Monday, June 12, 2006

New Lemon Chicken

I really enjoyed tonight's dinner. How very vain of me, I know, but I liked it because I finally made a lemon chicken dish that didn't taste like piccata (not that I don't like piccata - I do) that was good. So, here's what I did. I took 5 chicken breasts and cut them each into 2-3 small portion-size pieces. In a dish, I combined the zest of 1 lemon (using a microplane), the juice of that lemon (about 1/4 cup), a couple sprigs of fresh chopped cilantro (from my garden), about 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. I added the chicken, then turned it several times to coat it completely, and let it set about 1/2 an hour - no more. When I was ready to cook it, I heated my pan to medium high, added my olive oil and let it heat, then placed the chicken in the pan in one layer. After about 10 minutes, I turned it and cooked it 5 more minutes. Some of the pieces were pretty thick, which is why it took so long to cook, but they all browned nicely and stayed really tender. I removed the chicken to a dish, then deglazed the pan with about 1/2 cup of white wine (I used a Soft Chenin Blanc, but do whatever you like, since I know nearly nothing about wine). After the wine reduced by half, I added 2 T. butter, 1 T. flour, about 1/4 t. lemon zest, probably 1 cup milk, and around 1 cup of good chicken broth. Salted to taste and served with the chicken. Oooh, yum. The chicken, I'll warn you, has a bit of a bite to it, since it was quite tart on the skinny pieces, but the thicker pieces were just right with the marinade and sauce.

I served it with julienned, roasted carrots, a favorite side of mine. After julienning, lay the carrots on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast at 425°F for about 1/2 an hour. And I cooked up a pound of orzo pasta, then tossed it with about 1/4 cup of olive oil, plenty of salt, fresh pepper, a crushed and chopped clove of garlic, 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, and 4 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves, stirred in until wilted. It was a really nice summer dinner.

Later, I finished it with a few bites of my new favorite ice cream, Häagen-Dazs Mayan Chocolate. It was a delicious evening!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Coconut Rice Pudding

So I’ve never been a huge rice pudding fan. In fact, not so much at all. I’m pretty sure it stems from feeling like the texture of tapioca was similar to eating some small amphibian’s eyeballs, and rice pudding didn’t seem to be too far away. My opinion changed instantly when I stepped into this little dessert bar, Pudding on the Rice, in Provo, Utah while visiting my brother. All they do is rice pudding, which sounded odd but interesting, and they do it so well. It’s as good as going out for ice cream, and that is a high compliment coming from me, since I consider ice cream possibly the greatest treat ever. (Crème brûlée is right up there, too, but it's not so very different from ice cream.)

When my brother came to visit me this last week, he obligingly chilled and transported a few flavors from Pudding on the Rice, with my favorite being coconut. I asked Mark, my husband and co-enjoyer-of-food, to try it, knowing full well he wouldn't like it, since he didn't like coconut ever before we were married 9 years ago, and now seems to like it when it's part of a dish, like vegetable curry or something. Eager with anticipation and ready to be deflated with his lack of enthusiasm, he tasted it, then told me he thought he might like it if it didn't have coconut flakes in it. Since I haven't made a coconut dessert for the last 9 years, I jumped on the opportunity. Last night, I made my first-ever rice pudding and Mark's first-ever coconut dessert. I chilled it in the freezer, stirring every few minutes, so we wouldn't have to wait 3 hours to eat it, since we were going to bed after watching King Kong (not a movie I readily recommend). Not only did Mark eat a small dish of it last night, he took a few spoonfuls today and gave me his approval. This is definitely what marriage is all about. Compromise. I like rice pudding; he likes coconut. Shocking!

The pudding was very thick, which was great for me, but if you want it a touch thinner, add a bit more milk. As usual, I combined a few recipes, and this is what I came up with:

Coconut Rice Pudding

1-15 oz. can coconut milk
1½ cups 2% or whole milk
½ cup long-grain white rice (do not rinse)
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

Bring milk, rice, sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt to a boil in a heavy saucepan over moderately high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until rice is very tender, about 1 hour. Chill, covered, until completely cool, then serve.

I'd include a picture, but it's rice pudding...not so beautiful. It's good by itself or served with mangoes!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Just to let you know...

Since this is my first-ever blog entry, I better make something clear up front: like most other bloggers, I have no expertise in any field, but I’m full of mediocre information and opinions. That being said, the reason I'm taking this on is because I love to cook, bake, taste, devour, and enjoy food. Amidst all my culinary meandering, I do little to keep track of where I've been. I couldn't tell you what I made for dinner on a regular basis last year, let alone five years ago. Hopefully, this will help me out. And maybe you. And maybe not!

Last night, I wanted to make Ina Garten's roasted baby potatoes, but you're supposed to roast them in butter on the stovetop in one of those beautiful, ceramic dutch ovens that I've always wanted. Luckily, I discovered that my 9-year old cookware was sufficient for the job, since the bottoms of my saucepans and pot are about an inch thick (which, incidentally, is exactly why I bought them). The potatoes only cook about half an hour over medium low heat in butter, fresh pepper, and salt, and then I tossed in some fresh thyme. I snuck one, even though my diet-of-the-day said no potatoes, and they were so delicious. Perfectly cooked, perfectly moist, a little buttery, deliciously seasoned. That's definitely going to be repeated.