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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

And She's Off!

Kate has left for college and I am now cooking for two.  It's been a long time since I've cooked for  just the two of us and I think it's going to take a little getting used to.

Actually it's going to take a lot of getting used to.

This morning I went to the grocery store.  Kate had her things that she always wanted me to buy: Skippy Touch of Honey Peanut Butter, Special K Red Berries, Whole Foods Light Butter Popcorn.  None of these things are things that Ted or I regularly eat, but there they were in my basket.

Have you ever seen anyone look happier to say goodbye?
I put them all back.  And I have to admit it, I did feel a little sad.  That Skippy with the touch of honey is actually pretty good.  But do I really need Skippy Touch of Honey?  I think not.

But I digress.  I have to start cooking for two.  This is not as easy as it sounds because I am a crowd cook.  If I know I need to make four chicken breasts, I make five or six, just in case.  You just never know when someone might be really hungry and want another one.

The truth is that, except for when Charlie was a teenager and was growing at a rate that was impossible to keep up with, no one ever really wanted another chicken breast.  They might have wanted more dessert, but never another chicken breast.

So tonight I cooked for two.  I found this recipe in The New York Times for Chicken Paillards with Corn Salad and I cut it in half.  Yup.  I made half.  And it was just enough for us.  And it was delicious.

Recipe:  Chicken Paillards With Corn Salad
Florence Fabricant,  The New York Times, August 28, 2013)

Note:  This recipe can easily be cut in half to make less or even doubled to make more.  I used a red tomato because I didn't have yellow ones, and it was delicious.  I actually liked the way the red tomato added a little more color to the salad.


1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, about 1 1/4 pounds, pounded thin
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 ears corn, kernels stripped
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and minced
1 medium-size yellow summer squash, diced
Salt and ground black pepper
1 medium yellow tomato, diced
1/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves


Mix mustard and 1/4 cup lemon juice in a shallow dish. Cut each chicken breast in half, place in the mustard mixture, turn to coat both sides and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet, add onion and sauté on low a few minutes, until softened. Add corn, chile and squash and continue to cook until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, fold in tomato, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and set aside.

Remove chicken from marinade and dust with flour. Heat remaining oil in a large cast-iron skillet or grill pan on medium-high heat and sear chicken, turning once, until lightly browned and just cooked through, about 5 minutes a side. Arrange on a serving platter. Add cooking oil to salad, fold in cilantro and spoon over and around chicken.

YIELD 4 serving

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Full Effect

For years, Deborah has been telling me about her Nana.  To say that Nana was a pistol would, I think, be a vast understatement.  A real firecracker, that Nana.  Or at least that how she's always sounded to me.

In any case, years ago Deborah gave me Nana's eggplant parmesan recipe.  It was delicious.  In fact, Nana's is the only eggplant parmesan I have made since.  It's that good.  There's just no reason to look any further.

So imagine how pleased I was, when complaining about our overabundance of CSA zucchini, that Deborah mentioned that Nana also made the best zucchini bread ever.

Recognizing that Deborah may have been a little on the, shall we say, partial side, I decided to give Nana's recipe a try myself.  It's not as though I didn't have enough zucchini to try 200 of the best zucchini bread ever recipes.  I was game for the try.

Was Nana's the best zucchini bread I have ever eaten?  I have no idea because, after all, what is best?  But I will tell you this: It was pretty damn good.  Deborah's praise was not misplaced.

But then, on reflection (and a lot of very slim slices because I was just testing for professional purposes), I figured out why Deborah said Nana's recipe was the best ever.  What made Nana's so delicious, was what it tasted like the morning after.   Deborah directed me (in large type on the email), that to achieve the "full Nana effect", the bread should be toasted and slathered with cream cheese.  The moisture from the zucchini combined with the crunch from the wheat germ and the nuts made the bread the perfect bed for the cream cheese.  And everyone knows that the perfect bed makes everything that much better.

And that, my friends, is why Nana's is, in fact, the best zucchini bread ever.

Recipe:  Nana's Zucchini Bread


3 eggs
1 cup salad oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
3 teaspoons maple syrup
3 1/2 cups coarsely shredded, unpeeled zucchini
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup finely chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour 9x5 inch loaf pans.

Beat eggs until frothy.  Add oil, sugars, and maple syrup.  Continue beating until the mixture is thick and foamy.  Stir in the zucchini.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, wheat germ, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and walnuts until thoroughly blended.  Fold gently into the wet ingredients.  Do not overmix.

Spoon batter into the loaf pans and bake for 1 hour, or until the bread begins to pull away from the sides of the pans and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the breads cool in the pans for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto wire racks and cool completely.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

On the Whole... Grain

I was late to the whole grain party, and it's only in the last couple of years that I've begun to think about grains at all.  It's not that I don't like all those healthy for you grains.  It's more a matter of sticking with what I know I like.  Like rice.  White rice.

What can I say?  I'm just not all that adventurous about grains.

But I live in the real world, or at least I live in the world where things like bulgar and farro and quinoa, are trendy.  Go to any restaurant, and I guarantee that lurking somewhere on their menu is a whole grain something.  Hell, those cute little goldfish crackers now come in whole grain.  Henceforth, generation of kids will never have the thrill of eating a pizza flavored goldfish cracker because they don't come in whole grain.

So imagine my glee (okay, maybe glee is a strong word here), when I discovered whole grain couscous.  Who knew?  Well, probably a lot of people already knew, because there it was -- whole grain couscous -- right below the real couscous on the shelf at Trader Joe's.

Being an adventurous person, I picked up a box and set about coming up with a method whereby the whole grainy-ness would be well camouflaged.

Ina Garten's Curried Couscous Salad is chock full of so many yummy ingredients, not to mention a healthy dash of both curry powder (I used hot curry powder), and tumeric, that the couscous was merely the delivery method for everything else.  I just substituted the whole grain couscous for the regular couscous and the the result was a really hearty, flavorful side dish.

Mission accomplished.

Recipe:  Curried Couscous Salad
(Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, 1999)


1 1/2 cups whole grain couscous
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup small-diced carrots
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
1/4 cup blanched, sliced almonds
2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
1/4 cup small-diced red onion


Place the couscous in a medium bowl. Melt the butter in the boiling water and pour over the couscous. Cover tightly and allow the couscous to soak for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, curry, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Pour over the fluffed couscous, and mix well with a fork. Add the carrots, parsley, currants, almonds, scallions, and red onions, mix well, and season to taste. Serve at room temperature.