Weekly Winner:  Simple Citrus Reset

Yes it has indeed been awhile.  I have fallen behind on my posting. I’ve also been traveling and falling behind on eating sensibly.  I’m back home and bound and determined to set things right!  I’m a firm believer in everything in moderation and that’s been the trouble.  There has been nothing moderate about the food I’ve been eating and it has all been wonderful.  But now its time to dial it back until the holidays – when gluttony will once again reign.

Luckily, I find that my body and appetite tend to have an automatic “reset” button of sorts.  After a week or two (or five) of eating wonderfully rich, complicated food I tend to crave simplicity.  I must have sensed that this is what I’d want to eat when I pulled this recipe awhile back.  I got home and knew this would hit the spot.  And it did.  The citrus and fresh oregano made it homey and just a bit unique.  But not too unique.  I’m done with unique for a while.

Lemon Chicken with Butternut Squash comes from Food Network Magazine and is a good reminder that sometimes, simple is better.  At least for now.

Lemon Chicken with Butternut Squash

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1-3/4 lbs cubed peeled butternut squash (about 6 cups)

2 lemons (one sliced, one juiced)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano

Salt and Pepper

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Procedure:

  • Preheat oven to 450F.  Toss the squash, sliced lemon, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp oregano, 1/2 tsp salt and a few grinds of pepper in a large bowl.  Spread on a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast, undisturbed, until the squash is tender and lightly browned around the edges, about 30 minutes
  • Meanwhile, season the chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil.  Add the chicken; cook until well browned on the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes.  Flip the chicken and transfer the skillet to the oven.  Roast until the chicken is just cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes.
  • Return the skillet to stovetop over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until softened, about 1 minute.  Add the lemon juice and remaining 1 Tbsp oregano.  Cook, spooning the pan juices over the chicken for 1 minute. Serve the chicken with the roasted squash and lemon; drizzle with the remaining pan juices.
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Weekly Winner: Autumn on a Plate

I love the change of seasons — especially the entrance of fall. As the leaves change, oddly I find myself craving food that matches the colors of the falling foliage — orange squashes, sweet potatoes and peppers, red apples, red peppers and beets, and and the rustic brown of roasted meats, potatoes and of course, bacon! (but that’s another post).

So when I found this recipe for Spicy Chicken Breasts with Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Cranberry Salsa I knew I’d be making it and that it would be delicious, which is was. What I didn’t expect was that it would be so gosh, dang perdy! I mean seriously, if this dish doesn’t just scream “Fall”!! then I don’t know what does.

The recipe came from Fine Cooking and while it certainly is “fine” it is also incredibly easy. But there’s something to be said for just the right combination of colors, textures and tastes to bring absolute joy to the dinner plate. And this recipe does that beautifully.

Spicy Chicken with Black Bean, Cranberry, and Sweet Potato Salsa

4 Tbs. canola oil; more for the broiler pan
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup finely diced red or Vidalia onion
Kosher salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 large clove garlic, mashed to a paste
1 tsp. finely grated lime zest
2-1/2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/8 cup chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper

Position a rack about 6 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler to high.

Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the sweet potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the onion, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook for 1 minute. Uncover and cook, stirring, until the onion and sweet potatoes are tender and the water has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, combine 1 tsp. salt with the chili powder, cumin, and cayenne in a small bowl.

Butterfly each chicken breast by slicing it horizontally almost but not entirely in half so you can open it like a book. Rub the spices all over.

Lightly oil a broiler pan, put the chicken on it, and broil, flipping once, until just cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes total.

In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, lime zest, juice, and 2 Tbs. of the canola oil. Add the potatoes and onions, black beans, cranberries, and cilantro and toss gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with the chicken.

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Weekly Winner: The I-Can’t-Believe-There’s-No-Dairy Carbonara

faux carbonaraPasta Carbonara is one of my all time favorite dishes in the world.  Oooey, Goooey pasta tossed with eggs, cheese, sometimes some cream.  What’s not to like?  Well, OK, the calories, the fat content, etc… but you gotta admit, it’s awfully tasty!

So when I saw this recipe for “Carbonara” in Bon Appetit, let’s just say I was skeptical at best.  But the picture sure was pretty.  And I do like butternut squash.  And it kept the pancetta.  So why not take it for a spin.

It was amazing!!  Rich beyond comprehension considering the ingredients.  Luscious, creamy, (creamy!! how can it be creamy??) and totally satisfying.  I immediately sent the recipe to my good friend whose husband can’t eat dairy and said “You must try this”!  Seriously, even if you are a dairy fiend like me you won’t miss it.  It is a guilt-free version of a very guilt-laden favorite.

Winter Squash Carbonara with Pancetta and Sage

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta (Italian bacon), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 2-pound kabocha or butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2″ pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 12 ounces fettuccine or linguine
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino, plus shaved for serving

Instructions:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8–10 minutes. Add sage and toss to coat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta and sage to a small bowl; set aside.

Add squash, onion, and garlic to skillet; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 8–10 minutes. Add broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until squash is soft and liquid is reduced by half, 15–20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then purée in a blender until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Reserve skillet.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Combine pasta, squash purée, and 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid in reserved skillet and cook over medium heat, tossing and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes. Mix in 1/4 cup Pecorino; season with salt and pepper.

Serve pasta topped with reserved pancetta and sage, shaved Pecorino, and more pepper.