Friday, August 12, 2016

Recipe: Cashew Chicken

     No joke, this is how my mind works.  On Thursday evenings after I receive an email from my CSA letting me know what veggies I will be receiving on Friday, I make the weekly menu.  With my handy-dandy dry erase marker, I spend a few minutes writing out the menu on the board that sits in our kitchen for all to see.  This means that daily I will hear the question, "What is for dinner tonight?"  After years of the same process, my family refuses to adhere to my procedure.  "Look at the board, people!"

     Perhaps the one reason they do not rely on the board is that I have been known to change my mind.  Yes, I's true.  Case in point is Thursday's menu item on the board:  Chicken salad with quinoa.  Never made the dish but I have had the recipe for years.  It sounded good and it was healthy.  Then, I got on the treadmill for my daily walk to make my 10,000 steps.  I was watching Chopped, as usual.  I was watching but not fully engaged. I was thinking, "I really do not want chicken salad with quinoa.  But I have chicken ready so I need to make some sort of chicken dish."  Over the next thirty minutes or so, I hashed out ideas in my mind.  "What about a chicken in a dijon cream sauce like you used to make in France.  We haven't had that for a while and we have some French cream.  We have some potatoes so I could make a gratin."  I dismissed that as too heavy for a weeknight meal.  "What about grilling the chicken and serving it with nice lettuce from the garden and on the side make a few mini cheese quesadillas with those cute little tortillas that you picked up on the Strip the last visit."  Tempting but not on target.  And so it went in my head...

     I do not know why I settled on Cashew Chicken.  The idea banged into my head and stuck.  It was fast.  It was easy.  I had all of the ingredients.  So the menu board was wrong.  Dear Daughter asked, "What are we having for dinner?"  I replied, "Cashew Chicken."  "Well that is not on the board," was her retort.  Point taken.  Go ahead and ask me daily if you need to as you will never know if I change my mind.  I cook the meals...I can change my mind.

Cashew Chicken
adapted from The Pioneer Woman

1/2 cup soy sauce
1T rice vinegar
1T brown sugar
2T oyster sauce
1/2 t sesame oil
3T vegetable oil
1lb chicken - I had chicken tenders which worked well.  Thighs would also be tasty.
1T chopped garlic
1T chopped ginger
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/4 cup sherry (can substitute chicken broth)
2T cornstarch
1 cup unsalted cashews
2 green onions, sliced

1.  In a bowl, mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, oyster sauce and sesame oil.  In a second bowl, mix the cornstarch and 1/4 cup sherry or water.  Set aside.
2.  Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok.  Brown the chicken for a few minutes.  Then, add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the onions and bell pepper and cook for 2 minutes.  Pour in the sherry or broth and deglaze the pan.  Lower the heat and pour in the soy sauce mixture.  Then add the cornstarch slurry and stir the sauce for a minute.  Add the cashews and stir to coat.  If the sauce is too thick, add a bit more broth.
3.  Spoon over rice and add green onions on top.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Recipe: Kale and Sausage Stuffed Squash

     Lots of good stuff came in last week's CSA shipment.  Two small delicata squash were sitting on my counter.  I have to admit that I am not a big squash lover but I didn't want these to go to waste.  I remembered that last year, I had some success with making a stuffed squash and looking through my ingredients and a quick Internet search, an idea began to form.

     Delicata squash has a nice mild flavor and the outer skin can be consumed.  This does take a bit of time but it still qualifies for an easy weeknight dinner.  Try it and let me know what you think.

Stuffed Delicata Squash

Ingredients for 4 servings

2 medium delicata squash, halved and seeded
2T olive oil
12 ounces sweet Italian sausage
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 sage leaves, minced
pinch of nutmeg and cayenne peper
bunch of kale or spinach, coarsely chopped
1T sherry
2T chicken stock
1/4 c Swiss or Gruyere cheese, grated
1/4 c Parmesan, grated plus 2T
1/4 c Panko

1.  Preheat the oven to 375.  Place the squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast for 25 minutes.
2.  Meanwhile, prepare the filling.  In a pan, heat 1T olive oil over medium heat.  Add sausage and onion and cook until sausage is cooked through.  Add garlic and cook another minute or so.  Add sage, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper.  Then add the kale, sherry and stock.  Combine and then cover and cook for a few minutes until liquid has evaporated and kale has wilted.
3. Remove from heat and add in the cheeses.
4. Spoon the mixture into the squash.  Cover with additional Parmesan and Panko.  Drizzle just a bit more olive oil onto the top. Bake for 20 minutes.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Recipe: Fiori di Zucca (Fried Stuffed Zucchini Flowers)


     I stepped out onto my deck yesterday morning and was amazed at how well my container garden was doing this year.  While in Germany and Belgium, I was lucky enough to have a small plot of land and enjoyed my summer vegetable gardens.  In our current home, I do not have a yard large enough for a garden and even if I did, I am sure the deer would enjoy the fruits (veggies) of my labor more than we would.  So, I decided this year, that I would try growing vegetables in containers.  I have had some pretty good success and while it  isn't enough to feed the family, it is fun to tend.  I did go a bit crazy with zucchini plants. I have five pots with zucchini and they always seem to be blooming!

     I first had Fiori di Zucca on a visit to Rome.  We had rented an incredible first floor apartment that had its own garden overlooking Roman ruins.  In our neighborhood was a fantastic market called Volpetti and we must have visited each day we were there.  One evening, we were planning to have a light dinner outside and we found ourselves in Volpetti once more buying Prosciutto and cheeses.  We noticed these beautiful fried zucchini blossoms and added them to our dinner purchase.  We cannot remember what they were stuffed with but they were amazing.

    As I looked over my zucchini plants, I realized that I had a number of male blossoms, which had opened quite nicely.  Knowing that I had some goat cheese in the refrigerator, I quickly decided that we had to try to make Fiori di Zucca for our Sunday night appetizer.  I carefully snipped six open male flowers.  In the kitchen, I mixed together 1/2 cup of goat cheese, 1T whipped cream cheese, 1T heavy cream together in a bowl.  I added sliced scallions, chives, basil and salt and pepper.  Very carefully, I spooned a tablespoon of the cheese mixture into each flower and twisted the ends to close the flower.

     Later that evening, I mixed together one cup of flour, one cup of sparkling water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  I dipped each flower into the batter and let the excess drip off.  Then I fried each flower for two minutes or so until they were golden.  After draining briefly on a paper towel and drizzling a bit of salt over them, we had the perfect summer appetizer, which transported us back to Italy.