Posts Tagged ‘Bell Peppers’
I wouldn’t judge you if you took a look at that big sloppy mess of reddish-looking chicken piled on top of a piece of bread and thought in your head that no, this is not one of those recipes that I will be making any time soon. Let’s both be honest and admit that it’s not the prettiest thing to be posted in the food blog world. And even if it were pretty, we have to face the fact of what it is: chicken salad. Chicken salad, fancied up a little bit with some sort of Spanish twist (however contrived).
But really, when was the last time you made chicken salad, let alone ate it? The only chicken salad I had been familiar with–however theoretically that familiarity is–is the classic mayo-based salad filled with halved grapes and candied pecans. Not the most enticing thing I think, at least to me. I used to think chicken salad was a meal that just wasn’t in my cards.
Cook’s Illustrated started to change my mind about that when they set out to develop a series of chicken salad recipes that weren’t weighed down by mayonnaise but were instead fresher and lighter, with bolder flavors. One variation of chicken salad they ended up developing featured a roasted red pepper vinaigrette base. This, along with the fact that I had a 16-ounce jar of roasted red bell peppers in my cupboards just waiting to be used, was enough for me to enter what I had once considered the forbidden land of chicken salad.
(As a side note, yes I did use pre-roasted, jarred red bell peppers in this recipe. Even though bell peppers are in the height of their season right now. I needn’t express my guilt as a self-proclaimed food-loving and food-trend-following person. Because, to be honest with you, the ease factor outweighs any sort of guilt I feel. If you want, you can of course roast your own bell peppers. Instructions can be found here.)
So I made the chicken salad. And, lo and behold, I liked it. A lot. A lot of credit goes to the roasted red pepper vinaigrette itself—I have leftovers of it in a little jar in my fridge just waiting to be used on salads, or used as a dip for even more toast (still haven’t broken my toast habit). But I think I like it best with the chicken. Something about the acidity of the vinaigrette with the fattiness of the chicken. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which I think I prefer in the case of shredding it up to be eaten cold as a salad. But you may of course use white chicken breasts, if you’d like. Besides that, the other little goodies in the salad–more diced roasted red bell peppers, green olives, and sliced almonds–round out the chicken salad part of the meal. Because, after all, what would a cold chicken salad be without some token crunchy and tasty add-ins?
I am now somewhat pleased to say I might be a chicken-salad convert. I have dreams of packaging it up for a picnic where it’d be piled on top of bread and eaten in the sun. This of course is probably not ever going to happen, but you know, a girl can hope. Still, I consider it a win to be able to sit down for dinner and eat some cold chicken salad and for it to be actually pretty enjoyable. I’m even tempted to press my luck and try out some other chicken salad recipes. The Thai-style variation with a spicy peanut dressing offered by Cook’s Illustrated is particularly calling my name. If I ever get so bold to continue on and try that, I’ll let you know.
One Year Ago: Sweet and Spicy African Peanut Soup
Spanish-Style Chicken Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Serves 4 to 6
I poached the chicken for the salad, just because I thought it was the easiest way to ensure tender and juicy chicken. You may, of course, cook your chicken any way you’d like, though. Or just get a store-bought rotisserie chicken, as the original recipe suggests.
Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 ounces (about 200 grams) roasted red bell peppers, diced (about 2/3 cup)
1 big clove of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs
1 shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
2 medium ribs celery, sliced very thin (about 1 cup)
5 ounces (200 grams) roasted red bell peppers, diced (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 cup chopped green olives
small handful of parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
First, make the vinaigrette. Puree oil, 2/3 cup roasted red bell peppers, garlic, salt and a few big pinches worth of fresh ground pepper in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a glass jar with a lid; set aside.
To prepare and cook the chicken, fill a deep 12-inch skillet with water until the water level reaches about 2/3 the way up in the pan. While you’re at it, throw in a good 1/2 teaspoon or so of salt in the water to flavor it. Bring water to a steady simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, carefully place the chicken in the liquid so that it’s fully submerged and allow to poach, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through. This will depend on the cut and size of meat you have, but for chicken breasts this should take between 15 to 20 minutes, and around 12 or so minutes for chicken thighs. Remove from broth and set aside. Once cool enough to handle, shred the chicken meat into pieces about 2-inches long (discarding any fat or sinewy pieces if necessary). You should have about 5 cups of shredded chicken, more or less. Transfer to a bowl.
Add the shallot, celery, 2/3 cup of red bell pepper, green olives and parsley to the chicken; loosely stir to combine. Add about half the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Depending on how much chicken you have, you may want to add more or less vinaigrette. I’d just keep adding the vinaigrette in tablespoons until the chicken is dressed enough to your liking. Taste for salt and pepper. Sprinkle with almonds, and serve.
I got it in my head awhile ago that the food from the Provencal region of France was the best in the world. It had the qualities of both of my favorite cuisines (French and Italian, of course): the focus on fresh, simple ingredients of the Mediterranean like the Italians, but with the refinement and technique of still being able to produce a beautiful pate brisee or a creme anglais of the French. Since then, whenever I see a Provencal-esque recipe, I take note of it.
This recipe was one of those times. I don’t think this exactly qualifies as Provencal, because it doesn’t have most of its obvious and signatory ingredients (olives, capers, eggplant, tomatoes, anchovies). Yet the whole thing just seemed to fit for me: with flavors of sweet roasted bell peppers and caramelized onions, fresh herbs of thyme and basil, salty bites of proscuitto, and all contrasted against tangy goat cheese. After being suspended between some cream and eggs and in a flaky tart shell, the whole thing bakes up to be a delicious, creamy, salty-sweet snack or light meal any time of the day.
I baked up two of these tarts—one for my parents to take with them on a mini-camping trip to share with their friends, and another for my family to enjoy at home over the next few days (as in, everyone takes a few slivers for a day or two until my dad just commits to the entire last third of it for lunch). I sadly don’t have a tart pan, so I baked up on in a pie pan, and another in an over-sized, ceramic tart-ish dish thing.
Although the whole process of making the tarts took up a pretty good chunk of time, almost everything about them can be made ahead of time, or over the period of a few days, and then assembled and baked the day you’re planning to serve it. Get the tart dough made and in the fridge to chill; roast the peppers and set aside; caramelize the onions and set aside—you get the picture.
The extended time it takes to prepare the components is a testament to the quality of the final dish, though: the flavors are complex and rich, while tasting rustic, simple, and laid-back at the same time. Although I love the combination of flavors showcased here, I think the recipe is almost asking to have some variations and adaptions thrown at it. I’m not the most adept or confident in boldly changing up the recipe; however, if you try out something new, let me know. Especially if that variation causes the tart to only fall further under my qualifications as “Provencal,” of course.
One Year Ago: Chicken Empanadas with Chorizo and Green Olives
Roasted Pepper, Proscuitto and Goat Cheese Tart
From Fine Cooking May 2008, via use real butter
Serves 6 to 8
1 baked and cooled tart shell, recipe below
3 medium red, orange or yellow bell peppers
2 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 thin slices prosciutto, cut into thin strips
6 large basil leaves, chopped (about 2 tablespoons tightly packed)
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
First, roast the bell peppers. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F and have a rack positioned in the center. Place the bell peppers on an aluminum-lined baking sheet, and place in the preheated oven. Turn the peppers about every 15 minutes, as they wrinkle and blacken. Roast for 45 to 60 minutes, until the majority of the skin has blackened and the peppers have started to look like they’re falling apart a little bit. Remove from the oven, place in a large glass bowl, and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. This will allow the peppers to sweat and separate from their charred skin easier. Once cool enough to handle, the skin should pull off easily from the peppers. Peel, core, and de-seed the peppers, and then slice them into thin strips about 1/2 inch in width. Set aside.
Next, caramelize the onions. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stirring often, saute the onions, about a 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, a good pinch of the black pepper, and half of the thyme together until the onions become golden brown, soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
When ready to assemble the tart and the filling, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and have a rack centered din the middle position.
In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and eggs together. Season with a heavy pinch of salt and a dusting of black pepper. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the roasted peppers (discarding any liquid that has accumulated as the peppers have rested), caramelized onions, the remaining half of the thyme, sliced prosciutto, and chopped basil until well mixed and evenly distributed.
Fill the baked and cooled tart shell (still in its pan) with the roasted pepper mixture and spread evenly. Sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese over the filling, and then pour in the egg and cream mixture until the tart is full. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is evenly golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and serve at warm or room temperature.
Tart Shell, or Pate Sucree
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes one 9 or 10-inch single crust tart
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into little pieces
1 large egg yolk, beaten
3-4 tablespoons cold water
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse flour and salt together until well combined. Add cold butter pieces, and pulse until the mixture resembles what is often referred to as “coarse sand,” about 8 pulses. Add the egg yolk, and pulse until combined, about 3 to 4 pulses. Adding one tablespoon of cold water at a time with the machine running, pulse until the mixture just starts to hold together without being wet or sticky; the dough should still look crumbly but will hold together when pinched between two fingers.
Invert the contents on to a clean work surface and press together into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour, or up to overnight. (Note: if chilling overnight, the dough will need 15 to 20 minutes to defrost on the counter at room temperature before being rolled out.)
When ready to use, roll the cold dough into a round circle on a lightly floured surface until about 12 to 13 in diameter. Line the 9 or 10-inch tart pan with the dough without stretching it, and press it gently into shape. Trim excess dough from the pan by running a rolling pin over the top of the tart. Chill in the freezer for 30 minutes (to prevent the dough from shrinking when baking).
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack centered in the middle position. Once chilled and ready to bake, line the tart dough with aluminum foil and and weigh down with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, until the dough looks light and golden. Remove the foil and pie weights and continue to bake the tart shell for another 10 minutes, or until it is completely golden. Cool completely, making sure to press down any domed bubbles that appeared in the crust while baking.
I know this soup may not look like the most appealing thing in the world—especially during this wonderful transition time of the seasons we’re currently caught between. I mean, it didn’t to me. Why make something like African peanut soup of all things when you could be getting your last go of summer and adding roasted tomatoes into everything, or satisfying the first glimpses of fall with nutty pumpkin recipes and, ahem, a whole-wheat date bread?
Well because, to be honest with you, this soup is exactly the kind of thing you don’t really think or have daydreams about. It’s not the kind of thing that I would exactly put under my “make as soon as possible” bookmark, and I’m guessing that’s how it is with you, too. But next time you find yourself this fall with nothing in your fridge but a couple sweet potatoes, an onion, and a jar of peanut butter, pull out this recipe and give it a try.
You’ll find that after a little bit of chopping here, a little bit of waiting there, and a whirl of pureeing at the end, you’ll end up with a flavorful, exotic and satisfying soup. Carrots, red bell pepper, sweet potatoes and a touch of honey make a savory-sweet base. This is accented by a slight kick of ginger and heat of cayenne pepper, and the whole thing gets rounded together by smooth peanut butter. Sprinkle chopped green onion and roasted peanuts on top, and what more could you ask for on a weeknight when all you want is a comforting bowl of thick soup and a hunk of bread to dunk in it?
It’s a tasty, easy soup that packs a surprising complexity of flavors in the short amount of time it takes to make it. It gets better after a day or two, as the flavors meld and the texture gets even thicker (trust me on this, I’ve had it for dinner every night this week). It didn’t scream out to me as the essence-of-the-season, seize-the-opportunity-now type of meal to me at first, but somehow having a big pot of it sitting in my fridge waiting for me whenever I want a warm bowl of soup has made it quite the comforting thing, perfect for right now.
Sweet and Spicy African Peanut Soup
Adapted from Ellie Krieger’s The Food You Crave
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced (about two cups)
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 medium carrots, diced
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons peeled ginger, grated
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
2/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter
2 teaspoons honey
½ cup chopped scallion greens (about three scallions)
Roasted peanuts, for garnish and crunch
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and carrots and cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften, about 5-7 minutes. Add the cayenne, black pepper, garlic, and ginger and cook for about 1 minute more. Stir in the sweet potatoes, then the broth and tomatoes and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender or in a regular blender in a few batches (never filling the blender more than half-way at a time), and return the soup to the pot. Over low heat, add the honey and peanut butter and stir until the peanut butter melts. Serve warm, garnished with scallions and roasted peanuts.
So everyone, I’ve been really into Spain lately. It all started when I picked up a copy of Penelope Casas’ cookbook entitled The Foods and Wines of Spain at the sale section of my public library for two dollars (!) last week, and has continued on as I’ve been spending the last of my summer days reading Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. Oh yeah, and my family went out last night to a Spanish-Basque tapas restaurant which was no less than fantastic, only furthering my new found belief that Spain is the current New World of cuisine and culture.
Do I sound a little bit over the top? Well I can’t really help it and truth be told, even if I could help it I would probably still want to remain in my own romanticized view that Spain really is as wonderful as I’m making it out to be. In addition to this, once I become obsessed with something I just can’t stop at the personal enjoyment I’m getting from it, I want the whole world to love it too. So yes! You should be really into Spanish cuisine and all of that because I say so. But if you need more convincing, here is a nice quote from the preface of Penelope Casas’ book:
“For Spaniards, eating is a social occasion that often takes place outside the home, and their eating schedule reflects a large amount of time spent in cafeterias, bars, cafes and restaurants… Spaniards never skimp. It seems that the day never ends in Spain, beginning for most before 8 a.m. with hot coffee or chocolate, toast or those wonderful strips of freshly fried dough called churros, and continuing well past midnight for many, especially in the summer. Is it any wonder, with the day revolving around food, that “on time” performance and efficiency are not among Spain’s shining glories?”
Oh, how lovely! Anyway, this current phase I’m going through has culminated in my trying out one of the dishes from Casas’ book. I ended up choosing a recipe for an empanada, Spanish style, filled with red peppers (pimientos) and tuna. Unlike its Latin American counterpart, Spanish empanadas are not made as individual hand-held pockets, but rather one large pie that can be later cut up to serve as tapas or a light dinner or lunch, served alongside a salad. I loved the recipe–it created a savory, well-rounded filling sandwiched in between fluffy layers of yeasted empanada dough. The dough may sound a little fussy, what with cooking and straining and reserving, but it’s simple and straightforward and results in an easy-to-work-with and very forgiving pie dough.
Not into tuna and red peppers? I’m planning to make another batch of empanada pie dough to be filled with a spinach and pine nut mixture, or one made with a sausage like chorizo. On the other hand, if you don’t want to go through the time of making the yeasted pie dough, you can create the pepper tuna filling to be filled in sandwiches, added to eggs, or to be stuffed in Latin-American style pocket empanadas.
Tuna and Red Pepper Pie (Empanada de Bonito)
Adapted from Penelope Casas’ The Foods and Wines of Spain
Amy’s Notes: You will most likely have remaining oil from the empanada dough recipe. Feel free to use the extra onion and garlic infused oil for other purposes as you see fit. Also feel free to substitute the red peppers for green, or for adding a bit more canned tuna if you’d like.
Empanada dough (recipe follows below)
2 red peppers, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons reserved oil (remaining from dough recipe)
reserved onion and garlic (from dough recipe)
10-ounces canned light meat tuna (about 1 1/2 cans)
4 tablespoons tomato sauce
2 tablespoons water
freshly ground pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
Prepare the dough the day before according to instructions. In a skillet over medium heat saute the red peppers in the reserved oil, covered, until tender and slightly softened (about 7 or 8 minutes). Add the reserved onion and garlic, the tuna and the tomato sauce and cook, uncovered for about 5 minutes. Stir in the water. Taste for salt and pepper (you’ll most likely need a good couple tablespoons of salt at least).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Transfer the empanada dough to a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Roll each piece to fit roughly 10 x 15 inches. Place one piece on a greased cookie sheet or one lined with parchment paper. Spread on the filling, evening it out to cover the dough almost to the edges of the dough. Cover with the other piece of rolled dough, rolling up the edges to seal the pie. Make several slits (be as decorative as you like, but the yeasted dough makes it a bit tough to get too creative). Let sit to rest in a warm place for about 20 minutes. Brush with the beaten egg, and bake in the preheated oven for 25-35 minutes, or until golden. To serve, cut in squares.
Empanda Pie Dough (Masa de Empanda)
Amy’s Notes: I made this dough a day and a half ahead of time, so after I finished kneading it I placed it in the fridge until the morning that I needed it, allowing it to sit at room temperature for an hour or two before using it. But really, this dough is very forgiving and very great to work with.
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup olive oil
5 1/3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry active-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 to 2 1/2 cups warm water
Slowly saute the onion and garlic in the oil over medium heat until the onion is wilted, about ten minutes or so. Strain the oil, reserving the oil, and separately, the onion and garlic.
In a large bowl, mix the flour and the dry yeast. Dissolve the salt in the warm water and add the water to the flour– I’d start with 2 cups and add as needed to make a cohesive (but messy) mass. It will be quite shaggy, and will smooth out with the addition of oil and kneading. Once mixed, turn the dough onto a floured work surface. Gradually incorporate 1/2 of the reserved oil, kneading in about 2 tablespoons at a time and adding more flour as necessary. Save the remaining reserved oil to use in preparation of the filling. The dough should feel softer and pretty pliable, and the process should take around 10 or 12 minutes.
Place the kneaded dough in a large oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let sit in a warm spot (inside a kitchen cabinet is good) for 12 hours, or overnight. Continue as directed in the Empanada recipe.