What should I do with the left-overs? …Grilled chicken and smokey vegetables

I had about half of my smokey vegetables left over from my first grilling session of the season. I often have left-overs from the dinners that I make. I am really only cooking for two (me and Dan) and I usually portion out dinners to feed at least four people. I do this for two reasons; I like to have an easy lunch the next day or I like to create an easy dinner the next night.

If you grilled the chicken and veggies from my last post, you can easily prep for tomorrow’s dinner as you are packing up your left-overs to stash in the refrigerator. Just a few simple extra steps makes the next day easier.

As I was getting ready to store my extra grilled chicken, I pulled all the meat off the bones. This is a much easier task when the chicken is still warm. You can even cut it into cubes if you are going to make this recipe. You can prep the veggies as you clean up that night too, but it is just as easy to get them ready the next day. I just took the veggies off the skewers and put them all into a container to go into the refrigerator.

Here’s what I came up with to use up my left-overs:

Creamy Chicken and Veggie Pasta

4 pieces grilled chicken, meat removed from the bones and cubed.

about 2 cups left over grilled veggies (onions, artichokes, small sweet peppers)

1 tsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic

4 tbsp butter

4 tbsp. flour

4 cups milk

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

16 oz. mini penne or shell pasta

For the sauce: Heat up the olive oil in a large deep pan or sauce pot. Add the garlic and saute just until fragrant, melt in the butter and add the flour, whisking to make a golden-colored roux. Whisk in 1 cup of the milk at a time until it is all incorporated and your sauce is thick and creamy. Add in the Parmesan and parsley and season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare you vegetables (if you haven’t already last night). Cut the onions in half because we cut them a little big to fit on the skewers the first time. Cut the peppers into smaller pieces and remove the stem and small amount of seed that are inside. If you decide to cut the artichokes in half, only cut the larger size ones and cut them carefully because they will fall apart easily.

While the pasta cooks, mix the chicken and vegetables into the sauce to heat them through. Cook you pasta to al dente. Save a little of the pasta water when you drain the pasta in case your sauce is too thick. This is how I like to thin the sauce out, it is better than just adding cold water to your sauce because the pasta water is seasoned a little with salt.

Mix you pasta with your sauce, chicken and veggies. If the sauce is too thick, add the pasta water a little bit at a time to thin it out. Serve the pasta dish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and fresh cracked pepper on top.

I used whole wheat shells for this dish but I think it would be better with just regular pasta. I like whole wheat pasta with tomato-based sauces and regular pasta with creamy sauces. Either way, it was pretty good!

I also had a great idea for a pasta dish that you can eat at room temperature. Just add the chicken and veggies into cooked pasta and mix it up with a vinaigrette dressing – you could use olive oil and the garlic vinaigrette that we used for the marinade and add some fresh basil. It would be a great dinner for a summer night.

Advertisements

Food Photography and Caprese Salad

Last month, my photographer friend Jason Bleecher took some photos of some food I created. I’ll be sharing the photos and the recipes over the next few weeks!

Caprese Salad with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

1/2 cup good quality Balsamic vinegar

3 fresh mozzarella balls

3-4 medium size red and yellow heirloom tomatoes

1 cup of red and yellow cherry tomatoes

purple and green basil leaves

Salt and pepper

Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a small pan, reduce the balsamic vinegar to half over medium heat. Slice the mozzarella and tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices and half the cherry tomatoes. Arrange the tomatoes and mozzarella in alternating layers on the plate. Chiffonade the green basil and spread it over the salad, garnish with purple basil leaves. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar reduction and olive oil over the salad and season with salt and pepper.

Simple and delicious, especially when tomatoes are in season.

Sausage with fall veggies and beans

Fall veggies are plentiful and the air is getting chilly. This dish is perfect for this time of year and really easy to make. It’s a one pot meal so the clean up is minimal, which makes it great for weeknights after work because it doesn’t take much time!

You can choose what ever sausage you like. I have made this with sage turkey sausage (from The Turkey Lady), chicken apple sausage, and sweet Italian pork sausage. I think my favorite was the sweet Italian pork sausage.

1 lb. sausage (your choice!)

olive oil

1 large sweet potato

2 medium beets (I like golden beets because they do not turn the whole dish pink)

1 medium sweet onion

I medium carrot

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

1 can cannellini beans

1 can dark red kidney beans

1 bunch swiss chard or kale

salt and pepper to taste

Add about 2 teaspoons of olive oil to a dutch oven set to medium high heat. Sear the sausages and remove from the pot.

Chop the onion, mince the garlic, and cut the sweet potato, carrot and beets in to 1/4 inch cubes (to match the size of the beans).

Saute the vegetables in the dutch oven for about 5 minutes, until the onions turn translucent.

I used red beets this time, so my final dish turned out pink. I also had to substitute chick peas to the cannellini beans because I didn’t have any cannellini beans left. You can substitute with pink beans as well but I think the cannellini work best in this recipe.

Chop your swiss chard or Kale into smaller pieces. If you decide to use kale, remove the tough stems and use only the leaves. I chose to use black kale this time because it was available at market and it is slightly softer than the regular kale that I usually find. After experimenting a bit, I still really like using the swiss chard.You can use the stems of the Swiss chard too, the red and yellow colors are a nice addition.

Use 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock to deglaze your pot, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the swiss chard or kale and season with salt and pepper. Place the lid on the pot and allow the liquid to boil and cook down the greens (about 7 minutes).

When the greens have reduced in volume, add in the beans. replace the lid and bring the liquid back up to a bubble.

Nestle the sausages back in the pot vegetables. Try to submerge it under the liquid and cover the pot again, bringing the liquid back up to a boil. Allow the sausages finish cooking (about 5-10 minutes, depending on size).

Remove the sausages and slice them into pieces, add the sausages back into the pot and serve…. comfort food for a chilly day.

Stirred Up Caprese Salad… With Shrimp!

This is super easy!

1/2 lb. medium sized shrimp, cleaned and deveined

4 tbsp. olive oil

12 large basil leaves

1 large ball of fresh mozzarella

8 oz. heirloom cherry or grape tomatoes

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper

You don’t have to use heirloom tomatoes but I love the colors! If you want to plant some in your garden, look for a variety of grape tomatoes called Isis Candy. They are sweet and the plants that I had the last few years produced tomatoes that were all different colors all on the same plant!

Cut the tomatoes in half, cube the mozzarella into similar size chunks, and chiffonade the basil. I used purple basil this time because I found it at market the other day and I love the color. It was so aromatic that the smell traveled out of my market bag and up to my nose the whole walk home.

Place the cleaned shrimp in a bowl with 1 tbsp of olive oil, half of the basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir it up until all of the shrimp are coated in olive oil. Heat you pan to medium-high heat. Place the shrimp into the pan in a single layer. Cook the shrimp until it turns pink and it is opaque all the way through. Try not to over cook it or you’ll end up with rubbery shrimp. Place your shrimp in a shallow dish and let it cool for a few minutes.

Add the halved cherry tomatoes, basil, and cubed mozzarella to the dish. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar and remaining 2 tbsp. of olive oil over the salad and season with salt and pepper. Mix everything together to be sure everything is coated with the vinegar and oil.

This is a simple salad but it will impress your guests! We had it the other night along side the cool cucumber soup.

Cool Cucumber Soup

I have been really hungry for soup lately but it has been so darn hot outside that I don’t really want to make something hot to eat. I came up with this cold soup that is actually inspired by a soup that I made up last year when I had a ton of extra corn. I’ll share both recipes with you and you can try them both!

Cool Cucumber Soup:

4-5 ears of corn

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature

4 oz. creme fraiche (it usually comes in 8oz. containers)

handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

2 medium sized cucumbers

Before we start, I would like to share a handy tip: Place the corn on a baking tray or a large round dish on top of an inverted bowl. You will catch all of the kernels and they wont go flying all over the counter top. I usually cover the inverted bowl with a damp paper towel, just in case I hit it with the knife. You don’t need the bowl if your tray or dish has low sides. *not the best picture, but you get the idea.

Bring the 3 cups of stock to a boil. Remove the kernels from the corn and place them into the boiling stock. Turn the heat down to medium so your soup is at a simmer and add the garlic, butter, salt and pepper (about 1/2 tsp of each). Let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and seed the cucumbers. To remove the seeds, cut the cucumber down the middle and run a spoon down the center of the cucumber, it will dig out all of the seeds.

Cut one cucumber into small cubes and set aside.

Take the other cucumber, cut it into chunks and put it in the food processor (you could also use a blender but you might have to work in batches). Add the cilantro to the food processor with the cucumber.

Ladle out about half of the corn kernels and liquid from the soup pot into the food processor. Pulse the mixture until no cucumber chunks remain. Pour the cucumber-corn mix back into the soup pot with the rest of the corn and stock. Add the small cubes of cucumber, heavy cream and creme fraiche.

Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Place it in the refrigerator to cool down. This is a great dish to make ahead of time. You could eat it warm or at room temperature, but it is really refreshing cold, especially on a hot day.

and the soup that inspired it…

Creamy Corn Soup

4-5 medium sized ears of corn, kernels removed.

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded

3 cups chicken stock

handful of fresh cilantro

8 0z. creme fraiche

2 tbsp. butter

salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and saute the garlic, jalapeno and corn kernels over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Sprinkle with salt and watch as you are sauteing, you are not trying to caramelize the onions, just saute until they are soft. Add the stock and bring the soup to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.

Blend the soup with a hand blender until smooth. You’ll have to ladle the soup into a blender and work in batches if you do not have a hand blender.

Mix in the creme fraiche, cilantro, and butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you want to add a little smoky surprise or a little extra kick- you can add 1 tsp of smoked sweet paprika. For a thinner soup, add more chicken stock. I usually eat this one hot, but it is probably good cold as well.

Raw Tomato Sauce

I have been eating tomatoes morning, noon, and night right now. I am certainly getting my fill. I made this easy pasta dish a few times now. It’s easy and quick and it tastes great hot or cold. The only thing you have to cook is the pasta!

Summer Pasta with Raw Tomato Sauce:

1 box of pasta in any shape you like… I love mini-penne made by Barilla.

1/2 medium red onion, cut into thin 1 inch sections

3 garlic cloves (smashed and minced)

3 tbsp unsalted butter

salt and pepper

3 large tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs)

1/2 lb feta cheese or fresh mozzarella

A handful of fresh basil leaves

Cook the pasta in salted water. Reserve at least 1/2 cup of the pasta water when draining the pasta. Place the onion, garlic and butter in a bowl and pour 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water them. Let the mixture sit for at least ten minutes, the butter will melt and the garlic and onion flavor will infuse in the water.

Chop up the tomatoes and mix them in with the pasta in separate large bowl. Take the basil leaves, stack them up, roll them together, and slice them into thin strips (chiffonade) and  mix them in with the pasta and tomatoes. Pour the pasta water mixture over the pasta and mix. Break up the feta or cut up the mozzarella and add it into the pasta and serve. The heat from the pasta makes the tomatoes kind of melt, creating a sauce that coats the pasta. This meal is really good the next day because the pasta soaks up all of the flavors.

This is the simple version I made the other night when I had some of my girlfriends over for dinner. I used whole wheat pasta this time.

You could also add other veggies really easily. I added yellow wax beans and baby zucchini to one version of this dish. I just cut the zucchini into little circles and the beans into 1 inch pieces.

You do not have to cook the veggies in a separate pan. Just drop them in the boiling water with the pasta about a minute before the pasta is done. You won’t have another pot to clean and they will be perfectly cooked, not over cooked. I have also been using local garlic because a few stands have it at market right now.

I added green beans into this version. I used the same technique of dropping them into the boiling pasta right before it was done. I used the fresh mozzarella cut into cubes in this one as well. I also added some extra herbs in addition to the basil (I used purple basil this time) I also added Italian flat leaf parsley and a few chives.

Be creative with your veggies! I usually just walk around market and get what ever looks the best and freshest. Simple, easy, quick and delicious.

Beautiful Beans

Look at these beautiful beans that available at market right now!

I have been using them in so many dishes lately. I thrown them in to pastas, soups, and salads. I just steam them by dropping them in boiling water for about a minute. Their color intensifies and it takes a little bit of the rawness out of them. After steaming, I drain them and drop them in ice water to halt the cooking process. This way they stay nice and crunchy. I really don’t like over cooked veggies that are mushy.

Here’s one of my favorite salads. It’s so easy to throw together, it only takes about ten minutes to make. It’s perfect to bring to parties in the summer months. You can mix and match the beans to go along with whatever is in season. It’s even great with a variety of canned beans if it is the middle of winter.

Easy Bean Salad:

1/3 lb green beans

1/3 lb yellow wax beans

1/3 lb dragon tongue beans (the ones with the purple stripes above)

1 can black beans

1 can chick peas

1 can dark red kidney beans

1 can cannellini beans

1 lemon, zested and juiced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 small red onion, chopped small

1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup garlic vinaigrette  or white wine vinegar

handful of  basil leaves, chopped

handful of flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped

salt and pepper (to taste)

All you have to do is mix it all together in a big bowl and serve. It is even better the next day! You might want to make some extra for yourself…

Good Morning

During the summer, I really take time to enjoy the morning. I could sleep in a little bit, relax, read the paper or a magazine and make myself a great breakfast. I have been creating these towering layered stacks topped with eggs. It’s like an open faced egg sandwich with whatever fresh, local, and in-season ingredients I have from the market.

Here are a few examples:

I start with a base of whole grain or some kind of crusty bread. I add a spread on top…two of my favorites are my Green Meanie dressing or Creme Fraiche. I sometimes use cream cheese too. It is really good when it starts to melt under the warm eggs.

Then I add red onions, thin sliced avocados, and some sort of green. I love spring pea shoots which, thanks to the new sprout stand at the market, I am able to find quiet easily now.

Since it is summer and excellent tomatoes are available, I have been putting tomato slices or cut up grape tomatoes on top. Fresh herbs are in abundance as well so I love to add basil leaves or chopped chives.

I usually fry one or two eggs to complete the tower and put a little extra dollop of dressing or creme fraiche on top as well. Sometimes I just turn it all into a scramble, it’s still just as good.