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A Chicken Story and A Summer Salad

A Chicken Story and A Summer Salad

It is natural that as the Summer haze sets in, there is less and less inclination to spend in the kitchen. Yet, the desire for tasting the splendor of the season does not abate. So, we all find ways to get around it - from barbeques to salads, outdoor fun and rooftop joys to easy dinners, cooking big and making the most of leftovers. Summer offers the best chance for making magic with mere leftovers.

Recently, I have taken a partiality to whole roast chicken.

The chicken giveth in spades and every bit of edible or can be made into something edible. A farm, pasture raised chicken typically weighs about 3.5 lbs and you can get a fair bit of meat from it, even though not as much as its larger industrial cousins. What I like is that the leg and thigh is about the same size as the breast and I have always the darker and juicier meat from here! The first meal from the roast is always the thigh with a side of vegetables. 

Then, I peel every bit of the meat off the carcass and use it over a week in several dishes, from salads to tarts to sandwiches to curries to rice toss, oh, endless...! The carcass itself becomes ideal for stock with a bunch of vegetable scraps. The jus, becomes gravy or vinaigrette based on what I am making. All savored, nothing lost.

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Baked Salmon with Basil Chimichurri and Rioja

Rioja Wines
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This post is in collaboration with

Rioja Wines

. Thank you for supporting the sponsors of FSK.

Spanish wines, unless you are Spanish, is unlikely to be your first choice. The French and Italian have a longer and more popular courtship with this particular beverage. They are more popular, have a wider range and acceptance in the market. And, for those reasons, it is relatively easy to find gems amongst the Spanish compatriots at great value! Where the French wines are complex, earthy, rich and best appreciated with food; the Italian lighter, fruitier, mellower and easy to drink and laugh over, I find the Spanish wines offer a middle ground of being flavorful, punchy but without gravity. Some of them transition really well from cocktail hour to main course and through the between courses.

Basil from garden
Baked Potato & Sweet Potato Fries

Yet, I must admit that despite my acknowledgement of the different note that Spanish wines bring to the table, I find fewer choices of reds that I am familiar with than compared to the other territories including the US. While, I continue to work on my portfolio of experience with the Spanish wines, one wine maker that does jump to catch attention is Rioja. For anyone who drinks any amount of red wine, the name is familiar. So, it was for me. I like their reds and the mild hint of spice I feel pairs well with some of the dishes I make. However, my favorites and hands on choice of drink for the warmer seasons is the Rosado line of wines.

Thumbalina Carrots
Roast Carrots and Beets

The Rosado is comparable to the Provencial Rose except that the skins are left to ferment for longer, causing the red to deepen and flavors to richen. What I really like about them how full bodied they are, in that as cool as the wine flows on the palate, it still carries a distinctive punch of flavor. Roses I find are typically bland especially, especially contrasted with the richness of the full bodied red cousins. Honestly, I find there is nothing more refreshing than a glass of chilled rosado, whether you are simply unwinding with a friend on a hot day or nibbling over a plate of tapas. Even better, it pairs really well with fresh seafood as well as slow cooked heartier dishes.

As Summer is in full swing, my palate tends to run light during the season. I see myself shunning red meat more and drifting more to sea food. As much as fish feels light on the system, it lacks no weight in nourishment making it a great choice for quick and wholesome meals. Also, since I was asked to create a paired meal with Rioja Wines, I decided to take up this as a challenge to pair their non-white wines with sea food and showcase their versatility.

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Lunch was to be

Salmon baked with basil chimichurri and served with baked potato and sweet potato thyme fries and roasted beets and carrots

. The meal had the notes of fresh herbs against the earthiness of the roasted vegetables. The beauty of this recipe is that while it is really 3 dishes, they are all baked and can be done together. That means, less hands on work and more time to yourself or with friends and it makes a fantastic meal for company. To pair, I chose a Rosado and a red from Temperanillo grapes that have a balanced note with lightly spiced finish.

Rioja Wines

Basil Chimichurri Sauce


3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves

1 small red onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic

1/3 cup olive oil

2 T white wine vinegar

1 T honey

1/2 tsp chilli paste

salt and pepper as needed

Process all the ingredients to a smooth paste and reserve.


Salmon Baked with Basil Chimichurri

4 filets of wild salmon

8 T basil chimichurri sauce (from above)

salt and pepper as needed

Preheat oven to 375F.

Spread a thick coating of the sauce over the flesh side of the fish and bake for 25-30 minutes until opaque and flaking.

Serve immediately.


Baked Thyme Potato Fries

3 russet potatoes or sweet potatoes, sliced into 1/2 inch thick strips

few sprigs of thyme

2-3 T olive oil

sea salt and pepper

Toss salt and pepper over the potato slices and spread in one layer on an oven proof rack. Sprinkle thyme sprigs over. Place rack in a pan and drizzle the olive oil generously over.

Bake at 375 for 25 mins. Remove when crisp and lightly golden brown.


Roast Thumbalina Carrots and Golden Beets

8 Golden beets, sliced vertically in half

8 thumbalina carrots, cleaned and tops trimmed

salt, pepper and olive oil as needed

Toss everything together and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Weekend Edition: Pie on plate, glass in hand

Peach Lattice Pie

I am going to come out and admit it! It's my blog. That is the only reason I have a glass in my hand. No, it doesn't have anything to do with the freshness of the fruit and herb against the crisp soda and silky amaretto that makes me want to keep mixing more. No, definitely not! It was purely an effort in photo styling, that is all...

It began with the pie. A fresh peach pie with a touch of amaretto encased in the wholewheat crust and trussed up in lattice. It smelled heavenly when it came out of the oven and I carried it with a wide smile to my table in anticipation of the perfect shot that would deliver the message of how perfect the pie is. Then I stood there, oh for a few minutes, camera in one hand, the other resting tentatively on my hip, staring at the pie and my smile slowly faltering.

Peach Amaretto Spritzer
Peach Pie Font

The pie, gorgeous as it was, was rather humble from a styling perspective. Very cozy and comforting to look at in real life but, through my lens, looked rather plain and drab on its own. I racked my brains, used different surfaces as backdrops, threw a few haphazard towels about in an effort to build on the rusticity. Na! I wasn't happy with any. Mind you, by this time, it was striking cocktail hour ringing in the weekend. In other words, it was a Friday evening of a long and tiring week. I was beginning to pout from all this stress of NOT getting my money shot.

I put my camera down, turned around and spied my bar cabinet. Maybe a spot of something quick will jiggle my left brain a bit? And, then it struck me. I looked back and forth between the table and bar and spotted the amaretto that I had used in the pie. Voila! Why not pair the pie with a refreshing summer cocktail?! Different from the usual pie and cream variations.I was spurred (again, it was only the adrenalin rush of creative juices, not the prospect of downing the concoction!)...

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So, I muddled a bit of the sweetest of the fruit and basil, added a dash of liqour, poured some soda and tested it. Too sweet. Everything in that was sweet, no surprise. So, next attempt, squeeze a bit of lime to cut the sweetness. Ah! Yes, that was it. I had to try a couple more just to be sure. By this time, I nearly forgot my pie and the sun was fast shimmering away for the night.

Fortunately, I managed to style and shoot my dish and drink in the remaining evening light for your enjoyment. Oh! It was mine too. The pie is light and flavored entirely by the sweet juicy peaches tossed in a touch of honey and amaretto and a sip of the the cocktail with the pie layered on the peachy perfect sunset!

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Well, that is really the story for this cocktail. The few more knocked back later, in celebration of the genius idea, are beyond the scope of this post... Lets just leave it at that!

Peach Lattice Pie

2 portions classic

tart crust dough

{I made mine with whole wheat}

4 ripe peaches, sliced

1 T honey

1-1/2 T amaretto

egg wash

2 tsp sugar for sprinkling

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Preheat the oven to 375F.

Toss the peach slices in honey and amaretto and set aside. Roll out one portion of the tart crust and fit into a eight inch tart mold. Fill the tart with the reserved peaches.

Roll out the other crust dough and cut half inch thick strips. Place the strips in a lattice pattern on the peaches. Brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle the sugar on top.

Bake for 35 minutes until the crust is crumbly and golden brown.

Peach, Basil, Amaretto Spritzer

{for two}

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1 donut peach, sliced

4-5 leaves of basil

3 T amaretto liquor

2/3 cup soda

1/2 lime, squeezed

2 cubes ice each

Muddle the peach and basil with the lemon juice.

Shake with the amaretto.

Divide between two glasses.

Add the ice cubes and top with soda.

Serve with sprig of basil and slices of peach as garnish.

Baked Basil Gnudi in Fresh Tomato Sauce - Avoiding deviation

Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce


Just a quick note before we plunge into today's indulgence... :) I am looking forward to reviewing a fresh pasta maker from CSN stores, where you can find anything from kitchen equipment to even modern office furniture!! Stay tuned for more real pasta recipes in sometime. Now on with the regular scheduled programming...

Gnocchi - a soft, pillow of potato goodness encased in flour. That which can melt your heart by it's sheer delicacy. That which is really tricky to make and very intimidating to attempt. That I have many times ordered at different restaurants and mostly been disappointed.... That which is pasta and, hence, out of reach for this month's menu..

Gnudi - Supposed ugly sister of above. That which is made luscious with much ricotta and just a little flour. That is much easier to make and most often comes out great. That which I can make at home with success... That which is not pasta (really!) and hence very approachable at the moment..


Ricotta Gnocchi


My fascination with Gnudi began with a Top Chef episode where the contestants served the said with scallops and it not only looked pretty but seemed rather easy to make. Although somewhat related to the pasta being called "naked ravioli", the amount of flour that goes into making it is rather insignificant compared to pasta. So, it fits my constrained carb diet nicely, satisfying my pasta cravings without guilt!

Besides, these soft balls, sometimes, also go by the name Ricotta Gnocchi. I can see where the idea comes from. Instead of potato, ricotta is mixed with flour and then rolled or cut into cylinders. I actually put my mixture into a piping bag, snipped off the end and cut the gnudi directly into the boiling pot, as I had seen on TV. I have to frankly that this whole fun aspect made this even more appealing! :)

For a fresh twist, and because I don't like just the plain, I added chopped fresh basil to the gnudi dough. I think ricotta and basil make a classic combination and you just cannot got wrong with it! The gnudi gets perfumed and adds to the tomato sauce that I served it with.


Ricotta gnocchi plated


I have seen recipes where the cooked gnudi is sauteed and browned a bit in butter before being tossed in the sauce. I suspect that would just make them even better but I in the spirit of keeping it healthy, I just tossed them as is in my fresh tomato sauce and baked for sometime to infuse the flavors.


Baked Basil Gnudi with Fresh Tomato Sauce

For the Gnudi:
(adapted from
here)

4oz fresh ricotta, drained
2 oz grated parmesan
1 egg yolk
2 T finely chopped basil
zest of 1 lemon
50 - 60 g flour (eyeball based on consistency of dough)
pinch of salt

1 cup fresh tomato sauce
1/4 cup grated parmesan

Combine all the ingredients except the basil into a creamy mixture. You can pulse it in the processor to make it smoother. Fold in the basil. Transfer to a piping bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Preheat oven to 375F. When ready, snip of the end at about 1/2 inch width. Bring a wide pot of salted water (with a bit of oil) to boil and reduce to simmer. Squeeze out the gnudi mixture and snip off 1 inch cylinders directly into the water. Continue adding gnudi but make sure you do not crowd them.

Cook for about 3-4 minutes until they float to the top. Drain, transfer to an oven proof dish and place in oven until ready to bake. Cook all the gnudi, repeating the same process above. When done, ladle the tomato sauce over the gnudi, sprinkle the parmesan over and bake for 20 minutes.

Serve immediately with more basil and cheese on top. I drizzled a touch of truffle oil before serving. You can also drizzle some good quality fruity olive oil.


Plate of gnocchi and salad

Farm to Table: Zucchini Chocolate (Basil) Loaf

Zucchini (basil) Chocolate loaf Sliced (Warm)

This is a no-brainer combination! Really! Zucchini and chocolate were meant to be. The moistness of one pairs so beautifully with the richness of the other to make one succulent and intensely flavorful bite.

How it came to be is no real story. With an overabundance of summer squash to make use of, I was racking my brains and the net for inspiration when I remembered a zucchini bread that I had made last year. That was the first time I was made aware of the selfless good nature of the said vegetable.

I mean, one needs to acknowledge it's behind-the-scenes altruism. The finished product, in every subtle and not-so-subtle way, gains from its presence. Yet, it makes no declaration of or proclamation to it! And, that indeed, is what warmed me to using this summer staple in sweet things.

Zucchini (basil) Chocolate loaf

This time around, I wanted more decadence and much more dessert likeness! The simple bread was great for breakfast or tea but wasn't quite the sweet finish to the meal. By making a cake like loaf that was light as air and fresh as summer, it just elevated the humble loaf to a level comparable to the dessert greats!

Paired with the freshest donut peaches that I have ever bitten into and ever fragrant garden basil, it was just the sublime I was looking for. The peaches add naturally fresh sweetness and the basil just the touch of herb-y savory which brought the dessert into a nice balance along with the just slightly sweetened lemon mascarpone.

Ok, fine, I'll confess, it turned out way finer than I had expected and it was all greedily consumed, swiftly at that, by the FSKs, especially the Mr.! :)

Chocolate loaf with mascarpone, peaches and basil

For more ideas on cooking fresh, seasonal produce, please click on the "Farm to Table Series" tab above.



Zucchini Chocolate Loaf

Recipe Note: Although I added the basil in the batter, we couldn't taste it in the loaf. However, sprinkling some fresh basil on the dessert served, makes a world of difference!

1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup zucchini grated
1/4 cup cocoa powder
handful chocolate chips semisweet
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 T basil
1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt
1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup whole milk yogurt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp baking powder

Mix the wet ingredients together and sift the dry ones in a large bowl. Add the wet mixture in three parts to the dry and fold until just combined. Pour into a 5 inch loaf pan and bake at 350 F for 45 minutes or until the cake tester comes out clean. Cool on rack to room temperature before slicing.

To serve, spread a generous teaspoon of sweetened mascarpone mixed with lemon zest. Arrange peach slices on top and sprinkle fresh basil over.


Chocolate loaf with mascarpone, peaches and basil close
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