so more minutes.

Assemble the salad:
In a large bowl layer lettuce, peaces, cheese, nuts and onions. Re-whisk dressing and add enough to barely coat. Toss and serve immediately.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Crispy Chicken Halves with Caponata

Hi there long lost friends! I have been MIA for a while but hope to be better about updating my journey in the kitchen. Today we're talking about caponata. Caponata is an Italian condiment of sorts, and every region in Italy has its own version and recipe. I would describe it as a sweet and sour vegetable stew that is delicious and versatile. For this recipe, we're pairing it with a really juicy and tender chicken preparation with an amazing crispy skin. I really prefer using chicken with bones still in it because it helps keep the chicken moist and full of great flavor. It's out of this world!

1 (2-3 lb chicken) halved OR 2 already halves of a whole chicken
1/4 cup soften butter
5-6 fresh thyme sprigs, stripped off stems
1 lemon zested
3 large garlic cloves minced or zested
1-2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper

1 small to medium eggplant, half the skin removed and cut into cubes
3 stalk celery, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
5-6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 small zucchini, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 generous handful golden raisins
1 3.5 oz jar capers, drained
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
10 basil leaves, torn or finely shredded

I know this looks like a lot of stuff but it's super easy once you get going. I believe you can do this!
The key for the caponata is doing everything in layers from hardest veggie to softest and seasoning each layer to fully develop everyones flavor.

In a large dutch oven, coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil and turn the burner on high. First throw in your onions, celery and carrots. Sprinkle in salt and pepper and let veggies sweat until slightly soft. Next throw in your peppers, garlic and zucchini. Season with salt and pepper and let those veggies get soft as well all the while stirring the pot to incorporate everyone. Next add the eggplant and season with salt and pepper and stir into the mix. Let the eggplant get soft and then add tomato paste and enough water to loosen the mixture. It should look very stew like. Add the capers, raisins, vinegar and sugar and let simmer for 20 minutes or longer. At the very end of cooking turn off the heat and add the basil.

For instance, the large pot you're currently cooking your caponata in!
...a large pot like the one cooking your caponata!
For the chicken heat a well seasoned cast iron skillet on high for at least 3-4 minutes or until smoke is coming off the pan. In the meantime, make your compound butter by mashing butter, lemon zest, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper together and generously massaging the birds. Place chicken skin side down in the pan and either use another cast iron skillet or a very heavy pot to weight down the chicken. This is how you will get the golden brown crispy skin that is so delicious.

Preheat your oven to 375 in the meantime. The chicken will cook for about 10 minutes or until the skin is golden. Once the skin looks good, flip the bird over and put the skillet in the oven for about 20 minutes or until a thermometer reads 150 degrees. Pull the chicken out and let rest for at least 5-10 minutes.

Plate with a crusty piece of bread and the caponata and DIG IN!