July 24, 2011

Sarah's Chicken Puttanesca

Puttanesca. Generally meaning a spicy dish of tomatoes, onions, capers, olives and anchovies, and usually served on pasta. Those of you that know me might know now why I added the qualifier “Sarah’s” in the title. There’s no way I am using anchovies in anything. (I don’t care how you feel about that, Dad.)

We had this lovely dish for dinner last night with an Australian Shiraz. It was fantastic yet again. We have this one every once in awhile as it is one of Nathan’s favourites.

When I thought about the blog entry for this dish, I decided to use my handy Food Lover’s Companion, which I’ve mentioned before. Much to my dismay, the definition of Puttanesca in this book was rather off-putting and I didn’t find it appropriate for my blog at all. Let’s just say, it comes from the Italian word Puttana which means, um… a… lady of leisure, if you will. It goes even further about why it is named after that, but that’s where I am stopping. And, let’s just say, the amendment I make to this dish (mentioned above) eliminates the comparison completely…

Anyway, here goes.

1 tbsp olive oil
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 medium onion cut into 1 cm rings
12 garlic cloves split lengthwise
1 35 oz can of whole plum tomatoes
½ cup sliced black olives
½ cup sliced green olives (with pimentos)
2 tbsp baby capers
¼ cup sundried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 pinches red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

1.     Heat oil in large frying pan over medium high heat. Brown chicken on both sides, about 4 minutes each. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2.     Lower the heat to medium low and add onion and garlic to the same pan. Toss until softened, but careful not to burn, about 8 minutes.

3.     Stir in the tomatoes, followed by the remaining ingredients. Add the chicken back to the pan and coat well with sauce. Cover and simmer until sauce is thickened and chicken tender, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve on pasta and prepare to take your praise!

July 20, 2011

Prosciutto Balls with Bocconcini and Tomatoes

Pu Pus (yes, pronounced "poo poos"). I'm not joking. Hawaiian for snacks, this is the term I grew up using to describe any sort of smaller, nibble-type snack. Basically, appetizers.

So sometimes when my Mom didn't have the usual homemade bread and cold cuts for a sandwich, she would pack our lunches full of pu pus. Pepperoni sticks cut up, cheese bites, etc. Sometimes when she didn't feel like cooking a big dinner, she would creatively decide it was a pu pu night. Gosh I feel embarrassed just thinking about how that sounds...

So, all grown up now, and the primary chef of my own household, I am responsible for coming up with all sorts of snacks, appetizers and nibbles for us, and our guests when we entertain. I like the cheese board, a homemade dip - for which I have many awesome recipes to share, and other bite-sized treats. I also like to serve a variety. This means that I need to have a few go-to pu pus that I can use to jazz up a cheese board, or complement a feta and sundried-tomato torta.

The follwing recipe is from Fine Cooking (I'm their most loyal follower and absolutely love their website and magazines!) and I just love how easy it is to whip them together and how amazing they taste. I have now served them to quite a few different groups and I've never, not once, had leftovers.

Whoever thought pu pus could be so yummy? (Did I take that too far?!)

8 pieces of prosciutto, sliced lengthwise in 2
16 pieces of fresh basil, sliced lengthwise in 2
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
8 cocktail boccochini cheeses, halved
Your best extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Lay the sliced prosciutto on your chop block. At the bottom of each strip, lay 2 pieces of sliced basil. 

2. Make a ball by pressing the cheese and the cherry tomato together. 

3. Generously salt and lightly pepper the balls before rolling up and finishing with a toothpick.

4. Refrigerate for up to one hour. Let sit on counter and drizzle with oil at least 10 minutes before serving. 

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

July 04, 2011

Fresh Rolls with Sweet Chili Sauce

Taste of Thailand Part 2

So after the visit to the traditional Thai fresh market, we headed back to Angsana's home to get cooking. After meeting her lovely little daughter who showed us, as she does all the "students," their pets - an iguana and a rodent of some sort! When we got into the kitchen, and our aprons, we were put right to work. We both loved how forward Angsana was, tossing the chicken to Dad and saying "go ahead and rinse this." She had no issues whatsoever in handing out directions.

In the making of three recipes (Tom Kha Gai, Red Curry Duck, and Fresh Rolls) she taught us plenty of tricks and lessons about traditional Thai cooking. Galangal, for example, is like ginger but has a softer taste and shouldn't be substituted. Or, when cutting lemongrass use it until you don't see purple in the slices, throw the rest out as it isn't as flavourful. She taught us that fish sauce is a staple in the Thai kitchen, they put it in everything (much to my dismay!)

We pretty much made everything all simultaneously, and just ate when it was ready. Whatever was leftover was put to good use - her kids gobble it all up when they are home from school! This recipe is for the fresh rolls, which I requested because I absolutely love them. Tha Thai version did not use a rice noodle filling like I've had in so many Vietnamese restaurants - in fact, when I asked if we were putting rice noodles in she laughed and said that we were already using a noodle to wrap them - duh!

These are so tasty and you can really play around with the innards. For example, I don't like cilantro (amongst other things...) and used just mint leaves in my rolls. We made a fresh sweet chilli sauce to go with them (another difference from the satay sauce you get in Vietnamese restaurants) and I must admit, it was far superior to its store-bought counterpart!

Serve these as a meal or an appie for company! You may need to double the sauce recipe depending on how many rolls you make. 

For the sauce: 
3 large thai red chilies, minced 
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt

1. Crush or pound the chilies and garlic together using a mortar and pestle or a meet tenderizer hammer. 
2. Whisk the sugar, vinegar, water and salt together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the chilies and garlic, whisk. 
3. Simmer over medium to medium-low heat until thickened, about 10-15 minutes. 
4. Cool and set aside to serve with rolls.

For the rolls:
5-8 sheets of rice paper
1 carrot, peeled and cut into very thin strips
1/2 cucumber, seeded and cut into very thin strips
250 grams ground pork, cooked and drained
Fresh mint 
Optional: cooked shrimp or chicken breast strips, cliantro

1. Prepare all veggies for use. 
2. Soak rice paper in luke warm water in a big bowl for about 1 minute to soften.
3. Gently remove rice paper and place on flat surface. At one end, place a bit of every ingredient (you will play around with how good your rolling skills are versus what you can fit in the roll). Start rolling, pulling the ends in about halfway, before completing the roll. 
4. Cut the roll in half diagonally. 

Serve and prepare to take your praise!