Sunday, January 30, 2011

Grilled Ginger-Peach Chicken

It is pouring today, and don't get me wrong, I am very thankful for the rain- but the accompanying fog, wind and bone numbing cold I can do without.  So how do I beat the winter blues? I take out my indoor grill-you know, those flat surfaces that sit atop two burners and leave beautiful grill marks on your food all while staying nice and toasty indoors. I've wanted one of these forever but they were too expensive here and just way to heavy to shlep from America, but I recently was able to put one on a lift and winter has been changed forever. The sizzle as the chicken hits the pan is loud enough to drown out the wind that where I live sounds like someone playing the flute really badly and really screechily in my eardrum and the smell is just the essence of summer. I came up with this chicken because I had a piece of fresh ginger in the house and more peach concentrate than I know what to do with  from when my husband decided to practically buy stock in it  because it was on sale (expect lots of recipes involving peach concentrate in the near future) although you can substitute orange concentrate if you have that. Ginger-Peach just sounds so summery, doesn't it?The ginger, combined with a few other pantry staples (because there is just no way I am leaving my house in this weather) came together to make this easy and delicious chicken and every element in the marinade comes through with each bite. So go put on some beach clothes (flip flops will do) and enjoy!!

1 1/2 tsp FRESH grated ginger (using a microplane)
2 large clove garlic, grated 
4 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup peach juice concentrate
4 Chicken Breasts

Combine the marinade in a bowl, set a side a few tablespoons for dipping and/or glazing and let the chicken marinate for about 2 hours in the rest of it. Heat up your grill or grill pan and grill about 3 minutes per side or until done, making sure they don't burn. Glaze with the reserved marinade right before taking it off the grill.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sheva Brachot Menu

This week I catered a Chinese themed Sheva Brachot. Sheva Brachot are one of my favorite things to cater-  and its such a great time to showcase a theme. I have yet to find good, fresh Chinese food here that I love, so what better way to enjoy it than homemade? Here was the menu for this week's event:

Won ton Soup
Sesame Chicken
Pepper Steak
Pineapple Glazed Chicken
White Rice

Vegetable Lo-Mein
Teriyaki Green Beans
Bok Choy Salad

Here is a little glimpse of the pepper steak:
Making you hungry?? Call the Gush Gourmet!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pan Fried Halibut with Lemon Cream Sauce

We don't eat fish that often because even though we live in a Mediterranean country where fish should be abundant, it is really, really expensive. So, while fish is a staple in many American homes, here it is a luxury item for us, hence why I chose to make it as a treat for our anniversary dinner. I am normally totally sketched out by the frozen fish in the supermarket-the skin is usually on, sometimes the fish has a color that is just unnatural for anything that isn't a piece of lego and not that I understand everything that it says on the package but I do understand when it says that it's only 80% fish. When I first read that I was really freaked out- what the heck is the other 20%??? Goat? I soon realized it means that a lot of the fish is processed with water and what you are getting is 20% water. Me no likey. But while I was browsing in the fish aisle one day I came across packaged frozen halibut that just looked beautiful- pure white, no skin, no bones and no chance of goat. It was definitely pricey but looked like it was worth a try. It also looked very different than the Halibut I've seen in America which is usually thick fillets. This was a thin, flat piece of fish that resembled Sole. Boy, was I right. It was so tender and clean tasting, just absolutely delicious, and so I came up with this recipe to use it for our special dinner. The fish here is just lightly pan fried without too much seasoning in order to let the sauce shine.

2 Halibut fillets
1/2 cup of flour
salt, pepper, garlic powder
3 Tbl oil

Rinse the fillets and pat they dry. Mix the flour with the seasonings and dredge the fillets. Pan fry them until they are light golden brown. Serve with the lemon cream sauce.

Lemon Cream Sauce:
3 tbl fresh lemon juuce
1/4 tsp lemon zest 
4 tbl butter
1 tsp minced garlic
4 tablespoons cream
1 tbl chopped parsley
salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a sauce pan and add the garlic. Saute for a minute and add the lemon juice and zest. Cook for a minute and reduce the heat to low. Add the cream, salt and pepper and cook until it gets just slightly thick. Remove from heat and add chopped parsley.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chicken Marbella

Some credit for this delicious chicken has to go to my friend and neighbor, Shoshi. Not because this is her original recipe but because I first had it at her house and had I not had it there and realized how good it was I would never had started to make it. I mean, who would think to put olives and prunes together on chicken?! What a random combination! But it is gooooooood (and practically Tu B'shvat on a plate, hence the timing of this post) and it has since become one of the chickens I make the most. The recipe is actually from a famous cookbook called The Silver Palate written in the 80's by Sheila Lukins and Julee Russo but I've adapted it to fit my own tastes. I know there are a lot of olive-haters out there but I guarantee you that you cannot taste the olives at all (as long as you don't actually eat one)- they just add a great earthy saltiness to the sauce. It is best to marinate the chicken over night but I've made it after only marinating a couple of hours and it was great also. Like the Balsamic Maple Chicken, this also tastes great as leftovers.

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup pitted prunes cut in half (they are not just for old people anymore!)
1/2 a can of pitted olives + 1/2 of the water from the can
1 head (yes the whole thing, and yes its called that) of garlic, minced
2 Tbl dried oregano
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup dry white wine (yes, it is necessary)
6-8 chicken bottoms, cut up

Add oil, vinegar, prunes, olives and water from the can, garlic, and oregano to the pan you will be cooking the chicken in. Mix together and place the chicken skin side down. Refrigerate and marinate over night, turning the chicken to skin side up at some point along the way (no need to get up in the middle of the night for this, turning an hour or two before baking is fine). After marinating, uncover and pour the white wine over the chicken and sprinkle the brown sugar all over the chicken. Cover and bake at 350 for 2 hours and then uncover and cook for another 1/2 an hour or so, or until it look like this perfect specimen of chickenhood:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Greek Salad with Lemony Garlic Dressing

There is no special twist to this salad, it is just the typical Greek salad, BUT what makes this salad stand out is the dressing . I love Greek salad but I always find the dressing to be blah and so with a lot of trial and error I came up with this one. It's super lemony which goes really well with the Feta and the dressing just really makes all the vegetables sing a happy tune.  Enjoy!

For the Salad:
Romaine Lettuce
Red onions
Black olives
Feta cheese (aren't those little cubes adorable?)

Lemony Garlic Dressing:
 2/3 cup FRESH lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup oil
big pinch of oregano
2 Tbl red wine vinegar
small pinch of sugar
black pepper


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cajun Potato Wedges with Garlic Aioli

You know those amazing Cajun fries you get in every pizza store that are thin and crispy and just perfectly spicy?
These are not those. 
BUT, these were inspired by them and they are equally delicious, even more so I would say because they are made fresh and not mass produced, frozen, and deep fried in oil that was sitting in a fryer since the year of the flood. You can make them as spicy as you want by adding more hot sauce- this recipe makes them mildly spicy, but what really makes these wedges is the Cajun seasoning. There are different brands of Cajun but most have a mixture of salt, garlic, onion, cayenne and paprika and an herb such as oregano or thyme. It is a delicious spice mixture that I use on almost everything from chicken to eggs. The potatoes came out crispy on the outside and tender on the inside and perfectly spicy-  little hand held wedges that were perfect for dipping into some Garlic Aioli to ease off the heat.

3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into wedges
3 Tbl oil
1 Tbl minced garlic
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1/4-1/8 tsp cajun seasoning
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4-1/8 tsp paprika
salt and pepper

Mix the oil with all the spices and seasonings in a bowl and toss the wedges to coat. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 40 minutes to an hour.

Garlic Aioli
1/2 cup of mayonaisse
1 Tbl minced garlic
1 Tbl chopped parsley
1/2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

Mix all in together and serve. It is also great served as a dipping sauce for steak or fresh chicken nuggets.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Anniversary Menu

This week my husband and I celebrated 6 years of wedded bliss. We eventually will make our way over to a nice restaurant to celebrate, but for the day of  what could be nicer and more appropriate than an elegant dinner in the home we have created together. It is under-ratedly (a word that only appears in the Jerusalem Seminary Dictionary) simple to create a restaurant quality, beautiful meal at home (we all practically do it every Shabbat!) and the effort that it takes is well worth it. I'm posting the menu to inspire you to create your own special occasion meal that you can and should customize to your own tastes.

"Anniversary" Cocktail (cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, fresh orange juice, ginger-ale, vodka)
Pan Seared Halibut with Lemon Cream Sauce
Cajun Potato Wedges with Garlic Aioli
Jeweled Fennel and Orange Salad
Chocolate Fondue with Strawberries

How fancy and restaurant-y does that sound?? And it only took about an hour to prepare!
Recipes to follow but I'll leave you with this teaser picture of the yummy cocktail...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sweet Potato and Spinach Mini Frittatas

Here is my secret for how to  wow people with something that is ridiculously and embarrassingly simple. Two steps: 1) change the name to something fancy 2) make it in mini. And with that I introduce to you the mini frittata which essentially for all that it is adorable is just a glorified omelet! They are sooo easy to make and  so easy to customize, ANY vegetable or ANY cheese can be thrown in and you have just created a frittata masterpiece. I baked these in mini muffin cups that were WELL sprayed with cooking spray and the result were these cute little hand-held portable omelets that are just perfect for a dairy party especially since you can make them in advance. Also, unlike omelets which to me have to be served hot, Frittatas can be served room temperature which just adds to the appeal of making them.

8 eggs
3/4 cups half and half (or milk)
one small sweet potato, diced small
1/2 cup chopped leaf spinach
1/3 cup feta cheese, cubed small
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
Salt, pepper to taste
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Mrs. Dash

Whisk the eggs and milk together well and mix in the rest of the ingredients. Pour into well sprayed muffin cups and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until they are slightly golden.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Balsamic Maple Chicken

This chicken is the BEST chicken I have EVER made- maybe even good enough to get me a publishing deal!You must try it immediately! To demonstrate how awesome it is I have compiled some comments from taste testers:
"Wow- you hit this out of the park!" (guess who it was who used the baseball reference)
"Is this chicken or is this heaven?"
"Give me moreeeeeeeeee"
"Mmmmm bnaokjhu akjdou" ( couldn't understand anything but the mmmm due to overstuffed mouth, or maybe my taste tester recently learned Icelandic, not sure)
I knew this chicken was a home run (yes, I am being influenced by the baseball fanatic I live with) when I was still eating it on Wednesday and loving it. I usually can't stand leftover chicken but this tasted like it was fresh, I think it even got better as time passed!
Get the point?Now go make it!

This idea behind this chicken was to combine what I put in my favorite salad dressing ie: balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, dijon mustard (among other things) and one of my favorite chicken dishes which is 40 clove of garlic chicken which has garlic, rosemary and balsamic vinegar. I let the chicken marinate for 3 hours and the sauce really permeated into every part of the chicken. I think the rosemary is necessary but it is not too dominant in the sauce so if you don't like rosemary I think it is still worthwhile to use it.

1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 heaping Tablespoon dijon mustard
big pinch of dried rosemary
1/2 cup soy sauce
12 cloves of garlic, pressed in a garlic press
Maple syrup or granulated brown sugar
Chicken ( I used this amount of sauce on 8 bottoms, skin on)

Put all the ingredients in a sauce pan and bring it to a simmer just to combine everything. Put aside 1/3 a cup of the mixture for basting later on. Marinate the chicken in the mixture for about 3 hours, turning occasionally (I wouldn't marinate overnight because the vinegar is strong and can start to cook the chicken). Cook at 350 covered for at 11/2-2 hours. Uncover and baste with the rest of the sauce and drizzle with some maple syrup or sprinkle with brown sugar and cook for another 1/2 hour or so. Serve, and prepare for Icelandic comments of your own.

And here it is in all its glory:

This picture has been approved by all chickens worldwide who are willing to be eaten if made this way.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip

This was probably the biggest hit of the party- warm, cheesy, bubbly (well, it's supposed to be bubbly but the Israeli Mozzarella cheese was not complying) and delicious, it is the perfect dip for a dairy party. Served with crudités and crackers it is hearty and satisfying and only a little fattening- (OK, a lot fattening but doesn't the presence of spinach help?). Now for the history of artichokes in my life: me and artichokes did not get along until about 3 years ago when I realized that hiding underneath all those leaves and way beyond that scary looking, prickly thistle stuff that seems to belong on a sewing machine and looks like it will choke you (hence called the choke?) there is just goodness. True, it takes more effort to get to the goodness than most vegetables are worth but artichokes are worth it. I don't make them that often but when I do and I peel off the beautiful greenish purple leaves I always wonder why I don't make them more often. I've also made this dip pareve and served it Shabbat lunch (recipe to follow one of these years) and it is always a hit.

1 bag frozen leaf spinach
1 bag frozen artichoke hearts
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic minced
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/3cup sour cream
3/4 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup mozzarella, divided
Hot sauce to taste (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Saute the onion and garlic until soft and season with salt and pepper. Chop the defrosted, drained (and squeezed of all water) spinach and artichoke hearts well in a food processor leaving it slightly chunky. Transfer to a bowl and add in onion and garlic mixture, mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese, parmesan and 1/2 cup of mozzarella and season to taste. Spread into a oven to table dish and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Bake until cheese is bubbly.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Mulled Hot Apple Cider

This is my favorite drink in the world! I order it in every restaurant I go to and if the restaurant doesn't have it on its menu, that restaurant goes on my "list'- and you don't ever want to be on my "list". Why I used to pay about 20 shekel a glass in a restaurant when it is so easy to make at home I can't tell you, but now that I have made it, there is no going back (that was a lie, I'll still order it, but I'll know mine is much better). I made it for the melava malka where it was a big hit, then I refrigerated the leftovers and heated it up the next day and it was 20x better- the cloves tasted clovier, the cinnamon was more pronounced and it just was a warm cup of heaven. So, I suggest making it 1-2 days before you want to serve it and then reheating it. It's great for a party and for the adults you can spike it and it tastes that much better and for some reason everyone is so extra friendly afterwards :). Please note my gorgeous new punchbowl bought just for the occasion- LOVE IT!

3 liters apple juice
1/2 cup brown sugar or more to taste
20 whole cloves
5 cinnamon sticks broken
Juice of one large orange
Skin of one orange, peeled (only the orange part, not the pith- using a sharp vegetable peeler will do it)
1 tsp ground ginger
3 Tbl or more of good cinnamon
One orange sliced, for garnish
Bourbon or Rum, optional but goooooooooood

Throw everything (except the alcohol) in a big pot and bring it to just a boil. Lower the flame and let it simmer for an hour, mixing occasionally. The alcohol should be mixed in right before serving. Garnish with sliced oranges.