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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday Spotlight: Scarlett Valentine

Cooking Up A Storm


Hey! Welcome back. I hope you enjoyed the pattern yesterday. Did anyone cast-on? If so, email me a picture and some details. What kind of yarn did you use? Who’s the scarf for? Comments? Photos! Remember, there could be a spot prize in it for you.
Not into knitting? Maybe today’s topic is more up your cutting board. Today I’m talking about one of my other passions—cooking.

When did I first realize I liked to cook? Probably the instant I realized I liked to eat and if I wanted to keep eating I needed to learn to cook! Vicious circle.

One of my first memories of ‘cooking’ was when I was five, maybe six. Mom would make these great pecan cinnamon rolls very early in the morning. She’d set them out to rise then spend a couple hours helping Dad pack up the van for a camping trip. We were always ready to go just about the time the rolls had risen properly for baking. Mom would wrap them in thick layers of tinfoil and give them to dad who would then wire them to the engine block. True story! I swear it. {crossing heart} The heat from the motor cooked the rolls while we drove. We’d have milk chilling in the cooler, and when we got about an hour out of town, we’d pull over at a rest spot. Mom would get out the paper plates and plastic forks and Dad would get out the oven mitts and wire cutters. Then we’d sit down to homemade, freshly cooked, gooey pecan cinnamon rolls and cold milk. Oh man, those were the days! I’m drooling just thinking about those rolls. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little tug on my heart with nostalgia.

Through my formative years, I remember all kinds of foods I loved. Today, those same foods bring back the same nostalgia those pecan cinnamon rolls do—chocolate chip cookies, taco feasts, pumpkin pies . . . even going fishing with my dad, bringing home our catch, preparing the fish and serving it up for dinner. Yes, I’ve gutted my fair share of fish. Not for the squeamish, but it was real ‘farm to fork’ eating. Really, the way it should be.

When I made the big step to get my own place, suddenly gone were Mom’s fabulous dinners and Dad’s barbeque. I had to learn to cook! I can’t begin to list the different dishes I’ve made or tried to recreate from Mom’s repertoire {really, who can match Mom’s cooking?}, but with time and practice, I’ve actually created a couple things that have become my own signature dishes. One of which I’ll share with you. Get your bib on. I’ll wait!



First let me say, on their own, I’m not keen about any of these ingredients. Some I tolerate. Generally speaking, they wouldn’t be first on my grocery list for a stand-alone dish. Some of you may think the same thing when you read the recipe. But if you trust me on nothing else, try this dish. I bet if you don’t love it, you’ll at least like it a whole lot. So here it is—

Simmered Vegetables with Poached Chicken and Potato Skin Croutons


Ingredients

Olive oil
2 big onions {I like white, but yellow are more flavorful}
2 yellow bell peppers
2 zucchini {or courgettes if you’re in the EU}
1 small eggplant {or aubergine if you’re in the EU}
2-3 big cloves garlic
2 Tbsp dried mixed herbs
2 chicken stock cubes {I prefer Knorr’s stock pots/gelatin based stock}
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 can of chopped tomatoes {or about a half pound of prepared fresh, deseeded tomatoes}
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 large prebaked Russet potato skins, or other large potato with a thick skin



Get out a big pan with a lid and let’s get cooking!

Going down the ingredients list, put the pan on medium-high heat to warm and drizzle in some olive oil. You can be generous because it’s good for you, just don’t put too much that you end up shallow frying your vegetables.

While your pan is heating, rough chop the onions and peppers and toss them into the pan. Give them a little stir to coat them in oil so they cook evenly. While those are sautéing, rough chop the zucchini and eggplant then toss them in the pan too, mixing well.

Rough chop your fresh garlic. Add more if you like garlic, less if you don’t, but garlic is good for you too, so whack it in. Then add in the chopped tomatoes, mixed herbs, stock pots/cubes and paprika, mixing well.

While the pan is coming up to simmer, chop the chicken breasts into big chunks and scatter on top of the veg. Press them down into the veg so their surrounded but not totally covered. Cover the pan and turn down the heat so it simmers slowly. Give it about 45 minutes to an hour on low. Check occasionally to be sure enough liquid is developing from the vegetables as they cook down.

About 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve up, prepare your potato skins.
Pour some olive oil into another pan, enough to shallow fry them. Alternatively, if you’re bold and have a deep fat fryer, use that.

The potato skins should be from prebaked and gutted potatoes. Chop the skins into big chunks roughly the size of the veg when you chopped them.

Fry the skins until they’re crispy. Cook in batches to ensure crispiness. As you pull them out of the oil, drain them on paper towels. Use a little sea salt to flavor, or a mix of salt and paprika.

Dish up the veg and chicken, and top with your potato skin croutons.

Eat with a big spoon!

Note: This is a dish you can prepare ahead of time, perhaps a day, and reheat. I like to make a huge batch and portion out two servings per container {one for myself and one for himself} and freeze. When I want to use one, I either defrost it in a pan on low heat until it simmers, or put it in the microwave. In the time it takes to do either, you can make the croutons.

So, how does cooking inspire my writing? Well, food can be very sensual. It awakens all of your senses—flavors on your taste buds, scents fill your nostrils, the color contrast in the pan can entice, the texture of the meat and veg in your mouth and its warmth is so comforting, and you just can’t help but groan with pleasure as the flavors envelop you.

Some believe certain fruits and vegetables have aphrodisiac qualities. For example, zucchinis, and to a degree eggplant, are phallus shaped. Tomatoes are known as ‘love apples’ and contain high doses of lycopene which is a known libido-enhancer.
Peppers, including bell peppers, onions and garlic turn up the body’s heat, sending blood to ALL the organs. And chicken is a great source of protein and releases nutrients slowly into the body, meaning you can go . . . all . . . night!

So what’s not to love about this dish? Have a bowl and crank up your libido!

I hope you enjoy this recipe. I’d love to hear comments back from readers. Let me know if you tried it and liked it {or didn’t}, and any additions or substitutions you might make if you make it again.

Thanks again for hanging out with me today. Remember there will be prizes this week {a spot prize and a grand prize at the end}, so join me tomorrow when I’ll be chatting about another one of my passions—Gardening. Get on your gloves and find a sunny room in your house, as I bring outdoor gardening inside!

~ Scarlett
“What’s a little bondage between friends?”
www.Scarlett-Valentine.com
Available now – Awakening, book one of The ABCs of S-E-X: Love by the Letter series

4 comments:

Mysti Holiday said...

Oh WOW! That looks and sounds amazing. I'm going to have to give this a try. If you're not keen on the ingredients but like the dish, and I LOVE the ingredients ... how much more might I like it? *G*

Maureen said...

I was never thrilled with cooking but found that when I had children I had to do it and now I am always looking for a new recipe everyone will like.
mce1011 AT aol DOT com

SCARLETT VALENTINE said...

Hi Mysti,

First, love your name. Sounds like a vacation here in Ireland! :-)

I like the ingredients on their own. I don't crave them or anything, but they're OK. I cook a lot with onions and peppers because I make a lot of Mexican food. I usually steam zucchini. Almost never eat eggplant! But all of them together simmered in the tomatoes and herbs and spices . . . yum! Add in the chicken and extra smoked paprika . . . YUM!

I'm roasting a chicken for dinner tonight and will use the leftovers tomorrow for this dish.

If you love those ingredients, I can't wait to hear if you've made this dish and how it turned out for you. Be sure to let me know!

SCARLETT VALENTINE said...

Maureen,

I was never thrilled with cooking either. But if I wanted to eat, I had to learn. One can only live so long on cereal! ;-)

Please let me know if you try this one and how you like it!