Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chicken Salad on Chapoquoit Island

Recently I spent a lovely Saturday afternoon at a friend's house on Chapoquoit Island in West Falmouth. The Island overlooks Chapoquoit Beach and a small marsh on one side, and West Falmouth harbor on the other. Back in the 1890's it was known as Hog Island, and was used as a livestock pasture, but once it became accessible families built beautiful shingle style homes to enjoy their summer months on Cape Cod. As you drive by the beach in your approach to the island it's easy to imagine the elegant lawn parties and festive summer celebrations that took place over the last century. It's still the perfect setting for an old-fashioned croquet party, an elegant wedding, or a quiet spot to enjoy a late summer day.

The view from Kathy's kitchen

Kathy has her desk nestled underneath this oval window, and if she happens to be sitting there when you arrive you'll see her smiling face in the lower portion. As soon as you enter the eat-in kitchen you'll want to plop yourself down and relax. That's just the way this lovely old house is. It's warm, welcoming and takes you back to a quieter, less complicated time in our lives.

We were together for a meeting and I offered to bring chicken salad and mixed greens for lunch. On the way over I stopped at Coonamessett Farm to pick up their delicious field greens. Take a look at their site, it's a 20 acre sustainable farm in Hatchville (part of Falmouth) that also has a shop and small cafe where they serve up some good home cooking. Additionally, they offer farm dinners and other creative fare on certain nights.

Chapoquoit Chicken Salad (serves 6-8)
4 split chicken breasts (cooking instructions here)
1 cup red grapes
2 stalks of celery, diced
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 granny smith apple, diced
1/2 cup mayonnaise (Hellmann's for me)
Tbsp fresh chopped parsley

Use all organic meats and fruits, if possible.

Prepared the chicken breast according to the directions in the link I provided above. Allow the chicken to cool, then remove from the bone, peel off the skin and dice into small cubes. Add the celery, almonds, apple, grapes, and parsley.  Gently mix in the mayo with a rubber spatula so you don't bruise the fruit. Add salt and pepper, to taste.  I tossed the greens lightly with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

 I love this combination for a light lunch. With the fruit in the salad you really won't need to serve dessert, but if you feel differently these almond cookies would be an ideal accompaniment.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Segue Pasta

It's time to move on to the hard squashes and root vegetables, and make that transition to heartier fare. Last week I still had a few tomatoes from the garden so I made this gluten-free pasta dish, which combined the tail end of summer with the onset of autumn.

Segue Pasta
1 organic carrot, peeled and diced
1/4 organic butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 small white onion, diced
3 leaves of organic fresh kale, sliced
1 organic boneless chicken breast, sliced (full breast)
2 medium organic tomatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 cup organic chicken broth
Tbsp of white wine

Saute the onion, carrots and squash in about a tsp of olive oil until just tender (about 10-15 minutes). Add the chicken broth, wine, tomatoes and kale and cook for about 5 more minutes. In another saute pan heat a tsp of olive oil, then add the chicken and cook over medium heat until it's cooked through (about 8-10 minutes). Add the chicken to the vegetables and set aside.

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook off 3/4 pound of pasta. I used gluten-free Tinkayada, which works very well if you cook just until al dente. It should be pretty firm when you bite into it. Warm your chicken and veggies, then bring the pasta right from the water to this pan. Toss over medium heat for two minutes to allow the pasta to absorb the sauce. The pasta will continue cooking in the sauce and be a perfect texture when it reaches the table. Sprinkle with your favorite cheese and serve. The combination of flavors really works, and it's a gently segue for your taste buds as we venture into our next season of cooking.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Island Creek Oyster Festival 2011

I'm so glad my sister invited me to this event. Actually, I could have easily skipped it, but she insisted I come and I'm so glad that she did. Lisa is a volunteer; actually she had on a tee shirt that said "Boss" while others had shirts that said "Help", so I figured she must be one of the head honcho volunteers. Turns out she did play a pretty significant role in the whole affair, and she was right about this being my kind of afternoon. It's about three things that I love; fresh whole food, the beach and giving back.

The Island Creek Oysters Foundation (ICOF) hosts this event under an enormous white tent on Duxbury beach. ICOF's mission is to help build sustainable aquaculture systems in impoverished communities locally and around the world. Follow the link above to learn about their recent projects. The Saturday Oyster Festival, now in its 6th year, is their largest annual fundraiser. It's the perfect, picturesque seaside setting to pay tribute to the venerable Island Creek Oyster.

The gates open at 3:00 pm with a crew of shuckers at the ready. I started with 1/2 dozen of these sweet, briny beauties. First bite and I was hooked. They are superb, and each time I photographed the shuckers they insisted I eat one more. Who was I to refuse? They grow and harvest the oysters, so I was happy to oblige when they proudly offered their catch. Within an hour I had at least a dozen under my belt.

The festival also features an impressive line-up of local chefs from Boston, Cambridge, Duxbury, and some who traveled in from NY. At 5:00 pm they began serving samples of their tantalizing creations. There was a little bit of everything; pizza, fried oysters, fish tacos, braised lamb, fish cakes and my favorite, grilled oysters with a tomato beurre blanc.

As I slurped oysters, sampled the chefs' fare, and listened to the live music I kept my camera at the ready to capture the event. I hope my video tells the story, and perhaps it will entice you to attend this enjoyable and worthwhile event next year.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ratatouille for Lunch and Dinner

We're in the home stretch with the garden. This week I have a pile of zucchini, green peppers, purple pixie eggplants and a few tomatoes staring at me.

For lunch I made a quick ratatouille, which is basically a stir-fry of summer squashes, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and onions. Drizzle a little olive oil in your saute pan, add some chopped onions, crushed garlic, sliced green peppers, diced zucchini, summer squash and chopped tomatoes (I peeled them). Cook over medium heat until the veggies are tender. I like to cover the pan so it gets a little more juicy. Alternatively, you could place all these ingredients in a roasting pan, or casserole dish, and cook at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with a little fresh basil, salt and pepper to taste, then serve. This is the first year we've had the pixie eggplants. You can leave the skin on as it's quite tender, and I love the flavor. They seem to be less acidic than the larger purple ones.

For dinner I recycled the leftover ratatouille into a simple gluten-free pizza.  For the base use Trader Joe's brown rice tortillas, which you'll find on their handy no-gluten product list. If you have a cast iron pizza pan, or pizza stone, heat that in a 400 degree oven. Spread a thin layer of olive oil on the tortilla then flip it over. Add ratatouille and any other veggies you'd like. I added some steamed broccoli. Sprinkle with a little grated cheese, my favorite is Pecorino Romano, and then add shredded mozzarella, or whatever cheese you have on hand. I used cheddar. Place in the oven on your skillet or stone. You can also use a baking sheet if you don't have either of those.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. The oil on the bottom will give it a nice crispy crunch. Personally, I like a white pizza (no tomato sauce), but feel free to try it with sauce. The tortilla makes a nice thin crust which I happen to adore. It's an easy solution to making a gluten-free pizza that tastes delicious. Consider getting a pizza paddle, if you don't already have one. It's the safest way to get the pizza in and out of the oven, plus you'll look like a pro!