Yummy Chicken Sandwich

I have said before that the key to making really good food is the ingredients. Fresh, organic, local, whole ingredients are nearly always your best bet. I have also mentioned that I am not big on processed food. What I am not against is sensible, time-saving shortcuts. We are all short of time from time to time. If you find already prepared food that you really like, is affordable and not full of chemicals then by all means go for it.

I have a few ready-made favorites that seem to always be reasonably priced and work well for our family. I have incorporated a few in the below sandwich. The main ingredient is taken from a store-bought roasted chicken. Some groceries display these glowing orbs in hot windows, wrapped in cellophane and aluminum or in hot pouches. They are not always the nicest, most tender and juicy birds and I suspect some have been there for a while. It requires a bit of experimentation and trust in your grocer. Our Whole Foods has started to sell them and, although not as cheap as Ralphs, they are pretty tasty. We have found a few others that are also good and I’m sure you can find one near you. Another item that I used on this sandwich is olive tapenade. I have a recipe for this earlier in the year, but if you haven’t made it lately, there are a few versions available in a jar or made by the grocery that are sometimes quite good. Check the ingredients list, but usually they are free of any junk. The last off-the-shelf item that I would normally bake but will sometimes buy is rosemary bread. LaBrea Bakery in Los Angeles has a wonderful one. Find yourself a good supplier of artisan bread for those times when baking is out of the question (in other words, most times).

Makes two (for lunch with your sweetie)

Ingredients

  • 4 Pieces of Rosemary Bread, thickly sliced
  • 7-8 Hunks of Roasted Chicken
  • Olive Tapenade Spread
  • Mayonaise
  • Arugula
  • Sliced Fresh Tomato
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Chef’s Knife
  1. Slice the bread. I don’t toast it so it can absorb all the liquid from the tapenade and mayo.
  2. Spread the tapenade on one piece of the bread and mayo on the other.
  3. Build the sandwich with chicken first. Taste it and salt and pepper it if necessary.
  4. Add the tomato and top it off with a handful of arugula.
  5. Slice in half and serve.

Veggie Tacos

There was an op ed piece in the New York Times yesterday questioning the need to teach Algebra. This concurred with an earlier rant of my own. A wonderfully written piece (Theirs, not mine) and well worth the read.

It brings up an important question of what skills are necessary to navigate this treacherous world. And looking even closer, what skills are needed to navigate the equally important world of the kitchen. Many cookbooks assume that one knows the difference between mince and chop, slice or dice. I remember being flummoxed by zest. I came across a tool that supposedly zested a lemon, but all it did was create stings of lemon skin that then needed to be finely chopped. Nobody ever said, “take a fine or micro-grater and grate the damn thing.” It is neither hard nor hard to remember. These assumptions can grind a cook to a halt and turn an enjoyable experience into a frustrating turn off, kind of like algebra. In my book, Table For Onethere are several 4 frame pictorials on subjects like zesting; how to clean a leek (They tend to be sandy) and how to clean and mince ginger. I think that we are all too embarrassed to admit that we don’t know what we judge as simple tasks. They are only simple once you know what they are.

I don’t know every technique in the kitchen, and I am always trying to learn more. If you come across something in one of my recipes or someone else’s, and you haven’t seen Bobby Flay do it, send me a note. If I can’t help I will find someone that can help us both.

I am working on a steak taco that I hope will knock your socks off, but I still have to feed the veggie son so here is a delicious one for those of us who don’t need meat at every meal.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • 10-12 Taco Shells
  • 2 Red Peppers
  • 1/2 Red Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Avocado, pitted and sliced
  • Handful of Lettuce, chopped
  • 1 Can Black Beans (vegetarian)
  • Salsa
  • Grated Cheese (whatever you like)
  • 2-3 Ripe Tomatoes, chopped
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Sauce Pan
  • Grill or Grill Pan
  • Cookie Sheet or
  • Non-Stick Pan
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Several Small Serving Bowls
  • Grater
  1. Thinly coat peppers with olive oil and roast on a grill, grill pan or over a gas flame until softened and charred.
  2. Let cool then peel off the skin and slice into slivers.
  3. Marinate with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Warm the black beans in a sauce pan. You may need a splash of water to thin them a bit. They also may need a little salt and pepper.
  5. Slice and cut all of the vegetables and place them in individual serving bowls.I use soup bowls.
  6. Warm the taco shells. We usually use uncooked tortillas which need to be warmed on both sides in a non-stick pan with no fat. Sometimes the kids like the crunchy, pre-made hard taco shells. They usually come in a pack of 10-12 and need to be heated on a cookie sheet in the oven for 7-8 minutes.
  7. If the cheese is not already grated, do it now.
  8. Serve all of the fixings in the center of the table and distribute the taco shells. Better have extra of everything. Make sure that you also include knife and fork and plenty of napkins. This is a messy business.

Haricot Vert

I love simple food that tastes really amazing. You might have noticed that I have mentioned this. When whole food is in season and really fresh, it is our responsibility to try to not screw it up before it gets into our mouths. The summer brings us so many of these challenges. I have a pile of peaches sitting on my counter and have had a person visiting that actually has CD and can’t eat gluten so I can’t make the peach cobbler that I have been wanting. Look for it soon.

The farmers markets are busting at their seems. My first thought when I bring something home is how not to destroy it. With really fresh mustard greens I want to taste them. I don’t need to overcook them or cover them up. Same with the green beans, tomatoes, squash and strawberries. There are some amazing fish that are in season right now. Lobster is so plentiful that you almost can’t NOT buy it. Look here for two or three lobster recipes in the coming weeks.

Today I will attempt not to screw up green beens. The french, skinny ones are around right now. The french call then haricot vert or haricots verts. You can fix any kind of green bean like this and won’t screw them up. The french tend to cook them whole and leave the ends on. I think they are just being uncharacteristically lazy. Trim the damn things and cut or break them into bite size pieces. It’s much more pleasant for your guests.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Pound Green Beans
  • 2 Shallots, minced
  • 1 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar (optional)
  • Butter
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Sauté Pan
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Medium Pot
  • Medium Bowl
  1. Put a pot of water on to boil.
  2. Blanch the green beans for a minute or two.
  3. Stop the cooking by plunging them into a bowl of icy water.
  4. Trim and cut or break beans into approx. 1″ pieces.
  5. Mince shallots.
  6. In a sauté pan, heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil and a tablespoon of butter.
  7. Gently sauté the shallots and red pepper flakes.
  8. Add the green beans and coat thoroughly with oil, butter and shallots..
  9. Salt and pepper.
  10. Sauté until beans are bright green; about 7-8 minutes.
  11. Add a splash of balsamic and sauté for another minute. This is optional.

Pico de Gallo

We are still slopping over with tomatoes. This simple salsa is great with all kinds of food. Obviously, it is great on tacos or other Mexican food, but I also love it on chicken and fish.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 Medium Tomatoes, chopped small
  • 1 Small or 1/2 large Red Onion
  • 1/2 Red Pepper, diced
  • Handful of Cilantro
  • 2 Limes
  • 1/2 Jalapiño, diced
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Chef’s Knife
  • Hand Juicer
  • Mixing Bowl
  1. Chop all of the vegetables and combine in mixing bowl.
  2. Squeeze the juice of the limes over and mix.
  3. Salt and pepper to taste.

Lychee Martini

In today’s New York Times, Mark Bittman the food writer continues about the detrimental effects of milk and the anecdotes that readers have expressed about the amazingly varied maladies that miraculously disappear with the curtailment of milk and milk products in their diet. Being lactose intolerant, I understand the relief. I actually carried pepto-bismal tablets to school every day when I was in grade school – you know the place where they MAKE you drink milk. He also discussed the medical community’s lack of knowledge and their eagerness to write a prescription to stop the symptom instead of discovering the cause. Heartburn was the malady that affected  Bittman to begin this article and that is treated by the traditional medical community with a drug that inhibits the production of acid in the stomach. I would think that common sense would tell you that stopping the production of something in your body that performs an active function is a bad idea. But, like nutrition, common sense must not be taught in medical school either.

I do believe that doctors perform a vital function in our society and have improved the quality of life for myself and many of my family and friends. I also believe that they are still human and are influenced by motives outside of their hippocratic oath. We know so much about food and nutrition that it should be the major part of any visit to the doctor. I just had a physical and I volunteered my diet, I was never asked. Our doctors tend to be dismissive of Eastern medicine (which emphasizes natural cures and avoidance of certain foods) in favor of the more profitable prescription based “solutions”. Common sense should tell them that there are 1.3 billion people in China alone and they seem to be doing just fine. There it is again: common sense. Not a whole lot of demand for it with the white coat set.

Speaking of milk, I have another cocktail today. I am not running out of ideas. I just happened to have a bunch of lychees that were about to go bad and I have been wanting to try this for a long time. I’m happy I did. It looks like milk but will not give you heart burn or any of the other myriad of ailments that Bittman’s readers claimed were caused by that foul white gunk.

Makes two (better not to drink alone)

Ingredients

  • 2 Jiggers of Lychee Juice (7-8 Lychee Berries)
  • 3 Jiggers of Vodka
  • 1 Lime
  • Ice

Tools

  • 2 Martini Glasses, chilled
  • Cocktail Shaker
  • Jigger Glass
  • Strainer
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Hand Juicer
  1. Rinse the glasses and stick them in the freezer. They will frost up in a couple of minutes.
  2. Peel the lychees and remove the seed. Squeeze and press them through a strainer into a mixing bowl or measuring cup; something with a spout. Reserve two of the lychees for a garnish.
  3. Fill a cocktail shaker about half full with ice.
  4. Pour the vodka and lychee juice over the ice.
  5. Squeeze the juice of the lime over the ice and shake well.
  6. Remove the glasses from the freezer and divide the drink equally.
  7. Garnish with two halves of a lychee (without the pit).

Caipirinha Cocktail

The USDA recently announced  “Meatless Mondays” in their cafeteria because is was a good thing for the environment, only to retracted it minutes later. Yet, the draught in the midwest is going to cause the price of feed for livestock to soar, hence raising the prices of meat and chicken. Seems like good indicators for slowing one’s consumption of meat.

Maybe the higher price of corn driving up the price of meat will reduce the demand and bring the cattle industry back into line. Maybe they will stop feeding the cattle corn – which makes them sick, requiring constant antibiotics – and go back to grazing. Maybe pigs will turn purple and fly. One can only dream. At least yet another crisis chips away at the hideous industrial state of cattle ranching in this country and maybe sheds a little light on this ongoing problem.

It’s Thursday and time for a cocktail. We have a friend visiting that has traveled to many places in the world and brings us a delicious, if not powerful cocktail from Brazil. With a little twist of my own, I bring you the Caipirinha. Normally made with the Brazilian Cachaca, which is a liquor fermented and distilled from sugar cane, but not readily available to most of us and probably not in your cupboard. Rum is a decent substitute, but don’t tell that to a Brazilian. They are very proud of their cachaca.

Ingredients

  • 1 Jigger Light Rum
  • I Jigger Aged Rum (optional)
  • 1 1/2 Limes
  • 2 Teaspoons Raw Sugar
  • Ice

Tools

  • Wooden Spoon or Pestle
  • High Ball Glass
  • Hand Juicer
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Straw
  1. Cut a half of a lime into three or four pieces.
  2. Place in the bottom of a glass and cover with sugar.
  3. Muddle together with a pestle, wooden spoon or regular spoon, in order to juice the lime and mix with the sugar.
  4. Fill glass with ice.
  5. Pour white rum and dark rum over ice. If you don’t like the smokey taste of aged, dark rum then add a second shot of white rum. If you happen to have cachaca then substitute it.
  6. Squeeze the juice of a lime and stir.
  7. Serve with a straw. The raw sugar tends to stay on the bottom so you need to suck it up to sweeten each sip.

Burrata Caprese Salad

Mozzarella cheese is a soft, delicious, fresh cheese originally from Italy. There seems to be some confusion among people and even some chefs about the kinds, derivations and even names of this creamy white cheese. Every time I read something about one of the mozzarella varieties I wonder how someone can complicate something so simple.

There are two types of mozzarella cheese. The one called mozzarella is made from cows milk. The one called Buffalo Mozzarella is made from water buffalo milk. Both are made all over the world. There is not a special buffalo that lives on an island in the Mediterranean or a little man in Umbria that is the only person allowed to touch the cheese. There is a special designation for buffalo mozzarella made in Campania called “Mozzarella di Bufala Campana”. But Italians like to do that. Certain regions are known for certain products. Outside of the geography and the proud Italians, there is nothing especially different in texture, process or the buffalo itself.

There is a further process called “burrata” which adds cream to cows milk mozzarella. This is a refinement, not a different animal. Burrata is also made all over the world. One of my favorites is actually made by a guy outside of Los Angeles. The below classic salad features burrata, but you can use regular mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella. I prefer the runny, creamy goodness of the burrata.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. Burrata Cheese
  • 3-4 Ripe Tomatoes, sliced
  • Big Handful Fresh Basil
  • Really Good Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Chef’s Knife
     
  1. Arrange on individual plates or a big serving platter, alternating between tomato slice, small hunk of burrata and a basil leaf. Make it look nice.
  2. Drizzle liberally with really nice olive oil.
  3. Lightly splash a few drops of balsamic on each tomato.
  4. Salt and Pepper.