Sunday, December 27, 2009

Spinach Salad with Walnuts and Apples

This is a great side to any meal, or can be a great lunch all by itself. A lot of times I will just go through the fridge and cupboards and see what I can throw together. Every once in a while I come up with something worth writing down, this is one of those.


1 handful of walnuts
Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Sea salt and pepper
1 sliced golden delicious apple (or whatever you want, I just prefer the softer texture)
1 clove of garlic(minced)
1/2 of a cucumber (chopped)
2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes (chopped)
1 small handful of dried cranberries
2 handfuls of spinach
1 small handful of Italian parsley (chopped)
5 leaves of basil (sliced in thin strips)
Feta Cheese


Put the oil in a pan and heat on medium. Throw a little sea salt and the garlic into the pan and let it cook for a minute or two. Add the walnuts and let them fry until they get a little browned on each side. Even if they get a little bit black on tips, it will still taste great. Throw in the apples with a splash of red wine vinegar. Let it all cook together for about 5 minutes. When you feel like it is done, throw it all in a salad bowl with the rest of the ingredients and toss with olive oil and red wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

You can add anything else you have around, like strawberries, pomegranates, dried fruit, nuts, herbs, whatever you like, this was just the combination I came up with, but the red wine vinegar is essential.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chicken Piccata

I leaned to cook Chicken Piccata out of necessity. My wife, Milana, would order the chicken piccata everytime we went out to get Italian food. When we first got married, I was still in art school (studying film) and Milana was working in the HR department at Kaiser. It is safe to say that we were just scraping by in the cash department at that point, so going out to a restaurant was out of the question. I started learning to make the dish myself with a recipe from the Food Network's Giada De Laurentiis. Her recipe is very basic and a great starting point for further experimentation. Over the next few years I made slight adjustments to the recipe and tweaked it until we got a consistent, quick and tasty recipe that I could whip up in short order whenever Milana's craving for her special dish set in.


  • 4 chicken breast fillets
  • Sea Salt and black pepper 
  • 1-2 cups of flour
  • 1 cube (8 tbsp) of butter
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil 
  • 1 small shallot (optional)
  • splash of dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 1-2 fresh lemons
  • 1/4 cup of capers (if they are in brine then rinse them off first, if they are in salt, add any other salt sparingly and use try using unsalted butter instead)

If your going to use a shallot (which I like to do sometimes), saute them first in a little olive oil until they are soft and translucent. Add the white wine and continue cooking until the little bit of wine is almost gone. Take the shallots from the pan and set them aside. Rub the chicken with some salt and pepper and then coat them in flour. Put 1/2 cube of butter and the olive oil into a heavy bottomed pan (I always use my dutch oven) and set the heat to medium high. When the pan starts to crackle, throw in the chicken and brown on both sides (a few minutes a side). If your pan isn't big enough just do it in two batches.

Note: I like when the chicken gets crispy brown on the outside, even if you think it looks a little too well done, its probably just right. So cook them fast and hot, you need some of the brown crisp to stick to the pan so you can scrape it up later into the sauce.

Take the chicken out and set them aside. I always sprinkle a little sea salt on them at this stage, and maybe a squeeze of lemon, straight onto the browned chicken too. 

Add the chicken stock, capers, fresh squeezed lemon juice into the pan and bring to a boil. Scrape the pan so all the browned chicken that stuck to the pan gets mixed in with the sauce and re-introduce the shallot.

Put the chicken back into the pan and rotate them around in the sauce a little. There should be enough sauce that you can mostly cover the chicken with it. Cook the chicken in the sauce for another 4-5 minutes on each side and remove the chicken again from the pan. The chicken will get dry if you overcook them, so you have to watch them close. If you using thin breast fillets then reduce the time a little for the second stage.

Take the sauce off of the heat and add the rest of the butter. If you want the sauce a little thicker, throw in a Tbsp or 2 of the flour and beat it with a wire whisk. Pour the sauce on the chicken and enjoy.

This recipe can be altered a million different ways. Some days I start out by sauteing a shallot in before the chicken. Some days I add a little white wine to the sauce, garnish with parsley or even add a little sliced basil if I have some laying around. Experiment with less stock and more lemon depending on your tastes.