Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chicken Caesar Club

Besides grilled cheese, my favorite sandwich is a BLT. So, when I discovered this recipe, which I have deemed a "BLT On Steroids," I had to have it...and soon!

* Because this recipe had familiar ingredients and I knew what to expect in terms of flavor, I made lots of changes. See note by each ingredient.

Chicken Caesar Club (Serves 3-4)


2 chicken breasts; bone in, skin on (Although I originally planned on making the chicken breasts, I opted for Sara Lee's Roasted Chicken Breast in the deli section. About 1/2 pound was perfect.)

4 oz thinly sliced pancetta (My grocery store did not carry pancetta, so I opted for 3 slices of thick peppercorn bacon, which I crumbled)

Homemade Caesar dressing (The hassle isn't worth it, but if you want the recipe, leave a comment. I really like Ken's Steakhouse Lite Caesar)

1 large ciabatta loaf

2 oz baby arugala, washed and spun dry (Again, not available at my store, so I substituted romaine lettuce)

12 sun-dried tomatoes in oil (Since we had lots of tomatoes on hand, I went with fresh)

2 to 3 oz Parmesan, shaved


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan skin side up. Rub the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes until cooked through. Cool slightly, discard the skin and bones, and slice the meat thickly. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place the pancetta on another sheet pan in a single layer. Roast for 10-15 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to drain on paper towels.

Slice the ciabatta in half horizontally and separate the top from the bottom. Toast the bread in the oven, cut side up, for 5-7 minutes; cool slightly. Spread the cut sides of each piece with the Caesar dressing. Place half the arugala on the bottom piece of bread and then layer in order: the sun-dried tomatoes, shaved Parmesan, crispy pancetta, and sliced chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and finish with another layer of arugala. Place the top slice of ciabatta on top and cut in thirds (or fourths) crosswise. Serve at room temperature.

Observations/Suggestions: Besides my ingredient swaps noted above, my main recommendation would be to not toast the ciabatta loaf. By nature, the crust is already very hard and by toasting it, it made the bread very difficult to chew, not to mention noisy. Also, I think you could easily substitute a focaccia loaf and it would be delicious. Lastly, I only did one layer of all the ingredients to make the sandwich thinner, which I appreciated.

Recommended? A definite yes. This sandwich was delicious, simple, and light. My ingredient switches also made it a lot less expensive. A great summer lunch/dinner!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fresh Mozzarella Pizza (Fast & Low-Fat)

I am an "I Love Pizza" kind of gal. Honestly, it's so insanely good! I have a deep dish recipe that I am known for, so I was very skeptical (and nervous) to try a new pizza recipe, especially a thin crust. But, I must admit, this was more delicious than I was imagining.

Fresh Mozzarella Pizza (Makes 2 pizzas; 8 slices each)

2 1/2 to 3 cups all purpose (or bread) flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 package regular yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup very warm water (120-130 degrees F)

My Choice of Toppings:
Homemade Pizza Sauce (Top Secret Recipe)
Green Pepper
Basil Leaves
Fresh Mozzarella

In large bowl, mix 1 cup of the flour, the sugar, salt, and yeast. Add olive oil and warm water. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes, scraping bowl frequently. Stir in enough remaining flour to make sure dough is soft and leaves sides of bowl. Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead for 5 to 8 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease 2 cookie sheets or 12-inch pizza pans with oil (olive or canola). Divide dough in half. Pat each half into 12-inch circles. Partially bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until crust just begins to brown. Add toppings and bake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes.

Observations/Suggestions: I actually used less flour than anticipated. For me, when I added 2 1/2 cups, it was too much. Therefore, I was able to use the loose flour in the bowl to flour my board and continue flouring while I kneaded the bread. So, less is more. By the way, nothing makes me feel more like Betty Crocker than kneading dough -- I love it!! Okay, back to the recipe. In the dough, I always secretly add a few shakes of garlic powder and oregano leaves before I start kneading. It adds a little something extra to the dough. (And it smells heavenly!) For toppings, feel free to use whatever you would like. I know they recommend tomato slices instead of sauce, but at my house, we're sauce people and we love my recipe. So, I could not make that sacrifice. Go with your favorites --

Recommended? Most definitely yes! The crust had a wonderful texture. It kept its shape when you picked it up, but it was soft and chewy on the inside. A perfect consistency for crust in my mind and I am not a thin crust person. This pizza was the perfect light, bistro pizza. It didn't feel heavy and it's low in calories, so it's guilt-free. Then again, I think every piece of pizza should be eaten guilt-free!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Garlic & Herb Tomatoes

There is a fabulous restaurant in the Twin Cities called Crave. While there, I ordered a delicious chicken breast with a side of garlic mashed potatoes. What made the garlic mashed potatoes so amazing was instead of a gravy or butter, they topped the potatoes with garlic herb tomatoes. (Yum!!) So, I was desperately hoping this recipe would give a similar flavor and it did not disappoint.

Garlic & Herb Tomatoes (Serves 6)

3 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 pints cherry (or grape) tomatoes
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan large enough to hold all the tomatoes in a single layer. Add the garlic to the oil and cook over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to lose their firm round shape. Sprinkle with additional chopped basil and parsley and serve hot or at room temperature.

Observations/Suggestions: The cooking time took much longer for me and I only made half the recipe. Due to time constraints, we actually ate them before they were completely softened. I probably gave it 10 minutes total, so be patient. Also, I would add more herbs. Perhaps the tomatoes would soak up more flavor as they softened, but I still feel that they could have used something else. Maybe add some balsamic vinegar? Just a thought.

Recommended? Yes. I will try them on top of garlic mashed potatoes next time and see if I can recreate my favorite side dish. Also, I think they would be delicious as a substitute for normal tomatoes in any recipe that could use a kick of flavor.