Monday, March 9, 2009

Local food makes you feel better

Last week we had a wicked beautifully warm day that made me crave some summery food. I found a recipe for Lemon-Arugula Chicken Paillard on (from the April 2006 issue of Cooking Light) that looked perfect, even though I knew the warm weather was just passing through as a tease. On our weekly trip to Fairway, I threw a plastic box of arugula in the cart. D took it out, examined the price ($4.99) and the source (Mexico) and made me put it back. He said we could make the dish with swiss chard, which was local. Luckily, on Monday night I met a friend for dinner at the Galaxy Diner (a fun place, but the food was way too greasy) right at Union Square, which has a nice green market three days a week. I picked up a quarter pound of local, organic arugula. I'm so glad I did; the recipe would not have been the same with steamed chard. I paired this recipe with a red pepper aioli. Delicious.

Lemon-Arugula Chicken Paillard

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
4 cups fresh (local!) arugula
2 skinless,boneless chicken breast halves
Olive oil
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved (about 6 ounces)
1/3 cup dry white wine

Combine the lemon zest, juice, oil, and garlic in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add arugula; toss well. Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound each piece to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat a grill pan or a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with olive oil. Add chicken, and cook for 4 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan, and keep warm. Add halved tomatoes and dry white wine to pan. Cook for 2 minutes or until the liquid almost evaporates. Serve the two pieces of chicken on the arugula topped with the tomatoes and drizzled with ailoi (below).

Red Pepper Aioli

1 red pepper
2 egg yolks
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
A few drops of Sriracha sauce
1 1/2 cups oil
salt and pepper

Place the red pepper on an open flame or grill (you can do this on a gas stove). Turn the pepper with some tongs to blacken on all sides. When the pepper is fully charred, remove to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the pepper cool until you can handle it comfortably. Using your fingers, remove the blackened skin to reveal the red color underneath. Rinse the pepper under some tepid tap water to remove the remaining charred skin. Coarsely chop the pepper and place it in a blender or food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients (except for the oil) and puree until everything is fully mixed. While the machine is running, slowly drizzle in the oil until incorporated. Check the aioli for texture and flavor. If it's too thick, add a few drops of water to thin it down, or on the flip side if it's too thin add more oil. The desired outcome is a fairly thin aioli. Check the flavor and add more salt or chili paste to taste. Drizzle over the paillard dish and serve!

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