Saucy Mama Pecan Crusted Grouper with Lemon Tarragon Mustard Sauce

I’m so very excited to share my first Giveaway Contest!  Recently I received a box of assorted mustards from Saucy Mama and a request to create a healthy recipe using one of their mustards.  My recipe will be entered into their Skinny Mama Cooking with Mustard Contest.  Along with my sharing my recipe with you, Skinny Mama has offered to send my winner a sample of the three of their delicious mustards!!

The basis of the contest is to create a healthy, diet friendly recipe. While I don’t follow a particular diet, I do eat healthy and enjoy various vegetarian dishes as well as gluten free. When faced with keeping recipes healthy and light, flavor plays an important part in making sure the recipe will taste amazing so you don’t feel like you’re sacrificing eating well for eating healthy! And I so do like that!!! Continue reading “Saucy Mama Pecan Crusted Grouper with Lemon Tarragon Mustard Sauce”

Veal Scaloppine Marsala

Many who follow along with my blog know that I created this as a means to share my recipes with my daughter.  She follows hundreds of fashion blogs so I knew this was the way I could “fit” into her world of social networking.  It began with a simple request for homemade hummus and vinaigrette and grew into recipes she missed from home.  As I continued to add in family recipes I wanted to make sure she had the “classics”. 

The classic dishes I’m referring to are my personal list of basic dishes that I know I can always fall back on in a moment’s notice and create a delicious dinner.  These are the dishes that I notice so many people order out in Italian restaurants; ala Francese, Piccata, or Marsala!   Made just right, they are tender and flavorful dishes.  Each one is perfect for a comforting week night dinner or impressive for entertaining guests.  Doubled and tripled these are great party entrées as well.

I’ve already posted my Chicken Piccata and Chicken Francese recipe (ugh,I must replace that awful pic!) and now my Veal Scaloppini Marsala recipe.  There really are a lot of variations to the recipe.  Sometimes broth is added to the Marsala sauce, which I will do when I’m preparing for larger quantities, but when making it just for a small group, I like using dry Marsala only. 

My daughter loves mushrooms and for many years I’ve had to avoid them as way back in my 20’s I was allergic to them.  Did you notice “was”???  I am really happy to find that I’ve been adding in mushrooms lately and finding no reaction!  I’ve heard people will grow out of some allergies; guess that’s one good thing about the years passing! 

Also, the choice of meat can vary, which is another reason I love these dishes.  Instead of veal, pork or chicken cutlets work beautifully.  Whatever is used, the meat should be pounded to about ¼ inch thick.  For veal I like to ask the butcher to slice it thinly across the grain (which they should know!)  But if it is sliced incorrectly, the veal will curl and bubble as the muscles/grains tighten and your veal will not be fork tender!! 

Veal Scaloppini Marsala

Serves 4

8 veal scaloppini or thin sliced cutlets (I like to present 2 scaloppini with each serving as they are so thin; however use your judgment as to the size and serving amount)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup flour

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 – 8 0z mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thin

1 scallion thinly sliced (optional)

½ cup dry Marsala (Marsala wine is sold either sweet or dry; I prefer to use dry)

Between two sheets of plastic wrap, pound the slices to about ¼ inch thick.  On a sheet of wax paper or using a pie plate, mix the salt and pepper into the flour and set aside.

Heat a large skillet with ½ of the butter and oil.  Add in the mushrooms and scallion if using and cook about 10 minutes until soft and lightly browned.  Transfer to plate and set aside.  Add in the remaining tablespoon of butter and oil to the pan and return to medium high heat.  Dip the veal into the flour on both sides and place in skillet.  Do not crowd the veal in the skillet, cook in batches if necessary.  Saute for 1 minute on each side until just lightly browned; remove to plate with mushroom. 

Pour in the Marsala wine allowing it to simmer into a rich sauce.  Add in the mushrooms and veal simmering until heated.  If the sauce is too thick add in additional Marsala.  For an additional touch of richness and shine, add in an additional pat of butter.  Serve immediately.

Engagement Chicken

So they say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  Could it really be all that easy??  Is cooking for a man the way to win his affections??

When my niece Nina heard about a roasted chicken recipe that had men proposing marriage to their girlfriends, she immediately thought of her single aunt and sent me the cookbook.  This cookbook, 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know is from the editors of Glamour Magazine.  This was the cookbook where I found and posted the No-Fail Kale Caesar Salad, which has become my favorite go to salad for kale.  Nina didn’t send me the cookbook for the salad recipe though.  It was for the roasted chicken recipe, otherwise known as the Engagement Chicken. 

The story goes back over 25 years ago when an editor for Glamour magazine gave her assistant this recipe to prepare dinner for her boyfriend.  About a month later, the boyfriend proposed and had commented that the dinner was one “your wife would make” and had begun thinking of her in that way.  Hearing that, the recipe was passed among the Glamour staff resulting in one after another proposals!  In fact, the forward of the book lists over 70 engagement stories following this chicken dinner!

Ina Garten also did an episode on the Engagement Chicken and its history.  If you watch Ina’s show, chicken is her husband’s favorite Friday night dinner.  Ina did tweak the recipe a bit adding in onions and chicken broth to this lemon and herb roasted chicken.   Glamour’s recipe uses whole lemons pierced with a fork and placed inside the bird.  Then plenty of lemon juice is poured over the bird creating a very moist and tender chicken.

Now I know you’re all wondering what happened to me when I made this bird.   Well, I’ve had this cookbook almost a year now and I’ve enjoyed many of the recipes.  I finally made this last week .… for my son.  So, no story to report on my end but I do pity the girl who tries to steal my son’s heart because she better know how to cook!  He is definitely spoiled in that area!!

 Engagement Chicken

Adapted from 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know

Serves 2 to 4

1 whole chicken (approximately 4-5 pounds)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

3 whole lemons—2 for stuffing in the bird, 1 sliced for garnish

1 tablespoon kosher or coarse sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

½ cup chicken broth (optional)

Fresh herbs for garnish (4 rosemary sprigs, 4 sage sprigs, 8 thyme sprigs, and 1 bunch fl at-leaf parsley)

Position an oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove the giblets from the chicken, wash the chicken inside and out with cold water, then let the chicken drain, cavity down, in a colander for 2 minutes.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.  Place the chicken breast-side down in a medium roasting pan fitted with a rack.  Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper inside and out.  Prick 2 whole lemons with a fork and place them deep inside the cavity. Chicken cavity size may vary, so if one lemon is partly sticking out, that’s fine. (Tip: If the lemons are stiff, roll them on the countertop with your palm before pricking to get the juices flowing.)  Pour the lemon juice all over the chicken, both inside and out.

Put the chicken in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 350°F, and roast, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Using tongs or two wooden spoons, turn the chicken breast- side up. Return the chicken to the oven and roast for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 180°F and the juices run clear when the thigh is pricked with a fork. Check the bird to make sure the lemon juice does not completely evaporate and add in more juice or chicken broth.  Continue roasting if necessary.  Keep in mind that cooking times in different ovens vary; roasting a chicken at 350°F takes approximately 18-20 minutes per pound, plus an additional 15 minutes.

Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving.    And here’s the secret: Pour the juices from the roasting pan on top of the sliced chicken— this is the “marry me juice.”   I also removed the lemons, cut them in half and squeezed the warm juices over the bird.   Garnish with fresh herbs and lemon slices.

Limoncello Risotto

Creamy, warm risotto is snuggly, comfort food to me.  In fact the entire process is soothing, almost tranquil and serene.  Yes, really.  I know I’ve heard from many who fear the process of making risotto.  As a matter of fact, and complete surprise to me as I was just about to post this, Katherine at Rufus’ Food and Spirit Guide posted her risotto recipe and first attempt at making it.  A successful attempt, I might add and very well done Katherine!! Continue reading “Limoncello Risotto”

Chicken with the Ultimate Lemon and Rosemary Sauce

While making the roasted oranges the other day, it reminded me of my ultimate favorite lemon sauce.  It’s actually the method of broiling the lemons that sends it over the top!  The lemons are cut crosswise, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper and broiled until the pulp softens and plumps up.  When cooled, the pulp and juice is squeezed out resulting in gently sweet, tart lemony goodness.  I learned this from my favorite chef, Michael Chiarello and became my best tip for creating many other lemony sauces. 

The chicken itself is moist and perfectly baked every time.  A simple chicken and potato dish fabulous for a lazy Sunday afternoon.  There are a few steps involved, but having everything mise en place (put in place) will allow this and anything else you’re cooking to be prepared with relative ease.  At the final point in preparing the sauce, if it tastes too lemony for your preference, adding a tablespoon of butter to the sauce should mellow it as well as add a nice gloss to your sauce!

Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary Sauce

Recipe adapted from Michael Chiarello, Tra Vigne Cookbook

2 large lemons

Kosher Salt (or Gray Salt)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 4-5 lb. chicken, cut in parts, skin on

Olive oil for sautéing

1 ½ pounds small new potatoes

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 cup double strength chicken stock – boil 2 cups of stock until reduced by half

¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 tablespoon butter, optional

For the broiled lemons:  Preheat the broiler.  Cut a small slice off both ends of each lemon (to allow the lemons not to roll) and then cut in half crosswise.  Arrange the lemons on a baking dish suitable for broiling, drizzle on olive oil and sprinkle on kosher salt and pepper.  Broil until brown, plump and soft, about 10 minutes.  Remove and cool.  Squeeze the lemon over a sieve to capture any seeds and squeeze out all the pulp and juice, mashing to get out as much as possible.  Discard the peels and set aside.

For the potatoes:  In a large pot, place cut up potatoes in cold water and bring to boil.  Simmer until tender about 15 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

For the chicken:  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  In a large ovenproof skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat until hot.  Add the chicken, lower to medium and cook, turning once until brown on both sides, about 10 minutes.  Remove to a platter.

Return the skillet to medium high heat, add additional oil if necessary and add in the precooked potatoes.  Season with salt and pepper and allow to brown all over, about 10 minutes.  Drain off any excess oil, top the potatoes with the chicken pieces and place in the oven to continue cooking about 15-20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear.  Remove the chicken to a platter, placing the potatoes to the side.  Return the skillet to medium high heat on the stove top.  Add the lemon juice and pulp, garlic and rosemary scraping the bottom of the pan.  Add in the reduced chicken stock and simmer.   Stir in the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.  If sauce tastes too lemony, stir in the optional tablespoon of butter.  Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.  Makes about 4 servings.

January is #citruslove month!
Please join in on the #citruslove by linking up any citrus recipe from the month of January 2012.  Don’t forget to link back to this post, so that your readers know to come stop by the #citruslove event! The twitter hastag is #citruslove :).
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Eggplant Lasagna

I’m sure I’m not the only one constantly inspired by food I see or hear about.  As soon as someone mentions a new restaurant, or had an interesting dish or something deliciously sinful, I’m instantly interested.  I want to know every detail so that I can try to recreate it myself.  Sometimes it’s simply the general idea of how a dish is presented or a picture that catches my attention or a specific ingredient that has my head whirling with ideas!

For over a year now, I have heard about a coworker’s eggplant lasagna.  I’ve never had a chance to taste it, but all those that did raved highly about it.  Obviously, my interest peaked and I had to talk to Vinny (and yes, he’s Italian, which had me even more interested in his lasagna).  Then during the holidays it seemed like everyone was talking about making lasagna.  Phyllis at Food Flowers Herbs and Life posted her lasagna recipe for Christmas Eve and several other friends along with my sister were chatting about either making it or having had it at a dinner party.

Obviously my craving for it increased; I really have not made classic lasagna in a few years.  Vinny’s recipe basically swaps out the pasta for eggplant slices.  I’ve made vegetarian lasagna in the past but liked this idea of no pasta, i.e, carbs!  He peels and cuts the eggplant into thin slices, breading and frying them.  I skipped the breading part and just fried each slice.  While I normally bake my eggplant and he said he does at times also, I agreed that frying the eggplant would give the lasagna a richer taste.  And it certainly did; everyone loved it!  It was meltingly tender, full of flavor and definitely fulfilled my lasagna craving!

Eggplant Lasagna

For the eggplant:

2-3 large eggplants, peeled and thinly sliced, about ¼ inch thick

Olive oil for frying

For the sauce:

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork

1 medium onion finely diced

2 28 oz cans whole tomatoes, squeezed or blended into a puree

2-3 cloves garlic minced

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon Kosher salt

½ tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

For the ricotta layer:

1 15 oz container ricotta

1 large egg

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

½ cup shredded mozzarella

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

For the topping:

8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

To prepare the sauce:  In a large skillet, cook the ground beef and pork until browned.  Remove from pan and drain well from the grease.  In a large stockpot, sauté the onion in olive oil until soft.  Add in the tomato puree, basil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add in the browned meat and continuing cooking on low heat for about 1 hour.  Can be made ahead of time.

To prepare the lasagna:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   In a large skillet, fry the eggplant slices a few at a time until browned on each side.  Set aside.  Mix together the ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, egg, parsley and pepper.  In a baking dish, spoon a thin layer of sauce on the bottom and begin layering with the eggplant slices, meat sauce and ricotta mixture.  Repeat and finish with the layer of eggplant slices and some sauce on top.  Cover the dish with foil, place on a baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes.  Remove the foil, sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese and bake until bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly and set before serving.

Italian Beef Stew

Beef stew was not my favorite dish when I was a child.  I clearly remember not being very happy when it was stew night!  I honestly can’t think of any other dish she made that I didn’t like except this.   I’d pick around the bowl to find something I’d like; a potato, a carrot or two, a piece of beef to slip to my dog Buffy.   Everyone else all seemed to really enjoy the stew, especially Buffy.

Years later after my mom passed, I’d prepare meals from her handwritten notes to bring back memories of her through the dishes she made.  I quickly passed over the Italian beef stew recipe many times before I finally decided to make it.   Surprise, surprise…I loved it!  It certainly had nothing to do with my making it any better but more so my taste for food had grown from when I was young.  And just as surprising to me, it’s a dish my son really likes.

It’s a bowl full of love, comforting, tender and warming.  The amount of potatoes, carrots, garlic and celery can vary to your taste; I’ve added in peas as well at times and used white wine when I didn’t have an open bottle of red.  I’m not sure why she wrote Italian Beef Stew; I’ve never compared it to other stew recipes but the ingredients don’t seem to be too “Italian” to me other than tomatoes!

Italian Beef Stew

2 lbs lean beef, cubed, tossed in flour to lightly coat

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions, sliced

1/2 cup red wine

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 large potatoes, cut into chunks

3 carrots, peeled and sliced into chunks

1 stalk celery, sliced

1/2 cup fresh parley, chopped

1 14 oz can plum or diced tomatoes

1/2 cup water or enough to cover meat

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large stockpot, heat the oil.   Add in the beef and onions saute until slightly brown.  Deglaze the pan with the wine, simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add in the tomatoes, garlic, chopped parsley and red pepper flakes and let simmer for another 10 minutes.  Add in the potatoes, celery, carrots, and tomatoes.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add in enough water to cover the meat and simmer covered for 40 minutes, stirring occassionally.  Uncover the stew and simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until the meat is tender.  Salt and pepper to taste.

3 Easy Leftover Turkey Ideas

As soon as the whirlwind of cooking and feasting is over, what do you do with the leftovers?  I actually love to have leftovers, especially at Thanksgiving.  I always have an abundance of food prepared, being able to send some home with my guests and having enough for a few leftover meals to carry us over for a few days.  Especially since immediately following Thanksgiving, I’m gearing up for the Christmas holidays.  No black Friday shopping for me as I’m busy putting away my fall decorations and bringing on Christmas!

So, while I’m focusing on the decorating part of the holidays, I’m thrilled to have a frig full of leftovers to create my three favorite and very easy leftover dishes; Nachos, Open Faced ‘Bruschettas’ (Sandwich) and Frittatas.  These three quick recipes really work well with any leftovers.  There are no real recipes to follow.  It will all depend on the amount of servings, follow a basic method and have on hand a few pantry items such as your favorite quality tortilla chips, bread, and organic eggs.

In addition, don’t throw out that turkey carcass!  Immediately after the Thanksgiving meal, remove all the meat from the carcass to store safely.  That evening or the next day, drop the carcass, carrots, celery and onion in a large stockpot.  Add enough water to cover and simmer away for about 2-3 hours, strain and you have homemade turkey stock!

Turkey Nachos:  Great football game food!  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Evenly layer the chips on a wide shallow baking pan.  Lightly top with leftovers of your choice: turkey, stuffing, potatoes, veggies, cranberry sauce, etc.  Top with another layer of chips and leftovers.  Sprinkle some cheese on top.  Heat in oven for about 15-18 minutes or until cheese is melted.  I like to drizzle warmed gravy on top, srirachi sauce, sour cream and chopped fresh sage or cilantro.

Open Faced ‘Bruschettas’ (Hot Browns!):  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grill or toast thick slices of bread, about ½  to 1 inch thick.  I like Costco’s Rosemary Olive Oil bread.  Whenever I’m there I purchase a loaf or two, immediately slice and freeze (to avoid all temptation).   Place the grilled bread on a baking sheet and top with leftover chopped turkey, stuffing, veggies, finishing with potatoes and a drizzle of gravy.  Heat until warmed through, about 15-18 minutes.  Serve warm with additional gravy.  Best eaten with fork and knife!!

Fritattas:  Following along with my Fun with Frittatas post, heat a large skillet with olive oil, toss in about 2 1/2 cups of leftovers and heat.  Beat together 4-5 eggs (or mix of whole eggs/egg whites) with 1/4 cup of milk.  Pour the egg mixture over the turkey and veggies and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes to set the bottom.  Sprinkle on 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and place under the broiler to complete cooking, approximately 5 minutes or until the top has set and the cheese is lightly browned.  Serve hot or room temperature.