I was lucky enough to have an extraordinary group of people in my pro chef class at the New School of Cooking here in Los Angeles. There were 12 of us and we all really liked each other. On many occasions we had to cook in teams. It was impressive how we all worked well together and at the same time were social and chatty. A few of our members, needing to make up the occasional missed class, would sit in with another group. The other group didn’t talk, they weren’t creative and there was no rapport. Lucky us!
We got along so well, we decided to keep in touch after the 6-month course ended with monthly chef dinners. At least we knew all the food would be good! With one graduate opening a food truck, another working on opening his own place and a few more working as private chefs, we knew what we learned would be put to good use and then some. Each of our dinners would be held at somebody’s house and we’d all email our chosen dishes to each other so there would be no doubles.
I didn’t get the chance to record the first of our dinners, but I made sure to bring my camera to show all the wonderful things we made this time. Mindy, chef and nutritionist, held this month’s dinner. Cathy shared two dishes. The first was a refreshing appetizer made with homemade cheese and cucumbers which she learned while taking a class on her trip to Paris last month. The second dish is a wildly fabulous squash blossom recipe. It follows here. You get a two for one this time, as I have to share my contribution as well.
I made one of my favorite dishes from my second cookbook, Chicken with Strawberry Sauce. Since its strawberry season, I make a lot of extra sauce to use to top ice cream. It’s that versatile.
I haven’t eaten so much in one sitting since I was in training for the Penn State Track team and would double my weight in carbs. Trust me. This dinner was worth it.
Goat Cheese and Basil Chicken with Strawberry SaucePrep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Calories: 251 Sodium: 183mg
Total Fat: 8g Total Carbohydrates: 10g
Sat Fat: 5g Trans Fat: 0g
Dietary Fiber: 2g Protein: 33g
Sugars: 6g Cholesterol: 81mg
3 cups fresh strawberries, cut into pieces
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp strawberry spread-no sugar
6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts-thick
12 thin slices of goat cheese, about ½ oz each.
24 basil leaves or 12 extra-large ones, chiffonade
Olive Oil Spray
1 tbsp minced garlic
¼ cup fresh basil-sliced
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large Pyrex bowl, mix the strawberries, vinegar and strawberry spread together. Put aside.
Sprinkle each breast with salt and pepper. Make a horizontal cut ALMOST through each chicken breast. Sprinkle a large pinch of basil on one side. Take two slices of goat cheese and place them on the basil leaves. Sprinkle a touch more on top. Replace to half. Sprinkle with pepper.
Spray a 4 quart metal or oven-safe skillet with olive oil. Over med-high heat, cook garlic for about 30 seconds. Add chicken breasts and brown for about 4 minutes on each side. Then, place both the skillet and Pyrex bowl of strawberries into the oven. Cook for 10 minutes. Take chicken out and let it rest on the stove. Cook berries another 5 minutes. Take out of oven and stir. Serve chicken with sauce. Sprinkle with basil slices.
Baked Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Chicken & Apple Sausageby Cathy Arkle
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium sized zucchini - finely chopped
10 baby zucchini with blossoms attached - 14 if they are smaller - washed
8 ounces of fresh chicken and apple sausage - approx. 2 links - I use Aidells.
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese - grated
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 garlic clove - chopped
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush the inside of a 20" x 12" baking dish with 1½ tablespoons of oil. Open the blossoms and remove the pistil/stamen.
Skin the sausages, remove the meat and crumble into a mixing bowl. Add the chopped zucchini, egg, cheese, breadcrumbs, and garlic - mix well. Carefully open each flower and insert 2 teaspoons of sausage mixture into each flower (1 tablespoon for larger flowers) - twist to close.
Arrange the blossoms on the baking dish in rows. Season to taste with salt and pepper and drizzle with the remainder of the oil. Bake until the blossoms and stuffing are cooked and sizzling, about 15 - 20 minutes. Place blossoms in rows on a serving platter with sliced lemons.
Optional: sprinkle blossoms with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or bread crumbs before baking.
Chef's Notes: Sometimes I add a chopped fresh tomato. Any fresh ground meat will work in this recipe. Be creative.