Friday, August 30, 2013

Strawberry-Banana Cream Trifle


Printable version
Those who read this blog regularly know that I don’t create many desserts for Behind the Bites. First of all, I don’t have much experience with the world of sweets and second, I’ll take a bag of beef jerky over a sugary snack ten times out of ten. In other words, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.

Sunday night I made a dinner for a group of friends and I knew that I would need to provide a dessert. I stressed over it more than any of the other dishes. After changing my mind around 30 times about what to make, I decided to go the easiest route possible and make a trifle. The hardest part about it would be choosing the right combination of flavors.

I decided to make a strawberry-banana cream treat. The base of the dessert is cubed angel food cake followed by banana cream pudding, strawberries and whipped cream. The strawberry-banana combination worked really well and I’m pleased to say that this yummy creation lasted only minutes after it was served.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Strawberry-banana Cream Trifle

I am really proud of how this desert turned out. Like I said in the intro, I’m not that experienced with deserts so I’m a little apprehensive. This trifle has opened up a whole new world for me. There are about a million different directions I can take a desert like this, all of the layers can be swapped out for different flavor combinations and textures.

I had no idea instant pudding was so easy. Just add milk to the dry ingredients! Who knew! It’s not ideal as far as flavor goes, but when it’s just one element among many instant pudding does the trick and worked just fine here. Chefs and foodies might scoff at the idea but I went with it anyway. I would like to make pudding from scratch for something like this sometime because it would only stand to make it better.

I think I’m going to try another trifle soon, only the next one will feature chocolate and caramel.

Better get to work.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Strawberry-banana Cream Trifle

Serves 12 to 15; 10 minutes; 1 hour inactive
16 oz Whipped topping
1/2 C Sugar
3 pints Strawberries, stemmed, halved
1 large box Banana cream instant pudding (5.1 oz)
2 1/2 C Cold milk
1 lb Angel food cake, cut into cubes

Macerate strawberries, make pudding
Toss together strawberries and sugar, let rest at least one hour. Stir together pudding mix and milk, whisk for 2 minutes, then let rest 5 minutes to thicken.

Build trifle
In a large bowl or 12 to 15 individual serving vessels, layer angel food cake, pudding, strawberries and whipped topping. Place a strawberry or two on top if desired. Then serve.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Smoky Creamy Corn Chowder


Printable version
A couple weeks ago I attended a dinner party at a friends house. The meal was made from meat, vegetables and fruit that the hosts had raised and grown right there on their own land. It was served family style around a huge table that comfortably fit the 15 who attended. The food was absolutely delicious.

Of all the tasty items that were prepared, one stood out – the sweet corn. The flavor was succulent and seemed to burst forth with each bite. I couldn’t control myself and ended up eating three huge servings.

After the dinner I complimented my friend on the great meal and excellent corn. His Dad had been growing that particular variety, Illini Xtra Sweet, since he was a kid. They usually stagger two or three plantings a couple weeks apart so they have corn to pick fresh for dinner for a long stretch during the summer. He gave me a few ears as a parting gift and I used it in this smoky corn chowder. It’s a tasty soup, but this variety of corn is off the hook all on its own.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Smoky Creamy Corn Chowder

The entire meal at my friends house was a step back into the past. The last time I had eaten a family-style meal of made-from-scratch, farm-raised ingredients was at my great grand parents more than 30 years ago. My great grandmother was a home maker and great grandfather a farmer. They raised and grew all of their own food and were able to provide for seven healthy children. That sort of life-style seemed to have disappeared with the rise of Walmarts and superstores of the modern day.

It was refreshing to have dinner at my friends house with a large group of comrades in this old-fashion style. The hosts really appreciated the farmed-raised and fresh grown aspects of a good meal, it was evident by the preparation. There were no fancy spice rubs or compound butters, just fresh food prepared perfectly. A humble meal free from pretense and full of great flavor. This is how the Great Spirit intended for us to eat.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Smoky Creamy Corn Chowder

Make 4 quarts; 45 minutes
8 strips Bacon diced
1/2 large Onion, diced
1 Red pepper, diced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1/4 C Flour
6 C Chicken broth
3 C Potatoes, diced
1 Tbs Fresh thyme
3 C Corn, fresh cooked or canned
2 C Heavy cream

Render bacon
In a soup pot over medium heat sauté bacon until cooked through and crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon.

Sauté vegetables, add flour
Add onion and red pepper to pot and cook in bacon drippings until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute more. Sift in flour and stir until mixed thoroughly. Allow mixture to cook for 2 minutes once combined.

Add broth, cook potatoes
Add chicken broth, potatoes and thyme. Return bacon to pot. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Boil hard for 8 to 10 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through.

Add corn, finish
Reduce heat and add corn and heavy cream, bring to a simmer and cook until corn is heated through, 6 to 8 minutes. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Spoon into a bowl and serve.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Spicy Chicken Creamy Cucumber Tostada


Printable version
The cucumber salad used to dress this tostada makes it an all star. The salad is absolutely delicious on its own, here it acts as a balance to the spicy chipotle chicken.

I used McCormick chipotle chili powder and when compared to their normal chili powder, the chipotle is off the scale as far as heat. I ate a spoonful of the chicken by itself to check the flavor and it literally made me cough – needless to say, the chicken has some kick. That's all neutralized by the cucumber salad though, it compliments the chipotle just perfectly and it allows the flavors to stand out and not be overtaken by the heat. The spice is there but the creamy ranch swoops in to tame the fire before it can set the tongue a blaze.

The end result is an absolute show stopper. If I owned a restaurant or food truck I would use this cucumber-ranch-chipotle combo in some sort of way on the menu.

It’s a winner.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Spicy Chicken Creamy Cucumber Tostada

I was so impressed by this cucumber salad that I have made three dishes with it. This dish is made from the leftovers from the first time I made it. The next dish it will appear in features a fresh batch, but that is for another post. I'm really impressed by its flavor and have just went crazy with it. When you have a winner you ride it to the championship! This cucumber salad is the Walter Payton of my kitchen right now.

I have found over three years of writing my food column that when you have something that works it’s best to go with it and see where you can take it. Eventually you’ll get tired of it but by building on flavors you can really get creative and make some outstanding stuff that is really original. I wish I could do that with every single thing I make, but for now I’ll pick and choose what I can go crazy on. This happened to be coast effective and plentiful enough to go the extra mile.

I wish ribeye were as cheap as cucumbers - that would be an experiment I could never get tired of!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Spicy Chicken Creamy Cucumber Tostada

Serves 4 to 6; 35 minutes
5 Cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 C Red onion, diced
1 pkg Ranch seasoning
1/2 C Sour cream
1/2 C Mayonnaise
1/4 C Pickle brine, strained from jar of bread and butter pickles
1 lb Ground chicken
1 tsp Onion powder
1 tsp Garlic powder
1 Tbs Chipotle chili powder
12 Tostadas
2 C Monterrey jack cheese, shredded
3/4 C Lettuce shredded
1/2 C Cherry tomatoes halved

Mix together
In a large bowl, mix together cucumber, onion, ranch seasoning, sour cream, mayo and pickle juice until thoroughly combined.

Cook chicken
In a sauté pan over medium heat cook chicken in a little olive oil until cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir and break up chunks while cooking, mix in chipotle, onion and garlic powder half way through.

Finish
In batches, place tostadas on a baking sheet with a spoonful of chicken and cheese. Cook in a preheated 400° oven until cheese is melted and tostadas crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and garnish with lettuce, tomato and cucumber salad.
Then serve.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Creamy Ranch Cucumber Salad


Printable version
The cucumber originated in India and was domesticated by the 7th century B.C., it spread from there to China and the Ancient Mediterranean regions, According to Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. The Romans ate cucumber and spread it throughout the empire reaching as far north as what is now modern day Britain. It made its way to the new world in 1494 when the Spanish brought it to Haiti. It quickly spread to Florida and North America through Native American tribes.

There are many varieties of cucumbers but most fall in one of two groups: pickling or slicing. In the U.S., California and the Southeast lead in growing slicing cucumbers while Michigan and North Carolina grow the most pickling variety.

For this recipe, I use fresh slicing cucumbers in a creamy salad. It gets a flavor boost from ranch seasoning and strained bread and butter pickle brine, favorites of mine that I always have in the pantry. This flavorful salad is perfect for picnics and a great way to use up any extra cucumbers picked fresh from the garden.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Creamy Ranch Cucumber Salad

This salad was the tastiest cucumber dish I have eaten in a long time. I shared it with my Mom and Dad and both were really impressed. Once again, a packet of ranch seasoning swoops in and takes a recipe to the ultra tasty level. This is one of a number of offerings I have created this summer that feature the seasoning and all are some of the best recipes I have made this year. I think it is time to make my own version.

Later today I will take leftovers of this recipe and use it on a spicy chicken tostada! I think it has the potential to be a great sauce as well, but I’ll start by using this along with some spicy chicken, jack cheese, lettuce and tomato on top of a crunchy tortilla.

Enough said.

Gotta get to work!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Creamy Ranch Cucumber Salad

Serves 4 to 6; 10 minutes
5 Cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 C Red onion, diced
1 pkg Ranch seasoning
1/2 C Sour cream
1/2 C Mayonnaise
1/4 C Pickle brine, strained from jar of bread and butter pickles

Mix together
In a large bowl, mix together cucumber, onion, ranch seasoning, sour cream, mayo and pickle juice until thoroughly combined, then serve.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Basic Italian and Honey Dijon Vinaigrette


Printable version
I was surprised by how easy and simple these vinaigrettes were to make. It seems I always have some sort of dressing tucked into the door of the fridge so I don’t think to make it from scratch. I’m glad I did though, both were made from stuff I always have around and were super easy, the only thing I didn’t have in my pantry were the fresh herbs.

I loved how light and fresh they tasted on the simple salads I dressed with them. This is just another example of the superiority homemade versus store-bought.

Further more, the better the extra virgin olive oil, the better these taste. It’s not a bad idea to have some of the good stuff hanging around to make a fresh vinaigrette if impressing guests is the goal or a lighter healthier salad dressing is sought.

BEHIND THIS BITE
When I decided I was going to make these I wanted to get a good bottle of extra virgin olive oil, so I went to the store specifically to get some.

I settled on a better-quality, higher-priced version than what I usually purchase. I got some other items I needed and proceeded to checkout. The groceries were bagged and I went on my way. I went and watched a ball game with my dad and then settled in at my computer around 11 p.m.

Basic Italian and Honey Dijon Vinaigrette
I got a message by e-mail from a friend’s mom who said I left a bag at the store. She was behind me in line and saw the checkout girl find the bag that was left behind and told her that she would contact me. Sure enough, the bag I left contained the $14 bottle of EVOO! It was to late to go back that night so I went back first thing in the morning.

When I got to the store I checked with customer service. The bottle was never turned in. There is a box for left behind items that the checkout workers put forgotten items and bags in. No such luck for me, I was out $14 and ended up having to purchase another bottle. I would have ordered some really great EVOO from some Italian distributor had I known I would end up throwing down a total of $28!

My guess is that the checkout girl did one of three things: Got lazy and left it at the checkout when she was done, put it back on the shelf or returned the item at her station before the end of the shift and kept the money. Either way, I lost on this one. Sometimes that's just the way it is.

On the bright side, these vinaigrettes were awesome!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPES
Makes 2 Cups each; 10 minutes
Italian vinaigrette
1 1/2 C Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C White wine vinegar
1 Tbs Fresh parsley, minced
1 tsp Garlic, minced
1 tsp Dried oregano

Honey dijon vinaigrette
1 1/2 C Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C White wine vinegar
1/4 C Dijon mustard
1/4 C Honey
2 tsp Chives, diced

Make vinaigrette
Mix all ingredients in a blender, sealed jar or in a bowl with a whisk until oil and vinegar have emulsified and mixture appears cloudy.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Creamy Bacon Jalapeño Bites


Printable version
This is the second of my cream cheese and sour cream appetizers that I created for a group of friends. (Here is the first.) This time, jalapeño and bacon are the star ingredients and a tortilla chip with a slice of cheddar cheese is the method of delivery.

This appetizer was inspired by the jalapeño popper and features many of the same items found in the popular bar snack. This was my favorite of all the little treats I put out for the gathering. Bacon makes anything great but when combined with jalapeño and cream cheese the salty and smoky flavor really stands out.

Next time I need appetizers for a party I’m going to start with this and go from there.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Creamy Bacon Jalapeño Bites

For the presentation of this treat I cut out a round piece of cheese that fit perfectly over the tortilla chip. Had I not been photographing this I would have just gone with a square piece of cheese.

I placed a small ramekin on a slice of cheddar and traced around it with a knife. I was able to get only one round piece out of each square slice, so I had a lot of scrapes of cheese left over when I was done. (Me and my dog snacked on them while I took the pictures.)

More and more I find myself doing things to the food for the sake of a good photograph that I wouldn't normally do. Everything is still edible though, I haven’t resorted to half-cooked pasta or near raw steaks with sear marks from curling irons yet. Although, I would consider it for the right amount of money!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Creamy Bacon Jalapeño Bites

Make 20 to 24 snacks; 1 hour
8 slices Bacon diced
1 pkg Cream cheese (8 oz)
1 C Sour cream
1/2 C Jalapeño pepper
seeded, diced
20 to 24 tortilla chips round
1 lb Cheddar Cheese cut into 20 to 24 sliced
1/4 C Chives, diced

Cook bacon
In a fry pan over medium heat cook bacon until rendered and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and let cool.

Make spread
In a large bowl mix together cream cheese, sour cream, bacon and jalapeño until well incorporated. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Cover and let flavors meld for at least 30 minutes.

Build appetizer

On a tortilla chip layer piece of cheese, spread and garnish with chives, then serve.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Creamy Tomato Basil Cucumber Bites


Printable version
Little treats to enjoy while socializing or as a prelude to a feast have been around for centuries, but in the United States the actual word “appetizer” began to appear during the 1860s, most likely as an English alternative to the French word “hors d’oeuvre” for a description of a first course or snack plate.

After the repeal of prohibition in 1933 cocktail parties became popular and countless appetizer recipes for snacks to enjoy with drinks began to appear. Around the same time, the modern model for the three course meal of appetizer, main course and desert emerged in restaurants.

For this recipe, tomato, basil and cucumber star in a garden fresh appetizer. The basil and tomato are the signature flavors and are bound together with cream cheese and sour cream. The mixture is placed on a slice of fresh cucumber and can be served before a hardy meal or as part of a slew of snacks to be enjoyed while sipping on cool beverages at gathering with friends and family.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Creamy tomato basil cucumber bites

This is the first of several appetizer bites I made recently for a gathering of friends. Here I use a cucumber as the mode of delivery and tomato and basil as the star flavors of this garden-fresh treat. When I decided to make these appetizers this was the first one I thought of.

As I was shopping for the ingredients I realized it would be easy to create a number of snacks by swapping out ingredients and changing the delivery method for each bite. The cream cheese and sour cream are the constants that all the snacks have in common. I was able to provide three different, but similar hor’s douvres in this manor. It’s an easy way to create a variety of tasty treats for getting a party started. Look for the Jalapeño-bacon version of this for my next post.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Creamy tomato basil cucumber bites

Makes 32 snacks, 20 minutes (30 minutes inactive)
1 pkg Cream cheese (8 oz)
1 C Sour cream
2 Tbs Fresh basil, minced
1 C Tomato, seeded, diced
32 slices Cucumber
Extra Basil for garnish

Make spread
In a large bowl mix together cream cheese, sour cream, basil and tomato until well incorporated. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Cover and let flavors meld for at least 30 minutes.

Build appetizer

On a slice of cucumber place a dollop of the spread and garnish with extra minced basil.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Skirt Steak with Smoked Cumin


Printable version
I was shopping recently and came across a spice rack in the produce section. All the spices were sold in small sealed bags rather than bottles. There was a large variety and a few wild cards, one of which really caught my attention: Smoked Cumin.

First of all, I love cumin, it’s probably my favorite seasoning beyond salt and pepper. I had never heard of smoked cumin so I had to buy some and try it. From the spice rack in produce I made a b-line to the meat counter. I love to grill steak with salt and pepper and a little cumin. It's very simple, the beef is the star and the cumin is a background note, I picked up a skirt steak and decided this was the canvas to try my new culinary paint.

The steak was delicious, which is what I expected, the smoked cumin was good, but the smoked flavor took away from the natural flavor of the cumin, which is kind of smoky anyway. I’ll need to try it again before I eliminate it, but if I had this to do again I would have used regular cumin, it seems to have a much better natural flavor than the smoked version. It was worth the try and I’ll experiment with it again. It won’t be a substitute for cumin in my pantry though. I’ll have to find something new that it works in.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Skirt Steak with Smoked Cumin

This was the steak component of a steak and potato dinner. You can find the potatoes here.  I have done it in two posts, because each can stand alone on their own. These recipes are simple, which is how I cook most of the time when I'm not photographing every element for a visual recipe.

I always try to add a little more to a dish I’m documenting. It takes time to create these and I feel obligated to go the extra mile most of the time. These two recipes are just the basic-I’m hungry-lets eat-kind of meal.

I’m glad I documented them.

I’m pleased with their look, especially the shot of the final dish that anchors the potato recipe. I should do this a little more.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Skirt Steak with Smoked Cumin

Serves 4; 45 minutes
1 1/2 lbs Skirt steak
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
2 tsp Smoked cumin

Season, grill and rest steak
Preheat and prepare a grill to medium high. Season steak with salt, pepper and smoked cumin on both sides and let steak rest for 20 to 25 minutes. Place steak on grill and cook for 8 to 10 minutes for medium doneness, turning once during cooking. Remove steak from grill and let rest for 10 minutes to redistribute juices. Slice across the grain, then serve.

Rosemary Roasted Red Potatoes


Printable version
Sometimes simple is just better. A potato is delicious when it is cooked perfectly with salt and pepper. The addition of a fresh herb is an easy way to crank up the flavor. This potato dish is as simple as it gets and it turned out incredibly tasty, the difficult part about it was being patient enough to allow the potatoes to roast until they were fluffy and delicious.

These potatoes were a side dish to a grilled skirt steak, so they didn’t need to be fancy - just cooked right. The addition of rosemary elevated the flavor and gave it a nice fragrance which allowed it to stand out on the plate but not over power the star attraction.

It is essential to have them seasoned properly and coated with oil, turning or tossing them half way through will help the process also. A perfectly cooked potato is pretty much heaven on a plate.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Rosemary Roasted Red Potatoes

I went out and bought the cast iron dish in the photos specifically for this recipe. I had noticed it at a Kroger store and when I started thinking about roasting potatoes I knew it was the perfect dish to cook AND photograph them in.

I’m really pleased with the main art for this recipe, there really isn’t much to the graphic, the dynamic photo really helps make it pop. The towel underneath the cast iron vessel adds to the detail of the shot as well. I’m going to use some of these element in the future, the angle of the dish and towel for extra color work and are things I think I can build on when the dish calls for it.

I’m done rambling. Go make these tasty spuds!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Rosemary Roasted Red Potatoes

Serves 4; 1 hour, 15 minutes
1 1/2 lbs Red potatoes, quartered
1 Tbs Olive oil
1 Tbs Fresh rosemary, minced
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper

Season and roast potatoes
Pre-heat oven to 400°. In a bowl toss together potatoes, olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper until evenly coated. Place potatoes in an oven safe dish and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until cooked through and slightly crispy on the outside. Stir potatoes halfway through cooking. Let potatoes rest between 5 and 10 minutes after removing from oven then serve.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Spicy Refried Beans


Printable version
This recipe is an update of a basic refried bean dish I made back in May. This time I added some choice spices and a little cheese to the final product. I also tried to extract some heat and flavor from three habanero peppers while I cooked the beans.

I was going for a much spicier bean dip than what I ended up with. I have used this habanero extraction technique before in barbecue sauce and it worked like a charm, but for some reason it didn’t translate with the beans, I’m not sure but I think the amount of beans to the ratio of liquid might have been what neutralized the heat. It was a little spicy but not habanero spicy.

I could have gotten much more kick by skipping the habanero and just adding cayenne pepper in the final stage. The habanero was tame but the jalapeno pepper and the pepper jack cheese were able to bring a little kick of their own to the party.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Spicy refried beans

I put together a nacho bar for a church gathering recently and decided it was a good opportunity to improve on my refried bean recipe from a few months back. I have found that nacho, taco or even hot dog bars are some of the best ways to feed a group of people. All you need is a variety of toppings to go along with the main proteins.

Not everyone at the party is going to put all the items on their hot dog or nachos, they will pick and choose. This can backfire if everyone goes over board, but in general, enough of each topping to cover half to three-quarters of the guests is usually more than enough. If something runs out then people have other options.

If your not sure what to take to the next family get together try a couple bags of tortilla chips, canned chili and nacho cheese, throw in some fresh onions and tomato and I’ll bet it’ll be a hit.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Spicy refried beans

Makes 4 Cups; 4 hours
1 lb Dried pinto beans
3 Habanero peppers
8 C water
1 Tbs Salt
1/2 C Onion,diced
1/4 C Jalapeno, seeded, diced
1 Tbs Garlic, minced
2 Tbs Chili powder
1 Tbs Cumin
1 C Pepper Jack cheese, shredded

Prepare beans
Place beans in a large sauce pan or soup pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Let sit at least one hour then drain. Return beans to pot with fresh water and salt. Cut slices in habanero peppers and throw in pot. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered until soft, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the liquid. Discard habanero peppers.

Make refried beans

In a cast iron skillet over medium heat saute onion and jalapeno in a little olive oil until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the beans and mash, add some of reserved water to make a paste-like mixture (amount may vary). Stir in chili powder, cumin and a quarter cup of cheese. Once melted add another quarter cup of cheese, repeat until gone. Adjust seasoning and simmer to a desired thickness, then serve.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Chipotle Aioli


Printable version
The first time I ever tried chipotle aioli was at my favorite beer joint in Astoria, Queens called Sunswick. I would always ask for a side of it when I ordered their chicken tenders. I liked dipping the crispy tender into the smoky goodness before each bite. For years I made a homemade version by mixing minced chipotle pepper with mayonnaise. It was always tasty but it was never as good as what I had eaten at the Sunswick.

Recently I had a couple of chipotle peppers left over from another recipe – which is typical. I always seem to have a third of the can or more leftover every time I use them and they usually end up getting thrown away after a month in the fridge. Instead of letting the chipotle peppers go to waste I made it a point to use them. I decided it was time to make a chipotle aioli from scratch, not the easy chipotle mayo version I’d been making for years.

I made regular garlic aioli sometime ago that was inspired by a version from Cook’s Illustrated, it was ok, but after making it, I thought the olive oil the recipe called for wasn’t the right choice. I decided I would throw out any health conscious whims and use vegetable oil for the this aioli along with a few other modifications including the addition of two tablespoons of miced chipotle peppers.

When it was all said and done, I really loved the flavor of this aioli, it took me back to the tasty chipotle aioli I enjoyed at the Sunswick.

I realized the Sunswick was making it from scratch, which is why my previous attempts of chipotle mayo were never quit as tasty as the aioli. If you have a few chipotles left in the bottom of a can I highly recommend trying this for a spread, or do what I did with this batch - use it as a dipping sauce for fries.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Chipotle Aioli

It’s hard to believe that it has been over three years since I moved from New York City and enjoyed the chipotle aioli at the Sunswick. There are times when I really miss New York but I have to admit leaving was the best choice I have ever made. I've grown creatively, spiritually and best of all – reconnected with my family.

There may be a point in my life where I decide to reside in the Big Apple once again because I will always have a soft spot for it. I didn’t leave because of New York itself, I left to explore the place I grew up and to try and reinvent myself professionally. I feel like I have (with a long way to go yet) and I’m more inspired than ever to keep creating, it’s gotten me this far and I can’t wait to see where it will take me in the future.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Chipotle aioli

Makes 1 cup; 5 minutes
2 Egg yolks
1 Tbs Lemon juice
1 tsp Garlic, finely minced
1/4 tsp sugar
2 Tbs Chipotle in adobo, minced
3/4 C Vegetable oil

Make aioli in processor
Place yolks, lemon juice, sugar, garlic, chipotle, salt and pepper to taste in a food processor. Pulse to combine ingredients. Turn processor on and slowly drizzle in oil. Once all the oil has been incorporated and aioli forms, stop processor and scrap down sides. Turn on for another few seconds more, remove and place in a bowl for service.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sweet Pickle Ranch Chicken Salad


Printable version
It’s official. Ranch seasoning mix is now a “staple” item in my pantry. Normally I don’t like seasoning packets because of the sodium and preservatives that they contain. The ranch seasoning has all that stuff but it’s a great way to take recipes to the next level.

Over the last couple months, I’ve made ranch coleslaw, 2 different sauces and now this chicken salad that utilizes the seasoning and it really makes the flavor pop! Maybe I should try and make a homemade version because I’m hooked and looking forward to trying it in more dishes.

For this recipe, I use the pickle-ranch combo that I used in a delicious sauce a couple weeks ago. The chicken salad also contains fresh tarragon which adds a hint of liquorice, which reminds me of fennel.

Overall, this chicken salad contained a ton of flavor, led by the zesty ranch and complimented by the sweet but tart pickle flavor. The tarragon comes to play at the end of the bite, but really makes it’s presence know. I think I could have swapped the pickle for bacon and taken this the smoky and salty route which would have been equally unique and delicious, but I think that is for another post.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Sweet Pickle Ranch Chicken Salad

I found mini bagels at Meijer while shopping for the ingredients in the chicken salad recipe and as soon as I saw them I knew I had to use them for the bread. I'm glad I picked them up because the photo seems to jump right out of the graphic.

I have worked really hard over the last two years to become a better food photographer and sandwiches and tacos are my favorite things to style and shoot. They stand alone on a white background really well – actually I like food that can be eaten by hand, that way there is no plate in the picture, it’s just what is going to be eaten. In the end, I love shooting all types of food, it just seems that the sandwiches and tacos are my favorite photographs to take. Ironically, they're also my favorite foods to eat!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Sweet Pickle Ranch Chicken Salad

Serves 6; 10 minutes active, 30 minutes resting
3 C Grilled chicken, diced
1 C Mayonnaise
1/2 C Celery, diced
1/2 C Bread and butter pickles, diced
1 pkg Ranch seasoning mix (1 oz)
1 Tbs Tarragon, minced
Juice of 1 Lemon
8 to 10 Mini bagels
Lettuce for garnish

Make chicken salad
In a large bowl mix together, chicken, mayonnaise, celery, pickles, ranch seasoning, tarragon and lemon juice. Store in refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld.

Assemble sandwiches

Place a spoonful of chicken salad on a mini bagel, garnish with lettuce, then serve.