Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chicken Tacos and Cabbage-Radish Slaw

My husband makes the best tacos. He's not opposed to a little chopping and marinating, making sure every component is tasty to create an excellent total package.

Speaking of tacos, have you seen the new flat-bottomed, "stand n' stuff" taco shells? They're ingenius, and I can't believed no one came up with this sooner (no one's paying me to say that). But Mike would never use those for his tacos. He does them south-of-the-border style, by which I mean Mexico, not Taco Bell. When you get an authentic Mexican street vendor taco, it's on a soft tortilla.

There's no recipe for our favorite chicken tacos because Mike does them a little differently every time. The main components are as follows:

1) Marinated, grilled chicken breasts (thanks, George Foreman grill)
2) Beans - Black beans with seasoning, or pintos simmered with a chunk of cheese and mashed
3) Salsa - This could be homemade pico de gallo, jarred salsa, or just some chopped up tomato
4) Something leafy - This is often julienned spinach leaves, but most recently Mike did a great spicy cabbage, radish and jalepeno coleslaw (see recipe below)
5) Something creamy (optional) - Good choices are avocado, cheese and sour cream; one or two of these is especially nice if you aren't doing coleslaw
6) Lime wedges - Squeeze over everything
7) Tortillas - I like corn, Mike likes flour; any size is fine

Spicy Cabbage-Radish Coleslaw
This is a smallish batch to generously feed about 3 people eating tacos. Double to serve more.

1/4 head cabbage, thinly sliced
4 to 5 radishes, halved and thinly sliced
2 jalapenos, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (packed)
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine cabbage, radishes, jalapenos and cilantro in a plastic container with a lid or a large bowl. Add sour cream and vinegar, cover and shake vigorously to combine (or toss in bowl). Season to taste.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Blueberry-Peach Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuits

This is exactly what you want to make this weekend, am I right? It seems to me that blueberries have been fantastic this year. In early summer, we got Florida and some North Carolina berries, which were great. Then, by early August, the stores were full of New Jersey berries, most of which have been excellent too. The past couple blueberry seasons seemed kind of short and disappointing, so I've been loving this year's crops.

Unlike my blueberry pie earlier in the season, a cobbler like this is hardly any work at all. If you're a biscuit person like me, the cobbler is your go-to dessert. Not excessively sweet, and wholesome in its own way, you shouldn't seek out an occasion to bake one. Double this recipe and use a 9 x 13 dish if you have a crowd, or make it as written for just two of you since it reheats fine.


If cobblers don't happen to be your bag, how about a (frankly fabulous-sounding) chiffon pie, tangy whole wheat pancakes, fresh blueberry scones, buttery blueberry crumb bars, or better-for-you muffins? And if those recipes from other wonderful bloggers aren't enough, check out the Sugar High Friday blog event round up here. The theme was berries! I totally missed this one, but there are about 85 tasty berry desserts from food bloggers for you to peruse. Enjoy!

Blueberry-Peach Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuits

I combined and adapted two recipes from cooksillustrated.com to create this dish. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream or sweetened Greek yogurt. It makes a nice breakfast too.

Update: I've also made this using 1/2 cup of buttermilk in place of the yogurt. If you have fresh ginger, you can throw in about a tablespoon (finely chopped) with the fruit.

For fruit filling:
3 large firm-ripe peaches
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups fresh blueberries

For biscuits:
1 cup minus 3 Tbs. AP or white whole wheat flour
3 Tbs. cornmeal
3 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. sugar, divided
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
1 (6-oz.) container flavored yogurt, such as honey, vanilla or lemon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place oven rack in lower middle position. Remove peach skin with a vegetable peeler, halve, pit and remove any dark flesh from pit area (If your peaches are on the soft side, it’s better to peel them by blanching instead). Cut each half into 4 to 6 wedges, toss with sugar in a large bowl and set aside for 30 minutes. Transfer peaches to a strainer set over a bowl and drain thoroughly. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of drained peach juice (discard extra), cornstarch, lemon juice and salt. Toss with peach slices and blueberries and transfer to an 8 x 8 baking dish. Bake 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the biscuits: whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, lemon zest, baking soda and salt. Add chilled butter and work it into the flour mixture with your hands to create a loose, shaggy mixture. Fold in yogurt until flour is moistened (will still appear rather loose). With floured hands, form dough into 6 equal lumps. Arrange biscuit lumps on top of hot fruit, spacing them close together, but not touching, about 1/2-inch apart. Sprinkle remaining teaspoon of sugar over dough. Return to oven and bake 17 to 20 minutes, or until biscuits are lightly browned and cooked through. Cool on a rack for 20 minutes and serve warm.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Chicken and Nectarine Kabobs with Rosemary

I hope all my lovely readers are enjoying the summer! You may have noticed that I took a short, but much needed break from posting. I've been doing a ton of recipe development freelance work, but also just enjoying some time away. And no one wants me telling them to hang out in a hot kitchen right now anyway, right?!

I'm really happy to be posting today's recipe because it's something I've made for myself and others several times in the past month or so. It takes so little time to throw together; it serves one or many; and it can be done under a broiler or on your outdoor grill.

I absolutely love how summer stone fruits work here. Use semi-ripe peaches, nectarines or plums that are still rather firm. They should be a couple days away from ripe-enough-to-eat. When you skewer and blast them with heat, they become intensely sweet and syrupy. This is also a nice way to do boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which are not always the juiciest cuts of meat. Here, they stay quite tender, and one chicken breast yields two fruit-packed skewers. It's a very healthy, low-cal, low-carb meal that doesn't feel at all like you're skimping.

Chicken and Nectarine Kabobs with Rosemary
I can attest to the sweet, syrupy results you'll get with peaches and nectarines, but I think plums will work well too. I also rescued some not-so-soft figs with this recipe, so give that a try too! Multiply to serve as many as you want.

Serves 2

1 tablespoon olive oil plus a few drops
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar plus a few drops
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, divided
Pinch of dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into large chunks
2 firm nectarines, each cut into 8 chunks
Coarse salt

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoons rosemary, thyme, a generous quantity of pepper and the chicken to a shallow bowl; toss to coat thoroughly. Add the nectarines to a smaller bowl; sprinkle with a few drops of oil and vinegar, the rest of the rosemary and pepper. Marinate at least 25 minutes.

Preheat broiler. Slide chicken and nectarines, alternating, on 4 metal skewers (or wooden skewers soaked for several hours), and place on a foil-lined baking sheet or broiler pan. Season with salt on both sides. Cook 5 minutes per side or until cooked through. Broilers can vary, so take into account how hot yours runs. You can also cook skewers on a grill. Let rest for a minute and serve.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Coconut Cake with 7-Minute Frosting

I've been wanting to make a coconut cake for Mike's birthday for a few years now. But in the recent past, he's asked for German chocolate and carrot cake. They both contain coconut, but that does not put them under the category of "coconut cake." Not even a little bit.

So this year, Mike said a straight-up coconut cake would do, and I knew exactly where to turn for a recipe. All I wanted was a great cake - light, moist texture; two layers; filling; and good frosting. With no designs whatsoever on reinventing the wheel, I knew I'd use a recipe I pulled out of Good Housekeeping magazine a few months ago. The issue had Paula Deen on the cover, and inside she was noshing merrily on this cake. If it was good enough for her, I figured I couldn't go wrong.

Then, the funniest thing happened. One of my regular blog reads, Cookie Madness, posted an easy coconut cake that was rated very highly by Anna, who I believe more than the things I read in Good Housekeeping (no offense to GH, but you know...). So I decided to make her recipe, which she sourced from recipezaar.com, instead. But, before I baked, I took a quick look at the Paula Deen recipe to see how they differed. Want to guess what happened? They were exactly the same. Now I had a cake with glowing endorsements from all fronts.

This is a great cake. It's easy. I will never tell you to crack your own coconut in the interest of purity, and neither does this recipe. Simple canned coconut milk flavors the cake. A tangy filling made from sour cream, sugar and shredded coconut adds an interesting tangy note. And finally, there's the 7-minute icing. This is an old recipe. I don't know its origins, but it's the one that's kind of like marshmallow fluff, only better. There's no butter - just sugar and egg whites - so it's not as dense with fat and calories as buttercream.

I followed Anna's version of the recipe, which she cut in half to fit 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Paula's version is for 3 (9-inch) pans, and I had no interest in having that much cake in my house (plus, I only have 2 cake pans). Here is Paula's full recipe on the Food Network site, if you do want that much cake (nothing wrong with that). And here's the 7-minute frosting.

As I said, Anna baked her cake in 2 8-inch pans, and that's the ideal size. I thought I could get away with my 2 9-inch pans and just have thinner layers. Once I made the batter, however, I knew it was not enough to respectably fill both pans (and I'd already buttered and floured them, darn it!). So, I just poured all the batter in one pan, baked a little longer and cut the cake in half horizontally with a large serrated knife. I had never performed this cake operation before, but it was wonderfully easy. Just like the rest of the cake.