Saturday, August 6, 2016

Vacation Recovery Meals

It's summer.  It's the time when farm markets are full to bursting and everyone is eating healthfully, partaking of this enormous bounty of produce.

Unless you're on vacation of course.  Leave the house for the week and all bets are off.

I returned from my annual pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island and the annual Pony Swim and my body is in serious need of real nutrients.  If you follow my Instagram account, you will see my week was filled with doughnuts, burgers, tacos, ice cream, and barbecue (and possibly a salad here and there).

When you consider I'm desperately trying to get back into shape after having so many physical setbacks, I need to recover.

I worked on the perfect menu plan filled with farm market produce and local meats.  I thought I would share some of the recipes and inspiration.

My first dinner after my return was a corn and fennel salad topped with a bit of steak and dressed with a lemon-herb dressing.

Corn and Fennel Salad with Balsamic Grilled Steak

  • 1 skirt steak
  • 2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbl honey
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbl olive oil, divided
  • 2 generous pinches of sea salt
  • 1 large fennel bulb, sliced thin (a mandoline works well for this)
  • Kernels cut off the cob of 4 ears of cooked corn
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1/2 head radicchio, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 Tbl chopped fresh basil
  • 2 Tbl chopped fresh mint

Mix together the balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbl olive oil, honey, and 1 pinch of salt in a bowl.  Coat the steak with this mixture and marinate in the refrigerator for several hours.

Mix the lemon juice and zest, oregano, basil, lemon, and the other pinch of salt.  Whisk in the remaining olive oil.

Grill or pan fry the steak (I use an electric grill) until cooked to your liking.  Allow to rest for a few minutes and cut into strips.

Toss the lettuce, fennel, and corn together and then add the lemon dressing.  Add additional salt if necessary.

Serve topped with strips of steak.

***And now for something completely different***

I lied.  It's not completely different.  It is another dinner though.

For this one I marinated pork tenderloin using the same mojito marinade I made for my Loco Tacos:  Rum, mint, orange juice, onion, and lime juice.  I let the meat sit in that all day.  Then I browned it on the outside and finished in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

On the side was "salsa rice".  I cooked onion, jalapeno, and chopped fresh tomato together.  I cooked up a whole grain rice blend and then mixed it into the tomato mixture with cilantro and more lime juice.

Quite tasty.  This is a perfect marinade for pork.  

***A real recipe is coming***

While planning my meals for this week I thought a tasty option would be a quick and light chicken cacciatore.  I would use the traditional vegetables of onion, pepper, mushrooms, and tomatoes and quickly cook them with chicken breasts chunks.  I would serve the whole thing over zoodles to keep it extra light.

Then I was at the farmers' market this weekend and I had a new inspiration.  I can't get mushrooms at my local markets.  I can get eggplant.  If you're a regular reader, you know I have a strange relationship with cooking and eating eggplant, but I'm starting to find ways to make the smaller, creamy-textured, Italian or Japanese eggplants palatable (the big dark ones I have given up on).  When I saw the pile of multi-colored eggplants at one stall, I decided to reconsider the mushrooms and save myself a trip to the supermarket.

Chicken cacciatore is whole chicken pieces, mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers and wine.  Chicken Sorrentino is chicken paillards, tomato, eggplant, prosciutto, and cheese.  How about I do a little combination?

As an aside, do they really eat Chicken Sorrentino in Sorrento?   We seem to associate eggplant with Sorrento the same way we associate spinach with Florence (rightly or wrongly).  I was in Sorrento last summer and ate a pizza that happened to have sausage and eggplant on it.  I guess that's close enough.

Another aside:  I hate making zoodles.  My food processor needs some replacement parts and they are all backordered.  I have no easy way to shred zucchini into pasta-like shapes.  I had to make noodles shapes with a vegetable peeler (my mandoline slices too thick and the julienne blade is awkward with long vegetables).  That was rather tedious.  Once they were sliced, I sauteed them in olive oil and called it a night.

I'm calling this recipe...

Chicken Cacciatorentino

  • 4 small Italian eggplants, cut into large dice
  • Salt
  • 2  Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 6 ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 Tbl chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh oregano

Toss eggplant chunks with salt and place in a colander.

Heat olive oil in a large pan and brown the chicken chunks on all sides.  Remove from pan and keep warm.

Add onion to the pan and cook until soft. Add the pepper and cook until it begins to soften.  Add the garlic and cook another minute.  Pat the eggplant chunks dry with a paper towel and add it to the pan as well.

Once all vegetables are soft, add the tomatoes, wine, oregano and basil.  Return the chicken to the pan.  Season with additional salt to taste.  Simmer 20 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and chicken is cooked through.

Serve over pasta or your favorite pasta substitute.

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