Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast

I have said this before, and I will say it again, boneless skinless chicken breast is my NEMESIS. Besides marinating and grilling, I tend to stay away from this item, because it usually becomes overcooked and flavorless. I had goat cheese remaining from my previous dish, and figured goat cheese packs a punch, and may help moisten the chicken. I truly enjoy this dish and there are limitless combinations of ingredients that may be added to make this dish the life of the party.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast

Serves 2

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 wedge goat cheese
1 tablespoon shallots
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt (divided)
1 teaspoon black pepper (divided)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Create a length wise cut in to chicken breast. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Combine goat cheese, shallots, thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in sauté pan. Place goat cheese mixture into the chicken. Place chicken in hot pan and cook over medium heat for at least 5 minutes on each side until fully cooked. For larger pieces, finish cooking in 350 degrees oven.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

BB: Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts

My husband loves goat cheese, I mean he has an unnatural love of goat cheese, not unlike my love for Ina Garten dishes. This dish for Barefoot Bloggers was selected by Anne of Anne Strawberry, pleased both members of the household. I must say this is my most favorite Ina dish and I have made many Ina dishes, even prior to joining Barefoot Bloggers. My only complaint, if you could call it that, I wish tomatoes were in season. Other than this it was perfect, buttery, tart, smooth, crunchy and above all elegant. Ina always seems to bring a touch of elegance to the table and I really respect that about her as I am sure there are plenty who are better chefs or cooks but no one has her ability to take a dish that sounds hoity and make it accessible. I made one tart with goat cheese (photo above) and the other with feta (feta below). Both were excellent but the goat cheese prevailed. I omitted the basil as I forgot to acquire off my shopping list.

Many thanks again to Anne Strawberry for a great selection, please be sure to visit her blog which, by the way is loaded with wonderful pictures and great dishes, for the recipe.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Beef Barbacoa

My dishes tend to focus on European flavors as that best reflect my background and one cooks what they know. The Detroit area boasts many ethnic enclaves many that once again reflect the European flavors prevalent in my kitchen. I am very lucky to have traveled both near and far and have had an opportunity to experience Asian and Latin flavors. I have a great appreciation for flavors from all over the globe. The difficulty I face is bringing those flavors home and keeping the dishes some what authentic.

I live way north of the Mason-Dixon line and have limited experience cooking with authentic Mexican ingredients. Now I recognize that the Ortega or equivalent seasoning pack wouldn't fly south of the border, it is likely the bastardization of authentic seasoning. Now I don't know if people in Mexico consume such a dish but I am proud that I used seasonings outside of a packet. I did a decent amount of online research when putting together this recipe and picked and choose various spices to find something that fits my taste.

I was disappointed that most barbacoa recipes called for a crock pot slow cooker. Now I hate food snobs I really do, if one likes shaky cheese or velveeta more power to you. I do however draw the line with crock pots. I find that most things prepared in a crock pot have a boiled taste. I know it's convenient and works for many it just doesn't work for me. The slow cooked flavor from an oven or stove top always tops the the equivalent dish in the crock pot. I rarely cook with absolutes but, I absolutely dislike items made in a crock pot. Many will disagree and reference their favorite crock pot dish.... you know what they say about people with opinions. Ok vent over, to say the least I made this dish in the oven.


1 2 lb chuck roast

1 large onion thick diced

3 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano

1/2 tablespoon whole cloves

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 cups low sodium beef stock

1/2 cup chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

2 bay leafs

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in large heavy bottom pot or dutch oven, season beef with salt and pepper and sear on all sides. Remove beef and add onions cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Combine cumin, chili powder, oregano, bay leaf and cloves and add to onion garlic mixture. Cook spices for 1-2 minutes. Add chipotles in sauce, beef broth and vinegar. Bring items to a boil and add beef. Bake until fork tender about 3-3 1/2 hours. Using 2 forks shred beef. Strain remaining juices and add to shredded beef. Serve with warm tortillas and shredded cheese.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tortellini Fontina Salad

I have no business making a cold pasta salad during the month of March in Michigan. I am begging for the weather Gods to dump lots of snow and ice. Regardless it's been a long and ridiculous winter. Yes I am a grown woman and consciously elected to live in a cold state but this winter was just too much. This is a relatively basic salad that could use whatever green vegetables one has on hand. Peas are my favorite and call out spring. To save time one could use a bottled dressing but I think homemade allows you to control the vinegar or acid. Store bought dressings usually are to white vinegary for me.

1 16 oz. package of tri-colored tortellini cooked per package instructions
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes
1 cup frozen peas cooked and cooled
1/4 fontina cubed
1/4 cubed grated parmesan
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper

Dressing or sustitute 2 cups of bottled Italian Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon shallots
pinch of red pepper flakes

Prepare tortellini per package instructions. Meanwhile heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in saute pan, add tomatoes season with salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes until tomatoes brown slightly. Heat peas per package instructions and drain well. Cube the fontina, grate the Parmesan. Drain tortellini and rinse with cold water. Ensure all water is removed. Combine pasta, tomatoes, peas and cheeses. For the vinaigrette, combine olive oil and vinegar add the shallots. Mix the pasta mixture with the vinaigrette. Allow to cool at room temperature and refrigerate overnight.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

BB: I Can't Bake and It's My Mother Fault: Brownie Pudding

Well, I am convinced that a persons up bringing affects their current existence and future endeavours in weird ways. Real profound right? Not so much, but I am trying to find the root cause as to why as a decently bright, educated individual I can't seem to achieve success when faced with a relatively straightforward recipes that involves sugar a mixer and a heat source.

I have determined that part of the problem is growing up in a Greek household that:

1.) Used non-standard measuring devices. I am still for the life of me trying to figure out the nomenclature of my mother's "tools".
2.) Owned every size pan but a 9x13 roasting pan (most household cookware came from restaurant supply stores or Theio Panagiotis restaurant, my mother still laughs at stores like Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel).
3.) Had fruit for dessert.

Now item 1 I have overcome as I channel 7th grade home economics class. Items 2 and 3 however are a bit more difficult to tackle.

You see the 9x13 pan is significant as most "American" baking recipes use this dimension. Greek-Americans generally speaking don't cook in such a proportion. One makes a big pan of everything, there is no cooking for two people, it's cooking for a family and the neighbor who is working long hours and the friend at church that just loves that particular dish or the unexpected dinner guest. If you're going to invest the time for dishes like pastitso, youvetsi, baklava, yalatopita, karithopita, bougatsa or the pain staking task of rolling out phyllo you're going to make a large dose of that item. I love to entertain in this manner, I however never picked up the ability to downscale a recipe and have yet to acquire the coveted 9x13. I truly would have it no other way... expect of course when presented with an opportunity to make Chocolate Brownies that resemble lava cake. Somehow the Greek sensibility doesn't mix well when proportion really matters.

Now as for reason 3 as to why Kanella can't bake..... there were no brownies or cookies after supper during my formative years. One can try to assimilate to their adopted country but there are some things that people hold on to. Greeks generally eat fruit after a meal and consuming dessert is an event not associated with dinner. Mind you my parents were born during WWII during a very dark time in Greek history and they barely had bread (I am not exaggerating) so anything sweet that used sugar or honey was reserved for holidays. Thus I was only exposed to desserts for special, large occasions or when ladies visited the house and drank coffee and gossiped and the 9x13 certainly would not do the job for such events.

So the moral of the story I suck at baking and it's my Greek mother's fault.

This week's BB bonus recipes was selected by Tia of Southern Eh? I would have loved this dish if may be I had the right proportion of cookware (see above) and if had a bit more patience as i attempted to discard the water from the water bath while the brownie/pudding vessel was still in the water ending up with a runny mess. Now this called for a 9 x 12 x 2 pan and by the time I had even noted the required pan dimension the eggs were beating away. Regardless I gave it my all and will try this again as I am not quitter.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Oregano Roasted Chicken and Lemon Potatoes

This is one of my favorite dishes, it's simple and flavorful and is reminds me of home. Growing up my mom made this often and every Greek household has their own version. The only deviation from my mom's approach is the addition of Herbs de Provence. The key to this a really good Greek oregano. While others covet souvenirs from the Acropolis or such, I always bring back oregano which I store in a pillow case. I have no idea why I store in a pillow case I just do.

Roasted Chicken and Lemon Potatoes
Serves 4
1 fresh roasting chicken 5-6 lbs.
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 tablespoons Greek oregano
1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 lb. russet or yukon gold potatoes
1 cup hot water or chicken stock

Pre-heat oven to 375. Wash and dry chicken. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and herbs de provence. Salt and pepper chicken place in large roasting, pour 3/4 of the lemon/oil mixture over chicken and place in oven uncovered for 1 hour. While chicken is roasting peel and quarter potatoes place in bowl with cold water. Drain and add the remaining lemon/olive oil mixutre, set aside. Remove chicken from the oven and add either the water or chicken stock, add potatoes and roast for an additional hour or until juices run clear. Let sit for at least 15 minutes prior to serving.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Zucchini Cakes with Citrus Yogurt

No one is perfect and this is certainly the case of my ability to meal plan. Sometimes things just don not turn out as planned. I had a great number of Zucchini I need to use and my go to dish for this ingredient was out for this week. My mom told me of a recipe kolokeftetheis, basically at zucchini meatball. Of course Helen's (my mom) version called for either feta or myzethra and since I have neither (cut me some slack, we go through the stuff like candy) I used parmesan. I was not very motivated to make this but was very pleased with the outcome. I like the texture and flavor and the yogurt with zest was excellent. I will certainly make this again especially in summer when zucchini is plentiful.

For the Fritters:
5-6 medium zucchini
1 large egg
2 tablespoons minced italian parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
3 tablespoons minced shallot
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 dried bread crumbs
Enough olive oil to pan fry these babies
Salt and pepper
Grate zucchini and please in a mesh strainer, place over a bowl. Add a few pinches of salt and let the zucchini hang out for about an hour. Using a piece of plastic wrap, press down and remove as much water as possible. Meanwhile, combine the parsley, dill, thyme, shallots, parmesan and bread crumbs. Once the zucchini feel most dry combine with the other items and combine with the egg. Heat the olive oil in a shallow saute pan. Form mixture into small cakes and saute until golden brown about 2-3 minutes on each side. Serve with citrus yogurt.
For the Citrus Yogurt:
1 cup Fage or any Greek style yogurt
Zest of one small lemon
Zest of one small orange
Pinch of kosher salt
Gently mix all ingredients and serve with zucchini fritters

Thursday, March 12, 2009

BB: Chicken Piccata

This dish was selected by Lindsey of Noodle Nights and Muffin Mornings and what a selection it was. This is everything that is good about cooking at home, fast, easy, elegant and flavorful. I cook with lemon and chicken often and found this recipe heavy on the lemon, I added a bit of honey to the sauce to offset the tart lemon flavor. Such a fix has worked in the past and worked this time. Please check out Noodle Nights and Muffin Mornings for the recipe.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lemon Braised Beef Short Ribs

Each miserable winter season I become mildly obsessed with one comforting ingredient, last year was macaroni and cheese, the prior year roasted chicken, this year beef short ribs. Mind you my waiste line pays for these "obsessions" but at least I stimulate the economy with the need to acquire new pants, Banana Republic should send me a thank you card. For Christians, the Lenten season is upon us and this is a time of fast and sacrifice thus it's time to throw in my short rib obsession. I hope next year I can hold on to something like spinach...

Most recipes involving beef short ribs either take an Asian approach or a red wine braise. While both are very good and satisfying, I wanted to try something that combined my love of citrus with this wonderfully fatty and flavorful cut of meat. I enjoyed this version but think a good red wine braise is the best fit for short ribs.

2 lbs. beef short ribs cross cut
1/4 olive oil
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 small onion chopped
2 carrots chopped
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
4 springs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cold water

-Rinse ribs and remove from the fridge at least and hour before cooking. Season with pepper and chopped thyme, add salt prior to searing.
-Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
-Heat olive in heavy bottomed vessel that holds at least 6 qt. In small batches sear the ribs on each side and remove from pot.
-Add carrots, onions, celery, thyme springs, bay leaf cook over medium heat for 10 minutes until softened.
-Deglaze veggies with white wine

-Add lemon juice and water, bring to a rolling boil, add short ribs cover with tight fitting lid and place in oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
-Ribs at this point should fall off the bone and serve

Monday, March 9, 2009

Toasted Orzo Bake

Orzo is a versatile easy to cook with pasta that resembles rice on steroids. I am not a fan of rice unless sushi or aveglemono are involved. This is an easy weeknight meal... asparagus may be substituted for peas or spinach...  bacon for chicken sausage... marsala for white wine. Top with provolone or my husband's favorite goat cheese and you are all set. 

1 cup orzo
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups of chicken stock
2-3 slices cooked bacon
5 cooked asparagus stalks
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
2-3 slices of provolone 
splash of dry marsala wine

Pre-heat oven to 350. In a medium pot melt the butter, toast orzo over medium heat until slightly brown, slowly add splash of marsala cook for a minute add chicken stock and cook for about 3 minutes less then suggested cooking time. Combine orzo, parmesan, asparagus and bacon in a casserole dish. Mix to combine and top with provolone bake for 15-20 minutes

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