Nut Free Kung Pao Chicken

Searching for a flavourful and delicious dinner last night, Jonathan and I decided to make Kung Pao Chicken.  As the LCBO recipe mentions, this dish is usually served with cashews or peanuts, however, due to my allergies, I made it without – and made a few additions instead!  The mushrooms and asparagus that I added complimented the flavours, and fragrant ginger, garlic and green onion pulled together to create a truly dynamic meal.  This meal is tastier than a traditional stirfry – and aside from the canola oil used for cooking the chicken and in the sauce, I would say this is a relatively healthy meal – as long as you serve it with brown rice and don’t eat it everyday! Ginger is becoming one of my new favourite ingredients – I’ve always loved gingerbread cookies and ginger ale, but only recently has it made its way into my savory cooking.

Ingredients:

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts

Mushrooms – enough for two people chopped into small pieces

Asparagus – enough for two people chopped into small pieces

Chicken Marinade:

1 egg white
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp  cornstarch
Salt to taste
1/4 cup  canola oil

Sauce:
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp sherry
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp dried crushed chilies
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp chopped ginger
1 tbsp chopped green onion

Finishing Touches:
2 tsp cornstarch

Instructions:

1.  Dice chicken into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes and place in bowl. Combine egg white, soy sauce, sesame oil and cornstarch in a bowl and season lightly with salt. Add chicken and stir to coat.

2.  Heat a wok over high heat. Add canola oil and swirl carefully to coat. When oil is very hot, remove chicken from marinade, add to wok in batches and fry in oil for 3 minutes or until lightly browned and almost cooked through. Remove from oil and place in a strainer over a bowl to drain.

3.  Combine chicken stock, sherry, soy sauce, sugar, Balsamic vinegar and sesame oil.

4.  Reheat oil (adding more if needed) in wok. Add crushed chilies, garlic, ginger, and green onion, and fry for 30 seconds or until fragrant.  Add in asparagus and mushrooms and sauté.  Then stir in sauce and bring to boil. Return chicken and simmer in sauce for 1 minute or until cooked through. Add cornstarch mixture slowly using only enough to thicken (I added about 2 tsp), and stir to boil.  Extra green onions can be added at the end for garnish.  Serve with brown rice.

Serves 3 as main course, 6 as part of a Chinese meal

Wild Mushroom, Spring Pea and Zucchini Stroganoff

Dinner last night was a new recipe from the Spring 2012 Food & Drink magazine.  Jonathan and I tried out this recipe for dinner and were extremely pleased with the results.  The only thing we would change is the wine choice.  The Chilean organic chardonnay was flavourful and lovely however, next time we will probably use a more dry Riesling.  We selected our wine from the vintages section of the LCBO and we made a decision on it, probably because it was organic.  (Still a tasty wine though, we really did enjoy it.)

Modification to the recipe was the addition of zucchini, we had one in the refrigerator and it turned out to be one of my favourite parts of the dish.  The mushrooms and peas were delicious (mushrooms and peas are always delicious) in a nice creamy and flavourful sauce.  It was the fresh peas and mushrooms that drew me to the recipe originally.  The fresh thyme and chives are a must have, they added the yum factor, dried spices just cannot compete.

If it was my family eating this dish, someone would probably object to zucchini, we all have such different tastes.  Sarah hates mushrooms and Dad would probably want to take a vote as to whether the meal would go into the regular rotation of favourite meals.  However, the nice thing about cooking for Jonathan is that we both love so many of the same foods.  Maybe this is why we are soulmates?  Jonathan and I both agreed that we would make this recipe again!

Ingredients

12 oz (375 g) broad egg noodles

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, finely sliced

4 large cloves garlic, minced

2 lbs mixed wild mushrooms (halving or quartering larger ones so they are all similar in size)

1 cup fresh peas

1 cup sliced zucchini

1 tbsp fresh chopped thyme

½ tsp of salt and pepper

1 cup white wine

1 cup sour cream

2 tbsp finely chopped chives

Instructions:

  1. Cook egg noodles according to package directions until al dente.  Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large, deep, nonstick skillet, heat butter with oil over medium-high heat until butter is melted and foamy.
  3. Add finely sliced onion and cook until golden (about 5 minutes).
  4. Add garlic and cook for one more minute.
  5. Stir in sliced mushrooms, sliced zucchini, peas, thyme, salt and pepper.  Cook until mushrooms are nice and golden and perfectly sauted.
  6. Add white wine and cook until reduced by half (about 2 minutes).
  7. Mix in sour cream, stir well, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until it is perfectly piping hot.
  8. Serve over hot egg noodles and garnish with fresh chopped chives on top.

Thursday Night Dinner – Prosciutto, Arugula, and Mushroom Pizza

One my favourite things to do for dinner is to create a gourmet pizza.  Tonight Jonathan and I decided on some tasty prosciutto, the ever trendy arugula and delicious mushrooms.  While grocery store pitas do not rival the crusts of Woodenheads in Kingston, or Pizzeria Libretto in Toronto, they make a lot less mess for a Thursday night.

With the pitas as a crust, tomato sauce (any kind you have available), mozzarella, diced tomatoes, shredded prosciutto, mushrooms and arugula, came a flavourful and healthy dinner.  After drizzling a small amount of extra virgin olive oil on top, the pizzas were baked in the oven at 350 degrees F until the cheese was melted and the crust was a beautiful golden brown.

I would love to have gourmet pizza at my wedding, but perhaps it’s not classy enough; then again, maybe the wine would make up for it?  Also, I’m not sure Martha Stewart – or our Moms! – would approve of the idea. What we will probably eat at our wedding is whatever the wonderful chefs at Splendido dream up, using the best of fresh, seasonal Ontario ingredients.

Regardless, we have over a year to dream up possible menus.