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Last week was a busy one, with a number of dinners out. Eating out is a challenge to my spa lifestyle, but one I’ve learned to handle by choosing lean meats or fish and lots of vegetables.  I also usually eat only half of what I’m served, saving the rest for a leftovers lunch. What I miss, though, is planning and cooking so that I have a variety of new foods to eat through the week ahead. On Saturday, I did some market shopping and began to look through my inspiring cookbooks for a Sunday dinner I could make, creating tasty leftovers for the week.

I started with a craving for chicken. I’d had a chicken dish on Friday and realized I really hadn’t cooked chicken in awhile. I went to my current favorite cookbook, La Tartine Gourmande, and it did not disappoint. I found Lemon and Honey-flavored Chicken with zebra tomatoes and haricots verts. (p. 175) Brining the chicken is an option and I’d never done that before. Learning a new technique would be an added bonus! The recipe called for zebra tomatoes and I believe I found them in the heirloom tomatoes at Sundance Market, a local healthy-foods store. At least the tomatoes I bought had stripes and great flavor! This was my starting point.

From there, I started flipping through Dishing Up Oregon. I found three recipes that looked like fun.

Seared Asparagus with Hard-Boiled Eggs, Crisply Morels, and Mustard Creme Fraiche (p. 44). Sundance Market had the Morels and Creme Fraiche. I’ll make this later in the week.

Curried Bay-Shrimp Salad (p. 138). This recipe originated with a local chef, Stephanie Pearl Kimmel of Marche Restarant in Eugene, Oregon. It was an easy, quick Saturday night dish, and I borrowed the “searing” technique from the previous recipe to cook a few spears of asparagus on the side. I have a little shrimp salad left for lunch.

Watermelon Panzanella with Aged Balsamic Vinegar (p. 212). I had seen a panzanella made on a cooking show, so this intrigued me. The recipe calls for a number of ingredients I had on hand: rustic bread, champagne vinegar, honey and arugula. I needed to get some watermelon and mint leaves. The recipe also includes mozzarella, but I’m thinking of using goat cheese since I have a lot of that in the fridge.

Early in the week I bought some small Italian clay cooking dishes (T.J. Maxx Home Goods!) and wanted to use one. I had some leftover ratatouille, so I thought I’d make a “frittata” style dish. I like to use quinoa as a base, rather than a crust. I hadn’t made quinoa for some time, so looked to see if La Tartine Gourmande had directions for me. Under “quinoa” in the index, I found Beet and Quinoa Tabouli (p. 104) and the instructions I needed. This is Beatrice Peltre’s creative take on tabouli. I had bought two golden beets at the Farmer’s Market, so thought this would be a great way to use the beets, use up extra quinoa, and have a hearty summer salad for lunches.

The serendipity of all this is that I use up ingredients I already have, supplemented with a few additions. Plus, I would be able to cook the main dish for tonight, the casserole for later, and the beets at the same time and temperature in the oven.

Tonight, Sunday, I started the chicken brine in the morning, prepped the green beans and scrubbed some potatoes for a side dish. I cleaned the new clay crockery dishes too. I ran errands in the afternoon and came back a bit later than planned. Still, I marinated the chicken as directed and put it and the foil-wrapped beets in the oven around 7:30. I friend dropped by and we walked my dog for 30 minutes while the Lemon and Honey chicken baked.

I still had 20 minutes to go on the chicken when I got back, so prepped my quinoa-ratatouille casserole. I layered quinoa in the bottom, added some chopped celery and red-onions (on hand), goat cheese, then the ratatouille. I mixed an egg and about 1/8 cup of low-fat milk and poured it over the mixture, then topped it all with chopped basil and sage and Comte cheese. I baked at 375 degrees for 45 minutes by the time it looked bubbly and golden on top. This dish goes into the fridge for breakfast and lunches this week.

The chicken dish came out of the oven around 8:30 for a respectfully late “French” style dinner. It was really delicious! I ate one of the chicken thighs with the vegetables and two small fingerling potatoes. This leaves three drumsticks and a thigh, vegetables, and five or so potatoes to enjoy or recombine into other meals through the week.

Still to make: Beet and Quinoa Tabouli and the Watermelon Panzanella! I love trying these new flavors and enjoying all the bright produce of summer!