Pamela, a spirited young woman with definite opinions about food, joined our class today. Her interest in fresh, healthful meals became evident during a discussion about tortillas, which led to a chat about the pros and cons of GMO products, and then the evolution of corn from a scrawny wild grass to the hearty plant of today, by way of selective breeding. Pamela’s dad believes in cooking fresh food, not relying on convenience products, and now that she’s on her own, she wants to continue eating that way. I am more than happy to help. That is how I cook and is the kind of cooking I want to teach in these classes.
The fajitas and salad in today’s menu easily fit those requirements. And brownies can too, because the ones I made do not come out of a box, and feature natural products. The real challenge was finding a prototype recipe, one that would be easy, didn’t use expensive or hard to find ingredients, and didn’t require fancy equipment like an electric mixer, not even a real oven. I searched the net and Epicurious, the website for my alma mater, Bon Appetit, had a good candidate. The batch I baked at home was appropriately fudgy in texture with a deep chocolate flavor, and used not one item that Pamela did not approve.
But could the brownies be cooked during class in a dilapidated toaster oven? The tantalizing aroma of sugar and chocolate evolving into scrumptious, gooey brownies answered that question as it seduced everyone into saving room for dessert, and signing up for next week’s cooking session.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for pan
- 1 tablespoon chile powder
- 1½ teaspoons dried oregano or marjoram, crumbled
- 1¼ pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- Salt and pepper
- 1½ to 2 large onions, ends trimmed
- Coarsely chopped cilantro
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- Toasted corn tortillas
- In a large bowl, combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, chile powder and oregano. Mix to blend, then pour half of the mixture into another large bowl. Cut the chicken crosswise into 1/2-inch wide slices, and then cut the large pieces in half lengthwise and crosswise to create slices of about the same size. Add to one of the bowls, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
- Cut the onions in half through the stem end, then peel off the dried outer layers. Place the onions cut side down on work surface. Cut lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick slices. Add to the second bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
- Heat a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to coat with a thin layer. Add the onions and cook until they soften and begin to brown on the edges, turning frequently, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Rinse out the skillet and dry. Place over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to coat with a thin layer. Add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Arrange the chicken over the onions. Garnish with cilantro and serve with lime wedges and tortillas.
Creamy Salad Dressing
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt or sour cream
- 1½ to 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice or lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as cilantro, parley or basil (optional)
- Combine the mayonnaise, yogurt and lime juice in a small bowl and mix to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in herbs, if desired. Spoon the dressing over a salad and toss until the salad is evenly coated.
Fudgy Chocolate Brownies
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
- ½ cup 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1¼ cups sugar
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour blend such as King Arthur Measure for Measure flour
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a glass 8x8x2” glass baking dish with foil, pressing firmly into the pan and leaving a 2” overhang. (A metal pan can also be used, preheat the oven to 350°F.) Spray the foil with nonstick spray.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Let cool a few minutes.
- Meanwhile, measure the sugar, cocoa and salt into a medium bowl and whisk to blend. Gradually pour in the butter, whisking to blend. Whisk in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. Add the flour, and using a rubber spatula or large spoon, stir just until combined (do not overmix). Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.
- Bake until the brownie feels just firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 40-50 minutes.
- Place the pan on a wire rack and let the brownie cool completely. Using the foil, lift the brownie from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares. (Can be prepared 3 days ahead. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature.)