Key Lime & Coconut

My adventures in the world of food & wine

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Just Stuff It

Before I get to my featured recipe, two things:
1) A public service announcement. If you bake homemade pita, make sure you put it in the refrigerator. Otherwise it will grow mold and all of your hard work (and burned hands) will be for naught.
2) A recommendation. If you have $400 to burn on dinner for two, go to L'Espalier for their seasonal degustation with the grand vintner's tasting. It is three hours of pure magical delight. You will not be disappointed.

Okay, so this week I made yet another delicious South Beach friendly meal. I'm not really into chicken these days, I don't know why, I just haven't really had a taste for it. But this was pretty good and I didn't mind eating it for dinner two nights in a row, with just a side of salted sliced tomatoes. (When you live alone you have the ability to live off your own leftovers.) That's possibly because I've been obsessed with goat cheese recently and have been using it in everything. I used to think I hated goat cheese, but sometime this summer I had an epiphany and realized that it is actually a little piece of cheesy heaven. So don't be surprised if you see more goat cheese pop up in my recipes in the future.

Goat Cheese-Stuffed Chicken
Serves 4
  • 1/4 c. walnut halves
  • 1/4 c. fresh goat cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • four 6-ounce boneless/skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. walnut oil
  • 1/4 c. chopped flat-leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast for 6 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool, then chop. In a small bowl, mash the goat cheese with the lemon zest, garlic and half of the walnuts; season with salt and pepper. Using a small knife, cut a pocket in the side of each chicken breast; keep the pocket opening as small as possible. Stuff the chicken breasts with the mixture and gently press to flatten them. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned, about 6 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the chicken for 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken breasts to a platter and keep warm. Add the lemon juice and stock to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the pan. Simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in the walnut oil, parsley and the remaining chopped walnuts. Transfer the chicken breasts to plates, spoon the walnut sauce on top and serve.

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging #102, hosted this week by Ulrike from Kuchenlatein. WHB is a weekly food blogging event where bloggers post recipes using their favorite herbs, plants, veggies, and flowers. In my goat cheese stuffed chicken, the flat-leaf parsley in the reduction adds a nice herby flavor to the dish that would otherwise be dominated by the rich tastes of the goat cheese and walnuts. Flat-leaf parsley is one of two kinds of parsley (along with curly), and is thought to have the stronger flavor of the two. Flat-leaf parsley is also better adapted to cooking because it can better withstand high heat.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Pita Patter

I almost died in the process (okay fine I just burned my hand in the oven), but I successfully made my own whole-wheat pita! I weighed myself this morning and decided it was time for phase 2 of South Beach, which means I can slowly reintroduce some fruits and whole grains back into my diet. I racked my brain for something I could make myself, and at first I thought about making a loaf of bread, but most recipes call for dry milk (??) and I do not have that. (Seriously, what is dry milk?)

Anyway, I decided on homemade whole-wheat pita bread. The recipe is simple, and even with my crude and unrefined technique, I managed just fine. So basically, that means just about anybody can do it. I also got to use my brand new baking stone that I got for my birthday! The pita got all puffy in the oven just like they were supposed to, and they taste great, just as good as (if not better than) pita that you would buy in the store. And did you know that pita splits naturally? I thought that when you bought store-bought pita, the pita-people split the pita for you so you could make it into a sandwich. Turns out that just happens on its own. Magic!

After my pita were done I decided to stuff them full of delicious goodness, limited only by my imagination. No, actually I was limited by what I had in my refrigerator. Fortunately I dug up some chicken sausage, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil. After adding a dash of salt and pepper, I was in heaven.

Whole Wheat Pita
Makes about a dozen little pita
  • about 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups warm water
Stir 2 cups of flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in water gradually; beat until smooth. Add 3/4 cup more flour; beat again. Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough - about another cup. Beat well. Turn out onto a floured board; knead until smooth and elastic. Let rise 1 hour; should be doubled. Punch down; let rise 30 more minutes. Divide into 12 equal pieces and shape into balls. Roll out into 5- to 6-inch circles. Bake on a baking stone on the bottom rack at 450 degrees for about 2-1/2 to 3 minutes on each side until pitas puff and both sides are brown.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Sometimes Diets Aren't So Bad

I've been really frustrated recently because A) dieting sucks because you can't eat anything fun and B) if you're going to bother dieting you should at least be able to lose weight, right? Well, there's nothing I can do about that second thing right now (except bitch to anyone who will listen), but tonight I was determined to at least make something South Beach friendly that I would actually enjoy eating. A piece of wild Alaskan salmon solved all my problems. Behold a meal that is both delicious and healthy.

Seared Mediterranean Salmon
Serves one (because I'm a loser)
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • salmon fillet (5-6 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 1 T chopped black olives (Nicoise or other)
  • 1 T fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • squeeze of juice from half a lemon
  • 1 t capers, drained
  • roughly torn fresh basil leaves (2-3)
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy skillet until smoking. Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper. Cook to desired doneness. I like mine crispy on the outside and a bit rare in the middle, so I cooked mine about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet to a plate. In the same skillet, add the chickpeas and all remaining ingredients except basil. Stir until warm. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the chickpea mixture on top of the salmon and top with the basil.

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging #101, hosted by Myriam of Once Upon a Tart. WHB is a weekly food blogging event where bloggers post recipes using their favorite herbs, plants, veggies, and flowers. My herb of choice is fresh basil, showcased delightfully in this dish.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

The MTV Video Baking Awards

Today has been, as Andy Samberg would say, a lazy Sunday. I spent most of the afternoon reading for class tomorrow, but I took a break to do some baking (despite the fact that I couldn't eat the fruits of my labor). But I was going over to Chris's to watch the VMAs, and in anticipation of the train wreck that was to be Britney Spears' "comeback" performance, I decided to bake him and Kate each a loaf of glazed strawberry bread with the leftover strawberries from the ice cream I made last week. Chris and Kate dug into the bread as we discussed the fact that we were witnessing what could be the death of American pop culture. I mean, the awards show was terrible, not just Britney's performance, but especially that. Did you see her eyes? Seriously, my strawberry bread was not the only thing that was glazed over tonight. What. A. Disaster. The whole thing. Watching me bake my two loaves of quickbread probably would have made better television. Okay, maybe not, but I'm just saying.

This post isn't going to be very exciting because not only did I not eat the bread, I also failed to take a picture of it because my camera battery is dead. However, word on the street is that this bread is delish, so here's the recipe.

Glazed Strawberry Bread
Makes 2 loaves
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 c. sliced strawberries
  • 3 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. cooking oil
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp. milk
Preheat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until thick and lemon-colored. Mash the strawberries in a separate bowl. Add the berries, sugar, and oil to the eggs. Mix well. In another separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the berry mixture and mix until just incorporated. (It's important not to over-work the dough when you're making a quickbread.) Divide the batter evenly between 2 greased 9x5 loaf pans. Bake for about 50 minutes. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the ingredients for the glaze (the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk), adding more milk as necessary to get the glaze to the consistency of a liquidy paste. Poke holes in the top of the bread and spread the glaze evenly over the hot loaves. Allow the bread to cool. Wrap and store overnight before slicing, if possible.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

We All Scream for Ice Milk

Yes, I am food blogging on a Friday night. Yes, I am moderately to severely depressed by what a loser I am right now. Just kidding, I'm having a nice relaxing evening at home instead of going out to bars because tomorrow morning I have to wake up at 6:30 to go sailing. Sailing! On a professor's giant boat! I'm excited, so obviously I made ice cream.

Actually this is more of an ice milk. I'm on a diet, and ice cream isn't really allowed (although if you know of a diet in which I'm allowed to eat real ice cream to my heart's content, PLEASE TELL ME), so I used mostly 1% milk and Splenda instead of cream and sugar. The consistency is definitely not the consistency of ice cream -- it's very slushy, and it melts almost instantaneously upon contact with air or any other surface. But the taste is pretty much the taste of normal vanilla ice cream, and I threw in some unsweetened coconut flakes for texture. Basically, if you go into this expecting not ice cream but rather some completely different frozen icy treat, you won't be too disappointed.

Vanilla Ice Milk with Coconut
  • 2-1/2 c. one percent milk
  • 1/2 c. half-and-half
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 c. Splenda
  • handful unsweetened coconut flakes
Combine milk, half and half, vanilla, and Splenda well in a mixing bowl. Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions. About five minutes before it's done, add the coconut. Slurp immediately, or put in a container in the freezer for later.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Back to School (and Good Cookin')

Apologies to all for the unexpected summer hiatus. I was living in Washington, DC for the summer doing my first-summer legal internship, which was a lot of fun but didn't leave a lot of time for cooking. Especially after I met and started dating someone new. But now I'm back at school, in my own kitchen, and I'm looking forward to cooking and baking all kinds of fabulous things this fall. Just yesterday I broke in my new ice cream maker with strawberry creme fraiche ice cream with lemon and coconut. I couldn't eat it because I'm on a diet, so unfortunately, I didn't get the opportunity to photograph it.

However, I did snap a quick photo of my dinner from two nights ago: curried lentils. I'm doing the South Beach Diet for a few weeks to try to undo the damage I did to myself this summer, so bear with me while I cook some moderately healthy (read: less fun/exciting) meals.

Curried Lentils
From the South Beach Diet Quick & Easy Cookbook
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 1/2 c. chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
Saute the onion in the oil until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the lentils, curry powder, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (I used black Hawaiian lava salt, as you can see in the picture.)

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