Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Easy Chicken Parmesan Casserole


Many times I crave a traditional Chicken Parmesan but don't want all the fuss and mess of breading and frying the chicken. Especially on a work week night. After a day on my feet, tending to patients, there's little energy to make an elaborate meal. Here's where my Easy Chicken Parmesan Casserole comes in. It's easy to make, takes little prep time and it really satisfies that craving.  Most, if not all, the items are probably already in your pantry or freezer, and that's a winner in my opinion. While it's baking away, just boil some pasta to serve with it, add a tossed salad and dinner is on the table.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs chicken breast, cubed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 24-oz jar of your favorite pasta sauce
1 cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1 cup panko
1 tsp dried oregano
4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
The Petite Chef - Eryka

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saute pan, heat the olive oil and cook the onions until soft, then add the garlic. Cook for about 1 minute. Remove from pan. Cook the chicken in the same pan with a little bit more oil. Cook through.

2. In a 13 x 9 casserole dish, add in the cooked onion/garlic, chicken and the entire jar of pasta sauce.  Mix well to incorporate. Add the Parmesan cheese first then layer the mozzarella cheese on top.

3. In a separate small bowl, combine the panko, oregano, pinch of salt and pepper and fresh basil. Mix all together and then sprinkle on top of cheese. Place in oven to cook for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top and cheese has melted. Serve with pasta. Enjoy!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fish & Green Beans in a Pesto Wine Sauce


I am always looking for meals that cook up relatively fast, especially if it's a weeknight when I get home from a run, after work ... which means it's really late.

I came up with this recipe, as many of my quick to make recipes are developed ... it's what I had in the fridge or freezer.  In this case in both of the aforementioned appliances!

Dashing from one appliance to the other I found some fish in the freezer, a few shallots in the veggie basket, from the fridge, the last of the green beans from my trip to farmer's market, left over white wine and my homemade Quick and Easy Roasted Walnut Pesto.

This recipe truly is a quick, easy any night of the week recipe, but it is especially great on busy weeknights.  It's cooks up in about 15 minutes.  It's a light, flavorful
and the quick cooking method produces an exceptionally tender fish and crisp green beans.

  • 4 white fish fillets - (1 pound) such as cod, haddock, monkfish, halibut
  • 1 small bunch of green beans (about 2 hand fulls)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 large shallots, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 generous tablespoon Pesto* (get the recipe for my Quick & Easy Roasted Walnut Pesto)
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  1. Steam green beans with a sprinkle of water in your microwave for 3 minutes or blanch for 1 minute in boiling water, remove and place in ice water. Set aside.
  2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, add a 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and shallots. Cook for 5-7 minutes on medium low heat until the shallots begin to caramelize.
  3. Pat fish dry with paper towel and salt and pepper each side of your fish.
  4. Once shallots are cooked push to the outer edges of your pan, raise heat to medium and add the cubed butter and remaining oil. 
  5. Gently add the fish in one layer and saute each side until lightly golden (not looking for a char here)
  6. Pour 1/4 cup white wine into a measuring cup and add pesto, stir to incorporate.
  7. Add steamed green beans to pan lay over fish.
  8. Pour pesto-wine mixture over fish and green beens making certain that all pieces are covered.
  9. Cover and let cook for 5 minutes.
  10. Remove pan from heat to stop cooking. Serve.
Serve with a buttered rice pilaf or orzo and a crisp white wine.  ENJOY!

Recipe Notes: *You can also use store bought pesto if you don't have the ingredients on hand to make it from scratch.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Quick & Easy Roasted Walnut Pesto


I love pesto but I don't love the ridiculously high cost of pine nuts, which is one of the key ingredient in pesto. I just can't bring myself to pay $5.00 for 2 ounces of pine nuts. But I'll spend it for a few strands of saffron ... go figure!

So instead I use walnuts. I know, that's nothing new, but I also like to use nut oil to roast the walnuts. Specifically walnut oil to roast them.

Why? I find that it deepens the overall flavor of the nut when roasted in it's own nut oil.

Deeper flavor on the walnuts, richer tasting pesto.  Fresh basil, lemon zest and good quality extra-virgin olive oil are what makes this pesto extra flavorful. I add a little heat by way of a few pinches of cayenne pepper but it's optional, leave it out if you don't care for heat in your pesto.

  • 2 cups of basil
  • 1/4 cup roasted walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon walnut oil* (or any nut oil for deeper flavor)
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese (or any hard cheese you have on hand)
  • 1 -2 cloves of garlic
  • 2/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
  • 1 pinch of cayenne pepper or more to taste (optional)
  • Black pepper to taste
  1. Cover walnuts with walnut oil. Place walnuts on a foil lined baking sheet in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for a total of 8-10 minutes, stirring gently halfway through the cooking time so that each side roasts evenly.  Keep an eye on the walnuts because they can go from right to way overdone in just a blink. Allow to cool.
  2. Place the basil, garlic and nuts ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse for 15 seconds. 
  3. Add remaining ingredient and process until almost smooth. I like mine a little chunkier.  If it's too pasty for you stir in a little more olive oil.
Makes about 1 cup. Store in a glass mason jar in fridge, keeps well for about two weeks or you can freeze in an ice cube tray, making sure to top each cube with olive oil.
Remove once frozen and store in a freezer zip bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. 

*If you don't have a nut oil at home just use canola oil. Do not use olive oil.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Zuppa Toscana on Wednesdays with Eryka


Last Monday my boyfriend was sick. I wanted to make him a soup but I did not want to make the traditional chicken noodle soup. It clicked in my head that his favorite soup is Zuppa Toscana so I decided to make him just that. It is a heartier soup than chicken noodle and much more filling. I researched the recipe and made my adaptation of this popular recipe. You could use spinach instead of kale if you choose, just be aware that it tends to wilt and get soggy, while kale holds up very well in the soup. You could also choose to use hot Italian sausage to add a little kick. The boyfriend ate seconds and for the time being made him feel a lot better. Nothing beats a home made soup to soothe the soul or a cold!

Serves 4-6

2 TBS olive oil
1lb Italian sausage
2 russet potatoes, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 onion, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
16 oz chicken broth
1 qt water
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups kale

1. Slice the casing open of the sausage and crumb into a medium heat pot with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook sausage through until browned. Set aside once done.

2. Add another table spoon of olive oil to the pan and cook onion until soft. Add the garlic; cook for about 2 minutes to not let it burn. Add the sausage back into the pan. Stir everything together and cook for about 1 minute to combine flavors. Spalsh white wine into the pan to deglaze.

3.Add the chicken broth, water, wine and potatoes to the pot. Stir everything to together, bring to a boil and cook on medium until the potatoes are ready (soft when poked with a fork/knife).

4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Add the cream and kale, stir to combine. Heat for about 5 minutes to warm the kale and soften. Serve in a bowl with a side of bread. Enyoy!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Grilled Achiote Skirt Steak - Churrasco Nicaraguan Style


Grilled Achiote Skirt Steak, served with shoestring french fries
 and Spicy Tomato Jam (recipe coming soon)

Most folks think of churrasco (CHEW-ROSS-COE) a.k.a skirt steak as a purely Argentinian dish, but I can tell you it is not. I had never eaten skirt steak (churrasco) until I met The Hub, who is Nicaraguan. Nicaraguans are big on grilled meats, especially beef and particularly churrasco, which is skirt steak. This is my take on blending the spices used in Nicaraguan grilled cuisine. The achiote powder, which also goes by the name of annatto, is one of my favorite spices in this cuisine and it has an earthy, sweet peppery flavor. My spice blend does not cover up the beefy flavor of the skirt steak but rather enhances it. Achiote can be found in the hispanic or asian section of the supermarket. And, if you can't find it locally, remember there is always Amazon or eBay.

Note: You'll notice that I don't specify amounts for the spices and that's because I literally just dust it over each piece of meat.  Use generous pinches of each spice and sprinkle over top.

Serves 2 - 3

Sea Salt
Black Pepper
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Achiote Powder
1 1/2 pounds of skirt steak cut into steak sizes portions

With a fork piece the surface of each steak on each side. Generously dust each side of the skirt steaks with the salt, pepper, onion, garlic and achiote. Rub into the meat. Place into a zip bag or a lidded container and let rest in the fridge over night or 2-4 hours before grilling.

Fire up your grill on high (if using gas) or over direct heat with hot charcoal. Make sure you lightly oil your grill racks to get nice grill marks. Place steaks on racks and grill 3 - 4 minutes per side for medium rare. Remove from grill onto a platter, tent with foil and allow to rest 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with your favorite sides, like shoestring french fries, and ice cold beer.  Enjoy.