Caprese-stuffed Chicken with Basil Oil and Balsamic Glaze.

After three days of work travel this week, I was exhausted when I got home Friday afternoon. I was so tired, in retrospect I feel like the only appropriate word to describe my state is the fantastic Irish expression “knackered.” I was knackered! I wanted to grab my yoga pants, put some 30 Rock on, and fall asleep.

….And then I thought of this recipe, and believe it or not, I got a second wind. The punchy and comforting flavors of caprese go so well with baked chicken, and I was thrilled to get to use two favorite ingredients that I don’t have on hand every day: fresh basil and balsamic glaze. And the finished product was definitely deserving of such delicacies. Apologies for the photos here – when I started cooking, the light was lovely. But the night went on, as it tends to do, and by the time everything was ready to eat, it was too dark for a decent photo. I will most definitely make these again and again, so I’ll just have to snap a picture next time. Make these, and make them soon.

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INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup cheese (I used a combo of fresh mozzarella and cheddar)
1/4 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tbsp fresh basil, julienned, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tomato, seeded and diced
salt and pepper
5 – 6 halved chicken breasts (about 1 lb in total, sliced through the center, so they are long and wide, but thin)
olive oil
balsamic glaze (a.k.a. reduced balsamic vinegar – you could use regular balsamic here, too)
also need: toothpicks or kitchen twine

Just the Recipe link: Caprese-stuffed Chicken with Basil Oil and Balsamic Glaze

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 F.

First, put 1 tbsp basil in a ramekin or small bowl with 1 tsp olive oil, and stir. Set aside to marinate a little bit.

In another bowl, combine cheese, balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp basil, garlic, and tomato.

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Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Top each one with a spoonful of the caprese stuffing and roll the sides over, to seal it in. Secure with two toothpicks. Repeat with the rest of the chicken breasts.

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Heat an oven-safe, stovetop-safe pan, like a cast iron skillet, over medium heat with a bit of olive oil. Add the chicken and brown on all sides. Don’t worry about cooking the chicken, since it’s going in the oven – just give it some color.

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Then move the chicken to the oven and cook until the middle is no longer pink and the juice run clear. I didn’t time it, sorry. Maybe 15-20 minutes? I swear I’ll time it next time, folks! Just keep an eye on it.

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When the chicken is cooked through, plate it with a good drizzle of balsamic glaze and a scoop of the basil olive oil. Aww, yeah.

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Eggs in Purgatory Soup.

This is one of those magical dinners that happen sometimes. You aren’t sure what to make, so you just start cooking, and about halfway through the meal prep, it comes to you. The night I made this, I had set out to make a vegetable-packed egg drop soup. But when I saw that the fresh veg we had at hand weren’t particularly thrilling, I raided the pantry. There, I found some inspiring cans of things, tomatoes among them, and altered our course to tomato soup, a la this recipe from 101 Cookbooks. But lo, as I was opening the can of tomatoes, I had a culinary-spiritual-visitation from Nigella Lawson, who in her intervening wisdom reminded me of her eggs in purgatory recipe that I’ve been wanting to try. And so, long story long, this spiced Eggs in Purgatory Soup was born, and it was a delicious surprise. I had two big helpings and as I write this, I am stuffed. No regrets. Make this soon, folks.

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INGREDIENTS

olive oil
butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flake
1 can (28 oz) canned tomato (crushed, diced, whatever – if you use whole, give them a chop first)
14 oz water
3 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
4 eggs
Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Just the Recipe link: Eggs in Purgatory Soup

DIRECTIONS

In a soup pot (or if you have them, individual skillets), heat olive oil and butter over medium and add onion with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and just starting to brown.

Add the garlic, cumin, curry powder, and red pepper flake. Stir in and cook a minute or two, until fragrant.

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Pour in the entire can of tomatoes and juice. Then fill the can up halfway with water and swirl to make sure you get all the juices out of the can, and pour in. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer for 15 minutes.

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When the tomatoes have simmered, stir in the Greek yogurt and turn the heat down nearly as low as it can go – you want to see just the tiniest bubbles floating to the surface.

Gently crack in the eggs, nestling them into the soup so that no eggs are touching. Don’t stir or agitate the soup as the eggs poach for a few minutes, until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny.

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Use a slotted spoon to remove the eggs to their bowls, and ladle the soup over the eggs.

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Sprinkle with Parmesan and, if you have it, fresh parsley (I was out, boo). Enjoy!

And here is my second bowl. I’m a big fan of the Parmesan.

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Cauliflower Crust Pizza.

This recipe is a tribute to a friend who so generously acted as beauty consultant / hair colorist for me yesterday. To thank her, I made these gluten-free pizzas, which are completely delicious whether g-free is your lifestyle (hers) or not (mine). Though gluten is fine by me, I’ve found that a lot of the things I love to cook (and eat) are already gluten-free. So when I find a recipe, like this one, that is totally dreamy and healthy AND fits in with the g-free life, I love to share it. This is one of those! I came upon essentially the same ingenious recipe on 3 of my favorite blogs, and this is my version of that awesomely tasty and healthy pizza. Yum! And thanks Jeni!

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INGREDIENTS

for crust:
2 cups cauliflower stems and florets, grated
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
oregano and granulated garlic to taste
1 egg
salt and pepper
2-3 tbsp cottage cheese, to hold it together

topping ideas:
1/2 cubed chicken breast, sauteed with salt, pepper, and paprika
shredded mozzarella
grape tomatoes, quartered
green onions, chopped

Just the Recipe link: Cauliflower Crust Pizza

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 450 F.

First, put the grated cauliflower into a bowl and microwave for 7 minutes, covered with a washcloth or paper towel. When it’s cooked, mix all the crust ingredients in a bowl. Use more or less cottage cheese, depending on how dry the mixture is and how it’s holding together.

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On a greased baking pan, shape the cauliflower mixture into two flat discs, as thick or thin as you like.

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Bake them for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the top is flecked with bits of golden melted cheese. The thickness of the crusts will affect baking time, so make sure to keep an eye on them.

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Once the crusts come out of the oven, I use a spatula to loosen them from the bottom of the pan and make sure they come off in one piece, because this will be a lot harder to do once they’re topped with cheese and other wonderful things.

Before you start with the toppings, turn up your oven to broil (or to very, very hot!). The pizzas only have a few minutes left to cook, and we want to do it at a high heat.

On to the beautiful toppings. They can truly be whatever you want – we went with chicken, green onion, tomato, and cheese, and they were fantastic!

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Stick back in the oven for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and has started to turn a little golden. Sprinkle with some more green onion or some oregano and dig in!

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Watercress and Radish Salad with Mustard Jalapeño Vinaigrette.

The farmers market had some beautiful watercress and radishes on Saturday, so I picked up a few bunches of each, content in the knowledge that a yummy salad was in my future. Most of the time, I’m not a salad fan–or more accurately, not a lettuce fan. I’ve found that the salads in my life fall into two categories: boring or bad for you. That’s why, when I think of a salad like this one, which is neither boring nor bad for you, I get really excited and have to share it!

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp mustard
1/4 tsp orange marmalade
1/2 shallot, minced
1/2 tsp jalapeño, minced
1/2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch watercress, rinsed
1 bunch radishes, rinsed and sliced
1/2 tomato, diced

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard, marmalade, shallot, jalapeño, parsley, and salt and pepper.

In another bowl, combine watercress, radishes, and tomato. Toss all ingredients together.

Pile onto a plate and  sprinkle with more pepper. Enjoy!

Borsch.

Borsch is so misunderstood. It’s a classic in Russian/Ukrainian cuisine, but despite my Russophile tendencies, I avoided borsch for years because I thought it sounded so…awful. But college is a time for experimentation, right? So during my senior year, I finally gave borsch a try, and it totally won me over! It’s a super hearty vegetable and beef stew that gets its characteristic garnet color from its most notorious ingredient: the beet. If you’re not a beet lover, you’ll probably still like borsch (it’s really good, I swear!),  just make sure to puree the cooked beet and tomato mixture before adding it to the broth pot. Old-world peasant cooking at its finest!

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 lbs. stew beef, cubed
3 bay leaves
small onion, chopped
3 small red beets, scrubbed clean and cut into bars
14 oz. canned crushed tomatoes
1 tsp vinegar
2 carrots, peeled and cut into bars
2 celery stalks, chopped
large onion, chopped
2 medium potatoes, cubed
1/2 medium head cabbage, shredded
butter
olive oil
salt
pepper
2 cloves garlic, diced

DIRECTIONS

Fill a large pot or Dutch oven 3/4 of the way full with water and add beef and bay leaves. Bring to a boil.

When boiling, turn down to medium low heat and simmer. Skim off the fatty, foamy impurities that rise to the top.

When you’ve gotten most of the fatty bits out of the broth pot, add the small onion. Cover and simmer for an hour. Then remove the bay leaves.

Meanwhile, add butter or olive oil to a pan and heat over medium. When hot, add beets, crushed tomato, and vinegar. Stir well and simmer for an hour.

Fifteen minutes before the beets are done cooking, start the other veggies. Heat butter or olive oil in another pan over medium flame and add large onion, carrot, and celery. Cook for 15 minutes.

After you start the onion-carrot-celery mixture, turn up the heat on the broth and bring it back to a boil. Add potatoes and cabbage to the broth pot.

When the beets and tomatoes have finished cooking, add them to the broth, along with the sauteed veggies. Add salt, pepper, and garlic, stir well, and simmer for at least half an hour.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with fresh chives or dill. Priyatnogo appetita!