Monday, November 28, 2005

Asparagus Parmesan. Created to accompany Chicken Van Jane.

As the title notes, this dish was designed to complement Chicken Van Jane.

You'll need:

microwave-safe baking dish (flat-bottomed; preferably barely long enough for the asparagus spears; will need to be covered)

1 bundle fresh asparagus (only enough for 2-4 asparagus lovers - scale recipe up as desired)
~1 cup water
~1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

~1/4 cup olive oil

Wash asparagus. Chop ~2" off of each thick end, at an angle. Discard cut ends. Spread out asparagus spears as much as possible in baking dish, with thick ends in first if dish is too small for spears.

Pour in water. Cover thick ends rather than tips if you have to choose. Cover dish.

Microwave on high for five minutes. Remove cover carefully (HOT!); rearrange spears to be sure they have equal cooking time.

Microwave on high for five more minutes. Drain water. Remove cover carefully.

Pour olive oil over spears. Sprinkle thick ends with most of the parmesan cheese, saving only a little of the cheese for the tips.

Microwave on high for five minutes (more if you like very soft asparagus; fewer if you like very crunchy asparagus). Cheese should be nicely melted. Asparagus should be done!

Serve hot. Preferably, serve alongside its companion dish of Chicken Van Jane over rice.
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Chicken Van Jane over rice - a bite beyond sweet-and-sour. Created to be served with Asparagus Parmesan.

Our neighbors had a very sad holiday weekend and I wanted to make them some chicken for dinner, but my standard quickie chicken dishes (with tomato and onion, or with oranges) didn't seem quite sufficient for the moment. Bittersweet, sweet-and-sour, vinegar, but homey - that's what came to mind.

From what we had in the fridge, I came up with this. Serving it over brown-and-white rice and with a side of Asparagus Parmesan (created to complement this chicken dish) seemed in keeping with the mood (plus we were almost out of white rice).

It's enough for four big people and two to four smaller people, depending on how hungry they are.

You'll need:
wide, shallow microwave-safe dish (we used a glass 9x13 casserole)

4 large chicken breasts, boneless, or the equivalent in smaller tenderloins
1 cup white rice mixed with 2 cups brown rice (all brown or all white should work fine too)

1/2 to 1 cup wheat germ (preferably toasted)
~1/4 cup hot-and-spicy mustard
1-2 Tsp sweet-and-sour duck sauce
~2 Tsp pickle juice (we used lime-flavored dill pickle juice)
squirt of lime juice
a few sprinkles of shredded basil (garnish)

If using a rice cooker for the rice and the microwave for the chicken and asparagus, start your rice now. Follow your usual rice-cooking procedure.

Cut the chicken into three-bite sized chunks. Spread it out in the baking dish s.t. the chicken is one layer thick. We won't be turning it, so it'll need to cook evenly.

Shake the wheat germ evenly over the cut chicken. Squirt or spread the mustard over this, followed by the duck sauce, pickle juice, and lime juice (order really doesn't matter). GENTLY mix and spread the topping so it covers the chicken but don't get too much of it underneath the chicken.

Cover the baking dish. If using plastic wrap as a cover (not ideal from a health perspective, but it's what we used), poke a few holes.

Microwave on high for five minutes. Carefully pull the wrap back halfway and separate, but DO NOT TURN OVER, the chicken pieces. Re-wrap; do the other half the same way. Re-wrap.

If making Asparagus Parmesan, piggy-back its dish on this dish now (diagonally, so the top one doesn't directly touch the bottom one).

Microwave on high for another five minutes. Re-separate pieces if necessary, as noted above. Again, DO NOT TURN OVER the chicken pieces. We're going for a topping, not a sauce, this time. If making Asparagus Parmesan, remove it now to move the spears around.

Microwave on high for another five minutes. Time to check to see if the thicker pieces are done. Carefully cut one open to see if it's white yet. If so, taste. Do NOT overcook. If making Asparagus Parmesan, remove it now to change out the liquid.

Microwave for up to five additional minutes if needed for the chicken to cook. When you check it, be careful to leave the topping intact.

Once the rice is done, plate it. Serve chicken over rice. Ladle sauce over all. Garnish with a quick sprinkling of shredded basil. Preferably, serve with Asparagus Parmesan on the side. Best served hot.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Vinegared chicken with veggies

You'll need:
Covered microwave-safe dish

2 large or 3-4 small chicken breasts
1 bunch broccoli
1 good-sized onion
1 large beefy tomato

1/2 cup white wine vinegar
about 1/4 tsp (two or three shakes) of basil
touch (a shake or two) of cumin
about 1 tsp (several shakes) powdered garlic
about 1/4 tsp (two or three shakes) of oregano

Wash all of the vegetables. Cut most of the stems off of the bunch of broccoli; then cut or break the tufts apart. Slice the onion into rings, then cut the pile of rings in half. Slice the tomato thickly. Wash the chicken breasts. If fresh, cut the chicken into chunks about 1"x1"x2"; if frozen, run the chicken under warm water (or soak it) for a few minutes and cut the chicken as noted as soon as it has thawed enough to do so (within the first few minutes of cooking at the latest).

Spread the chicken out in the microwave-safe baking dish; cover with the vegetables. Sprinkle with suggested spices; tweak to taste. Pour the vinegar over everything in the dish, to moisten. Cover.

Microwave on high for intervals of 3-5 minutes, turning the chicken (and veggies if they poke out of the liquid) and recovering the dish at each interval. Will take at least 20 minutes to cook the chicken thoroughly (until the middle of each piece is white rather than pink). If chicken was frozen, may take closer to 30 minutes. Do not overcook, as the chicken will dry out pretty quickly and get tough - especially if it's sticking out of the liquid.

The broccoli will be soft and thoroughly cooked. The tomato will fall apart in shreds and will resemble well-cooked red pepper. The onion will fall apart and be soft and not too chewy.

Be sure to wash the knife/knives and cutting surfaces with hot soapy water (or in the dishwasher if possible) to avoid contamination. Make sure you don't check the cooking food with any utensils used with the chicken before it was cooked.

This dish, like most of these, can also be cooked in the oven. Use a covered casserole - such as a terra-cotta baker - and cook in an oven preheated to 350. Turn/check items being cooked periodically, though you won't need to as often as in the microwave. Cooking time may be a bit longer than in the microwave.
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Monday, November 21, 2005

Garlicky Gingered Eggplant with Mushrooms

You'll need:
Wide, shallow baking dish - glass, terra-cotta, etc.

One large eggplant
1/2 cup pre-prepared ginger-based marinade (we used a soy-ginger flavored one from a bottle, but use your favorite or improvise and make your own)
About ten large generic mushrooms or the equivalent

1/2 cup minced garlic (we used 1 cup, but that was too strong for some in the crowd)

Wash the vegetables. Cut off the ends of the eggplant. Cut it lengthwise into long wedges (they should look like pickle spears). Arrange eggplant spears, skin-down, in baking dish. Cut the mushrooms in half, or in quarters if they're enormous. Arrange around the eggplant in the dish.

Cover vegetables evenly with marinade. Evenly add the minced garlic.

Bake in microwave on high for intervals of three to five minutes until eggplant is as soft as you like to eat it (should take 15-20 minutes total). After each interval, gently turn each of the eggplant and mushroom sections so they get fully sauced and don't dry out. The mushroom is good for absorbing some of the extra sauce (or, in our case, the extra ginger and garlic flavor).

Serve while hot!
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Simple yogurt dip, great with samosas

The amounts on this can easily be varied to taste.

You'll need:
small microwave-safe bowl

1 cup vanilla yogurt (plain will also work; recommend that you add 1/4 tsp vanilla in that case)

about 1/2 tsp. dill (several shakes)
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. cumin (two or three shakes)
1/4 tsp. ginger (several shakes)

OPTIONAL embellishments: a touch of coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and/or allspice are all good. The basic recipe makes a quick-and-easy basic dip.

Stir well, but not vigorously. Heat in microwave on high for 15 seconds. Stir again. Serve.

Wonderful with samosas, especially Trader Joe's!
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