Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chicken, steak and spaghetti... oh my!

The small remodel is trudging along, with the wall finished being built and both sides painted to match the existing colors. The cabinet makers were by earlier in the week to finish up the measurements, which will hopefully speed that process so we can get this wrapped up before Thanksgiving! We're still waiting to see if we can match the granite as close as possible to the slab that was already in the house before we moved in, but I'm not convinced that's going to happen... not sure what we will end up doing in that case - anyone been through that? We've been fitting in meals when there isn't dust and debris floating around, but nothing to write home about - here are a few meals we made in recent times!

One of the dishes we made, Apricot-Basil Chicken Salad, was an interesting twist to your good 'ol chicken salad. Grilled, poached or roasted, prepare (or pick up!) your chicken in whichever fashion suits you - we went the roasted route, using a mix of bone-in thigh and breast meat, seasoned simply with salt and fresh ground black pepper. To make the salad a bit lighter, instead of your traditional mayonnaise dressing base, a greater portion of the mayo is swapped out for a plain, thick Greek-style yogurt.

What also makes the dressing a bit different is the acid used, rather than lemon juice, fancy champagne vinegar is mixed in for a zesty perk. Toasted almonds (sliced or slivered), a bit of minced raw onion, a stalks' worth of diced celery find their way into the creamy mix for texture, along with dried apricots, a few leaves from the celery (bonus use - don't toss them away!), fresh basil and of course, the cooked chicken, shredded. We scooped this onto a hearty slice of toasted whole wheat bread to call it dinner, but if you are feeling a little decadent, think about using a warm croissant.

Keeping with the intriguing dressing theme, back when we picked up an overflowing pale of blueberries from the farmers' market, we threw together this Spinach Salad with Steak and Blueberries. There are a couple of specialty ingredients in the dressing that may throw you off, but you don't have to seek them out if you don't wish to.

The first is raspberry vinegar, which bolsters the fruity notes from the fresh blueberries, but others you might already have should work - apple cider, red wine or sherry vinegars would be ones to think about. The next is walnut oil, which is rich and nutty in flavor, but is fairly expensive - if you'd rather skip that, canola oil works too. The steak is simply seasoned and grilled (with a fair amount pink left if you can!), then sliced into strips to be laid on top of a bed of baby spinach leaves that was tossed with the snazzy dressing (made with said blueberries!). To finish off each plate, the tops were scattered with crumbled salty feta, crunchy toasted walnuts and, of course, a smattering of blueberries to tie all the ingredients together. Different for sure, but definitely a dynamic combination!

Also on our list of newly tried recipes was this Spaghetti Frittata. Use leftover plain spaghetti if you have any, about 4 cups worth, or do as we did and just cook up a half pound of nutty whole-wheat noodles. Eggs, whisked with a little milk to loosen them up, will hold all those wiggly al dente noodles together with a bit of richness, but it will need help to ratchet up the flavor. Fresh grated Parmesan cheese was a good start, and soon to follow was chopped parsley, fresh basil and a mess of onions that we cooked to a sweet golden color before we began.

The recipe called for a spritz of nonstick spray to cook the frittta (using the same skillet the onions were cooked in - bonus points for less pans to wash!), but since this is a fairly light dish to begin with, we swirled around a pat of butter to coat the pan instead. Many frittatas will have you finish them off in the oven, however this eliminated that step and has you flip the whole shebang over and cook it on the stove. This may seem scary, but be confident and just follow the directions using a plate or platter to help you with the flip. To add a little extra moisture and brightness, top the cooked round with chunky pieces of chopped fresh tomato just before serving. If you're not a fan of frittatas, I do suggest you give this a try anyway as this doesn't come across nearly as eggy - more like a noodle pie!


  1. Hi guys! The kitchen looks great. I have a suggestion for your dilemma: Instead of trying to match the granite why don't you go for a contrast like a different color quartz if it is a separate area like an island (I can't tell from the picture). A friend of mine did that intentionally to not be too matchy-matchy and it is a good look.

  2. Anon - That's a great idea that we've already bounced off our contractor. We're still waiting to hear if they were/are able to match the existing tops though!