Allspice Chronicles

Entertain like a Queen, Think Lean and Live Green! A personal collection of recipes,anecdotes,and good old fashioned advice…

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Chicken With Tarragon Cream Sauce

by Danica Waters (image courtesy of www.organicsoul.com)


If you are a stranger to cooking with Tarragon, here’s a fantastically foolproof way to get acquainted.   (Trust me:  you’ll be ever so happy you did.)

Called the “King of Herbs” in France, Tarragon is the primary flavoring of many of the sauces that form the foundation of fantastic French cuisine, such as béarnaise, rigavote and tartare.  It contains highly aromatic volatile oils which are unfortunately lost when the herb is dried; therefore, it is best to use Tarragon immediately after cutting from the stem, and after the cooking process to ensure the purity of its flavor.  While some heat will help to release its essence, be sure it is only exposed to heat for a brief period of time.

 

Because it’s best used fresh, Tarragon makes a spectacular addition to any kitchen herb garden; however, it does not perform well when started from seed.  Cultivated by cuttings and root divisions, it makes a spectacular living heirloom gift for family and friends. Got a Harry Potter fanatic on your gift list?  Here’s a tip:  Tarragon used to be referred to as little Dragon Mugwort.  Legend has it that, because of its dragon-like root structure, Tarragon was supposed to cure bites and stings of venomous beasts.  As a matter of fact, in France, Tarragon is called Herbe au Dragon.  Just think:  with a small pot, a Tarragon plant, and a fancy label, you’ll be giving a gift that will excite the imagination as well as the palate!  Score!  Be sure to give your Tarragon full sun and well-drained soil and it will happily enhance your finest potions… uh…recipes for years to come.

F.Y.I, of the two most common varieties (Russian and French), French Tarragon is the most widely used in culinary endeavors, primarily because it is a bit richer in flavor than its cousin, whose inferior flavor tends to the bitter side.  French Tarragon, on the other hand, has a sweet, oh-so-slightly tangy flavor with licorice (anise) overtones; it pairs beautifully with chicken, fish, vegetables, and eggs.  Happily, it happens to be the star of this incredibly easy to make, elegant, and over-the-top delicious recipe.

 

Enjoy!

 

Chicken With Tarragon Cream Sauce

(Serves 4)

 

5 Chicken breast fillets, cut into ½ inch slices and lightly seasoned with white pepper

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh chopped fresh French tarragon

1 C cream or half-and-half

1 Tbsp lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Prepare chicken breast fillets and lightly season with white pepper.  Heat a large, shallow frying pan over high heat, add the oil, and stir to coat the pan.  Add the chicken, in batches, and cook each batch over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, or until chicken slices are golden brown.

 

When all the chicken is cooked, return all of it to the pan and stir in the chopped tarragon.

 

Add the cream and bring to the boil; boil for three minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened.  Add the lemon juice and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Serve with buttered egg noodles and a crisp salad.

Posted October 19th, 2011.

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Pears With Watercress and Gorgonzola

by Danica Waters

When simple ingredients can be combined in a manner that inspires not just the palate, but excites the soul, this is the true magic of good cooking.  This salad is just that magical.  It is one of the crown jewels of my personal recipe collection.  The vertical presentation is visually breathtaking; the flavors and textures are nothing short of inspired.

 

While this simple salad is intended to be a first course, beware:  it is incredibly filling.   Be sure to judge your pear size according to the way you intend to serve this little culinary gem.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Pears With Watercress and Gorgonzola

(serves 4)

 

4 perfectly ripe, smooth-skinned (not overripe, not underripe) pears

2 C watercress

2 Tbsp toasted pecan pieces

1 Tbsp dried cranberries (optional)

2 oz crumbled gorgonzola cheese

Raspberry or red wine vinaigrette salad dressing

Lemon juice

Honey

 

Gently wash pears with a natural fruit and vegetable wash; set aside.

Toss watercress with pecans, cranberries and gorgonzola; drizzle with salad dressing and gently toss to combine.

Core pears from bottom, leaving the stem intact.  Slice each pear in four horizontal slices; brush all sides generously with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.

On individual salad plates, reassemble pears with salad mix in the middle and between each pear layer.  Drizzle with honey.

Posted October 14th, 2011.

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Balsamic Glazed Acorn Squash

by Danica Waters

 

In the chilly autumn evenings, nothing beats the flavor and aroma of warm, baked squash.  While acorn squash is typically associated with winter squash varieties, it actually belongs to the same species as summer squashes, such as zucchini and yellow crooknecks.  Thankfully, the tough skin of an acorn squash allows it to keep for weeks in a cool, dark place, making it a favorite staple for the fall and winter months.

 

The best acorn squash should be approximately one to three pounds, and feel heavy for its size.  If the squash is any bigger than that, you run the risk of getting a squash that has been harvested too late in the season, which will render the squash tough and stringy.  Look for a squash that has a nice combination of green and orange coloring, that’s not too shiny.  If the squash is shiny and completely green, it’s been harvested prematurely.

 

Nutritionally, a one-cup serving of acorn squash comes in at a meager 115 calories and is packed with fiber, potassium, and magnesium.  That same one cup serving will also give you 2 grams of protein and 30% of your daily Vitamin C requirements, which makes it a very attractive alternative to, say, diet-killer mashed potatoes.  While acorn squash is traditionally baked and seasoned with loads of butter and brown sugar, this recipe features a figure-friendly basting with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

 

And F.Y.I.:  try roasting and seasoning the acorn squash seeds for sprinkling on salads.  They’re edible and delicious!

 

Enjoy!

 

Balsamic Glazed Acorn Squash

 

Acorn squash, figure on serving one-half of a squash per person

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Kosher Salt

Balsamic Vinegar

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Wash acorn squash (see recipe for vinegar-based vegetable wash).  Cut squash in half lengthwise; scoop out seeds and long fibrous strands.

 

Sprinkle squash halves with kosher salt; place face down in a large roasting pan.  Add water to the pan to a depth of 1/4” and place in oven. Bake approximately 20-25 minutes, or until squash is tender but still firm.

 

Remove from oven and allow to cool; slice squash halves into 1-1/2” sections on the bias and put back in the roasting pan, right-side up.  Brush each section generously with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and return to hot oven.

 

Bake five minutes; baste squash with balsamic vinegar.  Repeat process until squash is very tender and well-roasted.  Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.

 

Posted October 13th, 2011.

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Golden Raisin Irish Soda Bread

by Danica Waters

 

Bread with soup, soup with bread – to serve one without the other seems almost an act against NATURE. (Ok. That’s totally too dramatic.  But in any case, soup without some sort of bread – even a cracker, for heaven’s sake – seems just plain wrong.)

In contemplating the virtues of soup’s trusty, crusty counterpart, I wondered: “Is it truly possible to improve upon a savory “crusty loaf”? Really?”

Yes, it is.  And this is it.

Irish Soda Bread is incredibly easy to make, with almost guaranteed no-fail results every time.  Don’t let the golden raisins fool you:  this version of Irish Soda Bread is definitely a savory.  But the golden raisins stand out on the palate like little glimmers of sunshine on an otherwise gloomy day.

This is the perfect accompaniment to Parsnip and Leek Soup.

Enjoy!

 

 

Golden Raisin Irish Soda Bread

(Gourmet Magazine)

 

2 C unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for sprinkling

¼ C wheat bran or toasted wheat germ (not bran cereal)(optional – it gives a lovely texture but don’t panic if you don’t have it!)

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

½ stick (1/4 C) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

1 C golden raisins

1 C buttermilk or plain yogurt

 

Preheat oven to 400? and sprinkle a baking sheet lightly with flour.

 

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, bran or wheat germ, baking soda, and salt.  Add butter and toss to coat with flour.  With fingertips rub in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add raisins and toss until coated.  Add buttermilk or yogurt and stir until dough is moistened evenly.

 

On a floured surface, knead the dough 1 minute, sprinkling lightly with additional flour to prevent sticking (dough should remain soft).  Shape dough into a ball.

 

On a prepared baking sheet, pat dough out into a 6-inch round.  Sprinkle round with additional flour and with fingertips spread lightly over round.  With a sharp knife cut a shallow X in top of round.

 

Bake bread in middle of oven 35 – 45 minutes, or until golden brown.  Wrap bread in a kitchen towel and colon a rack 1 hour. Unwrap bread and cool 1 hour more.

 

Posted October 5th, 2011.

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Parsnip and Leek Soup

by Danica Waters

 

Here in the Skagit Valley, just over a week past the autumnal equinox, sea mists hang noticeably thicker and creep down lower to enshroud the hillsides leading to the mercurial Puget Sound.  This is my favorite time of year; the walking paths that were only recently lined with the lush emerald foliage of a hearty Indian summer are now littered with crimson and gold.

And now, as bare black branches and the wings of Canadian geese stretch themselves against the fiery evening skies, a noticeable chill to the evening air sends me to the kitchen with thoughts of all things warm and wonderful…

…like SOUP!  And happily, this is a very delicious soup, indeed.  Adapted a bit from a clipping out of Fine Cooking Magazine, it is wonderful served with a hearty loaf of bread (try Golden Raisin Irish Soda Bread) and a nice glass of wine, with great music and a crackling fire in the background.

 

Enjoy!

 

Parsnip and Leek Soup

(adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine)

 

Make the Croutons:

 

1/3 C extra virgin olive oil

3-4 slices good-quality white bread (French, Sheepherders’, etc.), crusts removed and cut to ½” cubes

Sea or Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the bread cubes and fry, tossing and stirring, until crisp and golden on all sides.  Drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, set aside.

 

Make the Soup:

 

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 C chopped leeks (white and light green parts only, from 2-3 large leeks) rinsed and drained

Kosher salt

1 lb parsnips, peeled, quartered, and cut into 1-inch pieces

¼ dry sherry or dry white wine

6 C vegetable broth (preferably homemade)

3 sprigs fresh thyme

2 small bay leaves, broken in half

½ tsp white peppercorns, lightly crushed

¼ C heavy cream (optional)

2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme, for garnish

 

Heat the oil in a wide soup pot over medium heat.  Add the leeks, season with approximately 1 tsp salt, and cook gently until the leeks have softened and just begin to turn golden, 8-10 minutes.

 

Add the parsnips and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the parsnips are fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the sherry, increase the heat to medium high, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Add the broth.  Tie the thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and peppercorns in a cheesecloth sachet and toss it into the pot.  Partially cover the pot, bring to a boil, immediately lower the heat, and simmer partially covered until the parsnips are soft enough to mash against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.  Remove from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.  Discard the sachet.

 

Puree the soup in batches using a stand or immersion (hand) blender, being sure to combine a mix of broth and solids in each batch.  If your using a stand blender, fill it no more than 2/3 full and be sure to vent the blender so the top doesn’t pop off (either remove the lid’s pop-out center or lift one edge of the lid and drape with a clean towel).  Rinse the soup pot, return the blended soup to the pot, taste, and adjust seasonings.    If you’re using the cream, add it now (if you’re making the soup ahead, wait to add the cream until you reheat the soup just before serving).  Garnish each bowl with some of the croutons and a pinch of fresh thyme.

 

Serves 6-8, yields approx. 7 cups.

 

Posted October 3rd, 2011.

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Crisp Chicken Tenderloins With Curry and Lemon

by Danica Waters

“Necessity is the mother of invention”. Amen.

And where there is a whole lot of necessity, there you shall find a whole lot of inventing goin’ on.  Let’s just say I happen to be on a roll these days;  indeed, I am one inventin’ so-and-so.  Happily, much like the FML day I concocted the Queen’s Rings, it seems to be working in my favor.  Happy for all the wonderful folks who follow my blog, I like to share.

You know THOSE nights when you realize too late that the grill is out of gas, everyone is starrrrrrrrrvinnnng, and dinner just needs to be UBER-delicious because even the dog appears to be out-of-sorts?  Yep. It was one of those.  (We are all down with nasty colds this morning, so that explains it.)

For some odd reason, when the mood is afoul, I seem to reach for turmeric and curry every single time.  (Probably because it works every single time.)  This time was no exception.  These crispy chicken tenderloins are not only visually stunning, with a rich golden color from the turmeric, they are just plain addictive with their crispy texture, the round, deep flavor of curry graced with the tang of freshly squeezed lemon and a hint of cilantro.

I am happy to report that the evening finished out with rave reviews of dinner, fresh blackberries over ice cream, and a healthy session of  “laugh-’til-you-almost-pee-your-pants”.  All’s well that ends well.  Thank you, Necessity.  You rock.

 

 

Crisp Chicken Tenderloins With Curry and Lemon

(Danica Waters)

 

8 chicken tenderloins, thawed

½ C flour

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp curry powder

¼ tsp cayenne, or to taste

Salt & pepper to taste

Chopped fresh cilantro

Fresh lemon slices

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

Combine flour, turmeric, curry powder, salt and pepper in a medium-sized bowl.  Rinse chicken tenderloins and immediately dredge in flour mixture; set on separate plate to rest.

Bring large (12”) frying pan to temperature over medium high heat.  When ready, add enough olive oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan and heat until oil is hot but not smoking.

 

Using cooking tongs, add coated chicken tenderloins to hot oil.  Fry until golden brown; turn and repeat on other side.  After turning, sprinkle remaining flour mixture over the tenderloins and turn once more to brown.

 

Remove tenderloins to serving platter; sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro and serve with lemon wedges.

 

Note:  These are fantastic served with Flash-Cooked Green Beans and Garlic Mashed Potatoes (recipes forthcoming), or chop them up and serve them in a pita with lettuce, tomato, and tzatziki.

 

Posted September 29th, 2011.

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The Romanesco: Roasted with Garlic, Onion and Almonds

by Danica Waters

Is it a modified American version of broccoli? A Roman Cauliflower? A German Cabbage? No one knows for sure. Only one thing is certain about this almost alien-looking annual: The Romanesco is a fabulous fractal, pleasing to nearly any palate, and guaranteed to grace any table to which it happens to be invited.

First documented in sixteenth century Italy, the Romanesco is a mild-tasting hybrid between broccoli and cauliflower, packed with important vitamins and minerals that support vision and overall immunity. What makes it even better is that it’s FUN to look at, and FUN to eat. Tell your kids it’s Martian food at Halloween, or that they’re feasting on miniature Christmas trees plucked from a fairy forest.   Its mild, mellow, and somewhat nutty flavor makes it equally effective served as crudites’ as it is when cooked ’til crisp-tender and incorporated into other dishes or served as a side.

Here’s a tasty, more grown-up way to enjoy this exotic vegetable.

Enjoy!

 

The Romanesco: Roasted With Garlic, Onion, and Almonds

(Danica Waters)

1 head Romanesco Broccoli/Cauliflower/Cabbage/Whatever, trimmed and cut into sections approximately 1 inch in diameter, larger sections cut appropriately to ensure even cooking
1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced to 1/4 inch
5-6 large cloves fresh garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 C sliced almonds
Olive oil
White Balsamic Vinegar, to taste
Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese

In large, heatproof saute’ pan, heat oil until hot but not smoking. Add sliced garlic and cook until pale golden brown. Add onion slices and cook until soft and translucent; add Romanesco, White Balsamic Vinegar to taste, and 2 Tbsp water. Reduce heat, cover and cook until Romanesco is crisp-tender, approximately 7 minutes, or until it has reached desired texture. (Be careful not to overcook – it turns to mush and isn’t as palatable!) While Romanesco is cooking, preheat your broiler.

Remove from heat and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Sprinkle with almonds and grated Parmesan or Asiago; place pan, uncovered, under broiler until cheeses have melted and turned golden brown.

Serve immediately.

(Serves 4)

Posted September 26th, 2011.

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Zucchini: Grilled and Stuffed Southwestern-Style

by Danica Waters

After spending a happy, busy weekend experimenting with different variations of stuffed grilled zucchini (so far I’ve done it Italian-style, Asian-style, and with green chiles and Parmesan cheese – yum!), this variation nearly got me a standing ovation.  Folks were placing dibs on leftovers for lunch the next day.

 

The secret ingredient is the tequila in the marinade.  It gets ‘em every time; it deepens the flavors and mingles well with all things grilled.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Zucchini:  Grilled and Stuffed Southwestern-Style

 

4 medium-sized Zucchini

 

Marinade:

¼ C extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp chili powder

Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp tequila

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

 

 

Filling:

1 – 15 oz can black beans

½ red bell pepper, seeds removed, cut to ¼” dice

2-3 diced green onions

1 ear fresh corn, kernels removed from the cob

½ C cold cooked jasmine rice

4 oz cream cheese, softened

1 tsp whole cumin seed

2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

½ C shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

1 fresh jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, finely minced

 

 

 

 

 

Trim ends from each zucchini; cut in half on the bias (crosswise).  Cut each zucchini section in half lengthwise.  Using a teaspoon, scrape seeds and pulp from the center of each zucchini section, leaving about a quarter-inch border on all sides.  Marinate zucchini in tequila mixture; set aside.

 

Heat grill to medium.

 

In a small sauté pan, sauté minced jalapeno with diced red pepper in a bit of olive oil until soft.  Add cumin seed, allow to cook for a minute to release the flavor of the cumin, and remove from the heat.

 

In a medium bowl, combine filling ingredients with peppers and cumin and mix well.  Fill zucchini sections; drizzle any remaining marinade over each stuffed zucchini section.  Grill zucchini 3-5 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly charred and cheeses are thoroughly melted; remove from grill and arrange on serving platter.

 

Allow zucchini to rest another five minutes before serving.

 

Enjoy!

Posted September 1st, 2011.

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Zucchini: Grilled and Stuffed Green Chile Parmesan

by Danica Waters

Based on a recipe for squash casserole handed down from my Nana, this version of stuffed grilled zucchini features a surprisingly delicious combination of flavors.  It makes a perfect side dish.

 

Enjoy!

 

Zucchini:  Grilled and Stuffed Green Chile Parmesan

 

4 medium zucchini

Olive oil and salt and pepper to marinate zucchini

 

½ C cooked jasmine rice

1 medium onion, diced.

1 small yellow crookneck squash, diced

¼ tsp fresh minced oregano

1 small can diced green chiles

2 Tbsp heavy cream

1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese

Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Olive Oil to bind mixture

 

Trim ends from each zucchini; cut in half on the bias (crosswise).  Cut each zucchini section in half lengthwise.  Using a teaspoon, scrape seeds and pulp from the center of each zucchini section, leaving about a quarter-inch border on all sides.  Marinate zucchini with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper; set aside.

 

Heat grill to medium.

 

Saute onion until soft and translucent; add yellow squash and oregano and cook until crisp tender.  Add green chiles, heavy cream, and jasmine rice; cook until mixture is heated through; remove from heat. Season to taste with Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

 

Fill the cavity of each zucchini with rice mixture. Grill zucchini 3-5 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly charred and cheese is thoroughly melted; remove from grill and arrange on serving platter.

 

Allow zucchini to rest another five minutes before serving.

 

Enjoy!

 

Posted August 31st, 2011.

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Zucchini: Stuffed and Grilled Asian-Style

by Danica Waters

Smitten with the results of my first spontaneous attempt at grilling stuffed zucchini (see Zucchini; Grilled and Stuffed Italian Style), I excitedly devoted the rest of my weekend towards developing several variations on the theme.  You would think “la familia” would be picketing outside with large signs that read “SQUASH THE SQUASH” or “IT’S X-NAY THE ZUCCHINI DAY”, but surprisingly, that’s not what happened.  Because zucchini has a relatively neutral flavor, it acts as a nearly perfect culinary canvas for all sorts of world cuisine.

 

Today’s variation has an Asian flare; the flavors and textures on this little gem will set your taste buds on fire. (Or was it the chili sauce?) It’s my personal favorite; I think I could live on this variation, like, forever..

 

Enjoy!

 

Asian Grilled Stuffed Zucchini

 

4 medium-sized Zucchini

 

Marinade:

2 Tbsp chili sauce

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp dark brown sugar

 

Filling:

1/2 small can diced water chestnuts

½ C diced roasted and salted peanuts

¼ C chopped fresh cilantro

½ C cold cooked jasmine rice

3-4 chopped green onions

Chinese Chicken Salad dressing or other Asian-style dressing ( I use Trader Joe’s Spicy Thai Peanut Dressing) to bind.

 

 

 

Trim ends from each zucchini; cut in half on the bias (crosswise).  Cut each zucchini section in half lengthwise.  Using a teaspoon, scrape seeds and pulp from the center of each zucchini section, leaving about a quarter-inch border on all sides.  Marinate zucchini in chili sauce mixture; set aside.

 

Heat grill to medium.

 

In a medium bowl, combine filling ingredients and mix well.  Fill zucchini sections; drizzle any remaining marinade over each stuffed zucchini section.  Grill zucchini 3-5 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly charred; remove from grill and arrange on serving platter.

 

Allow zucchini to rest another five minutes before serving.

 

Enjoy!

 

Posted August 30th, 2011.

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