Tag Archives: bread

Springtime Grilled Chicken Bread Salad with Roasted Asparagus and Fennel

There are certain recipes that have nearly cult followings online, and the Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken and Bread Salad is one of them.  I’ve never had it in person, but have heard so many people rave about it that I recently decided to put my own spin on it.  It seemed fitting — fresh, small game hens and asparagus from the farmer’s market, and a loaf of sourdough bread from a wonderful bakery downtown.  I hadn’t planned to make it, but sometimes things just come together at the right time.   I made it on a week night, but my bet is that you might want to save it for the weekend as it is somewhat more time consuming than other recipes I post.

That is not to say it is difficult, though.  It just requires more steps and separate preparation methods for multiple ingredients.  But in the end, it is beyond worth it.  The salad is garlicky and lemony with chewy bread toasted in olive oil, enriched with roasted asparagus and fennel, and topped with roasted chicken that will have you licking your fingers throughout.  It would make a fantastic dish for entertaining, because you can prep most of the ingredients beforehand, and then simply compose the salad after roasting or grilling the chicken.  (Just save it for guests who don’t mind deliciousness that necessitates finger licking.)

We split our game hens into halves and my husband grilled them over a charcoal fire (he gets props for the chicken being insanely good).  However, you could just as easily roast them in the oven halved or whole.  If you do them over charcoal, he would suggest starting the halves over the coals, skin side down, for a quick searing of the skin, and then moving them to the center to cook indirectly until they are just done.  Keep a drip pan underneath them as you would typically do in a charcoal fire, and save the drippings so you can mix a bit into the salad at the end.  Don’t overcook and let the chicken rest for ten minutes or so before serving so it stays juicy.

Just be sure to put a stack of napkins on the table and pour yourself a nice, chilled glass of white wine before you dig in.  Spring couldn’t get much more perfect.

Springtime Grilled Chicken Bread Salad with Roasted Asparagus and Fennel

Serves 4-6

2 small game hens, or 1 small roasting chicken
Olive oil
Fresh parsley, rosemary, thyme, and sage, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 loaves of crusty sourdough or peasant bread (about 1 1/2 pounds, to yield 1 pound of crustless bread cubes)
1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds or pine nuts
1 bunch of asparagus, stemmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 fennel bulb, sliced and reserving 2 T of chopped fronds
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 or 2 scallions, chopped
2 or 3 large handfuls of salad greens, washed and dried

Dressing:
1/3 cup of olive oil
Zest of one lemon, chopped
1/2 t salt
Freshly ground pepper
Juice of 1/2 of a lemon, or more to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Split game hens in half (disregard if roasting whole) and place on a tray.  Drizzle with olive oil and season both sides liberally with salt and pepper.   Sprinkle generously with chopped parsley, rosemary, thyme, and sage (or other herbs of your choice) and rub the halves so the seasonings cover the chicken well.  Put in refrigerator until ready to grill.

2.  Remove crusts from bread (take a thin layer off, but you don’t have to be 100% perfect … a little crust is OK) and tear bread into bite-sized cubes.  I threw the crusts into a ziploc bag in the freezer and will use them for croutons in a salad at some point.  Place bread cubes onto a cookie sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place the pumpkin seeds on a separate, small baking sheet.  Put both the bread cubes and pumpkin seeds in the oven to toast.  The pumpkin seeds will take about 5-7 minutes and the bread cubes will take about 7-10 minutes.  I broiled my bread cubes for a minute or two at the end, so they had some toastier parts.  Remove both items from oven and set aside at room temperature.

3.  In a roasting pan, combine asparagus pieces and sliced fennel.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven for about 20 minutes until they are nicely cooked (but not overdone) and the fennel starts to caramelize a bit.  You can also broil this for a minute or two at the end if you want a little extra char or caramelization.  Remove from oven and toss with chopped garlic, chopped scallions, and chopped fennel fronds.  Set aside at room temperature. (Steps 1-3 could be done early in the day if you are entertaining.)

4.  Remove chicken from refrigerator and prepare charcoal grill for an indirect fire.  (If you like, you can start the grill before steps 2 and 3 if you are doing this all at once, rather than prepping ahead of time.)  Place chicken halves over the fire on the grill (with a drip pan in the middle), skin side down and sear for 2-3 minutes.  Flip and move to center of the grill (over the drip pan) and cook indirectly for about 30-40 minutes until done.  Remove to platter and let rest for about 10 minutes.

5.  While chicken is cooking, combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl (could also be made ahead of time).  In a large salad bowl, combine toasted bread cubes, roasted asparagus and fennel, and toasted pumpkin seeds.

6.  While chicken is resting, skim a layer of fat off of the drippings and mix one or two tablespoons of remaining drippings with bread cubes and other ingredients.  Add a few handfuls of salad greens and toss with about half of the dressing.  Taste for seasoning and add more dressing if necessary, as well as additional salt and pepper.

7.  To serve, give each person a nice helping of the bread salad, top with a portion of the roasted chicken (a leg, thigh, or breast piece — or a combo) and serve with remaining dressing on the side.

 

Trail Mix Banana Bread

I wish I had anything interesting to say.  But I don’t.  Feel free to scan straight to the recipe because what follows will be riveting.

We’ve been doing some Christmas decorating.  And a lot of our lights don’t work.  And we bought them new just last year!  At Wal-Mart!  Because it was 10 PM and they were open!  And now they don’t work!  Oh, the drama.  We might have to buy some new ones if we want all the bushes out front to be done.  Also, we got a new tree stand.  Our pre-drilled stand broke last year and while we really enjoyed bickering about how crooked the tree was in the traditional stand, we opted to buy another pre-drilled one.   So far it hasn’t fallen over or anything exciting like that.  We didn’t even break any ornaments while decorating.  However, our Christmas village looks perfect because there are so many people with broken limbs from years past that it looks like a Tiny Tim convention.

I started my Christmas shopping yesterday.  The three week mark sort of hit me.  Actually, what will truly hit me are the shipping rates I will have to pay in order to make up for my procrastination.  I thought I was doing well by getting the kids’ Christmas photo done after Thanksgiving.  So the cards will be quality, but the gifts might suck.  And why is it so difficult to come up with a new coat/snow pants/accessories set for my daughter every year?  It seems like the same drill … cute coat, no matching snowpants.  Or nice matching set, one piece out of stock.  And confusing color schemes:  do the “buff” snowpants match the “ivory” coat?  Who the hell knows.  On the husband front, we have (of course) said we are getting each other nothing.  But now the boxes start showing up for me.  So I must figure out gifts for him.  Because we aren’t getting each other anything, you know?

I did a cool project on Jupiter the other day.  Did you know that you would weigh twice as much on Jupiter as you do on Earth?  I’m not sure if that would impact how tight my jeans are, but if I ever go, I’ll buy a size up.

Speaking of my jeans being tight, I decided after Thanksgiving that I was going to train for a half marathon.  Last week went well.  Today, I am already negotiating with myself about how I can avoid the longer mileage run that I was supposed to do yesterday.  The one that I should have done while I was having a few holiday beers.  I am a very disciplined runner, so this training thing should go really well.  I also don’t like the cold, so my running occurs only on the treadmill now.  If the race I ultimately select has episodes of Top Chef streaming throughout the course, I should be in good shape.

Also, if you made it this far (bless you), the other day I noticed that I had rotting fruit so I made some banana bread.  I mixed in some of our favorite trail mix ingredients and it was quite good.  We ate it quickly.  Then I did the dishes and went to bed.

The End.

Trail Mix Banana Bread

Makes one loaf

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/2 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a loaf pan with softened butter.

2.  Combine whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

3.  Using an electric mixer, cream butter until light and fluffy.  Add in sugar and mix for 1-2 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then add in mashed bananas.

4.  Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in vanilla extract, pumpkin seeds, coconut, and chocolate chips into batter until just combined.

5.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-55 minutes until golden brown and just set.

Garlicky Bread Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes and Sweet Corn

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day lamenting the fact that I have had nothing to post because my summer cooking has been so simple — and really not recipe worthy.  How can I legitimately write a recipe for tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil?  Or chicken on the grill? Or lightly cooked corn with butter and salt? Or cucumbers with a bit of sour cream and mint?

It’s just all so … basic.  When you start with seasonal produce grown down the road and picked the same day, you just really don’t have to do much.  And late summer has all of our favorite stuff — corn, tomatoes, raspberries — which are not exactly challenging to eat up.  Zucchini, on the other hand…

So after my little pep talk, I decided to make something slightly more “recipe worthy.”  A counter full of heirloom tomatoes, a crate of sweet corn, a bunch of basil, and some beautiful artisan sourdough bread were the inspiration — and I’m pretty sure nothing bad can happen when you combine those ingredients.  The key to dishes like this are simple, but high quality ingredients.   Your dish will go from delicious to “out of this world and I feel like I’m in Italy” if you invest in wonderful olive oil and have a great artisan baker for the bread.

This would be perfect for a picnic or party and is still good the next day (the bread in the leftover salad loses its crispness, but my daughter and I didn’t mind and polished the rest off for lunch.)  Pour yourself a large glass of red wine and savor summer.

Garlicky Bread Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes and Sweet Corn

Serves 6-8

1 1/2 loaves of sourdough bread (about 1.5 pounds)
4-5 ears of corn, husked
1 large handful of basil, washed and torn into pieces
4-6 heirloom tomatoes, cored (I used 2 large and 4 smaller ones)
3-4 T good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (plus 1 T)
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1.  Prepare bread:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove crusts from bread (reserve crusts for another use) and tear bread into bite size pieces.  Don’t cut it — the rustic nature of the torn bread is perfect.  Toss the bread with 1 T olive oil and salt and pepper.  Place on a baking sheet and toast (stirring occasionally) for about 8-10 minutes until just lightly toasted. Set aside.

2.  Prepare corn:  Cover ears of corn in a large pot with cold water.  Bring water to the boil (as soon as it boils, the corn is done).  Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Cut corn off the cob and set aside.

3.  Prepare dressing:  Mix 3-4 T of olive oil with lemon juice, chopped garlic, a healthy pinch of salt, and freshly ground pepper.

4.  When you are ready to serve, cut tomatoes into wedges or small chunks.  On a large platter or in a bowl, gently mix toasted bread, corn, tomatoes, basil, and dressing.  Taste and adjust with more salt and pepper or additional olive oil if necessary.  Using a vegetable peeler, make large strips of Parmigiano Reggiano and scatter over top of salad.  Serve immediately.

Apple and Fontina Monte Cristo

When my husband is traveling on business (which seems to be way too much lately), I usually keep the cooking to a minimum.  I hate having a big mess to clean up when I am the only one to clean it.  And combined with homework, baths, and bedtime routines, sometimes it just seems like more than I can handle — especially when he is on a long trip.  Single parents have my ultimate admiration.  If parenting with help is exhausting, parenting solo sucks your every will to live.

On those nights, we usually do some simple pasta or soup.  A big pot of soup made at the beginning of the week can feed you for many days.  I love making chicken noodle soup — by the end of the week, the noodles have soaked up so much of the delicious broth that they are a meal on their own.  But our other favorite thing in Daddy’s absence is breakfast for dinner — eggs, omelets, pancakes — you name it.  The kids are guaranteed to love it and the cooking/cleaning load is much easier.

Lately, the kids have fallen in love with Monte Cristo sandwiches — a great combination of a grilled cheese and french toast.  It’s just as easy as the two component dishes and can be mixed and matched with lots of different fillings and dips.  Today we made Apple and Fontina Monte Cristos, but you could easily add ham or turkey, use any kind of cheese, and dip in anything from maple syrup to grainy mustard to whipped cream.  Quite honestly, I think you could make a version of this for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or dessert.

You might even be able to get through a whole week of travel with nothing but Monte Cristos.  Next time he goes to California, I guess.

Apple and Fontina Monte Cristo

Makes 2-3 sandwiches

Note:  Simple dishes like this are best with simple, fresh ingredients.  In my case, I am extremely lucky to have the wonderful Gemelli Bakery as my challah source.  Use the best bread and cheese you can find.

Half loaf of Challah or Brioche Bread, sliced about 3/4 inches thick
6 ounces Fontina Cheese, thinly sliced
1 apple, thinly sliced
2 eggs
1/4 cup of milk
1/8 t cinnamon
Dash of salt and pepper
Butter
Maple Syrup
Grainy Mustard

1.  Whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon, and salt/pepper in a wide pasta bowl or deep plate.

2.  Place one slice of bread on cutting board.  Make one layer of Fontina slices.  Follow with one layer of apple slices.  Top with another piece of bread.  Repeat with remaining sandwiches.  If you like, you can spread some grainy mustard right on the bread before cooking (my favorite, not the kids).

3.  Melt about a tablespoon of butter in a saute pan or griddle on medium low heat. Hold the sandwich together carefully and dip it into the egg batter on both sides.  Make sure it is coated nicely, but not too saturated.  Repeat with remaining sandwiches.

4.  Place sandwiches in saute pan or griddle and cook until golden brown.  Flip, press sandwich down a bit, and cook until golden brown on second side.  If your bread is extra thick, you may need to keep flipping for awhile in order to get the cheese to melt (the frequent flipping prevents the bread from becoming too brown).

5.  Remove from pan, cut in half, and serve with maple syrup or grainy mustard on the side.

6.  Pour yourself a tall glass of wine to get through the rest of the evening.

Whole Grain English Muffin Bread

The popularity of backyard gardens, it seems, has skipped a generation.  I am now thrilled to drive around town and see so many vegetable gardens all over town (more this year than I have ever seen).  And I have been even more pleased to see how many young families are getting into gardening — from a small plot with some tomatoes and herbs to entire front yards devoted to beans, corn, broccoli, and peppers.   All of a sudden, it seems like the local food and community farms message is catching on.

But clearly this is not such an impressive feat.  My great grandparents’ generation saw the backyard garden as a necessity for feeding their families.  My grandparents’ generation had more luxuries when they were in young family mode (in the form of more easily available groceries and produce), but many of them continued with gardening for necessity or for hobby.  But somewhere in our search for convenience — and probably because of major prosperity — my parents’ generation never thought much about the idea of a vegetable garden.

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In my family, both sets of grandparents maintained beautiful gardens.  And my grandmother, at 95 years old, still asks me every time I see her what goodies were in our CSA box that week.  We  talk about what she was successful growing and what she remembers eating as a child — everything from clabbered raw milk to plum jam.  We have so much to learn about food from this generation.  I truly believe we have been wandering around like nomads buying processed groceries from all over the planet and avoiding eggs or carbs or butter or whatever the bad food of the year is.  Our grandparents knew that we needed to eat whole foods, with the seasons and, quite simply, not so much.  (I should add that my grandmother graduated from college with a degree in nutrition.  When eggs became unwelcome on our plates because of cholesterol, she protested QUITE loudly.  And she was correct in the end.)

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She has some wonderful recipes and what I am sharing with you today is one of them.  It’s a well-known recipe, but when a friend reminded me of it the other day,  I had to share because I haven’t heard it talked about in years.   I remember eating toasted english muffin bread at her house throughout my childhood.  With some butter and homemade strawberry jam, I couldn’t think of a better breakfast.  I have vivid memories of her toasting and buttering entire loaves to put on a platter — because we always had a seated breakfast in the dining room.

This is a super easy bread that combines both yeast and baking soda which gives you a slight “nook and cranny” texture when sliced and toasted.  It’s an easy stir together recipe with only one rise and no kneading.  My kids absolutely LOVED it.  And it freezes beautifully after it is baked.  My version uses white whole wheat flour (either all WW or half WW/half all purpose flour), but feel free to make it with entirely all purpose flour if you want the original.

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I’m going to make a batch with all purpose flour sometime soon to see if I can replicate my exact memories, but I think I will fail because I can’t replicate the surroundings that made it all so wonderful.  What I wouldn’t give to be able to take my kids back to those places — to those houses with barns and cousins and berry patches and rows of corn, all begging to be eaten and explored.

Whole Grain English Muffin Bread

Makes two loaves

2 1/2 cups of white/all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups of white whole wheat flour
2 packages of active dry yeast
1 T sugar
2 t fine sea salt
1/4 t baking powder
2 cups of whole milk
1/2 cup of water

1.  In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups of white AP flour, 1 1/2 cups of white whole wheat flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and baking powder.

2.  Heat milk and water in a small saucepan until very warm (about 120-130 degrees F).

3.  Stir liquids into flour mixture with a whisk.

4.  Add one additional cup of white AP flour and one additional cup of white whole wheat flour and stir in well with a wooden spoon.  You will end up with a very thick batter (or a loose dough, however you want to look at it). (Alternatively, you can use all white whole wheat flour or all white AP flour if you like — 5 cups total.  If you use all white AP flour, you may need an additional 1/2 cup).

5.  Butter two metal loaf pans and sprinkle all over with cornmeal.  Tap out excess.  Divide dough into two equal portions and pat into prepared pans.  Sprinkle tops of loaves with additional cornmeal.

6.  Cover pans with a towel and let rise for 45 minutes in a warm place. (I use the proofing setting on my oven).

7.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Bake loaves for 20 minutes until golden.

8.  Loosen loaves from pans and remove immediately to cool on racks.  Slice and serve toasted.  (Loaves can be tightly wrapped and frozen.)

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