Monday, September 22, 2008

Cooking for Two... or More

When I got married I was pretty woeful in the cooking department. I knew how to make hamburgers, scrambled eggs, and steak. Oh, and cookies, of course. But man cannot live on cookies alone.

Our apartment had a little balcony on which we kept a planter box of flowers and our hibachi grill. I did OK when dinner was grilled (how far wrong can you go with grilling meat?), but disaster loomed when I entered the kitchen. I knew my way around a box of macaroni and cheese, but dinners took a turn for the worse when I got creative. After I made a Tuna Surprise Casserole my husband forbad me from ever cooking with tuna again.

Because she likes my husband, my kind and thoughtful older sister gave me a cookbook specifically designed for cooking for two. It broadened my menu planning beyond what I could grill on the hibachi and helped my husband be excited about coming home for dinner. Some of my favorite recipes came from that book and over the years I've just adapted them to fit my growing family.

Because we peaked a few years back at six family members at the dinner table, it's been a while since I've browsed through a cooking for two book, but with my daughter getting married, I've had my eyes open for them. This recipe is originally for two, but I doubled it for my family and will give it to you as I made it. Obviously, it will halve nicely to make just enough for an intimate evening for two.

I'm taking a wee, bitty break from my family favorites series to bring you this seasonal recipe. We just tried it out at the Cookie Baker house and it's a keeper. Since it calls for nectarines, I wanted to post it while you still can scramble to the market and get a few.

Blush Wine-Marinated Chicken & Nectarine Salad
- adapted from Sunset's Quick Cooking for Two

Blush Wine Dressing (below)
4 small boneless, skinless chicken breast halves ( about 4 oz. each)
4 Tbsp slivered almonds
8 cups lightly packed torn romaine lettuce, rinsed and crisped
2 large nectarines, pitted and sliced
4 Tbsp thinly sliced green onion
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Blush Wine dressing

1/4 cup white Zinfandel
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 tsp. minced shallot
2 Tbsp honey
4 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp crumbled dried rosemary

1- Prepare Blush Wine dressing: In a small bowl whisk together the Zinfandel, vinegar, oil, garlic, shallot, honey, mustard, and rosemary to blend.

2- Rinse chicken, pat dry and place in a heavy duty zip-lock plastic bag. Pour 1/4 cup of the dressing over the chicken; seal the bag and turn it several times to distribute the marinade. Set the bag in a bowl and let it stand for 5 minutes.

3- Meanwhile, pour almonds into a small frying pan. Toast over medium heat, shaking pan often, until almonds are golden (3 to 4 minutes). Pour out of pan and set aside.

4-Lift the chicken from the marinade, drain briefly, and place on a grill 4 to 6 inches above a solid bed of hot coals or over high heat on a gas grill. Close lid on gas grill. Cook chicken for 5 minutes, then turn over and brush with any dressing remaining in bag; close lid on gas grill again. Continue to cook until meat in thickest part is no longer pink; cut to test (about 5 more minutes). Remove from grill and cut diagonally across the grain into 1/2-inch wide strips.

5- Divide lettuce between 4 dinner plates. Arrange chicken and nectarine slices over lettuce; sprinkle with onion. Spoon remaining dressing over salads and sprinkle with almonds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Deborah said...

I love recipes that are designed for 2, but for some reason, I don't think I own any cooking for 2 cookbooks! Maybe because my husband usually has a large appetite, and a meal for 4 usually fits our family of 2. This recipe really does sound like a winner!

Lisa said...

It will be quite a few years before I can cook for 2. I cook for at least 5 sometimes 6 people daily. All the neighbor kids wanna eat at our house. I guess that's a good thing.

This recipe looks wonderful Lynn!

Tartelette said...

I love this kind of salad. Healthy, fresh and easy to put together during the week.

Maria said...

It is just the two of us! This salad looks healthy and delicious. I love the addition of nectarines!

Dee Light said...

I love that kind of meal!! Thanks for sharing another great recipe!!

VeggieGirl said...

You?? Cooking woes?? I could never believe that, Lynn - you're a true kitchen queen!!

Hooray for seasonal recipes! :0)

Gretchen Noelle said...

Sounds delicious! I love nectarines and am sure they are delicious in salad!

RecipeGirl said...

Sounds like a great end-of-summer meal!

All I made when I first got married was Pasta and Choc. Chip Cookies. I've come a long way (and I have a happy hubby!) Looks like you've come a long ways too!!

Melinda said...

I never really learned to cook until I was married too. A sandwich or soup always seem to work for me.
But Ian wasn't going to be content with just that so I started to cook. I've had some spectacular and funny failures. (My sister always likes to tell everyone that I called her from England to ask her how to make stuffed bell peppers and whether I should cook the rice before stuffing them or not? I really didn't know and this was way, way before web recipes were available!)
I love the sound of this salad. Very fresh and there is enough room for dessert!

Heather said...

mmm the combination of nectarines and blush wine sounds lovely! i'll bet this was delicious!!

marysol said...

Lynn, if you were able to bake and cook when you were newly married, then I'd better not reveal what my culinary specialty was as a newlywed, you might fall off your chair laughing.
Your chicken/nectarine salad looks delicious, and the dressing sounds divine.

LyB said...

This salad sounds incredible. I love combining different textures in a salad, makes it interesting. :)