SURF AND TURF SALAD WITH GRILLED PURPLE, RED, AND WHITE POTATOES

A double-birthday celebration calls for a doubly good salad. I chose flat-iron steak and lobster. Mind you, lobster is rarely on our menu, expensive buggers that they are, but my favorite grocery store had a special buy on the small ones and I couldn’t resist. Thumbs up times four!

Olive oil

1 lb mixed mini potatoes (I used “Celebration” purple, red, and white potatoes), cleaned and quartered

sea salt

ground black pepper

1-3/4 lb Flat-Iron Steak

6 cups chopped iceberg lettuce

2 cups baby spinach

2 Roma tomatoes, quartered and slice thin

3 green onions, sliced thin

1/2 cup shredded italian blend cheese (parmesan, romano, asiago)

7 tbsp butter, divided

1 tbsp lemon juice

6 small lobster tails (shelled, deveined, and chopped coarsely)

2 tbsp chopped parsley

1) Preheat oven to 200 degrees for warming; preheat outdoor grill for steak (if you prefer to use a stovetop grill pan, heat 5 minutes or so before you grill steak)

2) Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large grill pan over medium heat; add potatoes and cook 12-15 minutes, stirring often, until just done; add salt and pepper to taste and place in oven to keep warm

3) Rub 1 tbsp olive oil into steak (top, bottom, and sides) and grill until you reach desired doneness (for a 1-1/2″ thick medium rare, I grilled about 8 minutes each side)

4) While steak grills, assemble salad on 4 plates as follows: iceberg lettuce and spinach scattered over plate; tomatoes layered in one corner and sprinkled with green onions; potatoes piled in opposite corner; cheese sprinkled over entire salad; set aside

5) Remove steak from grill and let sit on cutting board 5-10 minutes

6) Meanwhile, in large skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tbsp butter (reserving 6 tbsp); add lobster pieces and cook, stirring occasionally, 3-4 minutes until cooked through; remove from heat and set aside

7) Melt reserved 6 tbsp butter in small bowl in microwave on low heat (about 1 minute); stir in lemon juice and set aside

8) Thinly slice steak; divide steak between salads, placing down center of each plate; scatter lobster pieces over steak; drizzle melted lemon-butter over steak and lobster and potatoes; scatter parsley over salad and serve with your favorite dressing (don’t forget to sing “Happy Birthday”)

Servings: 4

POMEGRANATE-AND-PINE NUT-STREWN BASMATI RICE WITH STEAK AND CHICKEN

Our family shared this dish with friends last night and it was a hit. I know: the pomegranate seeds (arils) are pretty, but…really? With meat? With chicken-flavored basmati rice? Yes, yes, and yes. Those tasty little jewels took this dish from what would surely have been quite good to explosively delicious. Same goes for the pine nuts. So roll up your adventurous sleeves and give it a try. P/S: Senior disagrees, but I think this dish would have been better yet had I cut out the steak and doubled up on the chicken. But I’m more of a chicken person 🙂

2 tbsp olive oil

1 white onion, diced

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

2 cups brown basmati rice

3-1/2 cups chicken broth

1 lb grilled steak (I used top sirloin)

2 cups deli-roasted chicken, chopped

2 tbsp minced parsley

2 tbsp minced cilantro

1/4 cup green onions, sliced thin

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (you’ll have to dig through the fruit for them)

1) Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat, add onions and cook, stirring often, 5-6 minutes; add thyme, cumin, and coriander and, stirring often, cook additional 5-6 minutes until onions are tender

2) Stir in rice; add broth and bring to a boil; cover skillet with lid, reduce heat to low/simmer and cook 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender

3) Meanwhile, grill steak to your preferred doneness (I started grilling 20 minutes before rice mixture was finished cooking, allowing time for steak to sit a few minutes before slicing); slice steak into thin, bite-sized pieces

4) Stir chicken into rice mixture and cook 1-2 minutes to allow chicken to warm through; remove skillet from stove and stir in steak; transfer mixture to a serving bowl, strew with parsley, cilantro, green onions, pine nuts, and pomegranate seeds (I used only half the toppings and put the remainder in little bowls to allow diners to personalize their taste experience); serve away!

Servings: 4-6

Note: Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Mixed Meat Pilaf recipe

AVOCADO CLUB EGG ROLLS

My guys protested when I announced egg rolls for dinner. In their defense (or should I say mine?), reluctance had nothing to do with my cooking. Rather, they imagined I planned to plop on their plates the deep-fat-fried bundles they’ve been served in restaurants. Not that these delicious bundles aren’t fried, but in only just enough olive oil to crisp up the wrappers. Then there was the very pleasant surprise of what they found inside: the makings of a club sandwich. Yes, she does it again–no leftovers. Meaning nothing to warm up for her lunch the next day. Sad. Sort of 🙂

16 egg roll wrappers

Ranch dressing

12 oz cooked deli-roasted chicken, shredded

8 slices bacon, cooked to lightly crisp and diced (I prefer turkey bacon for the low-fat content)

1-1/2 cups diced tomatoes

1 avocado, sliced very thin

3 green onions, sliced thin

1-1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese

Olive oil

1) On large work surface, set out egg roll wrappers, turning them to form diamonds; working horizontally (1″ in from diamond points) assemble each egg roll as follows: light drizzle of ranch dressing, chicken, bacon, tomatoes, avocado, green onions, and cheese

2) Fold egg rolls as follows: fold bottom diamond point up and snugly around filling, fold in side diamond points, then roll up egg rolls; place egg rolls, diamond point down, on plate

3) Heat large skillet (the larger the better–you may need to make in 2 batches) to medium-high heat; add a generous swirl of olive oil; place egg rolls in skillet (diamond point down) and immediately lower heat to medium; cook egg rolls 2-3 minutes each side until wonton is crisp and golden

4) Before removing egg rolls from skillet, gently roll each side to side to ensure wrappers are cooked all around; remove rolls from skillet and place on plate; put in microwave and heat 1 to 1-1/2 minutes; serve with or without ranch sauce drizzled over top (a bed of shredded cabbage is also very nice)

Serves: 4 dinner-sized portions or 16 appetizers

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 06/05/12

SZECHUAN BEEF AND BROCCOLI WITH WASABI ALMONDS

Junior is a devoted fan of P.F. Chang’s Hot & Sour Soup. Junior Too feels the same way about their Beef and Broccoli. Since I’ve come close to mastering a version of P.F. Hot and Sour Soup, I thought it was time to come up with a Beef and Broccoli over which Junior Too would lick his chops. Success! Plus, not only is this dish easy to make, I believe my version is healthier. It certainly tastes less…well, heavy.

4 cups cooked rice (I used instant)

3/4 cup beef broth

1/4 cup Szechuan stir-fry sauce (I used House of Tsang brand)

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 tbsp olive oil

1-1/2 lb flat-iron steak, sliced thin

1-1/2 tsp sesame oil

3 cups fresh broccoli florets

1/3 cup wasabi almonds, coarsely chopped (I used Blue Diamond’s Wasabi & Soy Sauce brand–a new favorite)

1) Ready for quick and easy? Here goes: After preparing rice according to package directions, set aside and keep warm

2) In small bowl, mix beef broth, Szechuan sauce, and cornstarch; set aside

3) To large skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil; stir fry flat-iron steak slices 4-5 minutes; remove from skillet and set aside (leave drippings in skillet)

4) Add sesame oil to skillet; stir-fry broccoli florets 3-4 minutes

5) Give broth/Szechuan sauce a stir and pour over broccoli in skillet; add steak pieces and cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes; remove from heat

6) Spoon rice onto large platter, top with beef and broccoli, scatter wasabi almonds over top, and serve

Now wasn’t that ridiculously easy?

Serves: 4 P.F. Chang’s devotees

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 06/17/12

AVGOLEMONO (EGG-LEMON-CHICKEN) SOUP

With a name like avgolemono, it has to be hard to make, right? Wrong. This delicious egg-lemon-chicken soup is easy, easy, easy and fairly friendly on the wallet.

8 cups chicken broth

3/4 cup uncooked orzo

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

4 eggs

4 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

2-1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced

2 scallions, sliced thin

1 tbsp parsley, minced

1) In large soup pot over medium-high heat, bring broth to a boil; add orzo, salt and pepper and reduce heat to medium; cook 10 minutes until orzo is tender

2) Meanwhile, in medium bowl whisk egg and lemon juice until well combined; pour about 1 cup of hot broth into egg mixture and mix well; stir egg-broth mixture into soup and cook about 2 minutes until soup thickens

3) And chicken to soup and, stirring continuously, cook 2-3 minutes; remove soup from heat and serve topped with scallions and parsley

Serves: 6-8 dinner-sized portions

CHICKEN TENDERLOINS WITH BROWN SUGAR PECAN SAUCE

It was imperative that dinner be a winner–rhyming again :)–after my recent failure with shrimp crepes. Yuck! Well, that may be a bit harsh seeing as seafood and I do NOT go back a long way and Senior and Junior Too thought it was pretty good. But–really–it was not my finest cooking hour. As for this chicken in brown sugar pecan sauce, there’s a good reason this isn’t the first time it has appeared on my dinner menu. Senior: “This is so good.” Junior: “This is really good, Mom.” Junior Too: “Is there more?” Winner!

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1/4 cup flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

12 chicken tenderloins

1 tbsp olive oil

3/4 cup chicken broth

3 tsp brown sugar

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp cornstarch

2 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese

1) In large skillet over medium heat, melt butter; add pecans and cook 3 minutes, stirring often; remove from skillet and set aside

2) In shallow dish, mix flour, salt, and pepper; dredge chicken in flour mixture

3) Increase skillet heat to medium-high; add olive oil; add dredged chicken and cook approximately 3 minutes each side until no longer pink in center; remove chicken from skillet and set aside; lower skillet heat to medium

4) Add chicken broth to skillet and cook 1-2 minutes, stirring to loosen particles from skillet bottom; add brown sugar and stir; dissolve cornstarch in vinegar, then add to broth mixture, stirring constantly; add butter and thyme and stir until butter melts and sauce thickens, 2-3 minutes; return chicken to skillet and spoon sauce over top; cook 2 minutes

5) Transfer chicken from skillet to serving platter; pour sauce over top; sprinkle chicken with pecans and parmesan cheese; serve it up!

Serves: 4

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 06/16/12.

FRENCH ONION SOUP CASSEROLE

It’s definitely soup season, which means it’s also that casserole time of the year, so here’s another dish to warm up the kitchen and draw hungry ones to the dinner table. Though the picture makes it look a bit like scalloped potatoes, this casserole is a delicious take on taste-bud pleasing, tummy-filling french onion soup. And those scallop-y things? Why, bread sporting melted swiss cheese, of course. Thumbs up all around!

2 tbsp olive oil

3 large white onions, quartered and sliced thin

ground black pepper

2 cups grated Swiss cheese

1 can condensed cream of chicken soup (undiluted)

1-1/4 cup beef broth

1 tsp soy sauce

Ciabatta loaf, about 8 oz, sliced into 1/2″ thick pieces and cut into bite-sized squares (or about 3 cups cubed french bread)

1-1/2 tsp minced parsley

1) Lightly oil medium-sized, broil-safe casserole dish (I used a round 9″ diameter dish)

2) Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat; add onions and saute until onions are tender and translucent, about 20 minutes; sprinkle with black pepper to taste and remove from heat (I didn’t use salt since the cream of chicken soup has plenty built in)

3) Spread half the onions over bottom of casserole dish; top with half the cheese (the second half will be used during broiling); spread remaining onions over cheese; set aside

4) Preheat oven to 375 degrees

5) Meanwhile, return skillet to stove top and add soup, broth, and soy sauce; stirring often, heat soup mixture on medium heat until it begins to bubble; remove from heat and pour over onion-cheese mixture

5) Scatter bread across top of casserole and bake in oven 20 minutes until casserole begins to bubble and bread turns golden and crusty; remove casserole from oven and heat oven to broil

6) Using back of large spoon, press bread into onion-cheese mixture, leaving top halves visible; scatter remaining cheese over bread; when oven reaches its broil setting, return casserole to oven and broil 1-2 minutes until cheese melts and turns golden; remove from oven and sprinkle parsley over top (you can’t go wrong adding those beautiful bits of green); serve

Servings: 4

*Note: This recipe is an adaptation of “Cheesy Onion Casserole” pinned on Pinterest and tracked down to: http://www.instructables.com