Category Archives: Cooking

Another delicious salad: Lemon Chicken with Mixed Greens

We had unseasonably summer-like weather here yesterday, and that combined with a large-ish lunch meant that dinner had to be light and heat-free. So I looked into the fridge and came up with this salad using a bunch of stuff that needed to be eaten before it spoiled:

two boneless skinless chicken breasts
mixed baby salad greens, with a handful of spinach leaves
mixed cherry tomatoes (from Trader Joe’s)
fresh mozzarella
toasted sunflower seeds
basil-infused olive oil
fresh lemon juice
lemon pepper seasoning mix
salt and pepper to taste

I sprinkled the chicken breasts with some olive oil (just regular cooking oil, not the fancy stuff) and rubbed a few sprinkles of lemon pepper all over them, then grilled for 3-4 minutes per side until just done and cut into bite-size pieces. While the chicken cooked, I sliced up the mozzarella into bite-size pieces.

In a large bowl, I mixed the greens with some salt and pepper to taste, then drizzled a bit (maybe 1Tbsp) of the basil-infused olive oil and a few teaspoons of lemon juice and tossed. I added the rinsed cherry tomatoes and tossed again. Then I arranged a mound of salad on a plate, topped with the chicken and mozzarella pieces, and sprinkled the sunflower seeds on top.

The result? A remarkably satisfying salad that almost made the hot weather tolerable; my sweetie even requested that it be put into our regular dinner rotation. Success!

Well, hello there

Oh, the many things I’ve thought about blogging in the last few months, and yet stopped myself from doing so. Or rather, distracted myself from. And what is it that has brought me back? What do I have to share with the world that is so profound it actually lifted me from inertia? Well, only this: a homemade salad that transcended all my expectations for what a lunch salad could be.

(Bet you weren’t expecting that, were you?)

So, I read in a healthy-eating magazine a suggestion for green salad with strawberries and mozzarella. But while the magazine photo showed cubes of grocery-store mozz, I had a container of the REAL THING in my refrigerator, just waiting to be enjoyed in a healthful way instead of all at once in a festival of cheese gluttony. So I built this salad:

a few cups of mixed baby spring greens, with a handful of fresh baby spinach thrown in
4-5 fresh strawberries
a few ounces fresh mozzarella cheese (I used a single bocconcino)
5-6 asparagus spears
a teaspoon or so of toasted pine nuts
salt and pepper
high-quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dress
First I tossed the asparagus with a bit of olive oil (not the fancy stuff, just my everyday oil) and some salt and pepper and roasted it in a 400F oven for 10-12 minutes or so. While that was roasting I tossed the spinach in with the mixed greens, cleaned and sliced the strawberries, and sliced the mozzarella. When the asparagus was soft and slightly brown I pulled it out of the oven and let it cool for a few minutes, then sliced it into one-inch pieces.

Then I tossed the asparagus and strawberries with the greens, a little salt, and a lot of pepper. Once those were mixed I drizzled some high-quality olive oil and balsamic–the sweet, mellow kind that costs a bit more than your typical grocery-store stuff–and tossed again.

I plated the salad, then scattered some mozzarella pieces and toasted pine nuts on top. I haven’t enjoyed a lunch this much in a long time. Yum!

Best. Sandwich. Ever.

The sandwich so good I had to photograph it. I’m particularly proud of this one, because I started heading to the kitchen with my standard turkey-and-mustard-on-wheat-bread in mind, wondering what cheeses we had on hand to make it a little more interesting. But then I remembered that I had marscarpone leftover from the St. Patricks Day pots de creme. Then I thought about the unopened Bonne Maman fig preserves I’d found in my cupboard a few days earlier. And the leftover arugula from my pasta-making adventure (I served the pasta with olive oil, red pepper flakes, prosciutto, and wilted arugula). Then as I rounded the corner into the kitchen I spotted some almost-stale bakery bread sitting forgotten on the counter. Toasted it up on the stovetop (using my tea kettle filled with water as a weight) like a true panino, and voila, the Anything-But-Quotidian Turkey Sandwich:

Best. Sandwich. Ever.

A few days later, some girlfriends were looking at photos on my camera and scrolled back to this one.

“Um, why do you have a picture of a sandwich on your camera?”

“Because that was a really good sandwich. I was so proud to have made it.”

You made that sandwich? It looks like something from a restaurant. I’m coming to your  house for lunch.”

Culinary discovery

I made the black-bottom cupcakes last night while half-watching America’s Next Top Model. It was the episode where all the models had to pose as murder victims, and I found it weirdly hard to tear myself away. The cream cheese filling, which you’re instructed to make first, got pretty runny while waiting to be used. By the time I assembled the cupcakes, the cheese mixture was so fluid it didn’t have enough weight to sink through the middle of the cupcake. I wound up with actual black-bottom cupcakes–a chocolate cake stem topped with a disc of the sweet cream cheese. They still taste great, though. Maybe I’ll call them Snow-Cap cupcakes, because there is something of the ski resort to their look.

St Patrick’s Day menu

D and I both have a bit of the blarney in our blood (actually, he has more than a bit; his last name stars with O’) and St Patrick’s fell on a Saturday this year, so I felt compelled to make something a special meal for the holiday. On the menu: Beef and Guinness Stew from The Gourmet Slow Cooker, Classic Irish Soda Bread from Cook’s Illustrated, and Baileys Pots de Creme from the San Francisco Chronicle.

The stew, to my disappointment, tasted pretty much like every other beef stew I’ve made, though the Guinness flavoring was pleasant. The Pots de Creme were remarkably easy and so tasty that D made himself sick eating two. But the real star, in my opinion, was the Soda Bread. When I put it in the oven I was concerned that I’d overmixed and/or overkneaded, which would result in tough bread. The loaf I pulled from the oven 45 minutes later was dense but light and buttery. It’s been some time since I’ve felt so proud of something I’d made. It was the perfect accompaniment to the stew and we devoured the rest with fruit preserves and some fresh asiago cheese for breakfast the next morning.

Next on my list: fresh pasta (I found a quality pasta machine marked way down at Tuesday Morning and talked them into knocking even more off the price because the instruction booklet was missing) and black-bottom cupcakes.

In praise of small kitchens

One of the hardest parts of selling our condo in SF was leaving behind our lovely kitchen. The bigger-than-any-kitchen-I’d-ever-had kitchen. The stainless-professional-stove-and-plenty-of-counter-space kitchen. The kitchen that was a room unto itself.

So when we got to our new apartment, with its galley kitchen, I worried. How would all our dishes and cookware and foodstuffs fit in this kitchen that’s half the size of what we used to have? We had cleared a lot of seldom-used kitchen stuff when we moved, but I was still overwhelmed at the thought of making it all fit.

I spent hours in that kitchen, lining shelves with shelf paper and wondering how on earth it was all going to work. We had cupboards above the built-in microwave (which itself was above the stove), cupboards above a cutout that lets you look from the kitchen into the living room, and cupboards above the refrigerator, all nearly impossible to reach. There were two drawers, one of which was only 5 inches wide. We also had a wide expanse of countertop, dropped about six inches below the rest of the counters, with nothing underneath–kind of like a desk-type area, maybe.

D eventually came up with the solution: a folding stepladder that could tuck underneath that lowered counter area would let us reach all those high-up cupboards. The trash can could hide under there as well, and I bought some inexpensive plastic drawers, which also fit that under-counter space, for utensils, gadgets, Ziplog bags, and rolls of foil. And suddenly everything fell into place. After three days of hard thinking, I had a scheme that put glasses near the refrigerator, dishes near the dishwasher, baking pans under the oven, pots under the stove, snacks in an easily accessible cupboard and recipe ingredients in a high cupboard that’s still reachable via ladder.

Everything fit–with a little room to spare, even–and I have to say that this kitchen, though still lacking counter space, is almost more functional than my magazine-spread kitchen in SF. Everything has an obvious place; even D knows where to find things and where to put them away (which has never happened before–he never seemed to carry a kitchen map in his head). The proximity makes cooking and even just unloading the dishwasher much more efficient. With a smaller kitchen, we’re extra motivated to keep it clean–a day’s worth of dishes on the counter can totally trash the place, while in SF we could go a week before it looked bad. (Not that we ever did that.) And the fact that the kitchen is connected to the living room means I can be in on a conversation even as I’m cooking dinner.

There are still things I’d change (hello, tiny cooktop, leaning refrigerator, and spice rack right next to the stove) but I might be so bold as to say that I’m a convert: you can keep your stainless appliances–give me a well-planned, compact kitchen.