At this point, you’re probably wondering what the heck my obsession is with this Annie person. Well, the truth is, she’s one of my dearest friends, and since she has moved to Portland, life just hasn’t been quite the same. This weekend I had the amazing opportunity to make a surprise trip to St. Louis for her bridal shower. She had no idea I was coming! Many thanks to her mom Jean, and Jean’s husband Mark, for making it all happen.
My contribution to the weekend was planning the menu for her shower luncheon. All day Saturday and most of Sunday were spent in the kitchen – with the wonderful help of Jean and Mark – preparing the various dishes for the meal.
Our meal consisted of Lime chicken, Quinoa & Black Bean Summer Salad, All-Time Favorite Sour Cream (Gluten Free) Cornbread, and a Green Salad with Fresh and Dried Fruits and Candied Pecans with a Garlic & Thyme Balsamic Vinaigrette. We served some libations as well – Agave Margaritas and Riesling, among others. We were so adamant about making the best tasting cornbread that we pulled two rusty ole cast-iron skillets from the attic, used power tools and sandpaper to de-rust them, and then seasoned them in order to use them. That’s what you call dedication, my friends.
Enjoy this meal, and keep on holding out for more meals that are truly for a table of one.
- 3 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice (6-8 limes)
- 1 cup olive oil
- 4 tablespoons white onion, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried tarragon (or 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped)
- 2 teaspoons dried chervil (or 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped, but hard to find the fresh)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 3 teaspoons fresh, chopped)
- Fresh ground pepper
Mix all ingredients. Marinate chicken thighs 3 hours or more in Ziploc bag. Squeeze bag a couple of times during the marinating to make sure all the surfaces of the chicken are covered. Grill, baste intermittently. Discard marinade.
- Pickled Onions
- Cooked Quinoa
- 2 poblano peppers
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 small zucchini, cut into 1 cm cubes
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon chipotle powder
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 8 oz. container of feta, crumbled
- 1 14.5 oz can black beans, drained
- 3 avocadoes, cut into 1 cm cubes
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (or more, to taste)
- 1 red onion
- 3 limes, juiced
- kosher salt
Take the red onion and slice it in half from the top (where the peel comes together) to the root. Then slice off the top and the root, and remove the skin and any funky outer layers. Place the onion on a cutting board, cut-side down, and orient it so that the stem and root ends are pointing north and south (figuratively). Take a knife and cut the thinnest slices you can from the top (stem) end to the bottom (root) end. (This is the opposite of how you cut half-rings of onions.) Put all the slices in a bowl of lukewarm water. Stir the onions and squeeze them a bit in the water; this process removes any bitterness. Strain the onions, place them in a non-reactive bowl, and add the lime juice. Sprinkle a little sea or kosher salt into this, stir and then top with another bowl that is large enough to cover all the onions. Place a large weight (such as a hand weight of about 10 lbs, or a large can of beans) on the top bowl, to press the onions. Leave for at least 30 minutes, then stir, replace and let sit for another 30 minutes or so. When the onions are ready, they will be crisp but flexible, and a beautiful, almost fluorescent pink. The longer they sit, the better they taste.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Coat a cookie sheet with vegetable spray and lay the poblano peppers on the sheet. Bake for approximately 30 minutes. You want the peppers to begin to turn black on the outside, but to maintain a firm enough texture so that they will not be mushy. Adjust baking time if necessary. Once cooled, remove tops/stems and seeds. Slice into pieces about one centimeter squared. Set aside.
NOTE: Some people suggest using a 2-to-1 ratio of water to quinoa, but when I cook it this way it turns out too mushy for my taste. My ratio is 1.5-to-1 water/quinoa. You might have to experiment to get your perfect texture. To cook quinoa, first wash the dry grains very well in cool water. If not washed properly (i.e. wash under running water, strain thoroughly, repeat a few times), quinoa will turn out very bitter because of a layer of saponins on the exterior. Add the quinoa to the three cups of liquid and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a low simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes, until the liquid is totally absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Remove cover and fluff grains to allow extra liquid to evaporate. Allow to cool before you mix up the salad.
The rest of the salad prep:
Add olive oil to a sauce pan or skillet and bring to medium high heat. Add cubed zucchini, cumin, chipotle, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8-10 minutes. The zucchini should be somewhat soft on the outside, but still a little crunchy on the inside. Nothing is more unappetizing than soggy zucchini. This adds to the varied texture of the final dish.
The rest of the preparation is simply assembly. Put the cooked quinoa in a large bowl. Drain the pickled onions and add them, as well as the roasted poblanos, the zucchini, black beans, avocado and cilantro. Mix well, but gently so as not to destroy the avocado bits. Taste for salt.
From Shirley O. Corriher’s Cookwise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking with over 230 Great-Tasting Recipes, William Morrow and Company, Inc., NY, 1997
Makes one 9-inch skillet or one 9-inch round or 8- inch square cake/baking pan’s worth of cornbread
*Note: This is best if you cook it in (guess what?) a cast-iron skillet with (guess what?) bacon fat instead of cooking spray to coat the skillet. Surprised? You should have caught on to me by now!
- 3 large eggs
- 1 can (14.5 oz) of sweet creamed corn
- 1 container (14 oz) of sour cream (you can buy low-fat, but don’t buy fat-free)
- ¾ cup vegetable, corn or canola oil
- 1 ½ cups homemade cornbread mix (making your own vs. buying a prepackaged “self-rising” mix results in a much better texture): 1.5 tablespoons baking powder, ¾ teaspoon salt, 1 cup PLUS 3.5 tablespoons cornmeal (NOT self-rising)
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- Non-stick spray
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Beat the eggs slightly in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in the creamed corn, sour cream and oil. Add the cornbread mix, salt and baking powder. Stir to blend well. Spray a 9-inch skillet with an ovenproof hand with non-stick cooking spray. Pour in the batter.
Place the skillet on a burner over med-high heat for 1 minute. Then place on a shelf in the upper third of the oven. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees and bake for 35-40 minutes. Slide under the broiler, about 4 inches from the heat for 45 to 60 seconds to brown the top. Watch carefully. Brush the top with melted butter for a shiny finish.
Note: instead of a skillet, spray a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the batter into the pan and place on a shelf in the upper third of the oven. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees and bake for 40 minutes. Follow the rest of the directions.
- 1 head lettuce of your choice, or one bag mixed salad greens
- 1.5 cups strawberries, sliced
- 1.5 cups cherry tomatoes
- ¾ cup dried cherries
- ¾ cup pecan halves or pieces
- 2-3 tablespoons sugar
Add sugar and pecans to a small non-stick skillet and turn heat to medium. Stir frequently until sugar melts and coats the pecans. Take off heat and transfer pecans to a bowl. Allow to harden and cool. Assemble salad. Serve with Garlic & Thyme Balsamic Vinaigrette.
- 1 cup olive oil
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, to taste
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed lightly (to allow oils to escape cloves and flavor dressing)
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- Salt, freshly ground pepper to taste.