Saturday, May 31, 2008

SUMMER TIME AND THE LIVING IS EASY!!!

Well, 90 degree weather has finally hit Tennessee. Clearly, the kitchen cools down and the stove gets a break. Doing a little inventory, I came across a big bell pepper and some cilantro that has to be used, so I decided to make a fresh tomato salsa and a Black Eyed Pea Salad, or as some folks call it...Texas Caviar. I've got a couple of chicken breasts brining to grill tonight and a couple more cooling to make Chicken Salad. The salsa and black eyed peas will last a few days and will be great with most anything that comes off the grill or out of the vegetable crisper. We both love having Chicken Salad on hand. It's a real time saver and great on a nice big bed of lettuce with tomatoes and cucumbers, on toast (that's how Geraldo likes it) or even grilling up some great bruschetta and piling it on with black olives, dried cranberries and other other fruity nutty goodie you've got handy.

My entire way of grocery shopping changes when summer gets here. I don't care for big heavy meals in the evening, but I do love a steak or burger from time to time. There's lot of grilling and salads going on. Not any macaroni and cheese...that's for sure. I always try to have some sort of Italian deli cold cuts available...like Genoa salami, good pepperoni and a Basil-Parmesan ham that Boar's Head offers (Publix). I love to sit down to a platter of finger foods (sorta like an antipasti platter) and just munch. I always have fresh basil pesto and try to keep some olive tapenade in the fridge. I'm embarrassed to talk about how much cheese I have at my fingertips. We've discussed this addiction in past posts!! And a big "Thanks" to Sandy (shout out to Sandy!!) I have great home-canned goodies including sun-dried tomatoes, pepper jelly, red bell peppers in oil and sweet cherry peppers that are great for stuffing. I also try to have a cheese ball ( blue cheese, Old English cheddar and cream cheese) on hand and about 4 boxes of some great crackers. I am currently addicted to the new Triscuit "Black Pepper and Olive Oil" crackers. I realize that is not very "Gourmet" but they're delicious and that's what counts. Sam's Wholesale Club also has a great deal on those New York Bagel style crackers (Sea Salt) for $7.00 for a huge bag compared to 3 bucks for the small ones in the regular deli section. These are Gotta Haves in our house. Got a cracker and some cheese? "We gots us some appetizers, Ma!"
Why kill yourself trying to make something when the supermarket is full of so many great choices? These are not our Mother's grocery stores...we are really fortunate to have the availability of so many different cultures and food stuffs at our corner supermarket. Take advantage of store bought goodness when you can. Save yourself some time and trouble. I figure the folks I spend time with know that I can cook, so I am beyond that "gotta impress 'em" stage. Take the shortcuts when you can and enjoy the nice long days and those hazy summer nights!

I'm experimenting with the Black Eyed Pea salad, so when I hit on a version I really like, I'll include the recipe. You can always go online and google black eyed pea salad or Texas Cavier and there's many great sounding choices. In the meantime, here is my Chicken Salad recipe and heads up...it's not a "frou frou" version filled with grapes and nuts. There's nothing wrong with that and I've certainly enjoyed those Tea Room versions on many occasion, but here at The Schmidt House (yes, I know how that sounds) we really like ours savory and pretty low key. Like I mentioned before, you can always dress it up when you decide how you want to eat it. Enjoy!!!

CHICKEN SALAD

4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts ( I prefer white meat chicken for this)
2 ribs of celery, diced
1 half of a small white onion, diced (A Vidalia works great here, keep the onion flavor light)
1 tsp granulated garlic (use 1/2 in poaching water & sprinkle other into chicken & mayo)
1/2 to 3/4 C mayo (Depending on how "wet" you like it)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste (If you brined the chicken..easy on the salt)

I brine my chicken breasts for a few hours before poaching them, but you don't have to. It just makes them moister and we prefer the texture you get from brining.

Anyway...poach the chicken breasts ( chicken with water, garlic and small amt. blk. pepper...bring water to boil, lower heat to a low simmer and cover pan with lid for about 20minutes)

Remove & put chicken into a colander to drain. Let chicken cool.

Dice chicken into bite size pieces. In a large mixing bowl, put onions, celery and chicken. Sprinkle with the 1/2 tsp. of garlic, a little sea salt and a good bit of fresh ground black pepper. (remember if you have brined the chicken, you don't need much salt)

Add the mayo and fold into chicken, gently. Put in the refrigerator and get it good and cold. ENJOY!! Very versatile beginning to many lovely choices.

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