Chicken Caprese

The painting in the pic above is titled “Peg’s Produce” and is by the amazing Kristin Gibson, reflecting this wonderful season of the freshest fruits and vegetables here in Eastern North Carolina. So look forward (and backward) to lots of postings including strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, corn, and so on… so here we are with luxury on a budget. This is the essential summer staple of caprese, with the added bonus of extra protein with a chicken breast. American Made! Yummy all the way down to the Tummy.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
3 Tbs olive oil  
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/4 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper 
12 cherry tomatoes
3 Tbs basil paste
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tomato, thinly sliced 
Torn fresh basil for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in small bowl.
Pour half on bottom of casserole dish.
Add chicken, and top with remaining oil mixture.
Place cherry tomatoes around chicken.
Bake 15 minutes.
Remove from oven.
Brush with 1Tbs basil paste.
Sprinkle on mozzarella.
To with sliced tomatoes.
Top tomatoes with more basil paste.
Return to oven and bake another 15 minutes.
Remove and allow to rest 5 minutes.
Slice on the diagonal.
Top with fresh basil.
Serves 4 with a side of vegetable and starch.

Hasselback Tomatoes

Hello Hello! There’s a surprise guest being featured next Friday…just think amazing person, volunteer extraordinaire (PandemicOfLove.com), deep thinker, lots more, AND she’s sharing her homemade Strawberry Bread Recipe. After all, it is the season of helping others AND of fresh strawberries. I can’t wait for you all to meet Suzi, a very recent friend and wonderful person!

This is a vintage vegetable that remains modern, and will always stand the test of time; and it’s finding a stage again in many forms. I especially love this creation because you can use it year round, since you are cooking the tomatoes. The name is derived from the restaurant where they originally introduced Hasselback Potatoes…the Hasselbacken in Stockholm, Sweden in the 1940’s. And a wise chef later decided to use the same treatment on the tomato. Put some swagger in your veggies!

6 ripe plum tomatoes, cored
8 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
6 Tbs olive oil
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper

Preheat oven to broil.
Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiling element.
Place wire rack on rim of metal baking pan.
Using serrated knife, slice small bit off long side of bottom of tomato.
(We’re making it sit flatly.)
Place tomato on that now flat side.
Slice crosswise at 1/4 inch intervals, leaving 1/4 inch  at bottom in tact.
Combine half of the Gruyere, basil, oil, panko, garlic, salt, and pepper together.
Carefully open tomato slices, and spoon a bit of mixture between slices (about 2 Tbs per tomato).
Place tomatoes on wire rack.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Broil until cheese is melted, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Egg and Sausage Flatbread

Raise your antenna and begin a slow clap! This is a Southern agenda where flavors comingle. Boom…for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner.

1 sheet Phyllo Dough Pastry, thawed overnight in refrigerator
3 Tbs Everything Bagel Seasoning
1 egg beaten
2 Tbs room temperature light vegetable cream cheese
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
6 oz spicy sausage
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
Fresh tomatoes, sautéed
4 poached eggs
1 Tbs honey, for drizzling
Chives for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°.
Brown sausage and onion together until cooked through.
Drain on paper towel.
Fold all edges of pastry over 1/2 inch to form rimmed edge. 
Brush with egg.
Sprinkle with seasoning, and press to embed.
Spread cream cheese across pastry.
Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.
Top the cheese with sausage and onion mixture.
Top this with sautéed tomatoes.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes until browned.
While that’s cooking, poach the eggs.
Remove the flatbread, top with eggs, and sprinkle with Gruyere.
Bake in oven for 5 more minutes until cheese is melted.
Drizzle with honey.
Garnish with chives and serve!

*Author’s Note: the don prefers scrambled eggs to poached eggs. So you will notice in one of the photos above that I used poached eggs on one half of the flatbread, and scrambled eggs on the other half. Feel free to mix it up in any manner that you desire!

Chicken Vegetable Soup

Happy Monday!

Slam dunk! I know, I know. It isn’t basketball season; nor is it hot soup season. That being said, I have a couple of friends who needed a little extra sustenance last week…and there’s little more nourishing than chicken soup. So I whipped up this version incorporating the currently abundant fresh tomatoes. Truth be told, it now holds the championship title.

©PEGhardee

©PEGhardee

Breast meat of rotisserie chicken, chopped
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
5 stalks celery, 1/4 inch slice
8 carrots, 1/4 inch slice
1/4 t kosher salt
1/3 t fresh ground black pepper
3/4 cup rice
4 oz can tomato paste
14 oz can diced tomatoes, juice included**
1 1/2 cups frozen green peas
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

Combine chicken broth, celery, carrots, salt, and pepper in soup pot.
Cover and bring to simmer over medium-high heat.
Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
In separate pot, combine 2 cups water, rice, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes.
Whisk together until tomato paste in incorporated into mixture.
Cover and bring to boil over medium high heat.
Reduce to low and cook until rice is tender, 15 minutes, stirring often.
In blender, puree rice mixture until smooth.
Whisk in to broth and vegetable pot.
Add chicken, frozen peas, cream, and parsley.
Simmer on low heat 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Serves 6 to 8.
400 calories per serving.

**I used my sweet canned tomatoes rather than the grocery canned. This added extra color to the pot; so don’t worry if your version is less “pink”!

Chilled Tomato Basil Soup

Need something else to do with all of those tomatoes? Well this is the real deal. Give it a whirl for a refreshing lunch or serve as a cool appetizer before a summer supper. 80 cals for 3/4 cup serving and 30 for demitasse serving! Now you simply Can’t Touch This! Thanks MC; it’s Hammer time!

©PEGhardee

©PEGhardee

4 medium size ripe red tomatoes, cored and quartered
2 green onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
3/4 cup fat free buttermilk
6 fresh basil leaves, torn
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t black pepper
2 Tbs plain reduced fat yogurt, for garnish
Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

In a blender, combine all ingredients except the yogurt and basil for garnish.
Puree until smooth.
Makes 6 3/4 cup servings, or 12 demitasse appetizers.
*Note: I use the garnish only when serving in a soup bowl. In a demitasse the garnish tends to glide straight to that upper lip!

BLAT Salad

All of your favorite things, just not the bread! I guess I’m on a bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato kick. Continuing the love here, salad form. Oh, and I just saw a BLAT Lobster Roll recipe in a recent issue of Food Network Magazine. Can’t WAIT to create it with local lobstah” when our family meets at The Cape later this month. Drink, Eat, & Carry On!Salad BLTA8 oz fat free sour cream
1/2 cup fat free mayonnaise
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 t dried basil
1/8 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
1/4 t garlic powder
2 large heads of red leaf lettuce, torn into small pieces
12 slices precooked bacon, warmed and crumbled
6 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 avocados, pitted, peeled and either sliced or chopped.

Stir together sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, basil, salt, pepper and garlic powder until well blended.
Layer lettuce, bacon, tomato, and avocado in a wide shallow bowl, or large platter.
Drop mayonnaise mixture in dollops evenly over avocado.
Cover and chill salad at least 2 hours.

Serves 8.

*Author’s Note: This is really beautiful presented untossed. I prefer for guests to see it in its glorious layers, and then serve it or toss it in front of them!

Mahi with Charred Tomatoes

Entree Seafood Mahi and TomatoesBeing in the kitchen and cooking serve as my creative outlet. I like to concoct on the fly so keeping a good variety of items in the fridge and pantry is handy. I’ve just learned that Captain Jim’s (my favorite seafood market 80 miles east and on the coast) delivers to Greenville every other week. Since I stopped eating beef in January, this is a very happy discovery for me. So last weekend I got to pick up and then freeze a dozen, yes 12, freshly caught mahi steaks. TD is in Chapel Hill for a continuing ed conference; hence, I was flying solo last night. So…I thawed a mahi fillet and searched the fridge for what else was on hand. I had a few mixed tomatoes and fresh dill. So here’s what I did. Literally 12 minutes from start to stop. A mere 250 calories to boot (yes, I researched it)! Thank you. I’ll have two please. Licking my lips yet again!

4 6oz mahi fillets
1/4 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 Tbs butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 t olive oil
Pint mixed color cherry or grape tomatoes
1 Tbs chopped fresh dill

Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper.
Heat skillet over medium-high heat.
Add butter to skillet and swirl to evenly coat pan.
Add fish to skillet.
Cook 1 minute.
Flip fish to other side.
Add wine to skillet.
Cover skillet with lid and reduce heat to medium low.
Cook 7 to 8 minutes, until cooked through.
In small skillet heat olive oil over high heat.
Add tomatoes and cook 3 minutes shaking skillet, until lightly charred and tender.

To plate:
Place fillet on each plate.
Spoon cooking juice over fillet.
Top with tomatoes.
Garnish with dill.