Sunday, August 26, 2012

Caprese Pasta Salad with Chicken

Here's another one that I made MONTHS ago, and am just now getting around to sharing.

I pulled out this recipe in mid-May for my then-boyfriend (now-fiance!) on his birthday. I swear, he could eat this every day of the week, and twice on Sunday. I would like to pretend that I waited to post it until tomatoes were in season, but to be perfectly honest, I've just been too caught up in the excitement of getting engaged to worry about blogging. Regardless, I'm posting this at precisely the right time of year for you to try it yourselves :-)

My fiance prefers it straight out of the fridge -- the colder, the better. Personally, I prefer it at room temperature, but it's yummy no matter what. With so much fresh basil, mozzerella, and tomatoes, how can you go wrong, right?

Caprese Pasta Salad with Chicken
(adapted from The Cooking Photographer, who got the idea here and added a vinagrette from here)

Lemon Vinaigrette:

2 teaspoons finely grated lemons zest
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed to wet pasta

Blend the lemon zest and juice, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running gradually blend in the oil. Season the vinaigrette to taste with more salt and pepper.

Pasta:1 pound pasta (whatever fun shape you like)
2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (about 9 ounces total)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound diced ripe tomatoes
16 ounce tub fresh mozzarella pearls, drained
Lemon vinaigrette
Lots of fresh basil, chopped (I don't think it's possible to use too much)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon oil reserved from tomatoes in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to skillet and sauté until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plate and cool; do not clean skillet. Cut chicken into 1/2-inch pieces.

Cook the pasta according to the directions, drain, and rinse with cold water. Move the pasta to a large serving bowl and toss together with the rest of the ingredients.

Key Lime Pie with an "Almond-Spiked" Crust

Wow. It has been a LONG time since I've posted. So long that as I perused the pictures that have been piling up on Picasa, I couldn't remember what half of them were!  Clearly, I have not stopped cooking or baking in the months that Chez Smokey has been dormant -- I have just been lazy about posting!

As a "welcome back," I present to you a recipe for key lime pie that I baked back in May, but remember like it was yesterday. This was such an incredible pie, the pictures simply do not do it justice. The filling-to-crust ratio is beautifully high, and it is just a tart and creamy as you can imagine. The almonds in the crust, while not overpowering, certainly "take it up a notch," and set this creation apart from any I have made in the past. (I have this vivid memory of using a pre-packaged graham cracker crust for my first key lime pie however many years ago. It's hard to believe that I ever thought such a short-cut was necessary!)

Just remembering this pie is making my mouth water -- and making me slap myself (metaphorically) for not making it again this summer! Of course, summer isn't over yet, so there is still time to whip out another one. Anyone want to come over for pie???

Key Lime Pie with an "Almond-Spiked" Crust
(from Gourmet via Epicurious; adapted from Town Hall Restaurant in San Francisco)

yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings
active time: 25 min
total time: 10 hr (includes chilling)

For crust:
  • 7 (5-by 2 1/2-inch) graham crackers, broken into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
For filling:
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
  • Grated zest of 2 Key limes (I used regular limes, and it worked out fine)
  • 1 cup Key lime juice (the recipe calls for you to make it fresh, from about 2 pounds fresh Key limes, but I think bottled is just as good)
  • 4 large egg yolks

Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter a 9-inch pie plate.
Pulse together graham crackers, almonds, and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in butter. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of pie plate. Bake until lightly.

Make filling and bake pie:
Gently whisk together filling ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth and pour into crust. Bake until just set in center, 15 to 20 minutes.
Cool completely (filling will set as it cools). Chill pie, loosely covered, at least 8 hours.
Top with sweetened whipped cream, if desired.