Thursday, September 29, 2016

MEDITERRANEAN CHICKEN WITH PRUNES, APRICOTS, & OLIVES

The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy eating plan that your whole family will enjoy. Serve the chicken with wild rice or roasted sweet potatoes and a green salad. This is a perfect autumn dinner.


4 bone-in chicken breasts, cut in half
4 small chicken legs with thighs
½ cup (125 ml) balsamic vinegar
1 whole lemon, cut into 8 wedges
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T (15 ml) minced fresh rosemary
2 t (10 ml) fresh or freeze-dried oregano
2 t (10 ml) fresh or freeze-dried basil
½ t (2 ml) red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup (60 ml) extra-light olive oil
1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine

½ cup (125 ml) pitted Sicilian olives or stuffed Manzanilla olives
½ cup (125 ml) Italian black olives, pitted
¼ cup (60 ml) capers, drained
2 medium onions, cut into small wedges
1 cup (250 ml) dried apricots
1 cup (250 ml) dried plums (prunes)
Lemon slices, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C) degrees.

Place the chicken in a large heavy baking pan. Do not crowd the chicken.
Brush the chicken with balsamic vinegar.

Squeeze the juice from 3 lemon wedges over the chicken.
Tuck in the rest of the wedges around the chicken.

Place the garlic, salt, pepper, rosemary, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes in a small
bowl. Mix together and evenly sprinkle over the chicken.

Drizzle the chicken with olive oil, pour wine around chicken, and bake for 40 minutes.
After 40 minutes, remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 F (180 C) degrees.
Sprinkle the olives, capers, onions, apricots, and prunes around the chicken.
Baste with pan juices and continue to bake for another 30 minutes, until chicken is a deep golden brown.

Transfer all of the ingredients to a warm baking pan or dish to take to the table.
Pour the pan juices over and tuck in a few lemon slices.

Serves 6


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

CHOCOLATE, ESPRESSO & BRANDY SYLLABUB

Syllabub is a mousse-like dessert popular in Europe in the 16th through the 19th centuries. The dessert is made with wine, cider, or brandy. I added espresso to give it an Italian flavor and chocolate. . .because it made it even better!!



½ cup (125 ml) hot espresso
¼ cup (60 ml) dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips  
½ cup (125 ml) granulated or light brown sugar
½ cup (125 ml) brandy  
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 cups (500 ml) heavy whipping cream
Orange zest strips, for garnish

In a small bowl, combine the hot espresso, chocolate, sugar, orange zest, and brandy.
Stir well, cover with plastic wrap and let sit on counter until cool.

When espresso mixture is cool, pour heavy cream into a large bowl and whip until medium-firm peaks form.
Spoon out about ½ cup (125 ml) of the whipped cream into another bowl, to use for garnish.
Slowly mix the coffee mixture into the large bowl of whipped cream.
Spoon into glasses and refrigerate until well chilled.
Top with a dollop of whipped cream and orange zest strips.

Serves 4 to 6 (depending upon the size of your serving glasses)

Friday, September 23, 2016

SICILIAN RICOTTA CHEESECAKE - Torta di Ricotta

Ricotta cheesecakes are easy to make and they are so very delicious. This one has a graham cracker crust on the bottom and partially up the sides. I found a box of graham cracker crumbs in the super market. This saved me from crushing them in my food processor. It's always nice to save a step, if you can.
I also posted the ingredients to change this cheesecake into an Almond-Amaretti Cheesecake. 


1 ½ cups (375 ml) graham cracker crumbs or about 20 graham crackers, finely crushed
½ cup (125 ml) melted unsalted butter
32 ounces (908 g) whole milk ricotta cheese
4 large eggs
½ cup (125 ml) all-purpose flour
1 cup (250 ml) granulated sugar
¼ t sea salt
Grated zest of 1 large organic or carefully washed orange
2 T orange juice
1 t pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 F (170 C) degrees.

Mix together the graham cracker crumbs with the butter.
Firmly press graham cracker crumbs into the bottom and about 1 inch up the sides of a 7 to 8-inch (17.5 to 20-inch) spring form pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta and eggs.
Mix in the flour, sugar, salt, zest, juice, and vanilla extract.
Mix until completely combined.

Pour batter into pan and place on a baking sheet or pizza pan.
Place in center of oven and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.
Turn oven off and let cheese cake sit in oven for another 15 to 20 minutes, until firm throughout.

Let cool on counter, and then refrigerate for 2 hours to set.

Remove from spring form pan to a cake plate and decorate with confectioners’ sugar or more grated orange zest, if desired.

Serves 6 to 8

Almond-Amaretti Cheesecake
Crust 
¼ cup toasted sliced almonds
10 amaretti cookies
4 whole graham crackers
Pinch of fine sea salt

4 T unsalted butter, melted

Place above ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade and process for a few seconds.

Filling
In place of the orange zest and juice, Add the zest and juice of 1 lemon.
In place of the vanilla extract, add 1 t of pure almond extract.





Tuesday, September 20, 2016

CHICKEN CUTLETS WITH MUSHROOMS, ASIAGO, & PARMIGIANO

This is another version of Chicken Marsala but with the addition of Asiago and Parmigiano cheeses.
The Asiago cheese is quite strong so a milder wine, such as Pinot Grigio, is better suited for this recipe than Marsala wine. My husband kept saying. . ."what's cooking, it smells so wonderful, when do we eat?"


¼ cup (60 ml) extra-light olive oil, divided
8 to 10 cremini mushrooms, wiped clean, stems trimmed, and sliced
2 shallots, cut in half and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ cup (125 ml) all-purpose flour
Sea salt and finely ground black pepper
6 T (90 ml) unsalted butter, divided
2 t fresh thyme leaves
1 T (15 ml) seasoned flour 
1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
½ cup (125 ml) chicken stock or broth
½ cup (125 ml) grated Asiago cheese
¼ cup (60 ml) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Cook the mushrooms until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Add the shallots and sauté a couple of minutes.
Add the garlic and sauté another minute.
Turn off heat, spoon into a bowl, and set aside

Cut each chicken breast in half, lengthwise.
Lightly pound each piece between plastic wrap with a mallet to about ¼-inch (6 mm) thickness.
Cut each into 2 to 3 cutlets.

Pour flour into a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper.
Dredge chicken cutlets in the flour and set aside on a large platter or baking sheet.

In the same large skillet over medium-high heat and add the rest of the oil and 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of the butter.
Cook half of the cutlets until golden brown on each side, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.
Remove to a clean platter or baking sheet.
Cook the rest of the cutlets and then remove to the platter or baking sheet.

Scrape the brown particles from the bottom of the pan and add the thyme and the last 4 tablespoons of the butter.
Whisk in the tablespoon of the seasoned flour that you dredged the chicken in.
Let simmer a couple of minutes, while whisking.
Whisk in the wine, chicken stock, Asiago, and Parmigiano.
Slowly simmer another couple of minutes for the cheese to melt.

Return the chicken, mushrooms, shallots, and garlic to the pan and let simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.

Serve with roasted potatoes or fettuccine.

Serves 4