Thursday, April 16, 2015: Celery Salad with Walnuts, Dates & Pecorino, Pan-Seared Chicken Breast with Cucumber Relish and Cherry Hand Pies by Chef Maggie

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Seared Chicken with Cucumber Relish

Adapted from Renee Ericksen

Yields: 8

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 chicken breasts

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 English cucumber, peeled and cut into a small dice

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

4 tablespoons mint leaves, torn

Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for serving

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir the cucumber with the lemon zest, lemon juice, raisins, pine nuts, mint and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season with kosher salt and pepper.

Season chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 large grill pans or cast-iron skillets over high heat. Divide the oil between the pans. Add the chicken and cook until nicely browned on both sides and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of a breast registers 158°F. Transfer the chicken to plates; let rest for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the chicken with flaky sea salt, spoon the cucumber relish on top and serve.

Celery Salad with Walnuts, Dates and Pecorino

Adapted from Melissa Rubel Jacobson

Servings: 8

1 cup walnuts

3/4 small shallot, minced

1 tablespoon plus two teaspoons sherry or red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon plus two teaspoons nut oil (such as hazelnut or walnut)

1 tablespoon plus two teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 ½ bunches celery, thinly sliced on the bias

1/2 cup dried pitted Medjool dates, pitted and quartered lengthwise

2 ounces dry pecorino cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler

In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the walnuts until you can smell them. Remove them from the pan. Let cool completely, then coarsely chop.

In a small bowl, combine the shallot with the sherry vinegar. Whisk in both oils and season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss the toasted walnuts, celery, dates and pecorino. Add the dressing and toss. Serve at once.

Cherry Hand Pies

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Yields: 9 servings

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 cups fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted, or about 12 ounces frozen pitted cherries, thawed and drained

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 14-ounce package all-butter puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator

Flour (for dusting)

1 large egg white

1 1/2 teaspoons raw sugar

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir cornstarch and 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl to blend. Combine cherries and next 3 ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cherry juices are released, about 5 minutes. Add cornstarch mixture; bring to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to an 18x15" rectangle. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut dough into nine 6x5" rectangles. Whisk egg white and 1 tablespoon water in another small bowl for egg wash.

Working with 1 pastry rectangle at a time, place on a work surface and brush edges with egg wash. Scoop 3 tablespoons cherry mixture onto one side; fold dough over filling so that short ends meet, forming a 5x3" packet. Crimp edges with a fork to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut a few slits in top of pie to vent. Place on prepared baking sheet; repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Brush tops with egg wash, then sprinkle with raw sugar. Chill for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°. Bake pastries until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer to wire racks; let cool completely. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Let stand at room temperature.