Monday, May 23, 2016

Asparagus Soup

Hi foodies! I'm back!  And I'm just going to jump right into this like I never left. :-)

If any of you ever take a gander at my IG, you will see asparagus everywhere.  It's one of my favorite veggies due to the fact that it's a family favorite as well.  In fact, this past Easter, my Mom saw some good looking asparagus in the grocery store, and bought some to serve as a side.  Turns out she bought entirely too much and I decided to make soup out of what was leftover.  Mainly because the weather in Maryland and DC has been unseasonably chilly and I knew asparagus soup would be comforting (not to mention healthy).

So you will find the recipe below and I know it may seem like alot of steps but everything was done in about an hour, and all of the steps equal love.  This soup is delicious hot but I think it would also be great chilled. Plus it's a great vegetarian dish that can easily be made vegan (italicized ingredients = vegan friendly).  AND fresh asparagus is in season so head to your local farmer's market, grab a couple bunches and make this asap!

Ingredients (4-5 servings)

6 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth (1.5 cartons)
2 lbs fresh Asparagus Spears
2 tablespoons Butter or Olive Oil
4 large Shallots or 1 medium Onion
3 cloves Garlic
1 teaspoon Dried Thyme
1/2 teaspoon White Pepper
1 tablespoon Kosher Salt*
Fresh Lemon Juice
Shredded Parmesan Cheese, for garnish (optional)

*Salt measurement depends on other ingredients.  If you are using low or no sodium broth you may need the tablespoon of salt and possibly a bit more.  I used regular broth and salted butter so the tablespoon of salt was plenty.  Checking for seasoning after pureeing soup is important.


Prep the asparagus by cutting the pretty tips off at an angle and set aside.  Then, cut the woody ends off and add them to a large soup pot with the broth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and allow ends to simmer in the broth for 15-20 minutes.  Meanwhile, chop what's left of the asparagus into 1/2 inch pieces and set aside.  Then, fill a bowl with cold water and a few ice cubes for an ice bath.  

Using a strainer, remove the woody ends from the broth and discard.  Add the asparagus tips to the hot broth and blanch for about 1 minute or until the tips turn a bright green and are just cooked through.  Then, using the same strainer, remove the tips from the broth and immediately add them to the ice bath to shock.  Remove tips from bath to a plate and set aside for garnish.

Keep broth on low and cover until ready to continue.

Next, dice shallots and mince the garlic cloves.  Then, in a small saute pan, heat butter or olive oil over medium heat and add shallots or onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Then add garlic and allow to cook for another minute.

Add the shallot mixture to the broth along with the asparagus pieces, thyme, white pepper and salt.  Stir to combine and increase the heat to bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce the heat, cover, and let everything simmer for another 15-20 minutes or until the asparagus pieces are soft.

Lastly, puree everything in the pot using a hand-held immersion blender or standing blender. Check your seasonings and divide pureed soup into bowls.  Garnish each with the reserved asparagus tips, Parmesan cheese and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. 


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Chicken Picatta

I haven't done my blogging thing in ages. But those of you that know me or have been following me for a while know that my long hiatus in blogging doesn't mean I'm not cooking. I may not do it nearly as much as I used to, but I do pop in the kitchen from time to time and occasionally I create some gems. This recipe, my friends, is definitely a gem. It's simple weeknight, Italian cooking at its best and I promise, whoever you make this for will be pleased and impressed. And if you're not making this for anyone but yourself, that's even better because you don't have to share. This is probably the only dish I've made all year where I not only ate ALL of the leftovers but was genuinely sad when they were gone. Enjoy folks!


4 Thin Sliced Chicken Breasts*
1/2 cup flour
Salt & Pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons Butter, divided
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
1 Shallot, minced
1 Garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup Dry White Wine
1/2 cup Chicken broth or stock
1 tbsp Parsley, chopped 
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
2 tbsp Capers
Lemon Slices for Garnish
Side Suggestion: Spaghetti, cooked al dente 

*the traditional way to prepare this dish, is to pound out chicken breasts until 1/2 inch thickness. I find that thinly sliced breasts from the grocery store are ready to go. But if not, you may have to "pound it out."


Add flour to a plate and season LIBERALLY with salt and pepper. Coat each chicken breast in flour and let set for 5-10 mins. Meanwhile mince the shallot and garlic, and chop parsley. 

Then, in a skillet, heat 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp oil over medium-high heat and in two batches sear chicken breasts on both sides until golden brown then remove to a plate (a clean one!) and set aside. In the same skillet, reduce heat slightly and add remaining tablespoons of butter and oil. Once heated, add shallots and sauté for 3 minutes followed by the garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds. Next pour in the white wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up all brown bits from the bottom. Allow wine to reduce for 2 mins, then add the chicken stock and bring to a low boil. Once sauce has thickened slightly, add lemon juice, parsley, capers, stir to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Last step is to return the chicken to the pan and cook in the sauce for 5 mins or until cooked through. To serve, put a piece of chicken on the plate, add a slice of lemon and cover with sauce. Serve with spaghetti and a sautéed or roasted veggie. I sautéed garden fresh zucchini and cherry tomatoes.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Caprese Two Ways

If you're entertaining this weekend, or this summer, here are two ways to serve everyone's favorite Caprese Salad. The first platter is great for outdoor parties. Just cover it with plastic, keep it in the shade with tongs and people can create their own Caprese stack. It's simply sliced tomato, a basil leaf, and sliced mozzarella layered in rows on a platter. The good thing is that you can get the mozzarella pre-sliced, making this really easy to arrange. But mozzarella does tend to be a bit bland, so I season each stack with salt and pepper as I go. Then, right before serving, I drizzle the platter with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Yum.

The second platter pictured contains Caprese Skewers. This is great for cocktail parties year round. It's simply golden cherry tomato, a small piece of basil, a mozzarella ball (aka ciliegine), another small piece of basil and a red cherry tomato all threaded on a skewer.  I've made these skewers for catering gigs a few times in the past and I had a hard time finding the ciliegine mozzarella. Well, this time around, I go into BJ's (I shop in bulk when catering/entertaining) and there those little balls of goodness were. Yay! BJ's also had the golden tomatoes which I thought made the platter extra colorful and summery, though I have just used red in the past. The skewers came from Party City.

I served these Caprese Skewers at a party I catered recently for a dear friend. By the end of the party, they were gone! Along with the fruit skewers I served with a piece of strawberry, pineapple and two red grapes. Didn't get a pic because those disappeared even before the Caprese.

Both of these platters can be made in advance of your party. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pan Seared Salmon w/ Horseradish Dill Sauce

It's the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I know this may seem like a strange recipe to post just before our holiday season kicks off.  However, I am actually making this for our Thanksgiving feast.  See we have a relative coming to dinner with dietary restrictions.  According to my Mom, he can't even eat turkey, which I find kind of unbelievable but if it's true, it's also cruel and unusual.  Anyway, she asked me to help her out and make a healthy protein that would look great on our table and that others may enjoy as well.  This dish popped right into my mind.

In my last post, I mentioned how I tend to cook Salmon in a foil pack and get creative with all of the ingredients I'll add to it.  However, if you talk to any chef and ask them how to season salmon, they'll say two words: salt and pepper.  I believe this to be true especially when it comes to a fresh, gorgeous filet.  So in addition to Asian style and Italian style, I also sear salmon in a pan with salt and pepper.  Then, I serve it with a fresh, horseradish dill sauce for an added dose of flavor.  This sauce looks creamy, tastes rich but is actually healthy due to it's Greek yogurt base.

So if you're in the same boat as me, and are looking for a healthy dish or even a fish dish to serve this Thanksgiving, try this one.  Or make this when all the festivities are over and you're trying to recover from days of indulging.  The recipe serves 4 but I'll be doubling it for our larger party.  Be sure to check my social media pages for the pictures.  @the_single_cook on Twitter and IG or search "The Single Cook" on Facebook.  

Ingredients: (makes 4 servings)
8 oz Salmon Filet, cut into 4 2 oz portions
Kosher Salt, to taste
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Horseradish Dill Sauce, recipe below


Arrange the salmon filets on a plate or plastic cutting board and generously sprinkle both sides with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.  Allow the filets to sit for 10 minutes.

Then, heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet until the mixture is bubbly and almost smoking.  Add in all four filets, skin side down, and allow them to cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes or until the skin has become crispy and lightly browned.  Gently flip each filet over and sear the flesh side for another 5 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove the fish from the pans to a serving plate, cover loosely with foil and allow the fillets to rest/finish cooking for 5 more minutes.

Serve fillets with Horseradish dill sauce on the side.  You can garnish your platter with additional dill and lemon wedges.  Also, sautéed asparagus and white, brown or wild rice make great side dishes.

Horseradish Dill Sauce

1 6oz container Plain Greek Yogurt
2 tablespoons Mayonnaise 
1/2 a lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
2 teaspoons fresh prepared horseradish
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.  Be sure to check the seasonings.  Add additional salt, pepper or horseradish to taste.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Asian-Style Salmon in a Foil Packet

I get asked the question all the time: How do I cook salmon without over cooking it? If I'm looking at someone who is truly nervous and/or a cooking novice I say two words: FOIL PACKET. Sure there are lots of ways to achieve the perfectly cooked salmon. I've nailed the pan sear and there's roasting but all of this takes practice and some...finesse. So when I'm trying to lead others in the right direction, I like to take them down the road that I know for certain will get them where they're trying to go, not the road less traveled. It's the foil packet that's, in my opinion, the easiest, sure-fire way to cook salmon WELL.

Usually when I make these packs, I do a version in a rosemary, lemon and wine sauce. You can check that recipe out HERE. Even though this is one of my favorite dishes, I do enjoy Asian-Style Salmon as well where I marinate the filets in teriyaki sauce and bake or grill it. I wanted to do this version in a foil pack but I also wanted to include my veggies, making this a super speedy meal. So I came up with some veggies that are quick cooking and that would compliment the Asian flavors: carrots, mushrooms, scallions and snow peas. Though the night that I made this, I lucked up and found an amazing "Wasabiyaki" sauce at Harris Teeter (I discuss this below), but no dang snow peas! I was so disappointed in H.T. but I decided to double up on the carrots instead. Just wanted to explain why the snow peas weren't pictured.

Anyway, this is a great weeknight meal. Prep takes about 20 minutes, it all cooks in 25 and clean up is a breeze because you just toss the foil. Plus this meal is incredibly nutritious. Salmon is packed with protein and following my measurements, you get one and a half servings of vegetables and you can always add more. Plus all of the veggies I listed above are so good for you, not to mention the added health benefits of ginger and garlic. So give this a try. The recipe serves two but can easily be doubled. Enjoy!

Ingredients: (Makes 2 servings)
1 cup Carrot Slices or Matchsticks, divided
1 cup Snow Peas, divided
1 cup Baby Portobello Mushrooms, sliced, divided
3 Scallions, sliced, white and green parts divided
4 Cloves Garlic, grated or minced, divided
4 tablespoons Ginger, grated or minced, divided
6 tablespoons store-bought Teriyaki Sauce*, divided
8oz Salmon Filet, cut into 2-4oz portions
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Additional Tool: Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil

*I used a “Wasabiyaki” Sauce I found at Harris Teeter.  I highly recommend it because the wasabi added an extra kick of heat in this dish.  If you like your food mild, simply use regular teriyaki.  If you like extra heat and cannot find this sauce, simply mix a few drops of Sriracha Hot Sauce with the teriyaki sauce.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Tear off 2 sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil, approximately 12-by-24-inches each, and lay them on your countertop (If you’re just using regular foil, you may want to double up).

Dividing evenly, place the carrots, snow peas, baby bellos, and the white parts of the scallions in the center of the two pieces of foil.  Lightly season the vegetables with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.  Sprinkle a few pinches of ginger and garlic over the vegetables.

Next, top the veggies with the two pieces of Salmon.  Lightly season the filets with salt and pepper and sprinkle remaining garlic and ginger on top.  Carefully transfer both pieces of foil with the fish and veggies to a large baking pan or cookie sheet.  

Gently fold up the sides of the foil to partially cover the veggies and fish (you don’t want the liquid to run) and pour 3 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce over each piece of fish.  Fold the foil completely over the fish and seal the edges to form your two packets.  

Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Carefully open the packets and transfer fish and vegetables to a plate, being sure to pour any remaining sauce over the fish.  Garnish with the green parts of the scallions.  Serve with brown rice or skip it for a carb free meal.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Baked Egg Over Spinach & Grits

This baked bowl of deliciousness all started with me trying to recreate a dish I had at a restaurant.  I don't remember what it was called but it involved polenta, sauteed veggies and a poached egg.  It was so deliciously simple that I thought "I can make this!" (as I tend to do).  Though as many of you already know, I'm a grits girl and no matter how skilled of a cook I claim to be, there are just some techniques I am NOT here for and poaching eggs is one of them.  So when I decided to recreate this dish I replaced polenta with grits and got the idea to bake everything in the oven, including the egg.  This way, I keep the runny yolk but loose all the hassle. Voila!

Though there was one problem: I got a serious craving for this dish on a day that I was low on everything.  All I could find in the way of veggies was spinach and half a red onion.  So unlike the restaurant version, which had all kinds of vegetables, mine was going to be a bit simpler. But like the restaurant version it was going to be meat free.  Even though I knew bacon would be amazing in this dish, I just didn't have any. So I carried on with my meatless meal, being sure to season everything WELL.  You'll find salt, pepper and paprika in the ingredients along with butter and parmesan cheese.  The latter can be omitted if you want to make this healthier but those seasonings and flavors combined with the runny yolk are almost sinful.  And while we're on the topic, the runny effing yolk!  Oh em gee.  It is everything in this dish and even though I thought poaching an egg would tough, I found this method to still be tricky.

See I have made this about 6 times now and I admit that I over cooked the egg twice.  The dish was not ruined, it just wasn't the same.  Overall, I learned that the trick is to have aluminum foil and patience.  The 20-25 minutes that this dish required may feel brutal but don't rush the egg and don't be afraid of the yolk and some giggle.  I'm telling you if you were never a fan of runny yolk, you will be the president of the fan club after this dish.  It's that good.

And before I stop typing I just want to be clear that I typically don't overhype dishes like this. But like I said, here I am 6 baked eggs later and I still may make this again this weekend.  It's becoming my go-to weekend breakfast.  So when YOU make this (cause I know you will), feel free to use the veggies you have on hand or those that you like; this is very versatile.  Also, this recipe is written for one portion (Because it's definitely going in my cookbook for singles) but it's super easy to double or quadruple.  If you do, bake it in individual dishes or use a large casserole dish and serve family style.  Another helpful hint is that you can prep the grits and the veggies in advance, cover with saran and store in the fridge for 48 hours.  When you're ready, pre heat your oven, throw the egg on there and boom! Breakfast!  Though I must admit that when I prepped an extra dish for the next day it ended up being that night's dinner.  Again, it's that good! Enjoy!

1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
¼ teaspoon Fresh Black Pepper
¼ teaspoon Smoked Paprika (or sweet)
1 tablespoon butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups baby spinach, loosely packed
¼ cup Quick Cook Grits
1 cup water
2 tbsp Parmesan Cheese (plus more for garnish)
1 egg

Special tools: 
Small “Au Gratin” Dish (click HERE to view online, medium to large ramekins also work)
Aluminum Foil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small saucer, combine the seasonings: salt, pepper and paprika.  Then in a small sauté pan, heat half of the butter and the oil.  Add in the red onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes, then add in the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds more.  Next, add in the spinach, add a couple generous pinches of the seasoning mixture, and sauté everything together until spinach has just wilted.  Remove pan from the heat.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine grits and water and microwave on high for about 3 minutes.  The grits should be slightly runny, not too hard as they will continue to cook in the oven.  Carefully, remove grits from the microwave and season them with the remaining butter, parmesan cheese, and a couple more generous pinches of the seasoning mix.  Stir to combine.  Pour the seasoned grits into a baking dish (Feel free to add an extra sprinkling of seasoning as pictured).

Next, top grits with sautéed spinach, leaving a hole in the center.  

Gently crack the egg and add it to the center of the dish.  The egg whites may spread out, but the yolk should be in the center.  Season the egg with the a bit more seasoning mix and then cover the dish loosely with aluminum foil and carefully place the dish in the preheated oven.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  You are looking for the whites to be just set and the yolk to be runny.  I suggest checking after 20 minutes. If the egg whites are still undercooked, cover and bake 5 minutes more.  When egg is cooked, carefully remove dish from the oven.  Allow to stand for 5 minutes before placing the dish on a plate.  Sprinkle with extra parmesan cheese and enjoy. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cucumber & Tomato Salad

Ok so 3 things about this recipe:

1. This is a bit of a throwback to my childhood.  My Mom used to make this all the time when I was a kid and it was definitely my favorite salad.  She would simply toss diced cucumber and tomato with Wishbone's Zesty Italian Dressing and call it a day.  As a working mom of two, I will certainly cut her some slack but here I make my vinaigrette from scratch and while doing so, I stumbled upon an amazing dressing.  Which brings me to my next point...

2. This is an accidental "copy cat" recipe.  Like I said, I've always loved this salad and one afternoon when I was at Noodles & Company, I ordered it as a side.  It was a tiny little bowl of cucumber and tomatoes in an amazingly sweet and tangy dressing that I INHALED because I loved the dressing so much.  "What's IN this?" I kept wondering as I ate.  But I couldn't figure it out!

I ordered the salad from then on, but it wasn't until the other week when I decided to make my own cucumber and tomato salad that I finally figured it out.  As I looked in my pantry to make a vinaigrette, I realized (amazingly enough) I had tapped out of all of my vinegars except for one: Rice Vinegar.  I grabbed it, smelled it and figured it would be fine.  I combined it with the ingredients listed below and when I tasted the salad I screamed (In my head): NOODLES & COMPANY!!  That's their secret: the rice vinegar.  And hey, maybe I'm wrong but this tastes just like their version and I found it equally addictive.  Not only did I inhale a few servings, but when I served this for some friends, it disappeared then as well.

3. Lastly, I just wanted to say that even though it may seem like I'm serving you a summer salad right at the beginning of fall, I'm doing this because now is the perfect time to to make it. The other week when I decided to make this, it was because my Mom STILL has tomatoes coming off her vine and probably will for the next few weeks.  If any of you grew tomatoes this summer or have friends or family that did, you may find yourself with an abundance NOW.  And let's be honest, we can get tomatoes year round but I found that when a bag of tomatoes was forced upon me, this was the perfect way to use them up so that they wouldn't go bad.  I hope you enjoy! Oh and if you found yourself suck with a few little green tomatoes, I've got a great recipe for those HERE.

Cucumber & Tomato Salad

Ingredients: (Makes approx 6 servings)
5 medium Tomatoes, 1 inch dice
1 large English Cucumber, 1 inch dice
1 cup Red Onion, 1 inch dice, layers pulled apart
1/2 cup Rice Vinegar
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Dried Dill Weed
2 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon White Sugar
1 teaspoon White Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder

In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumber and red onion.  Then, in a smaller bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, dill, salt, sugar, pepper and garlic powder.  Pour vinaigrette over the veggies in the large bowl and gently toss to combine.  Cover bowl with saran and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.  The longer this sits, the better it gets.  Just make sure to give the salad a fresh toss right before serving.