Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas

By Paul Briand

As promised, I returned to the grocery store aisle to find and try another of the McCormick spices recipes. This one was for Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas.

And, once again, it proved to be an easy and tasty way to get dinner on the table.

These new McCormick Recipe Inspirations include pre-measured McCormick spices and herbs and a recipe card that you can remove from the box and add to your collection. Previously, we tried a recipe for a Quesadilla Casserole.

In the case of these fajitas, the box included pre-measured amounts of garlic, minced onions, ground cumin, oregano, cilantro and black pepper.

1/4 cup each of lime and orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into thin strips
1 medium green bell pepper -- red or green -- cut into thin strips
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
8 flour tortillas

1. Mix juices, oil, all of the spices and salt in small bowl. Set aside 1/4 cup of the marinade;
2. Place chicken in resealable plastic bag or large glass dish, add marinade (except for set-aside);
3. Turn to coat well and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes;
4. In large skill over medium-high heat, stir in chicken and cook 3 minutes or until lightly browned;
5. Remove chicken from skillet, add pepper, onion and reserved marinade and cook and stir for 5 minutes, until tender;
6. Return chicken to skillet and cook 2 to 3 minutes until heated through;
7. Spoon chicken mixture into warmed tortillas and serve with assorted toppings -- salsa, guacamole, etc.

Click here for recipe card.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cherry Tomatoes and Almond Pesto

By Paul Briand

When you think of pesto, you think of a combination of basil and pine nuts.

But pesto, by Genoese definition, means "to pound, to crush." So just about anything that you can pound or crush together can become a pesto sauce.

I was inspired by an article about pesto in the Wall Street Journal to try one made from cherry tomatoes and almonds.

The article offered a variety of interesting combinations: pecans, parley and dates; pumpkin seeds and spinach; walnuts and grapeseed oil, as examples.

I wanted to try the cherry tomatoes and almond combination because, as it turned out, I had cherry tomatoes and almonds readily available in the house.

Here's the short and sweet recipe that the Journal said came from PBS chef Lidia Bastianich.

2 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes

1. In a food processor, combine the tomatoes, almonds, and garlic clove;
2. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and a bigger pinch of salt;
3. Puree the mixture and add the olive oil in a steady stream until the pesto emulsifies into a thick puree.

It is heartier and nuttier than your store bought pesto and certainly different from the basil and pine nut pesto that most people are accustomed to. But it's a welcome change when you can do it yourself.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Art Smith's Sweet Potato Salad

By Paul Briand

Here's an at home recipe I brought on the road.

The occasion was a family reunion folded around the Air Force at Army football game that occurs at West Point, N.Y., every two years.

This year the event attracted about 50 relatives and included lots of eating -- both at the hotel where we all stayed and at our tailgate party that preceded and followed the football game on Saturday.

My contribution was a sweet potato salad, the recipe for which I found in a recent issue of AARP the Magazine. It comes from Art Smith, who is described in the magazine piece as Oprah Winfrey's former personal chef.

4 orange-fleshed yams (sweet potatoes)
1/4 cup mayonnaise , regular or reduced-fat
4 ribs celery , cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 small red bell pepper , seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 cup diced (1/2-inch) ripe fresh pineapple
2 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) coarsely chopped pecans , toasted
Chopped fresh chives , for garnish

1. Wrap the individual potatoes in foil. Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 1 hour, until tender. Cool until easy to handle. Peel, then cut into 3/4-inch chunks;
2. In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise and mustard. Add the yams, celery, red pepper, pineapple, and scallions and toss gently, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerated until chilled, about 1 hour. (The salad can be made 1 day ahead, covered, and refrigerated. Adjust the seasonings before serving.);
3. Just before serving, fold in the pecans and sprinkle with the chives. Serve chilled.

A couple of notes: The hardest part of this recipe is getting the sweet potatoes cooked so that they're not undercooked but not so overcooked as to make them mushy once the salad is mixed. Mind tended to be a little on the mush side.

I also doubled the amount of pineapple and added a little more mayo. I felt it needed the added sweetness and the smoother consistency that a bit more mayo brought.

And, when I made this recipe for the first time at home, I substituted almost for pecans. When I made the dish for the crowd I didn't use any nuts at all, just to be on the side side against any food allergies.

For recipe card of Art Smith's Sweet Potato Salad, click here.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shepherd's Pie Stuffed Potatoes

By Paul Briand

Wow, talk about hearty. Take the comfort food of a shepherd's pie and combine it with the comfort food of a good old fashioned baked potato and you've got comfort food squared.

This is a Rachael Ray recipe from her new cookbook, "Rachael Ray's Look and Cook."

I've said before that I like Ray for her quick, easy, off-the-shelf recipes. They don't require a lot of intricacy and a lot of time in the kitchen. This one, however, is a little more involved than the 30-minute recipes you see featured on her Food Channel show.

But it's well worth the effort.

6 large russet potatoes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 red bell pepper, cored and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
Ground black pepper
1 pound ground sirloin
1/2 pound button or cremini mushrooms, quartered
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons spicy brown or Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 F and on a rimmed baking sheet, roll the potatoes in a hearty drizzle of olive oil and some salt. Bake until tender, about 1 hour, then let cool;
2. While the potatoes cool, in a medium skillet over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the bell pepper and half of the onions and saute to soften for 5 minutes, then set aside to cool;
3. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut a thin top slice off each potato. In a bowl, combine the bell pepper and onion mixture, the sour cream, smoked paprika, half of the Gouda, salt and pepper. Scoop the flesh from each potato and to the bowl. Mash to combine. Set aside;
4. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the ground sirloin and brown for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the lumps. Add the mushrooms and cook until they start to turn golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes more;
5. Add the remaining onions and the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes. Push all of the ingredients to the edge of the pan and add the butter to the middle of the skillet. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and cook for about 1 minute. Whisk in the stock, mustard, soy sauce, and Worcestershire. Bring up to a bubble, combine with the meat mixture, adjust the salt and pepper, and simmer until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes;
6. Fill the potato shells with the beef and veggie mixture, then top each of them with the mashed potatoes;
7. Transfer to a baking sheet and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Pop the potatoes under the broiler until the cheese is melted and the tops are golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

I don't know about Rachael, but I had quite a bit of mashed potato left over, even after piling it high on the potato shell. But having leftover mashed potatoes is not a bad thing; another ingredient for another comfort food dish this week.

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