Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mediterranean Chicken with Penne, Red Peppers and Spinach

 Mediterranean Chicken with Penne, Red Peppers and Spinach

Buying a 3 pound family sized package of chicken breast fillets is a good nudge to try some new chicken recipes! My goal was to come up with a quick pasta dish that provided us with our veggies as well as our protein from the chicken. Inspired by the flavors of the Mediterranean, this tasty pasta dish I came up with combines red bell peppers and garlic with the chicken, with a healthy bunch of baby spinach added at the end. Give it a try next time you have some chicken on hand calling for something new!

Red bell peppers chopped for Mediterranean Chicken Pasta. Cooking Chat recipe.
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp olive oil, plus oil spray
2 chicken breast fillets, about 1 lb, sliced crosswise about 3/4 inch thick
1/2 tsp dried basil, 1 tbsp fresh basil if you have it
1/3 cup chicken broth
olive oil
1/3 cup feta
3 cups baby spinach
handful chopped olives (optional)
dash of fresh squeezed lemon juice (optional)
12 ozs penne
salt to taste

Start a pot of water boiling to cook the pasta, then heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Add the red bell pepper and saute for 7 to 10 minutes medium heat, until the pepper has softened and and the pepper smell starts wafting through the kitchen. Add the garlic and saute for another minute.

Push the peppers and garlic to the edge of the pan to create a clear area in the center. Spray that middle area with oil to coat, raise heat to medium high, and add the chicken pieces to the center of the pan. Sprinkly the chicken with a bit of salt. Cook chicken about 4 mins on one side so that it starts turning white on the cooked side. Turn the chicken over to cook for another 3 minutes or so.
 Mediterranean Chicken cooking with red peppers and garlic. Cooking Chat recipe.
start the chicken cooking in center of pan, then combine with peppers and simmer.
Add the chicken broth and basil to the pan, stir to combine the chicken with the red peppers and garlic. Lower heat to simmer covered on medium low for about 10 minutes. This simmering will finish cooking the chicken through and get the flavors to come together. After about 10 minutes, remove the cover and cut open one of the thicker pieces of chicken to make sure it is cooked through. Stir in the spinach, and cook covered for a couple minutes until it starts to wilt.

Meanwhile, cook the penne according to package instructions, adding the pasta to the boiling water around the time the chicken starts its 10 minutes of simmering. Drain when done to your liking, and toss with a tbsp of olive oil.
Stirring up some  Mediterranean Chicken with Penne, Red Peppers and Spinach.

When then chicken is cooked and spinach has wilted a bit, add the chicken mixture to the pasta and toss to combine. Stir in the feta cheese, followed by the olives and lemon, if you are using them. I recommend at least one of those two optional items to enhance the Mediterranean flavor. You can serve with some additional feta or parm cheese at the table if you like.
 Mediterranean Chicken with Penne, Red Peppers and Spinach via Cooking Chat.
Wine Pairing: A lean Chardonnay with moderate oak works well with this dish. We had a Torito Bravo chard from Spain with it that fits the description and worked well. Keeping with the Mediterranean theme, any number of medium to full bodied Italian whites could work well with this dish. Choose your favorite or try something new! 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Grilled Steak with Garlic Cumin Rub for #SundaySupper

Grilled Ribeye with Garlic Cumin Rub for #SundaySupper.

I like the concept of letting a few great ingredients shine in a dish. So this week's #SundaySupper theme of "5 Ingredients or Less" sounded like a great time for me to offer my first post for this weekly blog and social media event. Yet culling through my recipes, I realize my tendency to add a bit of this and a little of that quickly gets the count on many of my recipes a bit higher than 5 ingredients.

Then I realized the perfect share for the 5 Ingredients theme was the Garlic Cumin rub that I often make for steak and pork. It's a simple way to add some good flavor to your meat; and if my 8 year old with discerning taste is any indicator, this rub is also kid friendly! Mixing up your own rubs is also a nice way to save some money.

We're finally starting to get a bit of spring weather here in the Boston area, so I thought I'd share this rub along with my method for using it on grilled steak. I'm definitely ready for grilling season, how about you? One other note: the flavor profile of this rub lends its itself to being used in grilled steak tacos. That takes it well north of 5 ingredients, so I'll just include a photo of that to whet your appetite.

Garlic Cumin Spice Rub for #SundaySupper.
For the spice rub
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
optional: try a pinch of cinnamon, or a 1/2 tsp of sage or other dried herb that strikes your fancy.

Steak: This amount of rub is good for about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of steak. If you have more steak, increase the rub ingredient proportionally. We've enjoyed this with sirloin, porterhouse and ribeye...flavorful cuts that do well with a rub as opposed to needing to be marinaded for tenderizing purposes.

Method: Combine all of the rub ingredients. Rub it evenly onto both sides of the steak, and let it sit out at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes. Pre-heat your grill on medium high, spraying with cooking oil first. Put the steak on the grill, over direct heat, and close the grill. Cooking time depends on preference and thickness. I find the steaks I get come out with a nice medium rare to medium doing 5 to 6 minutes per side.

Remove the steak from the grill a bit ahead of your optimal doneness as it will continue to cook. Let it rest on a serving platter for a couple of minutes. Serve drizzled with the juices that build up on the platter.

Grilled Steak with Garlic Cumin Rub for #SundaySupper

Wine pairing: Enjoy with the a big red wine of your choice! Cabernet Sauvignon is a natural choice with steak, but a Zinfandel or Syrah can also be a nice match for the spices here.

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy! You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Check out all the great #SundaySupper creations from my fellow bloggers! And a big thanks to Hip Foodie Mom for hosting this week's event!

Appetizers, Salads and Starters
Sides and Accompaniments
Main Dishes
Desserts and Beverages

Friday, April 25, 2014

Salmon Served with Mixed Mushroom Sauce and Pinot Noir

Salmon served with Mixed Mushroom Sauce and Pinot Noir. Cooking Chat recipe.

I love salmon with Pinot Noir. The elegance of this wine is a good match for the lean, meaty fish. The pairing gets even better when the salmon is topped with a mushrooms sauce, picking up the earthiness of a good pinot. Boeuf Bourguignon may have been a classic choice to serve at a Wine Club dinner focusing on Burgundy, but we already did that last year. Last time I cooked the club, I did a lot of research before coming up with this Tuscan Beef Stew. When asked to cook for Burgundy night recently, I quickly decided I would serve my Salmon with Mixed Mushroom Sauce.

Our wine club is hosted by the owners of Pairings Wine and Food. We get together at Ray and Lori's home about once a quarter to explore a particular wine type and/or region in depth, often with an expert presenting the wines. These gatherings are always a great combination of conversation, food and wine tasting. The annual Burgundy seminar, presented by Steven Chevalier of Ideal Wines is always a particular tasty treat. I will provide more detail on the wines we sampled following the recipe.
Glasses of red and white Burgundy. I especially liked the 2011 La Pousse d'Or Chambolle-Musigny.

This mixed mushroom sauce combines humble everyday mushrooms with another type that is typically more expense, stretching one's dollar while providing great flavor. I often use shiitake as my other mushroom, but Whole Foods had some nice, big portobellos on sale, so that's what I used this time. Swap in the mushroom of your choice if you like.

I was actually making this for a dozen people, so added a bit more of the button mushrooms to cover the 3 pounds of salmon I was cooking. You will likely have extra sauce if you are cooking for a smaller crowd. It's great on beef, too, so I'm sure you won't mind leftovers. This recipe is nice for company, because you can get the sauce cooked ahead of time and cook the salmon in about 10 minutes.

2 tsbp butter
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil, optional
1 clove garlic, minced
10 oz button mushrooms, sliced
1 large portobello mushroom, stem removed
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 tsp dried thyme or herbes de provence
salt and pepper to taste

12 ozs or more wild salmon fillet (the sauce easily makes enough for 18 ozs plus some side potatoes)
1 1/2 tbsp canola oil

The salmon cooks so quickly I like to get the mushroom sauce pretty much done before cooking the salmon. To prepare the portobello mushroom, cut thin slices of 1/2 inch thick. Chop those slices to create bite sized pieces.
Sliced Portobello Mushroom, for a mixed mushroom sauce served over salmon. Cooking Chat recipe.

Heat 1 tbsp butter plus 1 tbsp olive oil in a sauce pan or skillet over medium heat. When melted, add the shallot, cook until it begins to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a another minute. Now it's time to stir in the  mushrooms, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms begin to soften. Add the red wine and the thyme, cook for about 5 more minutes, until the wine has been reduced by about 1/2 and the mushrooms are fully cooked. Finish the sauce by melting in another tbsp of butter, and stirring to incorporate it into the sauce. Turn the heat down to very low and cover to keep warm as you cook the salmon.

Mixed Mushroom Sauce for Salmon. Cooking Chat recipe.

My method for searing salmon is based largely on that described in Barbara Lynch's Stir: Mixing It Up In The Italian Tradition. I usually get a fairly thin fillet from near the tail section, so it cooks quickly. Heat the oil in a skillet on medium-high, then add the salmon, skin side down. Sprinkle a little extra oil on top along w a touch of salt. Don't touch it for about 4 minutes, then flip the fish with a spatula. When cooked enough, you shouldn't have a problem with the skin sticking to the pan. Cook on the flesh side for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let it rest covered loosely with foil. The fish should still be very moist and have a dark orange color inside. Overcooking salmon ruins the flavor, so be careful!
salmon with mushroom sauce

Plate individual portions of the salmon topped with the mushroom sauce. Garlic mashed potatoes make a great side for this dish. Pass extra mushroom sauce at the table for people who want more for their salmon or to put some on their potatoes.
2011 Domaine des Terres de Velle Chassagne-Montrachet "La Platiere". #wine

Wine notes: We started the tasting with 4 white Burgundies, with a tasty assortment of cheeses. We led off. with the 2011 Domaine Chenevieres "Fourchaume" Premiere Cru Chablis. This was softer than some Chablis I've had, with its fruit showing nicely. I especially liked the 2012 Domaine Guffens-Heynen Macon-Pierresclos "Le Chavigne", which had an incredible floral nose and a gentle touch of oak along with some good fruit. A good value, especially at the $39 club price. I was cooking the salmon while sampling the 2011 Domaine des Terres de Velle Chassagne-Montrachet "La Platiere" and the 2011 Domaine des Terres de Velle Meurseult Premiere Cru "Les Charmes" so will simply say, "Yum!".

White Burgundies ready for sampling along with some tasty nibbles. Wine details in Cooking Chat post.
tasty nibbles to go with our white Burgundy
As we switched to the red Burgundies, my favorite was the 2011 La Pousse d'Or Chambolle-Musigny, and I also liked the 2011 Santenay "Clos Tavannes" Premieres Cru from La Pousse d'Dor. Both display the refined elegance I appreciate in a great Burgundy. I noted a bit more oak and tannins in the other two we tasted, the Savigny-les-Beaune Premiere Cru "Les Lavieres" and the 2010 Domaine Alain Michelot Nuits-Saint-Georges  Premiere Cru. This last one in particular is clearly a very good wine, I suspect it will soften and improve with a few years of aging.

Friday, April 18, 2014

5 Simple Fish Recipes that Don't Sacrifice on Taste

Salmon with Mushrooms Sauce--from Cooking Chat post with 5 great fish recipes
Seeing my social media streams fill with recipes for Good Friday and for Easter, I figured I ought to contribute some ideas, too. I haven't observed Lenten dietary restrictions since I was a kid, but respect those who do. We've been getting more involved at church, so who knows, maybe one of those days I'll do something along those lines. But for now, the contribution I want to make is to show eating fish on Good Friday or any other day doesn't have to feel like a big sacrifice. I'll be demonstrating that tonight when I make the wild salmon with mushroom sauce pictured above!

Both of my parents grew up in traditional Catholic homes in which meat wasn't served. In today's global cuisine with its tofu, lentils and quinoa, this might not be such a big deal. But for a meat and potatoes Irish American family, no meat was a big sacrifice. I'm not sure exactly what fish dishes were served as an alternative, but whatever they were gave seafood a bad name. I suspect it tended to be bland and overcooked. When my folks set out on their own, fish was the last thing they wanted to be having for supper. So I grew up rarely eating seafood.

Knowing the health benefits of fish, I've set out to gain an appreciation for it. Trying out different recipes and learning how to cook it (not overcooking it!) has gradually turned me into a fish fan! And I'm happy to report my 8 year old gobbles it up and want harbor bad memories of bland seafood when he's out on his own. Below I'm sharing links to some my favorite fish recipes for your inspiration, be it on this Good Friday or any other day you are looking for a healthy, tasty meal.
Simple Pan Seared Salmon with Ginger Soy Marinade. #seafood

Simple Pan Seared Salmon with Soy Ginger Marinade I got my basic method for pan searing salmon from Barbara Lynch's cookbook, Stir. The recipe in that book is served with olive lemon relish, definitely worth trying! My version with Soy Ginger Marinade is a bit easier, and kid friendly!

Grilled Swordfish with Pineapple Salsa. Cooking Chat recipe.

Grilled Swordfish with Pineapple Salsa Got your grill going yet this spring? You'll want to give this one a try! Grilling the pineapple makes for a very tasty salsa topping for the swordfish.

garlic herb butter adds nice flavor to tilapia
Garlic Herb Seasoned Tilapia I gravitate toward meaty fish like salmon and swordfish, but have been trying to expand my repertoire. I recently connected with the folks at McCormick around our common use of the Twitter hashtag #FishFriday. I picked up this tasty recipe from them along with a collection of #FishFriday spices that I used for this dish. I'm still trying to perfect the timing and method for cooking tilapia; this was a tasty step in that journey!

Roast Cod with Herb Pesto.

Roast Cod with Herb Pesto I got this recipe from Irish Country Cooking, a nice recipe collection from the Emerald Isle. This one is light and easy to make.

Pan Seared Mahi Mahi with Orange Soy Marinade

Pan Seared Mahi Mahi with Orange Soy Marinade If you note a resemblance to the salmon recipe above, it's no accident! I successfully applied the same cooking method that worked well with salmon to the Mahi Mahi, and tweaked the marinade slightly, with tasty results.

Do you have a favorite fish recipe? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rigatoni with Chicken Sausage and Collard Greens

Rigatoni with Chicken Sausage and Collard Greens. Cooking Chat recipe.

After going for steak a few weeks in a row for our Saturday supper, I was ready for something a bit more budget friendly last weekend. A nice hearty pasta seemed like the thing. Building the recipe around chicken sausage and collard greens, both only, gave a healthy, low-cost base to the meal. A moderate amount of bacon and feta keep it fairly healthy while adding some nice flavor. All told, this Rigatoni with Chicken Sausage and Collard Greens is a winner! You could substitute other substantial greens here. Of course, you could use pork sausage too if you had it on hand.

1 strip bacon
1 large garlic herb chicken sausage, or 2 small ones
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 celery rib, diced
1/2 red or yellow bell peppers (I used a mix)
1 bunch collard greens, thick stems removed, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup feta cheese
tbsp chopped parsley
12 ozs rigatoni or other short, substantial shape
salt and pepper to taste
pinch red pepper flakes

Coat a large skillet with oil spray and heat on medium. Cook the bacon until it gets nice and crispy. Remove the cooked bacon to a plate covered with paper towel. Drain the excess bacon fat from the pan--but leave a bit for flavor! When the bacon cools, crumble it to add to the pasta at the end of the cooking process.

Return the skillet to heat. Add a bit more oil spray, and add the sausage to brown. Turn over occasionally and cook until it's browned on all sides. Remove from heat and set aside on a plate for later. The sausage I used wasn't precooked. If that's the case with yours, be sure to complete cooking it through at the end of the dish. After it has cooled, slice the sausage into thin circles to be ready for use.
onions and peppers sauteeing for Rigatoni with Chicken Sausage and Collard Greens.

Heat the skillet on medium with one tbsp of oil. Add the onion, cook for about 5 minutes, then add the celery and peppers. Saute for another 5 minutes, then add the garlic. This is a good time to start the pasta water boiling.
Collard greens to be cooked with chicken sausage and rigatoni. Cooking Chat recipe.

After the garlic has cooked for a minute or two, gradually stir in the collard greens on medium high heat with, along with a pinch of salt, pinch of red pepper flakes, and another tbsp of olive oil. After the collards have start to wilt a little, and you've got them all in the pan, stir in the chicken stock. Once the stock begins to boil, lower heat to medium low and cover to simmer.

The greens should simmer for about 20 minutes to get nice and tender. About halfway through, begin cooking the rigatoni according to package instructions.  When the greens are about done cooking remove the cover and stir in the sausage to finish cooking them and get the flavors melding together. Cook the sausage and green mixture for about 5 more minutes, uncovered, until the sausage has cooked through.
Chicken sausages with collard greens, to be tossed with rigatoni. Cooking Chat recipe.

Drain the pasta when cooked, and stir in the greens mixture along with the cheese. Plate the pasta, topping with the reserved bacon crumbles, and enjoy!

Rigatoni with Chicken Sausage and Collard Greens. Cooking Chat recipe.

Wine Pairing: A full bodied white works well with the flavor combination here. A chardonnay would probably work, but I went with white Rhone style blend here, and that was a good pairing.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Roast Cod with Herb Pesto from Irish Country Cooking

Roast Cod Served with Herb Pesto. From Irish Country Cooking.

During my most recent visit to Ireland--too long ago at over ten years--I was struck by the way cooks were making good use of nature's bounty there. Along with fresh produce, meat and dairy from the local farms, I enjoyed a lot of good fish from Ireland's waters. So after trying Irish Lamb Stew from the Irish Country Cooking book, I was ready to sample one of its fish recipes.

As much as I like meaty fish like salmon and swordfish, I'd like to do more with lighter, white fish as part of an overall effort to put seafood on our plates a bit more often. So I decided to try the Roast Cod Steaks with Herb Pesto recipe. This is a very simple preparation that can be done in 30 minutes, as you make the pesto while the cod cooks. The herb pesto adds nice zest to the fish, and the fresh taste is particularly welcome in these early days of spring. I definitely give this recipe a thumbs up!

Irish Country Cooking, a good collection of recipes from cooks from around the country.
3 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 to 2 tbsp other fresh herb (I use mint, recipe called for dill and/or tarragon)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lemon, juice and finely grated zest
2 tbsp olive oil
cod fillet, about 1 1/4 inch thick (see below for notes on the amount needed)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Season the cod with a bit of salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan with a little olive oil on medium high. When the pan is good and hot, add the cod and sear for 1 minute on each side.

After the brief pan searing of the cod, transfer it to a shallow, oven proof dish and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until it is just cooked through and flakes easy. My cooking time was closer to 25 minutes but you should check it at 20 to avoid overcooking.

Pesto for roast cod, made with parsley, mint, garlic and lemon.

As the cod is roasting, combine the herbs, garlic and lemon juice and zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I simply combined the chopped herbs with the other ingredients in a bowl. But you could also puree in a food processor to achieve a finer consistency.

When the cod is done, plate portions of it topped with a bit of the pesto, and pass extra pesto at the table. My 8 year old liked the cod itself, the first time trying it, but after trying the pesto he opted for a bit of soy sauce to flavor his fish. More pesto for me! I served this with some leftover pasta and spring vegetables from the night before.

Roast Cod with Herb Pesto served with a side of pasta and vegetables.

Note on the cod: The original recipe calls for 4 to 6 portions of cod fillet. I got a little over 1/2 pound for two of us (my 8 year old who has a pretty good appetite and I), and that was a good amount. I'd say figure 4 to 6 ounces per person. The pesto is enough for at least a pound of fish, I'd say, based on the amount extra we had to put to other uses.

Full Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of the book. As always, the opinions presented are entirely my own

Saturday, April 5, 2014

11 Wines to Try and Foods to Serve with Them

Amphora Zinfandel in a lineup of wines to try. Cooking Chat post. #wine
All of these were good, but only the Amphora Zin made this list!
It's been a busy stretch, and I didn't get a chance to post my favorite wines from February. Though it's been hectic, I have still managed to find time to enjoy a number of good wines. In fact, I have 11 I'd like to share with you, plucking out favorites from February and March. I had this post ready to go with ten wines, a nice round number, but came across a photo of another one I thought I should share. Hope you don't mind the extra bottle!

This list isn't totally comprehensive. I definitely enjoyed some great wine during the past two months not covered in this roundup. For instance, one meeting during this period entailed sharing a bottle of 1998 Turley Zinfandel. But alas, I didn't get the particulars of the vineyard down on that one, so will keep it off the official list here. As I was pulling this post together, I noticed that most of the wines I was suggesting go particularly well with certain dishes, so will mention the food pairings and link to recipe posts where applicable. In a number of cases, I simply noted or recalled that the wine was very good, without further notes. Consider this more a wine shopping list rather than a detailed critique. If you do try one of these, I'd love to hear your thoughts, as well as tips on your recent wine finds.
2009 Tenuta Dell'Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore. Cooking Chat #wine pick.

2009 Tenuta Dell'Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore We had a wine club gathering focused on Super Tuscans back in February. There was a great lineup, described more in this post along with my Tuscan Beef Stew recipe, but for this roundup I'll just mention this bottle. I picked it as my favorite during a blind tasting we did, to later realize it was a $200 bottle! If you've got income your looking to dispose on a great bottle of wine, this could be a good choice. If you're a bit more on the frugal side, read on!

2008 Il Novecento Riserva #Chianti black cherry fruit, nice smooth finish, good match for our Tuscan Beef Stew. Certainly would be a good match for Italian classics like spaghetti and meatballs, too, or this Super-Tasty Meat Sauce.

2010 Breca Old Vines Garnacha. Cooking Chat #wine pick.

2010 Breca Old Vines Garnacha I was encouraged to age this bottle for awhile when I got it a year ago. I did manage to do so for awhile, but when Open That Bottle Night rolled around in late February, it seemed like a good time to try it. I got forest floor on the nose, taste of cassis and blackberry. Benefited from about half an our of decanting. Parker gives it 94 points, but it can be had for under $20. Definitely a good deal! And after trying several Chiantis with the Tuscan Beef Stew I made, it was fun to mix it up a bit with the leftover stew.

2007 Finca La Estacada Another good value from Spain, for under $20. This is a blend with 50% Tempranillo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 15% Syrah. I get violet on the nose, black pepper and cherry taste. Writing this up reminds me to pick up another bottle of this one!
2009 Familia Mayol Quatro Primos. via Cooking Chat "Eleven Wines to Try"

2009 Familia Mayol Quatro Primos Malbec is the lead grape in the blend from Argentina, but it also features Cabernet Sauvignon, Bonarda and Syrah. This has aged enough to take the edge of the tannins, rendering a complex, well-structured wine. Stood up nicely to our Roasted Sirloin with Chimichurri Sauce.

2008 Amphora Zinfandel from Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley. This big, robust red was paired with pork tenderloin at our Almost Spring Tasting event, and worked quite well.

Warre's Otima 10 year Old Tawny I don't know much about port, but I could still appreciate that this was a very good bottle! Friends brought this over for our Almost Spring Tasting, and this went wonderfully at the end of the evening.

$15 AND UNDER: A number of the wines above are pretty affordable, but I'm especially interested in finding and sharing very good wines that come in at or under $15. Here are my recent favorite finds in this category.
Kung Fu Girl Riesling

2012 Kung Fu Girl Riesling This Riesling from Washington State features nice apple fruit, bit of sweetness but not too much. Riesling is a great, versatile food wine, but it's especially good with spicy food and Asian cuisine.

2011 Tenuta di Gracciano Della Seta Rosso di Montepulciano. Go ahead, try and say that 5 times fast! This was suggested to me as a great wine for pizza and it didn't disappoint. This one has more finesse than one would expect from a $15 bottle, but still has a touch of that rustic Italian red taste that goes well with pizza. 
Lava Beneventano Aglianico. A Cooking Chat everyday #wine favorite!

Lava Beneventano Aglianico Of all the wines in this post, this is the one you'll find poured most often at our house. You can't do much better for around $12 per bottle. Lush fruit, smooth finish, drinks like something twice the price. Great with pizza. Gets its name from the volcanic soil its grown in, from Italy's Campania region. This one and the Grillo below are the most recent vintages available, I think it's the 2012 and 2013 respectively, but I didn't get that down in my notes.

Fondo Antico Grillo Parlante, made from the Sicilian white grape Grillo, has a nice fresh crispness that worked well with the raw shaved asparagus dish I like to serve. I also got a bit of salinity in this--perhaps from the vineyard's proximity to the sea?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Creamy Bow Ties with Chicken and Asparagus from 125 Best Chicken Recipes

Creamy Bow Ties with Chicken and Asparagus, from 125 Best Chicken Recipes cookbook

It's easy to fall into a rut with some common foods, and chicken is certainly high on that list. So when I had a chance to check out a copy of 125 Best Chicken Recipes by Rose Murray, I jumped on it. I've thumbed through the book and have a good list of recipes I want to try, such as Basque Chicken Drumsticks, Chicken Chili Macaroni and Chicken and Pear Saute. But given that spring has just arrived, one with asparagus got bumped to the top of my list: Creamy Bow Ties with Chicken and Asparagus

This recipe was tasty and easy to follow. All the recipes in the book I've looked at seem clear and straightforward; this seems like it would be a good cookbook for someone fairly new to the kitchen as well as someone like myself looking for some new recipes. The instructions that follow are pretty close to the way they appear in the book, though I've ditched the metric weights given in the book to be consistent with my other recipes here. The only substantive change I made was to use less cream cheese, roughly half the amount called for still gave plenty of creaminess in my estimation. I also added a bit of red bell pepper I had on hand, to use it up and add more color. Give this recipe a try and stay tuned for more from this cookbook!

Asparagus ready to be prepared for Creamy Bow Ties with Chicken
12 oz bow-tie pasta (farfalle)
8 oz asparagus, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
12 ozs skinless boneless chicken breasts, but into 1/2 inch strips
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper (optional)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
4 to 5 oz spreadable light cream cheese (original recipe calls for 8 oz)
1/3 cup milk, or more as needed
1 tsp dried Italian herb seasoning.
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta for 4 minutes. Add asparagus and cook for about 4 to 6 minutes, until the pasta is tender but firm and the asparagus is tender. Drain well and return to the pot, toss with a tbsp of olive. Take care not to overcook the pasta, given that it will cook a bit more when you heat it with the cream cheese.

Get the chicken started when you start boiling the water. In a large skillet, melt the butter with oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring often for about 5 minutes, until it start changing color to white. Add mushrooms and garlic, cook for 7 minutes or until chicken and mushrooms are browned. Stir in seasoning. Set aside, cover and keep warm if the chicken is ready before the pasta. (I aim to have sauces done before pasta so the pasta doesn't get stuck together).

Chicken and mushrooms sauteeing to go with cream bowties and asparagus.

When the pasta is drained and the chicken is cooked, toss them together in the pasta pot. Add the cream cheese, and return the pot to medium heat. Stir in the milk to make a creamy sauce, adding extra milk as needed to achieve your desired consistency.

Creamy Bow Ties with Chicken and Asparagus, from 125 Best Chicken Recipes cookbook

Wine Pairing: Bonus advice not found in the cookbook! Asparagus is the challenge here for the wine pairing, though with the cream and chicken there's enough to make it a bit more wine friendly than eating a plain side of asparagus. But still need to keep it in mind for the pairing. A white with good acidity is called for. We had the Weisshauss Pinot Bianco from Italy's Alto Adige region, and that worked pretty well. A Gruner Veltliner could be another good option here.

Full Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of the book from the publisher, Robert Rose Inc. The recipe is the creation of the cookbook author with a few of my tweaks. The opinions are my own.