Category Archives: Dinner

Rotisserie Chicken + Black Bean Salad = Tacos

Whoever invented the rotisserie chicken is a genius, along with the roasters that are now in most grocery stores; these succulent whole chickens provide us with instant dinner, and leftovers for another meal. Whether you want to whip up a delicious dinner to enjoy while watching the NCAA Basketball tournaments or just make a satisfying homemade meal, the moist rotisserie chicken allows for quick, easy and tasty weeknight meals. Here the shredded chicken has been put to good use in Chicken Tacos with Black Bean Salad, Red Cabbage & Chipotle Lime Sauce. My infamous Black Bean Salad has been featured on Foodie for Two before, where it was paired with seared ono, and today the ingredients are slightly modified to give the taco a makeover with light yet hearty flavors.  It works fabulously in soft tacos with some warm corn tortillas, shredded chicken, thinly sliced red cabbage, sliced jalapeño and finished with a chipotle lime sauce. The sauce is rich and creamy and brings all the other flavors together with just enough earthy spice from the chipotle, and brightness from the lime.

The versatile sauce is made with some mayonnaise, sour cream, lime zest and juice and dried chipotle pepper powder – my secret ingredient.  Chipotle peppers are just fully-ripened, dried jalapeños and available in either whole dried peppers (seeds, stems and all) or dried pepper powder.  I find the powder in the spice aisle of my grocery store (or from Savory Spice) and the whole peppers in the Mexican food aisle.  The spiciness from the jalapeño is concentrated and it has a wonderful earthy, smokiness that adds a surprising depth of flavor to dishes or sauces.

To make dinners super easy, I like to remove all the meat (yes, the dark meat too) from the bird when I get it home and then store it in an air tight container in the refrigerator.  This time I selected the colossal bird, which was only a dollar more than the regular size, and it yielded about 5 cups of shredded chicken – plenty for this meal.  If you aren’t going to use the chicken within the week, just bag it up in one cup measurements and freeze for later use. How could delicious homemade dinners be any easier?  This is also a great recipe for a small crowd: double or triple the amounts (depending on the number if people) and set everything out buffet style. Enjoy!

Eat well and share the love!

Chicken Tacos with Black Bean Salad, Red Cabbage & Chipotle Lime Sauce (Print Recipe)
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies

Ingredients:
Black Bean Salad
1 can (15 oz. – no salt) black beans, drained and rinsed well
2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
3 tablespoons finely diced bell peppers (about 3 baby sweet
peppers, or ¼ of a red, yellow or orange bell pepper)
1 cup baby spinach, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon grated lime zest
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons finely diced Poblano pepper (about ½ of a small Poblano)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon finely minced garlic clove (about ½ of a small clove)
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
Chipotle Lime Sauce
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/8 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/8 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder
Pinch of kosher salt and ground pepper
Tacos
1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken
3 to 4 corn tortillas, warmed
½ cup of very thinly sliced red cabbage
9 to 12 slices (thinly sliced ) jalapeño for garnish
1 tablespoon cilantro leaves for garnish

Directions:
Black Bean Salad: Add the black beans, red onion, bell pepper, spinach, lime zest and juice, cilantro, Poblano pepper, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper to a medium bowl and gently stir together with a spoon so the beans don’t break up. Let the salad sit for at least 15 minutes to let the flavors develop; can be made up to one day ahead – the beans will break down a bit from the lime juice but the flavors won’t be affected. Store leftover salad covered in the refrigerator, makes about 2 cups.

Chipotle Lime Sauce: Add all ingredients to a small bowl and mix well.  Let sauce sit for at least 15 minutes for the flavors to develop. Can be made up to 2 days ahead; store covered in the refrigerator, makes about 1/3 cup.

Assemble: For the rotisserie chicken, remove all of the meat off the bone and reserve 1 cup for the tacos. Store the remaining chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or bag the shredded chicken in 1 cup servings and freeze for later use.

Heat the oven, or toaster oven, to 350º and wrap the corn tortillas in foil.  Let them heat in oven for about 5 minutes.

Thinly slice the red cabbage and jalapeño slices and gather all of the ingredients on the cutting board to start assembling the tacos.  

When the corn tortillas are warm, fill each of them with about ¼ cup of the black bean salad, 1/8 cup of shredded red cabbage, ¼ cup shredded chicken, a few small dollops of chipotle lime sauce, garnish with the sliced jalapeño and cilantro leaves and serve immediately.

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The Tulip Fence:  Last September I planted over 100 tulip bulbs in planters and in the backyard (my first time ever), and they are starting to come up. Not surprisingly, I found a mule deer munching on the tender shoots this weekend and chased her away; David put up a quick fence for protection and it worked!  Thanks, honey!
Here you can see she has returned and is trying to figure out how to get to them.  No tulips for you, my deer!

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How to Host a Fabulous Winter Outdoor Pizza Party

Several times a year our friends Diane and Jeff host a highly anticipated pizza party in their backyard and thankfully we’re on the invite list.  Their invitation says “The party happens rain or shine, blizzard or sun.” and they mean it.  Last year it snowed and this year we got lucky with highs in the 40’s, but it was still cold!  One bite of the heavenly pizza and the cold was forgotten.  Aside from the pizza at Mamma Rosa’s* in Italy’s Marche region, this backyard pizza is one of the best we have tasted!  The dough has a slight tangy flavor, and is light and fluffy on the inside with just enough crunch to the outside.  The Pelot’s go all out with the party preparations to make it fun; the fire pit and portable heater are set to high, and along with the pizza oven they all provide cozy gathering spots to chat and chase away the cold.  We can’t help but to overeat at their pizza parties!

The dough is started 3 days before the party, allowed to rise several times and separated into individual balls for easy roll-out on party day.  Diane’s stellar recipe is modified from Jamie Oliver’s, and includes the recommended Italian flour; she buys it in 55 lb. bags, enough for just 3 or 4 parties plus some homemade pasta in between!  The finely ground flour known as Tipo 00 is her secret ingredient that makes each pizza so special, along with proofing the dough, which develops that extra flavor.  Click here for more about pizza flour and here for more about building a pizza oven.

Diane rolls out each dough ball and has plenty of cornmeal-dusted paddles ready so we can start an assembly line going around the topping table, where all of the ingredients are laid out for some serious pie making.  Once they grab a paddle, guests can choose from several mild and hot sauces for the base and top it with an amazing array of fresh ingredients.  There is a rule (the only one) that you can’t dirty up the paddle with sauce, otherwise you risk being publically recognized by Jeff.

The wood-fired oven, fueled by a thick base of embers, has an optimum cooking temperature of about 920 smoking-hot degrees.  The pizzas cook in just 3 to 4 minutes and they get sliced for immediate consumption.  Thanks to Jason for humoring me and my camera when I asked him to hold the cooked pizza a certain way in the oven, or place the infra-red thermometer in the HOT oven so I could record the reading (932 degrees!!).

So, what are the secrets to a fabulous outdoor winter pizza party?  In my book, they are:

  • Great homemade dough, made with lots of love
  • All of the food prep and set-up done ahead of time
  • A fully-stoked chiminea and portable heaters ( a must in Colorado)
  • Fun and interesting guests (yes, of course David and I fall in this category)
  • A wood-fired pizza oven (I have it on my birthday list, or perhaps it’s the honey-do list)
  • Gracious hosts who love to share a good meal with interesting friends

Many thanks and hugs to Diane and Jeff for firing up their pizza oven and sharing the love!  Cheers to you both!

*Mamma Rosa’s is located in Ortezzano, outside the city of Force, Italy (Ciao, Paolo!) in the yet undiscovered and charming region of Marche

Eat well and share the love!

Quick Lobster Ravioli with Tarragon Butter Sauce

My grocery store recently had frozen wild-caught lobster tails on sale so I bought a few for a later indulgence.  These guys are small, 4.5 to 5 ounces each, and the perfect size for a scaled-down serving. The trick that makes the ravioli “quick” is using wonton wrappers instead of homemade ravioli dough.  Along with the lobster, the filling is the typical carrots, celery and onions with some corn and tarragon. But the taste is anything but typical!  The sautéed vegetables are a wonderful compliment to the rich, sweet lobster.  And the tarragon butter sauce puts them over the edge of goodness.  For future batches, I would give the butter a few more minutes in the pan for a brown butter sauce (gives a nuttier flavor).

To help with the task of getting the lobster meat out of the shell, I rely on my kitchen shears.  Just turn the lobster over and cut down the sides of the thin shell.  Then you can bend the shell open to reveal the wonderfully delicious treat waiting inside.  To quickly cook the meat, I chopped it up, tossed it with melted butter and broiled it for 4 or 5 minutes.  After the vegetables are sautéed, the lobster meat is stirred in and the filling is ready – all in less than 10 minutes!

The ravioli assembly goes quickly so you’ll want to have your water boiling and the butter melting before you start. To keep it simple, I use water instead of an egg wash. Brush the entire wonton surface so the top layer sticks to it (and doesn’t burst open during boiling).  Press the edges firmly closed with either your fingers or the tines of a fork.  The ravioli can be left as whole squares, or use a cookie cutter (2¾ inch diameter) for an elegant presentation.
In my book, these lobster raviolis are a perfect treat for either lunch or a light dinner.

Eat well and share the love!

Lobster Ravioli with Tarragon Butter Sauce
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies – makes 6 ravioli

Ingredients:
Lobster Tail
Meat from 1 small lobster tail, 4.5 to 5 ounces in weight
½ tablespoon butter, melted
Vegetables/Filling
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely diced carrots (about 1 small)
2 tablespoons finely diced celery (about ¾ of stalk)
2 tablespoons finely diced onion (about ¼ of an onion)
1 tablespoon frozen corn, chopped into smaller pieces
3 to 4 fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
Pinch of kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper
Ravioli and Sauce
1 tablespoon flour (for dusting cutting board)
12 wonton wrappers
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 to 5 fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
Garnish: Sea Salt, Fresh-cracked pepper

Directions:
Lobster:  Turn broiler to high, add ½ tablespoon butter to oven-proof dish and put in oven to melt. 

Using kitchen shears (or a sharp paring knife), turn the lobster over and cut along the edges of the thin shell and pull it back to expose the meat.  With both hands, grasp the sides of the lobster (fingers underneath, on the hard part of the shell) and bend out to break the sides and free the meat: if needed, gently cut away any connected meat on the sides.  Pull out the piece of meat, rinse well and remove any tamale (green) or remaining shell; pat dry with a paper towel. 

Roughly chop the lobster meat, add to the oven-proof dish and toss with the melted butter. Place under broiler (about 8 inches from element) and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until meat is white and no longer opaque.

Vegetables/Filling:  Heat a medium skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add the carrots, celery, tarragon and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.  Add the onions and corn and continue cooking, stirring often, for 3 or 4 more minutes until onions are translucent and vegetables are soft.  Turn off the heat and add the cooked lobster meat.  Stir to combine and transfer to a bowl; let cool slightly.Reserve the skillet to make the butter sauce.

Ravioli and Butter Sauce:  Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  Dust your cutting board with some flour and set up your assembly line: a ramekin filled halfway with water and pastry brush, a cookie cutter (2 ¾ inch diameter), the bowl of filling with a tablespoon measuring spoon, and the wonton wrappers (keep them covered with a damp paper towel).

When the water has come to a boil, return the skillet used for the filling to medium-low heat and add the butter and chopped tarragon.

Lay out 6 wonton wrappers on the cutting board, 2 rows of 3 wrappers, and brush the entire surface of the bottom (3) wontons with a light coat of water.  On the bottom row, place 1 tablespoon of the filling in the middle of each wonton.  Cover with the top wonton wrapper and gently press it on, making sure it’s well-sealed without any air trapped inside. Cut out a round shape using the cookie cutter; use your fingers or fork tines to firm press edges together. 

Add the ravioli to the boiling water and let cook for 3 minutes.  While the ravioli are cooking, increase the butter to medium-high heat and swirl pan often.  Transfer the cooked ravioli to plates and pour the butter sauce over them.    Garnish with sea salt and fresh-cracked pepper.

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A visit to Phoenix earlier this month to celebrate Mom’s 70th Birthday:
Picture below: Mom after a great steak dinner on her birthday day (isn’t she beautiful?!)

Picture below: Mom and I at her dinner party buffet with family and friends (my job was the food; that’s a Brandy Old Fashioned in my hand, post kitchen duty!)
With Love, Happy Birthday to Mom!!

Foodie for Two: Top Ten Posts of 2011

My last blog post briefly mentioned a few stats in closing and today I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at Foodie for Two’s most popular posts in 2011.  Starting at ten and counting down to one, here are the top ten most viewed posts from last year.  
Eat well and share the love! 

10. Book Club: Gluten-free Quinoa Salad
Inspired by Good Earth’s Chicken Marco Polo with broccoli, raisins, walnuts, onions and a walnut Dijon vinaigrette.

9. New England Clam Chowder
Well tested and simplified for the home kitchen with rich and deep flavor.

8. Fisheries…Wild-caught… Farm-raised… Sustainability…Huh?
The only informational piece I posted, reviews the basic fish facts with reputable resources

 7. Vegetable Shots at the Bergman’s
Featured in several blogs last year, it’s only fitting the Bergman’s are in the top ten; inspired by an appetizer that Holly served at my belated birthday dinner.

6. Memorial Day BBQ: Buttermilk & Sage Brined Chicken 
Here’s an easy recipe for grilling chicken; the overnight brining keeps the meat juicy and moist.

5. Passover Traditions: Adele’s Matzo Ball Soup 
What an honor that the recipe from my late mother-in-law, Adele, is one of the five most popular!

4. Memorial Day: Grilled Corn with Honey Jalapeño Butter 
Grilling is a great way to get lots of caramelized flavor, and corn on the cob is no exception.

3. Cinco de Mayo: Slow-cooked Carne Seca
Our favorite regional dish from Tucson; London broil is slow cooked, shredded and mixed with sautéed onions, Poblano peppers and tomatoes.

2. Easy Weeknight Meal: Gourmet Tuna Melts 
I have to admit that I was surprised by the popularity of this one!  Inspired from a simple idea for a fabulous lunch.

1. Memorial Day Dessert: Strawberry Granita with Whipped Cream
Considering my love of sweets, I am very pleased that a dessert made the number one spot.  When you combine whipped cream and strawberry granita it tastes just like ice cream, a rich and decadent treat.

I look forward to sharing many more in 2012! 

A Once-A-Year Hanukkah Treat: Potato Latkes

Tuesday was the first night of Hanukkah and we celebrated with some golden, crispy potato latkes. The first time I ever tasted a latke (pronounced lot kuh) was at David’s parent’s house, many years ago.  Just like matzo ball soup at Passover, I was quickly hooked on this new delight made during Hanukkah.  You have probably seen recipes using sweet potatoes or zucchini, but in our house they are made the old-fashioned way.  David is a latke purist (I get it, there are some things I like to keep traditional too) so my tried and true recipe is just grated potatoes and onions, eggs, matzo meal, salt and pepper.  For more flavor, I use a package of matzo ball mix in place of plain matzo meal and a lot of onion.  In my food book, a plate of latkes wouldn’t be complete without some sour cream and applesauce to dunk the scrumptious potato disks; they are crispy on the outside but nice and moist on the inside.  To szoosh them up, I like to garnish the latkes with some fresh dill and chives.

Don your apron and open your windows or turn on your exhaust fan for this delectable once-a-year treat.  Oil is symbolic with this holiday so don’t shy away from frying (click here for more information about Hanukkah).  I use canola oil and less than a quarter of an inch deep in the pan.   The trick for crispy latkes is hot oil that stays consistently hot, so you may have to adjust your heat source a few times.  When the edges turn golden brown they are ready to turn.

To keep the cooked latkes warm while finishing frying the rest, store in a 200° F oven on a platter. There is no better surprise than to open your refrigerator the next day and find some latkes waiting for you (Boston Cream pie would be nice too), so I always make extra. This batch makes about 18 latkes and we were surprised that we ate 10 of them by the end of dinner! Any leftovers should be refrigerated in a sealed container – reheat in a 300° F oven or toast in a toaster oven.  They freeze well; just don’t microwave them because they will get rubbery. They are also delightful for breakfast or lunch!
Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas from David & Melissa! 

And a belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Holly Bergman!!!

Eat well and share the love! 

Potato Latkes
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies plus leftovers, makes about 18 latkes

Ingredients:
4 medium-large russet potatoes, peeled
1 large onion
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 package matzo ball mix
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh-cracked pepper
Garnish:
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Sour Cream
Applesauce
Optional Sides:
Sliced cucumber
Olives

Directions:
Heat oven to 200 degrees F (to keep latkes warm while frying) and place an oven-proof platter on the middle rack.

Add about 1/8 inch of canola oil to a large skillet.  Turn heat to medium-high; when the surface of the oil lightly ripples it is ready.   Test oil by adding a small piece of batter; if it browns on each side within a minute, it’s ready.

While the oil is heating, make the batter.  Grate potatoes and onion into a large bowl.  Add beaten eggs and mix well, making sure all the potatoes are coated.  Add matzo ball mix, salt and pepper and mix well.

When the oil is hot, add batter by spoonful (about 1/3 cup) into oil and flatten out with the back of spatula.  Cook for about 5 minutes per side, until golden brown, and gently turn latkes away from you.  If needed slightly increase heat source to maintain consistent hot oil.

When both sides are golden brown, transfer latkes to a sheet pan lined with paper towels.  Spoon more batter into oil and repeat process.  Transfer the cooked latkes to the platter in the oven to keep warm.

Serve latkes hot with fresh chopped dill and chives, and a pinch of salt.  Serve with a side of a dollop of sour cream and applesauce. 

Optional sides: sliced cucumbers and olives.

Pictures from our recent weekend trip to visit Beth and Steve in Chicago.  Sorry we missed you, Sara!