Tuesday, March 10, 2009

House Arrest and Lemon Cake

My 8-year old is flopped over on the couch for the third day straight -- rosey-cheeked with a fever, a pile of crumpled tissues (yes..some used) strewn across her belly, remote control clutched in her steamy little hand....'feeling poorly', as my Grandmother used to say. Zack & Cody, Hannah Montana, and SpongeBob are keeping her company in a steady, tvo'ed stream and she's sipping Coke on ice through a bendy straw.....she feels crummy, but at least she's comfy!

Remember being sick as a kid? In my day (I'm probably dating myself), my mom would set me up on the couch with "Love, American Style" on the tube, and a tv tray with 7-up and buttered toast. Before she left for work, she'd drag the phone (along with it's tangly, 10 foot cord) from the kitchen to where I lay in the livingroom "just in case you need anything". What a bummer when my show was over and I had to get UP out of my cozy spot to change the channel -- or else suffer through Richard Dawson and The Family Feud. My little patient has it pretty good. *sigh*..... I do feel bad for her though. Being sick is a drag.

So with all this talk of fevers and illness, you probably think I'm about to chat about chicken noodle soup -- actually, that's not a bad idea -- but unfortunately, that's not on the menu today. Since I'm tethered here at home by my sniffly, 53-lb. house anchor, I thought I'd head in to the kitchen and see what kind of trouble I could stir up. Heh, heh......stir up. Sorry.

Remember the Lemon Chicken I made a few days ago? I had a big, beautiful bowlful of lemons leftover (what can I say, I always overbuy - it's a weakness of mine), so I decided to bake up a batch of this tangy Glazed Lemon Cake.

I love this cake because it's not too sweet, it makes two loaves, and it freezes beautifully. It's nice to keep one on hand for a last minute dessert, and it's perfect with a cup of hot tea! If you have Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa PARTIES!, the recipe can be found on pp. 104-105. Otherwise, here you go....enjoy!

Source: Barefoot Contessa PARTIES!, by Ina Garten
Makes 2 8-inch loaves

2 sticks butter at room temperature
2 1/2 c. sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
1/3 c. grated lemon zest (from 6-8 large lemons)
3 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. kosher salt
3/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 c. buttermilk at room temperature
1 t. vanilla

For the glaze:
2 c. confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 1/2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease two loaf pans and set aside.

Cream the butter and 2 c. sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and the lemon zest.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and the salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 c. lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alterately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 c. granulated sugar with 1/2 c. lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. ** see note *** When the cakes are done, let them cool for 10 minutes, then invert them onto a rack set over a tray, and spoon the lemon syrup over the cakes. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the top of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

**note** I think this step is superfluous and I always skip it. I still love the cake, I just don't believe in making extra work for myself!

Monday, March 9, 2009

One for the "Keeper File"

I was dragging yesterday afternoon. It seemed like a pretty good day to drag around, actually. From start to finish, it did nothing but pour down rain….then sleet, and then snow…blech. I dashed out to Sendiks around 4:00, right when the rain was changing over to sleet. Perfect timing (note the sarcasm here) -- someone (*ahem*, dear?) had pilfered the umbrella from my glove box, so I got absolutely pelted by the needle-y (is that a word?) drops of freezing rain as I ran from the car to the store, all the while hoping I wouldn’t run in to anyone I knew -- since I had become a drowned rat in the parking lot.

I got my shopping done in record time and made it through with no girlfriend sightings (and no sightings of any girlfriend’s husband’s either). Phew! That was a close one.

Dreary weather and drowned rats aside,the absolute highlight of my day was the phenomenal Greek inspired shrimp dish we had for dinner. I found the recipe while perusing Food & Wine yesterday afternoon.

Of all of the cooking magazines I subscribe to, Food & Wine is one of my favorites. Their recipes are consistently good; I’ve never had one bomb on me (and this is saying a lot!). If you have the March ’09 issue handy, you can find this fantastic Shrimp Saganaki recipe on page 82. Large shrimp (isn’t that an oxymoron?) are sautéed along with onions, fresh tomatoes and olives, then finished with fresh basil and a sprinkle of feta cheese….wow. I think I’m in love.

As for alterations -- I did swap in the sale grape tomatoes (.99!) instead of the romas that were called for. I halved them and they worked beautifully! I also tossed in fresh basil (personal preference) instead of dill, with great results.

I served the Saganaki in shallow bowls, on top of a bed of the sale Rice Select Orzo. We had a big romaine salad and toasted pita alongside…..again, wow! I would even go so far as to call this a restaurant quality meal – certainly good enough for entertaining, and definitely one for the ‘keeper’ file.

As usual, sale ingredients are highlighted in green.

Shrimp Saganaki
Source: Food & Wine Magazine, March '09
Serves: 4

2 T. olive oil
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
1 box grape tomatoes, halved
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
1 1/2 lbs. shelled and deveined large shrimp (Cen-Sea Brand)
1/2 c. pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. sliced fresh basil (or dill)
3 oz. crumbled feta cheese, plus additional for garnish if desired

Toasted pita bread, for serving

In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste and cook until softened, crushing them with the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and olives and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 3 minutes. Stir in the basil and half of the feta and cook just until the feta is hot, about 1 minute. Transfer to shallow bowls, sprinkle with remaining feta, and serve with toasted pita. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

When the Stock Market gives you lemons.....make Lemon Chicken!

I've been paying entirely too much attention to the news in the past few weeks. Just yesterday one of my dearest friends gently accused me of having an unhealthy obsession with current events. Why would she say that? Just because when I'm at home by myself during the day, I keep CNBC on in my kitchen? Maybe I enjoy the company of all of those talking heads, and their non-stop chatter about stocks, bonds, charts, graphs, and all things financial.

I'm constantly checking that little green ticker in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen....usually I'm tracking it's downward trend...sinking, plunging, tanking. Around 5:30 I switch on Brian Williams, because I then need to get his take on the day's events. Of course, since I've been paying attention, he usually just re-hashes everything I already know.

Confession: I adore Brian Williams...clean-cut, preppy, smart...swoon! I once dreamt that he was my boyfriend....I know that's weird....don't tell anyone I said that out loud.

Anyway, my point is that all of this bad news puts me in a sour mood...hence, the 'you need a break from the news' lecture from my friend. "So, the economy is horrible," she said. "You can't do a single thing about it. Turn on HGTV or the Food Network! Take a weeklong break from the news and stop stressing!"

Because I also adore and have great respect for my friend, I've taken her advice. I've turned my attention to the gorgeous, sunshiny lemons that are on sale this week, and made this terrific Panko Crusted Lemon Chicken. Crispy on the outside, moist and juicy on the inside, with just a little hint of fresh lemon, it's just the ticket for kicking a sour mood.

See the side bar for a great side dish, Orzo Pilaf with Vegetables!

Here's the recipe:

Panko Crusted Lemon Chicken with Parmesan
Adapted from this recipe
Serves: 6

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
5 T. fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs
1 c. Panko breadcrumbs (find these on the bottom shelf of the Asian aisle)
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
2 t. grated lemon peel, rind only

2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
Lemon slices for garnish

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Sandwich the chicken breasts between pieces of heavy duty plastic wrap, and take out your aggressions on the stock market by pounding each breast to a thickness of about 1/2 an inch. Place the pounded breasts into a non-reactive baking dish and pour 4 T. lemon juice over, turning to coat. Let stand 10 minutes. Beat eggs and remaining 1 T. lemon juice in a medium bowl. Combine Panko, Parmesan, and lemon peel in a pie plate. Season liberally with salt and fresh black pepper.

If you're in to making cleanup easy on yourself, have ready a large plate lined with foil.

Dip 1 chicken breast into the egg mixture. Dip in the Panko mixture to coat; gently shake off the excess. Transfer to foil-lined plate. Repeat with remaining chicken, egg mixture, and breadcrumbs.

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a heavy duty skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 pieces of chicken and saute until golden brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes a side. Transfer to a serving platter and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with remaining chicken in 2 more batches, adding 1 T of butter and 1 T. olive oil with each batch. Garnish your platter with lemon slices and serve.
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