Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Lucky One: Ratatouille; or, Beth's Summer Stew

The scene:  Logan is helping Beth prepare tacos for dinner.  He admires the way she deftly dices the onions, green peppers, and tomatoes.  She explains that when she was a teenager she dreamed of opening her own restaurant, and during the summer she would pick loads of vegetables from the garden and practice her knife skills on them.

"I had this dream about opening this great place in Charleston or Savannah and having my own cookbooks and television show.  Crazy, I know.  But anyway, I spent the summer practicing my dicing.  I'd dice everything I could, as fast as I could, until I was as fast as the guy on the [Ginsu knife] commercial.  There were Tupperware bowls filled with zucchini and carrots and squash that I'd picked from the garden.  It drove Nana crazy, since it meant we had to have summer stew just about every single day."
"What's summer stew?"
"Anything mixed together that can be served over noodles or rice."
He smiled as he shifted a pile of grated cheese to the side.  "Then what happened?"
"Summer ended, and we ran out of vegetables."
"Ah," he said, wondering how someone could look so pretty in an apron.
The Lucky One, p. 128-129

When I first pondered the idea of making summer stew for this blog, immediately I thought of ratatouille, since that's an easy dish that we enjoy during the summer months.  Joe's mom used to make it (and she has her own special recipe that I haven't actually tried yet--I've promised her I will soon, though), and when the Pixar film Ratatouille came out, I decided I wanted to learn to make it.

The recipe I usually use comes from Rachael Ray.  On her television show, she wanted to replicate the dish that Remy the Cooking Rat made in the movie; the one that the cranky restaurant critic loved so much.  (Click here for that one; it's delicious.)  This time around I wanted something that would be a little quicker to prepare than Rachael/Remy's or Queen MIL's, and I found this one at the About-dot-com Southern Food site:
·         2 tablespoons olive oil
·         2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
·         1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
·         1 small eggplant, cubed
·         2 green bell peppers, coarsely chopped
·         4 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped, or 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes*
·         3 to 4 small zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices
·         1 teaspoon dried leaf basil
·         1/2 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
·         1/4 teaspoon dried leaf thyme (I had fresh thyme on hand, so I used that)
·         2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (and just for fun I added some cilantro, too)

(*I used a combination of canned tomatoes and fresh.)
In a 4-quart Dutch oven or saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 6 to 7 minutes. Add eggplant; stir until coated with oil. Add peppers; stir to combine. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep vegetables from sticking.
Add tomatoes, zucchini, and herbs; mix well. Cover and cook over low heat about 15 minutes, or until eggplant is tender but not too soft.
Serves 4.

I also had a jar of roasted red peppers in my fridge, and I decided to chop up a few of those and add them along with the tomatoes and zucchini.  Rachael's recipe uses a sauce made with roasted red peppers, and I think that's what makes it so delicious.  I think it was the right move on my part, because it added a nice robust smokiness to the summer stew. 

(As you can see, I added some chopped up bacon left over from the pancakes and some grated parmesan cheese as a garnish.  The ratatouille is delicious both with and without those additions!)

Winner, Winner, Veggie Dinner.  Even Moe, who does NOT like vegetables, ate all of his and asked for more.  I will be making this again very soon.  Perhaps I'll try Queen MIL's recipe next time.  When I do, I'll be sure to share it with you!

Next we'll be returning to A Series of Unfortunate Events, and making coconut cream cake.  Stay tuned!

Friday, July 27, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Volume 10


 In case you missed it, here's how I make Summer Spaghetti.  It's a special pasta dish that should ONLY be made during the summer months, passed down from my mother-in-law.  It's super-easy and delicious.  Check it out!


I spent last Saturday in Northern Virginia with my brother and sister-in-law.  (OH, guess what?  They're expecting their first baby!  Jenn is almost five months along now, and she's starting to show, and she looks fabulous.)  We don't have a Trader Joe's in my neck of the woods, and Jenn took me to theirs.  Oh, my.  I want one.

I got all this--there are TWO packs of gluten free pasta, by the way--plus a bouquet of flowers for $41.   That's the wine they used to call "Two Buck Chuck;" except now it's $3.29.  And the chocolate chip cookies?  You wouldn't guess they were gluten free.

We met Joe and the boys that evening at Nationals Park for a game.  The Nats beat the Altanta Braves, 5-2.  Woot!  (And I thoroughly enjoyed my loaded nachos and Redbridge beer from the gluten free kiosk, which I told you about in this post.)


The other night when I needed to find something quick to cook for dinner, I pulled out this.

A friend gave me a subscription last Christmas, and I'm sorry to say I haven't taken advantage of it much.  I chose this recipe for tuna melts:


Start to finish:  10 min (really it was like 20)
Makes:  4 servings (I adjusted the recipe to make more)

1 pouch (11 oz.) light tuna in water.  (I used three 7-oz cans)
1/2 cup each finely chopped celery, cucumber, and red onion (Joe doesn't like celery so I just put in a whole chopped-up cucumber)
2 tsp. dill weed
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise (we put some aside without mayo for egg-allergic Moe)
4 ciabtta rolls
2 cups (8 oz) shredded cheddar cheese

1.  In a small bowl, combine the tuna, celery, cucumber, onion, mayonnaise, dill, lemon juices, salt and pepper.  Mix well.

2.  Place rolls on a baking sheet.  Spread each half with tuna mixture; sprinkle with cheese.  Broil 2-3 in. from the heat for 2-4 minutes or until cheese has melted.

(adapted from Taste of Home, Aug/Sept. 2012, p.47)

Delicious.  I had mine cold over some chunks of fresh, local heirloom tomatoes.


My friend and around-the-corner neighbor and her youngest daughter have their own cooking show on You Tube!  They call themselves "Two Peas in a Pod."  Here's Pam and Paris' latest episode, in which they make a yummy fruit pizza.

I finally subscribed to their channel, "twopeasinapodcooking."  I don't really subscribe to channels, so it's a new thing for me...


So what am I reading these days?  Two books: the e-book I'm reading is Outlander, the first in a seven-part series by Diana Gabladon.  It involves history, time travel, Scotland, and sex.  Once I'm finished I might tell you more about it, and whether or not I'll plan to tackle the next six books, most of which are extremely thick. 

I'm also reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  That one is an EXTREMELY interesting chronicle about the history and sources of the different foods we eat, from government subsidized corn  to industrial feedlots to the booming organic industry to small family farms to hunting and gathering.  Reading it has renewed my determination to buy local and make things from scratch whenever I can, and I want to learn more about the Slow Food Movement.  And you know what?  Cooking is so much more fun when you know where your food comes from.  (Once you learn how a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation works, you may never want to eat steak or burgers again.  Unless they're grass fed, of course.)


Speaking of small farms and knowing where your food comes from, I ran across a video not long ago that the North Carolina Farm Bureau produced about a wonderful summer camp I worked at years ago called GwynnValley.  It has its own working farm, the kids help plant and harvest the food, milk the cow and the goats, feed the chickens, and gather the eggs; and it all ends up on the table.  And they don't use any chemical fertilizers or pesticides.  I can remember the farmer standing up during lunch or dinner every day and announcing with enthusiasm which cabin picked potatoes today and how many pounds, and that the broccoli on your plate was brought to you by such-and-such cabin who had picked it that morning; and everyone responding with loud applause and cheers.  From what I can see in the video, the place hasn't changed much, and that's a very good thing.  (Except Dale didn't have a single gray hair when I worked at Gwynn Valley...)

What we never told the kids was that the brown cows grazing in the distant field were the source of the burgers they ate on their cookouts; and that this year's contented pig would become next year's bacon and sausage.  And they were all delicious.


 I try not to bring politics or religion to this blog.  And reading The Omnivore's Dilemma and relishing memories of idyllic farms and pastures makes me kind of averse to fast food, but these past few days have put a certain restaurant chain front and center in everyone's mind.  I'm sure you've heard about all the hoo-ha surrounding Chick-Fil-A restaurants, and how the CEO voiced his support for traditional marriage, and now all these supporters of same-sex marriage are calling him a bigot and accusing him of spewing hate (yeah, right; check out what Rosanne Barr said) and demanding that people boycott the restaurant.  The mayors of Chicago and Boston have vowed to keep Chick-Fil-A out of their cities, and the Muppets walked out in a huff. 

Earlier this week I took the boys to Chick-Fil-A for lunch.  They were selling "I Heart Chick Fil-A" t-shirts; next time I might just buy one.  No one should be bullied for having an opinion, not even the CEO of a corporation.  (Here is where I insert a disclaimer:  The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of our favorite author, Nicholas Sparks, to whom this entire blog is devoted.  I have no idea what Nick thinks of all the Chick-Fil-A uproar; and frankly, I don't really care.  I won't quit buying his books if he happens to disagree with me.)

August 1 has been declared "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day."  I hope they get lots of business that day, and for many years to come.

And that's my soapbox speech for today.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.  Have a great weekend; see you at Chick-Fil-A!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Last Song: Summer Spaghetti!

I think The Last Song might be the only book Nicholas Sparks wrote after he had already written the screenplay for the movie, and he wrote it specifically so that Miley Cyrus could play the main character.  And, according to Nick's website, it's longer than any of his previous novels.  (It's also longer than the next two, Safe Haven and The Best of Me.  I checked.) 

Ronnie (Miley Cyrus picked the name--can you believe that?) is a troubled teenage girl whose parents are divorced.  She lives with her mother and younger brother, Jonah, in New York.  Her parents decide that it would be great if the kids could spend the summer with their father, Steve, in his beach bungalow in WIlmington, North Carolina (aka Tree Hill--anyone a fan of that show?  Thanks to Netflix, I've gotten myself hooked on One Tree Hill this summer.  I'm almost finished with Season Two.  It's cute and hilarious and touching and fun and infuriating all at the same time.  Reminds me of a Nicholas Sparks novel.  You can read more about my latest addiction here.)  Anyhow, Ronnie is not too happy about spending three whole months in some podunk town with a father who all but abandoned her.  Jonah is thrilled; what kid wouldn't want to spend an entire summer at the beach?  Needless to say, Ronnie's visit gets off to a rocky start, and she spends much of her time in town or by the pier trying to find something, anything, more stimulating than hanging around the house with Steve.

One evening after spending the day getting re-acquainted while Ronnie is off galavanting with some newly found friends (and a cute guy she met named Will--more on him in a later post), Jonah and Steve share a spaghetti dinner before heading down the beach for a nighttime spider-crab hunt.

(You can find these little buggers all over North Carolina's beaches at night.  In the summer, at least;  I haven't really been there in the winter.)

I've already made spaghetti for this blog (with my mother-in-law's semi-famous pasta sauce); since I don't like to repeat myself too much here, I decided to make another one of Queen MIL's specialties, Summer Spaghetti.  This was a frequent summertime meal for Joe growing up, and it's become a favorite at our house, too.  I don't have a recipe per se; it's so easy I don't need one.  I just follow a simple procedure as Joe explained it to me years ago:

1.  Cook a box of spaghetti according to the package directions.
2.  While the spaghetti is cooking, heat about a half cup of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
3.  Mince several cloves of garlic (I never count) and brown in the olive oil until golden.  When it's done you can discard the garlic; or if you like your pasta a little more garlic-y you can leave it in.  I usually leave it unless the garlic is overcooked.
4.  Grate about a pound and a half of mozzarella cheese.  
5.  Dice up a few garden-fresh tomatoes. (This is very important.  You never, EVER, want to use the mealy ones that come from the grocery store.  This is why you ONLY make this in the summer when tomatoes are in season.)
6.  When the spaghetti is finished cooking, drain and pour into a serving platter or large bowl.  (Sometimes I just pour it back into the pan I cooked it in.)   Stir in the grated cheese and tomatoes.  Pour the hot garlic-flavored olive oil over the whole thing.  Garnish with fresh basil and serve immediately.

Joe's mom often mixes in a healthy portion of freshly-grated parmesan cheese as well; I prefer to grate it on top of my own serving.

When I mince garlic, I like to smash it with the side of my knife and then chop it up really small.  Queen MIL recently showed me how to hold the knife really close to the blade to get the most mobility out of it while you're chopping.  I haven't quite gotten the hang of that yet.

I found a new favorite gluten free spaghetti!  And the linguine is even better.

I never use pre-shredded cheese anymore, not since I learned that it has added cellulose to keep it from sticking together.  And I always use whole-milk mozzarella, too.

Be sure to keep a close eye on the garlic while it's cooking; it's very easy to overcook it.

Fresh, Local, vine-ripened tomatoes.

You can cut the tomatoes as small or as large as you'd like.


My gluten free version.

Steve hopes that eventually Ronnie will come around, and hopefully she'll decide to share a meal and open up to him; and before the summer is over, father and daughter will perhaps be close once again.

Next, we'll re-visit The Lucky One for another summer weekday meal; and soon, perhaps, I'll make some REAL Swedish bacon pancakes--not the American ones I showed you in my last post.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Bacon Pancakes, the Wrong Kind; and Lingonberries. The Right Kind.

First of all, let me just say that I went about this all wrong.  Now, I wouldn't go so far as to call this project a complete failure; but truth be told, I had a good mind to scrap this post and start all over when I realized my stupidity.  Being as I am American, what do you think comes to mind when I think of bacon pancakes?  Why, flapjacks with bacon mixed in, that's what.  But a person from Sweden, where The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo takes place, might think of something else.  More on that at the end of this post. Since I am a novice food blogger, however, I decided to allow myself to be an idiot on occasion; and besides, hardly anyone will read this anyway.  Now onward we go.

Last summer I read the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson.  (I'm devouring  books again this summer, but so far I haven't come across any food that I'm inspired to cook; there is still a month and a half left, though, and I'm sure I'll come up with something!)  Back in January I made some DELICIOUS lamb chops like the ones the main character, Mikael Blomkvist cooks. (For the recipe and more about the story and its characters, click here.)  Oh, and recently we watched The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo starring Daniel Craig.  In my post from last winter I said I was afraid that I wouldn't like that film as much as the Swedish-language one, because Noomi Rapace is so amazing as Lisbeth Salander I wasn't sure if anyone else would do the character justice.  Not to worry.  The actress who plays Lisbeth in this film, Rooney Mara, is just as good.  And I can't wait to see Noomi in Prometheus; at this point it looks like we'll be waiting for the DVD.  Joe is anxious to see that one too, because of Charlize Theron.)

In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist, has been doing some research for the rich and powerful Henrik Vanger, regarding a niece that went missing years ago.  He has just returned to Henrik's home on Hedeby Island after serving jail time because of a scandal involving Blomkvist's magazine, Millennium. (Interestingly, they left this detail out of the Daniel Craig movie, but not the Swedish one.) 

He found Vanger on the ground floor.  The old man raised his eyebrows in surprise when he saw Mikael.
"Did you escape?"
"Released early."
"That's a surprise."
"For me too.  I found out last night."
They looked at each other for a few seconds.  then the old man surprised Blomkvist by throwing his arms around him and giving him a bear hug.
"I was just about to eat.  Join me."
Anna produced a great quantity of bacon pancakes with lingonberries.  They sat there in the dining room and talked for almost two hours.  Blomkvist told him about how far he had got with the family chronicle, and where there were holes and gaps.  They did not talk at all about Harriet...
(The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, p. 277)

Well, I had never heard of lingonberries, and I made a mental note to find out what they are and where (or if) I could find them.  Recently as I was searching the grocery store shelves for maraschino cherries, I spotted a jar of lingonberries and grabbed it.  Inside the jar was something that looked like wild blueberry preserves, except it was red; the stuff was tart and yummy, and tasted like cranberry sauce, only a little bit sweeter.  Rightly so; according to AboutDotCom, lingonberries are found all over Scandanavia, and are a cousin to the cranberry. (HA!  I knew it.)

The other night I needed to cook something quick and I decided to break out the bacon and lingonberries and make a "Blog Dinner," as I've recently started calling them.  I poked around online a little bit to find recipes for bacon pancakes (here is where I went wrong, more below), and most of the ones I found were recipes for plain old pancakes, with crumbled bacon as an ingredient.  There were one or two that consisted of a slice of bacon coated in pancake batter, but those didn't really appeal to me.   I decided to just add bacon to a pancake recipe that I've recently kind of adopted as my own.  You see, for years I've been using a recipe for buttermilk pancakes from my favorite cookbook, The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, and adapting it slightly to meet Moe's food allergy needs.  When we visit my parents, my mother always makes pancakes using a recipe she found on the outside of the Ener-G Egg Replacer package; the ingredients for those include orange juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg, which makes a unique and delicious flapjack.  After the boys begged and begged me to make THOSE pancakes, I took my Southern Living recipe and substituted half the milk (or soymilk, in our case) for orange juice, and added cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and vanilla.  Here's the recipe that I came up with (starred items are the ones I added):

ZESTY ORANGE PANCAKES (I made that up just now; it's cheesy, I know...)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg*
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon*
2 large eggs, lightly beaten (or 1 heaping tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer beaten together with 1/4 cup water)
1 cup milk (I use soy or rice milk; the recipe in the book calls for buttermilk)
1 cup orange juice*
2 teaspoons vanilla extract*
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Crumbled cooked bacon (optional; I didn't measure it, but I would guess I used about a half to 2/3 of a package)

Combine first 7 ingredients; stir well.  Combine eggs, milk, orange juice, vanilla, and oil in a bowl; add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Fold in crumbled bacon.
For each pancake, pour about 1/4 cup batter onto a hot, lightly greased griddle.  (To make these even more bacon-y, I used the leftover bacon grease.)  Cook pancakes until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked; turn and cook other side.  Serve with lingonberries, syrup, or whatever topping you like.
(Adapted from The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, p. 72-73)

To further complicate things, I wanted to make gluten free bacon pancakes for myself, so I pulled out my new best friend, Gluten Free Bisquick.  I just followed the recipe on the back, and like with the "regular" hotcakes, I used orange juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar.  And bacon, of course.  Easy-peasy; and if you're scared of gluten free pancakes, Gluten Free Bisquick will cure you of that.  You're welcome.

Now for the verdict.  When the boys asked the nightly question, "What's For Dinner?" and I said, "Bacon Pancakes,"  they all kind of wrinkled their noses and said, "Oh.  That sounds terrible."  Even Joe wasn't too thrilled with that idea.  Turns out that unbeknownst to me, Joe doesn't like the orange juice pancakes!  He never told me.  And nobody liked the idea of the bacon inside the pancake; they would rather eat it separately.  (Sheesh.  They said they wished I would have made some of them with bacon and some without.  I figured since everyone likes pancakes and everyone likes bacon this wouldn't be a problem.)  I will have to give Curly, our thirteen-year-old who eats everything, credit for not complaining, and saying that even though he would rather eat his bacon on the side, he liked them and would eat the leftovers.  I wanted to hug him.  And how many people tried the lingonberries?  One.  Me.  They were delicious with the bacon pancakes.  Then again, I'm the only one in my family who likes cranberries.

So what did I think?  I liked mine, although in defense of those who wanted their bacon on the side, I will say that some of the flavor of the bacon was lost in the pancakes.  I don't know if this is because I used the special recipe with orange juice and spices, and that was what masked the bacon; but truthfully I would just as soon had my bacon separately as well.  The next time I make gluten free pancakes for myself--without all that extra stuff--I might crumble some bacon into some of them just to see if that makes a difference.  BUT, I liked them well enough to have them for lunch the next day--with lingonberries, of course--and for breakfast just this morning.  I have two left, safely stored in my freezer for later consumption.

And now for the post-script.  After making this meal (and writing most of this blog post), I decided to see what would happen if I Googled SWEDISH bacon pancakes, and guess what?  I found recipes that are COMPLETELY different from your run-of-the-mill flapjacks with bacon added in.  Holy crap!  I'm dope-slapping myself.  Why didn't I think of that BEFORE??  I even found a blog post by a fan of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and the person made--you guessed it--Swedish bacon pancakes.  Those look more like a frittata, with lots of eggs and little or no flour. (One site described it as being like a Yorkshire pudding, except I don't really know what THAT is!)  I definitely think a do-over is in order.

Be sure to check back here soon for my first meal from the Nicholas Sparks book, The Last Song:  Summer Spaghetti!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Choice: Brazilian Chicken, a Delicious Do-over

How's your summer?  I hope wherever you are, you are staying nice and cool, relaxed, and are enjoying some good food.  If you're like me, you're taking some time to enjoy some good books, too.

We had the most uneventful Fourth of July, ever.  It's been so doggone hot these last two weeks.  We did have a teensy bit of an adventure when we lost power for about thirty-six hours following that crazy storm last weekend; although we spent a good chunk of last Saturday in Washington DC to meet up with friends who were in town to attend a wedding.  We had planned to go back to D.C. for the July 4 holiday and take in a baseball game, and possibly even the fireworks, but decided to stick close to home.  It was like a typical Saturday, really; I went to the grocery store, we took in a movie (The Amazing Spider-Man.  Joe didn't like it much, because he thought it was just a re-mash of the original one from ten years ago, when Tobey Macguire acquired a spider bite and suddenly developed incredible superpowers. The rest of us thought it was great.  Don't listen to those whiners who try to tell you it's old hat.) and we cooked hot dogs and brats on the grill.  We did manage to put on our own little private fireworks display in our driveway, though.

(I also tried making custard-style ice cream again, but I hadn't kept the ice-cream maker bowl in the freezer long enough, and we ended up having amazingly delicious milkshakes with our brats!)

On Sunday, since we thankfully had power back, I decided to take another go at the Brazilian Chicken Cutlets I couldn't seem to make properly last time I tried.  (Click here to find out why I decided to make them in the first place, and what Gabby was cooking for Travis in The Choice.)

I've had the recipe for a few years, and have made it on occasion; ever since Rachael Ray cooked it on her television talk show.
We interrupt this blog for a small trivia quiz:
Which Brazilian race car driver was a guest on the Rachael Ray Show and cooked this dish with her?
                a.  Tony Kanaan
                b.  Helio Castroneves
                c.  Rubens Barrichello
                d.  Gil de Ferran
Hint:  Rachael is a huge Dancing With the Stars fan.
It's Helio Castroneves, of course; and you can see the recipe AND a video of Rachael and Helio yukking it up in the kitchen here.  And if you saw my last "7 Quick Takes" post, you've seen a picture that I took of Helio a month or so after he won the famed Mirror Ball Trophy.  (And less than a year after that, he won the Indianapolis 500 for the third time.)  To those of you who couldn't care less, I apologize.  Back to what we're cooking...
Here's the recipe:



8 to 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Zest and juice of 1 lemon, divided
1/2 cup (a large handful) parsley, chopped
A few dashes hot sauce
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large, ripe mango, pitted and chopped
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1/4 cup (about a palmful) cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Few dashes nutmeg
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus more as needed
Make a paste for the cutlets by placing the garlic into a bowl with a small pinch of salt. Using a spoon, mash the salt and garlic together into a paste. Add in the lemon juice, parsley, hot sauce and some freshly ground black pepper, and reserve.
Flatten the chicken breasts into cutlets by butterflying each piece. Open each breast up and pound them out by placing them into a large zipper bag one at a time with a small amount of water. Seal the bag, squeezing out as much air as you can. Pound the chicken with a small, cast iron skillet until it's evenly thin. As you finish each breast, place them into another large plastic zipper bag or mixing bowl. Once all the breasts are pounded out, add the garlic paste to the zipper bag or bowl and toss the chicken around to coat it evenly. Marinate for about 10 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, prepare the raw sauce by combining the mango, plum tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, some salt and freshly ground black pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Toss everything to combine and set aside until you're ready to serve.
Yields: 4 servings
(Source:  Rachael Ray Show)

I made some slight changes to the recipe.  First, I made the garlic paste in the food processor rather than trying to mash by hand.  I marinaded the chicken in a dish instead of a plastic bag.  Rachael is not the Food Police.  She wouldn't care.

I tried to make the raw tropical sauce--it's more like a salsa, really; it could even pass for a salad--as the recipe directed; the only difference was using local tomatoes I picked up from the Farmer's Market instead of Romas.  I even tried cutting the mango the way Rachael suggests, and it worked fairly well.  AND my mango was nicely ripe; in fact, I used two of them.  (When you cut a mango, quite a bit of the flesh clings to the seed.  I particularly enjoyed nibbling some of the extra mango from the pit.  Did you know I used to despise mangoes?  I can't imagine why.  Now I love them..)

What do you think of my lame attempt at still life photography?

I had planned on making bread crumbs with some of my leftover gluten free bread, but I didn't get around to it.  Instead I just dipped the chicken in my favorite gluten free breading before frying.

(Fitting name given that this post is inspired by The Choice, right?  This makes a great batter when you mix it with water; for this recipe I just dipped the chicken right in the mix like I would with flour.)

It was pretty hot out, but tolerable enough by evening to enjoy our meal outside.

Normally by the time I post something here I'm already reading the next book and planning my next meal; often I've already cooked it and everything.  Not so this time around, but I expect you'll see something from The Last Song in the near future.  That book has been calling my name.  Stay tuned!