Everything Hot is Cool Again

July 2, 2009 at 11:08 pm Leave a comment

july 1-09 foodie-parm chick 002  After decades of living in Minnesota, I continue to be amused and bemused by the climate.  However hearing from friends in the Tucson area about their consistent stretches of 100° days, I was more than grateful for our recent temperature flip from 90-something last week to 60-something at the start of this week.  Not only does our little Papillion/Chihuahua-mix pup relish a long walk in the cooler weather, but I can actually cook without fear of turning the eating area into a steam room/torture chamber.

So, fire up the oven I did for a meal of Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Ratatouille Sauce, Green Beans, and Giant Polenta Fries.  For a finish, a light version of Peach Cobbler topped with a light version of vanilla bean ice cream.  A bit of international flavor about 200 miles south of International Falls.

Prep note:  When my old stove reached that age where it was passing gas on a regular basis, I was forced to buy another and ended up with my dream oven:  a gas convection (yes, there is such a thing) made by KitchenAid®.  I am definitely a happy baker with this new appliance, which allows me to put three baking pans in the oven at the same time.  You may have to schedule things a bit differently if you are cooking non-convection, but I assembled the cobbler first and slid it into the baking chamber along with the chicken and the polenta, so we’ll start with…

 The cobbler:

 1 C unbleached flour          1 C whole wheat flour         2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt                                1 C brown sugar                  8 TB cold butter

½ C boiling water                 2 TB corn starch                   ¼ C cold water

½ cup raw sugar                  7 large peaches                   nutmeg to taste

Preheat oven to 450° and set out a 10” x 14” glass baking pan.  Whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl then mix in the brown sugar with a large fork until well blended.  Use a pastry blender to cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in boiling water until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. 

Peel and slice peaches into a large skillet and sprinkle with raw sugar.  Using a small fork, stir the corn starch into cold water until dissolved and add to skillet.  Bring the sauce to a boil over medium high heat to thicken it then spread the fruit mixture evenly to cover the bottom of the baking dish. 

Scoop out dough by ½ cup measures, flattening each lump into a rough, 1/4 “ thick rectangle and lay these over the peaches so that small gaps remain between each rectangle.  Sprinkle with nutmeg and bake for 25 minutes.  Serve warm.

For the chicken:

4 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts        ¾ C whole wheat panko crumbs ½ tsp dry mustard                                                     ½ C fresh grated Parmesan

1 TB dried parsley flakes                                         1 tsp olive oil 

Butterfly the chicken breasts by cutting them crosswise from the thin edge just up to but not completely through the thickest edge, leaving a “hinge” of meat to hold the two halves together.  Pat with paper towels, but leave surfaces somewhat moist.

 In a blender or food processor, combine the crumbs, mustard, grated Parmesan, and parsley flakes, pulse until well blended, and pour them onto a large dinner plate.

 Line a large cookie sheet with foil and drizzle the olive oil over it.  You can use your hand or a plastic spatula to carefully coat the entire foil surface with oil.  Turn chicken breasts in crumb mixture coating both sides well and lay on foli-lined cookie sheet.  Bake at 450° for 20 minutes.

 The sauce requires:

1 tsp olive oil                         1 small yellow onion                       1 med eggplant

2 small zucchini                   1 large yellow squash         1-14 oz can diced tomato

                                                    1 tsp dried basil

Heat oil in a large nonstick pan and add onion; sauté until onion glistens and softens.  Chop to ½” dice peeled eggplant, partially peeled zucchini, and squash and add to pan.  Cook over medium low for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add tomatoes, sprinkle with palm-crushed basil, and continue cooking until heated through.  Spoon over chicken breasts before serving.

And for the polenta fries:

2 C cooked, chilled, firm polenta              2 tsp olive oil             garlic salt to taste

The last time I made polenta, I had the foresight to pack the 2 cups of leftovers into a squarish storage container.  If you haven’t any leftovers, just whisk 1-3/4 C yellow corn meal into 6 cups of boiling salted water, and cook until thickened, stirring often.  This can take up to fifteen minutes, but mine usually cooks faster for some reason.  Ideally, you then pack the polenta into a flat, rectangular well-sealed container and refrigerate it until it is very firm.

Cut the chilled polenta into ½” sticks and move them very carefully to a foil-lined cookie sheet coated with 2 tsp of olive oil spread evenly, and roll each “fry” in the oil.  Sprinkle with garlic salt and bake at 450° for 20-25 minutes.  The outside should be nice and crisp, while the insides remain creamy.

A good quality frozen green bean stands up well under cooking and frozen vegetables can retain even more nutrients than fresh, so I often use them for a quick side dish.  They would be nice with a sprinkling of roasted, seasoned, chopped pecans for crunch.

Here’s hoping that your outdoor temperatures (or your air conditioning capabilities) allow for no-sweat food prep.  As for me, while the neighborhood teenagers are using Independence Day as an excuse for setting off pooch-petrifying fireworks, I will be comforting my little mutt, celebrating the blessing of a still-free country, and pondering the mysteries of fickle weather and “circulatory movement” cooking technology.


Entry filed under: Musings of a Midwestern Foodie. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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