Only 16 degrees this morning. 16! Do you hear me? Yes, it has been well established that Southerners are wimps when it comes to weather. You hearty folks up in the northern states are definitely laughing your suspenders off at our folly. We declared a state of emergency over just 2 inches of snow and a little ice (although it only takes a little to make things just plain nasty!) while you plow through mountains of the white stuff, still arriving early for church.
Let's face it. We are Oscar-worthy when it comes to drama, and this gave you a little smile to move the frigid muscles on your face to smile. So we are even.
Not that it makes any difference, but we didn't go out to dinner last night for the same reason - TOO DANG COLD. And all I could think about was Summer, and how much I wished I was biting into a beautiful ripe tomato; their juices dripping seductively off my chin, the saltiness of the seeds tingling my tongue and the sweetness reminding me why they are a fruit and not a veggie. With that in mind, one of my favorite summer quick foods is grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches. Made with savory and sharp cheese that takes the yum factor off the charts, I live for every gooey, delightful bite as I crunch through the butter seared into the side of each piece of thick, billowy bread.
Hey, why not try this in a savory dish? I have a huge brick of English cheddar in my fridge and even a lackluster Roma tomato, shipped to me from heaven knows where in the middle of winter, could benefit from a little slow simmering and Italian seasonings. And so, after staging all my ingredients, blotting my chicken dry, and piling the cheese on a plate (sure, I snuck a shard or two that came off the side,) I started in. Boy did it come together quickly and easily. You have to add this to your week-night repertoire. In hindsight I'm glad I made it exactly the way I did. I decided against spiking it with garlic, or trying to enhance the cheese sauce with another bit of color or herb. I wanted my meal straight up.
This was a winner and I would serve it to friends at a party in a heartbeat. It's pretty, packed with flavor and texture, warm and satisfying, and just the thing while watching the mayor of Atlanta apologize for their lack or storm-savvy, while cow-towing to a bunch of furious, Mercedes Driving parents. Awesome.
Chicken and Tomatoes Sauteed in Brown Butter and Oregano, over English Cheddar Mac-n-Cheese
Prep time 20 minutes/Cook time 25 (Download Here)
Makes 4 servings
2 boneless, skinless large chicken breasts, cut down the middle to make four portions
3 large Roma tomatoes cut into ½ inch cubes
½ t dried oregano
¼ t dried basil
4 T salted butter
2 T canola oil
Salt and Pepper
1 C rough chopped flat leaf Italian parsley
½ to ¾ C chicken broth
1 ½ C grated fine English Cheddar
2 C milk
2 T flour
Salt and Pepper
1 ½ C of elbow macaroni
Fill a large pot with 8 cups of water, add salt, and bring to boil. Then reduce to low and keep covered.
Preheat a saucepan over medium heat and add the butter and oil and let butter melt. Pat the chicken breasts dry, and place in the hot oil/butter. Season with salt and pepper. Let sear on the first side for about 2 - 3 minutes, until browned on the one side. You will see the butter begin to brown slightly. That’s a good thing. Turn the chicken over and let it sear for about it minute then add the tomatoes, the oregano, a little more salt and pepper and stir until the tomatoes are incorporated into the oil mixture. Add the broth. Reduce heat to medium low and when the steam stops, cover with lid. (Leave a little gap on the side with the lid askew. You don’t want it completely covered.) Let it simmer while you cook the pasta and make the cheese sauce, about 10 minutes or so. About 2 minutes before you are ready to plate the meal, add ¼ C of the parsley over the top. Don’t stir in, just let it sit on top so the flavors can meld.
For the cheese sauce. Take a saucepan and preheat over low heat, and drop in 2 T of butter. When it is melted add the flour and whisk vigorously for about 45 seconds on low to cook out the flour taste. Pull off the stove. Add the milk and whisk to incorporate. Place back on the heat, and raise the heat to medium and whisk until it barely begins to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste. Again, taste it. It will need more than you think. Add the grated cheese, whisk until melted. Cover and set aside.
When you start the cheese sauce, get the water back to a boiling, add the pasta, and let cook all the way, about 7 minutes or so. Drain and add pasta to the cheese sauce and stir. Reheat carefully if at all. You don’t want it to burn or get pasty and thick.
To plate, cover the bottom of a pasta place with about ½ C of the macaroni and cheese mixture. Place a chicken breast on top of that. Ladle over the top the tomato and broth mixture. Cover with the remaining parsley to garnish.
Photo and recipe Copyright, Camine Pappas, 2014
No question about it, once you learn how to make your own salad dressings you will NEVER GO BACK TO BOTTLED AGAIN. And it's so dang easy that good salads are now a given every time you create a meal for those you love.
There are a lot of combinations for making your own dressing -- an endless amount really -- but the basics are an oil, an acid, and then your choice flavors. From there you can add something to give it body and dimension like onion, syrup, honey, fruit, etc. Then emulsify everything together, and voila: COOL GREENS AND KILLER SALADS.
Here is my go to recipe for nearly every occasion, which is a good lemon mustard shallot vinaigrette. Looking for more options? Check out my latest article on The Common Cook Education Series Page which includes recipes for 5 varieties including: Spicy Thai, Maple Herb, Easy Raspberry and a Fragrant Rosemary.
If you like the recipes, please comment below so I know if it was helpful to you and check us out on Pinterest and Instagram and LIKE us on Facebook!
Lemon Mustard Shallot Vinaigrette
3 T lemon juice (fresh squeezed is the ONLY option!)
Zest from the lemon
3 T light sunflower oil (I use a little less than the 1 to 1 ratio)
Salt and Pepper (Be deliberate. These two flavors are key to this dressing)
2 t white sugar (taste the dressing after you've mixed it to see if it needs to be cut with a bit more sugar. You won't know because the tartness of the lemons is a variable.)
2 t yellow mustard
1 T finely chopped shallots (That's those things that look like a giant, brown, garlic clove. They're more mild than an onion and a more sweet flavor.)
Then, (Ahem...this is important) EMULSIFY with a good whisk. You will see it lighten and thicken in consistency. Then toss with the greens RIGHT BEFORE serving or it will wilt them. Unless you're doing spinach, then do about 30 minutes before serving.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime, poach your fish in white wine over potatoes and asparagus, and finish with butter and cream sauce, and you get your name in lights!!! -- No? Well, I'm still convinced that if you eat this impossibly easy and delicious poached fish you will be moaning in de-light; something I'm not sure Paul did even in Biblical times. But what do I know.
What I do know is that you only need 15 minutes to make this gourmet version of a delicious white fish entree. It's colorful, bursting with complementing flavors, moist and satisfying. The kick comes from Italian herbs and that ol' bottle of Lawry's Seasoning Salt. Here's my quick recipe that will float your boat, and give everyone a boost on a cold, dark January evening. (And it's ready quick! This is part of my #fabin40 recipe collection.)
Tilapia poached over potatoes and asparagus finished with a white wine butter cream sauce
#fabin40 #danggoodfish #poachfisheasily #tilapiamania
(This feed two. You got a mountaintop of followers? You will need more fish so double or triple as needed although I can't guarantee results if you do more than double it.)
2 - 4 ounce fresh tilapia filets, patted dry and brought to room temperature
1 large red new potato, diced in small pieces
1/4 C acidic white wine like a crisp Albarino (that's what I used! I wouldn't use Sauv Blanc or Chardonnay as the taste would over power this dish. Maybe an unoaked Chard or a Semillon)
3 - 4 T heavy cream
1 C fresh asparagus cut into 2 inch slices
1/8 t Italian Seasoning blend +
1/8 t Lawry's Seasoning Salt + (to your taste)
Salt and Pepper
2 T butter
1/2 T canola oil
Sprig of Italian parsley as garnish
Preheat a saucepan with med heat, and add the butter and oil. (You don't want a huge pan for this because you want to be able to perch the fish on top of the veggies while cooking and NOT touch the bottom of the pan.) When melted, add the potatoes and asparagus, season with the seasoning salt and the herbs. Toss and saute for about 3 minutes until the edges of the potatoes begin to turn golden...not too long, though. Don't want that asparagus to get too mushy! Now, add the wine and let it sizzle. Gently place the filets over the vegetables, season lightly with salt and pepper, cover. (It's awesome if you have a glass cover. If you don't, try some kind of see through heat tempered cover so you can watch the fish.)
In no time, about 2 minutes or so, you will see the fish turn opaque. Wait another minute. Take off the fish and plate it. Zap in micro for 8 seconds if needed. That's what I did to get the thickest middle part cooked. DO NOT ZAP ANY LONGER and do one filet at a time if you use this method so the fish stays MOIST.
Now, add the heavy cream to the veggies in the pan, and stir to incorporate and heat through, about 30 to 45 seconds. Pour the luxurious sauce over the fish, garnish and serve!
Copyright recipe and photos, Camine Pappas, 2014, All right reserved.
The 5 New Live-it Rules:
(Or, how to Live-it-Up ©!)
The Common Cook has some advice for you. Namely, to stop calling your sensible food portions a “diet.” Words have powerful energy and can change the way you feel. And since nourishing yourself is one of the great events in life, I firmly belief you should call it a “live-it!” In fact, why not go a step further and simply “Live-it-Up?”
1. Don’t do other things while you eat. Focus on the flavors, the chewing and the joy of it. Celebrate your mealtime with nice plates, maybe a flower on the table and make time to be grateful for the food and your ability to taste it. Enjoy eating and put that Kindle away!
2. Understand clearly what you’re consuming. Read labels, understand calorie and fat recommendations and do your best to AVOID SUGAR while searching for new flavors to experience. If you become a partner and not a victim, you'll feel stronger every day.
3. Stop connecting the act of eating with a body that LOOKS good, and connect it to a body that FEELS good. Trust me. The image will take care of itself.
4. Begin your Live-it with acceptance. Don’t start by hating anything about yourself. You can’t begin with your body as a battle ground. Accept every cell, every element of who you are RIGHT NOW, and then move towards change with exuberance and joy.
5. Don’t be afraid to go out to eat. It’s easy to customize your meal. Avoid sauces, dressings, and breads. Embrace double portions of vegetables, enjoy proteins, and of course you can have a bite of dessert as a reward. You’re not a prisoner, you’re just trying to Live-it-Up!!!
Copyright© 2014, Camine Pappas, All Right Reserved.
It is the start of January, crisp and cold, dark and quiet, and each day dawns in a whisper and not a shout. Leaves are silent, only turning in mock movement when touched by a gust of bitter wind. It reminds me that life is still tucked-in deeply behind bark, soil and rocks, slumbering with the solstice, and not as eager as I to wake up.
As I worship the bended warmth of the afternoon sun, I feel the horizon pulling her behind imaginary borders, whisking it away to shine upon southern shores and reprimanding me for my yearnings.
But there is something else brewing in my life that feels more like spring, and I feel it more keenly than ever. I am restless and tired at the same time; bold and also afraid, like two notes in a minor key that together create harmony.
As you read this blog you will see it's more about reflection than recipe, more about filling your mind than your belly. But shouldn't everything we do nourish us? Are we not here to be joyful and share that with others? I can think of nothing that blends those ideals more than writing and cooking. And something warm like this Paprika Rubbed Pot Roast contains all the best of what food should be.
As you spend more time reflecting during this time of year, I will hope that while you nourish your body, you never forget to nourish your soul.
Paprika Rubbed Pot Roast Braised in Apple Juice
By Camine Pappas/January 2014
1/5 lbs stew meat in large chunks
1 very large russet potato cut into large chunks
4 medium carrots
1/3 yellow onion large diced
3 T good, light olive oil
3 C plus of regular applie juice
1 bottle light beer (or beer of your choice)
2 parts paprika
1/2 part onion powder
1/2 part parsley flakes
1 part oregano
1/2 part dried basil
1/4 part dried sage
generous salt and pepper
Rub olive oil on meat and place in crock pot, and then apply rub. I ended up with about 2 T rub after blending the ingredients. Add vegetables and stir to coat them with the oil and paprika rub. Apply a little more salt and pepper. Fill 3/4 up to the top of the mix mixture with the apple juice. Add the bottle of beer. Stir lightly. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. When you remove lid, lower temp to warm for 5 minutes. Then add 1.5 T corn starch blended with 3 T water. Just stir in the warm liquid, return to WARM setting and stir until it thickens.
Serve over rice, noodles, or toasted bread. Garnish with dried tarragon flakes.
Recipe and Photo ©Copyright, Camine Pappas, 2014. All rights reserved.
My dad is a fan of giving food as gifts, especially on Christmas. I can always count on receiving some fantastic cheeses, beautiful nuts and dates, and other fare that makes me feel like I'm in that scene from "It's a Wonderful Life," where Donna Reed is welcoming the Martini Family to the hood. However, this year we got sidetracked a bit and didn't exchange gifts until a day or two after, even though he lives just around the corner. So, when I opened his gift this year and saw two beautiful Pork Loin Roasts. I quietly wondered if they'd been in his garage for awhile because he's famous for short-cuts. Yes, they were cold and had been refrigerated. No, they hadn't been frozen. All in all, they were about 3 days old. They needed to be cooked.
Don't tell anyone, but some days I don't feel like high maintenance cooking. And with Pork Loin, I like to make them with a Mushroom Port Wine Reduction as a reward for surviving Winter, and because I love how the wine sizzles when you add it to the mushrooms. When faced with these slabs of luxurious pig, I realized I wanted something, or someone to do it for me. Which is why God invented slow cookers, and why I knew it was time to figure out how to make shredded meat carnitas enchiladas at home because it's one of my husband's favorite 'eat out' meals.
The following was a sure thing. Moist, tender, flavorful and super duper easy. The spice was perfect, the tanginess balanced, the cumin unobtrusive but present. You don't HAVE to use pork tenderloin, indeed this is a bit of a luxury for peasant food, but I'm telling ya, it really makes a difference in the sweetness and the texture of the entire meal.
Ole, Dad. And Gracias for another great gift!
A good friend of mine has a daughter who is mentally challenged. Although I don't know anyone I really like that isn't, it still remains that I must mention her outward diminished capacity even as I quote her profundity. The point being that often the most wisdom emerges from those who are the most innocent. And when my friend told me that her daughter wished everyone (because she couldn't say NEW...) a "Happy YOU Year!" I knew that sentiment would become my theme for 2014.
Let's just be real for a minute. 2013 was bumpy, craggy, and downright unlucky. I was slightly, if not overly giddy to see it go. (Insert booting it in the backside in no uncertain terms, here.) It brought a lot of opportunities to be refined and enlightened, sure. But sometimes I would just rather have a neck rub, and say 'go away!' to the getting smarter part. Actually either a neck rub or give me something comforting like pasta to offset the whole rocky journey.
With that idea in mind, I decided that pasta would indeed be the PERFECT meal for New Year's Eve, and I gotta tell ya, what I created was a winner: Lobster Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Cream Sauce. Tart, warm, flavorful, spiked with enough garlic and thickened with real cream to cover any hint of temperance, it was served with a spring salad gently tossed with a blackberry vinaigrette, roasted pecans, and sweet onion. We finished the evening with a slab of my rum bread pudding and toasted the countdown with a cold glass of Prosecco that flaunted a delicate, single berry among the bubbles.
Aaaahhhh! The entire evening was awesome. Surrounded by old and new friends, and a bejeweled table of crystal, and multi-colored bling, we laughed and reflected and hugged each other tightly as the clock struck midnight; happy to be together, healthy, and in a land where we have peace, opportunity, and so much to be thankful for....Like pasta.
Anyway, enjoy the photos, check out the recipe, and I hope that this year truly is a happy YOU year!
Lobster Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Cream Sauce
Makes 6 to 7 cups
30 medium lobster ravioli (I bought these from a reputable fresh pasta establishment. You can use any other fresh pasta.)
10 firm Roma tomatoes diced
1 can pureed tomatoes (unseasoned)
½ can San Marzano diced tomatoes
2 t dried oregano
1/4 C light olive oil
Salt and Pepper
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
¾ C water
1 C heavy cream
10 large basil leaves finely cut
In a large roasting pan, spread the tomatoes out and cover with olive oil and salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast in 375 degree oven for 50 minutes or until the edges of the tomatoes begin to caramelize. Remove and place in VERY large saucepan or dutch oven. Add the crushed tomatoes, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper if needed. Simmer on low for 1 hour. Can then store it overnight and reheat. If using right away, add the heavy cream. Otherwise, if stored overnight, return to a simmer and then add the cream. Stir and serve with your favorite pasta. Top with fresh minced basil leaves.
Photo and recipe Copyright, Camine Pappas, 2013
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style centers around a love for combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.