warm pasta salad with corn and zucchini

Last year,  I bought a coupon on Amazon Local for a home-cooked Italian meal with Sandra Catena, The Feisty Italian. She came to our old apartment to teach us how to cook the meal. One of the simplest and most delicious courses was the pasta, dressed simply with cubes of mozzarella cheese. The cheese melted in the heat of the spaghetti–a quick and easy version of mac and cheese!  I remembered that when I made this dish. This is a great one dish meatless meal–and it cooked up in about half an hour. To save time, I skipped the fresh corn and used frozen. The oil I didn’t use to fry the zucchini I used to flavor the pasta. Then I dressed it up with mozzarella cheese, a delicious lesson learned from Sandra.

Warm Pasta Salad with Corn and Zucchini (adapted from Skinnytaste.com)

Ingredients
2-4 teaspoons olive oil
4 cups sliced zucchini (2 medium zucchini sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds)
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (3 ears of corn)
1/2 cup red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red or yellow sweet bell pepper, thinly sliced
8 oz uncooked pasta
crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
1/3 cup “black Italian olives” (I used kalamata)
1/2 to 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
8 basil leaves, chopped
Cooking spray
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation:

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain cooked pasta and set aside.

Spray cooking spray in a large skillet and heat it over medium high heat. You will need to cook the zucchini in two batches. Place the zucchini rounds in a single layer in the skillet. Cook 5 minutes on one side until roasted, then turn and cook again for 5 more minutes. Remove zucchini and set aside. Spray the pan again and put in another layer of zucchini rounds. Repeat.

Remove zucchini and add 2 teaspoons oil to the pan. Add the onion, peppers, and corn. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the pan-fried zucchini, pasta, pepper flakes, vinegar, olives, cheese, and basil. Sprinkle a teaspoon or two of olive oil. Add salt to taste. Toss. Spoon onto plates and sprinkle freshly ground pepper on top.

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cornmeal crusted chicken nuggets with blueberry-mustard dipping sauce

I adapted this recipe from Eating Well. The original recipe called for blackberries or raspberries, but I only had blueberries. It is quick and easy to make, especially on those days when I’m tempted to eat some fast food. This is much healthier. After all, it is made with chicken breasts, not something pretending to be chicken. Read Fast Food Nation or The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and I guarantee you will never look at your food the same way again!

Cornmeal Crusted Chicken Nuggets with Blueberry Mustard Dipping Sauce 

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

 Ingredients

1 cup fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
2 teaspoons honey
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/3-1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cooking spray

Preparation

  1. Mash the blueberries and sieve the pulp. Discard the skins. Add mustard and honey. Mix well and set aside. Cook’s note: If using blackberries or raspberries, there is no need to discard the skin.
  2. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the chicken cubes. Put cubes into a plastic bag. Add oil and shake. Add the cornmeal and shake the bag until the chicken is evenly coated. Add cornmeal and shake the bag. Add more cornmeal a tablespoon at a time if needed.
  3. Spray cooking spray in a large skillet. Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and put the chicken in a single layer in the pan. You may need to do this in two batches. Cook until browned on one side, about 4-5 minutes. Turn and brown the other side, about 4-5 minutes. Thinner nuggets will cook faster than thicker ones. Nuggets are cooked when they are firm to the touch when poked. Serve the chicken nuggets with the berry mustard.

cooking in a “new” old kitchen: coconut-ginger chicken

We moved. Uptown. To an apartment in a pre-war building with a unique shotgun layout.

The new kitchen is bigger. Three-dimensional, actually. I’m rusty at cooking in a kitchen that has three walls. By comparison, the Teeny Tiny Kitchen was a wall. Here, with the reorganization of the cupboards, I have to think–now, where did I put the…? As I figure out this new layout, I’ve started trying out new recipes again, like this one.

This recipe for coconut-ginger chicken came from this week’s New York Times Sunday magazine. The chicken came out too bland for my taste, even though I added a tablespoon of garlic to the original recipe. The veggie dishes I made up with what I had on hand–which wasn’t too hard to do, actually, if you abide by the basic rule of stir-fry. Prepare Everything For Cooking. That’s my mis en place by the way, in the small picture beneath the stir-fried vegetables on the left.

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Coconut-Ginger Chicken

  • In a large dry skillet over medium heat, toast ¼ cup unsweetened coconut, about 10 minutes until golden brown. Stir occasionally. Set aside in a small plate and do not clean the pan.

Cook’s note: I used flaked coconut but I wonder if shredded coconut with larger strips wouldn’t work as well. The flaked coconut actually came out quite well in appearance, a pale golden brown that adhered to the top of the chicken like bread crumbs.

  • Add ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk, ½ cup water, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, and 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put the chicken in the pan. When the liquid boils, lower heat to simmer; cover and cook chicken for 10-15 minutes or until tender and just cooked through. On an instant read thermometer, the temperature of the thickest part of the chicken should read 155˚F. Test the chicken after 10 minutes then cook for 3-5 additional minutes if not up to temperature.
  • Transfer chicken to a plate and keep warm.
  • Turn heat to high and boil the mixture until it is reduced by half; it should be fairly thick. Lower heat and return the chicken to the pan to reheat and coat with sauce.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with reserved toasted coconut and chopped fresh cilantro and scallion, if desired.