Grilled Chicken Fajitas

Grilled Chicken Fajitas
The neighborhood where I grew up was only 5 minutes from a big mall. When I go back, there is something very familiar even though it is not the mall from my childhood. Many stores and brands are long gone. I still have memories of the first time my mom let me browse parent-free with a few friends. We had explicit instructions for our designated meeting time and place, but we still felt so grown up roaming the stores on our own.

Being close to the mall meant lots of chain restaurants all with lengthy menus to appeal to a wide audience. Yesterday I recreated one of my franchise favorites, grilled chicken fajitas, a Tex-Mex classic. I marinated the chicken in a mixture of cumin and other spices and lime juice. Before firing up the grill, I brushed the peppers and onions in extra marinade. The result was far more flavorful than any fajitas I had ever enjoyed in a restaurant.

Grilled Chicken FajitasGrilled Chicken Fajitas

Serves 4

1/2 cup vegetable oil
Juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1-1/2 pounds)
1 red bell pepper, quartered and deseeded
1 yellow bell pepper, quartered and deseeded
1 green bell pepper, quartered and deseeded
1 red onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
8-12 flour tortillas, warmed
Monterey jack cheese, salsa and sour cream for serving

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lime juice, cumin, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Pound the chicken breasts to a uniform thickness (about 1/2 inch), as necessary. Transfer the chicken to a re-sealable plastic bag. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the marinade before pouring the rest over the chicken. Marinate 1 hour up to overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill on medium high heat. Brush the bell peppers and onions with the reserved marinade. Grill the chicken for 10-12 minutes, turning once once, until cooked through. Grill the vegetables for 5-7 minutes, turning once, until they have grill marks and are tender.

Slice the peppers and chicken into thin strips and halve the onions. Serve with tortillas, Monterey jack cheese, salsa and sour cream.

Sour Cherry Amaretti

Sour Cherry Amaretti
We have an entire wall of books in our bedroom that are arranged by color. Interior design trumps the Dewey Decimal System. I have no problem spotting the spines of my cookbooks even though they are mixed up with all sorts of different titles. When I find myself with a little time, I like to perch on the edge of the bed, zone out and browse the shelves.

With leftover egg whites from my last batch of ice cream, I searched my cookbook collection something to do with them. I ended up settling on a batch of sour cherry amaretti. These almondy cookies were wonderfully chewy and dotted with dried tart cherries. The recipe didn’t use up all my whites, but I saved the rest in the freezer for future amaretti.
Sour Cherry Amaretti
Sour Cherry Amaretti
Adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sam Tamimi

Makes about 20

1-1/2 cups ground almonds
2/3 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup chopped dried sour cherries
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons honey
Confectioners’ sugar for rolling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment.

In a large bowl, combine the ground almonds, granulated sugar, lemon zest, almond extract and salt. Stir in the dried cherries.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites and honey until soft peaks form. Fold the egg white mixture into the dry ingredients. Using your hands, form the dough into 20 balls. Roll them in confectioners’ sugar and place them on the prepared sheet pan about 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes until they turn slightly golden and are chewy in the center. Cool on a wire rack.

Store in an airtight container.

Fire-Roasted Tomato Pizza

Fire Roasted Tomato Pizza
I eat a lot of pizza—I really mean A LOT! From scratch in the kitchen or from a good place in our neighborhood, I don’t think I could ever get bored with a slice. On the walk home from school with W., all it takes is the scent of tomatoes and garlic as we pass by a restaurant or the sight of someone with a pizza box in-hand to trigger a craving causing me to scrap what I had planned to make for dinner.

My homemade crust usually comes out somewhere between thick and thin. For this fire-roasted tomato pizza, I used less yeast and mixed the dough in the food processor resulting in a thinner crust easier for our tot W. to eat. He was my sweet little sous chef helping put on the toppings–ricotta, mozzarella, spinach, olives and flavorful marinated tomatoes from the antipasti bar at the grocery.
Fire-Roasted Tomato Pizza
Fire-Roasted Tomato Pizza

Makes 1-12-inch pizza

2/3 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon olive oil plus more for bowl and brushing pizza
1-1/2 cups bread flour plus more for work surface
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Cornmeal for pizza stone
1/2 cup ricotta
1 cup fire-roasted tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped baby spinach
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
3 ounces shredded mozzarella

In a small bowl, combine the water, yeast, sugar and olive oil. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture and process until a ball of dough forms. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in volume, about 2 hours or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with a pizza stone inside the oven.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pizza dough into a 12-inch diameter circle. Sprinkle the preheated pizza stone with cornmeal and place the dough on it. Brush the dough with olive oil. Spread the ricotta leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top the pizza with fire-roasted tomatoes, spinach, olives and mozzarella.

Bake the pizza for 12-15 minutes until the cheese is fully melted and bubbling.

Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Always on my to-do list when I make the trip home to Cincinnati is a stop at Graeter’s. I grew up on this handcrafted French pot ice cream, and it is my favorite. Now I can pick-up a pint at any grocery Chicago, but a cone just tastes better when consumed at an actual scoop shop. Perhaps the atmosphere and experience are what make the ice cream fresher and even more delicious, if that is possible.

Graeter’s is known for its signature black raspberry chocolate chip ice cream, and I decided to recreate this flavor at home. I had no luck finding black raspberries, so I used a combination of red raspberries and blackberries. The result was a slightly tart, intensely purple-hued frozen treat. It was the ultimate homage to that Graeter’s classic complete with enormous bittersweet chocolate chunks in every bite.
Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Makes about 1-1/2 quarts

10 ounces raspberries, fresh or frozen (partially thawed)
10 ounces blackberries, fresh or frozen (partially thawed)
1 cup whole milk
6 egg yolks
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cups granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup roughly chopped bittersweet chocolate

Puree the raspberries and blackberries in a blender.

Pour the milk into a large bowl and set aside.

Whisk the yolks in a small bowl.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, simmer the heavy cream, sugar and salt until the sugar dissolves. Slowly whisk half the cream mixture into the egg yolks and then pour it back into the saucepan. Stir continuously until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Pour the cream mixture followed by the berry puree through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl with the milk. Add the vanilla extract and stir to combine.

Cool the mixture over an ice bath and refrigerate until cooled completely.

Churn in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions. Stir in the chopped chocolate. Freeze the ice cream in an airtight container and allow it to harden before serving.

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