Tuscan Chicken Burgers

It may not seem like it, depending on the weather where you are, but grill season is allegedly here. I for one have been itchy to fire up our grill, seizing the opportunity when it’s remotely sunny and warm, only to find that by the time we actually light the coals, the wind has picked up, the grey clouds have amassed, and a drizzle starts to fall. But such is Seattle– if a little rain deterred us from spending time outside, then there’d be a massive outbreak of cabin fever.

If you’re getting into grill season, here’s an idea to add some variety to your burger grilling menu. I took ground chicken, mixed in cannellini beans, capers, and rosemary, then topped off my burgers with an oven roasted tomato relish and some sautéed greens.

The burgers were juicy with a tang of acid from the capers which went nicely with the sweet tomato relish. The greens added a dash of heat, thanks to being cooked in olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. In fact, I’d say that these burgers are a great solution to rainy or cold day cookouts: they cook quickly then channel the sun with their bright flavors. Here’s hoping the sun comes out soon for a long and happy grill season for all!

Chicken Burgers

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1/2 of a 15 oz can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon small capers
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons Montreal steak seasoning

Tomato Relish

  • 4 large Roma tomatoes, quartered
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 small white onion
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 large garlic clove, grated into a paste
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • sugar to taste

Burger Toppings

  • 1 large bunch kale or broccoli rabe, leaves separated from stems, stems discarded, leaves chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed
  • olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 hamburger buns

Start by roasting the tomatoes for the relish. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. On a foil lined baking sheet, mix the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, ground coriander, and fennel seeds. Cook for 2.5-3 hours or until tomatoes are wrinkled around the edges and kind of jammy looking. Remove from oven and allow to cool. While tomatoes roast, add remaining tablespoon of olive oil and butter to a medium skillet and melt over medium low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until onion is caramelized, about 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, combine ground chicken, cannellini beans, capers, garlic and rosemary. Mix with your hands, being careful not to over mix then shape into 4 equal patties. Season both sides of each patty with the steak seasoning mix. Cook on a well oiled and cleaned grill over medium high heat for about 5-6 minutes per side or until cooked through. Let rest, tented with foil on a plate for at least 5 minutes before serving.

While burgers cook, make the tomato relish and the sautéed greens topping. For the relish, combine the roasted tomatoes, onions, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and basil in a food processor bowl, fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until tomatoes and onions are finely chopped. Adjust seasoning with sugar, salt and pepper to taste. For the greens, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, letting the garlic perfume the oil, toasting the smashed cloves until golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Discard garlic then add chopped greens and saute until wilted, about 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble: place chicken patty on bun, top with tomato relish and a small pile of sautéed greens before topping with other bun half and serve.

Advertisements

Peruvian Chicken Noodle Soup

In November 2009, John, our friend Doug, and I visited Peru to spend some time with John’s sister and her family and of course, to see Macchu Picchu. Home to hundreds of species of potatoes, this was a culinary haven to a carbohydrates addict like me. Meals frequently combined rice, potatoes, and corn. I could eat lots of carbs and not feel guilty about it since it was all part of enjoying the local food.

While in Cusco on our way back from Macchu Picchu, we stumbled into a restaurant off the main square that had more casual, local food, a welcome change after the various pizza, chop suey, and chicharrones menus accompanied with the offer of “all day happy hour for you” restaurants that had relentlessly sought our patronage in Aguas Calientes. For me in particular, I was on day 2 of treatment for food poisoning (done in by an avocado salad at a respectable restaurant, sadly not by some adventurous street fare) so I was wary about what I could test out on my still troubled stomach. I settled on a chicken soup and soon found myself in comfort food heaven: a rich and flavorful chicken broth brimming with soft vermicelli style noodles, strands of airy egg white, powdery chunks of potato, and bright with fresh cilantro. No wonder we love chicken noodle soup while sick.

We decided to get this same soup to go for John’s sister who was shut in at our hotel with her sleeping son. John looked up how to say “take out” in Spanish with our free iPhone Spanish dictionary app but something must have been lost in translation as the waitress brought out another steaming hot mini cast iron cauldron of the soup. Through hand gestures and more broken Spanish, we explained that we needed to take the soup to go with us, but the waitress shook her head and said she didn’t have any containers to do that. I then spotted our empty bottle of water, and thought that if we could carefully spoon the soup through the narrow neck, we could recap it and take it back to Anne to eat. Surprisingly skilled at this, I managed to fill the bottle about 1/3 of the way when the waitress saw us, shook her head as if to say, “Stupid gringos,” grabbed the bottle and the cauldron of soup from me then unceremoniously dumped everything into a plastic bag before handing it back to us with our bill.

Maybe it was the lasting impression of how comforting that soup was, but I was determined to recreate it to the best of my ability back home. It took a year and a half later with a return trip to Peru to remind me of that intention. Here’s my version– probably not at all authentic but still hits the spot: I used dried angel hair pasta, homemade chicken stock, peeled Yukon gold potatoes, and to add a little bit more protein, some shredded chicken breast. Spring has been slow in coming out here in Seattle, so I don’t mind having warm, chicken noodle soup even though it’s now May, but if it’s warmer out where you live, you still might consider making this soup. There’s just something about the bright yellows from the egg and the vibrant green of the cilantro that makes this a very spring-time soup to me. So make a pot, and I bet that there won’t be any leftovers to try spooning into a plastic bottle.

  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 chicken breast halves (about 1 pound), cut into 4 pieces
  • 3 medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • handful (about 1/4 of a pound) angel hair pasta, broken in half
  • 3 eggs, beaten with a 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, plus more for serving.

In a large soup pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Reduce the heat to barely a simmer, then place the chicken pieces in the stock and cover the pot with a lid. Poach until chicken is cooked through about 10-15 minutes. Remove chicken from stock to a plate to cool slightly. Add the potatoes and bring stock back up to a gentle boil. Cook for about 7-8 minutes then add pasta and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until pasta is cooked through and potatoes are tender, falling apart when touched with a fork but otherwise holding their shape. While boiling the potatoes, shred the chicken meat with two forks then return to the pot. Pour in the egg and cornstarch mixture while stirring soup with a wooden spoon to help egg form strands. Add cumin and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cilantro then ladle soup into bowls, topping with more chopped cilantro if desired.

Roasted Chicken & Sausage

An almost weekly meal in this household is a roasted chicken. What can I say? I like how this is a meal that is easy to plan, cooks in one pan, feels kind of elegant, and most importantly, generates 2.5 quarts of chicken stock to keep in my freezer until I’m ready to make a soup. Only (1st world) problem? It’s starting to feel like falling into a rut.

So how to vary the routine? Instead of roasting a whole chicken, I decided to roast some chicken thighs with links of Italian sausage on a bed of potatoes.

I took some chicken thighs and some halved sausage links, browned the outsides in a hot skillet of olive oil then set them in a roasting pan with potatoes that had been tossed with garlic cloves, fresh thyme, rosemary, and lemon zest. This was then left to roast in the oven and in around 30 minutes later, we had juicy pieces of meat and crispy browned potatoes, heady with flavor from cooking in the chicken and sausage fat. A squeeze of lemon juice added more lemony flavor as well as acidic brightness that brought out the woodsyness of the fresh herbs. Faster than roasting a whole chicken and just the slight change-up that was needed in this routine.

Note: I totally blanked on this but had intended to roast sections of fennel bulb along with the potatoes. Give this a try as I think the fennel would be delicious with the Italian sausage and would provide a nice, refreshing anise flavor to pair with the lemon. And FYI, for roasting a whole chicken, lately I’m in love with the simplicity and thoroughness of the Thomas Keller method for roasting a chicken with root vegetables.

  • 1 lb bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 lb hot Italian sausage links, halved
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 4-5 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 4-5 smashed garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon each fresh thyme and rosemary leaves, chopped
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon

Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet and set over medium high heat. Sprinkle both sides of each chicken thigh with salt and pepper, about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper total. When oil ripples, add the chicken thighs skin side down and the sausage halves. Leave the chicken thighs undisturbed to let the skin brown, but monitor the sausage halves, moving them around so the casing browns on all sides. It should take about 5-6 minutes total to brown the chicken thighs.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. While meat is browning, toss the potatoes, garlic cloves, about 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and half of the herbs and zest in a roasting pan with about 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken thighs and sausage and sprinkle all of the pan’s contents with the remaining herbs and zest. Roast for about 30-35 minutes or until chicken temperature is 175 degrees F and potatoes are browned. Remove from oven, and squeeze lemon juice over all of the pan’s contents. Plate family style by putting potatoes on serving platter and topping with chicken thighs and sausage.

Albondigas Soup

Albondigas is a Mexican soup: a spicy, tomatoey broth that simmers around soft meatballs made with beef, pork, and rice. This sounded so perfect, so warm, so comforting to me when I found myself craving soup while sick with a cold recently.

Straying from tradition, I made my meatballs with ground chicken since that’s what I had on hand. I grated some onion and garlic and mixed it into the chicken meat along with a handful of uncooked, short grain rice, some cilantro, and some spices. I then chopped up some carrots, celery, onion, and potato for the soup base that was made with chicken stock and fire roasted tomatoes, along with a special ingredient:

Smoked almonds! I ground them up in a food processor before adding them to the soup, hoping that they’d give the soup some body along with enhancing the smoke flavor of those charred tomatoes. Then plop, plop, plop! I set the meatballs into the soup to let them simmer and cook through. No extra mess of browning in a pan of grease. Simmering the meatballs in the broth did several things: it imparted more meaty flavor to the stock, softened the rice in the meatballs so that it was tender, and made the meatballs themselves soft like dumplings. Topped with a handful of fresh cilantro, this soup with its subtle heat and bright flavors, was the perfect twist on chicken noodle soup when sick.

Albondigas Meatballs

  • 13 oz ground chicken
  • 1/2 small white onion, grated
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic, grated on a rasp or finely minced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup uncooked short grain rice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 medium stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeno, diced (seeds removed if you’re a wuss)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (yields about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 small red potatoes, diced
  • 4 cups chicken stock plus 2 cups water
  • 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 oz smoked almonds, ground in a food processor
  • hot sauce to taste
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

In a large bowl, combine meatball ingredients and mix with your hands until just combined. Roll into 1 inch meatballs and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium high heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, jalapeno, and garlic and saute until onion has softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add potatoes, chicken stock, water, fire roasted tomatoes with their juices, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and ground almonds. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Gently add meatballs and continue to simmer for 30-35 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste. Serve in bowls, garnished with fresh cilantro.

Middle East Pitza

Over at My Kitchen, My World, the destination for April is Egypt. I, for one, am particularly excited to see what my fellow bloggers come up with this month to learn more about Egyptian cuisine while watching this country struggle to form its new democratic process. As for my submission, I don’t know how authentic it is, but I drew inspiration from a website of Egyptian cuisine suggestions and can vouch that it’s fun to eat and pretty tasty.

It’s simple enough: a whole wheat pita, toasted until crisp in the oven, then slathered with layers of smooth and spicy baba ganoush, ground chicken and pine nuts that have been spiked with cinnamon and cumin, and dollops of creamy, tangy tzatziki sauce. I made two of these and served them with some roasted broccoli for a light dinner with John while we watched Cleopatra in honor of Elizabeth Taylor, but I could see wedges of these being served as a fun appetizer at a party. Hope you like them too!

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • olive oil
  • 1 heaping tablespoon tahini paste
  • 4 cloves garlic, divided
  • juice of a lemon, divided
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili pepper
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 13 oz ground chicken
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion plus 1 tablespoon more, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 6 oz Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cucumber
  • 1 teaspoon each finely chopped mint and parsley
  • 4 whole wheat pita

Start by making the baba ganoush. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly brush it with olive oil. Cut the eggplant in half, lengthwise then lay the halves cut-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until skin has darkened and is a little puckered and the flesh side is slightly charred and soft. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes or until cool to touch. Scoop out eggplant flesh into a food processor fitted with steel blade. Add 1 large clove of garlic, grated with a rasp or finely chopped, along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, tahini paste, juice of half the lemon, about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, 1 teaspoon of cumin, and chili powder. Puree until mostly smooth with some small chunks of eggplant. Remove contents to a bowl, cover, and set aside until ready to use.

Reduce temperature of oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly brush pita with olive oil then bake on a baking sheet for 10-12 minutes or until crisp. Remove from oven, and cover with a paper towel to keep warm.

While pita toast, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion, 2 cloves of minced garlic, and the pine nuts. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and pine nuts are lightly toasted, about 5-7 minutes. Add the ground chicken meat, breaking it up and mixing in the onions and pine nuts. Add in the remaining teaspoon of cumin, along with the cinnamon, and oregano, and cook until chicken meat has browned and any liquid exuded is mostly evaporated, about 10-12 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

While chicken cooks, mix together the yogurt, remaining tablespoon of onion, remaining clove of garlic that has been finely grated, juice of half a lemon, cucumber, mint, parsley, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt with 1/8 teaspoon of pepper.

To assemble, spread about 2 tablespoons of baba ganoush on crisped pita. Top with about 1/4-1/3 cup of ground chicken mixture. Dollop with tzatziki then cut into quarters before serving with additional tzatziki on the side.

Chicken Milanese

I’m not sure what there is to not love about chicken Milanese. A thinly pressed out piece of chicken breast, breaded and pan-fried, topped with a crisp bunch of salad greens, ripe tomatoes, and basil. It’s like eating fried chicken, but you get to feel healthy about it since it’s garnished with salad. What could possibly make this better?

Pickled vegetables can, that’s what! Inspired after seeing a show in which Chef Anne Burrell tops her chicken Milanese with red wine vinegar pickled onions, I wanted to try out this way of adding more acid to pair with the salty, crunchy bite of the chicken. With a yellow bell pepper and white onion on hand, I pickled thin slices of those vegetables in a mix of white wine vinegar to brighten their colors, a bit of sugar, and some fennel seed to add some subtle anise flavor. I then put a small pile of my pickled vegetables on a bed of arugula that had been simply dressed with lemon juice and olive oil which sat on top of crispy chicken. To finish things off, I added shards of Parmigiano Reggiano to give some nutty notes. And there you have it– chicken Milanese with a tangy, peppery crunch that is as beautiful to look at as it is to eat.

  • 1 small white onion, sliced into thin half-moon slivers
  • 1 medium yellow pepper, trimmed, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • water
  • olive oil
  • 2 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 inch thickness
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups baby arugula leaves
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil

Dissolve sugar and salt in white wine vinegar in a medium bowl.  Stir in fennel seeds. Add the onions and peppers and toss to coat. Cover with water and let sit at room temperature for at least 4 hours.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat. Set up ingredients as follows: on one plate, add flour and season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; next to that, place a shallow bowl that has the beaten eggs; next to that, set a plate on which you’ve mixed together the panko and grated parmesan. Lightly season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper on both sides, then dip the chicken in the flour, shaking off any excess. Dip the floured chicken in the beaten egg, letting excess egg drip off, then coat both pieces in the panko-cheese mix. Place the chicken in the heated olive oil and cook until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side.

While chicken cooks, beat together the lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Toss the arugula in the lemon dressing. Plate chicken and top with arugula, pickled peppers and onions, and shards of parmesan made with a vegetable peeler.

Lemony Chicken Meatballs & Cavatappi

I know that when it’s cold and rainy outside I tend to post comfort food ideas. Comfort food is comforting, of course, because it tends to be rich and fatty. As John likes to say, “Why does fat taste so good?” Here’s an idea for a meal that’s comforting, yet light and healthy.

It starts with chicken meatballs. I took ground, white chicken meat and combined it with bread soaked in milk, garlic, spices, and lemon zest before baking these in the oven. I ended up with soft and tender meatballs, bright with citrus flavor, and even better– hands and stress free since they bake instead of browning in a pan of oil.

Those meatballs were then combined with creamy white beans, chopped escarole and radicchio, chicken stock, and some butter before being spooned over whole wheat cavatappi. The greens gave some texture along with an undercurrent of bitterness to pair with the nuttiness of the whole grain pasta. With parmesan cheese running throughout and some extra for sprinkling on top of bowls of warm pasta, here you have a pasta and meatballs that provide warmth and comfort from the variety of flavors, but won’t weigh you down.

Meatballs

  • 13 oz ground chicken meat
  • 2 slices white sandwich bread, trimmed of crusts and soaked in 1/2 cup whole milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1.5 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • cooking spray

Pasta

  • 1 lb whole grain cavatappi or pasta shape of your choice, cooked according to package directions and reserving 1/2 cup of cooking water
  • 15 oz can cannellini beans, drained
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 medium head escarole
  • 1 small head radicchio
  • 1 small white onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1.5-2 teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan plus additional for passing at table
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Squeeze excess milk from bread then combine bread with ground chicken and remaining meatball ingredients, except the cooking spray. Mix with your hands until combined but do not over mix. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place a cooling rack on top. Lightly spray cooling rack with cooking spray. Form meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter. You should have between 24-28 meatballs. Place meatballs on cooling rack and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through, flipping meatballs and rotating tray about half way through cooking time.

While meatballs bake in the oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic, escarole, and radicchio and saute until onions are softened and greens have wilted. Add the beans and butter and cook until butter has melted. Add chicken stock then stir to combine, cooking until chicken stock reduces by about 1/2. Add in 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese then adjust seasoning to taste. Combine with meatballs and cooked pasta and slowly stir in reserved pasta water until sauce is a consistency to your taste. Serve with additional parmesan cheese grated on top.

CSA Count: 3

Onion, escarole, radicchio