Tag Archives: couplewatch

Weeknight Wonder: Healthy Addiction Chicken

28 May

I’ve never been much of a planner. I like to think that the embarrassingly disproportionate chunk of my life I’ve spent satisfying an insatiable appetite for food media – the hours upon hours poring over countless food blogs and back issues of Food & Wine, the nights I’ve selected At Hoc at Home as an appropriate bedtime story, the many Sundays I’ve played Top Chef as a soundtrack to my stovetop scrubbing – has armed me with a few basic techniques to spice up an improvised weeknight dinner. Though these simple lifted tricks – things like finishing pasta with a raw egg at the end for a silky sauce – mostly serve me well, relying on what’s on hand inevitably means a lot of spaghetti. In fact, my lovely husband of almost six months (?!) likes to say that I have two addictions: pasta and  bell peppers. Frankly, I think we could be doing a lot worse.

Of course, my noble quest to read every word on food ever written also leads me to recipe gems for which I carefully purchase and plan, like Skinnytaste’s fabulously light Tikka Masala (I do it with shrimp instead of chicken) and Thomas Keller’s beyond perfect roast chicken. What I’m working on now that I’m cooking for two on a regular basis is a little forethought. This is mostly to avoid the embarrassment of a third party knowing I’ve eaten soba noodles with bottom-of-the-crisper, quick-before-they-go-too-bad greens three nights running. Moderation is, I think, an adult skill to master. So I’m now trying to meet in the middle, coming week by week to the realization that keeping chicken breast in the freezer and a reasonable number of versatile veggies on hand (such as, ahem, bell peppers!) can make a well-thought out weekday meal as simple as spontaneous pasta surprise – and at least half the time, more rewarding.

(Secret Author’s Note: I posted this recipe because it’s ridiculously easy, healthy and delicious, sure; but I think we’ve spent enough time together to understand that I usually have a decadent ulterior motive. Get excited. This is basically to justify my next post being the recipe for warbat, an Arabic dessert similar to baklava but with a layer of rose-flavored cream in the middle, OBVIOUSLY. Trust me, this one is worth an extra half hour… or eight… on the treadmill.)

Plenty of Soy Sauce 5-Point Chicken 

*This recipe is a caloric steal at just 5 Weight Watchers Points Plus for each of 4 reasonably sized servings. You could also substitute the breast for four boneless, skinless chicken thighs for an even more awesome 4 WWP+ total. Serve with rice for a filling, flavorful sub-10 WWP+ dinner.

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 3 bell peppers (different colors, please)
  • a bunch of mushrooms
  • a spoonful of canola oil
  • low-sodium soy sauce (at least 3 spoonfuls, but to taste)
  • 1 small can of plain tomato sauce (ideally smooth but I only had diced this time and it was fine)
  • a spoonful or so of ginger, freshly grated or dried
  • a spoonful of oregano

a rainbow of healthy delicious.

  1. Cut chicken into bite-sized chunks, trimming fat and gross bits. Soak in water with a dash of vinegar while you prep the veggies. (This is a trick Moh’s dad taught me while showing me this recipe – it gives the chicken a clean, chicken-as-chicken-should-be sort of flavor.)
  2. Slice onion and bell peppers into strips. Quarter mushrooms (or slice, if they’re of the funky shape variety).
  3. Sautee onion strips in a small amount (max 1 tablespoon) of canola oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.
  4. Once golden, rinse chicken and add. Cook chicken through, about 15 minutes, making sure the pot doesn’t dry out of juices (just add water if it does).
  5. Add peppers. Sautee about 10 minutes. Give it a stir every once in awhile, throughout process.
  6. Add mushrooms. Give it another 5 – 10 minutes, until they’re getting soft.
  7. Add the little can of tomato sauce. Fill the can twice with water and add.
  8. Simmer for a while. If you’re serving with rice, make it now (which, incidentally, before I made all the time because let’s be real, my husband is addicted to rice, I thought took an hour. It doesn’t. It takes about 30 minutes and is actually quite easy once you’ve gotten the hang of it. Though I still can’t cook brown rice for the life of me).
  9. A few minutes before it’s as thick and saucy as you want it, add a spoonful of dried oregano, one of ginger, and a few of soy sauce to taste. Moh’s dad’s taste was two. Mine was four. Yes, I have always been unabashedly addicted to soy sauce.

The Perfect Salad for Pizza in the Surprise Spring Sun

25 Jan

When you’re lucky enough to live in San Francisco, you’re surrounded by so many incredibly beautiful things and impossibly ridiculous characters, such rich history about which to daydream and mouthwatering  cuisine in which to indulge, that it’s easy to forget you can drive across that most iconic of bridges and end up in an entirely different magical world.

Califooooornia, CalifOOOOOORnia, here we COOOOOOOO-oooome...

Instead of towering Pacific Heights castles sweeping their money-scented shadows across the apartments forming their block-by-block stepping stones below, the well-to-do in this world keep small houses with big windows tucked into winding paths best reachable by bike-laden Subaru.

The further north you drive up the sun-dappled, zig-zag turns comprising this stretch of the 1, the further behind you leave the commuters packed like puzzle pieces onto Muni, the cars insistently blazing their impatient paths across traffic. Eventually, only the cows fanned out lazily across roadside pastures slowly chomp their big cheeks by way of greeting even such obvious foreigners on their muddy soil.

Identifying wild mustard: a skill you don't learn in the suburbs.

Moh and I set out on the well-worn path north one glorious recent Monday off (is it awkward to thank MLKJ?). While driving, I taught Moh two things: first and most importantly, “Hey Cow,” in which each competing passenger rolls down his window and shouts exactly that to collect a point for each lackadaisical bovine who looks at him. Yes, I’m a lucky lady – my boyfriend is quite the player. Secondly, I recounted my favorite California legend – that the brilliant yellow mustard snaking its way up the hillsides this time of year was scattered as seeds by the Spanish Missionaries who made their way up the coast hundreds of years ago. They would know their path back the next spring, from Sonoma to south of San Diego, by the “ribbon of gold” they’d left, now blooming, as a trail.

About an hour out of the city, conveniently rounding on late lunch time, we came to Point Reyes, or “King’s Point.” So, it seemed only appropriate that we eat like rural royalty. Dana had recommended Cafe Reyes for pizza and oysters. It was perfect in every way, from the wobbly plastic table  we sat at out back to the complimentary caramel and chocolate doily-shaped cookies we took too many of on our way out. We shared:

A dozen local oysters on the half shell. No cocktail sauce or horseradish to mask their salty sea bite, they were decadently briny and served with only the perfect champagne mignonette and juicy lemon wedges…

…a wood-fired pizza topped with a bright tomato sauce, thick slabs of golden mozzarella, a handful of silky mushrooms, clusters of chicken sausage laced with fennel and red pepper and a sprig of fresh rosemary…

… and a salad built to showcase the famous Point Reyes Farmstead Blue Cheese. Because blue cheese has such a distinct, sharp flavor, I was shocked to find how well it enhanced, without overpowering, the flavors of everything else we ate.

I would love to be able to recreate each and every incredible dish we ate, basking in the surprise January peek of springtime sun and a stolen Monday tucked surreally away from everything but each other.  But, I’m afraid all I can manage is a recreation of this salad, which goes perfectly with pizza.

Get everything as fresh as you can, and share it with someone who loves blue cheese almost as much as you love them.

the homespun edition

CAFE REYES BLUE CHEESE SALAD IN THE SUN

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spring lettuces
  • The best blue cheese you can find, crumbled into little pieces
  • Slices of big juicy tomatoes
  • Little cherry tomatoes sliced in half
  • Ribbons of red onion
  • Dressing (I think it was ranch; TJ’s only had Caesar so my re-creation lacked a little kick. I’m sure making your own would do you well, but I don’t yet have the dressing touch)
  • Fresh parm to shave over the top
  1. Toss your salad.
  2. That’s all 🙂

On Flowers and Food Processors: A Fall in Review

13 Jan

Considering I am The Ultimate Justifier (seriously, throw me your conscience’s roadblocks, I’ll blast them apart with my shaky moral chainsaw faster than you can yell VICE!), the truly bizarre San Francisco winter/summer parallel would be enough for me to jump right back in like no time had passed whatsoever since my last post. But, skipping over the many months of milestones that have kept me busy since – or at least the meals I made during – would belie the bite-sized lessons I’ve learned over their course. So, since you didn’t ask, some highlights:

1. Don’t be a tool. Or, don’t worry so much about yours.

The setting: A Friday afternoon that finds me deliciously not at the office, but rather in the midst of a Los Angeles Indian Summer. Relishing the idea of playing housewife to my beloved Telanor Kousman, out slaving away on his glamorous Hollywood set, I want to find a dish that’s not only appropriate for the heat, but that will showcase a true labor of love in the rare daylight I’ve stolen. Spying the base of a food processor under his butcher’s block, I decide to cobble together my take on Jamaican Jerk Chicken – more or less this New York Times recipe but with four hours of marinating instead of 12. Apparently, house-wifery requires advance planning.

So, I drag my sweating, sundressed-self to the supermarket to gather my fresh fixings (three different kinds of hot peppers, green onions, shallots, ginger, garlic and thyme), clean and prep them, de-shoe so as to be appropriately barefoot, and set them all triumphantly in front of the food processor, ready to grind them into the “course paste” the paper demands.

Only… where’s the damn blade? I look for an hour. Sticky and defeated, I’m about to give up and trek to Joans on Third for some absurdly fancy and correspondingly priced charcuterie (which let’s be real, I did anyway), when it dawns on me – did the Maroons dragged to Jamaica as slaves who created this dish  have food processors???

No. No, they did not.

So, two hours (/two conference calls) later, knife skills vastly improved, I had my precious paste. Did it look perfect? No. Did it taste incredible? Yes. Did I find the missing blade while cleaning up after dinner hours later? Of course.

Since I don’t have a photo of that particular creation (my Blackberry was angry enough at having to pretend to function while smothered in honey and hot pepper juices – this was my passive-agressive way of punishing it at this point in our relationship), here’s another following the same principle. Martha Stewart’s Winter Fruit Crisp, valiantly executed with not a cheese cloth or electric mixer in sight.

(what’s left of) Madge’s Winter Fruit Crisp

As you can see, it was enjoyed – with nary a comment on clumpy topping. Granted, I made it for my boyfriend, who is arguably obligated to tell me it’s delicious if he wants the real sugar… but he did have three servings, take the rest home and ask me to help him translate the recipe into Arabic for his sister, so I guess we’ll take his word for it.

2. Recycling: Not just for your Diet Coke can; Or, the Evolution of a Saturday Dinner.

Turns out, recycling is also ideal for the paella made for two that you both somehow thought would be a fitting amount:

Miss Aarti, or now truly “Spicy in the City” in her awesome new Marina digs, is one of my absolute favorite cooking buddies, but we do seem to share a rather unfortunate quantity-gauging problem…

In our defense, I’m not sure which 4 – 6 people Mark Bittman, whom I love, intended to serve this yellow rice abundance. Perhaps they are professional class salsa dancers? (I’d say sumo wrestlers, but Marky just seems more refined.)

In any case, I was able to add the ridiculous amount of leftovers (less the tomatoes which became a bit soggy) to a bit of sauteed garlic and tomato paste in my Dutch Oven, split a few cherry tomatoes over the top, and rebake for an even more flavorful, crispier go the following night.

In its second life, the rice served as the perfect base to soak up the juices from Martha’s Clam Pan Roast with Sausage & Fennel, which I made as a Sunday evening dinner for my seafood-loving boyfriend (should there be any other kind?). Seriously though, click through to Madge’s little photo. Great little serving for two, right? Ha. I was eating that rice and sausage (Moh took care of all the clams that actually opened like they were supposed to, briny little bastards) for lunch and dinner for the next two days.

And the potatoes? They were soaked in a slick, delicious broth too good to waste but hadn’t quite cooked through, so I saved them in their own Tupperware. Two nights later, the lovely Carrie came up the street and we halved them again and “olive oiled” them (it’s like pan-frying, but makes me feel better about my life – try it sometime) for a good long time. We ate those damn tasty taters alongside my favorite buttermilk chicken, with a cornbread-ing this time around, and a salad. Which I then had for lunch the next day, with the rest of the potatoes, sauteed spinach and poached eggs doing just fine for a quick, cheap dinner that night.

Moral of the long-winded story? What started as one meal rolled along into feeding me and several other people for the better part of the week. Your food might really hit its stride the second time around.

3. Stop talking, Katie.

Seriously. I had some more lessons planned but even I’m sick of me. And since I’m actually sick, I’m justyifing retiring with my Vitamin-C system shock smoothie (thanks Moh! He threw peeled fresh oranges, lemons and honey into my blender and I feel ten times better already) and last night’s Top Chef (although I swear if Jamie doesn’t FINALLY pack her knives and go, I will).

But I’ll be back, well before the SF fog at long last rolls out for the refreshing spring we all know will come soon enough. Promise.

You're right, EShea, this is pretty much my jam these days. Sometimes a picture is worth more than the 1000+ words that came before it 🙂

“Summer” Place Cocktail Lounge

25 Jun
The setting: A typically blustery June evening in San Francisco, mist cutting through cold air in slanted grey gusts blown across soft pastel rooftops from the ocean nestled safely from view not five miles beyond.

The coldest winter Mark Twain ever spent did not involve the Summer Place.

The scene: A faux-stone facade tucks away one of the city’s rare indoor havens for the social smoker, invited to share a fag or two (or ten) in likeminded company lounging in rolling black leather captains chairs at the foot of a gently crackling fireplace.  Punk and standby rock classics stream from a jukebox with its own agenda – love a good piece of thinking machinery.

The players: Yours truly and the Unsinkable Miss M., fresh from Pride Kick-off at the Sir Francis Drake and a thrilling run-in with Mr. Harry Denton himself, whom we caught surveying a grey San Francisco skyline from a boat of a red booth in his namesake Starlight Room at the hotel’s peak.

At the bar we meet Sasha Fierce, my favorite Massachusetts Ex-Patriot. <Sidebar (for those of us who don’t know how to actually create one): Sasha claims to be not of Russian descent, but rather named after a character in Dr. Zhivago. Someday I will meet this mother of his, also said to have threatened her small son with beatings if he returned from school with a Bahwstan accent. A personal hero for obvious reasons.> <Sidebar 2: Sasha is soon to be introduced in his own words via a guest column I managed to coax him into as the evening progressed – Gardening for Dummies – get excited, fellow dummies. This will be just one of many guest columns I hope to coerce all of my nearest and dearest into – so far I’ve signed on Aarti for the hotter than hell “Spicy in the City.” Holler if you’ve got an idea before I come a-knockin. And yes, if you’re reading this, you best believe I’m talking to you.>

The Fringe: Unexpectedly, the place was a total couplewatch, with one canoodling at the bar hot and heavily for two plus hours, others enjoying whiskey and cigarette rounds in passing. My favorite?  A skinny boy in skinnier jeans with a shaved head and two tiny hoop earrings alongside an Asian girl with bleach blond hair, Elvis Costello glasses and a trench coat. The Bro Love Connection selecting “Come on Eileen” for background was another gem.

The Action: Four rounds of modified gin rummy (in typically Unsinkable fashion, my roommate solidly swept the game), a collective five Camel Lights, two Bud Lights, three Miller High Lifes (mini-review: sticky crappy beer) and no advertised Wilderberry Schnapps $3 Specials later, we make our way back into the wind and rain feeling a little toastier, and a whole lot closer to home.

M + S. Clearly, crappy blackberry photos are not going to cut it much longer.