Chicken with Morels and Creme Fraiche

Seasoned to Taste - Chicken with Morels

I think I will always see morels as tiny brains. But instead of grossing me out like they did as a child, they now represent for me something with a deep, earthy flavor and folds that hold all the creamy sauce you toss them in.

I also associate morels with the French movie “Amelie.” One of the characters mentions “hare and morels” … I’ve always wondered what exactly that meant.

This dish is one I look forward to making at a dinner party. Simple and elegant for the lowly chicken breast. Morels and creme fraiche are expensive, so this deserves a special occasion.

From Ina Garten.

Chicken with Morels and Creme Fraiche

Ingredients:

  • 1 package dried morels, soaked for 30 minutes in 3 cups very hot water
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 1⁄4 cup melted butter
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped shallots (1 large)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) creme fraiche
  • 1 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Lift the morels carefully from the hot water in order to leave any grit behind in the liquid. Rinse a few times to be sure all the grittiness is gone. Discard the liquid and dry the morels lightly with paper towels. Set aside.

Seasoned to Taste - Chicken with Morels

Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Dredge them in flour and shake off the excess. Heat half the butter in a large saute pan and cook the chicken in 2 batches over medium-low heat until browned on both sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to an ovenproof casserole dish.

Add the rest of the butter to the pan along with the shallots, drained morels, and garlic. Saute over medium heat for 2 minutes, tossing and stirring constantly. Pour the wine into the pan and reduce the liquid by half over high heat, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the creme fraiche, cream (if using), lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3⁄4 teaspoon pepper. Boil until the mixture starts to thicken, 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken and bake for 12 minutes, or until the chicken is heated through. To make ahead, refrigerate the chicken and sauce in the casserole and reheat slowly on top of the stove.

Served with rosemary Parmesan polenta.

Seasoned to Taste - Chicken with Morels

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

 

Kale Salad with Shaved Apple, Candied Almonds and Romano

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This kale salad has become a legend among my friends after a self-described non-foodie made it during a girls getaway trip. We all should have known that any gal who can whip up a Spam/Kraft Mac ‘n cheese dinner can also deliver a delicate and elegant salad made of only unprocessed ingredients.

Kale is all the rage these days, so you may be able to find shredded kale pre packaged at your local Food Lion equivalent. But it’s so much easier and cheaper, honestly, to do it yourself. Slice off the thick rib, roll the leaf into a cigar and then slice as thinly as you can.

Kale is a hearty, toothsome green that only works raw if shredded into ribbons and tossed with a tenderizing vinaigrette.

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Kale Salad With Apple and Candied Almonds

Ingredients
- 2 T extra virgin olive oil
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 c. Thinly sliced kale, ribs removed
- 1/4 c shredded Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1/4 c chopped candied almonds (sauté whole almonds in a pat of butter and couple spoonfuls of brown sugar over medium heat until coated. Cool on wax paper)
- 1 crisp apple, thinly sliced
- pinch cayenne
- salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together oil, zest and juice in your salad bowl. Add seasonings to taste. Add apple slices and coat. Add kale, almonds and cheese. Toss to combine.

The almonds offer a crunch and candied sweetness to the tart apple and lemon mixture. The Pecorino Romano adds a nuttiness and thickens the dressing so it nicely coats the leaves. I like to shave big shards of cheese over the top for garnish.

I have made this for numerous dinner parties and thanks to the robust kale, it does well as a leftover, too.

Cheers, friends!

Brie and Apple Grilled Cheese with Bacon Jam

Seasoned to Taste - Brie and Apple Grilled Cheese with Bacon Jam

Hello, world!

The No. 1 fan of this blog – my mother – recently asked if I’m “still blogging” and “still on Twitter.” So sad when even your biggest fan is questioning your commitment.

Sadly, I’ve fallen off the blogging wagon but am newly committed to getting on again. The following factors have led to my vacation:

1. Selling old house/moving into new house…while 8 months pregnant.

2. HAVING A BABY

3. Computer stolen, with all my food photos on it.

4. Cookbooks still in boxes

5. HAVING A BABY

I’ve just started cooking again – a much different experience nowadays, but a fulfilling one.

So before everything changed, I made bacon jam. And I smeared it on some bread, topped it with brie and sliced apples and grilled it in butter. It was good. But let me tell you – I threw the rest of the bacon jam out after it sat…and sat…and sat in my fridge unused. I guess I just don’t know what else to do with bacon jam. And it was quite greasy … and I am not shy around grease.

Still, what a cool combination of rich, smoky flavors. I got the recipe from my DIY Cookbook. And since I don’t know where the cookbook is presently, here is where you can find it yourself: Recipe here.

Seasoned to Taste - Bacon Jam

See ya soon, friends! xoxo

Sriracha Quinoa Cakes with Goat Cheese and Spinach

Seasoned to Taste - Sriracha Quinoa Cakes with Feta and Spinach

Somehow, my move to The South triggered a new craving in my life: Hot sauces. I don’t know if it’s the over abundance of hot sauces in these parts (they are always placed on the table with the salt and pepper, regardless of your meal) or the increase in rich foods I’ve been eating (hot sauce cuts through the grease), but I can’t eat a bite of most savory meals without reaching for the Texas Pete’s or Sriracha.

Aside from offering an acidity to the dish and a bit of salt, there’s something about the taste of good hot sauce that amplifies all the other flavors. But you have to tread delicately, lest you overwhelm the dish.

This little recipe, adapted from We Are Not Martha, is built around Sriracha, so you don’t have to worry about it overpowering the other flavors. Instead, it offers a roasted heat to the crunchy quinoa cakes that are spotted with creamy bits of goat cheese and green spinach.

They were a fun little snack and would be good dipped in sour cream, I think. And the presence of quinoa just makes it feel healthy. Try them and let me know what you think!

Sriracha Quinoa Cakes with Goat Cheese and Spinach

Ingredients:

  • 2 C cooked quinoa
  • 3/4 C breadcrumbs (I used dried)
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 C chopped baby spinach
  • 1/4 C Sriracha hot sauce
  • 2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • Pinch salt
  • 1-2 T olive oil

In a large bowl, mix ingredients well. Form mixture into patties, 1-2 T each.

Drizzle EVOO in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add patties to skillet.
Cook patties until lightly browned on each side, about 5 min. per side. Add more oil as needed in between batches.

Seasoned to Taste - Sriracha Quinoa Cakes with Feta and Spinach

Then you’re done! Each with a squeeze of lime juice and a dollop of sour cream, if you wish.

Seasoned to Taste - Sriracha Quinoa Cakes with Feta and Spinach

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Raspberry Breakfast Bars

Seasoned to Taste - Raspberry Breakfast Bars

I suppose you could say it’s *trying* to be spring. Trees are budding, pollen is falling, the daffodils are already past their prime, yet winter continues to noodle us with bouts of snow and freezing temps. Enough, already!

It’s not that I’m in any hurry to bring on the humidity, mosquitoes and dripping heat – it’s just that my bun in the oven is getting too big for any and all winter coats to effectively cover and I need to transition to my maxi skirts and wrap dresses STAT. Temperatures are expected into the 70s next week – here’s hoping!

This will be a season of major changes, but my wish is to continue to cook and blog as much as I can, to keep up on all the tasty memories. If you haven’t yet, be sure to follow me on Instagram (@asowa) for more live feeding.

Breakfast bars are a great way to believe you are eating healthy, but really they are just sugary, chewy, delicious pastries you may or may  not eat in the morning.

The combination of raspberries and oat crumble will remind you of all your favorite fruit pies: thick, bubbling syrup and toasted toppings. I baked these and ate them for a straight week, often multiples times per day. The corner pieces are my favorites because they are the most crunchy. Don’t be afraid to bake longer than it calls for if you like more solid crusts – the raspberries can make the crust soft in the middle.

One last piece of advise – keep the crust layer thick to again prevent a soggy bottom – mine was a little spare in patches, but it didn’t affect the flavor or my enjoyment of them.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (and her trip to North Carolina!).

Seasoned to Taste - Raspberry Breakfast Bars

Raspberry Breakfast Bars

Ingredients:

For the crust and crumb:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the raspberry filling:

  • 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound raspberries, fresh or frozen (I used frozen – try other fruits, too! Peach, blackberry, blueberry…)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Make the crust and crumb: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch glass or light-colored metal baking pan. Put a long piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, letting the parchment extend up the two short sides of the pan and overhang slightly on both ends for easy bar-removal. Butter the parchment or spray with cooking spray.

Put the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until combined. Add the butter and pulse until loose crumbs form.

Reserve 1 1/2 cup of the mixture and set aside.  Pour the rest of the mixture into the prepared pan and use your hands to push the crust into an even layer at the bottom of the pan (note, you want it thick and packed hard). The crust should touch the sides of the pan. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes (or longer, if necessary). Transfer to a wire rack and let the crust cool. Keep the oven on while you make the raspberry filling.

Make the raspberry filling: In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon and flour together. Add the raspberries, lemon juice and butter and toss gently until the raspberries are evenly coated.

Assemble and bake the bars: Spread the raspberry filling evenly on top of the cooled crust. Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture evenly on top of the filling.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the pan every 15 minutes, until the top is golden brown, firmed and the filling starts to bubble around the edges.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then cut into squares and serve. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two days – I found that the fridge kept them nice and firm and they lasted longer.

Seasoned to Taste - Raspberry Breakfast Bars

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Truffled Israeli Couscous with Bacon

Seasoned to Taste - Truffled Israeli Couscous with Bacon and Mushrooms

Israeli couscous is like a better orzo – pearls of chewy starch that mix deliciously with both rich and light flavors – from citrus and herbs to bacon, mushrooms and leeks.

I have to admit that the only recipe I used was the liquid-to-couscous measurements on the back of the package, adding in my cooked mushrooms, bacon and onion at the end. What I’ve written below is my best recollection – please adjust to your pleasing.

And of course, truffle oil is optional. I received some as a birthday gift, so I’ve been drizzling it on everything. A simple olive oil or infused oil would be tasty, too. Just a little drizzle to make the couscous sparkle when serving.

Truffled Israeli Couscous with Bacon

Ingredients:

  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 package or about 2 c. Israeli couscous
  • 4 c. chicken stock
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 2 c. sliced mushrooms (I usually use cremini or shiitake)
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Truffle oil, to taste, or olive oil

In medium sauce pan, heat 2 T olive oil over medium, then add shallot. When it starts to brown, add couscous and stir to coat in oil. When couscous begins to toast, 2-3 min, add chicken stock and pinch salt and pepper. Stir, bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer for 10-12 min, until water is absorbed and couscous is tender but not mushy.

Meanwhile, heat medium skillet over medium-high and saute bacon until crispy. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain and add sliced mushrooms to bacon fat in skillet. Saute until nicely browned (they will release a lot of moisture), 7-8 min.

When couscous is done, fluff it with a fork, then add mushrooms, bacon, scallions and salt/pepper to taste. Transfer to serving platter and drizzle with truffle oil.

Seasoned to Taste - Truffled Israeli Couscous with Bacon and Mushrooms

Yum! It’s almost hearty enough for it’s own meal and the leftovers were my lunch the following day.

To actually make this a meal, I would serve the couscous over a bed of your favorite greens and place a soft-cooked egg on top, so you can break the yolk and let it spill over, creating a creamy sauce. Oh man, that sounds good!

When I made this, it was a side dish for some grilled sausages on toasted baguette with a chimichurri sauce:

Seasoned to Taste - Truffled Israeli Couscous with Bacon and Mushrooms

What a delightful way to spend a weekend day – just cooking and eating with friends who live within walking distance. I can’t tell you how important it is to live in a close-knit neighborhood, for these kind of spontaneous lunch or dinner parties.

Enjoy, friends, xoxo

Pistachio Pesto

Seasoned to Taste - Pistachio Pesto

What to do when you have a Costco-sized bag of toasted pistachio nuts…you sprinkle them on salads, chop to coat fish or meat, and you make pesto.

Normally, I wouldn’t consider pesto without basil. It just seems wrong, like using walnuts instead of pine nuts. But basil isn’t exactly in season during the winter, so I took a chance with what I had on hand: parsley, Parmesan, garlic and tons of pistachios. What developed was a unique combination of flavors that I can’t wait to make again.

Without something strongly floral like basil, you have to rely on the nuts to provide the bulk of the pesto, which produces a thicker sauce than you might be used to. Pistachios (the roasted kind) are also drier, less fatty, so aren’t quite as creamy when pureed.

I love the dark greenish-brownish hue the pesto takes on …

Easy Pistachio Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. roasted shelled pistachio nuts (mine were salted)
  • 1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil

In food processor, pulse the nuts, cheese, garlic and parsley. With motor running, drizzle in olive oil until you reach your desired consistency – probably 1/3 – 1/2 c. for me. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper. If you used salted nuts, you won’t need as much salt.

Seasoned to Taste - Pistachio Pesto

This will probably keep a couple weeks in the fridge, but I wouldn’t know because mine didn’t last that long!

I immediately used my batch with some angel hair pasta and fresh tomatoes, which was a delicious and light dinner. Later, I used the leftover pesto in many ways: stirred into couscous, spread onto a sandwich and mixed with ricotta for an upcoming lasagna this week.

Here’s a crude snapshot of my pistachio pesto pasta leftovers, ready to go to work:

Seasoned to Taste - Pistachio Pesto

Enjoy, friends!

Almond Butter with Sea Salt

Seasoned to Taste - Almond Butter with Sea Salt

My mom got me this awesome cookbook from America’s Test Kitchens –  the DIY Cookbook, showing you how to make everything from your own Sriracha to Worcestershire sauce to candied ginger. I will soon be trying the bacon jam recipe, but before that I went for the almond butter, because I had been wanting to try making its sibling, peanut butter.

For something so expensive in the grocery store, the two-ingredient, two-step recipe seemed unbelievable. I guess I just assumed you added oil or sugar or SOMETHING else to get that great spreadable consistency.

On the contrary, all you need is nuts and salt, and the process of grinding the almonds  pulls all those rich oils out and blends the pieces into a smooth butter that sticks to the roof of your mouth. I added more salt than the recipe’s 1 teaspoon, because I liked the flakes of sea salt breaking through the rich butter. Bigger salt crystals always hit your tongue after a few chews, so they don’t overpower.

I have tested this recipe once, but feel it will be emerging again around the holidays – it’s a wonderful hostess gift or present, as it stores well and will impress your friends. I have consumed and given enough away that I already wish I had made a double batch.

Almond Butter with Sea Salt

Ingredients (makes 2 c.):

  • 4 c. almonds, whole
  • sea salt

Heat oven to 375. Spread almonds evenly on baking sheet and roast on middle rack until slightly darkened, 10-12 min. Let cool until just warm, 20 min.

Add almonds to food processor and blend, scraping down sides to help it along, about 7-10 min. total. Puree until the oils release and it becomes the consistency of peanut butter. Add 1 tsp salt and process. Taste for seasonings. Add more salt if you prefer.

I was concerned multiple times that mine was not coming together – you feel like you are grinding and grinding and it’s just a mess of crumbs. So I kept mixing the puree from the bottom to the top to distribute the pieces, and processed until finally, it started to become smooth. And became this:

Seasoned to Taste - Almond Butter with Sea Salt

Transfer to jars with tight lids. The almond butter can be stored in fridge for up to 2 months.

I have been snacking on crisp Gala apples dipped in my almond butter – just how I used to eat peanut butter as a child. It’s wonderful and such a healthy, filling snack for work.

Seasoned to Taste - Almond Butter with Sea Salt

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Split Pea Soup with Virginia Ham

Seasoned to Taste - Split Pea Soup with Virginia Ham

Grant and I are spending the day “de-cluttering” – cleaning out closets, making trips to the dump and painting the stairwell. While it is sunny and mild in our neck of North Carolina today, I hear our friends to the north are getting quite the snow storm that is keeping folks homebound.

Thick soups are perfect for those surprise snowy days, when all you want to hear is the hiss of your radiator and blips of soup bubbles working on the stove. I made this soup in an effort to use some leftover smoked Virginia ham … and try out the new immersion blender that my mom gave me! So excited. And it was splendid.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, but I added the meat – seems wrong to have split pea soup without some sort of ham. While I didn’t use a ham hock as is traditional, I think the Virginia ham offered a comparable flavor with plenty of meat (something a ham hock lacks).

I have reduced the amount of rosemary because I found it overpowering – add more if you love it.

Split Pea Soup with Virginia Ham

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. dried split peas
  • 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 c. chopped onion (one large, I used sweet onion)
  • 1 c. diced carrot
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 T minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 T soy sauce (for salt)
  • 4 c. water or chicken stock
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley
  • 1 pound diced smoked ham (or substitute)

Wash beans. Cover with water and set aside.

Heat 1 tsp oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot and bay leaf, saute 5 min. Add garlic, rosemary, paprika and pepper, stirring, and cook 3 min. Add tomato paste and soy sauce; cook until liquid evaporates, scraping bottom of the pan to deglaze.

Drain peas. Add peas to Dutch oven, along with water/stock. Bring to a boil, adding another cup of water if needed to thin it. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer 1 hour, stirring often. Discard bay leaf. Using a food processor or immersion blender, blend soup until pureed to your desired consistency – I didn’t want baby food.

Return Dutch oven to medium heat and add ham to warm through. Taste for seasonings.

To serve, spoon soup into big bowls and finish with a grating of Parm cheese and a drizzle of good olive oil.

Seasoned to Taste - Split Pea Soup with Virginia Ham

Goes very well with crusty bread and a simple oil-vinegar salad.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Chicken with Almond-Garlic Saffron Sauce

Seasoned to Taste - Chicken with Saffron Almond Sauce

Saffron is an unusual flavor that I’m not totally sure about. On one hand, I associate it with delicious Spanish dishes like paella, but on the other hand, it has a strange essence. The turmeric color it releases is beautiful, but that earthy flavor easily overwhelms my palette, so I have to be careful how I use it.

This Spanish-inspired dish uses saffron along with a bunch of garlic and almonds to create a rich, creamy sauce served with chicken. It is quite similar to a curry, so I am calling it Spanish Chicken Curry. The almonds puree with fresh bread crumbs to thicken the sauce without the aid of dairy products. I love that trick.

While I only used a small pinch of saffron threads (get these at Trader Joe’s – way cheaper!), I still found the flavor a bit strong. Grant loved it and ate all the leftovers, so perhaps the problem lies with my pickiness. My senses have been much more acute lately…

I made this with an easy rice side – simply cooking a little tomato in oil in your rice pot, then stirring in the uncooked rice and proceeding as normal. The tomato broke down into a nice light-red tinge gently coating the rice, providing a sweet bed for my chicken and sauce.

This recipe has a few steps, but the sauce can be made in advance and simply added in where the recipe calls for it. Note that I used boneless skinless chicken because it’s just so much easier to eat!

Adapted from Bon Appeit:

Chicken with Almond-Garlic Saffron Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 cups 1/2-inch cubes crustless white bread
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup dry Sherry or white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 chicken legs (I used 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

Method:

  • Heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add almonds and stir until golden brown, about 3 minutes; transfer to paper towels. Place 1/3 cup almonds in a blender or food processor. Set aside remaining almonds for garnish.
  • Add bread cubes and garlic to same pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until bread is golden brown and crisp, 4–5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to blender. Add broth, wine, 1/2 tsp. pepper, saffron, and a large pinch of salt; process until almost smooth. Set aside.
  • Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil in same pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add to pot and cook, turning down heat if needed to prevent burning, until chicken is golden brown on all sides, about 12 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  • Add onion to pot; cook, stirring often, until onion is caramelized around edges, about 6 minutes. Add sauce and chicken to pot, pushing down chicken to submerge. Bring sauce to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer until chicken is just cooked through, approx. 10 minutes for me, but depends on the thickness of your chicken. Bone-in chicken will take 20 min. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Divide chicken and sauce among bowls. Garnish each serving with reserved almonds and chopped parsley.

Seasoned to Taste - Chicken with Almond Saffron Sauce

Enjoy, friends! xoxo