When I was young, I was very active in theater. I was one of those wacky people who actually looked forward to all that greasepaint and the corseted costumes each week. I knew every actor's lines in addition to my own, and the strike parties were a BLAST.
I minored in theater in college, and I'm pretty sure that even today, many decades later, my drama episodes are Oscar-worthy. (If Ron were here, he'd agree with a raised eyebrow or two.) Seriously, though, I approach life 'in character,' because all the world is a STAGE!
When it comes to cooking we spend a lot of time showcasing the stars: Filet Oscar, Boeuf Bourguignon, Chicken Milanese...and so forth. But everyone knows that the star shines more brightly if surrounded by the perfect supporting cast! That's why you'll find my website includes not only the headliners, but also the supporting dishes as well. From the smallest appetizer, to easy rice dishes, to inventive salads, I believe in the whole shabang!
Take these roasted potatoes. I gave them some extra love and a fabulous costume by slicing them with a mandoline, and arranging them in a beautifully undulating circle with equally pampered golden beets. When you ladle an herbed olive oil and some tart vinegar over them, they are positively show-stopping.
Now, take a look at this salad that is already looking for it's OWN agent it's is such a rising star. But for my purposes, I was thrilled to showcase this charismatic dish on my table before all that attention went to it's little seedy head. By choosing only the most beautiful grape and heirloom tomatoes, and topping it with slices of the best mozzarella cheese, this rustic caprese salad is going to win not only your tastebuds, but garner a food Golden Globe as well. -- There isn't one, you say? WELL THERE SHOULD BE.
I hope he next time you're ready to prepare a menu and nourish your loved ones, you'll remember to spend a little extra time on...the extras! RECIPES below!
RECIPE: Herbed Roasted Potatoes and Golden Beets
Serves 8 / Click here for a printable version
4 large Yukon potatoes peeled and 4 small golden beets peeled and sliced thin with a mandolin
Dash of paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
1 t dried or fresh oregano
¼ C olive oil
2 T flavored oil, like Tuscan
2 T butter, salted
Arrange thin slices together and in a circle inside a baking dish or oven safe skillet, alternating every 10 slices or so. Arrange any way you fancy! You can also use some red beets and orange beets for color. Ladle the oil, salt, pepper, and herbs over the vegetables. Sprinkle with the paprika. Dot butter around and on top of the vegetables. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for about 45 minutes, or until the beets are softened.
Note: Make sure that if you soak the potatoes and/or beets in cold water to preserve them between prep and roast, that you DRY THEM COMPLETELY.
RECIPE: Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad
Serves 6 - 8 / Click here for a printable version.
1 pint red grape tomatoes
1 pint yellow grape tomatoes
2 medium multi-colored heirloom tomatoes
2 stalks celery diced
1 ½ C arugula
¾ C white shoe peg corn, thawed
½ yellow pepper cut into long strips
6 or 7 very thin slices of white sweet onion
1/3 C basil chopped
½ lb fresh milk mozzarella cheese cut into 1/8 inch slices
1/3 C fine olive oil
3 T apple cider vinegar
1 t kosher salt, ½ t black pepper
2 T white sugar
In a very large serving bowl add the grape tomatoes that you’ve cut in half, heirloom tomatoes that you’ve cut into large chunks. Add the yellow pepper, celery, onion, and the corn that you’ve drained and patted dry. Add the arugula. Cover with a wet paper towel and store in fridge until ready to finish and serve. No more than 3 hours.
Make the dressing by whisking the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar together well. When ready to serve, add the basil to the salad cut chiffonade style. Then and add the dressing and toss all together until dressing coats the salad. Then place the slices of mozarella on top, add a little salt and pepper, and serve.
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
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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.