orzo with red cherries & basil

Summer produce is in full swing. We’re in that magical sweet spot where raspberries are bountiful, blackberries are just beginning to make an appearance, peaches are getting sweeter, nectarines are juicy, and there are even a few straggling strawberries left to be picked.

And then there are cherries. Sweet, juicy cherries with that gorgeous blood-red color that screams summer. But what to do with them that’s new and inventive? I recently had a mind-blowing orzo salad at my Aunt’s house that I couldn’t stop thinking about. I thought it would be fabulous with a few red cherries and tons of sweet basil. A savory use for cherries? It’s just what August ordered.

To make it, you’ll also need balsamic vinegar, olive oil, good quality grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (throw that green can of Kraft out the window. Please.), and some pine nuts. Most better grocers carry orzo (a rice-shaped pasta) on the pasta aisle.

Bright red cherries are truly summer in a bowl.

And sweet basil? My favorite herb, hands down.

To begin, cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain and place in a heat-proof bowl.

Stir in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Let cool, then place in the refrigerator to chill.

Right before you’re ready to eat, pit the cherries and chop into sixths.

Chop the basil. Your kitchen will smell heavenly.

Toss the cherries, basil, pine nuts and cheese into the pasta. Stir, and adjust the seasonings to taste (I added a few pinches of salt and a little extra vinegar).

Serve. It’s such a pretty summer salad, and would be fantastic next to grilled pork, chicken or salmon.

So easy to make, so flavorful, so summery. Happy August!

Orzo with Red Cherries & Basil adapted from Bon Appetit      printable recipe

This summery pasta salad can be made in advance and pairs well with grilled pork, chicken or salmon. Prep time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes plus time to refrigerate.

  • 1 lb orzo
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar, plus more to taste
  •  1/2 lb red cherries
  • 2 oz basil to yield roughly 1/2 c chopped
  • 1/3 c grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 c pine nuts
  • salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain well and place in a heat-proof bowl. Stir in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, stir well and allow to cool. Cover and place in the refrigerator until chilled.
2. Pit the cherries and cut into sixths. Remove basil leaves from stems and chop.
3. Right before serving, toss the chilled orzo with the cherries, basil, cheese and pine nuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper and additional vinegar if desired.

chicken teriyaki

We don’t have a heck of a lot of fast food in Seattle. Most folks around here snub their noses at McDonald’s, Burger King and Arby’s (all for good reason, although I admit I occasionally indulge in the King’s chicken sangwich from time to time when I’m traveling). If we do have a signature “fast food” though, it’s surely teriyaki. Teriyaki joints in the Big Rainy are almost as frequent as coffee shops. I’ve yet to find one that’s spectacular, but most are passable and can provide you with a quick, somewhat healthy lunch. It’s cheap, filling, and satisfying.

But as is the case with most takeout, you can make it better at home. In fact, you can make great chicken teriyaki, and it’s easier than you think.

Start with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. You’ll get the best flavor from the organic, free-range variety. Since this is a very simple dish, the quality of chicken you buy really matters. Grab your favorite teriyaki sauce (I like Yoshida’s Original Gourmet Sauce—stay far away from Kikkoman), and a few cloves of garlic.

Mince the garlic. I like my handy dandy garlic twist. All you do is stick the naked cloves in…

…give it a twirl and your garlic is perfectly minced. Plus, no smelly garlic hands.

Stir the garlic in with the teriyaki sauce.

Rinse and pat dry your chicken thighs, then place them in a large Ziploc bag. Pour in the teriyaki marinade. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or up to 24.

When you’re ready to eat, grill the chicken for 3-4 minutes per side over medium heat. I always use thighs when I’m going to grill chicken—the higher fat content means they won’t dry out like breasts do.

Slice. Serve. Savor.

It’s your favorite takeout, but at home. With much more flavor. And probably cheaper. No need to visit that Teriyaki joint at the strip mall again.

-RDG

Chicken Teriyaki  printable yaki

The key to this simple dish is quality chicken and good teriyaki sauce. Buy organic, free-range chicken if you can. Serves 3-4 as a main course. 

Prep Time: 5 minutes       Marinating Time: at least 6 hours     Cook Time: 8 minutes

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 c teriyaki sauce
1. Rinse the chicken thighs. Pat dry and place in a large Ziploc bag.
2. Mince the garlic. Stir into the teriyaki sauce. Pour sauce over chicken, seal, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or up to 24 hours.
3. Preheat grill to medium. Grill chicken thighs for 3-4 minutes per side, or until no longer pink in the center. Serve with rice and vegetables.

 

 

pasta salad with greek chicken and whipped feta

One evening while sailing the Mediterranean, a glass of ouzo in hand and the setting sun on our faces, we were asked an important question: what would you like for dinner? The boat’s chef Stavros was eager to please, making us anything from poached sea bass to Nutella with yogurt. We felt like something light and fresh but also traditionally Greek, since we could spy the coastline rich with olive trees not a mile away. Stavros nodded and disappeared back into the cabin, only to emerge 30 minutes later with two plates of pasta. Tender noodles were dressed with tomatoes, cucumber and olives, topped with the most heavenly grilled chicken I have ever smelled and a creamy feta sauce. We ate on the bow perched on a blanket, each bite washed down with a crisp white wine.

After dinner we dove into the water for a midnight swim. The moonlight bounced along each small wave and we bobbed along happily with full tummies, pleasantly drunk, our skin still warm from the sun.

And then I woke up. The baby was crying. I got tangled in a cloud of balloon strings on the way to the bathroom. Crap. It was a dream. Greece seemed maddeningly far away.

On the bright side, I had dream-invented a recipe. I had been reading this recipe from Saveur right before bed, and naturally my subconscious put my own twist on it. It also invented the perfect vacation that I won’t be able to take for several years, but at this point I’ll just have to settle for this pasta salad. This fresh, light pasta salad topped with juicy herbed chicken and a cool, creamy feta sauce.

 

To make it, you’ll first need to marinate some chicken thighs. Breasts work too, although I find chicken thighs with their fattier, darker meat grill better and stay more moist. For the marinade, grab some olive oil, oregano, lemon, garlic, thyme, basil, salt and pepper. Use fresh herbs whenever possible.

Place the ingredients in a small food processor or blender.

Whip it on up.

Rinse the chicken, place in a large freezer bag and coat with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, preferably 24.

For the pasta and sauce you’ll need noodles (tube-shaped work best; I like mostaccioli), kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, sour cream, grape or cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, lemon, and cucumber.

To make the whipped feta sauce, toss the feta, sour cream, lemon juice, and olive oil in the food processor.

Blend until smooth.

Cook the pasta and let drain.

Chop up the tomatoes and cucumber into whatever shape and size you like.

Drain some olives…

…and give them a quick chop.

Drain some sun dried tomatoes, reserving the oil.

Run your knife through those as well.

Toss the pasta with the reserved sun dried tomato oil and throw in the veggies.

When you’re ready to eat, preheat your grill to medium.

Grill the chicken thighs for roughly 6-7 minutes per side, or until juices run clear and the middles are no longer pink.

The marinade makes this chicken impossibly moist—it reminds me of the chicken you’ll find in most shawarmas at Greek restaurants. It will give you serious garlic breath, but it’s worth it.

Serve the chicken atop a helping of pasta with a dollop of feta sauce on top.

I’m so pissed at my subconscious for taunting me with the sunny Mediterranean and then yanking it away, but thankful that it left me with the idea for this recipe.

Would it have killed you, brain, to leave me with Stavros as well? He was pretty easy on the eyes, and a fantastic chef to boot.

-RDG

Pasta Salad With Greek Chicken & Whipped Feta, inspired by this recipe from Saveur Click for the handy dandy printable

Serves 8 as a main course.

Inactive Prep Time: at least 8 hours for marinating chicken. Active Prep Time: 30 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes

For the chicken:

  • 2 small lemons or 1 large
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • several sprigs fresh oregano, or 1 tsp dried
  • several sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried
  • several leaves fresh basil, or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 8-10 boneless skinless chicken thighs, rinsed

1) Juice lemons into small food processor. Add olive oil, garlic, oregano, thyme, basil, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth.

2) Place chicken in a large freezer bag. Pour in marinade. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or up to 3 days.

For the whipped feta:

  • 4 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 c sour cream or plain yogurt
  • salt and pepper to taste

1) Place feta, olive oil and sour cream or yogurt in a small food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the pasta salad:

  • 1 lb tube-shaped pasta
  • 2 tbsp sun dried tomato oil (from jar of sun dried tomatoes packed in oil)
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 15-20 cherry tomatoes, cut in halves or quarters
  • 1/3 c chopped kalamata olives
  • 1/4 c chopped sun dried tomatoes

1) Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Toss with the sun dried tomato oil.

2) Toss pasta with the cucumber, tomatoes, olives and sun dried tomatoes. Top with one chicken thigh and a dollop of whipped feta. Serve.

tortilla soup

I’m having an affair.

With my slow cooker.

It started out as a fling. An cheese dip here. A pot of chili there. But it quickly escalated into a full-fledged relationship. We were soon making pot roasts together. Cuban pork. Dinners good enough for (gasp!) entertaining.

My husband eventually found out.

He’s okay with it.

If you too are having a relationship with a kitchen appliance, then follow my lead and make this tasty, ridiculously easy tortilla soup.

I won’t tell.

Start with some chicken. Light or dark meat–just make it about 2 pounds worth, boneless, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1″ pieces, please.

Then grab some cilantro. Washed and dried. About 1 cup with stems removed, plus a few sprigs more for garnish.

Rummage through your pantry, or Hispanic food aisle, and find one can of green chilies.

Canned green chilies are probably called blasphemy in Santa Fe. But on my turf, I call them awesome.

Also grab one can cream of mushroom soup (it’ll keep the soup a bit creamy)…

…one can of red enchilada sauce…

…and one can of whole stewed tomatoes.

Also grab one yellow (or sweet) onion…

…and half a head of garlic.

Find yourself about a cup and a half of chicken stock. I cheat and make mine from bullion cubes. Because I’m lazy.

Finally, for spice, you’ll need one bay leaf and about a teaspoon each of cumin and cayenne.

Oh, and corn. One cup (or as much as you’d like) frozen or canned or fresh or freezer-burned.

Also have some tortillas on hand for later.

Throw the chicken in your slow cooker and season well with salt and pepper.

Pour in all the canned stuff, chicken stock, and the cilantro…

…and give it a stir.

Next, chop the onion and the garlic. I never do crazy fine chopping for slow cooker meals because it’s all about the flavor that the ingredients bring to the dish—not how they’re prepared. And also because…I’m lazy. But you already knew that.

Toss in the onion, garlic and corn…

…add your spices…

…and give it a good stir. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5.

Before serving, you’ll want to make some tortilla strips. Because, really, that’s the only reason it’s called tortilla soup, and not chicken-and-a-bunch-of-other-junk soup. Brush them lightly with oil and sprinkle on a little salt.

Toast under the broiler on a baking sheet for about 2 minutes a side, or until they’re crunchy and slightly browned.

Slice into 1/2″ strips.

By now, your soup should be looking and smelling deeelicious.

Serve topped with tortilla strips, a dollop of sour cream, and some fresh cilantro. You know, if you feel like it.

Husband likes his piled high with a little sharp cheddar. Okay, a lot of sharp cheddar.

Oh, this soup warms my tummy. It’s got just enough spice and a whole lotta chicken-y, corn-y, chile-y, tomato-ey goodness.

Make this sometime this week to warm up a chilly night.

Happy Tuesday!

-RDG

Tortilla Soup

  • 2 pounds chicken, boneless, chopped into 1″ pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 can green chilies
  • 1 can whole stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can red enchilada sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup whole kernel corn
  • 4 tortillas
  • sour cream and grated cheese for topping (optional)

Combine first 13 ingredients in a slow cooker and mix well. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.

Brush tortillas with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and place on a baking sheet. Set oven to broil and place tortillas under broiler for 2 minutes per side, or until slightly brown and crunchy. Chop into 1″2 slices.

Serve soup sprinkled with tortilla strips and garnish with sour cream, cilantro, and grated cheese if desired.